Posted by: Pauline | April 28, 2013

Scriptures for Sunday May 5

Matthew 21:18-22

Many people are bothered by this story. Why would Jesus curse a fig tree, especially when it was not yet the season for figs?

Bible scholars explain that while it was not yet time for figs, fig trees in Palestine do bear unripe but edible fruit called taksh in the spring – at about the time this story took place. For a fig tree to have leaves but no taksh indicated that it would not be bearing figs even when fig season did come in summer.

They further explain that the fig tree was used as a symbol of Israel in the Old Testament – and specifically, a barren fig tree, depicting Israel’s unfaithfulness to God. Jesus’ cursing the fig tree is thus symbolic of the judgment that will come on Israel.

A second thing that bothers some people about this passage is that it seems to make answers to prayer depend on the strength of a person’s faith. The explanation given here, about having faith as a mindset rather than trying to use faith as a tool, is helpful in this regard.

James 5:13-18

It is always a good time to pray, and to praise God. But this passage is helpful in giving us a direction to follow linked to our current circumstances. When you’re suffering, pray. When you’re cheerful, sing praise. When you have no strength to do anything (the word “sick” implies something very serious, not run-of-the-mill sickness, and probably has a strong element of depression involved), get help from those who will bring the power of God to work in your life.

James uses the example of Elijah to encourage us in our prayer. It’s easy to think Elijah’s praying was powerful because he was so much more spiritual than we are, but James makes a point of reminding us that Elijah was someone “with a nature like ours.”

One different might be the intensity of his prayers. Where our translations say he prayed “earnestly” or “fervently,” the Greek literally says he “prayed with prayer,” meaning that it was intense.

Elijah also showed a great concern for God’s holiness and for our obedience to God. James’ mention of the prayer of a righteous man is in the context of the confession of sin. Prayer will not be effective when there is sin blocking one’s communion with God.

 

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