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Psalm 124 1
1 If the Lord had not been on our side—let Israel say—2 if the Lord had not been on our side when people attacked us, 3 they would have swallowed us alive when their anger flared against us; 4 the flood would have engulfed us, the torrent would have swept over us, 5 the raging waters would have swept us away. 6 Praise be to the Lord, who has not let us be torn by their teeth. 7 We have escaped like a bird from the fowler’s snare; the snare has been broken, and we have escaped. 8 Our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

Background 2

Called the Song of Assent, some think that David wrote this psalm when he was fighting the Philistines. David thought that the Philistines would win, but they did not. God gave David and his people help. Later, Hezekiah and Nehemiah may have also used this psalm. God gave them all help to beat their enemies. The psalm says that if God had not given his people help, the enemy would have destroyed them.

God knows His people’s pain when their enemies prevail against them but His power can be seen in their deliverance. Happy are the people whose God is Jehovah, a God all-sufficient. Besides applying this to any particular deliverance in our current days or the ancient times, we should have in our thoughts the great work of redemption by Jesus, by which believers were rescued from Satan.

God is the Author of all our deliverances (victories), and He must have the glory. The enemies lay snares for God’s people, to bring them into sin and trouble, and to hold them there. Sometimes it seems our enemies prevail; but in God let us put our trust, and we will not be led to confusion. The believer will ascribe all the honor of his salvation, to the power, mercy, and truth of God, and look back with wonder and thanksgiving on the way in which God has led him. Let us rejoice that our help for the time to come is in Him who made heaven and earth.

Items for Discussion

  • What are the great battles that you think lie ahead? Either personally, as a church or as a nation?
  • How would you discern whether God is involved with the outcome?
  • If God already knows ALL, why do you think we should still pray?
  • Why do you think God lets us suffer for a while when things seem to be going wrong?
  • After the victory, why is it so important to give the credit ALL to God?

 

James 5:13-20
13 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. 17 Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops. 19 My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, 20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.

Background

A large number of the Christians had left Jerusalem and had gone to live in other countries. But the apostles and leaders of the church did not go. So, these Christians (those who left the area) no longer had the day-to-day contact with their leaders. James wrote to help them. He wrote to encourage them to live as Christians should, in the places where they now lived.

What Christians believe affects what they do. That is the main subject of his letter. He shows how they should apply their trust in God to the problems that they have. Real faith must be active. That is the key to what he wrote. Faith that does nothing is not real faith. So he says that faith without works is dead.

Our verses tell us that if anyone is in trouble, that person should pray to God. The answer to that prayer may not remove the problem. But it will give help and strength to be able to live through the trouble. Those who are cheerful (who feel good) should praise God. They should sing psalms or praises to God. James is reminding his readers to turn to God in good times as well as bad. Prayer and praise are important parts in the lives of Christians. When they are ill, they should ask the elders to come and pray with them and believe that God will answer them. This is a request for God to act, because He is the source of all healing.

Those who pray with the sick person must also believe. They must believe that God will answer their prayers. They must be confident that God will heal. It is the prayer with faith that God uses. It is prayer, not the oil, that leads to the healing of the sick person. Not only the elders and the sick person  should pray but all the Christians should pray for one another. When they pray to God, he will hear them. God does great things in answer to their prayers.

Elijah was a prophet who prayed to God and then he declared that there would be no rain for a period of time. God answered him and there was no rain for three and a half years. With no rain, the crops did not grow. After that time, he prayed again. And, as a result, it rained. Now the rain had come, the crops could grow again. (These events are in 1 Kings 17:1; 18:42-45.) Elijah is just one example of someone who trusted in God. There was nothing special about him. He had no special power. He was a person just like the readers. James is showing them that anyone who is right with God can pray strong prayers. If Elijah could pray in this way, so could the readers.

It is possible for a person, who knows the truth about the Lord Jesus, to turn away from him. This is not when a Christian does something wrong. It is more than that. It is when a person wanders away from Jesus Christ and denies the truth. James knows this.  Therefore, Christian brothers and sisters should look after one another. So, when one of them wanders away, the rest should feel it deeply. It is their duty and desire to try to bring back to the Jesus any who have turned away. James is speaking about the death of the soul. To bring back a brother or sister to Jesus is a great work. As that brother or sister comes back to the Jesus, God will forgive all his or her sins. A person who comes to Jesus with real trust and receives new life from him, can never lose that life. But these verses talk about one of them, that is one of that church, who turns away. This passage speaks about those who have heard the truth but they have not really put their trust in Jesus Christ.

Items for Discussion

  • What responsibilities does a member of a Christian Church have according to James?
  • Why would you believe that the members of a church can “save” someone?  Isn’t it God’s job?
  • What should our attitude be for those who: 1) left the church; 2) are considering leaving the church; 3) never liked the church and will not come back; and 4) are openly hostile to the church?
  • Why do you pray?
  • Why is the act of prayer the ultimate statement of faith?

Discussion Challenge

  • How would you teach your children or a friend how to pray?

Notes:

  1. NIV New International Version Translations
  2. https://www.christianity.com/bible/commentary.php?com=mhc&b=19&c=124
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