Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost

Texts for the Day

  • Semi-continuous: Exodus 1:8-2:10 and Psalm 124
  • Thematic:  Isaiah 51:1-6 and Psalm 138
  • Romans 12:1-8
  • Matthew 16:13-20

Bible reading plan: John, Acts, Romans, 1 Corinthians.

Commentary and Reflection

Exodus – This week begins a seven-week series on the story of Exodus which begins with the enslavement of the Israelites this week and finishing with the Ten Commandments on October 8.  The seven selections are reasonable choices, but they do not capture the full breadth of this complex story.  If you can make time, read this entire story (Exodus 1-20) in a single sitting.  What do you notice by reading the story in this way?  What does it say to you about the way God acts in the world?

Here are a couple things to think about in this week’s reading.

  • “Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.” Can you identify with this feeling, whether something intimate like the arrival of a step-parent, challenging like the arrival of a new boss, or impersonal like a change of administration?  How does your own experience affect your reading of the story?
  • There is an inconsistency in this story that does not appear at first glance. Exodus 1:15 implies that there are only two Hebrew midwives.  Yet in Exodus 12:37, a large population of 600,000 men is given.  This is a clue that Exodus is a composite work, consisting of several independent traditions that were brought together into the book we have now.

Gods? – The first verse of Psalm 138 contains an interesting detail.  What are the “gods” of which this verse speaks?  Doesn’t the Bible consistently teach that there is only one God?  Here are couple of explanations that have been offered.

  • A traditional explanation is that the “gods” refer to members of the divine council. In this interpretation, God is imagined as king surrounded by his advisors in his throne room.
  • More recent scholars have claimed to detect a shift from polytheism to monotheism within the Bible itself. In this interpretation, this verse is a remnant of a prior period in Israel’s history where YHWH was one god among many.

Which of these explanations (or others you may have heard) do you feel drawn toward?

Romans – This week marks a transition in our reading of Romans.  Chapters 2-11, where we have been, contain the development of Paul’s theology.  Now, in chapters 12-15, we turn to day-to-day concerns.  What now?  How shall we live in light of the gift of grace that we have been given?  Over the next few weeks we will have a chance to hear Paul’s answer to these questions.

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