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

Life

from the Responsive Reading

Deuteronomy 30:9–11, 14, 16, 20

The Lord thy God will make thee plenteous in every work of thine hand, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy land, for good: for the Lord will again rejoice over thee for good, as he rejoiced over thy fathers: if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which are written in this book of the law, and if thou turn unto the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul. For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. . . . But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it. . . . I command thee this day to love the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: . . . for he is thy life, and the length of thy days. 

On the eve of entry into the Promised Land, Moses summarizes the abundant benefits God has given the Israelites and urges recommitment to their covenant with Him. Honoring the one God as their very life would be especially vital in Canaan, where worship of pagan deities was widespread. (The Hebrew verb šûb, to turn or return, occurs repeatedly in this chapter to emphasize the call to turn again to God—and God’s turning to His people.) 

That the “word” (meaning the entire Hebrew law) isn’t hidden assures listeners that God’s requirements are easy to understand, not mystical or obscure. “In thy mouth” alludes to reciting aloud as a customary way of learning. 

plenteous: abundant
fathers: ancestors
hearken: listen; pay attention
statutes: laws

from Section 1

1 | Philippians 2:13 

It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

Translation

. . . it is [not your strength, but it is] God who is effectively at work in you, both to will and to work [that is, strengthening, energizing, and creating in you the longing and the ability to fulfill your purpose] for His good pleasure.

—Amplified® Bible

2 | Deuteronomy 5:33

Ye shall walk in all the ways which the Lord your God hath commanded you, that ye may live, and that it may be well with you, and that ye may prolong your days in the land which ye shall possess.

Translation

Follow the whole instruction the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live, prosper, and have a long life in the land you will possess.

—Christian Standard Bible

prolong: lengthen; increase

4 | Deuteronomy 6:4, 5, 13, 18, 24

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. . . . Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name. . . . And thou shalt do that which is right and good in the sight of the Lord: . . . And the Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as it is at this day.

Translation

Israel, listen! Our God is the LORD! Only the LORD! Love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your being, and all your strength. . . . Revere the LORD your God, serve him, and take your solemn pledges in his name! . . . Do what is right and good in the LORD’s sight . . . . Then the LORD commanded us to perform all these regulations, revering the LORD our God, so that things go well for us always and so we continue to live, as we’re doing right now.

—Common English Bible

In ancient times, as today, oaths were sworn to confirm the truth of a fact or the validity of an agreement. Swearing by God’s name carried undeniable weight while also respecting Him, whereas swearing by many gods dishonored the one God. Joshua, successor to Moses as Israel’s leader, warns against swearing by these false deities (see Joshua 23:6, 7).

Christ Jesus quotes verse 13 in his third denial of the devil’s temptations at the outset of his career: “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (Matthew 4:10).

fear: deeply respect
swear: declare something to be true

5 | Genesis 5:24

Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.

To walk with God, writes one source, is “to comply with his will, to concur with his designs, and to be workers together with him.” The Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible renders “walked with God” as “was well-pleasing to God.”

Only Enoch and Noah are identified as walking with God in English versions of Scripture (see Genesis 6:9 as well). Similarly, God commands Abram to walk before Him; Solomon describes his father as having walked before God; and King Hezekiah professes walking before God (see 17:1I Kings 3:6II Kings 20:3).

God’s taking of Enoch is sometimes compared with Elijah’s going up into heaven in a whirlwind (see II Kings 2:11). In the Old Testament, these two men alone are recorded as not experiencing physical death.

6 | Hebrews 11:5

By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.

Translation

By faith Enoch was taken so that he did not experience death; and “he was not found, because God had taken him.” For it was attested before he was taken away that “he had pleased God.”

—New Revised Standard Version

The eleventh chapter of Hebrews is a persuasive testament to the power of faith, citing many individuals whose trust in God supported and saved them. The author correlates Enoch’s faith and his favor with God: His faithful walking with God made him approved of God. Verse 6 continues, “Without faith it is impossible to please him.” 

Metathesis, the Greek term rendered translation, signifies transposition or change.

from Section 2

8 | Isaiah 38:1–5, 7, 8

In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. . . . Then Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall, and prayed unto the Lord, and said, Remember now, O Lord, I beseech thee, 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. Then came the word of the Lord to Isaiah, saying, Go, and say to Hezekiah, Thus saith the Lord, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: . . . And this shall be a sign unto thee from the Lord, that the Lord will do this thing that he hath spoken; behold, I will bring again the shadow of the degrees, which is gone down in the sun dial of Ahaz, ten degrees backward. So the sun returned ten degrees, by which degrees it was gone down. 

