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

God

from the Responsive Reading

Deuteronomy 27:1–3, 8

Moses with the elders of Israel commanded the people, saying, Keep all the commandments which I command you this day. And it shall be on the day when ye shall pass over Jordan unto the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, that thou shalt set thee up great stones, and plaster them with plaster: and thou shalt write upon them all the words of this law, when thou art passed over, that thou mayest go in unto the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, a land that floweth with milk and honey; as the Lord God of thy fathers hath promised thee. . . . And thou shalt write upon the stones all the words of this law very plainly. 

“Great stones” describes tall pillars or steles used to mark a territory or commemorate a significant event (see other examples in Genesis 28:22Joshua 4:924:26, 27). Plastering was an ancient process equivalent to contemporary methods of smoothing and sealing surfaces. Its whitewash effect also served to make inscriptions conspicuous.

In this instance, the stones are placed to publicly proclaim God’s law—and to keep His statutes at the center of community life in the Israelites’ new land.

from Section 1

1 | Genesis 1:1

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

In the Greek translation of Hebrew Scripture, beginning is translated arkhē, meaning principle as well as origin. In speaking of creation, a commentator remarks, “[God] calls it to harmonious responsiveness and obedience. As he has committed himself to his creation, so creation is invited to commit itself to its Creator . . . . Creation cannot exist apart from its Creator. It is inextricably bound to him.”

2 | James 1:17

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

Translation

Every good action and every perfect gift is from God. These good gifts come down from the Creator of the sun, moon, and stars, who does not change like their shifting shadows.

—New Century Version

“Father of lights” depicts God as creator of the heavenly bodies. People of antiquity were well aware of such celestial phenomena as eclipses, the waxing and waning of the moon, and the differing brightness of stars. While pagan deities were thought to be similarly changeable, the book of James declares God’s nature to be constant and changeless.

4 | Psalms 86:8–10

Among the gods there is none like unto thee, O Lord; neither are there any works like unto thy works. All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord; and shall glorify thy name. For thou art great, and doest wondrous things: thou art God alone. 

Translation

My Lord! There is no one like you among the gods!
     There is nothing that can compare to your works!
All the nations that you’ve made will come
          and bow down before you, Lord;
     they will glorify your name,
     because you are awesome
     and a wonder-worker.
          You are God. Just you. 

—Common English Bible

Verse 8 echoes Moses’ rhetorical question in Exodus 15:11, “Who is like unto thee, O Lord, among the gods?” The Psalmist moves beyond this henotheistic belief (worship of one god without denying the existence of other gods) to a statement of pure monotheism: “Thou art God alone.”

Although some ancient monarchs singled out a pagan deity for exclusive worship, only Jews recognized and honored one god—the Deity who could not be represented by images.

5 | Psalms 119:97

O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day.

Translation

I love your Instruction!
     I think about it constantly.

—Common English Bible

For many readers, Psalm 119 is remarkable mostly for its length (176 verses). One scholar suggests, however: “. . . Psalm 119 was not composed for the epic moments of life, but for the 90 percent of time in which life is uneventful. . . . Psalm 119 becomes the moment of prolonged contemplation in God’s presence.”

from Section 2

7 | Isaiah 51:4, 7, 16

A law shall proceed from me, and I will make my judgment to rest for a light of the people. . . . Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law; . . . I have put my words in thy mouth, and I have covered thee in the shadow of mine hand, that I may plant the heavens, and lay the foundations of the earth, and say unto Zion, Thou art my people.

Translation

“I will give the people my teachings.
     And my decisions will be like a light to all people. . . .
You people who know what is right should listen to me.
     You people who follow my teachings should hear what I say. . . .
I will give you the words I want you to say.
     I will cover you with my hands and protect you.
I made the heavens and the earth.
     And I say to Jerusalem, ‘You are my people.’ ”

—International Children’s Bible 

8 | Jeremiah 31:31, 33 

Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: . . . I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.

Translation

“Look, the time is coming,” says the LORD,
     “when I will make a new agreement
with the people of Israel
     and the people of Judah. . . .
I will put my teachings in their minds
     and write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
     and they will be my people.”

—New Century Version

God’s covenant with the Hebrews includes the laws given to Moses, preserved on stone tablets (see Exodus 31:1834:4, 27, 28). Over many centuries, though, only prophets were believed to have an intimate relationship with and knowledge of God. Now Jeremiah conveys God’s promise that this understanding is to be written in every heart, not merely inscribed on stone or available to a select few. (Christ Jesus’ mention of the “new testament” in Mark 14:24 is viewed as a reference to this oracle.) 

