Bible Study: Advent 3 (B) – 2011
December 11, 2011
Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
Isaiah is the first book of the Latter Prophets, which are mostly made up of prophecies written in a poetic style. Isaiah is closely linked with the books of Kings, which together address the destiny of Jerusalem. The books of Kings end with the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonians, and the resulting exile of her people. Isaiah picks up the story and speaks to the destiny of Jerusalem into the ravages of its exile and through the promise of future redemption. The first part of Isaiah speaks to the destruction of Jerusalem, the second part anticipates Jerusalem’s restoration, and the third part deals with the shaping of the Jerusalem to come. Isaiah 61 speaks to hope, the promise of a better future, and anticipation of a “new age” when YHWH’s rule is fully established. Jesus, read some of the prophecy of Isaiah 61 while in the synagogue, in Luke 4:18-19, then declared that this scripture had been fulfilled in the hearing of those present. Isaiah demonstrated that YHWH is the God of all, who both judged and punished Jerusalem, and in turn restored her to a new age of prosperity.
- Advent is a time that we anticipate the coming of Jesus Christ, as Jerusalem anticipated the coming of the end of her exile and the return of her people to prosperity. As you reflect on your life, what does the anticipation of the coming of Christ during this season draw you to long for?
- What do you see in your life and community of faith that you could help with to make our world reflect a little more of the promise of a new age? What is one thing you can do for your family, community or church to encourage justice?
Psalm 126 is a Song of Ascents, which is a collection of songs sung by pilgrims as they made their way into Jerusalem or into the Temple precincts. This particular song begins as thanksgiving from those who are no longer captive, and moves into a community prayer for all those still exiled to return from Babylon, and for the restoration of Israel. Exile can take many forms. Time, distance, an old argument, differing values can all drive us away from others and press us to drive others from us.
- When have you experienced the being exiled? Whom have you exiled from your life? In what way?
- When have you had the experience of going through a time of great difficulty? How did your faith support you through that hardship?
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
First Thessalonians is accepted as being Paul’s first pastoral letter, written to provide encouragement and guidance. Paul had and expressed in this letter, fond parental affection and pastoral concern for the converts in this city, who had suffered persecution but remained strong in their faith. Remember that the apostles believed that Jesus would come again in their lifetimes. This belief caused some anxiety regarding those Christians who died before the expected return of Christ, and Paul’s teachings about the coming of the Lord and salvation for all believers, both living and dead, have been very influential in development of Christian hope. The last chapter of the letter addresses practicalities of living in a Christian community—the good, the bad, the joyous, and conflicted. We see these aspects of community in our daily lives at home, in school, at work, in social organizations, and in our churches.
- What do you struggle with about faith? What causes you to doubt?
- What is helpful to you during those times, and how can you share that with someone else who may be struggling?
John 1:6-8, 19-28
These sections of John talk about John the Baptist as a prophet, sent to prepare the way for the coming of Jesus Christ. People didn’t understand who John was, and suspected that he might be the prophet Elijah, who the Jews believed would return to earth before the Messiah came. Some even suspected that John was the Messiah. John knew that his role was to prepare the way for the coming of Christ, and clearly denied being Elijah or the Messiah. The religious authorities questioning John were not interested in actually getting information from him, but wanted to discredit him. This same sort of tactic would be used to try to trip-up Jesus as well. John was not deceived by their questioning and remained clear about who he was and was not, and what his purpose was.
- How do these passages speak to you and your own role in your community of faith?
- Who are the “Pharisees” in your life? How do they challenge your faith?
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