Monthly Archives: June 2014

A Week in the Word, June 29 – July 5

Theme: Jesus – His Parables

The ministry of Jesus was characterized by the familiar and the unfamiliar.  His miracles are unfamiliar to us; that is, we have not personally witnessed miracles.  His teaching are familiar.  Our lives are filled with teaching.  We may tend to think that the miracles were the most impressive and impactful aspect of Jesus’ ministry, just from the familiarity vantage point.  That’s not necessarily the case. His teaching was without peer.  A future week’s reading will focus more fully on Jesus as a teacher.  This week we will focus on one aspect of His teaching—the parables.

The power of parables as a teaching tool is no doubt found in their closeness to the human experience.  A parable relies on shared experiences and knowledge. Even the literal meaning of the word parable is instructive; “throwing alongside.”  So, in a parable “one thing is placed by the side of another for the purpose of comparison” (Neil Lightfoot).  That which serves as the object of comparison is quite well known.  What is placed alongside it is not.  Very often the parables are introduced by a phrase like, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to…” (Matt. 13:24). By using realities, circumstances, activities and objects with which Jesus’ hearers were very familiar, He could instruct about things with which they were not.

The distribution of the parables in the Gospels is interesting.  Seven of Jesus’ parables are repeated in Matthew, Mark and Luke.  Five of them are found only in Matthew and Luke.  Thirteen are unique to Matthew, two to Mark, and  nineteen to Luke.  There are no parables found in John.

It is not our intention to read all of Jesus’ parables this week.  The choice of parables to read has been somewhat arbitrary, but not completely.  There some obvious collections of parables; Matthew 13, 25, and Luke 15.  We’ll read all of these collections.  Also, some of Jesus’ parables are so widely known that their connection to Scripture may not be understood.  Many people, otherwise unfamiliar with the Bible, have knowledge of the Prodigal Son and Good Samaritan.

Readings and Introductory Comments:

Matthew 13:10-17; 34-35
So why did Jesus use parables so prolifically?  That’s what His disciples wanted to know.  It got to the point that “He said nothing to them without a parable” (Matt. 13:34).  The wisdom and mastery of Jesus was on display in His use of parables.  Not just in their ability to powerfully convey a message, but in the very use of them.  The parables were for those who would receive them, but not those who would not.  And, they achieved both purposes.

Matthew 7:24-27; 13:1-9, 18-33, 36-52; 25:1-30
Jesus ended the famed Sermon on the Mount with a parable about what should be done with His teaching.  Matthew collected a number of Jesus’ parables into one place in his Gospel (chapter 13)—as was his method of grouping narratives and teachings.  Jesus used two parables to drive home a message—just as desperately needed today as when He gave them; be ready—as a follow up to his apocalyptic message of chapter 24.

Mark 4:26-29; 13:32-37
These two parables from Mark—the seed growing of itself and the servant on watch—are found only in Mark.

Luke 7:36-50; 10:25-37; 12:13-21; 14:25-33; 15:1-32; 18:9-14
Luke is filled with parables; thirty-one in all (27 in Matthew and 9 in Mark).  Not surprisingly, some of the best known and moving are found here.  These parables penetrate us, touch us at our core, and leave us to decide what will happen next.

Study/Thought Questions

Matthew 13:10-17; 34-35

  • What does Isaiah say is the reason some people do not “get” what God is saying to them? (v. 15)
  • Who is blessed? (v. 16)

Matthew 7:24-27

  • What is the difference in the two houses described by Jesus? (vv. 24, 26)
  • What is the determining factor between the wise and the foolish? (vv. 24, 26)

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-33, 36-52

  • What was the setting of Jesus’ giving the parable of the sower? (vvv. 1-2)
  • What does the plant in the rocky soil wither? (v. 21)
  • What chokes out the word in the thorny soil? (v. 22)
  • Did the master want the weeds immediately removed when seen among the wheat?  Why? (v. 29)
  • What will be removed from the kingdom? When? (v. 41)
  • What is sacrificed in order to purchase the hidden treasure and pearl? (vv. 44, 46)
  • When will the evil be separated from the righteous? (v. 49)

Matthew 25:1-30

  • Why were the foolish virgins foolish and the wise, wise? (v. 3)
  • What did the Lord say to the foolish when they asked for entrance? (v. 12)
  • How did the master described the servant who returned to his master only what he had been given? (v. 26)

Mark 4:26-29

  • Does the harvest depend on the farmers knowledge of how germination and growth happens?

