Thursday before the Fourth Sunday of Advent

Genesis 25:25-34, Exodus 15:12-18, Psalm 23

The family life of Isaac and Jacob—the patriarchs of the tribes of Israel—is not ideal. Favoritism of love is shown. Despising of family and property is displayed through hunger. This is not a family form to follow. God’s Word often shows that the people that God chose to carry his name and blessing weren’t perfect. In fact, some of them seem to have very few redeeming qualities. In other words, God chose to carry his name and blessing through people just like us.

Moses’ exultation of God in Exodus can seem overbearing toward people who don’t follow God. The entire purpose of that overbearingness is to show God’s power and glory through a people despised and rejected. In fact, this is an echo of the passage in Genesis, for some of the people who are opposing of the Israelites return (coming into their inheritance) are the descendants of Esau who despised his inheritance. God leads and loves those on the outside.

Psalm 23 is probably the best-known Psalm, even outside of Christian and Jewish circles. In it, God’s care of his people is first presented in the role of a shepherd. As the shepherd, God makes the sheep lie down and rest. When the shepherd (God) does lead the sheep, they are so confident and trusting in God, that they followed through darkness and fear.

The Psalm then transforms from sheep to a person for whom the table is set. In other words, the sheep has now become the guest. That is not a small transformation, to go from stubborn (won’t rest), to following (through fear and death), to guest.

1) The family in Genesis is not great. How are the relationships shown between people: Isaac, Rebekah, Esau, Jacob? Think of how scripture shows and doesn’t show those relationships.

2) Redemption is one of the biggest ways God shows his love. How is redemption shown in each of today’s passages?

3) What imagery attracts you most in Psalm 23? What do you think that shows you about a need in your life that should be filled by God, rather than the world?

KD) Why do you think that God uses the image of sheep when he talks about his people?
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