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“Authority to Forgive Sins”

 

 
                           Sunday, February 17, 2019
Lesson Text: Matthew 9:1-8
King James Version (KJV)
I. JESUS’ AUTHORITY TO HEAL (Matthew 9:1-4)
1. And he entered into a ship, and passed over, and came into his own city.
2. And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.
3. And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemeth.
4. And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts?
 
II. JESUS’ AUTHORITY TO FORGIVE SINS (Matthew 9:5-8)
5. For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk?
6. But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house.
7. And he arose, and departed to his house.
8. But when the multitudes saw it, they marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men.
 
New International Version (NIV)
I. JESUS’ AUTHORITY TO HEAL (Matthew 9:1-4)
1. Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town.
2. Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.”
3. At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, “This fellow is blaspheming!”
4. Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts
 
II. JESUS’ AUTHORITY TO FORGIVE SINS (Matthew 9:5-8)
5. Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?
6. But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.”So he said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.”
7. Then the man got up and went home.
8. When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to man.
 Sunday, February 17, 2019: “Authority to Forgive Sins” Commentary
February 10, 2019
Clarence Price, Jr
Sunday School
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                            Sunday, February 17, 2019
Lesson:  Matthew 9:1-8; Time of Action: 28 A.D.; Place of Action: Capernaum
 
Golden Text:  “But when the multitudes saw it, they marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men” (Matthew 9:8).
 
I. INTRODUCTION. This week’s lesson reminds us that the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit because they are spiritually discerned (see I Corinthians 2:14). The scribes in our text were familiar with the Scriptures that speak of Christ, but they did not accept Him when He came, even though He did what only God can do.  The Lord has no problem with proving His authority to those who believe.  Jesus displayed His lordly authority to calm winds and seas, to cast out evil spirits, to heal the body, and most impressive of all, to forgive the sins men commit against God.
 
II. BACKGROUND FOR THE LESSON.  This week’s lesson takes place almost immediately after Jesus calmed the storm suffered by His disciples on the Sea of Galilee (see Matthew 8:23-27), and delivered two men from demon-possession (see 8:28-32). When Jesus cast out the demons, they begged Him to allow them to enter into a herd of pigs that were feeding in the area.  Jesus gave them their wish and the demons entered into the pigs causing them to go berserk and dive into the sea (see Matthew 8:32).  Out of fear, the herdsman ran into the city and reported everything that they had seen (see Matthew 8:33).  Then the whole city came to where Jesus was to see Him.  When they saw Jesus, it appears that they were more concerned about the loss of their pigs than the two previously demon-possessed men because they begged Jesus to leave their region (see Matthew 8:34).  Our lesson begins with chapter 9.
 
