01.20.20 – 01.26.20

Copy of Copy of UntitledWeek of 01.20.20 – 01.26.20

Readings

Isaiah 9:1-4  •  Psalm 27:1, 4-9  •  1 Corinthians 1:10-18  •  Matthew 4:12-23

Context

Isaiah 9:1-4

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.

Matthew 4:12-23

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.

01.13.20 – 01.19.20

Readings

Isaiah 49:1-7  •  Psalm 40:1-11  •  1 Corinthians 1:1-9  •  John 1:29-42

Primer

Isaiah 49:1-7

As we witnessed last week in Isaiah’s prophecies, Isaiah is addressing a people who have been completely traumatized and placed into their new reality.  While they had ignored God’s instruction through his prophets for decades, now they are experiencing the fruit of their choice to ignore truth.  They have not yet turned back to God, and they are still listening to the false prophets, regardless, God is getting them ready for deliverance.  Jeremiah and Isaiah both, at this point, are speaking of the hope that lies ahead….even before the people have turned back to God.  In this passage, Isaiah is speaking to the work, and nature, of the unknown person(s) who will deliver the people out of exile and slavery.  He is also giving us a view of what is to come in regard to the Israelites. The call is for all the Israelites to come back together and that they will be a light and strength to all the world.  This is a theme of the ultimate deliverer of whom the prophesy speaks – the deliverer Jesus Christ.  Truth, unity, and light.

Psalm 40:1-11 (Responsive Reading)

Psalm is a familiar tale of our response to God’s working in our life.  The Psalm recounts the Psalmist’ detailing of a time that they called out to God and saw his answer.  It then goes to season of gratitude followed by a natural response of sharing God’s deliverance.  This response of gratitude and sharing is a natural response that ties into the response of the first disciples called by Jesus.  They could not help but go and tell others about what (who) they had found – the one they had been looking for. Then, in an equally very real human nature response, the writer begins another plea calling out to, and for, God’s steadfast love and mercy.  It is a tale of the enormity of our human response to the God who is present and hears our cries.

I Corinthians 1:1-9

The church at Corinth was established by the apostle Paul around fifty years after the birth of Christ. We have two, of the probable four letters, in our Bible that Paul wrote to the Corinthians following his eighteen month stay.  Corinth was a very important city to the Romans for economic as well as military reasons. The greek word ‘Korinthiazomai’ which means ‘to act like a Corinthian’, came to be known as ‘to practice fornication’ a reputation that fit the city well with its greek temple housing one thousand prostitutes.  The church is made up of Jews and Gentiles fully representative of the overall population of the city. Not long after Paul left the city he began hearing troubling news from, and about, the church (the people) at Corinth.  He heard of divisions, immorality, and false theology.  The letters to Corinth all come out of a deep concern for the church and a desire to correct, and then encourage, the body of believers.

John 1:29-42

The verses leading up to our gospel focus passage are powerful and enormous in their reach and message.  The book begins at creation and by verse nineteen we see John the baptizer already preparing the people for the ministry, work, and revelation of Jesus Christ.  We also see that it takes only those eighteen prior verses to bring up the problems Jesus will face.  The religious officials send some of their key people to question John about what he is doing and why he gathering the large crowds.  John point the religious leaders to his role as preparer for the Messiah and that it is Jesus, who had already been baptized by John, that is the truth they are looking for.  Soon we see John pointing his own disciples to follow Jesus.  This passage details the decision to follow Jesus and the immediate impact on each of them.