Mark 13:32-37

  • What must the master not find his servants doing when he returns? (v.v. 36-37)

Luke 7:36-50

  • Who was the woman who washed Jesus’ feet? (v. 37)
  • Who loves little? (v. 47)

Luke 10:25-37

  • What did Jesus say one must do to “live”? (v. 27)
  • In response to what question did Jesus give this parable? (v. 29)
  • Who proved to be a neighbor? (v. 37)

Luke 12:13-21

  • What sin was Jesus warning against in giving this parable? (v. 15)
  • Who is a fool? (vv. 20-21)

Luke 14:25-33

  • Who cannot be Jesus’ disciple? (33)

Luke 15:1-32

  • What criticism was Jesus answering in giving these parables? (vv. 1-2)
  • What produces the greatest joy in heaven? (v. 7)
  • Why do heaven’s angels rejoice? (v. 10)
  • When did he father first see his retuning son? (v. 20)
  • What did the father feel for his son? (v. 20)
  • What was the brother’s response to the prodigal’s return? (v. 28)
  • What was the brother’s claim about his relationship to his father? (v. 29)

Luke 18:9-14

  • For what was the Pharisee thankful? (v. 11)
  • For what did the Pharisee ask? (vv. 11-12) the tax collector? (v. 13)
  • Who will be exalted? (14)

Meditation Thoughts:

Do my eyes see and my ears hear (Matt. 13:16)?  How can I insure that they do so?

How can I prevent my own heart from becoming “rocky” or “thorny”?

In what way am I keeping an oil flask as I wait for the arrival of the bridegroom (Matt. 25:4)?

What do the parables of the dragnet and the wheat and tares say to us about our efforts to keep the church pure, if anything (Matt. 13:37-43, 47-50)?

Memory Verse:

“But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and our ears, for they hear” (Matt. 13:16).

A Week in the Word, June 22-28

Theme: God – Glory, Majesty and Power

Earlier this year during a week’s reading about God, we examined His sovereignty.  What a challenging idea for mortal human’s to even consider. God is everything we are not.  There is none higher, in any way, than He.

Akin to this—in many ways parallel or even overlapping it—is the glory, majesty, and power of God.  The same is true of all of God’s qualities and traits—holiness, justice, purity, loving kindness, etc. They’re intertwined.  It’s hard to separate and think of all these individually.  Maybe we shouldn’t even try.  But to begin any semblance of understanding it is necessary for us to take what is so immense and break it down into smaller parts; even though those smaller parts far surpass or intellectual capacity.

God is what we are not.  He is what we could never be.  The limitations, shortfalls, barriers, and obstacles that define what being human is, are not true of or for Him.  Just as His is able to do “far more abundantly than anything that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20), so He in every way is beyond us.

God’s nature is not a simple fact to be understood; like, “It’s hot,” or “The time is 3:00 p.m.,” or “It’s a long way to New York.”  The best we can hope for is to allow our minds to wade into the reality of God’s nature, bask in it, probe it, embrace what we are able—in other words to meditate (Psa. 145:5)—and be resolved that there remains much more than we can ever know, no matter how often we may return or how long we may linger.

Further, in a reading program, there are few passages of any length that could be considered as extended discussions of these topics.  Most of this week’s readings are texts with brief references to the facts under consideration.  So, though most of the readings may not be long, we are confronted by so much to be considered.

Readings and Introductory Comments:

Exodus 33:7-23; 34:29-35; 2 Peter 1:16; Matthew 17:1-13
We begin with some incidents in which demonstrations of the Lord’s glory play a central role.  The first is when Moses requested to be able to see God’s glory (Ex. 33:18) and his request was granted…sort of.  Another involving Moses was a physical manifestation of God’s glory as reflected in Moses’ face after he had spoken with God.  One who came so near the glory of God could not help but be affected by it.

Peter, many years after the fact, recalled the events of Jesus’ transfiguration and called it a demonstration of His majesty (2 Pet. 1:16).  So, though not referred to as such in the Gospel accounts themselves, the event was certainly manifestation of His glory.

Psalm 8:1-2; 19:1; 104:1-4; Romans 1:19-20
Another visible evidence of God’s glory is the creation itself.  Though we read some of these passages previously in our readings about God as creator, notice them again, but this time with emphasis on God’s glory.

