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

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from the Golden Text

Nehemiah 9:5

Stand up and bless the Lord your God for ever and ever: and blessed be thy glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise.

Following the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem, the Hebrew people are exhorted to praise God. Although bowing in prayer was a common form of worship (see Psalms 95:6 , for instance), now the Israelites are to stand—a position called by one source “the proper attitude for praise.” 

Bible stories show many approaches to praying. Abraham and Joshua, for example, fall on their faces before God; Moses says he will “spread abroad [his] hands unto the Lord”; Solomon, Daniel, Jesus, and Stephen all kneel in prayer (see Genesis 17:3 Joshua 5:14 Exodus 9:27–29 I Kings 8:54 Daniel 6:10 Luke 22:41 Acts 7:60 ). Whatever the outward position, these petitioners exemplify reverence, trust, and gratitude—indispensable to reaching out to God.

exalted: raised in power or rank; glorified

from the Responsive Reading

Psalms 93:1

The Lord reigneth, he is clothed with majesty; the Lord is clothed with strength, wherewith he hath girded himself: the world also is stablished, that it cannot be moved.

girded: equipped; clothed 

Psalms 89:9

Thou rulest the raging of the sea: when the waves thereof arise, thou stillest them. 

raging: violence

from Section 1

2 | Psalms 33:2, 7, 18

Praise the Lord with harp: sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings. . . . He gathereth the waters of the sea together as an heap: he layeth up the depth in storehouses. . . . Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy.

Stringed instruments figure frequently in scriptural accounts, beginning with the description of the man Jubal as “the father of all such as handle the harp and organ” (Genesis 4:21 ).

Both harp and psaltery were usually made of wood, typically had three to ten strings, and accompanied hymns or poetry. The harp or lyre—the instrument associated with David—had a curved frame. While a later instrument known as a psaltery was a triangular or trapezoidal precursor of the harpsichord, here the term is a translation of the Hebrew word nēbel, referring to a larger, bass harp.

Old Testament mentions of fear (Hebrew, yārē’) can signify fright, but often denote reverence or respect. In this verse it means deep honoring of God—similar to the intent of Ecclesiastes 12:13 , “Fear God, and keep his commandments.”

3 | Psalms 68:26

Bless ye God in the congregations, even the Lord, from the fountain of Israel.

“From the fountain of Israel” has various interpretations. Some commentaries see it as a metaphor for the patriarch Jacob (renamed Israel), and therefore a reminder of Hebrew ancestry. Others consider this a reference to God as the source of life—an image also found in Jeremiah 2:13 17:13 Psalms 36:9 .

4 | Proverbs 10:22

The blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it.

sorrow: deep sadness

Translation
5 | Isaiah 44:3

I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring.

•••

I will put my Spirit into your children. 
          My blessing will be like a stream of water flowing over
                    your family.

—International Children’s Bible

from Section 2

6 | Deuteronomy 5:1

Moses called all Israel, and said unto them, Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your ears this day, that ye may learn them, and keep, and do them.

A contemporary scholar, identifying Deuteronomy as a series of sermons, writes: “The continuous and insistent Mosaic repetitions of ‘today’ and ‘this day’ throughout these sermons keep attention taut and responsive. The complete range of human experience is brought to life and salvation by the full revelation of God: Live this! Now!”

7 | Deuteronomy 11:26–28

Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse; a blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you this day: and a curse, if ye will not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods, which ye have not known.

Translation

Pay attention! I am setting blessing and curse before you right now: the blessing if you obey the LORD  your God’s commandments that I am giving you right now, but the curse if you don’t obey the LORD  your God’s commandments and stray from the path that I am giving you today by following other gods that you have not known.

—Common English Bible

Compilers of the book of Deuteronomy took great care to emphasize obedience to God’s commandments. As one scriptural authority explains, “Everywhere, every day, and without exception, the commandments are to be remembered and reflected upon.” He adds, “Without the commandments, all faith would become empty and all devotion would be robbed of its real connection with God.” 

To promote this devotion, the Deuteronomists underscored Moses’ stark choice between obedience and disobedience—between “a blessing and a curse.” Upon entry into the Promised Land, the people are directed to rehearse this choice in detail (see chaps. 27 28 ).

Translation
8 | Psalms 97:7

Confounded be all they that serve graven images, that boast themselves of idols. 

•••

All who serve carved images, 
those who boast in worthless idols, will be put to shame.

