Bible Study: Proper 10 (A) – 2011
July 10, 2011
The layers of meaning in this passage go far beyond its being a simple tale of sibling rivalry. Jacob takes advantage of Esau’s hunger in order to get the birthright, or blessing, that rightly belongs to Esau. It says something about the human condition that Esau is willing to give it all up just for a bowl of red lentil stew and a piece of bread. We will pay nearly any price to feel good, without necessarily giving a second thought to what the immediate consequences are.
It also says much that Esau regrets what he’s done. He despises his birthright, though the writers of Genesis don’t tell us exactly why. It could be that he’s upset with himself for giving up his rightful inheritance to his two-timing younger brother. It could also be that he fears he’s lost God’s blessing as well as his father’s. Even in the midst of his physical hunger, Esau begins to realize God’s favor – and the land which is the material sign thereof – is the one thing which can reliably sustain him. That special blessing doesn’t seem to be a fair price to pay just for lunch.
How does righteousness, both God’s and the psalmist’s own, manifest itself? Is there a difference between them, and if so, what is it and why might it exist in the first place?
- Do you think Esau might be able to make the same claims as the psalmist does in this passage, especially as one who has had a trap set for him? Why or why not
- What point is Paul trying to make by drawing flesh (sarx) and spirit (pneuma) as polar opposites in verses 1-8?
- Does “being in the Spirit” have practical implications about how we are to live, beyond what Paul suggests in verses 10-11?
Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
Does Jesus really expect people to understand his teaching? What’s his point, anyway?
Jesus’ expectations seem to depend on his audience. While he makes sure the disciples understand what he means, the same isn’t necessarily true of the crowd. The ones who, like the disciples, are truly capable of hearing and receiving the seeds of Jesus’ preaching, are the ones who will flourish. Unlike the “temporary” believer (proskairos), they will not give up their faith or fall into sin (skandalizetai) when difficulty arises.
Part of Jesus’ point in telling this story is that sharing the gospel is not always about the sheer number of people who are genuinely converted to a new life of faith. The sower does not seem to be all that interested in getting the highest yield out of his bag of seeds. Otherwise he might restrict his planting to areas he is certain are fertile. What he is interested in, however, is the possibility contained within each seed he drops. Those seeds could take root anywhere, despite the presence of things which might impede their growth. He sows them anyway, with the hope that at least some of them will bear fruit and yield.
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