Job 37:22-24; 40:10; Psalm 93:1-2; 145:1-13
As would be expected, God’s glory and majesty are frequently extolled by those wishing to give praise and honor to Him.

Romans 11:36; 16:27; Ephesians 3:21; Philippians 4:20; 1 Timothy 1:17; 1 Peter 4:11; 2 Peter 3:18; Jude 25; Revelation 1:6; 5:13
New Testament writers would often turn from addressing their immediate audience and speak to God.  So, in prayer-like fashion, they would ascribe glory to God.

Acts 7:55; Hebrews 1:3; 8:1
When heaven, God’s dwelling place and throne, are either seen or considered, the description cannot help but include glory and majesty.

Psalm 139
Perhaps no place else in Scripture is the magnificence of God demonstrated more forcefully than in this Psalm.  Repeatedly emphasis is given to the fact that our limitations do not apply to God.  He’s not contained by space or time or hampered by the weaknesses that plague the flesh.  Besides that, we are walking, talking, living, breathing testaments to the magnificence of our glorious God.

Study/Thought Questions

Exodus 33:7-23

  • How did the people know when God was speaking with Moses in the tent of meeting? (v. 9)
  • What did Moses ask God to show him so he might know Him? (v. 13)
  • What was Moses not permitted to see? (v. 20)

Exodus 34:29-35

  • What happened to Moses when he would speak with God? (v. 29)

2 Peter 1:16

  • To what did Peter claim to have been an eyewitness?

Matthew 17:1-13

  • How is Jesus appearance described? (v. 2)
  • From where did God’s voice come? (v. 5)

Psalm 8:1-2

  • Where has God set His glory? (v. 1)

Psalm 19:1

  • What do the heavens declare?

Psalm 104:1-4

  • What clothes does God wear? (v. 1)

Romans 1:19-20

  • What invisible attributes of God are evidenced in creation? (v. 20)

Job 37:22-24

  • With what is God clothed? (v. 22)

Job 40:10

  • Same question as above

Psalm 93:1-2

  • Ditto (v. 1)

Psalm 145:1-13

  • On what ought one to meditate? (v. 5)
  • What of God’s is glorious? (vv. 11-12)

Romans 11:36

  • What is God’s always? (see also Rom. 16:27; Php. 4:20; 1 Tim. 1:17; 1 Pet. 4:11; 2 Pet. 3:18; Rev. 1:6; 5:13)

Ephesians 3:21

  • Where is God’s glory found?

Acts 7:55

  • What was Stephen allowed to see?

Hebrews 1:3; 8:1

  • How is God described in both of these passages?

Psalm 139

  • What does God know before I do? (v. 4)
  • Where is God not? (vv. 8-10)
  • What can God not see and in what conditions are things hidden from Him? (vv. 11-12)
  • At what point of time does God have knowledge of us? (v. 16)

Meditation Thoughts:

  • Meditate on God’s majesty and glory.  What are the most magnificent and glorious people, events, circumstances, and emotions you can imagine?  Think how God far exceeds them all.
  • If the creation is a declaration of God glory and splendor, are we cheating ourselves by becoming isolated and insulated from it?  What could you change about your habits or activities that would put you in closer touch with creation?
  • Whom do you honor and praise?  Whom does our culture and world honor and praise? How is that shown?  Are we robbing God of what belongs to Him by giving it so freely to others?

Memory Verse:

“Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 24-25)

A Week in the Word, June 15-21

Theme: Biographical – Notable Kings

Without question, David is the great king of God’s people.  He is the standard by which all other kings are measured.  Though he dominates the time of the monarchy—including the times of the united kingdom, divided kingdom, and the kingdom of Judah alone—there are a number of other kings worthy of close consideration.  They standout, either for the notoriety of their accomplishments, their similarity to David, or for their notorious behavior.

As we look at several notable kings during this week’s reading, we’ll begin with David’s son, Solomon, who did much and was blessed much, but also failed much near the end of his reign.  Two infamous kings are Jeroboam and Manasseh.  The former being the one to lead the northern kingdom into false worship from its inception and the latter being the “last straw” of wickedness sealing God’s impending judgment by the hands of the Babylonians.  Another quite notable wicked king is Ahab.  We’ll have opportunity to see much of this evil king’s life in a later week’s reading when we look at great prophets; Elisha’s career being closely intertwined with Ahab’s rule.