Hezekiah was king of Judah for nearly thirty years at the end of the eighth and beginning of the seventh centuries bc . Unlike his father, Ahaz, Hezekiah was an exemplary ruler, one of just a few who are described as having God with him (see II Kings 18:7I Samuel 18:12, 14II Chronicles 1:115:9). Hezekiah’s poignant petition to God and subsequent healing are also narrated in II Kings 20:1–6.

The “sun dial of Ahaz” is believed to have been a series of steps, apparently commissioned by King Ahaz, over which passing time could be noted by shadows cast as the sun ascended or descended. Though the amount of time for each “degree” is unknown, God’s dominion in reversing the sun’s progression—viewed as symbolic of extending Hezekiah’s life—is unmistakable.

beseech: beg; earnestly request
sore: greatly

9 | Habakkuk 3:2, 10, 11

O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; . . . The mountains saw thee, and they trembled: . . . The sun and moon stood still in their habitation.

The prophet is entreating God to again exercise His might on behalf of His people “in the midst of the years”—likely a reference to foreign occupation (see 1:6).

Verses 10 and 11 recall the cosmic event reported in Joshua 10:12, 13. In battle with the Amorites, Joshua asks God to command the sun and moon to stand still: “And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed.” Some commentators take this wording to signify that the brightness of God’s “weaponry” overshadowed the light of the sun and moon.

Scripture includes several mentions of heavenly bodies being made dark. Joel 2:10 portrays the day of the Lord, when God’s kingdom is expected on earth: “The sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining” (see also Isaiah 13:10Amos 5:20Revelation 21:23). 

10 | Ecclesiastes 3:15

That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past.

In this statement, now and already are translated from the same Hebrew adverb (ke bār, indicating length of time) to depict the unchanging nature of God and His creation. A paraphrase offers: “Whatever was, is. Whatever will be, is. That’s how it always is with God.”

11 | John 8:1, 2, 51, 52, 58

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. . . . Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death. Then said the Jews unto him, Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and thou sayest, If a man keep my saying, he shall never taste of death. . . . Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.

“Abraham’s time was finite and time-bound,” a scholar explains. “When Jesus says, ‘before Abraham was, I am,’ therefore, he is pointing to his pre-existence with God beyond the bounds of time.” Another remarks, “Jesus recognizes his relation to God, so certain and so intimate, was not temporal, but eternal.”

Identifying themselves as Abraham’s true descendants, the Jews are outraged that Jesus is claiming a special relationship with their revered ancestor (see vv. 53, 56 ). Arguing from a materialistic perception of life and unable to perceive the spiritual import of Jesus’ declarations, they attempt to stone him (the punishment for blasphemy; see v. 59).

verily: truly; certainly

from Section 3

12 | Matthew 19:1, 16, 17

When Jesus had finished these sayings, he departed from Galilee, and came into the coasts of Judæa beyond Jordan; . . . And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.

Before answering this man’s query, Jesus corrects what was probably intended as a deferential or even flattering form of address: “Good Master.” In order to understand Jesus’ teaching, goodness must be viewed as God-derived and God-given. 

“What must I do?” is seen by some as a focus on human rules and regulations (though Mark’s account includes the commendation “Thou art not far from the kingdom of God”; see Mark 12:34). Jesus’ reply is simple and direct: “Keep the commandments.” Eternal life is the natural result of observing God’s law.

14 | I John 2:25

This is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life.

First John references eternal life six times in five short chapters (see also 1:23:155:11, 13, 20). This life, suggests a Bible authority, “is not of infinite duration in some utopian future. It is, instead, life possessing a radically indestructible quality that even now transcends this world’s evanescence.”

from Section 4

15 | Psalms 8:1, 4, 6

O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! . . . What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? . . . Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet.

Translation

LORD  our Lord, 
    your name is the most wonderful name in all the earth! . . . 
But why are people even important to you? 
    Why do you take care of human beings? . . . 
You put them in charge of everything you made. 
    You put all things under their control: . . .

—New Century Version

16 | Isaiah 53:1–3

Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: . . . He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Translation

Who has believed our message? 
To whom has the LORD’s power been revealed? 
He grew up in his presence like a young tree, 
like a root out of dry ground. . . . 
He was despised and rejected by people. 
He was a man of sorrows, familiar with suffering.
He was despised like one from whom people turn their faces, 
and we didn’t consider him to be worth anything.

