Shining a light on the weekly Bible Lessons published in the Christian Science Quarterly®

Ancient and Modern Necromancy, alias Mesmerism and Hypnotism, Denounced

from the Golden Text

Ephesians 6:10, 12

Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. . . . For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

Bringing his letter to a conclusion, the writer lays out the invisible mental forces to be guarded against. Readers have already been assured of “the exceeding greatness of [God’s] power to us-ward who believe”—and of the authority given to Christ Jesus, setting him “far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion” (see 1:19–21). 

A commentary observes that the charge to be strong in God is not about human effort: “. . . this empowerment is possible because of the resources that the Lord supplies—in his mighty power.”

principalities: authorities or office holders

from the Responsive Reading

Jeremiah 23:2–5 

Thus saith the Lord God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people; Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them: . . . And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase. And I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them: and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, saith the Lord. Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.

In a pointed indictment of Hebrew rulers, Jeremiah’s words make clear the shepherding role God expected them to fill. Indeed, ancient tradition designated kings as shepherds of their subjects. Several Hebrew monarchs, however, had turned away from worship of Yahweh. In Jeremiah’s time, King Jehoiakim of Judah was a prominent example. He is specifically censured in 22:13–19, and is later recorded as flagrantly rejecting Jeremiah’s God-directed counsel (see chap. 36). 

Now God moves to gather His scattered people and establish trustworthy leaders over them. Branch (also referenced in 33:15 and Zechariah 3:8; 6:12) is viewed as an allusion to God’s pledge to David in II Samuel 7:16: “Thy throne shall be established for ever.” And many see it as Messianic prophecy, similar to Isaiah 11:1: “There shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots.”

pastors: shepherds; spiritual guides
whither: where
folds: pens or enclosures for sheep
dismayed: unhappy; disappointed; discouraged

Isaiah 26:3

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.

is stayed on: remains with; rests in

Isaiah 9:6

Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder. 

“From Isaiah’s perspective,” explains a scriptural authority, “the birth announcement in v. 6 is a sign of hope. . . . Both the names of the child and the final lines of the poem promise perpetual peace with justice and righteousness.” To another source, the depiction of the government as “upon his shoulder” overturns “the rod of the oppressor on the shoulders” (see v. 4). 

from Section 1

1 | Deuteronomy 4:39

Know therefore this day, and consider it in thine heart, that the Lord he is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath: there is none else.

Translation

Remember today, and never forget that the LORD is God in heaven above and here on earth. There is no other god.

—GOD’S WORD Translation

Deuteronomy is the last book in the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible). Its authors were experts in the art of persuasion, employing their skills to remind the people of God’s covenant with them and to urge them to honor His laws. Here they chose part of a speech by Moses to reiterate God’s supremacy as well as introduce a review of the Ten Commandments (see 5:2–21).

from Section 2

2 | Jeremiah 29:11

I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

“Expected end” is a translation of the Hebrew terms ’aha rît, used to signify “future time,” and tiqwâ, most often rendered hope in the King James Bible. Several translators have “a future and a hope” or “a future filled with hope.” 

’Aha rît appears in the Psalmist’s admonition “Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end [’aha rît] of that man is peace” (Psalms 37:37).

3 | Isaiah 8:19 

When they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God?

Translation

Some people say, “Ask the mediums and fortune-tellers what to do. They whisper and mutter and ask dead people what to do.” But I tell you that people should ask their God for help.

—International Children’s Bible

Out of a desire to know or influence the future, some Israelites attempted to consult the dead through mediums who called on “familiar spirits” (demons believed to serve them). Isaiah condemns this custom with a derisive description of the wizards’ garbled communications and a sharp warning to look to God as the source of wisdom.

5 | I Samuel 28:3, 5, 7, 8, 11, 12, 16, 17

Now Samuel was dead, and all Israel had lamented him, and buried him in Ramah, even in his own city. And Saul had put away those that had familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land. . . . And when Saul saw the host of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart greatly trembled. . . . Then said Saul unto his servants, Seek me a woman that hath a familiar spirit, that I may go to her, and inquire of her. And his servants said to him, Behold, there is a woman that hath a familiar spirit at En–dor. And Saul disguised himself, and put on other raiment, and he went, and two men with him, and they came to the woman by night: . . . Then said the woman, Whom shall I bring up unto thee? And he said, Bring me up Samuel. And when the woman saw Samuel, she cried with a loud voice: and the woman spake to Saul, saying, Why hast thou deceived me? for thou art Saul. . . . Then said Samuel, Wherefore then dost thou ask of me, seeing the Lord is departed from thee, and is become thine enemy? . . . For the Lord hath rent the kingdom out of thine hand, and given it to thy neighbour, even to David.