Also this week, we’ll look into the reigns of two exceptional kings, ones who very favorably compare to David—Hezekiah and Josiah.

Readings and Introductory Comments

1 Kings 3:1-28; 4:29-34; 6:1-14; 8:1-26; 10:1-10; 11:1-8
Solomon is notable for several reasons; being David’s son and successor is one.   His reign is highlighted by being the builder of the great Jerusalem temple, the project for which his father had longed and gone to such great lengths for which to prepare.  Solomon’s temple was certainly one of the grandest structures of antiquity.

Solomon’s wisdom, bestowed by God  in answer to His offer for what the king might choose, became legendary.  In addition God also gave the monarch exceeding wealth.

Sadly, the close of Solomon’s life was marred by unfaithfulness, prompted by the influence of his many foreign wives and the worship of their gods.

1 Kings 11:26-40; 12:1-33; 13:1-10; 14:1-20
Ahijah had prophesied that God would take ten of Israel’s tribes from Solomon and give them to Jeroboam to rule.  News of this prophecy moved Solomon to attempt to eliminate this man who held a prominent position in the kingdom. Jeroboam fled for his life, later to return during a time of unrest during Rehoboam’s (Solomon’s son) reign.

This was when the kingdom did divide as prophesied but Jeroboam led the people into idolatrous worship.  He forever came to be known as “Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, who caused Israel to sin.”  As David was the standard of measure for good kings, so Jeroboam became the same for wicked kings.

2 Kings 18:1-37; 19:1-37; 20:1-21
The Northern Kingdom’s perpetual unfaithfulness (started by Jeroboam and continued by every king) finally ended with their punishment at the hands of the Assyrians.  They came and overthrew the capital, Samaria, and took the people captive.  King Sennacherib next set his sights on Judah and Jerusalem.  Fortunate for the southern kingdom, the godly Hezekiah sat on their throne.  Through his, and the prophet Isaiah’s, appeals to God they were delivered from this disaster.

Of Hezekiah it is said, “He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, or among those who were before him” (2 Kin 18:5).

2 Kings 21:1-28; 2 Chronicles 33:10-20
Hezekiah’s son, Manasseh, was as wicked as his father had been good.  It was because of the deliberate and extreme sinfulness of this king that God determined that the southern kingdom would suffer the same fate as the northern had, but this time it would be at the hands of the Babylonians.

This makes all the more intriguing Manasseh’s repentance late in his life.  God responds favorably to the unrighteous king’s penitence, though the kingdom’s fate is sealed.

2 Kings 22:1-20; 23:1-30
Surprisingly, Manasseh’s grandson proved to be equal to great-grandfather Hezekiah.  Even at a young age, Josiah initiated reform efforts.  Much of his work was to restore and repair the damage done by Manasseh.  During the repair of the temple, the book of the Law was found.  It had been “lost” due to years of neglect.  Upon hearing the law read, Josiah mourned.  Though the word from God through Huldah the prophetess was that the king’s reforms would not alter God’s judgments against Judah, he still worked to lead the people back to God.

Similar to the words spoken about Hezekiah, of Josiah it was said, “Before him there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all theLaw of Moses, nor did any like him arise after him” (2 Kings 23:25).

Study/Thought Questions

1 Kings 3:1-28

  • What offer did God make to Solomon at Gibeon?  What choice did Solomon make? (vv. 4, 9)
  • What more did God give to Solomon? (vv. 11-14)

1 Kings 4:29-34

  • To what is the expansiveness of Solomon’s wisdom compared? (v. 29)

1 Kings 6:1-14

  • What did God say He would do if Solomon walked in His commandments? (v. 13)

1 Kings 8:1-26

  • What did the ark contain at the time Solomon had it placed in the temple? (v. 9)
  • What happened after the priests placed the ark in the holy place? (v. 10)

1 Kings 10:1-10

  • For what purpose did the Queen of Sheba say that God had made Solomon king? (v. 9)

1 Kings 11:1-8

  • What happened to Solomon when he was old? (v. 4)

1 Kings 11:26-40

  • How is Jeroboam described in v. 28?

