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Bible Study: Epiphany 4 (B) – 2012

January 30, 2012

Deuteronomy 18:15-20

This passage refers back to a previous passage, Deuteronomy 5:22-27, where Moses reminds the people of Israel that when they were given the Ten Commandments, they did not think they could handle listening to God directly, and so they asked Moses to be an intermediary and tell them what God says to them. In this passage, God promises to send the people of Israel a prophet who will continue to function in this way, giving them God’s message. Having a prophet appointed by God is another way that the Israelites are set apart from the nations that surround them. The verse just before this passage says that the people of Israel are not to “give heed to soothsayers and diviners,” as other nations do. Instead, God will raise up a prophet like Moses that will have God’s message, so soothsayers and diviners are unnecessary for them.

  • In what ways does being a part of God’s people now, i.e. being Christian, set us apart from the world around us?
  • How do you listen to God?

Psalm 111

This psalm is a song of praise, beginning with a call to praise for the entire congregation. The psalm then gives many reasons for praising the Lord. It speaks of the greatness of God’s works, and generally alternates between speaking of God’s might and/or majesty in those works and God’s mercy toward God’s people. There is a kind of frame regarding knowledge – verse 2 says that God’s deeds “are studied by all who delight in them,” and verse 10 provides the familiar saying, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” The psalmist tells us that studying God’s works leads to praising God. We can see God’s majesty, power, righteousness, and compassion in the things that God has made, and this leads us to praise God with all our might.

  • What parts of God’s creation cause you to praise him spontaneously?
  • How does creation show that God is gracious and full of compassion?

1 Corinthians 8:1-13

It might seem that this passage has nothing to do with contemporary society. After all, no one sacrifices animals in temples set up to Roman gods anymore. Paul is making a more general point here, though. He is telling the Corinthians that their behavior is causing some who are weaker in faith to return to belief in idols. In an echo of the reading from Deuteronomy, Paul is telling the Corinthians that in order to set a good example and prevent their “weaker” brothers and sisters in Christ from returning to old beliefs, they need to be set apart from the society of their day by refraining from participating in some beloved social activities. Refraining from these activities may cost them friends and possibly important social connections, but Paul tells them that he is willing to give up all of this for the sake of saving the weak in faith, and that the Corinthians should be, too. In the same way, there are activities in our society that we might participate in that may cause those with a weaker faith to lose their faith, and we need to be sensitive to this.

  • What kinds of current social activities might cause other Christians to lose their faith, or to misunderstand the meaning of true faith in Christ?
  • Are we willing to give up some of our comfort and/or activities we enjoy for the sake of others?
  • How would you respond to the statement, “For some people, your life is the only gospel they will ever read”?

Mark 1:21-28

In Mark’s gospel, Jesus seems to not want others to know that he is God’s Son. People seem to understand that he is special from the very beginning, though, and that shows in this reading, the first activity in Jesus’ ministry after he calls his disciples. The passage begins with the amazement of the people not because of a miracle that he has worked, but because of his teaching. They can see that when Jesus teaches, he does so in a confident, authoritative manner without the equivocation that the scribes may have had. Jesus then proceeds to provide a concrete example of his authority by casting out a demon, who knows exactly who Jesus is and says so. Jesus hushes the demon (a reminder of Psalm 107:42b: “all wickedness will shut its mouth”) and casts it out. The crowd is even more amazed at this demonstration of his power, even over unclean spirits, and though Jesus may not want anyone to know that he is “the Holy One of God,” people begin to spread the word about him.

  • How does Jesus’ teaching amaze you?
  • Where and/or how do you see Jesus’ power demonstrated today?

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Christopher Sikkema


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