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Psalm 11 1
1 In the LORD I take refuge. How then can you say to me: “Flee like a bird to your mountain. 2 For look, the wicked bend their bows; they set their arrows against the strings to shoot from the shadows at the upright in heart. 3 When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” 4 The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD is on his heavenly throne. He observes the sons of men; his eyes examine them. 5 The LORD examines the righteous, but the wicked and those who love violence `his soul hates. 6 On the wicked he will rain fiery coals and burning sulfur; a scorching wind will be their lot. 7 For the LORD is righteous, he loves justice; upright men will see his face.

clip_image0072Background 2

The Book of Psalms is divided into 150 Psalms, each of which constitutes a religious song or chant, though one or two are 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 referred to as chapters, though their individuality antedates the chapter assignments by at least 1,500 years. The Dead Sea Scrolls contain more than 150 Psalms, including the “canonical” 150 Psalms and several “non-canonical” Psalms. The organization and numbering of the Psalms differs slightly between the (Masoretic) Hebrew and the (Septuagint) Greek manuscripts. Protestant translations are based on the Hebrew numbering;

Biblical Truths

From the internal evidence of the psalm, we are able to construct the basic situation which lay behind David’s writing of this psalm. The wicked enemies of David were preparing to attack his armies. There were those in David’s own camp (the Righteous) who were saying to him that he should run to his mountain, presumably Jerusalem (Mount Zion). The psalmist rejects the advice to flee from his dangerous enemies, even though it looked like the Righteous had no foundation to stand on. In response to their question of what the Righteous would do if their foundation were destroyed, David asserts that the Righteous would stand. Instead of fleeing from the ensuing battle to seek refuge in the safety of his mountain, David chose to seek refuge in the Lord. David reminded his advice-givers that they need not fear because their God’s throne was in heaven, in His holy temple. He was aware of the Israelites’ situation, and was on their side. God would test the Righteous, but he hated those who were evil, loving ethical violence. David affirmed his confidence in God’s just character. Finally David, by faith, wishes that God would judge his enemies, and calls down judgment on evildoers. He had confidence that this desire of his would come to pass because the Lord loves righteousness. The Israelites could rest assured that those who were righteous would behold God’s face in the time of their calamity. He would show them favor and mercy, delivering them from their calamity.

Items for Discussion

  • How do you balance faith to “stand your ground” against the wisdom to “cut and run?”
  • If we grow in wisdom through experiences, can we grow in faith through them also? Please explain
  • David talks about his faith in God’s justice. How does ones faith in God’s justice grow?
  • David says that God will call down coals and burning sulfur on those who love violence. In today’s world, how would this apply to our faith walk?
  • Is there a difference between loving violence and tolerating it?
  • Do you think that God’s opinion of those who tolerate violence is different than for those who love it?
  • How should we apply this lesson in our contemporary world today?

 

Matthew 13:31-32
31 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32 Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches.”

Background

The Gospel of Matthew (literally: according to Matthew in Greek) is one of the four Gospel accounts of the New Testament. The Gospel accounts are traditionally printed with Matthew first, followed in order by Mark, Luke and John. Although the document is anonymous, the authorship of this Gospel is traditionally ascribed to St. Matthew, a tax collector who became an apostle of Jesus. The early church fathers were unanimous in this view. There is little in the gospel itself to indicate with clarity the date of its composition. Some conservative scholars argue that it was written before the destruction of Jerusalem, probably between the years 60 and 65, in part because the Second Temple’s destruction is believed to be prophesied by Jesus while there is no reference to this event actually being fulfilled.

Biblical Truths and Theology 3

Verses 31,32. See also Mark 4:30-32. The kingdom of heaven. It means here either piety in a renewed heart, or the church. In either case the commencement is small. In the heart, it is at first feeble, easily injured, and much exposed. In the church, there were few at first, ignorant, unknown, and unhonored; yet soon it was to spread through the world.

Grain of mustard seed. The plant here described was very different from that which is known among us. It was several years before it bore fruit, and became properly a tree. Mustard, with us, is an annual plant; it is always small, and is properly an herb. The Hebrew writers speak of the mustard-tree as one on which they could climb, as on a fig-tree. Its size was much owing to the climate. All plants of that nature grow much larger in a warm climate, like that of Palestine, than in colder regions. The seeds of this tree were remarkably small; so that they, with the great size of the plant, were an apt illustration of the progress of the church, and of the nature of faith, Matthew 17:20.

Young converts often suppose they have much religion. It is not so. They are, indeed, in a new world. Their hearts glow with new affections. They have an elevation, an ecstasy of motion, which they may not have afterwards–like a blind man suddenly restored to sight. The sensation is new, and peculiarly vivid. Yet little is seen distinctly. His impressions are indeed more vivid and cheering than those of him who has long seen, and to whom objects are familiar. In a little time, too, the young convert will see more distinctly, will judge more intelligently, will love more strongly, though not with so much new emotion, and will be prepared to make more sacrifices for the cause of Christ.

Jesus predicts that in the historical period preceding His return, something exceedingly small, like a mustard seed, will grow to be exceedingly large, like a mustard plant towering above the other herbs of the garden. What is this organism of phenomenal growth if not the church? For the church indeed began exceedingly small, as only 120 in the Upper Room (Acts 1:15). Yet the church—or, more precisely, nominal Christianity—has become the largest religion in the world. More people in the world identify themselves with Christianity than with any other religion. Thus, the Parable of the Mustard Seed is a remarkable prophecy. Two thousand years ago, before the church even existed, Jesus knew that He was founding a religious movement that would continue and prosper until it overshadowed all rivals.

The birds that roost in the branches of the mustard plant, however, show something evil infiltrating the latter-day church. No doubt they represent demons working through men of influence to introduce corruptions in doctrine and practice. Paul speaks of the false teachings that will someday creep into the church as “doctrines of devils” (1 Tim. 4:1).

We could, therefore, conclude that although the Parable of the Mustard Seed is, on its surface, optimistic, the actual meaning of the parable is that the church in its final stages could lapse into weakness and apostasy.

Items for Discussion

Jesus chooses a mustard seed to use as the basis for a parable. What are all of the attributes of a mustard seed and shrub that you can think of?

If the mustard shrub is large and represents the Church, what could the following attributes represent?

  • Bitter flavor of mustard
  • The birds sitting in the shrub
  • The fact that it is an annual, not a perennial
  • The tens of thousands of seeds (their sheer number) on the shrub

Discussion Challenge

  • How can this simple parable be applied to our church today?

Notes:

  1. NIV New International Version Translations
  2. Wikipedia
  3. Barnes’ Notes
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