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

Reality

from the Responsive Reading

Psalms 104:1–3, 5, 24

Thou art clothed with honour and majesty. Who coverest thyself with light as with a garment: who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain: who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters: who maketh the clouds his chariot: who walketh upon the wings of the wind: . . . who laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed for ever. . . . O Lord, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches.

Similarities between this psalm and the creation account in Genesis 1 are marked. Some Bible authorities perceive the Genesis pattern in the psalm, from the order of the heavens to the assurance of goodness (see v. 28).  

One source suggests: “. . . the psalmist’s awareness was grounded not in etymology, not in a knowledge of physical sciences like botany, zoology, geology, hydrology, and meteorology. Rather, the psalmist’s awareness was grounded in theology. . . . For the psalmist, relating to the world . . . begins with praising God.”

garment: piece of clothing
beams: supporting structures of a building
manifold: many and varied

from Section 1

1 | Psalms 119:27

Make me to understand the way of thy precepts: so shall I talk of thy wondrous works.

Translation

Help me understand what your precepts are about 
       so I can contemplate your wondrous works!

—Common English Bible

In his appeal, the poet pairs understanding with speech. However, the Hebrew verb rendered talk (a h) is most commonly rendered meditate in contemporary translations. The psalmist also sings, “My mouth shall speak of wisdom; and the meditation of my heart shall be of understanding” (49:3 ).

2 | Philippians 4:8  

Brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Translation

. . . believers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable and worthy of respect, whatever is right and confirmed by God’s word, whatever is pure and wholesome, whatever is lovely and brings peace, whatever is admirable and of good repute; if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think continually on these things [center your mind on them, and implant them in your heart].

—Amplified® Bible

3 | I Corinthians 2:1, 4, 5

I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. . . . And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. 

Translation

As for myself, brethren, when I came to you, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony and evidence or mystery and secret of God [concerning what He has done through Christ for the salvation of men] in lofty words of eloquence or human philosophy and wisdom; . . . And my language and my message were not set forth in persuasive (enticing and plausible) words of wisdom, but they were in demonstration of the [Holy] Spirit and power [a proof by the Spirit and power of God, operating on me and stirring in the minds of my hearers the most holy emotions and thus persuading them], So that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men (human philosophy), but in the power of God. 

—Amplified® Bible Classic

A frequent practice of unknown orators was to introduce themselves to a city by delivering impressive speeches. Although Paul is using a simpler style of speaking, in verse 4 he astutely chooses the rhetorical term demonstration (Greek, apodeixis) to connect with his audience—elevating its meaning from proof by philosophical argument to the wordless working of God’s power.

enticing: tempting; strongly attracting

3 | I Corinthians 2:11–13

What man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

Translation

. . . what person perceives (knows and understands) what passes through a man’s thoughts except the man’s own spirit within him? Just so no one discerns (comes to know and comprehend) the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have not received the spirit [that belongs to] the world, but the [Holy] Spirit Who is from God, [given to us] that we might realize and comprehend and appreciate the gifts [of divine favor and blessing so freely and lavishly] bestowed on us by God. And we are setting these truths forth in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the [Holy] Spirit, combining and interpreting spiritual truths with spiritual language [to those who possess the Holy Spirit].

—Amplified® Bible Classic

Paul employs what a commentator calls a “like by like” strategy in this passage: “Like things are able to be known by like things.” Spiritual truth comes only from Spirit, and is grasped only through spiritual understanding.

from Section 2

4 | Psalms 22:19, 27  

Be not thou far from me, O Lord: O my strength, haste thee to help me. . . . All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee.

Translation

But you, LORD ! Don’t be far away! 
       You are my strength! 
       Come quick and help me! . . . 
Every part of the earth 
       will remember and come back to the LORD
       every family among all the nations will worship you.

—Common English Bible

5 | Psalms 9:10

They that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.

Translation

Those who know your name trust you, O LORD
because you have never deserted those who seek your help.

—GOD’S WORD Translation

For the Hebrew people, to know God’s name was to know Him as present and understandable, not abstract or impersonal. “To know the truth about God,” remarks a scholar, “produces an inner confidence which trial cannot shake. Moreover none of us is entirely without evidence of God’s sheltering of the soul.”

7 | II Kings 20:1, 2–5

In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. . . . Then he turned his face to the wall, and prayed unto the Lord, saying, I beseech thee, O Lord, remember now how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore. And it came to pass, afore Isaiah was gone out into the middle court, that the word of the Lord came to him, saying, Turn again, and tell Hezekiah the captain of my people, Thus saith the Lord, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee.