1 Kings 12:1-33

  • What did Jeroboam say about the two calves he set up for Israel to worship? (v. 28)
  • From where did the actions Jeroboam carried out originate? (v. 33)

1 Kings 13:1-10

  • What future king was prophesied by name to Jeroboam? (v. 2)

1 Kings 14:1-20

  • What did Ahijah say Jeroboam had done with God? (v. 9)

2 Kings 18:1-37

  • What item in particular did Hezekiah destroy? (v. 4)
  • What attacked Jerusalem in Hezekiah’s fourteenth year? (v. 13)

2 Kings 19:1-37

  • To whom did Hezekiah appeal for aid in dealing with the Assyrians? (v. 2)
  • What did Hezekiah do? (v. 15)

2 Kings 20:1-21

  • What did God grant to Hezekiah after the king learned he was mortally ill? (v. 6)
  • Whom did Isaiah prophesy would ultimately destroy Jerusalem? (v. 17)

2 Kings 21:1-28

  • To what degree did Manasseh lead the people to do evil? (v. 9)
  • For how long had the people done evil? (v. 15)

2 Chronicles 33:10-20

  • What was God’s response when Manasseh prayed to Him? (v. 13)

2 Kings 22:1-20

  • In what year did Josiah begin to seek God? to purge Jerusalem? (2 Chron. 34:3)
  • In what year did he begin to repair and restore the temple? (v. 3)

2 Kings 23:1-30

  • What did Josiah destroy at Bethel? (vv. 15-16)  What was the significance of this action? (see 1 Kings 13:2)
  • How did Josiah die? (v. 29)

Meditation Thoughts:

  • What lessons can be drawn from Solomon, a man of exceeding wisdom yet one who became unfaithful to God?
  • Given Jeroboam’s sin and the source of his actions (see 1 Kings 12:33), what should be made of the common advice to “follow your heart”?
  • In consideration of David’s legacy contrasted with Jeroboam’s, what about the statement, “no man lives to himself”?   What kind of legacy are you shaping today?
  • What can we learn from Hezekiah’s destroying the bronze serpent Moses made? (2 Kings 18:4)

Memory Verse:

“And before him there was no king like him who turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might.” (2 Kings 23:25)

A Week in the Word, June 8-14

Theme: Great Bible Themes – Love

I’m convinced that people know the value of love.  That’s not to say they comprehend it fully, or that they live out the implications of that truth. But if love is absent from their life, their existence becomes a search to fill that void. The best known verse of the Bible, John 3:16, is a proclamation of the love of God. I don’t know that anyone disagreed with Hal David’s famous lyrics, “What the world needs now, is love, sweet love.”

The truth of love’s supremacy is confirmed repeatedly in Scripture.  Paul did it when he acknowledged the greatness of love, even over faith and hope (1 Cor. 13:13).  Jesus did it  by affirming that the two greatest commandments given by God were that men should love; first to love God, and second to love their neighbor (Matt. 22:34-40).

Here’s the challenge: all that man calls love is not—not really.    True love is defined by God.  Not just what He says about it in His word, but by His very nature.  God is not merely loving. He has not chosen to love; rather, God is love.

As with any topic or subject we might choose, we must guard against our comprehension being dominated by our own feelings and understanding.  Our thinking about love must be built upon, shaped, and directed by God’s word.  We have to allow His revelation of it to formulate what we think rather than impose our own thoughts back upon it.

So, this week we revisit the category of “Bible Themes”  and focus our attention on love.

Readings and Introductory Comments

1 Corinthians 13
This, of course, is the great “love chapter” of the Bible.  It is actually within the context of a discussion of miraculous spiritual gifts (chpts. 12-14).  The church in Corinth was divided and one of the contributing factors was their attitudes toward and how they handled the gifts of the Spirit.

Paul introduces the thoughts of chapter 13 by saying he is showing them “a still more excellent way” (12:31); that is, more excellent than their clamoring for gifts, especially speaking in tongues.

We should remember that the love described here is not love reserved for the marriage relationship but that is to be between all people, especially brethren.

John 3:16; 13:31-35; 15:12-17; 1 John 2:7-11; 3:11-24; 5:1-4
John’s writings especially highlight the subject of love as taught by Jesus.  He also reflects those teachings in his epistles.    John shows us that Jesus taught that love for our brothers is an identifying mark of our discipleship and that love of our brethren cannot be separated from our love for God in any way .

Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Leviticus 19:17-18; Matthew 22:34-40; Luke 10:25-28
The foundation of the entire Law of Moses and also of our own relationship with God is based on two things: loving God and loving our neighbor.  These two commands are designated by Jesus as the greatest.  The implications here are as far-reaching as they are obvious.  If we fail in this love, then nothing about our faith or religion can be right.

