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

Unreality

from the Golden Text

Psalms 112:4, 7

Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, 
      for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous. . . .
They will have no fear of bad news; 
      their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.

—New International Version

Here the Psalmist outlines the nature of those who are Godlike—who embody the divine qualities described in Exodus: “The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth” (34:6). 

Še mû‘â, the Hebrew word rendered news, can also signify rumor. Even in the darkness of adverse news or rumors, God’s light enables His children to stand fearlessly. According to one scriptural authority, “The grateful, faithful heart is the secure heart.”

gracious: showing divine favor and love

from the Responsive Reading

Jeremiah 23:23, 25, 28, 32

Am I a God at hand, saith the Lord, and not a God afar off? . . . I have heard what the prophets said, that prophesy lies in my name, saying, I have dreamed, I have dreamed. . . . The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the Lord. . . . Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the Lord, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their lightness.

For the most part, dreams were considered communications from God in Bible times. Jacob and Daniel received God’s messages in dreams, as did Mary’s husband, Joseph, before and after Jesus’ birth (see Genesis 28:10–15Daniel 2:16–45Matthew 1:19–23; 2:12, 13, 19, 20). Now, however, deceitful prophets are presenting their own imaginings as God’s Word. Jeremiah identifies these false dreams as worthless and insubstantial, comparing them to the emptiness of chaff.

at hand: very near
lightness: unsteadiness; lack of seriousness

from Section 1

1 | Exodus 23:1 

Thou shalt not raise a false report.

Translation

Don’t spread false rumors.

—Common English Bible

3 | Isaiah 45:18, 19 

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. I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth: I said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain: I the Lord speak righteousness, I declare things that are right. 

Translation

For the LORD is God, 
        and he created the heavens and earth 
        and put everything in place. 
He made the world to be lived in, 
        not to be a place of empty chaos. 
“I am the LORD,” he says, 
        “and there is no other. 
I publicly proclaim bold promises. 
        I do not whisper obscurities in some dark corner. 
I would not have told the people of Israel to seek me 
        if I could not be found. 
I, the LORD, speak only what is true 
        and declare only what is right.”

—New Living Translation

in vain: uselessly; unsuccessfully 

4 | Jeremiah 29:8 

Let not your prophets and your diviners, that be in the midst of you, deceive you, neither hearken to your dreams which ye cause to be dreamed.

diviners: people who claim to be able to predict the future

from Section 2

6 | John 7:24

Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.

Translation

Be honest in your judgment and do not decide at a glance (superficially and by appearances); but judge fairly and righteously.

—Amplified® Bible Classic

Jesus has left Galilee for Jerusalem, where gossip and speculation about him is rampant—and where the Jews have been searching for him, apparently in reaction to his healing on the Sabbath. Yet, as he points out, they themselves allow for some work on the Sabbath (see Matthew 12:11-13). And his “work” of healing far exceeds the rites they allow on that holy day.

The Master then redefines judgment in terms of righteousness. Judging “according to the appearance” is unrighteous, exposed in the unjust condemnation of Jesus’ Sabbath-day healing works. But righteous judgment, as a commentary suggests, recognizes healing as “revealing the presence and identity of God . . . .”

7 | Hebrews 11:1, 2

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report.

Translation

Faith is the reality of what we hope for, the proof of what we don’t see. The elders in the past were approved because they showed faith.

—Common English Bible

Matthew Henry, a 17th–18th-century minister and Bible scholar, proposed this interpretation: “Faith proves to the mind, the reality of things that cannot be seen by the bodily eye. It is a full approval of all God has revealed, as holy, just, and good.”

Elders can refer to ancestors, but in both Jewish and Christian tradition it was a term for senior religious leaders. Several of these luminaries are highlighted in the list of the faithful in verses 4–13.

8 | Numbers 13:1, 2, 32, 33

The Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Send thou men, that they may search the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel: of every tribe of their fathers shall ye send a man, every one a ruler among them. . . . And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature. . . . And we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.

The Exodus story is recounted in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. This account in Numbers represents a pivotal moment in the Israelites’ journey, revealing the reason for the forty years spent in the wilderness. 

Frightened by the strength of Canaan’s inhabitants—and the report of a race of “giants”—the people refuse to believe they can possess the Promised Land. And although Joshua and Caleb assure them that God “will bring us into this land, . . . a land which floweth with milk and honey,” they reject this encouragement. Joshua and Caleb tear their garments (a sign of grief in Hebrew culture) in response to the congregation’s rebellious intent to return to Egypt (see 14:6–9, citation 9).

Because of their stubborn refusal to proceed into the land, the first generation of Jews who left Egypt are barred from entry. Only well after their children are grown—forty years later—does the new homeland become accessible again. At that point, Joshua is designated Moses’ successor and leads the next generation of Hebrews into Canaan (see Joshua, chaps. 1–4).

stature: height

9 | Numbers 14:1 

All the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night.

congregation: a gathering of people, especially for the worship of God and religious instruction

from Section 3

10 | Isaiah 53:1 

Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?

Translation

Who has believed [confidently trusted in, relied on, and adhered to] our message [of salvation]? And to whom [if not us] has the arm and infinite power of the Lord been revealed?

—Amplified® Bible

11 | Psalms 34:10 

They that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing.

Translation

. . . those who look to the LORD will have every good thing.

—New Century Version

12 | II Kings 4:1–4

Now there cried a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets unto Elisha, saying, Thy servant my husband is dead; and thou knowest that thy servant did fear the Lord: and the creditor is come to take unto him my two sons to be bondmen. And Elisha said unto her, What shall I do for thee? tell me, what hast thou in the house? And she said, Thine handmaid hath not any thing in the house, save a pot of oil. Then he said, Go, borrow thee vessels abroad of all thy neighbours, even empty vessels; borrow not a few. And when thou art come in, thou shalt shut the door upon thee and upon thy sons, and shalt pour out into all those vessels, and thou shalt set aside that which is full.

