Lectionary Commentaries for August 13, 2023
Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost

from WorkingPreacher.org


Commentary on Matthew 14:22-33

Nicholas J. Schaser

For perfectly legitimate reasons, Peter walking on water has been the subject of countless sermons. If Jesus’ preeminent disciple—the one on whom he builds his church (Matthew 16:18)—can sink due to a lack of faith, then this can happen to anyone. Peter becomes a symbol for any believer who has ever had a moment of doubt. Yet we can be safe in the knowledge that Christ will reach out and save us when we call out to him (14:30-31). All of this is true, but it also makes for a self-facing sermon; the episode on the water becomes all about us and the benefits that come from being in relationship with Jesus.

But when readers of this passage focus on Jesus rather than on Peter, more interesting and impactful insights emerge. Throughout the pericope, the evangelist alludes to Old Testament precedents that present Jesus doing “God acts”—words and deeds that the Most High had said and done according to Israel’s Scriptures. Moreover, the Gospel passage uses language that foreshadows the salvation from sin that will occur when Jesus dies on the cross. In this way, the story of Jesus walking on water becomes a bridge between what God had done in the past and what God will accomplish through Christ.  

When a storm arises while the disciples are on the sea of Galilee, Jesus resolves to meet them exactly where they are: “And in the fourth watch of the night, he went to them, walking on the sea” (Matthew 14:25). At first glance, it’s not clear why Jesus feels the need to traverse the tempestuous waters. Not long before this night, Jesus had calmed the raging sea with no more than a word (see Matthew 8:23-27)—why not do the same again? In this case, the Gospel highlights Jesus’ choice to walk on the waves as a deliberate recollection of what God did at creation.

Matthew states that Jesus “went (elthen) to them, walking upon the sea (peripaton epi tes thālassa)” (14:25). Each of the highlighted terms also appears when God questions Job about the cosmos. According to the Greek translation of the text, God asks Job if he ever “went upon (elthes… epi) the springs of the sea (thalāsses) or walked (periepātesas) in the recesses of the deep” (Job 38:16 Septuagint). Earlier in the book, Job affirms that the Creator had traversed the oceans before the dawn of humanity, saying that God “stretched out the heavens and trampled on the waves of the sea” (9:8).

Every description of Jesus’ life in the Gospels has theological meaning related to the God and people of Israel. Jesus decides to walk on water because this is what God had done at the creation of the world. The disciples, of course, do not make the connection—to the contrary, they’re terrified because they think they’ve seen a “ghost” (Matthew 14:26). However, the attuned Bible reader can know what the disciples missed in the moment; namely, that the Lord has given Jesus authority over the created order.

Christ’s words to his worried students underscore his divine identity. As he approaches the boat, he declares, “Take heart, it is I. Do not be afraid” (Matthew 14:27 New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition). The common English translation of “it is I” obscures what the Greek really says, which is “I am” (egō eimi)—the same thing God says to Moses at the burning bush according to the Septuagint: “And God said to Moses, ‘I am’ (egō eimi)” (Exodus 3:14 Septuagint). If walking on water weren’t enough to reflect his divine status, Matthew’s Jesus repeats the very words of God.

Every churchgoer knows what happens next: Peter begins to walk to Jesus “but when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’” (Matthew 14:30). Immediately, Jesus reaches out his hand, pulls Peter into the boat, and the wind ceases (14:32). Seeing this miraculous event, the rest of the disciples say to Jesus, “Truly you are the Son of God” (14:33). Based on the divine display that they’ve just seen, their appellation is appropriate.

The disciples’ proclamation after Jesus saves Peter’s life will reemerge at the moment of Jesus’ death. When Christ yields up his spirit and an earthquake ensues, a centurion and his associates at the cross declare, “Truly this was the Son of God” (Matthew 27:54).¹ The disciples had used this title after Jesus rescued Peter as he called out, “Save me!” (14:30). During the Passion, the chief priests, scribes, and elders unknowingly recall this moment when they say of a crucified Jesus, “He saved others; he cannot save himself” (27:42a). Yet, the exclamation of divine sonship at the cross confirms that by not saving himself from crucifixion Jesus continues to save others—not from death by drowning, as he did for Peter, but from the death-dealing power of sin. The Gospel begins by saying that the goal of Jesus’ life would be to “save his people from their sins” (1:21), and the reiteration of Jesus’ status as “Son of God” at the cross indicates that he has accomplished this salvation through his death.