III. JESUS’ AUTHORITY TO HEAL (Matthew 9:1-4)
          A. Jesus returns to His home base (Matthew 9:1). Our first verse says “And he entered into a ship, and passed over, and came into his own city.”  After setting the two men free form demon possession, Jesus “entered into a ship,” probably the same one they were on during the storm and brought them to Gadara (see Luke 8:26-27).  Upon entering the boat, they “passed over” or crossed back over, the Sea of Galilee “and came into his own city.”  The phrase “his own city” refers to Capernaum, which was located on the northeastern shore of the sea.  Matthew’s account does not tell us which city was Jesus’ “own city,” but Mark’s account says that it was Capernaum (see Mark 2:1).  If we didn’t have Mark’s information we might assume that “his own city” referred to Nazareth, where Jesus grew up.  But when Jesus began His ministry, the people in Nazareth rejected Him (see Luke 4:16-30), so He went to Capernaum and made that city His base of operations for His ministry (see Matthew 4:12-13; 8:5; 17:24; Mark 1:21; 9:33; Luke 4:23, 31; John 6:24, 59).  Note:  It should be noted that the gospels of Mark and Luke place the events recorded here in Matthew 9:2-8 before those recorded in Matthew 8:28 through Matthew 9:1.  Therefore, the healing of the demon-possessed men most likely took place after the forgiving and healing of the paralytic in our printed text.  This would mean that Matthew’s arrangement of his account at this point is more topical than chronological or in order.  As we study the lessons from Matthew, we may find that the accounts he writes about will have different aspects and less information than the same accounts in Mark and Luke.  All three Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) record some of the same events, but not all the writers include the same information about those events.  Matthew tends to give the briefest or shortest accounts of some of the events than Mark and Luke do.  As a result, it is important to use information from all three Gospels in order to get a complete understanding of what took place.  In our study of Matthew we will also review the parallel accounts in Mark and Luke.  In our study, there may be some events that may appear to be contradictory in these Gospels.  But there are no contradictions in what Matthew writes compared to Mark and Luke.  We must realize that different people can see the same events differently.  Some will remember certain details, while others may leave out those same details completely.  This would reveal that the Gospel writers did not collaborate when they wrote their respective accounts.  It also confirms that the writer of each account had specific goals in mind that were governed by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (see II Timothy 3:16).
          B. Jesus’ assurance of forgiveness (Matthew 9:2). This verse says “And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.”  In both Mark and Luke, this same account has more information than Matthew’s account.  For instance, both Mark and Luke tell us that this event took place in a house (see Mark 2:1; Luke 5:19), possibly the home of Peter’s mother-in-law (see Mark 2:29-39; 2:1), but none of the gospel writers specifically say whose house it was.  According to Mark 2:1, news soon spread that Jesus that Jesus was in this house teaching and preaching the word to those gathered in the house (see Mark 2:2; Luke 5:17).  Mark also tells us that there were so many people gathered in this house, which was probably very small, that there was not enough room for them all (see Mark 2:2).  While Jesus was proclaiming God’s Word to the throng of people in the house, this verse says “And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed.”  The term “palsy” refers to some kind of paralysis.  The man was paralyzed and undoubtedly couldn’t walk.  Mark tells us that this man was brought to this house to Jesus by “four men” carrying him (see Mark 2:3).  Here Matthew says that they brought him “lying on a bed” probably a pallet or stretcher.  Although Matthew omits some information here, Mark writes that the crowd was so large that the men couldn’t get the paralyzed man to Jesus (see Mark 2:4).  So these men came up with a plan to get him to Jesus.  They made an opening in the roof (that is the ceiling tiles) of the house and lowered the pallet on which the man was lying so that he was right in front of Jesus (see Mark 2:4; Luke 5:19).  Note:  In ancient Palestine a house typically had a flat roof with an outside stairway leading up to it.  These four enterprising friends of the paralytic evidently carried him up the outside stairs to the roof and made a hole in it and lowered the man to the Saviour.  At this point, this verse says “and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.”  Both Mark and Luke’s Gospels include the words that Jesus spoke here.  However, they don’t include the words “Son, be of good cheer.”  But that does not mean Jesus didn’t say this.  Remember, although all three Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) may tell the same stories, they may not have provided the same information.  This is because, each writer wrote what the Holy Spirit inspired them to write (see II Timothy 3:16).  All three Gospels mention that Jesus recognized the faith of these four men and the paralyzed man, so here Matthew says “and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy.”  More often than not, faith is seen in our actions or what we do (see James 2:20).  Even though there is no direct reference to the sick man’s “faith,” undoubtedly the words “their faith” included the sick man.  All five men must’ve believed that the Lord Jesus could heal the paralytic.  Most of the time in Scripture, “faith” is either stated or implied in miracle healings.  If healing does not happen, this does not mean there is a lack of “faith.”  Sometimes God will allow the sickness to continue to help us trust in His grace (see II Corinthians 12:7-9).  After acknowledging the “faith” shown by these five men (the four men and the paralyzed man), Jesus said to the sick man “Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.”  This does not mean that all sickness is directly caused by sin, but some illnesses may (see John 5:5-9, 14).  Jesus was addressing the most important thing first—the man’s spiritual well-being.  The paralytic’s most basic need was the condition of his soul rather than the condition of his body.  Note:  We may wonder what the paralytic thought when Jesus said “thy sins be forgiven thee.”  We must keep in mind that it was a common belief of that day that sin and sickness stood in very close relationship.  In fact, a popular view was that sickness always resulted from sin. Jesus made it clear that this view was incorrect (see John 9:1-3).  By addressing the man as “son” Jesus was most likely emphasizing that all who earnestly come to Him will be admitted into God’s family.  The term rendered “forgiven” means “let go” or “pardoned.”  Only God has the authority and power to remit or send away a sinner’s transgressions.  And this is the one fundamental meaning of forgiveness—to separate the sin from the sinner.  By His statement, Jesus was claiming the right to forgive sins, and He could legitimately do so because He is the Son of God.  Note: Christians have the authority to tell others how to be forgiven by sharing the gospel with them (see Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8; 2:36-41; 3:19; 16:30-34).  However, we don’t have the authority or power to forgive sins the same way that Jesus declares a person forgiven.  Yes, we can grant forgiveness to those who have hurt or harmed us (see Ephesians 4:32), but we can’t claim to be able to pardon or forgive sin the way God does (see Isaiah 43:25).
          C. Jesus is accused of blasphemy (Matthew 9:3). This verse says “And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemeth.”  After Jesus declared that He had forgiven the paralyzed man’s sins, “certain of the scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemeth.”  According to Luke’s account, the “scribes” were experts in the Old Testament Law.  Along with some Pharisees they came to Capernaum where Jesus was teaching from every village of Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem (see Luke 5:17) and were sitting in the gathering.  They immediately concluded and “said within themselves, This man blasphemeth.”  The term rendered “blasphemeth” means “to speak evil of” or “to defame something or someone” especially God.  It can include scornful contempt for someone or claiming to be divine.  Some of these “scribes” only saw the fact that Jesus had made a statement only God could rightfully make. So they considered this to be blasphemy.  These religious leaders knew that only God has the authority to pardon sins for Luke 5:21 says that they began to reason among themselves saying “Who can forgive sins, but God alone?”  So, since they did not believe that Jesus was God, they concluded that He was slandering or blaspheming God.
 