Romans 13:8-10; Galatians 5:22-23; Colossians 3:12-14; 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12; 1 Timothy 1:5
Throughout Paul’s epistles he calls on Christians to love.  He reiterates the teaching of Jesus. Without surprise, love shows up among the traits of the life led by God’s Spirit and the new man created in Christ Jesus.  As Paul says, love is the trait “above” all others (Col. 3:14).

1 Peter 1:22-25; 2:17; 3:8; 4:8; 2 Peter 1:5-8
So, also, Peter gives the very same emphasis.  Being a follower of Christ, saved by the precious blood of Jesus, having our souls purified by obedience to the truth, we then will love.  That resulting outcome, in Peter’s mind, follows quite naturally.

Study/Thought Questions

1 Corinthians 13

  • What value is anything in the absence of love? (vv. 2, 3)
  • What are the 16 characteristic traits of love? (vv. 4-8)

John 3:16

  • What prompted God to give Jesus?
  • What is God’s ultimate intention in giving Jesus?

John 13:31-35

  • In what way should we love each other? (v. 34)
  • How shall all people know that we are Jesus’ disciples? (v. 35)

John 15:12-17

  • What is the greatest love a person can show? (v. 13)

1 John 2:7-11

  • Who abides in the light? (v. 10)

1 John 3:11-24

  • How do we know that we have passed out of death into life? (v. 14)
  • How do we know love? (v. 16)
  • Our love must be in what? (v. 18)

1 John 5:1-4

  • Whom do you love if you love the Father? (v. 1)
  • How is our love of God shown? (v. 3)

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

  • What is incorporated into our love for God? (v. 5)

Leviticus 19:17-18

  • How should we love our neighbor? (v. 18)

Matthew 22:34-40

  • Upon what do all of the Law and Prophets depend? (v. 40)

Luke 10:25-28

  • What must one do to inherit eternal life? (vv. 27-28

Romans 13:8-10

  • What do we owe each other? (v. 8)
  • What does love accomplish? (v. 10)

Galatians 5:22-23

  • What is first in the list of the fruit of the Spirit? (v. 22)

Colossians 3:12-14

  •  “Above all” what should we as God’s chosen ones “put on”? (v. 14)

1 Thessalonians 4:9-12

  • Who has taught us to love one another? (v. 9)

1 Timothy 1:5

  • What did Paul say the “aim of our charge” is?

1 Peter 1:22-25

  • For what have our souls been purified? (v. 22)

1 Peter 2:17

  • Whom are we to love?

1 Peter 3:8

  • What type of love are we to have?

1 Peter 4:8

  • What does loving accomplish?

2 Peter 1:5-8

  • What is to supplement our godliness? (v. 7) And our brotherly affection? (v. 7)

Meditation Thoughts:

Do my present attitudes and actions toward my brothers and sisters in Christ reflect brotherly love?  If not, what needs to change to make that happen?

What does it mean to love God with all your heart, soul, and might?

How would I complete this statement: “If God really loves me, He will…” ?

What does it means to love in “deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18)?

Memory Verse:

“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” (1 John 3:16)

A Week in the Word, June 1-7

Theme: Psalms & Proverbs – Psalms of Lament

Most readily, when we think of Psalms, we likely think of praise to God.  That is not without reason.  We would be amiss, though, if we exclusively associated praise with Psalms.  As a matter of fact a large number of the Psalms are actually not giving praise to God but expressing displeasure to Him.  These are called Psalms of lament.

The exact number of this type of Psalm varies depending on whom you read.  Somewhere in the neighborhood of 80 of them seems to be the case.  That’s well over half of the Psalms giving expression to hurting and pain brought on by any number of circumstances.

This highlights one of the reasons why the book of Psalms is so deeply loved.  Life is hard and sometimes painful.  These Psalms provide a shared experience between the reader and the text.  No matter what struggle a person might be facing in life, these Psalms “speak” to them on an emotionally intense level.

There are actually several levels or phases of the troubles these Psalms address.  First there is the problem itself. Whether its an opponent or enemy, nature, or sinful behavior—one’s own or that of others—something in life is not as it should be and it results in discomfort and pain (physical, spiritual, and/or emotional).  Then comes an appeal to God.  The writer not only sees God as the potential source of resolution and restoration, there is sometimes expressed an adamant expectation for God to take action.  At times the writer even specifies what they believe God should do.  Some of these requests are filled with anger, vengeance, and even cruelty.  The modern reader should not make the mistake of thinking these are necessarily God’s thoughts and feelings.