While it is common to preach on Peter when this passage appears in the lectionary—and this Petrine focus is fine—turning attention to Jesus can enrich our understanding of him as the Son of God whose recapitulation of his Father’s activities anticipate the divine objective of salvation from sin.


  1.  The Greek statement lacks the definite article, and thus could be translated, “Truly this was a son of God.” Hence several English translations obviating the issue by rendering the exclamation, “Truly this was God’s Son” (e.g., CEB; LEB; NET; NRSVUE). However, this translation weakens the parallelism with Matt 14:33, in which the definite article is similarly absent. It may be better to render the phrases in both verses as conferring a title: “Truly your are/this was ‘Son of God.’”

First Reading

Commentary on 1 Kings 19:9-18

Vanessa Lovelace

The prophet Elijah’s life is in danger, and he is in retreat. He is despondent and has a death wish. Eventually, he finds that despite his fears that only he is left among God’s prophets and is experiencing feelings of abandonment, God is present with him and provides for his needs. This doesn’t mean that Elijah’s prophetic ministry becomes any easier even after the threat has abated.

A prophet like Moses

There had been a three-year drought in Israel because Ahab, king of Israel, had forsaken God’s commandments and followed the Baals, the gods of his wife, Jezebel. Elijah had engaged in a contest with the prophets of Baal and Asherah at Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18) to demonstrate to the people that Yahweh was God. Elijah prevails over the prophets of Baal and Asherah and has them killed. God restores the rains in the land following Elijah’s defeat of the prophets. Ahab reported to Jezebel all that Elijah had done and she swore to take Elijah’s life. He feared Jezebel would follow through on her threat and he fled to Horeb, the mount of God. 

Scholars note the allusions to Moses in the characterization of Elijah in this story. He travels forty days and forty nights to Mount Horeb, also called Mount Sinai in other biblical traditions, especially in the book of Exodus. Mount Horeb is also the site where God is first revealed to Moses (Exodus 3:1; see also 24:18). Mount Horeb is used exclusively in Deuteronomy (an exception is Deuteronomy 33:2). The author’s use of Mount Horeb reflects the Deuteronomistic perspective, influenced by the theology of the book of Deuteronomy, that claims that Israel’s failures are a result of disobedience to God’s commandments and her successes are due to covenant fidelity. 

What are you doing here?

Once he reached Mount Horeb, Elijah came to a cave where he spent the night. Continuing with the Moses parallels, this was not just any cave but the cave where Moses experienced God’s theophany. The author lends legitimacy to Elijah’s office of prophet by establishing him as a prophet like Moses, whom God promised at Mount Horeb to raise from among the people (Deuteronomy 18:15). At the time, the people feared God’s theophany at Sinai lest they die and asked Moses to speak for them (Exodus 20:18). Elijah has an experience like Moses’ encounter with God in the cleft in the rock at Sinai (Exodus 33:13–23). 

The narrator states that the word of the Lord came to Elijah inquiring why he was there. Previously, God sent a messenger (Hebrew malak), also translated “angel” in many English versions, to minister to Elijah while he slept. Given that Mount Horeb was known as the mountain of God, one might have expected an encounter with God there. This time God speaks directly to Elijah in a stereotypical prophetic address. God spoke to God’s prophets through various means including dreams, visions, and casting lots. The text suggests that God came to Elijah in a dream. Elijah has a three-fold response. First, he responds that he has been very zealous for the Lord. This response comes across as defensive for having fled to Horeb. The term “zealous” means to show great energy or enthusiasm for a cause, such as a crusader. Elijah has been campaigning vigorously for God. The cause of his crusade, according to Elijah, is that the Israelites have forsaken the covenant, torn down God’s altars, and killed God’s prophets. Elijah does not mention that he ordered the murder of over 450 prophets of Baal and Asherah as part of his campaign. Still, the people turned back to God after the events at Mount Carmel, so perhaps he is mischaracterizing the people’s fidelity; perhaps Elijah’s recollection of events is hazy.

