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Psalm 125 1
1 Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever. 2 As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people both now and forevermore. 3 The scepter of the wicked will not remain over the land allotted to the righteous, for then the righteous might use their hands to do evil. 4 Do good, O LORD, to those who are good, to those who are upright in heart. 5 But those who turn to crooked ways the LORD will banish with the evildoers. Peace be upon Israel.

clip_image126Background 2

Psalm 125 tells us that wicked people were trying to rule Israel. The psalmist believed that God would not let this happen. God was all round (or always near) his people, as the mountains were all round Jerusalem. Jerusalem was on a mountain called Zion. The psalmist prays that God will not wait too long to send help. If he did, good people might start to do bad things. The psalm is called “We will not be moved”. This means “Nobody will move us”, or “Nobody will make us think something else”.

Biblical Truths

Verse 1: “Trust in the LORD” means “believe that the *LORD will give you help”. “LORD” is the covenant name for God. A covenant is when people agree to do something. Here, God agrees to give help to his people. They agree to love and obey him. The mountain called Zion was in the city of Jerusalem. Zion is also another name for Jerusalem.

Verse 2: “All round” here means “always near”. The mountains are always near Jerusalem.

Verses 3 – 4: “Righteous” and “upright in their hearts” mean the same. “Righteous” means “very, very good”. Only God is really *righteous, but he calls his people righteous too. This is because he is near to them.

Verse 5: “At peace”, means “not at war”.

Items for Discussion

  • Mountains near Jerusalem were a constant reminder of the nature of God, close, solid, never changing. Do you think that people who live in areas that are new, frequently changing due to storms or weather, or other factors different than Scripture are at a disadvantage or advantage in understanding the character of their God?
  • What is faith?
  • What experiences build one’s faith?
  • What experiences cause someone to “not be moved” as the Psalm states?
  • Why, when someone’s faith is weakened, do they migrate to the “bad” rather than to the “good” works?

 

James 2:12-14
12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. 14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if people claim to have faith but have no deeds? Can such faith save them?

Galatians 2:16
16 know that a person is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.

Romans 3:28
28 For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from observing the law.

Background 3

James, chapter 2 is made up of three parts, or three subjects are discussed:

  1. The duty of impartiality in the treatment of others, verses 1-9. There was to be no favoritism on account of rank, birth, wealth, or apparel. The case to which the apostle refers for an illustration of this, is that where two persons should come into an assembly of Christian worshippers, one elegantly dressed, and the other meanly clad, and they should show special favor to the former, and should assign to the latter a more humble place.
  2. The duty of yielding obedience to the whole law in order to have evidence of true religion, verses 10-13. This subject seems to have been introduced in accordance with the general principles and aims of James, that religion consists in obeying the law of God, and that there can be none when this is not done. It is not improbable that, among those to whom he wrote, there were some who denied this, or who had embraced some views of religion which led them to doubt it.
  3. The subject of justification, showing that works are necessary in order that a man may be justified, or esteemed righteous before God, James 2:14-26. The object here is to show that in fact no one can be regarded as truly righteous before God who does not lead an upright life; and that if a man professes to have faith, and has not works, he cannot be justified; or that if he have real faith, it will be shown by his works. If it is not shown by works corresponding to its nature, it will be certain that there is no true religion, or that his professed faith is worth nothing.

Biblical Truths

James: The “standpoint” from which James views the subject, is not that faith is unnecessary or worthless, or that a man is not justified by faith rather than by his own works, in the sense of its being the ground of acceptance with God; or, in other words, the place where the apostle takes his position, and which is the point from which he views the subject, is not before a man is justified, to inquire in what way he may be accepted of God, but it is after the act of justification by faith, to show that if faith does not lead to good works it is “dead,” or is of no value; and that in fact, therefore, the evidence of justification is to be found in good living, and that when this is not manifest, all a man’s professed religion is worth nothing.

Galatians: We who are Jews by nature, or by birth. This did not mean that all the Jews knew this, or that someone who was a Jew knew that justification, faith and works were interrelated as a matter of course, for many Jews were ignorant of it. It meant that the persons referred to, those who had been born Jews, and who had been converted to Christianity, had had an opportunity to learn and understand this, which the Gentiles had not. This gospel had been preached to them, and they had professedly embraced it. They were not left to the gross darkness and ignorance on this subject which pervaded the heathen world, and they had had a better opportunity to learn it than the converts from the Gentiles. They ought, therefore, to act in a manner becoming their superior light, and to show in all their conduct that they fully believed that a man could not be justified by obedience to the law of Moses.

Romans: Paul did not mean that Christianity does not produce good works, or that they who are justified will not obey the law, and be holy; but that no righteousness of their own will be the ground of their justification. They are sinners; and as such can have no claim to be treated as righteous. God has devised a plan by which they may be pardoned and saved; and that is by faith alone. This is the grand peculiarity of the Christian religion. Paul urges this as much as any other writer in the New Testament that works are not to be relied on as a ground of justification; but that he did not mean to teach that they are not to be performed by Christians.

Items for Discussion

  • So how would you explain which comes first, a chicken (good works) or the egg (faith)?
  • How is this principle different in other religions?
  • Where do we as Christians go wrong with this concept?
  • How should the church uphold and teach what James and Paul were trying to tell us?
  • Why is this concept important?

Discussion Challenge

  • How do children learn this?
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