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Psalm 116:1-9 1for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. 2 Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live. 3 The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came upon me; I was overcome by trouble and sorrow. 4 Then I called on the name of the LORD : “O LORD, save me!” 5 The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. 6 The LORD protects the simple-hearted; when I was in great need, he saved me. 7 Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the LORD has been good to you. 8 For you, O LORD, have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, 9 that I may walk before the LORD in the land of the living.

clip_image148Background 2

We have many reasons for loving the Lord, but are most affected by his loving-kindness when relieved out of deep distress. When a poor sinner is awakened to a sense of his state, and fears that he must soon sink under the just wrath of God, then he finds trouble and sorrow. But let all such call upon the Lord to deliver their souls, and they will find him gracious and true to his promise. Neither ignorance nor guilt will hinder their salvation, when they put their trust in the Lord. Let us all speak of God as we have found him; and have we ever found him otherwise than just and good? It is of his mercies that we are not consumed. Let those who labor and are heavy laden come to him, that they may find rest to their souls; and if at all drawn from their rest, let them haste to return, remembering how bountifully the Lord has dealt with them. We should deem ourselves bound to walk as in his presence. It is a great mercy to be kept from being swallowed up with over-much sorrow. It is a great mercy for God to hold us by the right hand, so that we are not overcome and overthrown by a temptation. But when we enter the heavenly rest, deliverance from sin and sorrow will be complete; we shall behold the glory of the Lord, and walk in his presence with delight we cannot now conceive.

Bible Truths 3

Verses 1 – 4 tell us that the psalmist nearly died … but God saved him. In verse 1, the Hebrew Bible says, “he hears my voice and my cries”. This tells us that the psalmist cried aloud when he prayed. And in verse 2, the Hebrew Bible says, “God turns his ear to me”. This is a Hebrew way to say, “God listens to me”. Hebrew is the language that the psalmist spoke. Sheol is in verse 3. Jews believed that they went to Sheol when they died. But the psalmist did not want to go to Sheol. He did not want to die. So he prayed, “LORD, please save me!” (verse 4). “Save” here means “save me from death”. It is not the same “save” as Christians now use. Christians mean “save me from hell when I die”. Hell is a bad place where God sends bad people.

Verses 5 – 7 tell us about God. He loves people, and he is kind and good to them, (verse 5). He gives them help when they need it, (verse 6). “He saved me” here means “saved from dying”, not “saved from hell”. The words “me” in verses 4 and 8, and “myself” in verse 7, are all the same in Hebrew. It is the Hebrew word “nafeshi”. It means “the part of me that stays alive when my body dies”. Some people translate it “my soul”. So another translation of the beginning of verse 7 is “My soul, go back to your rest”. Before God saved him, the psalmist could not rest, or sleep at night. Now he can … he is safe! We can also translate the end of verse 4 as “LORD, save my soul”.

Verses 8 – 9 tell us more about what God did. Again, we can translate the beginning of verse 8 as “Yes, you saved my soul from death”. “LORD” is not in the Hebrew Bible. It is there to give us help to understand the verse. “Serve” in verse 9 means “do what God tells me to do”. The psalmist can now be God’s servant on earth, not in Sheol. Again, Sheol is not in the Hebrew Bible. It gives us help to remember what God saved the psalmist from.

Items for Discussion

  • The psalmist comes to recognize that he will eventually come to judgment – Can someone be saved without coming to this conclusion?
  • The psalmist almost died – Does it take the “proximity” of death to make someone think about salvation? Why or why not?
  • How do you visualize hell or Sheol as the Israelites called it?
  • What is wrong with the argument that we have a good and loving God so He will not let anyone anguish in a place like hell forever?

 

John 11:17-44
17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, 19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home. 21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 “Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.” 28 And after she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” 29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there. 32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. 35 Jesus wept. 36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” 38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” 40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

Background 4

In many ways, John’s Gospel is different from the other three Gospels. John did not include any stories about Jesus’ birth or his baptism. John only recorded 7 miracles, which he called ‘signs’. John did not include any parables (stories which Jesus told to teach something about God). But John recorded many long speeches that Jesus made.