Twelfth king of Judah, Hezekiah was recognized as a wise and pious ruler. Historians calculate his healing to have taken place about halfway through his 29–year reign, in 713 bc . God granted him 15 more years of life (see v. 6);  his death is recorded as having taken place circa 697 bc . (Hezekiah’s restoration to health is also mentioned in II Chronicles 32:24, and a nearly identical account appears in Isaiah 38 .)

Just prior to Hezekiah’s illness, Assyrian king Sennacherib had threatened Jerusalem—and Hezekiah’s prayers had brought about its rescue (see II Kings 19:14–36 ). One scriptural authority draws a connection between the two events: “The fate of the king and the fate of the city are bound together. God will deliver both the king and Judah from the hands of the Assyrian king for God’s own sake . . . . Hezekiah’s personal recovery is the working out of God’s will in microcosm.” He adds, “Even if the word of death or destruction has been proclaimed, it is possible, through prayer, to turn back that word of judgment.”

from Section 3

8 | Malachi 3:6

I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.

In this declaration, God’s changelessness is contrasted with the character of the “sons of Jacob.” While this description may refer to the 12 tribes of Israel, a source sees an allusion to Jacob’s duplicity in obtaining his father’s blessing (see Genesis, chap. 27 ). Verse 6  opens a section reminding the Hebrews of their failure to honor the tithing system established in Moses’ day, essentially stealing from God. Yet God is constant and dependable, committing to prosper them when they reform (see v. 18 ).

9 | Hebrews 6:13, 14, 17

When God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself, saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee. . . . Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath.

Translation

God made a promise to Abraham. Since he had no one greater on whom to base his oath, he based it on himself. He said, “I will certainly bless you and give you many descendants.” . . . God wouldn’t change his plan. He wanted to make this perfectly clear to those who would receive his promise, so he took an oath.

—GOD’S WORD Translation

God made several promises to Abraham (see Genesis 12:7; 17:5, 6 ). This one, found in Genesis 22:15–18 , is God’s response to the patriarch’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac. It is the only one that includes the confirmation of an oath. 

In ancient tradition, oaths were made in order to seal promises. Here God Himself furnishes security for the pledge, “because he could swear by no greater”—because no higher person or power existed. (This oath is mentioned in Luke 1:73  and Acts 2:30  as well.) A commentary explains, “The oath was as good as God’s name, and God’s name was as good as his divine nature.”

“Heirs of promise” depicts Abraham’s descendants; in the New Testament “heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29 ) signifies followers of Christ. The author of Hebrews cites God’s doubly binding affirmation as proof of hope to the faithful, continuing, “. . . which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast” (6:19 ).

sware: made a serious promise or commitment
immutability: unchangeableness
oath: sacred or solemn promise

11 | John 8:1, 2

Jesus went unto the mount of Olives. And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.

Also called Olivet, the Mount of Olives is a series of peaks on the east side of Jerusalem. From early Hebrew history, it figures as a place of prayer, refuge, and revelation. It’s the site to which David fled from Absalom; where Ezekiel beheld God’s glory; and where God’s defense of Jerusalem, as foretold by Zechariah, would take place (see II Samuel 15:30;  Ezekiel 11:22, 23;  Zechariah 14:4).

In the New Testament, it was on this mount that Jesus prophesied about the times to come in his “Olivet Discourse” (see Matthew, chaps. 24, 25 ). The Master spent his last night before the crucifixion there, in the garden of Gethsemane on its western slope. And on the mount at Bethany, the disciples received Jesus’ final blessing and witnessed his ascension (see Luke 24:50, 51;  Acts 1:9–12).

Olive trees still grow on the mount. Though they aren’t original to the time of Jesus, tests have shown them to be hundreds of years old—and some surmise that their roots may date to the biblical era.

12 | John 9:1–3, 6, 7

As Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. . . . When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, and said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.

In questioning the cause of the man’s blindness, the disciples reveal their belief in the theological doctrine of retribution—the teaching that God punishes sinners by sending misfortune or illness. Jesus refutes this concept in verse 3 , addressing his friends’ spiritual blindness before he heals the man’s physical blindness.

