Today in Bible study we looked at the following scriptures for this coming Sunday.
Scripture Reading: Isaiah 40:21-31
Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to live in; who brings princes to naught, and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing. Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when he blows upon them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble. To whom then will you compare me, or who is my equal? says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see: Who created these? He who brings out their host and numbers them, calling them all by name; because he is great in strength, mighty in power, not one is missing.
Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God”? Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 9:16-23
If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel! For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission. What then is my reward? Just this: that in my proclamation I may make the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my rights in the gospel.
For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.
Scripture Reading: Mark 1:29-39
As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.
In looking for connections between the passages, we discovered the following:
- There is a connection between Isaiah’s call to “wait upon the Lord” and Mark’s pointing out that Jesus spent much time in prayer. Jesus “went out to a deserted placed, and there he prayed.” All of the gospels make the point what whenever Jesus needed his spiritual batteries recharged or needed to discern the direction God wanted him to take, he would go and spend time in prayer, usually away from others. Prayer as “waiting upon the Lord” is an essential discipline for all Christians.
- There also appears to be a connection between Paul’s “I have become all things to all people, that I might save some” and Jesus’ desire to leave Capernaum and go into the neighboring towns and villages to proclaim the message. The gospel message is everything, to Jesus and to Paul. There is nothing more important than sharing the good news, and if that means Jesus leaving an area that may have been home to him for some time or Paul’s doing whatever is necessary for him in order to share the good news, then so be it.
We also discussed the idea of boasting as Paul presents it. Some have seen Paul’s statements about boasting as being a little self-serving, as though he has much to be proud of. I instead see his statements throughout the book of Corinthians and his other writings and trying to downplay the place of pride and accomplishments in the Christian life. The church at Corinth has many Christians who look down their spiritual noses at others in the community. They are making their own spiritual gifts and spiritual heritage more important than others’ gifts and heritage, and Paul wants none of that in the church. Pride and boasting is divisive in the Christian community. And he will use himself as an illustration of this by saying things like “If anyone has a reason to boast, well I have even more reason to do so.” So . . . do not think yourselves better than others because I do not think such things myself.
The first part of the Isaiah reading stresses the power and might of God. “To whom then will you compare me, or who is my equal? says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see: Who created these? He who brings out their host and numbers them, calling them all by name; because he is great in strength, mighty in power, not one is missing.” The second half of the reading is often used at funeral and memorial services, and makes the point that God, in all his power and might, is willing to help and strengthen those in need.