Week of 01.20.20 – 01.26.20
Isaiah 9:1-4 • Psalm 27:1, 4-9 • 1 Corinthians 1:10-18 • Matthew 4:12-23
As we move back in the book of Isaiah, before the exile has happened, we return to the initial calls from Isaiah on the people to return to God. In the previous chapter (chapter eight) Isaiah has outlined the consequences of the people’s choice to turn from God if they do not turn back to him. This passage focuses in on the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali in the Northern Kingdom Israel. These two tribes are in a horrible location in regard to surrounding countries who aim to conquer and control them. The members of these two tribes have also made themself very vulnerable to, and comfortable with, the different, non-Jewish religions and religious customs/practices of the people in these other countries (as well as those who have immigrated in from these countries). Isaiah uses the understanding of darkness and light to illustrate to the people that they have chosen to live apart from God, and therefore are living in darkness. The people had become so accustom to their darkness that did not even realize their state of life. Isaiah tells the people that the light (revelation and epiphany) are available to them if they will turn back to God. Centuries later this is the geographical area that Jesus goes to following his time in the wilderness and temptation.
Psalm 27:1-9 (Responsive Reading)
Psalm 27 is a cry for help. The Psalmist begins with three words that would have been familiar to those hearing this Psalm. Light was a constant cry from the people who were often recognizing that they were living in the midst of darkness, oppression and hopelessness. This darkness was due to their own deeds and/or the actions of others. Salvation is a term that had been used since Moses led the people out of slavery in Egypt and Stronghold was a military word used to describe peace and security. The Psalmist is calling out for hope in a time of darkness and hopelessness.
1 Corinthians 1:10-18
As we have seen, the church at Corinth, is a mess. Almost as soon as Paul left (after having stayed with them for around eighteen months) the church begins listening to false teachers and, at the same time, splitting up amongst themselves. Every human reason for division is evident in the church at Corinth. In this passage Paul is confronting their divisions based on which apostle, or teacher, they follow – here are even divisions based on which Christian leader baptized them. Paul points out the futility in such allegiances and, instead, reminds the church that their unity is based on the cross which was for them all, regardless of resume or past. Paul points to the temporal nature of the divisions and the eternal reason for cross.
Following Jesus’ baptism he withdrew to the desert where he spent a consecrated time in fasting and prayer followed by an even more consecrated time in direct and brutal temptation. After this intense time he returned from the desert and received the news that John the Baptizer had been arrested and was facing probable death. The people had become very familiar with oppression by the Romans and the subsequent darkness – now Jesus was experiencing this darkness in a very real, personal, and painful way. In response to the imprisonment of John, Jesus withdrew to the area called Gallilee (his home region which was formerly known as tribal areas of the Zebulun and Naphtali – see our Isaiah primer for this week). From there, Jesus picks up John’s message of “Repent” as he begins to organize his own followers. Among these followers we see Andrew and Peter who had already engaged with Jesus as their former rabbi (John) had pointed them to the Messiah following the baptism (see John 1:29-42 from last week). They were already truth seekers and in the Matthew passage we see that they had come to the decision to fully follow Jesus. Jesus also calls two other brothers, James and John, to be disciples. This passage marks the beginning of the public ministry of Jesus.