Two “houses”—Israel and Judah—signifies the division of Hebrew tribes into two kingdoms, a split that happened during the reign of Solomon’s son Rehoboam. Judah—including the tribes of Judah and Benjamin—became the Southern Kingdom, with Jerusalem as its capital. Israel, encompassing the remaining tribes, became the Northern Kingdom, with Samaria as its capital. (Israel as a name for the entire Jewish nation before the time of Rehoboam did not regain that meaning until the 20th century.)

from Section 3

9 | I John 4:6, 7, 8, 12, 16, 19, 21

We are of God: . . . Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. . . . No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. . . . And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. . . . We love him, because he first loved us. . . . And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.

Translation

We belong to God, . . . My dear friends, we must love each other. Love comes from God, and when we love each other, it shows we have been given new life. We are now God’s children, and we know him. God is love, and anyone who doesn’t love others has never known him. . . . No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is truly in our hearts. . . . and [we] are sure God loves us. . . . God is love. If we keep on loving others, we will stay one in our hearts with God, and he will stay one with us. . . . We love because God loved us first. . . . The commandment that God has given us is: “Love God and love each other!”

—Contemporary English Version

Repeatedly addressing his readers as “beloved” (see also 3:2, 214:1, 11), this author expresses the love he is urging on them. A Bible authority explains that “in I John, love for one another brings the unseen God to concrete expression in everyday life. . . . if we love one another, we and others experience the presence of God.” A second source reflects, “Genuine love cannot be exhibited in any community unless it reflects God’s love.”

Commentators observe that the word him was a later addition to verse 19. (The sentence originally read, “We love, because he first loved us.”) Because denotes that His love impels us to love.

10 | James 2:8

If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well.

Translation

You will do all right, if you obey the most important law in the Scriptures. It is the law that commands us to love others as much as we love ourselves.

—Contemporary English Version

In an indictment of favoritism in the church (see vv. 1–7), this writer cites Leviticus 19:18. “Royal” law is seen as the law of God’s kingdom—the divine mandate to love others, underscored by Jesus and Paul (see Matthew 22:35–40Romans 13:8Galatians 5:14, citation 20).

A scholar offers this interpretation: “You are to regard all persons as your ‘neighbors,’ and are to treat them according to their real worth; you are not to be influenced in judging of them, or in your treatment of them, by their apparel, or their complexion, or the circumstances of their birth, but by the fact that they are fellow-beings.”

from Section 4

11 | Matthew 4:17

Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Translation

Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent [change your inner self—your old way of thinking, regret past sins, live your life in a way that proves repentance; seek God’s purpose for your life], for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

—Amplified® Bible

12 | Matthew 5:17 

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.

Translation

“Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose.”

—New Living Translation

References to “the law and the prophets” appear several times in the New Testament to indicate sacred Hebrew texts. In this declaration the Master affirms that neither the Mosaic law nor the writings of the prophets are at risk of loss or misinterpretation, but are to be confirmed and demonstrated through his life and teachings.

13 | John 14:6

I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

A scriptural authority notes: “That is a great saying to us, but it would be still greater to a Jew who heard it for the first time. In it Jesus took three of the great basic conceptions of Jewish religion, and made the tremendous claim that in him all three found their full realization.” 

Way occurs often in the Hebrew Bible—for instance, in the Psalmist’s plea “Teach me thy way, O Lord” (Psalms 27:11) and Isaiah’s prediction “Thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it” (Isaiah 30:21). Yet, as the previous source points out, Jesus “does not tell us about the way; he is the Way.”

Truth is found in early texts about God as well. The psalms include such assertions as “I have walked in thy truth” and “Thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth” (Psalms 26:331:5). Jeremiah attests, “The Lord liveth, in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness” (Jeremiah 4:2). The same source adds that while numerous people could claim to communicate truth, “only Jesus could say: ‘I am the Truth.’ ”

Life is associated with God from the first record of creation (see Genesis 1). Job 33:4 states, “The spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life,” and Psalms 27:1 calls God “the strength of my life.” The Savior announces, “I am the resurrection, and the life: . . . whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die” (John 11:25, 26).

from Section 5

16 | Psalms 119:33, 34, 49, 50

Teach me, O Lord, the way of thy statutes; and I shall keep it unto the end. Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart. . . . Remember the word unto thy servant, upon which thou hast caused me to hope. This is my comfort in my affliction: for thy word hath quickened me.

Translation

Teach me, LORD,  the meaning of your laws,
     and I will obey them at all times.
Explain your law to me, and I will obey it;
     I will keep it with all my heart. . . .
Remember your promise to me, your servant;
     it has given me hope.
Even in my suffering I was comforted
     because your promise gave me life.