Though anointed king by Samuel, Saul has repeatedly ignored the prophet’s guidance and been told that his kingship is doomed (see 13:5–14; 15:26). Now, on the eve of battle with the Philistines, he is no longer able to hear God’s messages. 

In an effort to gain access to the deceased prophet, Saul violates Hebrew law and his own edict against necromancy (see Leviticus 19:31; 20:6, 27; Deuteronomy 18:10–12; I Samuel 28:3). Secretly approaching a spiritualist at En-dor (probably north of the Philistines’ camp at Shunem), he requests a séance. Samuel does appear, but only to assert that Saul’s days as king are numbered. Shortly afterward, Saul takes his own life when injured by an enemy archer (see I Samuel 31:1–4).

lamented: felt deep sadness about
put away: expelled; removed

from Section 3

6 | Deuteronomy 11:16

Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them.

Translation

. . . watch yourselves! Otherwise, your heart might be led astray so you stray away, serving other gods and worshipping them.

—Common English Bible

Followers of Yahweh were regularly reminded to honor Him alone and to rely on His covenant promise for their supply. Their Canaanite neighbors, by contrast, sacrificed to pagan deities—gods that were considered owners of the land, requiring sacrifices to “pay” for its use or to guarantee rain and other provisions.

8 | II Chronicles 33:1–3, 10–13, 15

Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty and five years in Jerusalem: but did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, like unto the abominations of the heathen, whom the Lord had cast out before the children of Israel. For he built again the high places which Hezekiah his father had broken down, and he reared up altars for Baalim, and made groves, and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served them. . . . And the Lord spake to Manasseh, and to his people: but they would not hearken. Wherefore the Lord brought upon them the captains of the host of the king of Assyria, which took Manasseh among the thorns, and bound him with fetters, and carried him to Babylon. And when he was in affliction, he besought the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and prayed unto him: and he was entreated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord he was God. . . . And he took away the strange gods, and the idol out of the house of the Lord, and all the altars that he had built in the mount of the house of the Lord, and in Jerusalem, and cast them out of the city.

Son of King Hezekiah, Manasseh reigned longer than any other king of Judah and is viewed as the most evil of these rulers. He utterly overturned the reforms of Hezekiah, reinstating Baalistic and astrological worship, desecrating the Temple with pagan shrines, reviving divination, and practicing child sacrifice. Many Israelites believed that his sins brought about the fall of Jerusalem and the exile of Judah (see II Kings 21:10–16).

“High places” were elevated sites of worship. Although many had a pagan origin, Jews used them to worship the one God before the Temple was built (see I Kings 3:2, for instance). Groves is translated from the Hebrew noun ’ašērā, referring to a Canaanite goddess or to the pole that held her image. Over time, groves became known simply as outdoor places of idol worship. 

The shorter record of Manasseh’s reign in Second Kings omits any mention of the repentance detailed in Second Chronicles. While Bible authorities disagree on the authenticity of the Chronicler’s account, it clearly points to God’s forgiveness and the regeneration of even the most hardened sinner—a message that would have resonated deeply with the Hebrew people.

abominations: shameful or wicked acts
fetters: chains; shackles

from Section 4

9 | II Samuel 11:2–4, 5, 14, 15, 26, 27

It came to pass in an eveningtide, that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king’s house: and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon. And David sent and inquired after the woman. And one said, Is not this Bath–sheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite? And David sent messengers, and took her; and she came in unto him, and he lay with her; . . . And the woman conceived, and sent and told David, and said, I am with child. . . . And it came to pass in the morning, that David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah. And he wrote in the letter, saying, Set ye Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retire ye from him, that he may be smitten, and die. . . . And when the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she mourned for her husband. And when the mourning was past, David sent and fetched her to his house, and she became his wife, and bare him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.

David has just sent his army to battle while he stays behind in Jerusalem (see v. 1). After seeing the beautiful Bath-sheba, he confirms that her husband is one of the soldiers he has sent away. Apparently feeling free to have sexual relations with her in Uriah’s absence, he compels Bath-sheba to come to him. Then, hearing of her pregnancy, David compounds his wrongdoing by arranging for Uriah’s death—going so far as to send these instructions by Uriah’s own hand. 

Little is known about Uriah. Identified as a Hittite, he likely came from Anatolia (present-day Turkey), where polytheism was the rule. But he must have embraced the Jewish faith, taking a Hebrew name meaning “Yahweh is my light” and serving as one of David’s “mighty men” (see 23:8–39).

forefront: place that is furthest forward
retire: move away or back; withdraw
smitten: struck; killed

11 | Psalms 51:1, 10

Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. . . . Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.

Translation

God, be merciful to me
      because you are loving.
Because you are always ready to be merciful,
      wipe out all my wrongs. . . .
Create in me a pure heart, God,
      and make my spirit right again.

—New Century Version

Attributed to David, following the prophet Nathan’s reproof for the king’s sin with Bath-sheba, Psalm 51 has long been considered a preeminent psalm of penitence. Its plea for cleansing from sin evokes God’s promise in Ezekiel, “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you” (36:26).

transgressions: wrongful acts; sins

from Section 5

12 | Philippians 4:7 

The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Translation

. . . the peace of God [that peace which reassures the heart, that peace] which transcends all understanding, [that peace which] stands guard over your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus [is yours].

—Amplified® Bible

13 | Ephesians 6:13–17

Take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Translation

. . . put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

—New Living Translation

Metaphors of armor and weaponry commonly represent spiritual warfare in Scripture. The book of Isaiah affirms, “Righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins” (11:5) and “He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and an helmet of salvation upon his head” (59:17).

New Testament writers continue the imagery. Romans 13:12 calls for putting on “the armour of light.” And Paul describes “putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation” (I Thessalonians 5:8). A commentator notes, “The ‘weapons’ are not simply human virtues but rather effects of God’s own might.”

14 | Psalms 46:7, 9, 10

The Lord of hosts is with us; . . . He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire. Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.

Translation

The LORD  of Armies is with us. . . . 
He puts an end to wars all over the earth.
He breaks an archer’s bow.
He cuts spears in two.
He burns chariots.
Let go of your concerns!
Then you will know that I am God.
I rule the nations.
I rule the earth.

—GOD’S WORD Translation

The counsel in verse 10 has been compared to Moses’ words at the Red Sea: “Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord” (Exodus 14:13). Many sources interpret it as a call for quiet trust in God, but others see a strong appeal as well. One paraphrases, “Refrain from all lack of confidence in me, from all enmity against me, recognize who I am!” 

from Section 6

15 | Matthew 4:23 

Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.

synagogues: Jewish centers of worship and education

16 | John 4:46–53

There was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus was come out of Judæa into Galilee, he went unto him, and besought him that he would come down, and heal his son: for he was at the point of death. Then said Jesus unto him, Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe. The nobleman saith unto him, Sir, come down ere my child die. Jesus saith unto him, Go thy way; thy son liveth. And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way. And as he was now going down, his servants met him, and told him, saying, Thy son liveth. Then inquired he of them the hour when he began to amend. And they said unto him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him. So the father knew that it was at the same hour, in the which Jesus said unto him, Thy son liveth: and himself believed, and his whole house.

Jesus has just traveled from Judea through Samaria to Galilee, where he is welcomed. The healing of the nobleman’s son is noted as his “second miracle” there (v. 54), after his turning of water into wine (see 2:1–11).

Thought to be an officer appointed by Herod Antipas, the nobleman is accustomed to authority and unquestioningly accepts Jesus’ assurance “Thy son liveth.” While the absent healing is compelling, the real import of this story is the change in the royal official’s focus—from hope for healing to believing in the Christ.

One scholar suggests: “. . . the person who interprets a miracle solely as a miraculous act will remain transfixed by and limited to the act itself. . . . What one would proclaim about Jesus from that perspective is, ‘Look what Jesus can do.’ When a miraculous act is fully understood as a sign, however, what one would proclaim about Jesus is, ‘Look at who Jesus is.’ ” 

from Section 7

17 | Isaiah 45:22 

Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.

Translation

“All people everywhere
      follow me and be saved.
      I am God. There is no other God.”

—New Century Version

18 | Isaiah 26:12 

Lord, thou wilt ordain peace for us: for thou also hast wrought all our works in us.

Translation

LORD, you will grant us peace;
      all we have accomplished is really from you.

—New Living Translation


Read a related article, “What to do when we have doubts” by David C. Kennedy. 

The Bible Lessons serve as weekly study guides as well as the sermon in every Christian Science Sunday church service. Learn more at BibleLesson.com

Resources quoted in this issue

GT: Patzia, Arthur G. New International Biblical Commentary—Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1990.

RR: Keck, Leander E., et al., eds. The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary. Vol. 4, Ezra, Nehemiah, Introduction to Prophetic Literature, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Baruch, Letter of Jeremiah, Lamentations. Nashville: Abingdon, 2015; Alter, Robert. The Hebrew Bible, Vol. 2, Prophets: A Translation with Commentary. New York and London. W.W. Norton & Company, 2019.

Cit. 13: Mays, James L., Joseph Blenkinsopp, et al., eds. Harper’s Bible Commentary. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988.

Cit. 14: Eiselen, Frederick Carl, Edwin Lewis, and David G. Downey, eds. The Abingdon Bible Commentary. New York: Abingdon Press, 1929.

Cit. 16: Keck, Leander E., et al., eds. The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary. Vol. 8, Luke, John. Nashville: Abingdon, 2015.

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