IV. JESUS’ AUTHORITY TO FORGIVE SINS (Matthew 9:4-8)
          A. Jesus’ response (Matthew 9:4-6).
               1. (vs. 4).  This verse says “And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts?”  We naturally think that no one knows what we are thinking, so it must have been shocking to the scribes that the Lord Jesus knew what they were thinking.  Not only could Jesus forgive sin, as the Son of God He could also read the minds and thoughts of men.  So here we are told that “Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts?”  In the previous verse, the religious leaders had questioned Jesus’ authority and doubted His deity and Messiahship; but He demonstrated that He is God through His knowledge of the “thoughts” of the scribes.  Jesus questioned these religious leaders as to why they were thinking “evil” of Him.  They were not thinking, “Could this man be God in the flesh?” which would have been the opposite thought to blasphemy.  This is the usual reaction of the unsaved person when they come in contact with the Scriptures or Christians or anything that would draw them to God and His salvation.
               2. (vs. 5). This verse says “For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk?”  After asking the scribes why they had evil thoughts about Him, Jesus went right to the point asking them what was the “easier” thing to say “Thy sins be forgiven thee,” which could not be seen, proved, or disproved, or to say “Arise, and walk” which could be seen and demonstrated.  Of course, a person can say almost anything whether or not they have the authority to do it, but without the authority or power to work a miracle nothing that could be seen would change.  In actual fact, it is impossible for a mere human being to do either one, but only the miracle of healing can be verified by sight.  But what is impossible for people to do, is easily possible for God (see Matthew 19:25-26).  Note:  A religious fraud would find it easier to claim that a person’s sins were forgiven than to miraculously heal a person of some sickness.  Of course anyone can say that someone’s sins are forgiven since no one can really see if God has removed those sins.  However, to say that a paralyzed man is healed can be seen immediately and there would be no doubt that a miracle has taken place.  But if Jesus could not heal the man, it would also prove that He could not forgive sin.  Many desperate people have looked for people who claim to have the gift of healing, but have been disappointed to find out that was not the case.  Today, many of the supposed healings that we hear about often deal with illnesses that can’t be seen with the naked eye, so if healing did occur we have no way to prove or verify it. Most of the biblical healings could be proved immediately by sight (see John 9:1-7; Acts 3:1-10).  There was no kind of deception involved.  The point is that it’s okay to be skeptical of anyone claiming to have powers that they don’t actually have.  The Bible reminds us that there are some people who don’t even know the Lord but may be able to perform miracles (see Matthew 7:21-23).
               3. (vs. 6). This verse says “But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house.”  Although the religious leaders didn’t ask for proof that Jesus could “forgive sins,” He gave it to them anyway.  First, He said “But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins…”  Here Jesus referred to Himself as the “Son of man.”  This title revealed the deity (see Daniel 7:13-14), Messiahship, as well as the humanity (see Mark 8:31; 10:45) of Christ.  This was Jesus’ favorite way of identifying Himself.  In most of the Old Testament, “son of man” usually meant “human being,” but Daniel 7:13, says “the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven.”  This definitely refers to the Messiah.  Jesus wanted the Pharisees and scribes to know that “the Son of man” had divine authority and “power on earth to forgive sins.”  To convince them of this, Jesus commanded the paralyzed man to stand, pick up his “bed” or pallet and go home.  Jesus’ point was that if He could heal the man’s physical illness, He had the same authority in the spiritual realm.  Having the power and authority over sickness and disease should have made it clear to the religious leaders that “the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins…”  Jesus was declaring that on earth, He alone has the special authority to forgive our “sins.”
          B. Bringing glory to God (Matthew 9:7-8).
               1. (vs. 7). This verse says “And he (the paralyzed man) arose, and departed to his house.”  To the amazement of the religious leaders and the large crowd of people watching, just as Jesus had commanded, the paralyzed man immediately stood up took his pallet and went home.  By healing the paralytic, Jesus also confirmed His claim to have divine authority to forgive sins.  Unlike the religious leaders and spiritual frauds, Jesus had the ability to heal people both physically and spiritually.  The fact that this man was healed immediately should not cause us to devalue the need for medical science today.  However, we should not confuse miracles with other means of healing, many of which take a longer period of time for the person to return to full strength and health.
               2. (vs. 8).  Our final verse says “But when the multitudes saw it, they marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men.”  When the large crowd of people saw the paralytic get up, pick up his pallet and go home, “they marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men.”  In other words, instead of criticizing, they praised God.  This does not mean that the “multitude” realized that they were in the presence of God in the flesh.  We don’t know if any people in the crowd were convinced enough to believe in Jesus and to follow Him.  This proves the truth that miracles alone did not and will not convince people that Jesus was the Messiah (see Luke 16:27-31).  We are only told that the “multitude” was amazed at what they saw and “glorified God” because He “had given such power unto men.”  But what we should take away from the response of the crowd is that God must be “glorified” because of all the power He has given to men to do good.  All power is originally His, for power belongs to God (see Psalms 62:11).
 
V. Conclusion. This week’s lesson has practical application for us as believers. There are people all around us who have severe physical and spiritual needs.  But how will we respond to their needs?  Let us not be like the religious leaders who showed no concern or compassion for the plight of the paralyzed man.  Let us be like the Saviour who cared enough to make a difference in the life of a hurting person.  Like Jesus, let us take the time to reach out to others in need.  We will never regret such a display of Christlike love. 
 
 

PRACTICAL POINTS FOR DISCUSSION:
1. God is pleased when we come to Him in faith; He wants us to trust that He will hear and answer our plea for His help (Matthew 9:1-2).
2. There are people who will find fault even in the good deeds done to help others (Matthew 9:3; Colossians 3:17).
3. We cannot hide our thoughts from the Lord, so don’t even try (Matthew 9:4-5; Psalms 94:11; Proverbs 21:2; Matthew 12:24-25).
4. The power of God makes a lasting impression on lives. A person cannot be the same after meeting the Lord (Matthew 9:6-7).
5. Being amazed and astonished at the power of God is not the same as believing in Him (Matthew 9:8).
 
 
*** Union Gospel Press Sunday School Curriculum, The Bible Expositor and Illuminator ***
Clarence Price, Jr


Poleon L. Griffin

Senior Pastor

Oak Grove Baptist Church

Jackson, Ga. 30233

770.775.4749 church

770.756.2480 cell

“Our Mighty God”

Adult Sunday School Lesson Summary for February 17, 2019

International Sunday School Curriculum


Lesson Text: Psalm 66:1-9, 16-20

Background Scripture: Psalm 66

Devotional Reading: Psalm 114


Psalm 66:1-9, 16-20 (KJV)

1 Make a joyful noise unto God, all ye lands:

2 Sing forth the honour of his name: make his praise glorious.

3 Say unto God, How terrible art thou in thy works! through the greatness of thy power shall thine enemies submit themselves unto thee.

