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

Ancient and Modern Necromancy, alias Mesmerism and Hypnotism, Denounced

from the Responsive Reading

Galatians 6:7, 8

Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. 

Metaphors about sowing and reaping appear throughout Scripture. Proverbs has, “To him that soweth righteousness shall be a sure reward” and “He that soweth iniquity shall reap vanity” (11:1822:8). Hosea 10:12 urges, “Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy.” And II Corinthians 9:6 cautions, “He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.”

The person who “soweth to the Spirit,” a commentary observes, “follows the Spirit’s guidance in his dispositions, words, and actions, and . . . employs his abilities of body and mind, his time, talents, and possessions, to promote true religion in himself and in those about him: . . .”

Another source writes: “God cannot be fooled by spiritual pretenses. All people will harvest the consequences of their action. . . .”

Psalms 34:3, 4, 8, 13, 14, 17, 22

O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together. I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. . . . O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him. . . . Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile. Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it. . . . The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles. . . . The Lord redeemeth the soul of his servants: and none of them that trust in him shall be desolate. 

Although this psalm’s inscription names Abimelech, scholars identify it as David’s praise for deliverance from Achish, king of Gath. David had fled to Philistia—the land of the army he defeated when he killed Goliath—to escape the murderous intent of King Saul. But he encounters danger there as well and escapes to a wilderness cave (see I Samuel 21:10—22:1). Even in the midst of peril, the poet asserts, trust in God brings salvation.

Biblical prophets offer counsel similar to verses 13 and 14: “Cease to do evil; learn to do well” (Isaiah 1:16, 17) and “Hate the evil, and love the good” (Amos 5:15). And the author of First Peter cites it centuries later (see 3:10, 11). A scriptural authority remarks, “Goodness isn’t only something to be experienced but a course of action to pursue. . . .”

Psalms 18:28

Thou wilt light my candle: the Lord my God will enlighten my darkness. 

Nāgâ, the Hebrew term rendered enlighten, signifies both shine and cause to shine. As some sources interpret verse 28, God doesn’t merely shine on dark places but transforms them into light.

from Section 1

2 | Nahum 1:7, 9

The Lord is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him. . . . What do ye imagine against the Lord? he will make an utter end: affliction shall not rise up the second time.

Translation

The Lord is good.
    He gives protection in times of trouble.
He knows who trusts in him. . . .
The Lord will completely destroy
    the plans that are made against him.
Trouble will not come a second time.

—International Children’s Bible®

Little is known about the prophet Nahum. His name is related to the name Nehemiah, which means “Yahweh consoles.” This book predicts the fall of the Assyrian capital, Nineveh—a great ancient city recognized not only for its wealth but for its iniquity as well.

Scripture portrays the city as repentant at one point, though the date is uncertain (see Jonah 3:10). In 612 bc,  within fifty years of Nahum’s prophecy, Nineveh is destroyed by the Babylonians. It is never rebuilt. Given its previous prominence over many centuries, its “utter end” is considered remarkable.

The Hebrew word rendered imagine (hāšab) refers to thinking or planning, often in the sense of plotting evil. Nehemiah uses this term to describe the machinations of his enemies: “They thought [hāšab] to do me mischief” (Nehemiah 6:2). Zechariah 7:10 warns, “Let none of you imagine [hāšab] evil against his brother in your heart.”

3 | Habakkuk 1:12, 13

Art thou not from everlasting, O Lord my God, mine Holy One? Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity.

Habakkuk’s writings are unique among prophetic texts in the Hebrew Bible. Rather than addressing the people, he speaks to Yahweh, lamenting what he views as God’s unwillingness to eliminate evil and recording God’s responses. Verse 13, however, is one of his affirmations—and he ends his entire message with rejoicing (see 3:18, 19).

Scholars note Habakkuk’s poetic style and memorable phrasing—for example, “The Lord is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him” (2:20). New Testament authors quote his words in 2:4, “The just shall live by his faith,” three times (see Romans 1:17Galatians 3:11Hebrews 10:38).

4 | Deuteronomy 11:16

Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them. 

Translation

. . . be careful. Don’t let anyone tempt you to do something wrong. Don’t turn away and worship other gods. Don’t bow down to them.

—New International Reader’s Version™

5 | I John 1:5

God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

Translation

. . . God is Light [He is holy, His message is truthful, He is perfect in righteousness], and in Him there is no darkness at all [no sin, no wickedness, no imperfection].

—Amplified® Bible

from Section 2

6 | Psalms 71:1, 8

In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust: let me never be put to confusion. . . . Let my mouth be filled with thy praise and with thy honour all the day.

Translation

LORD,  I have come to you for protection;
    never let me be defeated! . . .
All day long I praise you
    and proclaim your glory.

—Good News Translation

“Be put to confusion is translated from the Hebrew verb bûš, also alluding to shame. The Psalmist prays, “Let all mine enemies be ashamed [bûš] and sore vexed” and “O my God, I trust in thee: let me not be ashamed [bûš], let not mine enemies triumph over me” (6:1025:2).

7 | Isaiah 8:19

When they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God?

Translation

Someone may say to you, “Let’s ask the mediums and those who consult the spirits of the dead. With their whisperings and mutterings, they will tell us what to do.” But shouldn’t people ask God for guidance?

—New Living Translation

8 | Daniel 2:16–19, 22, 47

Daniel went in, and desired of the king that he would give him time, and that he would shew the king the interpretation. Then Daniel went to his house, and made the thing known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions: that they would desire mercies of the God of heaven concerning this secret; that Daniel and his fellows should not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven. . . . He revealeth the deep and secret things: he knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him. . . . The king answered unto Daniel, and said, Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, seeing thou couldest reveal this secret.