This potentially leads to a compounding of the pain.  Very often God does not respond to the writer’s situation or at least not in the way or with the timeliness anticipated.  God is viewed as unconcerned, sleeping, far off, or too slow to act.

Some of these Psalms are filled with confidence and assurance of God’s deliverance, some are left at questioning and wondering what God will do—if anything.

Modern readers may find some of these Psalms to be disturbing and themselves the cause of discomfort.  Two things should be remembered.  First, even though some of these Psalms raise questions about God’s willingness and ability to act, it is still to God to whom they are speaking.  Whatever we may face and feel in life is itself an appropriate subject of discussion with God.  Second, these Psalms prove to be brutally honest with the reality of life.  They are as real as is life itself.  They don’t try to paint over or sweep under the rug the genuine struggles that even followers of God often face.

Readings and Introductory Comments:

Psalm 3, 4, 22, 26, 31, 38, 42-43
These Psalms all give expression to the writer’s anguish: “how many are my foes,” “I was in distress,” “why have you forsaken me?”, “there is no soundness in my flesh,” “I am ready to fall and my pain is ever before me.”   Also, though, they speak to the assurance of God’s deliverance: “you, O Lord, are a shield about me,” “you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety,” “kingship belongs to the Lord and he rules,” “he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me,” “it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.”

Notice that assurance and confidence in Gods’ help does not keep the Psalmists from telling of their hurt.  It is not a sign of strong faith to ignore or cover over what challenges us.

Psalms 6, 13, 35, 89
A persistent theme of the Psalms of lament is the challenge of understanding God’s timing. Why isn’t God healing my hurt, fixing life’s wrongs, and delivering the oppressed…right now?  Consequently, an oft-asked question is, “How long?”  Look for that question is these Psalms.  It appears in numerous others as well.

Psalms 44, 88, 137

Though many Psalms of lament speak of confidence in God’s ability and willingness to deliver, avenge, vindicate, and restore—some even thank and praise God in anticipation of the good He will do—others of them are very stark in their outlook.  God is still the one to whom pain and concern are expressed but there is a lack of resolution in them—even hoped-for resolution.  These laments are brutally honest about the bleak outlook we may at times possess.

Study/Thought Questions

Psalm 3

  • What are people saying about this person? (v. 2)
  • Why is he not afraid (v. 6)? (v.v. 3-4)

Psalm 4

  • What has happened to this person’s honor? (v. 2)
  • How does he express the security he feels in God? (v. 8)

Psalm 22

  • What response does this one get from his appeals to God? (v. 2)
  • Based on what does he now make his requests of God? (vv. 4-5)
  • How does he describe his despair? (vv. 14-15)

Psalm 26

  • What does this person request from God? (v. 1)
  • On what basis does he make his request? (vv. 4-8)

Psalm 31

  • How does this person describe the extent of his distress? (vv. 9–10)
  • What does he say is in God’s hands? (v. 15)

Psalm 38

  • From whose arrows does this person suffer? (v. 2)
  • How desperate is his situation? (v. 17)

Psalm 42-43

  • What phrase is repeated in 42:5, 11 and 43:5?
  • What has been his food? (42:3)

Psalm 6

  • What question plagues this person? (v. 3)
  • What does he do nightly? (v. 6)

Psalm 13

  • What will this person do, despite lingering questions and doubts? (vv. 5-6)

Psalm 35

  • For what reason is this person opposed? (v. 7)
  • What does this person want God to do? (v. 23)

Psalm 89

  • What does this person say God has done to His people? (v. 38)
  • What does he realize about his situation? (v. 47)

Psalm 44

  • How did this person feel God had treated His people? (v. 9)
  • What did he feel like God needed to do? (v. 23)

Psalm 88

  • How does this person begin his appeal? (vv. 1-2)
  • On what note does this Psalm end? (vv. 18)

Psalm 137

  • From where is this Psalm written? (v. 1)
  • What does he wish to be done? (v. 9)

Meditation Thoughts:

How do you feel about expressing lament to God?

What is the line between expressing lament and murmuring?

About what in your life and your experience are you unwilling to speak honestly and openly with God?

Memory Verse:

“Give ear to my words, O Lord; consider my groaning.  Give attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you do I pray.” (Psalm 5:1-2)