—Christian Standard Bible

9 | Psalms 115:12

The Lord hath been mindful of us: he will bless us.

mindful: deliberately conscious or aware

from Section 3

Translation
10 | Deuteronomy 30:19

I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.

•••

“Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!”

—New Living Translation

11 | Isaiah 42:1, 3, 8, 9, 16

Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. . . . A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth. . . . I am the Lord: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images. Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare: before they spring forth I tell you of them. . . . And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them.

Translation

“Here is my servant, the one I support. 
          He is the one I chose, and I am pleased with him. 
I have put my Spirit upon him, 
          and he will bring justice to all nations. . . . 
He will not break a crushed blade of grass 
          or put out even a weak flame. 
He will truly bring justice; . . . 
I am the LORD . That is my name. 
          I will not give my glory to another; 
          I will not let idols take the praise that should be mine. 
The things I said would happen have happened, 
          and now I tell you about new things. 
Before those things happen, 
          I tell you about them. . . . 
Then I will lead the blind along a way they never knew; 
          I will guide them along paths they have not known. 
I will make the darkness become light for them, 
          and the rough ground smooth. 
These are the things I will do; 
          I will not leave my people.

—New Century Version

forsake: reject; leave entirely

12 | Luke 2:25–32

There was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: for mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

In this story, Mary and Joseph have brought the infant Jesus to the Temple for ritual purification—a Mosaic requirement for firstborn children (see Exodus 13:2 ). As in his first chapter, Luke highlights the presence of the Holy Spirit (see Luke 1:15, 35, 41, 67 ). 

Petitioning for the “consolation of Israel”—the salvation of the prophesied Savior—was a common Hebrew prayer. And waiting (Greek prosdekhomai) doesn’t imply a passive attitude here. It conveys Simeon’s wholehearted expectation that Messianic prophecy would be fulfilled. Now, impelled by God to visit the Temple at this moment, he announces the Messiahship of the infant Jesus and its meaning for both Jews and Gentiles. 

Lighten is translated from the Greek term apokalypsis, referring to a revelation or unveiling. To some sources, it evokes Isaiah 25:7 : “He will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations”—another promise of redemption for Israel and “all nations” alike. 

just: guided by truth and justice; law-abiding
devout: deeply religious; sincerely committed to God

Translation
13 | I Corinthians 15:22

In Christ shall all be made alive.

•••

. . . everyone will be given life in Christ.

—Common English Bible

from Section 4

14 | Psalms 107:23, 24, 29

They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; these see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep. . . . He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still.

Translation

Some went off to sea in ships,
          plying the trade routes of the world. 
They, too, observed the LORD’s  power in action, 
          his impressive works on the deepest seas. . . . 
He calmed the storm to a whisper 
          and stilled the waves.

—New Living Translation

Psalm 107 celebrates God’s saving power in a wide variety of situations. In addition to His deliverance of seafarers, the Psalmist details salvation for wanderers in the wilderness, prisoners, the sick, and workers of the land (see vv. 4–6, 10–14, 17–20, 33–38 ). The poem’s refrain—reiterated in verses 8, 15, 21, and 31 —proclaims divine goodness and activity: “Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!”

15 | Ephesians 1:3

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.

Translation

May blessing (praise, laudation, and eulogy) be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah) Who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual (given by the Holy Spirit) blessing in the heavenly realm!

—Amplified® Bible Classic

In Hebrew Scripture, “Blessed be” is a traditional way to open or close expressions of praise to God. Many of these prayers call Him “the Lord” or “the Lord God of Israel.” A new understanding of Christ led New Testament writers to specify God as the Father of Christ Jesus in their doxologies—wording that also appears in Second Corinthians 1:3  and First Peter 1:3 .

Jewish practice of refraining from speaking God’s name aloud gave rise to other titles of respect and homage, including “the Blessed.” Prior to Jesus’ crucifixion, the high priest asks him, “Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” (Mark 14:61 ).

17 | Matthew 8:23–27

When he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him. And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep. And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish. And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!

Stormy waters symbolize danger and chaos throughout the Bible (see examples in II Samuel 22:5 Job 27:20, 21 Psalms 69:1, 2 ). God’s power over the waters is reported in Genesis 1:2 , where “the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters”; in the passing of the Hebrews over the Red Sea and across the Jordan River; in this and other Gospel accounts of Jesus calming the waves; and in Paul’s deliverance from the shipwreck (see Exodus 14:21, 22 Joshua 3:14–17 Acts, chap. 27 ).

