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Bible Study Guide for Sunday September 27, 2020

September 24, 2020
  • Exodus 17:1-7
  • Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16
  • Philippians 2:1-13
  • Matthew 21:23-32

The reading from Exodus seems strange at first. Is Moses upset with the people for needing water? It sounds like he might be. “After all that we’ve done, can you believe they want water too? How self-centered can you get!” That sounds harsh. There is such a thing as “out of the frying pan and into the fire” and while life in slavery is very bad, it would not be an improvement for the entire nation to die of thirst. God isn’t upset that the people are asking for water but that they seem to assume that this time, God won’t provide. At this point God has worked all sorts of wonders to lead up to their leaving Egypt, parted the Red Sea, and nourished them with manna each morning and quail each night. They should recognize the pattern. God has been providing for them up to this point and he isn’t going to stop now.

God is choosing to do all this in particularly dramatic ways. God is also going to provide for their need for water similarly. When they happened to come across an oasis, as they did in Exodus 15:27-28, maybe that was God’s way of providing or maybe they were just lucky. If water suddenly starts flowing out of a rock, there is no explanation other than God’s miraculous provision. God was making a point.

In our era, God’s provision is more subtle. And sometimes God’s provision does not seem to come through at all. In the last six months we have become increasingly aware of countless people who have gotten sick and died, or lost jobs and homes, or suffered violence. God’s provision does not mean that we are always shielded from harm. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, since Jesus was not shielded from harm either. Jesus did not glide through the world protected from all evil but instead “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave … he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross.”

Paul encourages the Philippians to “let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” Sometimes God’s care will look like miraculous provision. Sometimes it will look like a cross. The same power of God that can part seas and draw water from rocks is most highly exalted in suffering and shameful death. But then of course the cross is not the end of the story. As Paul says elsewhere, “if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”  (Romans 6:5)

The Gospel passage offers some insight as to what it might mean to “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit.” In this parable, the first son says all the right things but does not follow through.  In matters of social justice often we can end up reading the right books, saying the right things, and being generally concerned on some vague level. It can be very easy to feel very good about ourselves and expect praise from others for saying the right things without actually turning that into action. And reading books and internally grappling with these questions is all good as far as it goes, but that should lead to some sort of concrete change. The second son doesn’t say the right things. He starts off saying that he will not go to work in the vineyard but then thinks better of it. He doesn’t announce his change of heart but simply gets to work. This second son “does nothing from selfish ambition or conceit” but in his quiet way tends his father’s vineyard, and so builds for the Kingdom of God.


  • Have you had times when it seemed that God was providing for you? How did that provision come about?
  • Have you ever been a means through which God provided for someone else?
  • When has God’s provision come in the form of a cross? Have you seen a resurrection following that cross? Are there crosses where you are still waiting for the resurrection?

Author: Kristen Filipic


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