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Psalm 19
1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. 3 There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. 4 Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun, 5 which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. 6 It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat. 7 The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. 8 The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. 9 The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous. 10 They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. 11 By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. 12 Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults. 13 Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression. 14 May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

10COMMANDMENTSBackground 1

The Book of Psalms is divided into 150 Psalms, each of which constitutes a religious song or chant, though one or two are atypically long and may constitute a set of related chants. When the Bible was divided into chapters, each Psalm was assigned its own chapter. Psalms are sometimes referenced as chapters, despite that chapter assignments postdate the initial composition of the “canonical” Psalms by at least 1,500 years.
The organization and numbering of the Psalms differs slightly between the (Masoretic) Hebrew and the (Septuagint) Greek manuscripts:

Hebrew Psalms  Greek Psalms
1-8
9-10 9
11-113 10-112
114-115 113
116 114-115
117-146 116-145
147  146-147
148-150
  • Psalms 9 and 10 in the Hebrew are together as Psalm 9 in the Greek
  • Psalms 114 and 115 in the Hebrew are Psalm 113 in the Greek
  • Psalms 114 and 115 in the Greek appear as Psalm 116 in the Hebrew
  • Psalms 146 and 147 in the Greek form Psalm 147 in the Hebrew

Christian traditions vary:

  • Protestant translations are based on the Hebrew numbering;
  • Eastern Orthodox translations are based on the Greek numbering;
  • Roman Catholic official liturgical texts follow the Greek numbering, but modern Catholic translations often use the Hebrew numbering, sometimes adding, in parenthesis, the Greek numbering as well.
  • Most manuscripts of the Septuagint also include a Psalm 151, present in Eastern Orthodox translations; a Hebrew version of this poem was found in the Psalms Scroll of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Psalms Scroll presents the Psalms in an order different from that found elsewhere, and also contains a number of non-canonical poems and hymns.

Biblical Truths

Summary of this Psalm
  1. God reveals himself through his world, through nature.
  2. Verse 1 and 2 mentions the heavens, the day, night, etc. He says that they are telling of God’s glory, but then he adds in verse 3 that they do this without actual speech.
  3. Verse 4 shows us that natural revelation reaches every place on earth, therefore it reaches every person.
  4. I think the imagery in verse 5 is saying that natural revelation is dominating and powerful. It cannot be ignored. You have to respond to it. Romans 1:18 echoes that. We will discuss that passage later.
  5. Verse 6 shows us that nobody escapes the sun. Even if you are blind and cannot see it, you still feel the heat. Although it has no voice (vs 3), people still experience it. And you’ve got to ask the question, “How did it get there?” The story is told of a Mayan king who worshipped the sun until he realized that the sun couldn’t be god because it was sometimes hidden by the clouds. It made him wonder who was god.
  6. Notice how Ps 19 says the heavens are telling his glory. This is present tense for us. Special revelation, Scripture, has ceased, but the natural revelation continues. We can receive natural revelation fresh, daily.

Items for Discussion

  • Does anyone on earth have an excuse that they did not know about God?
  • If there is no excuse, we must have three states:
    • Those that know and choose God
    • Those that know and choose something else besides God
    • Those that don’t know
  • What are the Christian responsibilities that should go to each group?
  • While Psalm 19 speaks of God harnessing the physical sun above the earth, how does this become a metaphor for the Christian today?
  • If one takes this Psalm literally, no one can hide from God. This being the case, all sin is done in God’s view. What does this tell us about sin and its power?
  • Re-read verse 13 and discuss what this Psalm tells us about overcoming sin?

 

Hebrews 4:12-13
12 For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Background 2

Controversy exists over the authorship of Hebrews since the author is not specifically mentioned in the text nor is the style of writing typical of the Apostle Paul.

Most modern scholars believe the document was written to prevent apostasy. (Apostasy is the abandonment of a political or religious belief.) Some have interpreted apostasy to mean a number of different things, such as a group of Christians in one sect leaving for another more conservative sect, one in which the author disapproves. Some have seen apostasy as a move from the Christian assembly to pagan ritual. In light of a possibly Jewish-Christian audience, the apostasy in this sense may be in regard to Jewish-Christians leaving the Christian assembly to return to the synagogue. In light of Pauline doctrine, the epistle dissuades non-Jewish Christians from feeling a need to convert to Judaism. Therefore the author writes, “Let us hold fast to our confession” (4:14).

The Bible’s Epistle to the Hebrews affirms special creation. It affirms that God by His Son, Jesus Christ, made the worlds. “God…hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son…by whom also he made the worlds” (1:1-2). The epistle also states that the worlds themselves do not provide the evidence of how God formed them. “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear” ((Hebrews 11:3).

Biblical Truths

In Heb 4:12-13, the author digresses, discoursing about the word of God; he compares the word of God to a sharp, two-edged sword. (He loosely connects his digression to what precedes with the conjunction gar [“for”].) The phrase “the word of God” (ho logos tou theou) is a subjective genitive: God’s word. For the author, the word of God means God’s communication to human beings, which has taken many forms at different times in history (see Heb 1:1-2). The word of God is said to be active and living, meaning that it produces results in those to whom it comes.

The author then compares its effectiveness to a two-edged sword, the most effective cutting tool known to him (see Rev 1:16; 19:15, 21; Eph 6:17). The word of God can metaphorically cut between the spirit and the soul, two aspects or substantial entities that are difficult to distinguish, in the same way that a literal sword can divide between joints and marrow. The use of the metaphor of the sword to express the idea of the effectiveness of the word of God is not original to the author. Parallel to Heb 4:12-13, the author of Wisdom of Solomon identifies the word of God is personified as a warrior who wields a sharp word (xiphos oxu) representing God’s decree of death against the Egyptians as judgment during the time of the exodus (18:14-16).

The point made by the author is that there is nothing that cannot be affected (“cut”) by the word of God. One result of the word of God is to judge the thoughts and intentions of the human being, which means that God’s communication to human beings has the result that those who receive it come under God’s judgment. (The two terms translated as “thoughts and intentions,” enthumêsis and ennoia, do not seem to have a clearly discernible difference in meaning.) This is why in Heb 4:13 the author concludes that all creatures lay totally exposed before God (“naked and exposed to view”), so that nothing can be hidden from God’s penetrating word. (The word tetrachêlismena translated as “be exposed to view” is a hapaxlegomena in the New Testament and the Greek Old Testament, and has a different meaning in texts outside of the Bible; in its context in Hebrews, it can only mean “to expose to view.”) The author concludes by saying that it is to God that “we” (human beings) have to give an account. He is referring to the fact that all must stand in judgment before God. The word for “account” is logos, so that there results a play on words: the logos of God necessarily leads to giving a logos to God.

Items for Discussion

  • Why was the Roman sword feared so much?
  • How does the word of God “cut” someone?
  • What analogies can you assign to the meaning of the “double edged” sword?
  • Think back to the Psalm; is it possible to hide from light? How and what happens if you do this for a long time?
  • Would you conclude that it is not possible to hide from light (God)?
  • If this is not possible, then what is the risk to those who try to hide?
  • If these verses are describing the Word of God, then what does this tell us about how we should treat Scripture?

Discussion Challenge

  • How can our congregation increase exposure to the Word of God?

Notes:

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psalms
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epistle_to_the_Hebrews
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