The intensity of this gale is clear in the Greek term describing it—seismos signifies earthquake (used only here to refer to a tempest). A commentary suggests that it represents storms to be faced by Christians, concluding, “Each of us must decide whether to be a part of Jesus’ continuing mission in the world, or to remain safely on the familiar shore.”

marvelled: felt great wonder or amazement
manner: kind; type

from Section 5

18 | Deuteronomy 1:10, 11

The Lord your God hath multiplied you, and, behold, ye are this day as the stars of heaven for multitude. (The Lord God of your fathers make you a thousand times so many more as ye are, and bless you, as he hath promised you!)

Translation

The LORD  your God has increased your numbers so that today you are as numerous as the stars in the sky. May the LORD,  the God of your ancestors, increase you a thousand times and bless you as he has promised!

—New International Version

Divine charges to multiply appear from the very first chapter of the Bible: God tells His creation, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth” (Genesis 1:28 ). Noah, Hagar, Abram, Ishmael, Isaac, and Jacob all receive similar directives or promises (see Genesis 9:1 16:10 17:2, 20 26:4, 24 35:11 ). And Moses conveys the people’s increase as God’s covenant promise: “If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them; . . . I will have respect unto you, and make you fruitful, and multiply you, and establish my covenant with you” (Leviticus 26:3, 9 ).

“As the stars of heaven for multitude” recalls God’s words to Abram: “Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be” (Genesis 15:5 ). Scholars note that this statement wasn’t deemed an exaggeration. Astronomers estimate that between three and nine thousand stars are visible to the naked eye; the Numbers 2:32  census records over six hundred thousand adult Hebrew males.

19 | Proverbs 26:2

As the bird by wandering, as the swallow by flying, so the curse causeless shall not come.

Translation

Like a sparrow in its flitting, like a swallow in its flying, 
          an undeserved curse goes nowhere.

—New Revised Standard Version

Curses were thought to take on power when spoken. This proverb debunks that assumption with the assurance that, as most Bible authorities see it, a curse aimed at an innocent person cannot harm him.

20 | Acts 10:38

God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.

oppressed: overpowered; harshly treated

21 | Matthew 9:32, 33

As they went out, behold, they brought to him a dumb man possessed with a devil. And when the devil was cast out, the dumb spake: and the multitudes marvelled, saying, It was never so seen in Israel.

In ancient times, afflictions such as blindness, deafness, dumbness, and epilepsy were generally attributed to demon possession. Exorcism was considered possible only by magic or supernatural force, usually with the use of an incantation or special artifacts. Jesus’ ability to cast out evil spirits through spiritual power was unheard of—“never so seen in Israel.” Later he points out the import of this work: “If I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you” (Matthew 12:28 ).

dumb: unable to speak

from Section 6

Translation
22 | Revelation 22:3

There shall be no more curse.

•••

There will no longer exist anything that is cursed [because sin and illness and death are gone]; . . .

—Amplified® Bible

23 | Matthew 25:34

Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

Part of Jesus’ parable of the sheep and goats, this invitation is offered to the “sheep”—those who minister to the needs of their sisters and brothers. According to several translators, inheriting can have the active meaning of taking possession. Believers are to embrace their Christly inheritance with unwavering confidence.

“In the [New Testament],” one commentator observes, “the idea of inheriting broadens out to include all spiritual good provided through and in Christ . . . .”

foundation: establishment; beginning


Read the related article, “What can we do about the weather?” by Christine J. Wilkins Stebbing.

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: Barnes, Albert. Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Whole Bible. New York, 1834–85. Also available at biblehub.com/commentaries.

Cit. 6: Peterson, Eugene H. The Message, Remix: The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress Pub. Group, 2003.

Cit. 7: Keck, Leander E., et al., eds. The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary. Vol. 1, Introduction to the Pentateuch. Genesis. Exodus. Leviticus. Numbers. Deuteronomy. Nashville: Abingdon, 2015.

Cit. 17: Keck, Leander E., et al., eds. The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary. Vol. 7, The Gospels and Narrative Literature, Jesus and the Gospels, Matthew, Mark. Nashville: Abingdon, 2015.

Cit. 23: Vine, W. E. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. Westwood, NJ: Barbour &, 1985. Also available at blueletterbible.org.

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