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Psalm 150 1
1 Praise the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. 2 Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness. 3 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, 4 praise him with tambourine and dancing, praise him with the strings and flute, 5 praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals. 6 Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD.

clip_image140Background 2

Christians and Jews say that this is a very special psalm. Someone wrote it to finish the Book of Psalms. This was perhaps after the exile. The exile was 600 years before Jesus came to the earth. Babylon was a country 800 kilometres east of Jerusalem. Today we call it Iraq. The army of Babylon destroyed Jerusalem. They also destroyed the temple in Jerusalem. The temple was God’s house in Jerusalem. The army of Babylon took many Jews to Babylon. They made them live there. This was the exile.

The Jews went back to their own land 70 years later. They built Jerusalem and the temple again. Then the Jews made the Book of Psalms. It was to sing in the new temple. They used psalms by Moses, by David, by Isaiah, by the sons of Korah and by many other people. But Bible students think that they wrote two new psalms for their book. They were Psalm 1 and Psalm 150. Maybe they wrote other psalms also, perhaps Psalms 146 – 149.

Bible Truths

The Jews spoke Hebrew and wrote their psalms in Hebrew. The word hallelu is in every verse of this psalm in the Hebrew Bible. We usually translate it “praise”, or “tell someone that they are great”. But here we translated it “you are the best”. Nobody is better than God. LORD is another name for God. It is his covenant name. A covenant is when two people, or groups of people, agree. Here, God agreed to love and send help to his people. His people agreed to love and obey God.

Many Christians still use the Hebrew word hallelujah. This means:

halel
u
jah

tell someone that they are great – PRAISE
all of you – YOU
a name for God that we translate “LORD” – THE LORD

You will see that the Jews spelled hallelujah as “halelujah” in this psalm. The psalm says that we must shout to God. We must sing to him and make music. To make music we use musical instruments. In Bible times, there were three groups of instruments:

  • the ones that you hit; examples are drums and cymbals.
  • the ones that you blew into; examples are horns and pipes.
  • the ones that had strings; examples are harps and guitars.

Since the Jews did not have guitars, we often translate “lyre” as “guitar”.

Items for Discussion

  • How do you feel when you receive praise?
  • Could a relationship exist, a close relationship, without some type of constant praise?
  • What do you think is the greatest benefit we receive from our praise to God?
  • Does music help you focus on God? What kind of music?
  • Is there any music that hurts your focus in worship?
  • Why is it important to take time for “pure” praise and worship of our God?

 

John 20:19-31
19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. 21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” 24 Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” 26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” 28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” 30 Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may[a] believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Background 3

Thomas the Apostle, also called Doubting Thomas or Didymus (meaning “Twin”), was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus. He is best known for disbelieving Jesus’ resurrection when first told of it, then proclaiming “My Lord and my God” on seeing Jesus in John 20:28. He was perhaps the only Apostle who went outside the Roman Empire to preach the Gospel. He is also believed to have crossed the largest area, which includes the Persian Empire and India.
Thomas appears in a few passages in the Gospel of John. In John 11:16, when Lazarus has just died, the disciples are resisting Jesus’ decision to return to Judea, where the Jews had previously tried to stone Jesus. Jesus is determined, and Thomas says bravely: “Let us also go, that we might die with him” (NIV).

He also speaks at The Last Supper.[Jn. 14:5] Jesus assures his disciples that they know where he is going but Thomas protests that they don’t know at all. Jesus replies to this and to Philip’s requests with a detailed exposition of his relationship to God the Father.

In Thomas’ best known appearance in the New Testament, [Jn. 20:24-29] he doubts the resurrection of Jesus and demands to touch Jesus’ wounds before being convinced. This story is the origin of the term Doubting Thomas. After seeing Jesus alive (the Bible never states whether Thomas actually touched Christ’s wounds), Thomas professed his faith in Jesus, exclaiming “My Lord and my God!” On this account he is also called Thomas the Believer.

The only apostle whose death the Bible records is James (Acts 12:2). King Herod had James “put to death with the sword,” likely a reference to beheading. The circumstances of the deaths of the other apostles are related more through church tradition and for Thomas, tradition says he was stabbed with a spear in India during one of his missionary trips to establish the church there. However, it is not so important how the apostles died. What is important is the fact that they were all willing to die for their faith. If Jesus had not been resurrected, the disciples would have known it. People will not die for something they know to be a lie. The fact that all of the apostles were willing to die horrible deaths, refusing to renounce their faith in Christ, is tremendous evidence that they had truly witnessed the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Biblical Truths 4

Verses 19-22 Although they had locked the doors, Jesus appeared among the disciples. In some ways, his body was the same as before. He still had the injuries in his hands that the nails had caused. He still had the injury in the side of his body. But he was able somehow to pass through the walls and the doors. However, he was not just a spirit. Jesus had a real body. People could even touch him (Luke 24:37-39; John 20:27). But his body was different. When God makes our bodies become alive again, in some ways we will be the same. But in other ways, we will be different too. This is a great mystery. (See 1 Corinthians 15:35-56.)