His second response is that he alone is left of God’s prophets. Elijah’s report that no other prophets survived Jezebel’s slaughter of God’s prophets conflicts with the report he received from Obadiah, a palace steward and follower of God, that he had hidden a hundred prophets and provided them with food and drink (1 Kings 18:4, 12-13). Perhaps in Elijah’s despair he could not recall this detail either. His third and final response is that his life is in danger. In any event, the fact that he is afraid and running for his life is closest to answering God’s question, but it doesn’t explain why he’s at Mount Horeb except for the parallel with Moses. 

Just as before with Moses, God commanded Elijah to come out of the cave and stand on the mountain before God where God would pass by. However, Elijah refused and sheltered in the safety of the cave while God’s theophanic presence manifested. First there is a wind so strong that it causes pieces of the mountain to break away, but the narrator reports that God was not in the wind. This theophanic phenomenon was followed by an earthquake and fire. But God was not in these phenomena either. A sound of sheer silence or a small voice followed, the sound of which drew Elijah from the cave. God asks Elijah again what he is doing there and Elijah repeats what he said in verse 10. Despite Elijah’s continued complaints and fear of Jezebel, God re-commissions him to return to the wilderness with assignments to anoint new kings over Aram and Israel and appoint Elisha his successor.

Theological reflection

Elijah ran from his troubles rather than trusting that God would shelter him from harm. In the end, Elijah had to return to the place he fled and do the work that God called him to do. God’s question to Elijah, “What are you doing here?” should prompt us to reflect on whether we are where God would have us be. Are we in a job, relationship, or place where we are emotionally or spiritually far from where God wants us or are we flourishing in spaces that nurture and embrace us?

Alternate First Reading

Commentary on Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28

Carolyn B. Helsel

Let us consider the circumstances of this text. Joseph’s father, who loves him, sends him out to see how his brothers are doing pasturing their flocks. His brothers hate him, firstly because he is the favorite of their father, and perhaps secondly, because he is not a brother to them from their own mothers. 

Joseph’s father Jacob, had sons with four wives: Rachel, Leah, Zilpah, and Bilhah. If you remember from Genesis 29, Jacob originally wanted to marry Rachel, but her father tricked him into marrying Leah first. And in their fight to bear sons for Jacob, both sisters made Jacob conceive children with their maids. Rachel bore Jacob no children until after Leah, Bilhah and Zilpah had between themselves given birth to ten sons. When Rachel finally conceived, she gave birth to Joseph and Benjamin, and she died giving birth to her second son. So the beloved and favorite wife of Jacob died after giving him two sons, the oldest of which was Joseph.

The sons out pasturing the flocks were the sons of Zilpah and Bilhah, and the birth story of Jacob’s children tell the origins of their animosity towards one another. The sons of Zilpah and Bilhah surely felt their father’s favoritism towards Joseph, the son of his beloved and deceased wife, Rachel. With all of the animosity and turmoil surrounding the birth of these men, is it no wonder that they hate each other? Is it no wonder that Joseph already dreams of his brothers bowing down to him, since he has the affection and favorite status of his father? 

The drama and dynamics of one generation can lead to dysfunction in the next. Indeed, it is not just the competitive circumstances around their birth, but that their own father treated his brother deceitfully when they were growing up, with Jacob stealing the blessing Isaac intended for Esau and taking his birthright. The multi-generational family fighting and trauma leads us to wonder whether what was playing out on the fields of Dothan was really just about their own feelings; could it be they were embodying the generational strife they were born into?

It is so important that we take care of our relationships in the present, so as not to pass on feelings of ill-will to our descendants. What kind of practices and habits of relating to our siblings did we pick up during our formative years? What kind of internalized feelings and attitudes did we inherit from our parents? Unpacking these forms of bad inheritance is essential as we try to raise children who can be kind towards one another and to those they consider outside the family.

So as we look at the mistreatment of Joseph at the hands of his brothers—stripped of his robe, thrown into a pit, and then sold into slavery—we should also put this situation in the larger context of the “sins of the father” or “iniquity of the parents” as it is translated in the New Revised Standard Version (Exodus 34:7). Theologically, the idea of children being cursed because of the bad behavior of their parents is troubling and fraught. But psychologically, what we know from recent studies is that psychological trauma can be passed down from one generation to the next through chemical markers on the genes.

