Who is your favourite bible Character?
- When did you first learn about your favourite character
- What makes this character stand out above the others
- What traits do they have that can inspire you
- How would you “promote” this character to others
- What is the first question you would ask if you met this character
Five Questions on... Joshua - by Hugh
When did you first learn about your favourite character? – When I was about 6 years old.
What makes this character stand out above the others? – He was very humble. He knew that Moses was the centre of the story and all his life he was loyal to him and to God’s service. Joshua never put limits on Gods power.
What traits do they have that can inspire you? – God’s opinion was the only thing he cared about. That was his all life. He was strong and faithful to God no matter how many people rejected him. He did not seem to care much of men’s approval and was passionate about his service and deeply loved God.
How would you “promote” this character to others? – I would tell the story about the twelve spies who were sent to explore Canaan. Only Joshua and Caleb were brave enough and trusted God to believe they could take the land that God had promised them. The issue of trust was so important to God that the men who had doubted Him were struck down and the rest of the doubting Israelites were cursed to wander the desert for another forty years.
What is the first question you would ask if you met this character? – How did you manage to stay so positive?
Five Questions On… Isaiah - by Alex
[I’d like to begin by saying that Isaiah is but one member of a group of Bible characters whose life and work God has used to keep me going for the past twenty years, including Paul (whom I suspect others will want to write about), Ezra (a role model of colossal importance to me), Daniel (a hero in the very best sense of the word) and Elijah (who is just too important to me to be summarised just like that). But in the context of sharing our life journeys in this community, Isaiah is almost certainly the most appropriate Bible character for me to be talking about in this feature.]
When did you first learn about Isaiah?
That is an interesting question in this context; Isaiah tends to be thought of less as a ‘Bible character’ and more as a ‘book of the Bible‘. Thinking about it now, he would have been first encountered when I memorised all of the books of the Bible in order as a young boy not yet in double figures of age. Throughout the rest of my childhood it gradually became clear to me that no one who authored anything found within the pages of Scripture was anything other than interesting in terms of who they were. I took an A-level in Religious Studies and did very well in many homework assignments, and pretty well in the first-year exams, but then very badly in the final exams. This is relevant because it was literally only a decade later that I finally understood that that A-level was designed to fundamentally alter my understanding of and trust in Scripture itself by questioning the ways in which we think about authorship and canon formation. So all through my 20s, my connection with writers of Scripture was growing – but I have just realised that it really is only after I first began to study academic theology that finally I settled on Isaiah as my favourite OT book and he became a ‘character’ that I related to in the same way as Moses, Ruth, Elijah et al. And since then…oh but wait, I’m about to start answering the next question, so let me stop here for now…!
What makes Isaiah stand out above other Bible characters?
[chuckles] I am reminded of that much misunderstood and misinterpreted idea we get from Kierkegaard that ‘truth is subjectivity’…but there is a sense in which although every single ‘positive’ Bible character differs in importance to every single Bible reader, some are a different level of extraordinary, and I believe that Isaiah is one such. How can I be more specific and leave scope for the next two questions, I wonder? I’ll try putting it this way: Isaiah’s prophetic ministry was so extraordinary that the book he wrote has often been understood as a ‘micro-version’ of the entire Bible, with some Christian-theological traditions literally calling chapters 1-39 ‘First Isaiah’ and chapters 40-66 ‘Second Isaiah’ (39 OT books, 27, NT books). To my mind, with the exception of Paul, no other Bible character has been able to offer comfort, reassurance, hope, rebuke, insight into the personhood and character of God and what can only be described using modern terms as ‘systematic theology’ and much, much more to not only the people of God (then and now) but anybody who will take the time to read this prophet’s words. If a person opens their mind and reads the book of Isaiah in a translation they can actually understand, that would be one significant piece of evidence at the final judgment that this person did encounter the gospel of Jesus Christ. They would not be able to claim otherwise. Moreover, the picture of God presented right across the book of Isaiah is vastly more nuanced than the simplistic caricatures of the personhood of God that many of us prefer – not least the idea of a God who lets us off the hook with our ongoing resistance to grow in holiness because he has called us to not judge each other. And there is at least one distinction Paul will never be able to claim: how on earth was Isaiah able to write about who God is – and who Jesus would be in the incarnation – so many hundreds of years before any of it happened, when many Christians writing after the death of Jesus can see much more (by virtue of living further down the historical timeline) than Isaiah could have done and therefore have more scope for understanding God through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus – and yet still don’t get close to the level of understanding we see in Isaiah about who God is?!
What traits do they have that can inspire you?
Isaiah exemplifies one particular characteristic that has kept me sane in both life and ministry (not that I am trying to create a false bifurcation between the two): he was (as our American friends say) ‘all in’.
I am a naturally enthusiastic – indeed an exuberant – person, but some of the more damaging things I have experienced – sadly, more in the church than in the world – have taken a significant part of that away from me. One of the best characterisations of Isaiah that I have ever heard was made by Professor Richard Davidson, who specialises in Old Testament Studies at our flagship seminary at Andrews University. He describes Isaiah in the first five chapters of the book of Isaiah as a ‘young theologian of worship’ – charging about the place with great intensity and commitment telling the people of Israel about all the problems with the concept and practice/s of worship. And then in Chapter 6 – as many of us know – Isaiah comes face-to-face with God Himself and immediately realises that not only are the people he’s been trying to serve seriously far away from any genuine understanding of the holiness of God, but so is he – theological ministry or no theological ministry – and now he has come into the presence of Divinity – the very epitome of holiness – and the coruscating realisation of his own unworthiness hits him in the face like an express train. Isaiah knows that ‘no one can see God and live’ and so he starts to offer the last rites upon his own life and prepare for his funeral…
…until God himself brings that enterprise to hold in short order, puts out a call – to which Isaiah says an immediate yes, only to discover that what God is calling to him to is not a life in which the praise of men will feature highly. Indeed, long before the end of Chapter 6 it is clear that this ministry vocation will not end well – and Isaiah still says yes and lived out his God-given vocation in a manner so impressive that the very word ‘impressive’ does not do it justice. Not only is Isaiah a faithful spokesperson on behalf of God, he is a phenomenal exponent of who God is, and his writing style – to cap it all off – is so good it actually qualifies as poetry in places, as well as spiritual prose of the highest order.
