In these texts persons who are trying to serve God are depicted as engaging in intense struggles with the world. Within the Jeremiah 15:15-21 and the Psalm 26 texts, the prophet and the psalmist speak boldly to the Lord asking for support in their struggles. In the very important “Burning Bush” theophany in Exodus 3:1-15 we have the “gospel” in these texts, the good news that the Lord God has seen the affliction of God’s people and has come to deliver them from slavery and oppression. The gospel is expressed in the Matthew 16:21-28 text in that the deliverance from affliction that God accomplished in the death and resurrection of Jesus are already perceived as having occurred as expressed in the passion predictions. The Apostle Paul provides most of the parenesis (guidelines for how we should live in response to the gospel proclaimed) here.
Perhaps the factor that is most prominent in most of the six texts appointed for our consideration this coming weekend is the self-revelation of God and our human response to that self-revelation. It is in the Matthew 16:13-20 account that God is seen most clearly as revealing God’s self so that followers of Jesus may make the transition from their perception of Jesus as an amazing Jewish prophet and religious reformer to their perception of Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God who lives eternally, and they respond to this self-revelation of God with their confession of faith and their praise to God.
The emphasis in these texts is on reconciliation of those who had been estranged in the Genesis 45:1-15 and Psalm 133 texts and on openness to people of other groups outside one’s own in the other texts. In these texts there is no missionary command to go out and bring outsiders into one’s community of faith. Instead, these texts urge us to be open to outsiders, to receive and to welcome them into our fellowship of faith. We are told they will come and we are expected to accept them into the religious community that we ourselves by the grace of God enjoy. That is all that is asked in these texts, and it is asked of us.
It is difficult to identify a unifying factor within the six texts selected for this week. Perhaps the best we can do will be to note that in several of these texts the human condition is characterized by anxiety and fear. In these situations of human anxiety and fear God asserts God’s self in a variety of ways, most notably in a still, small voice commanding Elijah to become even more involved than before in the political situation of his time and in God’s marvelous power and peace revealed through Jesus.
The proclamation of God’s free, abundant, loving grace is the dominant theme in these texts. Without it, life for us cannot exist.