Bible Study: Advent 3 (A) – 2016
December 12, 2016
Chapter 35 is Isaiah’s prophecy about the day of God’s glory wherein there will be rejoicing, gladness, blossoming and shouts of joy. The people will experience a sense of renewal, as he assures them that their salvation includes being saved from their enemies and restoration. There is no place for fear in God’s kingdom. Restoration occurs for those who are in need: the blind, the deaf, the lame, and the mute. The people who rejected God’s way and suffered the consequences, judgment, and alienation will again be the objects of his unmerited favor. And God provides a highway for them which has two qualities: holiness and joy. The people who walk in this way are described as the redeemed and being in the right relationship with God. It is the place where God brings full deliverance to the people. Hence, those who walk upon this highway will be full of joy as they march towards God’s kingdom as symbolized by Zion.
- What were the encouragement given to the sinners and needy? How can this be an encouragement to us today?
- Do you consider yourself walking in this highway? Why or why not?
We don’t know who wrote this particular psalm and we don’t know when it was written. With confidence, the psalmist proclaims that God Almighty is the one who keeps promises forever and who will always respond to the needy by giving justice to the oppressed, food to the hungry, freedom to the prisoners, eyesight to the blind, lifting up the humble, caring for the stranger, sustaining the orphan and widow, and loving the righteous. The psalmist may have experienced or witnessed all of these occurrences and therefore concludes by exclaiming that God will reign forever – from beginning to end.
- The psalmist expressed faith and great joy in praising God through writing this psalm, how do you express yours?
- Do you agree with the testimony of the psalmist? Why?
James of Jerusalem was encouraging his oppressed members in this passage to have patience in their sufferings. These were the poor Christians oppressed by the rich. James was encouraging them to patiently wait for the coming of the Lord. He gave two examples how they can do this: First was the story of the farmer who patiently waits for his harvest even though it takes time before having it, and second were the prophets like Job who have given them examples of patience and endurance in suffering. Despite the disasters he faced, and the relentless attack of his friends, Job kept his faith and did not abandon his trust in God. As a result, the Lord finally brought about the restoration of Job’s fortune. Therefore, James’ message to them is to strengthen their hearts, keep the faith, patiently waits for the coming of the Lord and not putting justice in their own hands and not grumbling to their fellow Christians for them not to be judged also.
- The word for suffering probably refers to a broad category which includes all different kinds of suffering. In our society today, what do people currently suffer from? How about you as an individual? What is your own suffering?
- Reflecting from this passage, how do you deal with your own suffering?
In today’s Gospel, Matthew highlights Jesus’ identity as an unexpected Messiah and Jesus as the fulfiller of Isaiah’s vision of restoration and Jesus as God’s wisdom. He was frequently rejected by the Jews, especially the Jewish leaders, because they have their own qualifications of a Messiah that Jesus failed to pass. Even John the Baptist who prepared his coming and who baptized him has his own expectation of him as a Messiah. John was in prison and sent his disciples to Jesus asking him “Are you the one who is to come or are we to wait for another?” He asked this not to question his Messianic identity but to further explain to him what’s going on because he expected the Messiah to come with fire, brimstone, with winnowing fork in hand to exercise judgement as what Isaiah prophesied. Jesus answered it by sending also John’s disciple to inform him about his works as a healer, preacher and teacher. Jesus’ answer indicates that his messianic identity is characterized by signs that include healing the sick and preaching good news. He was not the kind of Messiah who came to judge them but to have compassion and mercy for them.
- What are your expectations of Jesus? Were your expectations fulfilled?
- Do you agree that Jesus is our Messiah/saviour?
- Who is Jesus Christ to you? State in your own words and in accordance of your own experience.
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