Bible Study: Proper 8 (C) - 2013

June 30, 2013

2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14

Second Kings continues the history of Israel from 1 Kings. Elijah will soon be leaving Elisha and ascend or be “taken up” to heaven. Elijah and Elisha have set out from Gilgal. As Robert Wilson points out in the footnotes on 2 Kings in “The Harper Collins Study Bible” (Harper Collins, 2006), at the Jordan River, Elijah uses his mantle, a symbol of his power, to separate the river so that he and Elisha may cross. This act, separating the waters of the Jordan River, echo similar acts by Joshua as he led the Israelites into Canaan, and Moses and his parting of the Red Sea. Connecting Elijah with those ancestors who came before him and led the Israelites to freedom is a testimony to the importance of heredity and inheritance in the history of the people of Israel.

Wilson also points out that in traditional Mosaic Law it was believed the firstborn received a double portion of the inheritance. The inheritance for this family is the gift of the Spirit. Elisha asks that some of the gift be shared with him. When Elijah ascends to heaven, Elisha receives the gift of Spirit from his brother, and using the mantle parts the water. This act of power over the waters is a sign Elisha will now carry on the history and inheritance for the people.

  • What can your family history tell you about the gifts you may have inherited from your ancestors?
  • What patterns do you see emerging from your own family history that may not be of the Spirit?

Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20

The psalm begins with a cry for help. The psalmist finds no comfort and cries out, “Help me God.” “Where are you God?” “Why won’t you help me God?”

This hymn of lamentation, however, quickly turns into a hymn of thanksgiving and praise. The psalmist begins to recall all the wonderful gifts and blessings that have been given and chooses to praise God for this abundance. We are reminded again of the way in which God led the people of Israel to freedom and the promises that God has made and kept.

There can be times when it is very difficult to see God here, now, with us, through our struggles and moments of despondency. Feelings of abandonment and despair are real and heartbreaking. Practicing gratitude can keep us mindful of those things that are good, encouraging us and giving us hope. Some people keep a gratitude journal, writing each day three to five things they are thankful for or when they felt a strong sense of God’s presence. This practice can be particularly helpful during times when God can feel so far away.

  • What three things are you grateful for today?
  • Where have you found God during the most challenging times of your life?

Galatians 5:1,11-20

Christ has set us free. Just as Elisha asked for a share of Elijah’s Spirit, we, too, are all given the opportunity to share in the gifts of the Spirit. In Christ, who has set us free, we all may choose to live in the Spirit and not succumb to earthily and human desires. Paul’s argument against circumcision is in opposition to teachers who have been encouraging members of the early church to continue the traditional Jewish laws. While circumcision may have been the traditional practice to show ones allegiance to God, under this new law, one will show forth the fruits of the Spirit as a sign of their commitment to God in Christ.

  • What fruits of the spirit are you proficient in?
  • Which fruits do you think could use some work, and how might you begin that work today?

Luke 9:51-62

Jesus has just foretold his death and resurrection, and we are told it is now near the time of his ascension. Much like Elijah on his journey from Gilgal (2 Kings 2:1), Jesus has “set his face” toward Jerusalem (v. 51) and begins a journey from Galilee. Jesus has also “sent messengers ahead” (v. 52), an echo of Exodus 23:20 and a literary tie to a prophets history.

Jesus encounters resistance to his ministry in Samaria, and as they travel along the road to Jerusalem many wish to follow him. Jesus explains to the would-be followers, that to follow the Son of Man is not an easy life. This life of discipleship requires one to leave what they know and even whom they love. Just as Jesus did not allow his disciples to turn back and punish the Samaritans, he similarly explains to those eager to follow, that once one has committed to this life of discipleship there is no turning back.

  • When in your life have you had to make a difficult decision to move, to leave a job or maybe even a partner to do what you believed to be the best thing?
  • The scripture doesn’t tell us whether those wanting to follow Jesus ended up doing so. What might you have thought if you were one of the would-be followers and Jesus told you not to look back to those you were leaving behind?