—Good News Translation

from Section 6

18 | Luke 18:18–22

A certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother. And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up. Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.

Jesus responds to the ruler’s query by asking him about his obedience to five Commandments relating to other people (see Exodus 20:12–16). Then the Master makes plain that eternal life isn’t the outcome of merely fulfilling the law but results from wholeheartedly following him (see John 3:16).

19 | James 1:25

Whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.

Translation

. . . if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.

—New Living Translation 

21 | I John 5:3

This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.

Barys, the Greek term rendered grievous, means heavy or weighty. Reminiscent of the Savior’s words “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30), this assurance makes clear that adhering to God’s commands is not burdensome or oppressive. With divine demands comes the ability to fulfill them, and love for God lightens the task. A paraphrase puts it this way: “Loving God means doing what he tells us to do, and really, that isn’t hard at all.”


Read a related article, “Living within the law” by Nelmah M. Beam, at jsh.christianscience.com/living-within-the-law.

from the Responsive Reading

Deuteronomy 27:1–3, 8

Moses with the elders of Israel commanded the people, saying, Keep all the commandments which I command you this day. And it shall be on the day when ye shall pass over Jordan unto the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, that thou shalt set thee up great stones, and plaster them with plaster: and thou shalt write upon them all the words of this law, when thou art passed over, that thou mayest go in unto the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, a land that floweth with milk and honey; as the Lord God of thy fathers hath promised thee. . . . And thou shalt write upon the stones all the words of this law very plainly. 

“Great stones” describes tall pillars or steles used to mark a territory or commemorate a significant event (see other examples in Genesis 28:22Joshua 4:924:26, 27). Plastering was an ancient process equivalent to contemporary methods of smoothing and sealing surfaces. Its whitewash effect also served to make inscriptions conspicuous.

In this instance, the stones are placed to publicly proclaim God’s law—and to keep His statutes at the center of community life in the Israelites’ new land.

from Section 1

1 | Genesis 1:1

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

In the Greek translation of Hebrew Scripture, beginning is translated arkhē, meaning principle as well as origin. In calling creation into existence, a commentator remarks, “[God] calls it to harmonious responsiveness and obedience. As he has committed himself to his creation, so creation is invited to commit itself to its Creator . . . . Creation cannot exist apart from its Creator. It is inextricably bound to him.”

2 | James 1:17

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

“Father of lights” depicts God as creator of the heavenly bodies. People of antiquity were well aware of such celestial phenomena as eclipses, the waxing and waning of the moon, and the differing brightness of stars. While pagan deities were thought to be similarly changeable, the book of James declares God’s nature to be constant and changeless.

4 | Psalms 86:8–10

Among the gods there is none like unto thee, O Lord; neither are there any works like unto thy works. All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord; and shall glorify thy name. For thou art great, and doest wondrous things: thou art God alone. 

Verse 8 echoes Moses’ rhetorical question in Exodus 15:11, “Who is like unto thee, O Lord, among the gods?” The Psalmist moves beyond this henotheistic belief (worship of one god without denying the existence of other gods) to a statement of pure monotheism: “Thou art God alone.”

Although some ancient monarchs singled out a pagan deity for exclusive worship, only Jews recognized and honored one God—the Deity who could not be represented by images.

5 | Psalms 119:97

O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day.

For many readers, Psalm 119 is remarkable mostly for its length (176 verses). One scholar suggests, however: “. . . Psalm 119 was not composed for the epic moments of life, but for the 90 percent of time in which life is uneventful. . . . Psalm 119 becomes the moment of prolonged contemplation in God’s presence.”

from Section 2

8 | Jeremiah 31:31, 33 

Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: . . . I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.

God’s covenant with the Hebrews includes the laws given to Moses, preserved on stone tablets (see Exodus 31:1834:4, 27, 28). Over many centuries, though, only prophets were believed to have an intimate relationship with and knowledge of God. Now Jeremiah conveys God’s promise that this understanding is to be written in every heart, not merely inscribed on stone or available to a select few. (Christ Jesus’ mention of the “new testament” in Mark 14:24 is viewed as a reference to this oracle.) 

Two “houses”—Israel and Judah—signifies the division of Hebrew tribes into two kingdoms, a split that happened during the reign of Solomon’s son Rehoboam. Judah—including the tribes of Judah and Benjamin—became the Southern Kingdom, with Jerusalem as its capital. Israel, encompassing the remaining tribes, became the Northern Kingdom, with Samaria as its capital. (Israel as a name for the entire Jewish nation before the time of Rehoboam did not regain that meaning until the 20th century.)

from Section 3

9 | I John 4:6, 7, 8, 12, 16, 19, 21

We are of God: . . . Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. . . . No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. . . . And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. . . . We love him, because he first loved us. . . . And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.

