Lesson: Exodus 3:1-15
1 Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. 3 Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” 4 When the LORD saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5 Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 6 He said further, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
7 Then the LORD said, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, 8 and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 9 The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. 10 So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.” 11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” 12 He said, “I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.”
13 But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I am has sent me to you.’” 15 God also said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’: This is my name forever, and this my title for all generations.”
The Book of Exodus is the second book of the Bible and covers the period from the slavery in Egypt under Pharaoh (around 1250 BCE, if the account is historical), the Exodus itself, and the early months in the Wilderness.
Just prior to today’s story, Moses escaped from Pharaoh who heard that Moses killed an Egyptian who was beating a “Hebrew” (2:11-12). Moses went to Midian, which is east of the Sinai Peninsula and the Gulf of Aqaba, about 250 miles southeast of Egypt. There, he married the daughter of the high priest, Reuel (2:18).
Today’s reading is the first account of the “Call of Moses” at Mount Horeb (sometimes called “Sinai” as in Ex. 19:11). (A second – and different – Priestly account of the call of Moses is in Exodus 6.) In today’s story, Moses saw a burning bush (v.2) when he was tending the flocks of his father-in-law, Jethro (v.1).
The fact that the holy mountain has two names (Horeb and Sinai) and that Jethro is also called Reuel (2:18), all show that today’s reading (like most of the Torah) was woven together from several sources. The verses that refer to God as “LORD” are translations of YHWH, the sacred name in the “J” (Yahwistic) Source. The verses in today’s reading that use the word “God” are translations of the Hebrew word “Elohim” and are from the “E” (Elohistic) Source. YHWH was presented in the Torah as anthropomorphic – a God who spoke with humans and walked in the Garden of Eden. Elohim, on the other hand, was remote and transcendent. Verse 15 of today’s reading presented both understandings of the Sacred.
When Moses asked for God’s name (v.13), he was seeking to “control” God. Names in Ancient Israel described who and what something or someone was. In Genesis, Adam named the animals and later – as a sign of the disorder from the Disobedience Event – named the woman “Eve.” Naming meant that the name-giver had some control over what or who was named.
Instead of being told a name, the story says that Moses received four Hebrew letters that emphasized the unfathomable mystery of God (v.14). These four letters (YHWH) are variously translated as “I AM WHO I AM” or “I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE” or “I AM BECOMING WHAT I AM BECOMING.” In addition to emphasizing the Mystery of God, the “name” also conveys God’s dynamism and changing manifestations.
Epistle: 1 Corinthians 10:1-13
1 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them, and they were struck down in the wilderness.
6 Now these things occurred as examples for us, so that we might not desire evil as they did. 7 Do not become idolaters as some of them did; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and they rose up to play.” 8 We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. 9 We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did, and were destroyed by serpents. 10 And do not complain as some of them did and were destroyed by the destroyer. 11 These things happened to them to serve as an example, and they were written down to instruct us, on whom the ends of the ages have come. 12 So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall. 13 No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.
Corinth, a large port city in Greece, was among the early Jesus Follower communities that Paul founded. Its culture was diverse and Hellenistic, and Corinthians emphasized reason and secular wisdom. In addition to Paul, other Jesus Followers also taught in Corinth, sometimes in ways inconsistent with Paul’s understandings of what it meant to be a Jesus Follower. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians was written in the 50’s (CE) (likely while Paul was in Ephesus) and presented his views on several issues.
It is one of Paul’s most important letters because it is one of the earliest proclamations of Jesus’ death on behalf of sinners and his resurrection and it contains the basic formula for celebrating the Lord’s Supper.
Paul saw the time in the Wilderness as a time of unending apostacy. In today’s reading, Paul used examples from stories of the Israelites in the Wilderness to warn the Corinthians against idolatry and eating food offered to idols. In 10:7, he referred unfavorably to the Israelites’ eating and drinking after worshiping the Golden Calf (Ex. 32:6). As a self-described Pharisee (Phil. 3:5), Paul knew the Hebrew Scriptures and often invoked them to emphasize his messages.
The footnotes in The New Oxford Annotated Bible are helpful: “That Paul uses distinctively Corinthian terms of “spiritual” people and things in vv.3-4 and then abruptly cites God’s displeasure with those who consume “spiritual” food and drink in v. 5 suggests that he is again borrowing and countering Corinthian language.” In verse 4, “Paul attempts to replace the Corinthians’ “Wisdom” with his own “Christ” as the agent of salvation.”
Gospel: Luke 13:1-9
1 At that very time there were some present who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. 4 Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them–do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”
6 Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. 7 So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ 8 He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. 9 If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.'”
The Gospel According to Luke is generally regarded as having been written around 85 CE. Its author also wrote the Acts of the Apostles. Both books were written in elegant and deliberatively crafted Greek and presented Jesus of Nazareth as the universal savior of humanity. Both emphasized the Holy Spirit as the “driving force” for events.
The Gospel followed the same general chronology of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection as the Gospel of Mark, and more than 40% of Luke’s Gospel was based on Mark. The other portions of Luke include (a) sayings shared with the Gospel According to Matthew but not found in Mark and (b) stories that are unique to Luke such as the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Presentation in the Temple, the Prodigal Son, and the Good Samaritan.
Today’s reading contains two stories.The first is about random suffering and recounts two “events” that are not reported in any of the other Gospels or in other secular histories of the times.
It would have been common for Galileans to offer sacrifice at the Temple, and Pilate’s ruthless treatment of those he ruled is attested in Josephus, Philo, and others. The prevailing Jewish belief was that suffering and painful experiences were signs of God’s adverse judgment (the story of Job notwithstanding), and Jesus used the two “events” as a call to repentence (vv. 3, 5). The Tower of Siloam was in the southeast corner of Jerusalem where the Pool of Siloam (referred to in John 9:7) was located. There is, however, no attestation of the Tower collapsing.
The ”parable” of the fig tree appears in all the Synoptic Gospels, but in very different forms. In Mark 11:12-14, Jesus was walking from Bethany to Jerusalem, was hungry, went to a fig tree that had leaves but no fruit (because figs were not yet in season) and said, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.”
In Matthew 21:18-19, the story is the same but Jesus said, “May no fruit ever come from you again.” And the fig tree withered at once.
Luke’s account is different, and the fig tree gets another year to produce fruit, but its fate is unknown. The Jewish Annotated Study Bible suggests that the story means the people have one more year in which to repent. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary opines that it may be a parable of compassion. The fig tree in the Synoptic Gospels may also be an analogue for the prevalent Judaism of Jesus’ time, or for the Pharisaic Judaism of the Gospel writers’ times.