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Bible Study Guide for Sunday October 25, 2020

October 22, 2020

● Deuteronomy 34:1-12

● Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17

● 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8

● Matthew 22:34-46

Today’s readings contain the final verses of the Pentateuch and a letter that is the earliest record of Paul’s ministry, that to the Thessalonians. So, it is in that sense of endings and new beginnings that we might consider these two readings. In Deuteronomy, after describing Moses’ last days and burial, the text introduces a new beginning for the Jewish people as a Jewish nation under Joshua who had been filled with “the spirit of wisdom.” That is, God’s continuing care will no longer be through Moses, but rather through “wisdom” given to Joshua by Moses. Surely, this “spirit of wisdom” is what we name the “Holy Spirit,” one aspect of our Trinitarian God.

That Spirit was surely leading Paul as he began his ministry, traveling through the Mediterranean world to spread the Gospel. In this letter, Paul refers to his mistreatment at Philippi. Remember his jailing by the authorities because of his preaching and healing (Acts 16)? Paul’s “approval by God” is delivered via that same spirit of wisdom that led Joshua. Of course, there is a dramatic difference between the nature of Joshua’s mission, beginning with “fit the battle of Jericho", and that of Paul who was “gentle among you” as he shared the Gospel message. And notice the central importance of Paul’s plea: to be pleasing to God as he (and potentially his listeners) are tested. Our Collect for this week expresses Paul's plea this way: "Make us love what you command."

Testing also lies at the center of today’s reading from Matthew. In these verses, we have the last two of four questions posed by Jesus and leaders of the Pharisees and Sadducees in this chapter. Last week, we heard about paying taxes to the emperor. Then there was the Sadducees’ puzzle about the seven-times-married woman, which we mercifully skipped over this year. Now we have two more questions: “Which is the greatest commandment?” posed by the Pharisees and a final question posed by Jesus himself (Matt. 22:41-46). Note that of these four questions, only Jesus’ response to the commandment question is met with apparent acceptance by both sides. There is agreement, at least among the questioning Pharisees, that the quoted lines from Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18 provide the correct answer. The final question, “What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?” is at the heart of Matthew’s Gospel: the dual human/divine nature of Jesus. (Matt: 1:1 “An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”) Matthew is presenting the Pharisees with an apparent contradiction, using Ps. 110:1, that cannot be resolved without acknowledging Jesus’ divine nature.

· Are we called by God to be like Joshua, battling to overcome our adversaries, or Paul, gently leading, to live out the Gospel in our own time?

· How do you wrestle with the question of Jesus’ dual nature as both divine and human?

Author: Chuck Medler


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