Repeatedly addressing his readers as “beloved” (see also 3:2, 214:1, 11), this author expresses the love he is urging on them. A Bible authority explains that “in I John, love for one another brings the unseen God to concrete expression in everyday life. . . . if we love one another, we and others experience the presence of God.” A second source reflects, “Genuine love cannot be exhibited in any community unless it reflects God’s love.”

Commentators observe that the word him was a later addition to verse 19. (The sentence originally read, “We love, because he first loved us.”) Because denotes that His love impels us to love.

10 | James 2:8

If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well.

In an indictment of favoritism in the church (see vv. 1–7), this writer cites Leviticus 19:18. “Royal” law is seen as the law of God’s kingdom—the divine mandate to love others, underscored by Jesus and Paul (see Matthew 22:35–40Romans 13:8Galatians 5:14, citation 20).

A scholar offers this interpretation: “You are to regard all persons as your ‘neighbors,’ and are to treat them according to their real worth; you are not to be influenced in judging of them, or in your treatment of them, by their apparel, or their complexion, or the circumstances of their birth, but by the fact that they are fellow-beings.”

from Section 4

12 | Matthew 5:17 

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.

References to “the law and the prophets” appear several times in the New Testament to indicate sacred Hebrew texts. In this declaration the Master affirms that neither the Mosaic law nor the writings of the prophets are at risk of loss or misinterpretation, but are to be confirmed and demonstrated through his life and teachings.

13 | John 14:6

I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

A scriptural authority notes: “That is a great saying to us, but it would be still greater to a Jew who heard it for the first time. In it Jesus took three of the great basic conceptions of Jewish religion, and made the tremendous claim that in him all three found their full realization.” 

Way occurs often in the Hebrew Bible—for instance, in the Psalmist’s plea “Teach me thy way, O Lord” (Psalms 27:11) and Isaiah’s prediction “Thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it” (Isaiah 30:21). Yet, as the previous source points out, Jesus “does not tell us about the way; he is the Way.”

Truth is found in early texts about God as well. The psalms include such assertions as “I have walked in thy truth” and “Thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth” (Psalms 26:331:5). Jeremiah attests, “The Lord liveth, in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness” (Jeremiah 4:2). The same source adds that while numerous people could claim to communicate truth, “only Jesus could say: ‘I am the Truth.’ ”

Life is associated with God from the first record of creation (see Genesis 1). Job 33:4 states, “The spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life,” and Psalms 27:1 calls God “the strength of my life.” The Savior announces, “I am the resurrection, and the life: . . . whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die” (John 11:25, 26).

from Section 6

18 | Luke 18:18–22

A certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother. And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up. Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.

Jesus responds to the ruler’s query by asking him about his obedience to five Commandments relating to other people (see Exodus 20:12–16). Then the Master makes plain that eternal life isn’t the outcome of merely fulfilling the law but results from wholeheartedly following him (see John 3:16).

21 | I John 5:3

This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.

Barys, the Greek term rendered grievous, means heavy or weighty. Reminiscent of the Savior’s words “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30), this assurance makes clear that adhering to God’s commands is not burdensome or oppressive. With divine demands comes the ability to fulfill them, and love for God lightens the task. A paraphrase puts it this way: “Loving God means doing what he tells us to do, and really, that isn’t hard at all.”


Read a related article, “Living within the law” by Nelmah M. Beam, at jsh.christianscience.com/living-within-the-law.

Resources quoted in this issue

Cit. 1: Carpenter, Eugene E., and Wayne McCown, eds. Asbury Bible Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992.

Cit. 5: Mays, James L., Joseph Blenkinsopp, et al., eds. Harper’s Bible Commentary. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988.

Cit. 9: Johnson, Thomas Floyd. New International Biblical Commentary—1, 2, and 3 John. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers 1993; Burge, Gary M. The NIV Application Commentary: From Biblical Text . . . to Contemporary Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996.

Cit. 10: Barnes, Albert. Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Whole Bible. New York, 1834–85. Also available at biblehub.com/commentaries.

Cit. 13: Barclay, William. The Daily Study Bible: The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1. Edinburgh: Saint Andrew, 1955. Revised and updated by Saint Andrew, 2001. Reprinted as The New Daily Study Bible: The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2001–04.

Cit. 21: The Living Bible, copyright © 1971. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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