Bible Study

This page is available in: Español

Bible Study: Proper 24 (B) – 2012

October 21, 2012

Job 38:1-7, (34-41)

In today’s Old Testament reading, God responds to Job’s questions about suffering. The whirlwind (and other storms and natural phenomena) appear in scripture to signify theophany. The lectionary has only treated us to Job’s problem (Propers 22 and 23) and God’s response. We have been spared his friends’ lengthy attempts to justify why a righteous God would allow a good man like Job to suffer financial ruin, painful chronic illness and the deaths of all his children. The other men in the story have attempted to answer for God. The whirlwind sets the words of God apart from the previously uttered earthly arguments about Job’s situation.

From the outset, God is clear about what sort of conversation this will be. The phrase “Gird up your loins like a man” suggests preparing for battle – but this battle will be a rhetorical one. It will not be the longed-for dialogue where Job would question God (31:33). Rather, “will question you, and you shall declare to me.”

God first challenges Job regarding creation. The depiction of God spreading a plumb line and laying a cornerstone may be poetic metaphor, or sarcastic ribbing as indicated by the phrase “Surely you know!” Try reading the verses in different tones: humorous, light-hearted, arrogant, angry and gentle. Which tone best fits the phrasing?

  • What kind of divine creator/sustainer is depicted in these verses?
  • Does the passage imply there are things Job should be able to tell about God, just from looking at the world around him?

Psalm 104:1-9, 25, 37b

This passage in Psalms almost sounds like a reply to the rhetorical questions asked in today’s passage from Job. The congregation recites a few of the wonders of God’s creative process in the second person. As in Job, God is envisioned physically constructing the world as though it were a building or a dynamic art installation. Again God is depicted directing and corralling the waters, which obey commands. Vivid imagery depicts the water fleeing at God’s rebuke – even running uphill – and closes with a reference to the flood:

You set the limits that they should not pass;
they shall not again cover the earth.

  • God the creator is also God the sustainer and protector, providing limits and boundaries.

Hebrews 5:1-10

The author of Hebrews uses the metaphor of the high priest to describe the nature and salvific acts of Jesus. The depiction is interesting, since Jesus was not a priest at all, much less high priest. Many Christians base their understanding of Judaism (rather than their understanding of Jesus) on this passage. The author’s intent is not to expound on Judaism, but to explore the nature of Christ.

  • The priest offers up gifts and sacrifices for sins. According to the passage, what did Jesus offer up?
  • The priest is able to be compassionate because he is weak. Does the passage present Jesus as weak or sinful? If not, what is the parallel to the priest’s weakness?

Mark 10:35-45

I always want to find some way to redeem the enormous blunder made by James and John in this passage. Surely, they couldn’t mean what they seem to mean, couldn’t be asking what they seem to be asking. According to Mark’s chronology, Jesus has made it abundantly clear that his mission includes torture and death. He has already rebuked Peter harshly for trying to thwart that calling, telling all the disciples quite plainly that following him requires a wiliness to suffer the same painful, ignoble fate that he himself would suffer.

Then in last week’s gospel reading, Jesus had to set the disciples straight about their thinking on authority and honor. They argued, as they walked, about who would be the greatest in the coming kingdom. “Greatest what?” one wonders. The greatest sufferer? The first martyr? Jesus pauses to flip their world upside down (“Whoever wants to be first must be last and the servant of all”) before going back to the main message: What’s coming is death.

In today’s reading, it happens again. This time we aren’t given anonymous disciples participating in covert talk. Rather, James and John openly ask to be honored with the best seats in the house. Again, Jesus takes the time to correct both misunderstandings: (1) This is about death, not glory; and (2) leadership in this movement requires serving, not ruling.

  • It is easy to focus on how obtuse the disciples are, but Christians today ought to focus on the second issue rather than the first. We already believe that Jesus is going to die near the end of this story. We get that. What are we going to do about the other?

This page is available in: Español

Don’t forget to subscribe to the Sermons That Work podcast to hear this sermon and more on your favorite podcasting app! Recordings are released the Thursday before each liturgical date.

Receive Free Weekly Sermons That Work Resources!


Christopher Sikkema


Click here

This page is available in: Español