Two times, Jesus said, ‘I give peace to you.’ This was the peace that he had promised in John 14:27 and 16:33. Jesus’ death had made it possible to receive this peace, because he had taken the punishment for everybody’s sins. He had made it possible for God to forgive everybody who believes in Jesus. Everybody who believes in Jesus can receive this peace.

Jesus wanted his disciples to spread the good news of salvation. His Father, God, had sent him to the world in order to save people from the results of their sins. In the same way, Jesus sent his disciples to tell everybody about this. But they could not do this work alone. They needed what Jesus had. They needed God’s help. They needed him to guide them. They needed his power and authority. So Jesus gave to them the Holy Spirit. He breathed on them. In Hebrew and Greek, the word for ‘spirit’ can also mean ‘breath’.

Later, immediately before he returned to heaven, Jesus told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem. He told them to wait for God to give the Holy Spirit to them again (Acts 1:4-5). Jesus told them that God would baptise them in the Holy Spirit. John the Baptist had already baptised them in water. But the baptism in the Holy Spirit was something different. It would give them the power to serve God. Then, on the day called Pentecost, the Holy Spirit filled them in a public place. And they had power to do all that God wanted them to do (Acts chapter 2).

Verse 23 Jesus wanted his disciples to tell people about salvation. It was their responsibility to tell people about God’s forgiveness. This is our responsibility, too.

God forgives everybody who believes in Jesus. People can pray to receive Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. We can encourage them to do this. If they do this sincerely, God forgives them. We have the authority to declare this to them. So we bring God’s forgiveness to them, on behalf of God himself (2 Corinthians 5:20).

But sometimes people may not be sincere when they ask for God’s forgiveness. They may not really want to repent from their sins. They may want to use the power of Jesus’ name (see note on John 14:13-14) in a wrong way. Or there may be other reasons why they want to join the church. Jesus gave the Holy Spirit to his disciples. The Holy Spirit would show them what to do in such situations. The Holy Spirit would show them when God was forgiving a person’s sins (see Acts 10:44-48). But the Holy Spirit would also show them when God did not forgive a person. See Acts 5:1-10; Acts 8:18-24; and Acts 13:6-11.

If we had perfect knowledge about God, then our decisions about people would always be correct. And we would always know whether a person is sincere. We would know when God forgives a person. And we would know when God does not forgive a person. We would know these things by the power of God’s Holy Spirit. But our knowledge is not yet perfect (1 Corinthians 13:9). So our opinions about people are not always correct. However, God does not often want us to accuse people. Instead, he wants us to teach people about salvation. He wants us to encourage people to be sincere when they repent. Then God will forgive them. We should only act otherwise if God’s Holy Spirit directs us.

Verses 24-25 Thomas wanted physical proof that Jesus was alive. He refused to believe it unless he saw Jesus himself. Many people think of Thomas as the disciple who doubted. This is not really fair. He was brave and loyal (John 11:16). But he needed to see before he could really believe (see also John 14:5). And he was honest about this. If we have doubts about our faith, we need to be honest, like Thomas. Then we can look for answers to our questions. When we find answers, our faith will be much stronger. Even the disciple whom Jesus loved had to see inside the empty grave. After he had seen, then he believed.

Verses 26-27 Again, Jesus came to the disciples in a room where they had locked the doors. His body was able to do things that had not been possible before. But his body was also real and physical. That was why he asked Thomas to touch his hands and his side. He still had injuries from the nails and the spear (a pole with a sharp metal point on it). But these injuries did not still hurt him. They showed to Thomas who Jesus was. And they reminded everybody of how he had died to save people.

Verse 28 Thomas did not continue to doubt. Immediately, he had complete faith in Jesus. In fact, Thomas was the first person to call Jesus ‘God’. At the beginning of his Gospel, John wrote that Jesus was God (John 1:1). After the events of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, Thomas was able also to declare this.

Verse 29 We cannot see Jesus with our physical sight. But we know that he lives. We can talk to him and we can listen to him in our minds, our hearts and our spirits. We know that he answers our prayers. The Holy Spirit changes us inside our hearts, so that we become more like Jesus. Jesus’ words in this verse are for us. He promises that God will bless us. Although we have not seen Jesus physically, we believe in him.

Verses 30-31 We know about some of the other miracles that Jesus did. We know about these because they are in the other Gospels. But, to John, the miracles were always like signs that pointed to the truth about Jesus. That was why John wrote his Gospel. He was not recording just events in history.

Of course, these events had actually happened. But John wanted his readers to understand the meaning of these events. He did not want people just to read about Jesus and then do nothing. John wanted to convince his readers that Jesus was a man but also God’s Son. Jesus was the Messiah that people were waiting for. Jesus had come to bring God’s salvation into the world. He had come to give us new life. John wanted his readers to believe in Jesus when they had read all about him.

Items for Discussion

  • Why do people have doubts?
  • Is it wrong to have doubts about God?
  • What would you die for?
  • Do you think that since all of the apostles except John were martyred, that doubts remained about whether Christ’s resurrection was real?
  • What did it take for you to believe that God is real?
  • How is it that we influence others to believe that God and Christ are “real?”

Discussion Challenge

  • In what way does corporate praise through worship and music support Christian outreach?
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