4 All the earth shall worship thee, and shall sing unto thee; they shall sing to thy name. Selah.

5 Come and see the works of God: he is terrible in his doing toward the children of men.

6 He turned the sea into dry land: they went through the flood on foot: there did we rejoice in him.

7 He ruleth by his power for ever; his eyes behold the nations: let not the rebellious exalt themselves. Selah.

8 O bless our God, ye people, and make the voice of his praise to be heard:

9 Which holdeth our soul in life, and suffereth not our feet to be moved.

16 Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and

I will declare what he hath done for my soul.

17 I cried unto him with my mouth, and he was extolled with my tongue.

18 If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:

19 But verily God hath heard me; he hath attended to the voice of my prayer.

20 Blessed be God, which hath not turned away my prayer, nor his mercy from me.

TODAY’S LESSON AIMS

Learning Facts: To identify the references in Psalm 66 to God’s rescue of Israel at the crossing of the Red Sea.

Biblical Principle: To write a prayer of gratitude to God for one way that He has shown His power in your life.

Daily Application: To live a life in admiration of God.

HOW TO SAY IT

Canaanites Kay-nun-ites.

Edomites Ee-dum-ites.

Moabites Mo-ub-ites.

Selah (Hebrew) See-luh.

INTRODUCTION

The Mother of All Bombs

On April 13, 2017 the US military had just dropped a MOAB (Massive Ordnance Air Blast) bomb in a strike in Afghanistan. Nicknamed the “Mother of All Bombs,” MOAB is the largest nonnuclear bomb in the US arsenal. Due to its massive size—21,000 pounds and 30 feet long—it can’t be delivered like other conventional bombs. It is transported within range of its target by a specially modified cargo plane, released, and then remotely guided to its target. One MOAB yields an explosive force equivalent to 11 tons of TNT.

The power of the bomb wasn’t limited to the battlefield. The MOAB also took over the news cycle. Whatever else the commentators planned on discussing that day fell by the wayside. Pundits debated whether such a show of force was justified and speculated on the political implications of the event. Others wondered if there was justification for such a weapon to exist at all. Throughout the day, world governments weighed in with messages of support or condemnation regarding the use of the bomb. The entire world took notice when a weapon of that magnitude was unleashed.

Psalm 66 explores a different type of might—God’s power. God’s mighty acts toward Israel were so great that every nation had to take notice and react.

LESSON CONTEXT

Traditionally, the Psalms are seen as a collection of five books. These five are Psalms 1–41, 42–72, 73–89, 90–106, and 107–150. Our texts for today and last week fall in the second of these five books. As overall characteristics, the psalms of this second book feature relatively many songs of trust and/or complaint plus some praise hymns.

The five books that compose the Psalms are seen to consist of subcollections that share similar themes. In that light, today’s text from Psalm 66 fits with the short collection Psalms 65–68. These four songs focus on the entire earth and all her nations. The nations are depicted as confessing (or needing to confess) God’s power and praising (or needing to praise) Him for His just rule.

This concern in Psalm 66 with other nations’ worship of God has led scholars to wonder if an international crisis was the background for its writing. Two possibilities are usually suggested. One is the Assyrian crisis of 701 B.C. (see 2 Kings 18:13–19:36); the other is after the release from Babylonian captivity. The date of the psalm’s writing under the latter proposal would be after the rebuilding of the temple in 515 B.C., since Psalm 66:13 refers to that structure (compare Ezra 6:15).

No one knows which theory (if either) is correct. Yet this uncertainty does not rob the psalm of its dynamic power. It can be applied to any deliverance the people of God experience.

Remembering that psalms are ancient Israel’s worship songs, Psalm 66 presents itself as five stanzas. These five consist of verses 1–4, 5–7, 8–12, 13–15, and 16–20. Three of the stanza transitions are marked by the word Selah (silence or a pause in the musical performance of the song), occurring at the ends of verses 4, 7, and 15. One stanza transition is marked by the psalmist’s shift to writing in the first person in verse 13. Today’s lesson explores the first two stanzas in full, part of the third stanza, and the entirety of the fifth.

Come and Praise: Psalm 66:1-4

1. Whom did the psalmist say should make a joyful noise unto God? (Psalm 66:1)

The hymn opens with a roar as “all … lands” of the world are charged to make a joyful noise in acknowledgement of the one true God. Since His works are not constrained within the borders of Israel, every nation everywhere is challenged to join Israel in worshipping Him. The same challenge concludes the stanza (see below). The imperative “make a joyful noise” suggests to some the idea of a triumphant army celebrating a victory (see also Psalms 81:1; 95:1; 98:4; 100:1).

2. In what way did the psalmist recommend God be honored? (Psalm 66:2)

The nature of the joyful noise is now refined in terms of the honour that God is due. That praise is evidenced in the words sing. The challenge for the crowd to sing in such a manner as to make His praise glorious allows no half-hearted or insincere praise! The word glorious captures the idea of an individual’s reputation in the community and how others regard that person (compare Psalms 79:9; 86:9; Isaiah 42:8, 12).

The Hebrew words for glory and glorious are based on a root that means “heavy” in various contexts. Some students propose, therefore, that to glorify someone is to add weight to his or her reputation.

We may wonder how our singing glorifies God’s name. Is it through the level of our sincerity, or the nature of the lyrics? The psalmist doesn’t specify, but undoubtedly the level of our sincerity is the starting point for honoring the name of God.