For Israelite captives in Babylon, mutual support—exemplified here by Daniel’s request for prayer from his companions—would have been vital. A commentator reflects, “. . . this gathering is crucial for what follows; Daniel is mustering spiritual power for warfare.” Daniel’s subsequent praise for God’s revelation echoes Job 12:22: “He discovereth deep things out of darkness.”

Daniel’s dream interpretation recalls Joseph’s experience with Pharaoh (see Genesis, chap. 41). Both rulers first turn to their advisors for help in understanding their night visions but ultimately attribute authority to God. And both Jewish men are honored by these monarchs. Joseph is elevated to Pharaoh’s right-hand position in Egypt; Daniel is made “ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief of the governors over all the wise men of Babylon” (v. 48).

from Section 3

9 | Matthew 9:35

Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.

At the beginning of this chapter, Christ Jesus has returned from the Gentile territory of Gergesa to “his own city” (v. 1). Though he was raised in Nazareth, by now his center of activity is Capernaum. From there he travels to many of the small towns scattered throughout Galilee. (The only large cities in this mostly rural area—Sepphoris and Tiberias—aren’t mentioned in Scripture as places the Master visited, but he may have passed through them.)

Nearly identical to the summary of Jesus’ works in Matthew 4:23, this narrative introduces his instructions to the disciples before sending them out to teach and preach. (The earlier text prefaces his Sermon on the Mount.) 

10 | Matthew 13:24–30

Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.

In long-ago Israel, as today, weeds were a continual problem. The tares in this parable, known as bearded darnel, were poisonous, and could be deadly if mixed with wheat and later incorporated into flour used for baking. They were difficult to separate from wheat because of the similarity of the two at their early stages of growth and the intertwining of their roots as they matured. (Roman law punished the act of sowing darnel among wheat, evidence that this wrongdoing did take place.)

As Jesus explains to his disciples (see vv. 36–43), the enemy and the tares represent the devil and his followers, to be destroyed at “the end of this world.” The wheat is described as the righteous, who will “shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”

11 | Micah 7:8

Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me.

Translation

My enemies, don’t be glad
    because of my troubles!
I may have fallen,
    but I will get up;
I may be sitting in the dark,
    but the LORD  is my light.

—Contemporary English Version

from Section 5

15 | Acts 8:5–13

Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. And there was great joy in that city. But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries. But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done.

In ancient times, magic was seen as a way to control or predict human events and even to manipulate the divine will. While sorcery was strictly forbidden in Jewish law (see Deuteronomy 18:10–12, for instance), Simon apparently enjoyed popular acclaim as “the great power of God.”

Philip the Evangelist (distinct from Jesus’ disciple by that name) was one of seven administrators of the disciples’ affairs after the Savior’s ascension (see Acts 6:1–5). He was instrumental in spreading Christianity beyond Jerusalem to Samaria—as well as to Gaza (see 8:26–39), to Azotus or Ashdod (see 8:40), and to Caesarea, where he took up residence (see 21:8).

Philip’s healing work stands in stark contrast to Simon’s quackery. Philip openly preaches the good news of “the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ.” Simon’s secret “powers” are intended to glorify himself. Although he is baptized, the magician’s self-interest becomes conspicuous when he attempts to buy divine authority, incurring Peter’s sharp censure, “Thy heart is not right in the sight of God” (see vv. 18–21). Simon’s name is the source of the word simony—the practice of making monetary profit from something sacred.

16 | II Corinthians 10:4, 5

(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.

Translation

We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.

—New Living Translation

from Section 6

17 | Proverbs 16:1, 3

The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the Lord. . . . Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established.

Translation

People make plans in their hearts.
    But only the Lord can make those plans come true. . . .
Depend on the Lord in whatever you do.
    Then your plans will succeed.

—International Children’s Bible

Verse 3 reverses the normally expected sequence: thought, then action. One Bible expert suggests this clarification: “The only way to have our thoughts established is to commit our works to the Lord.

Gālal, the Hebrew verb rendered commit, means roll or roll away. Here it refers to transferring a burden or weight to a stronger person or power. Thoughts is translated from maha šābâ, which also has the connotation of plan, work, or purpose and depicts the effect of the verb hāšab (see note on citation 2).

18 | Psalms 27:1, 3

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? . . . Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear.

Translation

You, LORD,  are the light
    that keeps me safe.
I am not afraid of anyone.
You protect me,
    and I have no fears. . . .
Armies may surround me,
    but I won’t be afraid; . . .

—Contemporary English Version


Read a related article, “How do we separate the good from the bad?” by Peter Burgdorff, at jsh.christianscience.com/how-do-we-separate-the-good-from-the-bad

Resources cited in this issue

RR: Benson, Joseph. Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. New York: T. Carlton & J. Porter, 1857. Also available at biblehub.com/commentaries; NLT Study Bible. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2017; Green, Joel B., et al., eds. The CEB Study Bible. Nashville: Common English Bible, 2013.

Cit. 8: Keck, Leander E., et al., eds. The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary. Vol. 6, Esther, Additions to Esther, Tobit, Judith, 1 & 2 Maccabees, Book of Wisdom, Sirach, Introduction to Apocalyptic Literature, Daniel, Additions to Daniel. Nashville: Abingdon, 2015.

Cit. 17: Hendrickson Publishers. Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1991.

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