Bible Study notes

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Bible study notes for  July 13th to 17th

 © ROOTS for Churches Ltd 2002-2020. Reproduced with permission.

The links between the lectionary readings for this week’s service

We use pictures to communicate ideas all the time. Isaiah and the psalmist both make poetic use of pictures to speak of abstract concepts, such as God’s word, or to express the way in which they saw the whole of creation giving praise to God. Paul uses metaphors of walking and dwelling to speak of the ways in which believers’ lives are bound up with the Spirit of God. Jesus, the master storyteller, conjures up pictures to communicate deep truths about people and about the work of God. We shall see more over the next two weeks.

Ask yourselves these questions as you read

  1. What is this passage about?
  2. What do I hear God’s Spirit saying to me as I read?
  3. What change do I need to make in my life from what I have heard God say?

Take some time in prayer to prepare yourself to read and time in prayer and reflection after reading. 

Prayer of approach

God, you know our every thought,

every feeling in our hearts,

every passion in our souls,

every burden that we carry;

thank you for loving us just as we are. 

Speak to us now as we read your word,

And change our hearts, Amen.

Closing prayer

Show me your way; 

help me to know your truth, 

and to live your life. Amen

MondayMatthew 13.1-9,18-23

The readings for this and the next two weeks are taken from the third block of teaching in Matthew’s Gospel, which consists of a set of parables communicating aspects of the kingdom of God. Parables consist of short narratives to illustrate a point. Sometimes the elements in the narrative are explicitly identified as pictures of, or metaphors for, something that helps us understand the meaning. Sometimes the meanings are explained, while at other times they are not spelt out. For example, several of these parables concern seeds, but the picture language, or metaphor, of a seed is used in varying ways in the different parables. For this reason, it is important to take each parable as a whole to determine its meaning, rather than focusing on single words or taking the metaphors too far.

The first half of this week’s reading presents the picture, familiar to Jesus’ audience, of someone sowing seed, probably throwing it across each side of the ground as they walked along a path of beaten earth through a field. Jesus notes reasons, within the story, why the seed falling in each of four different places might be more or less productive. He then calls on the crowd to listen (v.9).

The second half of the reading jumps a few verses to where, having answered the disciples’ question about why he uses parables, Jesus calls them to ‘hear’ the parable (it is the same root word as that translated ‘listen’ in v.9) and he proceeds to explain it. This is where our tidy categories of meaning fail us; it is meaningless to argue whether the germinating seed (v.21) or the soil type (v.19) represent the person. The wording is ambiguous but the meaning is clear. The different growing situations are metaphors for different responses to the word of the kingdom. As such, they help explain why Jesus’ message is not received with acclaim by all of Israel. Various factors affected how the same ‘seed’ of God’s word fared in different circumstances in Jesus’ time: distraction by forces against God, by hostility from others, by worries of life and concern for wealth. Beyond that, we may find that the parable helps us understand why people outside the Church today respond in varying ways to the gospel, and it may also reflect how Christians feel that they respond to the ongoing call of God on their lives. This range of potential applicability reflects the power of a good parable. It can speak to various situations in differing ways – but all may be fruitful.

For further reading check out Working preacher.

Tuesday – Isaiah 55.10-13

The passage from Isaiah uses picture language of rain and snow watering the earth and producing growth as an illustration of how God’s word always achieves whatever God intends.

It continues with another picture, this time of creation itself bursting into praise. Here, as elsewhere in the Scriptures (e.g. Psalm 98.8), there are reminders that all created entities may be understood as responding to God in some way. Although these passages are poetic pictures, in our environmentally stressed world they resource reflection on the relationships between God and nonhuman creation and, by implication, believers’ responsibilities towards God’s world.

For further reading check out Working preacher.

Wednesday – Romans 8.1-11

Here Paul contrasts two ways of being/living and having one’s mind set or thoughts centred ‘by the flesh’ and ‘by the Spirit’. The former leads to death, the latter to life and peace. With regard to believers, they are ‘in’ the Spirit and the Spirit is ‘in’ them (v.9). For Paul, having the Spirit within is the same as being ‘in’ Christ. And since the Spirit is the Spirit of the God-who-raised-Christ, we have life through that same Spirit.

For further reading check out Working preacher.

Thursday –Psalm 65.(1-8),9-13

In this weeks Gospel reading Jesus says, ‘Let anyone with ears listen!’ The words of this psalm remind us to pay attention to what we see with our eyes as well. When we keep watching and paying attention to the way God acts in the world, we can’t miss his power on the one hand and mercy on the other. God’s word at work in the world feeds and waters us so that we, too, can grow through our weaknesses and be part of God’s abundance.

For further reading check out Working preacher

To listen to it be sung try – 

 Read the passage that is the focus for this Sunday’s sermon James 4.11  – 5.6