Shutting the door also occurs in Elisha’s raising the Shunammite woman’s son to life (see v. 33)—an act viewed by some as a means of focusing on prayer and praise, free of outside interference or distraction. 

Centuries later, shutting the door is Jesus’ image for what is necessary in prayer: “When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret” (Matthew 6:6).

handmaid: servant
vessels: containers used to hold liquids

from Section 4

13 | Proverbs 30:5, 8

Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. . . . Remove far from me vanity and lies.

Translation

“Every word of God can be trusted. 
       He protects those who come to him for safety. . . . 
Keep me from lying and being dishonest. . . .” 

—International Children’s Bible

Original meanings shed light on this text. Pure is translated from a Hebrew verb (sārap) for refining and testing of metal—a signification found in Psalms 12:6 as well: “The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.” One source offers, “God’s words are true, sincere, with no mixture of error, certain of accomplishment.” 

Verses 7–9 represent the only prayer in the book of Proverbs. Šāwe ’, the term rendered vanity here, depicts emptiness, worthlessness, and falsehood. Asking God to remove vanity and lies is a petition to eliminate anything that is not made or given by Him.

15 | Ecclesiastes 5:8

If thou seest the oppression of the poor, and violent perverting of judgment and justice in a province, marvel not at the matter: for he that is higher than the highest regardeth; and there be higher than they.

Translation

If you see in a province the oppression of the poor and the violation of justice and right, do not be amazed at the matter; for the high official is watched by a higher, and there are yet higher ones over them.

—New Revised Standard Version

In this strong censure of political or economic abuses by the powerful, the word oppression is noteworthy. Of several Hebrew words with this meaning, the writer’s choice in this verse is ‘ōšeq—the only one that can include fraud or extortion. 

Some commentators surmise that “there be higher than they” simply alludes to levels of authority; others see it as a reference to God.

oppression: cruel or harsh treatment
perverting: misdirecting or turning from what is good or moral

16 | Psalms 10:17, 18 

Lord, thou hast heard the desire of the humble: thou wilt prepare their heart, thou wilt cause thine ear to hear: to judge the fatherless and the oppressed, that the man of the earth may no more oppress.

Translation

You have heard the desire of oppressed people, O LORD. 
You encourage them. 
You pay close attention to them 
in order to provide justice for orphans and oppressed people 
so that no mere mortal will terrify them again.

—GOD’S WORD Translation

17 | Isaiah 60:4, 18

Lift up thine eyes round about, and see: . . . Violence shall no more be heard in thy land, wasting nor destruction within thy borders; but thou shalt call thy walls Salvation, and thy gates Praise.

Translation

Look and see, . . . 
Violence will disappear from your land; 
     the desolation and destruction of war will end. 
Salvation will surround you like city walls, 
     and praise will be on the lips of all who enter there.

—New Living Translation

In this passage, the characteristics of the city of God (Jerusalem or Zion) are portrayed spiritually. A Bible authority explains: “Zion symbolizes God’s presence and protection for his people, their resilience and victory against enemies, and the resulting peace. . . . Entrance into the city of salvation will be through the metaphorical gates of praise to the Lord for his great salvation.”

from Section 5

19 | Psalms 41:5, 8

Mine enemies speak evil of me, When shall he die, and his name perish? . . . An evil disease, say they, cleaveth fast unto him: and now that he lieth he shall rise up no more.

In ancient times, someone’s name perishing or being forgotten was equivalent to that person never having existed. The Psalmist draws a picture not only of sickness but of adversaries’ hope for his death and erasure from memory.

20 | Psalms 91:9, 10 

Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; there shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.

Translation

The LORD  is your protection; 
       you have made God Most High your place of safety. 
Nothing bad will happen to you; 
       no disaster will come to your home.

—New Century Version

befall: happen to
plague: contagious disease; any great evil
nigh: near

from Section 6

22 | Isaiah 52:7

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!

Translation

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger 
who announces the good news, “All is well.” 
He brings the good news, 
announces salvation, 
and tells Zion that its God rules as king.

—GOD’S WORD Translation

Reports from a battlefront were often brought by runners, who were seen first by sentries on the wall of a city. Here the image is believed to describe the welcome news that God will save His nation from its enemies and establish His everlasting kingdom.

24 | Deuteronomy 4:35

Unto thee it was shewed, that thou mightest know that the Lord he is God; there is none else beside him.

As the Israelites prepare to enter the Promised Land, Moses reminds them what was shown to them during the preceding decades—divine protection and deliverance in Egypt and beyond (see vv. 31–34, 36–38). They had indeed received compelling proof that the one God is supreme.


Read a related article, “ ‘Who hath believed our report?’ ” by Kathryn Paulson.

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: New International Version®, copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide; Keck, Leander E., et al., eds. The New Interpreter’s Bible: A Commentary in Twelve Volumes. Vol. 4, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Introduction to Hebrew Poetry, Job, Psalms. Nashville: Abingdon, 1996–2001.

Cit. 6: 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. 7: Henry, Matthew. Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible. London, 1706. Also available at biblehub.com/commentaries.

Cit. 13: Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice, Joseph S. Exell, and Edward Mark Deems, eds. The Pulpit Commentary. London, 1880–1909. Also available at biblehub.com/commentaries.

Cit. 17: NLT Study Bible. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2017.

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