If family trauma can be passed down from one generation to the next, how can we stop this cycle from repeating itself? 

The text points to one possible response: to leave the original family environment. While in the case of Joseph, he was forced to leave behind his father and brothers, we know from the larger context of the stories in Genesis that this eventually turned out well for him. Gaining distance and space from the harmful environment may have helped him to make different decisions and to allow some of the traumatic responses within himself to heal. 

Healing from the dynamics of family trauma can take years. Indeed, it is years before Joseph sees his brothers again, this time from a position of power, and he does not want to reveal himself to them right away (Genesis 42-45). Instead, on first sight, he “treated them like strangers and spoke harshly to them” (Genesis 42:7).

In the intervening chapters (Genesis 42-44) until Joseph reveals himself to his brothers in Genesis 45, he has several interactions with them that speak of his conflictual reactions to seeing his brothers again. He puts them in prison for three days, then forces them to leave behind one brother in order to return home and bring back with them Benjamin, and yet also gives them the food they came for and returns their money to them (without their knowledge). So on the one hand, he is still very angry, and on the other hand, Joseph shows them mercy. 

This inner conflict speaks to the challenge of healing from deep childhood wounds and family trauma. Yet ultimately, Joseph longed to reconnect with his family. In the text for next week’s lectionary, we see the emotional reunion and the beautiful speech by Joseph of how he has made sense of his life’s tragedies. What they intended for evil, God intended for good. 

Next week’s lectionary text is not the last in Joseph’s interactions with his brothers—when their father dies, there is another time when the brothers fear Joseph’s retribution. There, he speaks the powerful words “Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people” (Genesis 50:20).

This kind of integrative meaning-making happens when we can accept the pain of the wounds of suffering, and also see what positive contributions we have made in the world. Joseph did not have to deny the pain of what his brothers did to him to heal. By God’s grace, he was able to see how the misfortune and injustice he experienced led him to a position of power and privilege where he could bring healing and justice to many people.


Commentary on Psalm 85:8-13

James K. Mead

This psalm lection contains a magnificent constellation of biblical terms, portraying them with a striking intimacy that catches modern readers off guard: “righteousness and peace will kiss each other” (verse 10)?¹

This psalm lection contains a magnificent constellation of biblical terms, portraying them with a striking intimacy that catches modern readers off guard: “righteousness and peace will kiss each other” (verse 10)? We’re more inclined to think of the Song of Songs with a phrase like that! And the theological content: one could write pages of notes on word studies alone!

The presentation of these qualities and actions also provides ample resources for worship leaders to design services that lead God’s people in praise and reflection. There is, however, a significant challenge when these six verses are isolated from their context, and conscientious interpreters need to integrate the theological insights of verses 8-13 with their larger literary setting, without appearing to preach the whole psalm.2

The interpretive difficulty of the psalm begins with the first verse: what precisely is the historical setting behind the words, “Lord, you were favorable to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob” (verse 1, NRSV)? And, if we can find a sufficiently clear answer to that question, what relationship does that context have to the profound theological declarations of the second half of the psalm?

Occasionally a scholar has suggested a pre-exilic date,3 but most commentators identify exilic or postexilic settings,4 depending on whether the key Hebrew term šûb (verses 1, 3, 4, 6, 8) is a reference to the Babylonian exile (“restored the captivity,” KJV, NASB) or a more general restoration of fortunes, as in the NRSV citation earlier in this paragraph. In my view a preacher can be non-committal about nearness to the exile but at least ought to call attention to the repetition and wordplay of “restore,” “turn,” and “return.”5

The psalmist interprets God’s restoration of Israel’s fortunes (verse 1) as a turning toward his people (verse 3), in particular, to those who turn to him” (verse 8). It is this group of “faithful” who are able to experience the manifestation of divine life within their own lives. God’s character, while consistent in its fundamental goodness to all (see Psalm 145), is most appreciated and enjoyed by persons of faith who grasp the wonder of God’s steadfast love (hesed) and begin to practice it in human relationships.

These literary connections are vital because even a careful engagement with verses 8-13 might be tempted to maneuver around the concrete historical reality of Israelite experience with the God. A fruitful Christian reading of this psalm might be to place the doctrine of salvation from Romans 10:5-15 (epistle reading for today) in conversation with Israel’s understanding of God’s grand purposes for their nation and the cosmos. But when focusing mainly on Psalm 85:8-13, I see at least these three considerations for interpretation.

