Bible Study

Bible Study: Proper 24 (A) – 2011

October 16, 2011

Exodus 33:12-23

  • How can we have an honest, yet reverent, relationship with God?

Kvetching in Yiddish loosely translates as “complaining”; however, there is a positive element. A good kvetch bears one’s soul and it conveys heart-wrenching pain and frustration; but, there is hope. One trusts that the kvetch will be heard and honored.

Moses is in a dire position. The survival of a people depends on Moses’ leadership. With all of his soul and might, he kvetches to God and asks for supernatural intercession and reassurance. Moses might have feared speaking so liberally with God after God’s reaction to the Golden Calf. Instead, the language Moses uses is daring and intimate. But like many other petitions we find in the Bible, Moses still appeals to God’s powerful role in the universe. In other words, Moses acknowledges both God’s imminence and transcendence. Moses seems fully aware that nothing is worth doing without God’s presence, yet God’s presence can also be dangerous (verse 20). This interaction models a relationship that invites us to be direct, needy and honest with God. This interaction shows us the importance of being sincere.

Psalm 99

  • How does God convict you while showing you mercy?

God has an intimate relationship with Zion and its people. Moreover, it is a saving relationship. In fact, God’s holiness seems inescapably intertwined with creation. God has the ability to manifest in Zion, in people, and in Jesus. God’s direct involvement with creation demonstrates God’s power. God’s imminence testifies to God’s ability to love and to love better than anyone else could express. Sometimes in church, we sing songs about how much we love God, while in reality, our love is very meager. God’s love is infinitely impressive. This is why the psalmist enthusiastically praises God and refers to God’s intervention in Exodus.

But the end of the psalm presents an obstacle. Verse 8 tells us that God is both forgiving and “an avenger of their wrongdoings.” God “loves justice” (verse 4), but this apparently does not dissuade God from working with the unjust. While there is tension, the same tension is found in the cross: how does God hold us accountable while forgiving us?

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

  • How can we be happy for others?
  • How can we strengthen our bond with fellow believers? How can we encourage and comfort our brothers and sisters?

The Thessalonians are praised for their exemplary faith. They have joy in the midst of their suffering. This testifies to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. God is working through Paul’s ministry team and they have inspired some Thessalonians. Now, the Thessalonians are inspiring Paul; and in return, Paul’s exhorts them. There is so much love flowing back and forth. People are genuinely happy for one another’s spiritual advancements. People are invigorated by God’s presence in each others’ lives. Jesus is the source of their deep connection and closeness.

Paul refers to the receivers of the letter as “brothers.” Even though there is persecution, even though families are being severed, the family lingo employed here compensates for these losses. Paul uses language such as “our God.” God does not belong to him. The gospel does not belong to him. It is for Paul to preach. Salvation is for all.

Matthew 22:15-22

  • How do we use the scriptures to inform our actions?

In this famous passage, Caesar’s image is on a coin, but God’s imprint is on people. This is one way to sum up Jesus’ clever response to the Pharisees who are trying to trick him. Even though they attempt to manipulate Jesus, Jesus shows everyone that he is in control. He confronts the popular Pharisees and then he does a couple interesting things. One, Jesus affirms their Jewish doctrine. Jesus does not theologically disagree with them. The law is a manifestation of God’s goodness, therefore Jesus is never against the law itself. The second interesting move that Jesus makes is that his response goes beyond the Pharisees’ question. Jesus does not give us concrete boundaries as to how to spend our money, but he gives us an important truth, God permeates all aspects of life. What a beautiful freedom and burden it is to be left individually responsible to figure out what it means to give what belongs to God to God. It is up to us to discern the distinction between what is for and of God, and what is not.

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Christopher Sikkema


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