Bible Study: Proper 14 (A) – 2011
August 07, 2011
1 Kings 19:9-18
Nobody likes feeling discouraged. When in a rut, our frustration drives us to want to throw our hands up in the air and say, “That’s it! I’m done! I can’t do this anymore!” Granted, although there may be certain situations in which such a response is warranted, the feelings produced still bring about discouragement, which is never a positive thing to feel. There are times in which Christians feel discouraged and are faced with the temptation of giving up. The Rev. Billy Graham once said that “the Christian life is not a constant high. I have my moments of deep discouragement. I have to go to God in prayer and say … ‘Help me.’”
In this pericope from 1 Kings 19, we find Elijah in a discouraging rut. The discouragement is weakening his faith, leaving him scared and helpless. To give Elijah a renewed sense of purpose, God commands him to return to Damascus, anoint Hazael as king over Aram, Jehu as king over Israel, and Elisha as his prophetic successor. Through this new commission, God gives Elijah the grace and renewed vigor to carry forth in his ministry and the assurance of God’s continued guidance. From this pericope, we are given the assurance that in times of discouragement, God’s grace provides us the encouragement needed to be renewed for continued service. Whenever discouragement comes, remembrance of why we do what we do for God is key to its demise.
- How can the “sound of sheer silence” help us find trust in God?
- In being silent and just simply listening, how can God renew us for mission and ministry, overcoming discouragement?
Having grown up within the spirited emotionalism of the black church, I remember frequently singing the Gospel song “I Will Trust in the Lord.” As I would rock from side to side while singing, a spirit of great rejoicing always encapsulated me. Now being some years later, this old song still gives me a reason to rejoice; its words giving me the comfort and assurance of God’s care for me and reminding me that my trust in God opens myself up to His provisions. Because of God’s proven faithfulness throughout the ages, “I will trust in the Lord … [and] I’m gonna treat everybody right until I die.”
This selection from Psalm 85 tells of the assurances given by having trust in God. Out of anguishing lament, the community is trusting God to “speak peace to his people, to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts.” God’s revealed word proclaims a world in which “love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other.” The faithfulness of God that arises through our trust in Him never ceases to convey the greatest hope in times of deep need. God’s faithfulness has the power to renew the weary soul and bring wholeness to life. It is a towering strength, bringing about peace from the shadow of fear. For that, we should all say, “Thanks be to God!”
- What is it about God that continues to give us confidence in His faithfulness day after day?
- In what ways do you see the glory of God “dwell[ing] in our land”?
Paul presents a contrast of righteousness from two different aspects: righteousness based on the law and on the basis of faith. Under righteousness by law, Leviticus 18.5 states that if we keep the law perfectly, we will live. The only problem is that the law’s extremely high standards prevent us from keeping it perfectly. Just messing up one bullet point of the law renders us breakers of it in its entirety. But with righteousness based on faith, God provides us a more accessible way of achieving salvation and eternal life. Jesus Christ, God the Son, was the only One able to keep the law perfectly and meet its high standards. Therefore, He alone, through his blessed passion and precious death, was able to satisfy the requirement that sin be punished and pave the way for our salvation through faith in Him.
Paul tells us that “if you confess … that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” By having faith in Jesus Christ, sin no longer has dominion over us. Jesus’ saving grace is so wonderful that it drives us to outwardly proclaim His goodness that transforms us from within. His grace and unconditional love is the good news of the gospel. So whatever you do outwardly, may it be a confession of the inward and spiritual grace brought about by faith in Jesus Christ, His grace greatly abounding.
- What is Paul getting at in verses 6-8?
- Why is it of such great importance that we outwardly confess our faith in Jesus Christ?
Fear is something that’s naturally a part of us. It allows us to make decisions as to whether we should stay out of harm’s way or possibly do something stupid. Fear has the ability to completely overwhelm us, causing us to lose the ability to fully think through and assess the potential outcome of certain situations. When overcome by such fear, we become mentally paralyzed, putting us in a state of helplessness and negative vulnerability. When in such a state, we can’t help but to feel that all hope is lost.
In this classic gospel story, Peter (once again) becomes the object of an important teachable moment from Jesus. Peter takes a leap of faith and heeds Jesus’ call to join Him out on the water. This supernatural moment serves as proof to both Peter and to us that Jesus is, indeed, Lord of all creation, thereby assuring us that He is who He says He is and that we have nothing to fear because of Him. It is important that we not let fear get the best of us, for if we do, we will be like Peter and sink down into a sea of despair. The voice of Jesus is the voice of hope, comfort, and reassurance, an everlasting help in the time of trouble. May our gaze always be fixed upon our blessed Lord Jesus, for His call to us has the power to “soothe our sorrows, heal our wounds, and drive away our fears.”
- What specific events from your own life have lead you to take a “leap of faith” and have trust in Jesus?
- What do you do that reminds you to keep your eyes focused on Jesus and not on your fears?
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