Bible Study: Proper 9 (A) - 2011

July 2, 2011

Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67

When the lectionary skips verses in a reading, it is often helpful to check in with the Bible and see what got left out. In this week’s reading, Abraham’s servant asks Laban and Bethuel a question in Genesis 24:49, and then the reading skips to verse 58, where they call Rebekah and ask her if she will go with Abraham’s servant. It seems that leaving is Rebekah’s own choice. But now look at Genesis 24:50-57. Laban and Bethuel actually answer for Rebekah: “This thing comes from the LORD; we cannot speak to you anything bad or good. Look, Rebekah is before you, take her and go…” Rebekah has no choice about leaving her family and venturing into the unknown to be the wife of a man she has not met. The only choice she is given is whether she will leave immediately, or wait a few days longer. She chooses to go right away.

  • Have you been in a situation in which you were not given a choice about where you would go or what role you would fill? What was that experience like? Did you go along, or did you fight against it? Where was God in that experience?

Psalm 45: 11-18

Psalm 45 is a royal psalm, one of those that celebrates the Davidic kingship and glorifies the king almost to the level of God himself. The inscription at the beginning of Psalm 45 describes it as “a love song,” composed, perhaps, on the occasion of a royal wedding.

Romans 7:15-25a

In this reading, Paul describes the difficulty of living under an abstract code of conduct. Intellectually, we may know and even want what the law tells us is right, but our bodies are not abstract, and do not always conform to our ideals. Some theologians interpret this passage as Paul’s description of life before a convert has experienced the saving grace of Christ. Others see it as a description of the constant challenge of the Christian life.

Whichever way it is interpreted, in this passage, it is our inability to obey the law that shows us that we are trapped in sin and need the new life in the Spirit that Jesus offers us.

  • Paul says, “I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand.” Have you experienced this in your own life? When in your life has Christ freed you from this law and given you the ability to live a new life in the Spirit?

Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

There is a note of frustration in the words of Jesus at the beginning of this week’s Gospel reading. The Son of God and a major prophet are right under the people’s noses, but no one sees them for who they are. Preconceived ideas can often prevent us from seeing something for what it really is. The more we learn, the more preconceived ideas we develop, and we need that knowledge to survive. But God almost never comes to us when or in the way we expect, so sometimes it is necessary to put down the heavy burden of everything we know and look at the world as if we have never seen it before. If we do, we just might recognize God in a place we never would have thought to look.

  • For the next few days, make a practice of noticing ordinary, everyday people, tasks, and events in your life. Pay special attention to things you know well, take for granted, or do by rote. Can you hear God’s flute? Or God’s wailing?