The pool of Siloam was a reservoir for the water supply of ancient Jerusalem. Water was carried into it from the Gihon spring through a tunnel thought to have been excavated at the order of King Hezekiah circa 700 bc  (see II Kings 20:20 ).

from Section 4

13 | I Corinthians 15:53  

This corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

corruptible: subject to impurity or decay
incorruption: purity; freedom from decay

14 | Acts 9:36–39

Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did. And it came to pass in those days, that she was sick, and died: whom when they had washed, they laid her in an upper chamber. And forasmuch as Lydda was nigh to Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent unto him two men, desiring him that he would not delay to come to them. Then Peter arose and went with them. When he was come, they brought him into the upper chamber: and all the widows stood by him weeping, and shewing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them.

In Hebrew culture, great respect was expressed for the dead—shown in part by washing the body of the deceased to purify and prepare it for burial. If burial was delayed, as in Tabitha’s case, the body was laid out in an upper room. 

Jewish custom required widows to be cared for by the community. Displaying their gifts from Tabitha illustrated the widows’ loss of not merely one of their number but also one who supported them.

Just before leaving for Joppa, Peter had healed the paralytic Aeneas, resulting in many turning “to the Lord.” Now Joppa likewise sees an increase in believers (see vv. 35, 42 ). And while in Joppa, Peter receives God’s charge to extend the gospel to the Gentiles (see Acts, chap. 10 ).

almsdeeds: acts of generous giving
forasmuch as: because; since

from Section 5

15 | I Thessalonians 5:16, 19, 21

Rejoice evermore. . . . Quench not the Spirit. . . . Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.

Translation

Always be joyful. . . . Do not hold back the work of the Holy Spirit. . . . But test everything. Keep what is good, . . .

—New Century Version

Paul is urging both inspiration and practice. Prophecy and revelation are to be kept alive, their genuine nature tested and proved in daily experience. 

The apostle makes his point with two metaphors. Spiritual inspiration is compared to a fire, which needs careful tending—guarding from worldly influences—so that its flame isn’t quenched. Spiritual perception is likened to the testing of metal to determine its authenticity.

16 | II Peter 1:2, 3

Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, according as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue.

Many of the earliest Christians had grown up as Jews, hearing the Hebrew wish for peace (šālôm)—but the addition of grace (Greek, kharis) to the salutation was uniquely Christian, used in New Testament letters and beyond. 

Knowledge is translated from the Greek word epignōsis, referring to full and precise discernment. One scholar points out, “Those who have true knowledge of God and of Christ . . . have been completely endowed with the capacity to live a truly godly life.” Another asserts, “God has made available all that we need spiritually through our knowledge of him.”

pertain unto: belong to; relate to
virtue: excellence of character; goodness

17 | Psalms 40:5, 16  

Many, O Lord my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy thoughts which are to us-ward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee: if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered. . . . Let all those that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee.

Translation

LORD  my God, you have performed many wonders for us. 
       Your plans for us are too numerous to list. 
       You have no equal. 
If I tried to recite all your wonderful deeds, 
       I would never come to the end of them. . . . 
But may all who search for you 
       be filled with joy and gladness in you. . . . 

—New Living Translation

reckoned up: counted or calculated

from Section 6

18 | Deuteronomy 33:27  

The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.

Translation

The everlasting God is your place of safety. 
       His arms will hold you up forever. . . . 

—International Children’s Bible

21 | Romans 1:20  

For 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.

Translation

For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. . . . 

—New Living Translation


Read a related article, "New insights from Bible pages" by John D. Moorhead.

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

RR: Keck, Leander E., et al., eds. The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary. Vol. 3, Introduction to Hebrew Poetry, Job, Psalms, Introduction to Wisdom Literature, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs. Nashville: Abingdon, 2015.

Cit. 3: Soards, Marion L. New International Biblical Commentary—1 Corinthians. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1999.

Cit. 5: Buttrick, George Arthur, Nolan B. Harmon, et al., eds. The Interpreter’s Bible: A Commentary in Twelve Volumes. Vol. 4, Psalms, Proverbs. Nashville: Abingdon, 1951–57.

Cit. 7: Keck, Leander E., et al., eds. The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary. Vol. 2, Introduction to Narrative Literature, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles. Nashville: Abingdon, 2015.

Cit. 8: Eiselen, Frederick Carl, Edwin Lewis, and David G. Downey, eds. The Abingdon Bible Commentary. New York: Abingdon Press, 1929.

Cit. 9: Life Application Study Bible, New Living Translation. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub, 2007.

Cit. 16: Eiselen, Frederick Carl, Edwin Lewis, and David G. Downey, eds. The Abingdon Bible Commentary. New York: Abingdon Press, 1929; Barker, Kenneth, et al., eds. The NIV Study Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995.

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