What Do You Think?

Other than congregational singing, what are some other ways we can bring honor to God’s name and reputation?

Digging Deeper

Conversely, what are some ways that we may inadvertently detract from God’s reputation?

3. How will the world one day address God and why? (Psalm 66:3, 4)

Having addressed the people of all lands (the world) in the first two verses, the psalmist now instructs them in a proper way to address God. The word terrible is not used here in the modern sense of “awful,” but in the sense of “inspiring awe.”

So great are God’s works of power that His enemies have no choice but to submit themselves to Him. The word translated submit doesn’t imply that the submission springs from heartfelt adoration! (Compare David’s use of this word in 2 Samuel 22:44–46 and its parallel Psalm 18:43–45.) God’s enemies are so overwhelmed by Him that it’s necessary for them to put on an outward show of deference to God, even if their hearts are not in it.

Also, in Psalm 66:4, we should be careful in understanding the sense of “all the earth shall worship thee.” In both the psalmist’s day and ours, most peoples of the earth do not worship the one true God. Therefore, this phrase should be understood as prophetic; this conclusion is supported by the future nature of the word shall. The Scriptures foretell a time when the entire world will worship Jesus (see Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:10).

Regarding the word Selah, see the Lesson Context.

Come and See: Psalm 66:5-9

4. What examples did the psalmist offer to show that God is worthy of our praise? (Psalm 66:5, 6)

The psalmist now begins to recount how awesome God is when He defends His people. Specifically, the psalmist invites his audience to ponder anew what God did in the Exodus. By the time God turned the sea into dry land to allow the Israelites to pass through the flood on foot (Exodus 14:21, 22), He had already worked 10 miracles in the form of plagues (Exodus 7–11). When the people saw the bodies of the Egyptian soldiers washed up on the beaches, they “feared … and believed the Lord” (14:31). Next came rejoicing (15:1–21). Every subsequent generation of Israelites should rejoice in him, as well, in remembering these facts (compare 1 Corinthians 10:1).

Psalm 66:2 refers to God’s glory or reputation. Here we are given a tangible way that God established His reputation among “the children of men” (66:5). The Song of Moses describes the fear that would fall over the Philistines, Edomites, Moabites, and Canaanites—all peoples that Israel would eventually face in their conquest of the promised land—when they learned how God mightily delivered His people (Exodus 15:14–16).

What Do You Think?

What steps can we take to remind each other of our victorious history with God?

Digging Deeper

Which biblical figure in Hebrews 11 convinces you most of the importance of this question? Why?

5. How would you answer anyone who would rebel against the power of God and say, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey Him…?” (Psalm 66:7)

The readers cannot be reminded too often of God’s eternal rule in power. As He rules, He sees everything. Nothing escapes His notice. He is able to behold the nations easily because He is sovereign over them as well as over Israel (compare Exodus 3:16; Psalm 11:4).

Any nation can suffer the consequences of being an enemy of God. Rebellion is always characterized by defiance of a higher authority. But no rebellion against God ever results in good. Before a nation, society, or person dares try to exalt self above God, the lessons of history should be consulted!

What Do You Think?

What Scriptures will you memorize to remind yourself during times of crisis that the sovereign God is the ultimate source of power?

Digging Deeper

How can you ensure that your recall of such Scriptures during crisis doesn’t end up being an empty mantra (a commonly repeated word or phrase)?

6. What did the psalmist indicate the people of God should do and why? (Psalm 66:8, 9)

The psalmist now switches focuses back to the people of God. Although all the world will praise Him one day, the people of God must lead the way. Their voices must be heard long and loud in praising the God who gives us life and enables us to keep it. It is both a privilege and a responsibility to make the voice of his praise to be heard. The recipients of God’s generosity need to take the lead in worshipping Him. This is true for us Christians today, who are aware of the great salvation provided by Jesus Christ (compare 1 Corinthians 10:11)!

The reason we should praise our God is for His continuing care for His people. The God who rescued an entire nation in the Exodus is more than capable of preserving every individual soul (compare Psalm 30:3).

Come and Hear: Psalm 66:16-20

7. What did the psalmist reveal about his personal experience with God? (Psalm 66:16-19)

As we rejoin the psalm in the final stanza (66:16–20), the psalmist begins a personal testimony regarding God’s work in his life. His personal experience is about to become one of public declaration.

The psalmist shared that he had sought the Lord with frequent prayer (“cried unto him”) for his own personal salvation, and calls on all them that fear their Maker, who have any religious reverence for Him, to attend to his account of the Lord's gracious dealings with him. He proposes to tell them his spiritual experience, what he needed, what he earnestly prayed for, and what God has done for him:

In verse 17 the psalmist said, “I cried unto him with my mouth”—My prayer was fervent; he heard and answered; and my tongue celebrated his mercies.

The psalmist also knows that the condition of his heart matters to God (v. 18). There are certain conditions that hinder the effectiveness of prayers (examples: Lamentations 3:40–44; 1 Peter 3:7), and unconfessed sin is certainly one of them.

What Do You Think?

What plan can you enact to ensure that you take inventory on the condition of your heart on a regular basis?

Digging Deeper

Is this something that others can assist with, or is it strictly personal? Why?

The psalmist goes on to say that God graciously received my thanksgiving (Psalm 66:19), as he compassionately heard my prayer. Therefore the psalmist intended to teach them by example, more powerful always than precept (a doctrine that is taught), however weighty in itself, and impressively delivered.

What Do You Think?

What preparations can you make to ensure that the story of what God has done in your life endures as a witness to the next generation?

Digging Deeper

Should drafting your own eulogy be part of this effort? Why, or why not?

