God’s Promises Create and Strengthen Faith
These are the readings for the Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost.
(This Worship Help aligns with the lectionary readings from Christian Worship 1993 and Christian Worship: Supplement.)
God’s Word for This Week
Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Faith is a spiritual quality and accepts the gracious gift of eternal life from our Savior. But faith is not something we can achieve on our own. It is completely the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. With such a value attached to this gift, God provides means to strengthen that faith so that it will remain strong until the day of Christ Jesus. Lord, give us such a faith as this!
Traditional First Lesson – 1 Kings 19:9-18
Why was Elijah at Mount Horeb?
Elijah was fleeing wicked Queen Jezebel, who had vowed to execute him.
What did God mean to teach Elijah by appearing in a whisper instead of the other more astounding methods?
The whisper represented God’s patience with his people, as opposed to the violent destruction that the other responses indicated. It also reminded Elijah of the power of the simple word of God, living and active, that called all the worlds into being.
What reassurance does God provide Elijah in his loneliness?
Elijah was not alone as he supposed—there were still seven thousand Israelites who remained faithful to the Lord and his promises.
Supplemental First Lesson – Exodus 14:10-31
The children of Israel, during their great exodus aptly, displayed that doubt is the unfortunate companion of faith. As they made their way from Egypt to Canaan, they scurried back and forth between the poles of faith and doubt with alarming regularity. Faith had led them to follow Moses and the pillar into the desert. Now with the sea in front of them and a great army behind them, faith fled, and doubt reigned. Adversity made them forget the God of the Passover. Moses came with words so fitting for doubting hearts in the face of adversity, “You need only be still.” As the psalmist said, “Be still and know that I am God.” God’s plan will prevail. The very water they thought was preventing their escape would be the cause of their deliverance. The very army they thought would destroy them; would be destroyed. The troubles that seem to afflict or hem us in are part of the plan for the glory of God and the salvation of man. It is only after the parted sea finds its former home that we recognize the grace of God’s hand in our lives. And we hear the gentle whisper of our Savior-God, “Why did you doubt?”
Traditional Second Lesson – Romans 9:1-5
Why is Paul grieving the state of his people?
As a nation, Paul’s people—the Jews—had rejected Christ and therefore were destined to face God’s wrath eternally.
Comment on Paul’s love for his people.
Paul’s love was of the most selfless variety, a sacrificial love. Note that in verse three, Paul states that, if it were possible, he would rather face eternal judgment himself than to see his people perish. What a powerful model of selfless love this is!
Was it too late for Israel to be saved?
Not as long as they were still alive on Earth. Their teachers still held the books of Moses and the prophets, containing the promises of salvation. They were still living in a time of grace. (Note that their nationality and lineage would not be sufficient to deliver them from judgment.)
Supplemental Second Lesson – James 1:2-8, 12
The trials we face in this sinful world can make us terrified like the disciples, or frustrated like Elijah, or despondent like the children of Israel before the sea. James calls us out as living like double-minded men when we doubt our God. He preaches a law to hearts that need to hear it: “Do not doubt!” But God promises that in the midst of the storms of life, we can listen and also hear his gentle whisper. “It is I. Don’t be afraid!” When we hear his voice, the waves of doubt recede, and faith finds its place again, making us surer of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
Gospel – Matthew 14:22-33
What enabled Peter to walk on water?
Peter’s Spirit brought faith, trusting the invitation from Jesus to walk to him.
What caused Peter to begin sinking?
When Peter took his focus off Christ, the solid rock, he began to place his trust in earthly things. But Jesus lovingly forgives Peter’s weakness, as he so often does with ours.