First, with respect to the terms of verse 10 (steadfast love, faithfulness, righteousness, and peace), there is great value and necessity in exploring their meaning individually; but there is a greater need to communicate the way they work together as part of a theologically significant semantic field. The composite picture of their “meeting” and “kissing,” “springing up” and “looking down,” illustrates a world in harmony, especially in the arena of human justice.

Just as the attributes of God are not in conflict with each other, the biblical vision of re-creation is that the same qualities would become fully integrated in human relationships.6 When they are not held together, the prophets indicted the people: “Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands at a distance … uprightness cannot enter. Truth is lacking … (Isaiah 59:14-15).

Second, given several references to the “land” or “ground” (verses 1, 9, 11, 12), we cannot miss the connection between the justice enjoined by God’s law and the renewal of the earth envisioned by the prophets. Hosea 2:19-20 contains a cluster of terms similar to those in Psalm 85:10-11, and it is explicit about the creational impact when humankind lives in harmony with itself and its creator.

Reminiscent of the creation story in Genesis 12 and the Noahic covenant in Genesis 9:8-17, Hosea declares: “I will make for you a covenant on that day with the wild animals, the birds of the air, and the creeping things of the ground; and I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land … ” (2:18).7

Finally, building on the first two points, this psalm offers an eschatological perspective as a word of hope to the people who have prayed in verse 4: “Restore us again, O God of our salvation.” This word from God (verse 8, “let me hear what God the Lord will speak”) does not have to be taken itself as an oracle of God, but it certainly draws on oracles such as those in Isaiah 40-55.8

This prophetically-minded psalmist gives us language of hope before the prayer has been completely answered. That hope also arises at the conclusion of Psalm 23, where the faithful one is pursued by the same tob and hesed celebrated by Psalm 85.9

The desire for “restored fortunes” often had an eschatological sense as well as a temporal returning to the land from captivity.10 Christian worship, too, is an occasion for hearing the word of the gospel break into the midst of loss, famine, war, and all sorts of disasters. Although we are certain of the reality of Christ’s present lordship over heaven and earth, this psalm’s provides language for trusting that heaven and earth will someday meet and kiss, uniting God with creation (Revelation 21:1-4), and finally remedying “the ongoing brokenness of the world and the sinfulness of persons and of our society.”11


  1. Commentary first published on this site on August 10, 2014.
  2. The entire psalm is read in Year C (Proper 12 – 10th Sunday after Pentecost), but the two other occasions focus on the psalm’s conclusion.
  3. Mitchell Dahood, Psalms II: 51-100, Anchor Bible (Garden City, NY: Doubleday Inc. 1968), 286.
  4. John Goldingay, Psalms: Volume 2: Psalms 42-89 (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007), 605; Artur Weiser, The Psalms: A Commentary, trans. Herbert Hartwell (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1962), 571; Marvin E. Tate, Psalms 51-100 (Waco, TX: Word Biblical Commentary, 1990), 368.
  5. For a complete study of OT examples of this images, see John M. Bracke, “šûb šebût: A Reappraisal” ZAW 97 (1985): 233-244.
  6. Geoffrey W. Grogan, Psalms, Two Horizons (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008), 151; James Luther Mays. Psalms, Interpretation (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1994), 277.
  7. Konrad Schaefer, Psalms, Berit Olam (Collegeville, MD: Liturgical Press, 2001), 210.
  8. Mays, 277.
  9. I owe this insight to Tara Woodward.
  10. Bracke, 234.
  11. J. Clinton McCann, Jr., “The Book of Psalms” in NIB, vol 4 (Nashville: Abingdon, 1996), 1018.