8. How did the psalmist show his gratitude to the Lord? (Psalm 66:20)

In closing, the psalmist voices a praise blessing to God for attending to his prayer. A great God who brings us through fire and water and hears our prayers certainly deserves our worship and praise! Thus, it is fitting that the psalmist concludes with a special blessing saying, “Blessed be God” for His continuing “mercy” towards me. The word mercy being translated occurs about 250 times in the Old Testament, with varying translations such as “lovingkindness” (Psalm 17:7).

CONCLUSION

Remembering Our History with God

Despite the circumstances in the psalmist’s day, God was still sovereign and all-powerful. He was still worthy of praise. He was still the judge who ruled all nations and knew the true condition of every individual human heart.

All the above remains true today. Although we are surrounded by those who do not fear God, we can do so nonetheless. Although we are surrounded by those who do not praise God, we can do so nonetheless. We can make a commitment to remind ourselves continually of His history with us. We can also encourage each other by sharing our personal testimonies of how He has demonstrated His strength in our lives.

As we do (or, perhaps, because we do), we will find ourselves submitting to His ways, regardless of whether those around us do so as well.

PRAYER

Dear heavenly Father, we know that You are always good and always strong, regardless of our circumstances. We praise You for the times when You have been our mighty deliverer. We pray this in the name of Jesus, Who delivers us from sin. Amen.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER

Praise reminds us of God’s might, and God’s might reminds us to praise!

ANTICIPATING THE NEXT LESSON 

Next week’s lesson is called “Our Rescuing God” where students will learn about God’s promises to protect. Study Psalm 91:1–16.

LESSON SUMMARIZED BY

Senior Editor Horace A. Hayes

Jesus Is All Ministries

https://www.jesusisall.com

WORKS CITED

Adam Clarke's Commentary.

Life Application Bible—New Revised Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.

Scofield, C.I., ed. The New Scofield Study Bible—King James Version. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Summary and commentary derived from Standard Lesson Commentary Copyright 2019 by permission of Standard Publishing.

The KJV Parallel Bible Commentary, by Nelson Books.

The Pulpit Commentary, Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Hrsg.), Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Cook


“Our Loving God”

International Adult Sunday School Lesson 

Summary 

for 

February 10, 2019



  • Lesson Text: Psalm 48:1–3, 9–14
  • Background Scripture: Psalm 48:1–3, 9–14
  • Devotional Reading: Psalm 93


Psalm 48:1-3, 9-14 (KJV)

1 Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness.

2 Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King.

3 God is known in her palaces for a refuge.

………………………………………………….

9 We have thought of thy lovingkindness, O God, in the midst of thy temple.

10 According to thy name, O God, so is thy praise unto the ends of the earth: thy right hand is full of righteousness.

11 Let mount Zion rejoice, let the daughters of Judah be glad, because of thy judgments.

12 Walk about Zion, and go round about her: tell the towers thereof.

13 Mark ye well her bulwarks, consider her palaces; that ye may tell it to the generation following.

14 For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death.


TODAY’S LESSON AIMS

Learning Fact: To summarize the concept of God’s covenantal love.

Biblical Principle: To understand that God’s protection is an expression of His love.

Daily Application: To express gratitude for God’s love and protection.


HOW TO SAY IT

Jebusite Jeb-yuh-site.

Sinai Sigh-nye or Sigh-nay-eye.

Tevye Tev-yuh.

Yahweh (Hebrew) Yah-weh.


INTRODUCTION

“Do You Love Me?”

In the musical Fiddler on the Roof, we encounter a poor dairy farmer, Tevye, who values highly the traditions of his people. But the rapidly changing times in which he lives finds him stretched when each of his three daughters defies tradition. Tevye’s role as family patriarch is to find a suitable match for each daughter. His tradition values finding a financially stable partner from within the ancient faith.

A hired matchmaker arranges for the oldest daughter to be wed to an elderly, widowed butcher. But she is secretly in love with a poor tailor. Those two beg Tevye to call off the arranged marriage so they can marry. Tevye is conflicted, but he sees how deeply his daughter cares for the tailor, so he relents out of love for her.

Tevye’s middle daughter reveals disregard for tradition by marrying a university student with a head full of revolutionary ideas. Tevye feels he has no choice but to accept the marriage. Then his third daughter does the unthinkable by marrying a Christian. Tevye reaches his breaking point and disowns her. No more!

In the middle of his turmoil, he finds himself insecure. Each of his daughters married for love, a choice not afforded Tevye and his wife when their marriage was arranged 25 years earlier. So Tevye turns to his wife and asks her if she loves him. They have never spoken of their feelings for each other, so she gives an indirect answer by offering evidence of her love: she has washed his clothes, cooked meals, cleaned house, and starved with him. Her loyalty is all the proof needed of her love for him.

Does God love us? The author of today’s psalm would reply, “Just look at the evidence!”


LESSON CONTEXT

Psalm 48 is often categorized as one of the Zion Songs. This category also includes Psalms 46, 76, 84, 87, and 122 (some students also include 126, 129, and 137). These celebrate the glory of Mount Zion, the hill on which the temple in Jerusalem stood. They are concerned with the theme of God’s kingship, having been written against a backdrop of competing gods and warring nations. Nationalism and religion were inseparable in biblical times, and each nation was thought to have a dominant deity who was responsible for the protection of its people. When nations warred, their gods warred as well. We see this in Exodus 12:12, where God, preparing Israel for the tenth and most devastating plague, says, “For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord.”