—GOD’S WORD Translation

Rhetorical questions introduce “the sufferings of the servant” (a page heading in some King James Bibles). The servant image first appears in 41:8 and is repeated multiple times in four “Servant Songs” (see 42:1–449:1–650:4–952:13—53:12). Jews held that these prophecies alluded to them as God’s chosen people, to the Persian king Cyrus (who freed the Hebrew people from captivity in Babylon), to divinely ordained prophets, or to the long-awaited Savior. Matthew recognizes Christ Jesus as the true fulfillment of prophecy: “Behold my servant, whom I have chosen” (Matthew 12:18, partially quoting Isaiah 42:1).

“Who hath believed our report?” is cited by Gospel writer John and the Apostle Paul, both commenting on those who heard Jesus’ words or witnessed his works yet would not believe (see John 12:38Romans 10:16).

In the metaphor of the tender plant, the root is thought to indicate that the Messiah would come out of Israel, and the dry ground to signal his lack of royal status and the rejection he would face. Mentions of despising, rejection, sorrows, grief, and disregard foreshadow the Master’s treatment during his ministry.

as it were: seemingly; in a way
despised: strongly disrespected; hated
esteemed: thought of; considered

 17 | Matthew 11:1

It came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities.

came to pass: happened
 thence: from that place

18 | Matthew 12:25-28

Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand: and if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand? And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? therefore they shall be your judges. But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you.

Translation

“Every kingdom that is fighting against itself will be destroyed. And every city that is divided will fall. And every family that is divided cannot succeed. So if Satan forces out his own demons, then Satan is divided, and his kingdom will not continue. You say that I use the power of Satan when I force out demons. If that is true, then what power do your people use when they force out demons? So your own people prove that you are wrong. But if I use the power of God’s Spirit to force out demons, this shows that the kingdom of God has come to you.”

—International Children’s Bible

desolation: complete destruction

from Section 5

20 | I Timothy 6:12

Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.

Translation

Compete in the good fight of faith. Grab hold of eternal life—you were called to it, and you made a good confession of it in the presence of many witnesses.

—Common English Bible

Here athletic imagery portrays the perseverance needed to maintain faith and grasp eternal life. One interpretation has, “Run your best in the race of faith, and win eternal life for yourself.”

“Good profession before many witnesses” refers to the commitment Timothy made at either his baptism or his ordination into service to Christ.

professed: openly declared a belief

21 | I Corinthians 15:55-57

O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Translation

“O death, where is your victory? 
     O death, where is your sting?” 
For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.

—New Living Translation

from Section 6

23 | Psalms 34:8, 12, 14

O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him. . . . What man is he that desireth life, and loveth many days, that he may see good? . . . Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it. 

Translation

Taste and see that the LORD  is good. 
     Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him! . . . 
Does anyone want to live a life 
     that is long and prosperous? . . . 
Turn away from evil and do good. 
     Search for peace, and work to maintain it.

—New Living Translation

Taste (translated from the Hebrew root tā‘am) can be used as a metaphor for testing or evaluating as well as for discretion and judgment. The image of tasting invites the reader to discern by experience—to discover God’s goodness by actively trusting in it. First Peter later echoes this charge with the phrase “If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious” (2:3).

24 | Psalms 23:6

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Translation

Certainly, goodness and mercy will stay close to me all the days of my life, 
and I will remain in the LORD’s house for days without end.

—GOD’S  WORD Translation


Read a related kids’ article, “Poppie” by Candace Rosovsky, at jsh.christianscience.com/poppie.

Resources quoted in this issue

Cit. 5: Wesley, John. Explanatory Notes upon the Old Testament. 3 vols. Bristol: William Pine, 1765. Also available at biblestudytools.com/commentaries.

Cit. 10: The Message, copyright © by Eugene H. Peterson 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

Cit. 11: Keck, Leander E., et al., eds. The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary. Vol. 8, Luke, John. Nashville: Abingdon, 2015; Eiselen, Frederick Carl, Edwin Lewis, and David G. Downey, eds. The Abingdon Bible Commentary. New York: Abingdon Press, 1929.

Cit. 14: Keck, Leander E., et al., eds. The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary. Vol. 10, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, 1 & 2 Peter, 1, 2 & 3 John, Jude, Revelation. Nashville: Abingdon, 2015

Cit. 20: Good News Translation in Today’s English Version—Second Edition, copyright © 1992 by American Bible Society. Used by permission.

NEXT IN THIS ISSUE
Letters
Letters & Conversations
January 10, 2022
Contents

We'd love to hear from you!

Easily submit your testimonies, articles, and poems online.

Submit