Isaiah models for me what it means to be a person of God who works in pastoral dimensions, theological dimensions and who is also an artist. That’s who I want to be, and who I am trying to be and get better at being a little bit more every day. In a church – as well as a world – in which upfront robust enthusiasm for the cause is increasingly disregarded, Isaiah reminds me that Jesus was not the only human being who give everything for the cause of God and we are not here to be understood.
How would you “promote” this character to others?
That is another good question. I think that I am now at a stage in my life in which I simply would not promote Isaiah to many people because the fabric of his life and the fruit of his ministry offer a challenge that many of us have already rejected – often without knowing it. One of the hardest life lessons I have had to learn is that some of the erroneous ideas that I bought into as a younger person in which certain bits of self-help ideology have been conflated into Christianity are extremely dangerous – by virtue of the fact that they are extremely difficult to unlearn. An example of this is the abuse of Philippians 4:13 and Matthew 19:26 which, taken together, appeared to reinforce the idea that with God ‘nothing is impossible’. One application that I tried to make from this idea was that if God is with me, then he can empower me to inspire people to do better. My insight – which, technically, was not incorrect – was that people cannot be forced to do right, and they often cannot be persuaded to do right. But if we inspire them to be right, that is God’s work. And so I tried to be an ‘inspiration’, and I did not make the mistake of thinking that I could do this on my own.
So when this didn’t work the way that I had envisaged, I got seriously scared and wondered what sort of terrible Christian human being I was and how I could improve spiritually so that God could use me to be an inspiration. Eventually I understood – painfully – that Jesus had not succeeded – and continues to not succeed – in inspiring people to follow him. So how was someone like me going to do any better? One can only be inspired if one is ready to be inspired, and if one is not willing to change, then it is impossible to be inspired. And now I know why Jesus healed some people and told them – unlike others – to tell no one what He had done in their lives. Rest assured: the second any genuine opportunity arises to talk about Isaiah, I will not need a second prompt to go down that road with anyone, anywhere, anytime. But if I don’t have a sense that my conversation partner/s is ready to meet my friend Uncle Isaiah, no introductions will get made.
What is the first question you would ask if you met this character?
I’m sorry if this answer seems a bit boring, but the first thing I would want to ask him would be about the back story to the first five chapters of his book. How did he get into ‘worship theology’? Did he have any idea where this would take him? And from then, I would be super excited to understand what it was like to come into the presence of God – and we would take it from there.
Five questions on... Ruth - by Priya
When did you first learn about your favourite character – As I was growing up I heard stories about Ruth and her obedience
What makes this character stand out above the others – She was a widow but she did not let her past hold her back.
What traits do they have that can inspire you – strong willed, hard working, obedient and loyal. She did not boast or sit back and enjoy the provisions Boaz had made but was humble and worked hard.
How would you “promote” this character to others – Despite surrounded by difficult circumstances Ruth’s story is filled with hope for despair. She was poor, widow, immigrant from a poor country. God knows and sees our problems. But He still requires a person to labour and obey in order to receive the blessing. And Ruth had found favour. God blessed Ruth’s obedience, loyalty and faithfulness.
What is the first question you would ask if you met this character – She was young yet she chose to stay with the woman (mother in law) who was hurting and alone. Her choice to have faith in God produced fruits of blessing and a life of healing. However, while journeying through this period of despair and difficulty did she ever doubt that perhaps it would have been better to return to her tribe. Did she ever that God would deliver her
Five questions on... Job - by Kevin
When did you first learn about your favourite character – As a pre teen I think. I was always fascinated by his story and then to find out it was probably the oldest Book in the Bible consolidated my interest.
What makes this character stand out above the others – Personal recommendation from the Lord! Job 1.v8 “Have you considered my servant Job….” God says to Satan this! What a recommendation from whom asked this question especially when you consider of whom it was asked to!
What traits do they have that can inspire you – There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. Job 1.v1. He was blameless and upright! Then he was tried and tested by Satan and he was restored again. He was honest in his responses to God!
How would you “promote” this character to others – This is Job. He was an ordinary man who had to deal with extraordinary ordeals. He felt, down and abandoned, exhausted physically, emotionally and spiritually. He trusted God despite everything. Be like Job.
What is the first question you would ask if you met this character – “What on earth did you feel like when God spoke to you out of the whirlwind?”
Five questions on... Joseph - by Aaron
My favourite character in the bible would probably be Joseph.
What makes him stand out to me is how he continued to work, continued to stay focused, continued to put God first despite all the hurdles that were thrown at him in his life. His brothers tried to kill him, then sold him and then he was thrown in jail after some good happen. He persevered and reaped the harvest from the good he did in his life.
The traits that inspire me is his endurance to keep focused and strong under all the pressure and problems he faced.
To promote his life, I’d read his story as it speaks for itself through how he overcame with the help of the Lord.
I would ask Joseph, can you tell me how you yourself stayed so focused through all that happened to you and the people around you?