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Bible Study Guide for Sunday, November 7, 2021

November 7, 2021
  • Isaiah 25:6-9
  • Psalm 24
  • Revelation 21:1-6a
  • John 11:32-44

“No one has a promise for tomorrow.” That sentence is a key part of my mother’s personal ethos that she has drilled into me since I was a boy. The idea is that there are no guarantees in life and that ill fortune and tragedy can strike us at any time. My mother was not trying to foster paranoia in me, but instead gratitude for the good things in my life. She certainly had plenty of opportunities to learn her philosophy as one of 14 children in a poor family in rural Appalachia Virginia. Her family often lacked (and continues to lack) the money, education, and physical access to the amenities that shelter many from the harsh caprices of the world.

I am thinking of my mother because of a blink-and-you’ll-miss it line from this week’s Revelation reading: “the sea was no more.” It isn’t that God has a personal vendetta against sailing. Instead, in the Biblical world, the sea often represents the forces of chaos waiting just out of sight to flood our lives and bring everything we hold dear to ruin. God’s strength and majesty is shown by God’s ability to effortlessly tame the sea and bring the world into being as God does in Genesis and this week’s Psalm.

For the author of Revelation, the Day of the Lord will entail a final defeat of the forces of chaos. We will no more have to fear the abrupt loss of a loved one, an unexpected illness, or sudden suffering. These things, “the first things” will pass away. This is God’s promise for tomorrow.

Through the death of his friend Lazarus, Jesus shows us a literal and physical sign of this promise. Jesus gives Lazarus life again, beating back the forces of chaos. However, just as important for us as we await the passing of these things, Jesus shows us that God is not aloof from our struggles. God is not distractedly waiting to defeat chaos when the mood strikes. God is in the thick of life, full of humanity, anguished and mourning his friend who has died.

In the end, my mother is both right and wrong. There are no promises for the things of this world which are passing away. But God promises us that we have a tomorrow that God is awaiting to show us in God’s good time, a tomorrow where we will sing together in God’s presence, finally freed from the waters that seek to sweep us away.

- Ryan Newberry

  • Is there a particular image from the Gospels that shows you Jesus’s full humanity and helps comfort you in times of hardship?
  • What things does God promise us? What things does God NOT promise us?
  • Has there been a particular time in your life where you were waiting for God to take away “the sea”?


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