The writer Eusebius (about AD 260-339) believed that John knew about the other three Gospels. But when he read them, John had not yet written his Gospel. He was still just talking to people about his life with Jesus. John agreed that the other Gospels were true accounts.

But Jesus was already preaching before King Herod put John the Baptist in prison. The other Gospels did not include an account of this. They recorded much about what Jesus did in Galilee. Also, they recorded what Jesus did in Jerusalem just before his death. But Jesus went to Jerusalem at other times, too. So John provided the facts that were missing from the other Gospels. He used information that they did not have. John’s account did not disagree with the other Gospels. It added different information, so that we can understand more about Jesus.

The second century writer, Clement, from Alexandria, called John’s Gospel a ‘spiritual Gospel’. In some ways, he was right. John did not record just facts about Jesus. John had thought much about what Jesus had said. And John had thought much about the miracles that he had seen. He wanted to explain the spiritual meaning of Jesus’ words and acts.

But John also included many physical details. For example, the loaves that Jesus used to feed 5000 people were ‘barley loaves’ (John 6:9). He recorded the distance that the disciples had travelled across the lake (John 6:19). And he remembered how the smell of the perfume filled the house at Bethany (John 11:32). These details do not seem important. But they are memories of a person who was present at these events. So John’s Gospel is not just a spiritual book. It is the personal account of someone who had seen these events.

Biblical Truths 5

Here we have the history of that illustrious miracle which Christ wrought a little before his death—the raising of Lazarus to life, which is recorded only by this evangelist; for the other three confine themselves to what Christ did in Galilee, where he resided most, and scarcely ever carried their history into Jerusalem till the passion-week: whereas John’s memoirs relate chiefly to what passed at Jerusalem; this passage therefore was reserved for his pen. Some suggest that, when the other evangelists wrote, Lazarus was alive, and it would not well agree either with his safety or with his humility to have it recorded till now, when it is supposed he was dead. It is more largely recorded than any other of Christ’s miracles, not only because there are many circumstances of it so very instructive and the miracle of itself so great a proof of Christ’s mission, but because it was an earnest of that which was to be the crowning proof of all—Christ’s own resurrection. Here is a summary of the chapter:

  • The tidings sent to our Lord Jesus of the sickness of Lazarus, and his entertainment of those tidings, ver. 1-16.
  • The visit he made to Lazarus’s relations when he had heard of his death, and their entertainment of the visit, ver. 17-32.
  • The miracle wrought in the raising of Lazarus from the dead, ver. 33-44.
  • The effect wrought by this miracle upon others, ver. 45-57.

Items for Discussion

  • John admits that there wasn’t room enough to record all the events of Jesus’ life (see John 21:25) – So given the limited space, why did God, through John, made sure that we knew that Jesus wept?
  • Jesus wept at a time when Mary and others were weeping (John 11:33-35) – Isaiah told us that this would be (Isaiah 53:4) – How would the foretelling of Christ’s tears serve to help others in the future?
  • Look at these facts: Jesus knew, even Martha knew that Jesus could have prevented the death of Lazarus. Jesus did not have to wait until He was with Lazarus to raise him from the dead. So why did he cry?
  • What can we tell about Jesus if he could cry?
  • Why should this be important to any of us?
  • So why should we care that Jesus was both God and a person like us?
  • If Jesus could not experience the emotions of tears and crying, how would His role as intermediary for mankind be impacted?
  • What is accomplished when we share grief or joy with others?

Discussion Challenge

  • If we believe that Jesus knows our joy, pain, and sorrow, how should we respond to others?

Note: The Bible (NIV) has the word cry – 217 times, cried – 94 times, weep – 48 times, weeping – 56 times, and wept – 53 times. That is a total of 468 times. The word “joy,” was used only 218 times, only half as much. God knows that life in the World is hard and He gave us an understanding Savior, Jesus, to help us every day of our lives.

Another full study can be found on this subject in Studies under Who Was Jesus Really?

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