Second Reading

Commentary on Romans 10:5-15

Richard Ascough

This text occurs in the midst of a longer argument Paul develops that addresses the place of Judeans in his soteriological schema, an argument that begins in 9:1 and runs to the end chapter 11. Paul is attempting to reconcile the promises made to Judeans through Abraham with his own understanding of the Christ event that sees salvation extended to non-Judeans outside of obedience to the Mosaic law. Having argued that God has opened things up to non-Judeans (Romans 9:1-29) Paul now argues that it is up to each person to choose God, whether or not they are Judean, yet his concern focuses on trying to show why it is that Judeans can claim the salvation that comes via faith rather than salvation that comes through following Mosaic law. Thus, in this section Paul expands and explains his claim in 10:4 that “Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” 

The key Greek term throughout, dikaiosynē, is usually translated as “righteousness” with the theological sense of indicating a right relationship with God, although the word has a sense of “justice” to it as well. In Romans 10:5-15 we can see the passage flowing around four key elements of righteousness: that which comes through Mosaic law (verse 5), righteousness that comes by faith (verses 6-9), righteousness for everyone (verses 10-11), and the means by which righteousness is communicated (verses 14-15, although technically these latter two verses open up the next section of the argument). For Paul, “righteousness” is the proper expression of belief/faith in the God that has called humanity to God’s self. In making his argument, he relies heavily on the Hebrew Bible, quoting four passages in his explanation (verses 5-13) before citing a fifth in his shift to the mechanics of how righteousness is conveyed (verses 14-15).

      • verse 5 from Leviticus 18:5: “the person who does these things will live by them.” 
      • verses  6-8, a reworking of Deuteronomy 9:4 and 30:11-14: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’”; “Who will descend into the abyss?”; “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart.”
      • verse 11 from Isaah 28:16 (LXX): “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.”
      • verse 13 from Joel 2:32: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
      • verse 15 from Isaiah 52:17: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

As he opens this section, Paul invokes Moses as the lawgiver who pronounces the core of the covenant between Israel and God that involves obedience to Mosaic law (verse 5). But in the second, new iteration, that for Paul comes through the Christ event, there is no person that provides the guidance. Rather, “righteousness” itself is personified to speak on its own behalf. Indeed, central to Paul’s argument is the “righteousness that comes from faith” (verse 6), which opens up the covenant with Israel to non-Judeans who respond positively to God not only throughout human history but particularly through Paul’s work among them. This is an affirmation of the concluding statement of the previous section, in which Paul declares that “Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes” (10:4).  

The references to Deuteronomy (verses 6-8) stand out in this passage because Paul seems to reappropriate the original wording for a new context, even changing the original reference from crossing the “sea” to descending into the “abyss.” Thus, the word of faith that is proclaimed “by righteousness” is not found locatively—neither above or below—but in one’s heart and one’s confession. That is, there is no external, mystical place for which the believer must reach, no ascent into heaven or vision of hell; it is rather an internal connection with one’s faith that drives one’s actions. But such faith must be articulated and at the core of that articulation is the creedal-like formula that acknowledges Christ’s character (“Lord”) and God’s action (“raised him from the dead”; verse 9). It is the truly held belief that justifies and the articulation of it that leads to salvation. 

This core belief and proclamation wipes out any former distinctions between “Judean” and “Greek,” the latter here being a synonym for Paul’s more usual use of “Gentile.” For Paul, believing non-Judeans are now, in Christ, no different from the Judeans who are part of the promise made by God to the people of Israel. Thus, in verses 9-13 Paul compares what Moses writes (verse 5) and what is at the core of Christian proclamation (verses 6-8). While the Mosaic law is not abrogated there is an alternative for those born outside of the covenant people. Salvation is for “all” people (10:4). 

As Paul winds down the argument for individual choice for God alongside membership in the historical covenant with Israel, he opens up a new thought thread, only part of which is present in this lectionary reading. Despite their deafness to the word of Christ (Romans 10:14-21) God has not rejected the Judeans (Romans 11:1-10). In the two verses included in today’s lectionary reading, Paul concedes that the deafness to the message is not always willful, since logically one cannot put faith in something about which one has no knowledge. 

Paul uses four rhetorical questions that ask “how” with respect to key elements of coming to faith in Christ: sending, preaching, hearing, and believing. Paul reverses the order, however, so that the last question is emphasized, since it directs the auditor to the first step in the process of a person coming to faith—the need for someone else to be sent out to proclaim the message. To punctuate the final point, Paul quotes from Isaiah 52:7—“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”—demonstrating that God has already been actively sending out messengers throughout history. In the original context the referent is the celebration of the end of captivity in Babylon and the return of Israel to Jerusalem, with its attendant hope for the restoration of the Temple and the settling back into life in the promised land.