Readings for Sunday, Jan 29, 2023
The First Reading is from Micah 6:1-8. Our first reading from Micah follows a series of readings on previous Sundays from Isaiah. In listening to the reading consider whether this is a break in the message from Isaiah or a continuation of Isaiah’s message that ethical behavior is far more important than the mechanics of sacrificial rites. Verse 5 refers to a story in Numbers, chapters 22- 24, where king Balak of Moab asks Balaam son of Beor to put a curse on the Israelites escaping from slavery in Egypt, but instead Balaam follows the wishes of God and puts a blessing on the Israelites as they prepare to cross the Jordan river. Also in verse 5 the phrase “Shittim to Gilgal refers to the last resting stop east of the Jordan, Shittim, and, Gilgal, the first resting stop west of the Jordan and thus illustrates the success of the Israelites when they have the blessing of God. Today's message is part of a lawsuit between God and the people of Israel. At Sinai God entered into a new covenant with the people of Israel. Now, God is charging, in an indictment, that although he, God, has upheld his promises, the people of Israel have not upheld their promises. The mountains and the hills are the jury for this trial. In verses 3 and 4 God declares his innocence. God has upheld his part of the covenant, from the exodus from Egypt to the present, he rescued them, he helped, and guided them. God's love for his people followed all the way from leaving Egypt to crossing the Jordan into Israel. Verses 6-8 lay out the two possible ways to respond to God. Verse 8 told the Israelites and tells us how he wants us to worship him: for the people to walk humbly with God, and treat their fellow human beings with love and justice.
Hear what the Lord says: "Rise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice. Hear, you mountains, the controversy of the Lord, and you enduring foundations of the earth; for the Lord has a controversy with his people, and he will contend with Israel.
O my people, what have I done to you? In what have I wearied you? Answer me! For I brought you up from the land of Egypt, and redeemed you from the house of slavery; and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, O my people, remember now what King Balak of Moab devised, what Balaam son of Beor answered him, and what happened from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the saving acts of the Lord."
With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
The 2nd reading is from 1 Corinthians 1:18-31. In our 2nd message Paul describes a problem that was important in his day and remains a problem for our age. Those who consider themselves as wise want to use their wisdom, i.e. their ability to reason logically, to understand the teaching of Jesus Christ. Luther understood that the only way to understand Jesus and become one with him was through faith, not reason. The wise of this world say that miracles, e.g. Jesus' death on the cross and resurrection are not logically possible, and they are correct miracles are not logically possible, for example creating the universe is not logically possible but that was no problem for God when he created the universe. Those of faith say that God, who can create the cosmos from nothing, can create a miracle anytime he wants to. Those who have faith have wisdom from God, not from human logic. Let us who have faith not boast of our faith, but pray to God for greater faith and boast in the Lord.
The message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart." Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength.
Consider your own call, brothers and sisters; not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, in order that, as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord."