Shining a light on the weekly Bible Lessons published in the Christian Science Quarterly®
God the Only Cause and Creator
from the Responsive Reading
Rejoice in the Lord, O ye righteous: for praise is comely for the upright.
comely: suitable; agreeable; pleasing
upright: honest and just
Thus saith the Lord that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the Lord; and there is none else. . . . Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.
“In vain” is translated from the Hebrew term tōhû, implying emptiness, confusion, and desolation. This word is also used in Genesis 1:2 , “The earth was without form [tōhû], and void.” That God established creation “not in vain” unmistakably illustrates His purposeful activity. Spiritual creation is ordered according to God’s will, and proclaims His salvation not only for Israel but for “all the ends of the earth.”
from Section 1
1 | John 1:1, 3
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . . All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
In the first Christian century, the Greek term logos (word) was used in a variety of ways in diverse religions, philosophies, and cultures. John’s Gospel expands on its use in the Greek translation of Hebrew Scripture—as God’s eternal, self-existent Word.
Opening with a well-known phrase from Genesis 1:1 —“In the beginning”—the writer introduces Christ Jesus’ story as the fulfillment of history, prophecy, and faith.
2 | Romans 1:20
The invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead.
There are things about God that people cannot see—his eternal power and all the things that make him God. But since the beginning of the world those things have been easy to understand. They are made clear by what God has made.
—International Children’s Bible
Paul is speaking of a natural theology—a teaching that God can be known by observing nature. Jews and Gentiles alike were familiar with this approach to perceiving the Divine (see scriptural examples in Psalms 19:1 ; Job 12:7–10 ). As one commentary suggests, “Creation bears God’s fingerprints, and through it humanity has experienced something of God’s wisdom, power, and generosity.” But Paul makes clear that worshiping the physical world instead of the creator changes “the truth of God into a lie” (v. 25 ).
The archaic English suffix head means condition or quality, like the contemporary suffix hood (as in childhood). Godhead appears just three times in the Bible (see also Acts 17:29 ; Colossians 2:9 ) and refers to God’s divine character.
from Section 2
4 | Habakkuk 1:13
Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity.
iniquity: wickedness; sin
5 | 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.
After the first deportation of Jews from Judah to Babylon circa 597 bc, the prophet Jeremiah is believed to have stayed in Jerusalem to give support to those left behind.
Earlier in this chapter, Jeremiah counsels the exiled Israelites to establish themselves in Babylon, and even to pray for the city (see vv. 5–7 ). Then he conveys God’s pledge to end the captivity (see v. 10 ).
Although much of the book of Jeremiah consists of strong warnings and judgments, the comforting statement in verse 11 is representative of the section called The Book of Consolation (chapters 30–31 ).
6 | James 1:16–18
Do not err, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
err: stray from right; do wrong
firstfruits: first and best products or results
7 | Psalms 5:3, 4
My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up. For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee.
In the morning, O LORD
, You hear my voice;
In the morning I will prepare [a prayer and a sacrifice] for
You and watch and wait [for You to speak to my heart].
For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness;
No evil [person] dwells with You.
Morning was a time of sacrifice at the Temple, and one of at least three hours designated for prayer (along with midday and evening). A psalmist later prays, “Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning” (143:8 ). As a Bible authority notes, “The first thought of the day is prayer.”
Direct (Hebrew, ‘ārak) relates to putting things in order. Though some sources associate “direct my prayer” with arranging ritual sacrifices, its deeper signification speaks to devotion of thought. Another scholar explains, “Prayer should not be rash; it should not be performed negligently or with a light spirit; it should engage the profound thought of the soul.”
“Look up” is compared to the vigilance of a watch tower sentry expecting good news—in this case, answered prayer.
8 | Psalms 119:68
Thou art good, and doest good; teach me thy statutes.
Beginning with the first chapter of Genesis, the good nature of God and His creation is celebrated—and the psalms honor divine goodness repeatedly. In the New Testament, Christ Jesus declares God to be the sole source of good: “There is none good but one, that is, God” (Mark 10:18). And James 1:17 affirms, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights.”
from Section 3
9 | Zechariah 4:6
Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.
Part of an angel’s message to the prophet Zechariah, this affirmation is intended for Zerubbabel, tribal head of Judah during the final years of the exile. After returning to Jerusalem, Zerubbabel was instrumental in the rebuilding of the Temple there—a daunting task that had been interrupted for 17 years by enemy opposition. The angel’s words would have provided a much-needed reminder of God’s supreme power.
Psalms 33:16, 20 offers a similar truth: “There is no king saved by the multitude of an host: a mighty man is not delivered by much strength. . . . Our soul waiteth for the Lord: he is our help and our shield.”
11 | Nehemiah 2:1–3
It came to pass in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king, that wine was before him: and I took up the wine, and gave it unto the king. Now I had not been beforetime sad in his presence. Wherefore the king said unto me, Why is thy countenance sad, seeing thou art not sick? this is nothing else but sorrow of heart. Then I was very sore afraid, and said unto the king, Let the king live for ever: why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ sepulchres, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire?
beforetime: in the past
sore: greatly; deeply
11 | Nehemiah 2:20
The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build: but ye have no portion, nor right, nor memorial, in Jerusalem.
“The God of heaven will give us success!” I replied. “As God’s servants, we will start building. But you will have no share, right, or claim in Jerusalem.”
—Common English Bible
12 | Nehemiah 6:16
It came to pass, that when all our enemies heard thereof, and all the heathen that were about us saw these things, they were much cast down in their own eyes: for they perceived that this work was wrought of our God.
When all our enemies heard of it, all the nations around us feared and fell far in their own esteem, for they saw that this work was done by our God.
—Amplified® Bible Classic
from Section 4
13 | Luke 7:2–5
A certain centurion’s servant, who was dear unto him, was sick, and ready to die. And when he heard of Jesus, he sent unto him the elders of the Jews, beseeching him that he would come and heal his servant. And when they came to Jesus, they besought him instantly, saying, That he was worthy for whom he should do this: for he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue.
Given widespread Roman occupation, the presence of Roman centurions in Hebrew society was a fact of life. But though Jews and Romans coexisted, clear lines of division were drawn between them. Jews were the subjugated; Romans were their overlords. Jews saw themselves as the chosen of God; Romans were despised by them as Gentile adversaries—and Roman soldiers returned their hostility.
In spite of this, centurions figure in positive ways in several New Testament stories. The centurion who sends for Jesus to heal his servant is the first one mentioned in Scripture. By all accounts he is unique. He honors his slave when it was customary to consider slaves as mere possessions. He is deeply religious and respectful toward his Jewish neighbors, and expresses remarkable humility toward a Jewish teacher, Jesus.
Other centurions in Bible stories are the officer at Jesus’ crucifixion who pronounces him righteous (sometimes rendered innocent); Cornelius, the first Gentile convert to Christianity; and the men who defend Paul’s Roman citizenship in Jerusalem and his life during the shipwreck (see Luke 23:47 ; Acts, chap. 10 ; 22:25, 26 ; 27:43 ).
15 | I Corinthians 8:6
To us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.
But for us,
“There is only one God, the Father.
Everything came from him, and we live for him.
There is only one Lord, Jesus Christ.
Everything came into being through him,
and we live because of him.”
—GOD’S WORD Translation
from Section 5
Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.
May the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ be blessed! He is the compassionate Father and God of all comfort. He’s the one who comforts us in all our trouble so that we can comfort other people who are in every kind of trouble. We offer the same comfort that we ourselves received from God.
—Common English Bible
Paul forges a chain of reasoning here, linking affliction, spiritual comfort, and brotherly consolation. Starting and ending with God, he asserts that all comfort comes from and is enabled by Him.
“Recipients of God’s merciful encouragement,” remarks a commentary, “become the channels through whom God’s comfort is made available to others who are themselves ‘in any affliction’ (v. 4 ).”
17 | John 14:16, 17
I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper. He will give you this Helper to be with you forever. The Helper is the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him because it does not see him or know him. But you know him. He lives with you and he will be in you.
—International Children’s Bible
18 | John 15:26, 27
When the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: and ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning.
“The helper whom I will send to you from the Father will come. This helper, the Spirit of Truth who comes from the Father, will declare the truth about me. You will declare the truth, too, because you have been with me from the beginning.”
—GOD’S WORD Translation
from Section 6
19 | Matthew 5:14, 16
Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. . . . Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. . . . In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”
—New Living Translation
A Bible scholar writes that this may be “the greatest compliment that was ever paid to the individual Christian, for in it Jesus commands the Christian to be what he himself claimed to be. Jesus said, ‘As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world’ (John 9:5 ).”
The Master defines Christian purpose in terms of shining—not in order that believers can be seen as good, but so the goodness of God can be seen. Two Greek words for good occur in the New Testament—agathos and kalos. Agathos signifies intrinsically good, beneficial in quality or effect. Kalos (the term describing works in this admonition) adds a sense of outward beauty and harmony.
20 | II Corinthians 2:14
Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.
But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing him.
—New Revised Standard Version
Triumph in this context carries the image of a military leader’s victory procession. In Christ emphasizes that it is by his power and in his name that we triumph in trials. Savour, a reference to the incense used in a conqueror’s victorious return from war, continues the military metaphor.
maketh manifest: shows clearly
Read a related article, “ ‘Doing a great work’ “ by Käthe M. Ockert.
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
Cit. 2: Edwards, James R. New International Biblical Commentary—Romans. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1992.
Cit. 7: Perowne, John J. S., Kirkpatrick, Alexander F., Chase, Frederic H., Parry, Reginald St. John, and Nairne, Alexander, eds. The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges. 58 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1882–1922. Also available at biblehub.com/commentaries; Barnes, Albert. Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Whole Bible. New York, 1834–85. Also available at biblehub.com/commentaries.
Cit. 16: Keck, Leander E., et al., eds. The New Interpreter’s Bible: A Commentary in Twelve Volumes. Vol. 9, Luke, John. Nashville: Abingdon, 1996–2001.
Cit. 19: Barclay, William. The Daily Study Bible: The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1. Edinburgh: Saint Andrew, 1955. Revised and updated by Saint Andrew, 2001. Reprinted as The New Daily Study Bible: The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2001–04.
Scriptural quotations marked International Children’s Bible are taken from the International Children’s Bible®, copyright © 1986, 1988, 1999 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scriptural quotations marked Amplified® Bible are taken from the Amplified® Bible, copyright © 2015 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. www.Lockman.org.
Scriptural quotations marked Common English Bible are taken from the Common English Bible, copyright © 2011 by the Common English Bible. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
Scriptural quotations marked Amplified® Bible Classic are taken from the Amplified® Bible Classic, copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. www.Lockman.org.
Scriptural quotations marked GOD’S WORD Translation are taken from GOD’S WORD®, copyright © 1995 God’s Word to the Nations. Used by permission of God’s Word Mission Society.
Scriptural quotations marked New Living Translation are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
Scriptural quotations marked New Revised Standard Version Bible are taken from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
© 2021 The Christian Science Publishing Society. The design of the Cross and Crown is a trademark owned by the Christian Science Board of Directors and is used by permission. Bible Lens and Christian Science Quarterly are trademarks owned by The Christian Science Publishing Society. Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptural quotations are taken from the King James Version of the Holy Bible.