Thematically, these songs celebrate God as Israel’s king, who chose to rest His presence in Jerusalem and, in it, the temple (Psalm 46:5; 76:2; 84:1; 87:1–3; 122:1–3; the current lesson text). What's even more exceptional is that God’s reign doesn’t stop at Israel’s borders. He is “a great King over all the earth” (Psalm 47:2, plus the lesson text; compare 1 Kings 20:23, 28).

God Glorifies Zion: Psalm 48:1-3

1. Why did the Psalmist draw attention to God’s greatest “in the mountain of His holiness” (Psalm 48:1)?

When King David set out to unify the tribes of Israel, he strategically chose Jerusalem to be his capital. Jerusalem was centrally located between the upper and lower tribes; and as a Jebusite stronghold, it wasn’t associated with either region. A walled city set on a mountain or hill was the perfect spot from which to reign.

However, the song doesn’t open with a description of the height of the walls or the strength and numbers of the army stationed inside. Instead, attention is given to God’s greatness and holiness.

Interestingly, Jerusalem is referred to as “the city of David” more than three dozen times in the Old Testament, but never that way in any psalm. Instead, the Psalms refer to Jerusalem (or Zion; see 1 Kings 8:1) as, among other designations, city of God or city of our God four times. All Old Testament instances of those are in the Zion Songs (here and in Psalms 46:4; 48:8; and 87:3).

The mountain of His holiness (Psalm 48:2). This is not the first time that God is associated with a mountain in His developing relationship with His people. Moses had stated that God would bring His people to live on “the mountain of thine inheritance” (Exodus 15:17). Chapters later, God has the nation camp at the base of Mount Sinai, where He revealed His power and gave the Ten Commandments (20:1–17).

Now, here on Mount Zion, the people are reminded of the greatness of Yahweh (God’s name in Hebrew, rendered Lord in translation). This greatness must result in praise.

2. How did the Psalmist describe Mount Zion? (Psalm 48:2)

Having established the emphasis on Yahweh, the psalmist briefly diverts his attention to the renown and setting of mount Zion. Mount Zion, the city of the great King—designated this way only here and in Matthew 5:35—is (or should be) the joy of the whole earth and not of Israel alone. The close connection between God and Mount Zion is further seen in the Zion Songs at Psalms 76:2; 84:7; 87:2, 5.

What Do You Think?

How can we show God as the joy of the whole earth when religion is viewed as a source of conflict and intolerance in many areas?

Digging Deeper

How does your evaluation of that obstacle in your locality influence how you will proclaim God as the joy of the whole world there?

3. How is God the ultimate source of protection for His people? (Psalm 48:3)

The psalmist turns his attention from Mount Zion back to God. The designation of God as Israel’s refuge continues a thought from an earlier Zion Song (Psalm 46:1, 11). By calling God their refuge, the psalmist reminds the people that God is their ultimate source of protection.

Strong walls are important for cities (see Nehemiah 1:1–6:15). Government, religion, and life itself are protected by such stone and mortar barriers. But the God who brought down the walls of Jericho (Joshua 6) can also bring down the walls of Jerusalem. The people must never lose sight of the fact that God, not walls of stone, is their ultimate refuge.

However, God will be their refuge as long as they do not forget Him (compare Psalm 94:22). The psalmist seems to be creating an analogy, given that the word translated refuge is also the Hebrew word for physical, material defenses (Isaiah 25:12; 33:16).

In Psalm 48:4–8 (not in today’s lesson), we see the consequences for those who dare threaten Zion’s security: God rightfully receives credit for destroying the enemy’s military strength.

What Do You Think?

What will you do the next time you find yourself putting your trust in resources you can see to the exclusion of trusting in the unseen God?

Digging Deeper

How do 2 Kings 6:15–17; 2 Corinthians 4:18; 5:7; Romans 8:24; and/or Hebrews 11:1 inform your answer?


Celebrate God's Leadership: Psalm 48:9-11

4. Why was the temple the ideal place to contemplate God’s love? (Psalm 48:9)

This is the only occurrence of the word temple in the Zion Songs (see the Lesson Context), although the alternative designation “house” occurs several times (Psalm 84:4, 10; 122:1, 9). Up until now, the reader’s imagination has been directed to the geography and defenses of Jerusalem. As the psalmist shifts attention to the temple, he again reminds the people that the true strength of Israel is to be found in God’s presence among them.

The temple is the ideal place to contemplate God’s lovingkindness. The Hebrew behind this translation is very common in the Old Testament, occurring over 130 times, but in the Zion Songs it occurs only here. Elsewhere it is often translated “mercy” (example: Psalm 5:7). This disposition assumes a hierarchy in which one in a higher position is merciful to one in a lower. In biblical times, kings would enter into treaties with their subjects. These treaties outline the relationship between the two parties. The loyalty that is expected between the two parties may be expressed in terms of love. The king would love his people by protecting them and by ruling them with just laws. The people, in turn, would express their love for the king through their loyal obedience.

So lovingkindness in this context refers primarily to King Yahweh’s fierce and unwavering loyalty to His people. As the people meditate on God’s track record as their king, they will find Him to be nothing less than a perfect ruler. He has never failed them. He has provided for the Israelites throughout their history.

5. According to the Psalmist, what is the extent of God’s praises? (Psalm 48:10, 11)

The psalmist returns to a predominant theme of the Zion Songs. Yahweh’s rule knows no limits. God’s praises don’t end at Israel’s borders. When His people consider His faithfulness to them, their worshipful response should be so great that it extends to the ends of the earth. (In other Zion Songs, compare “unto the end of the earth” in Psalm 46:9; plus “praise” and “praising” in Psalms 76:10; 84:4, respectively.) Psalm 48:10 scoffs at the notion that any of the countless deities of the ancient Near East can challenge God’s reign.

Interestingly, God’s might is not mentioned as proof of His singular existence. Instead, the proof of His superiority over any so-called gods (or kings, as in verse 4, not in today’s lesson) is depicted here in terms of His righteousness. This is a straightforward concept: it means that God always does the right thing.

Note how the fame of the Lord spread from the city itself (v. 11) to the towns of Judah that Sennacherib had plundered (v. 11b; Isa. 36:1) and then to the ends of the earth (v. 10). So may it be with the message of the Gospel! (Acts 1:8). When the Lord Jesus Christ returns to defeat His enemies and establish His kingdom, His glory and dominion will be from sea to sea (Zech. 9:9, 10), and the city of Jerusalem will be named “The Lord our Righteousness” (Jer. 23:6; 33:16).

What Do You Think?

How will you answer someone who asks, “If God is righteous, then why is there so much injustice in the world?”

Digging Deeper

Consider how Paul interacted with audiences that accepted the authority of Scripture (example: Acts 13:13–43) and those that did not (examples: Acts 17:16–34; 24:24, 25).


Teach Future Generations: Psalm 48:12-14

6. What instructions did the Psalmist give regarding communication of Zion’s structures to the next generation? (Psalm 48:12, 13)

After the worship was completed, a leisurely stroll around the city of Jerusalem will allow the hearts of the Jews to swell with admiration. They should count the towers of the city and take note that none of them have crumbled. They should consider the strength of her bulwarks, (defensive walls, or ramparts) and they should examine with great care the beauty of her palaces. Once they had assessed the goodness of God in giving them this jewel, they should tell it to the generation following. Jerusalem’s strength is a representation of God’s protection and care.

What Do You Think?

What creative ways can you imagine for telling the generation that follows yours about how God has provided for and sustained you?

Digging Deeper

Consider the relative values of direct, personal testimony and indirect (social media, etc.) testimony.

7. What lasting assurance is given for God being with His people? (Psalm 48:14)

The psalm resolves on a final note of confidence regarding our God (compare Psalms 48:1, 8; and 122:9). In verse 13, the readers are instructed to pass their knowledge of God and His ways to their offspring. But the knowledge of God is not the only thing moving in the future. God, himself, goes with His people. The one who will be our guide is the one who leads or brings (same Hebrew word in Psalms 78:26, 52; 80:1). Our source of protection and safety will lead us throughout our entire lives, if we let Him. We have the assurance that when we reach the end of our days (unto death), God will be right there.

Each generation must pass along to the next generation who the Lord is, what He has done, and what they must do in response to His goodness and faithfulness…To trust and obey a Lord who is “our God” and “our Guide” is to have a future that is secured and blessed.


POINTS TO PONDER

  1. Praise should be our response to the greatness of God! (Psalm 48:1).
  2. God is our refuge and ultimate source of protection in time of need. (vs. 2, 3).
  3. The true strength of God’s people is found in His presence and love among us (v. 9).
  4. God’s name, praise, and righteousness should be shared with every person of the earth! (vs. 10, 11).
  5. We have a great assurance that when we reach the end of our days, God will be right there with us! (vs. 12-14).


CONCLUSION

Our Loving God Leads and Protects Us

A song celebrating the city walls might seem out of place to the modern reader. For the Israelites, however, the structure was a tangible indication of God’s rule and presence. He was their king, the one who promised to lead and protect them.

This psalm would have presented a challenge to the worshipper during the time of the Babylonian exile. The reality of Jerusalem’s destruction in 586 B.C. starkly contrasted with the message of Psalm 48.

The tension is relieved as we consider again King Solomon’s prayer of dedication of the newly built temple. He anticipated the possibility that Israel would rebel against God and be cast into exile as a result. Solomon implored God that if His people would deeply repent of their sins and turn their hearts back to Him, then He would hear them, forgive them, and restore them (2 Chronicles 6:36–39). The irony is palpable, since wise Solomon himself ended up much less than wise as he allowed foreign wives to lead him into idolatry within Jerusalem’s walls (see 1 Kings 11:7–10).

God continued to be their king and their fortress, even after the city walls were demolished by a foreign army. The subsequent exile challenged Israel’s confidence in their God, but He proved His sovereign loyalty to them time and again. And He displayed His loyalty even as their disloyalty resulted in their own demise.

Today, we serve our Lord Jesus, who expressed His loyalty to us through His death and resurrection. We can be confident in His good rule and love for us. Our task is to pass that love and message to others (Matthew 28:19, 20). That’s the greatest show of loyalty to Him we can offer!


PRAYER

Dear God, our heavenly Father, You are our strong and mighty king. We thank You for the tangible ways that You’ve protected us throughout the years. We thank You for governing us with Your holiness and righteousness. May all we do, think, and say be an expression of our love for You! We pray in the name of King Jesus. Amen.


THOUGHT TO REMEMBER

God’s protection is an expression of His love.


ANTICIPATING THE NEXT LESSON 

Next week's lesson is “Our Mighty God” and praises God for His great power and mighty acts. Study Psalm 66.


LESSON SUMMARIZED BY

Deputy Editor Renee Little

Jesus Is All Ministries

https://www.jesusisall.com


WORKS CITED

Life Application Bible—New Revised Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.

Scofield, C.I., ed. The New Scofield Study Bible—King James Version. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Summary and commentary derived from Standard Lesson Commentary Copyright 2019 by permission of Standard Publishing.

The KJV Parallel Bible Commentary, by Nelson Books.

The Pulpit Commentary, Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Hrsg.), Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Cook