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Psalm 128 1
1 Blessed are all who fear the LORD, who walk in his ways. 2 You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours. 3 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your sons will be like olive shoots around your table. 4 Thus is the man blessed who fears the LORD. 5 May the LORD bless you from Zion all the days of your life; may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem, 6 and may you live to see your children’s children. Peace be upon Israel.

clip_image083Background

PSALM 128, like all of the Songs of Ascents, focuses attention on Israel’s restoration to fellowship with Jehovah and rehabilitation in the land of the fathers. It begins with the following prayer: “Blessed are all who fear the LORD, who walk in his ways.” This pronouncement pertains to material blessings.

Untold blessings were promised to Israel when they came out of Egypt if only they would be faithful and true to God. At Sinai God made wonderful and unparalleled promises to the nation if only it as a group would be faithful and true to Him. On this point one should study carefully Exodus, chapter 23:20-33. This promise was given at Mount Sinai and means exactly what it says. Palestine would have been a modern Utopia, “Paradise Regained,” if only the people had hearkened to the voice of God.

Biblical Truths

Verse 1: “who fear” means “a bit afraid of someone that you love”. People “fear” God because he is so great. They love him. But they know that he is very powerful. “LORD” is a special name for God. It is his covenant name. A covenant is when people agree to do something. Here, God agrees to send his people help. His people agree to love and obey him. “Walk in his ways” is a Jewish way to say “obey his rules”.

Verse 3: Both word-pictures mean that you will have many children. You will if you “walk in his ways”! A vine is a tree. It grows a fruit called the grape. An olive tree grows a fruit called the olive. An olive tree has many branches.

Verse 4: “Thus is the man blessed” in verse 4 is a good example of the word “bless”. It means “have many children”. It can also mean that your animals will have many young animals. And your plants will have many fruits on them. If you obey God, good things will happen to you! Good things will come from your work (verse 2). And good things will happen to your family (verse 3) and to Jerusalem (verse 5).

Verse 5: The Jews believed that God lived in Jerusalem. God is “the LORD of Zion”. Zion is the hill in the middle of Jerusalem. Solomon built God’s house, the temple, on the hill of Zion. For many Christians, Jerusalem is like a picture of the Church or a picture of heaven.

Verse 6: “Peace” is when people do not fight each other. Jesus taught us that there is a special peace. Only Jesus can give it to us. It means that we do not fight God. Instead, we always obey him. Also, God does not hurt us because we have not obeyed him. Israel, like Jerusalem in verse 5, is a picture of God’s people. For Jews, it means Jews; for Christians it means Christians.

Items for Discussion

  • What are the promises of God that are mentioned in Psalm 128?
  • Which ones are “of the world,” that is, things we can enjoy now?
  • God seems to be saying if we listen to Him and obey Him, He will provide us with blessings NOW. Why then do so many people ignore God if you get to have the good things now?
  • How do people learn to “fear the Lord?”
  • How do we teach our children (the next generation) to “fear the Lord” but not become a fearful generation? (Is it not the goal to raise a hopeful generation?)

 

Matthew 18:1-6
1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 He called a little child and had him stand among them. 3 And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 “And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. 6 But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.

Background 2

The authorship of this Gospel is traditionally ascribed to St. Matthew, a tax collector who became an apostle of Jesus. For convenience, the book can be divided into its four structurally distinct sections: Two introductory sections; the main section, which can be further broken into five sections, each with a narrative component followed by a long discourse of Jesus, and finally the Passion and Resurrection section.

  1. Containing the genealogy, the birth, and the infancy of Jesus (1; 2).
  2. The discourses and actions of John the Baptist preparatory to Christ’s public ministry (3; 4:11).
  3. The discourses and actions of Christ in Galilee (4:12–20:16).
  4. The Sermon on the Mount- Concerning morality (Ch. 5-7)
  5. The Missionary Discourse- Concerning the mission Jesus gave his disciples. (Ch. 10)
  6. The Parable Discourse- Stories that teach about the Kingdom of Heaven (Ch. 13)
  7. The “Church Order” Discourse- Concerning relationships among Christians. (Ch. 18)
  8. The Eschatological Discourse also called the Olivet Discourse- Concerning his Second Coming and the end of the age. (Ch. 24-25)
  9. The sufferings, death and Resurrection of Jesus, the Great Commission (20:17–28).

The one aim pervading the book is to show that Jesus of Nazareth was the promised Messiah — he “of whom Moses in the law and the prophets did write” — and that in him the ancient prophecies had their fulfillment. This book is full of allusions to passages of the Old Testament which the book interprets as predicting and foreshadowing Jesus’ life and mission. This Gospel contains no fewer than sixty-five references to the Old Testament, forty-three of these being direct verbal citations, thus greatly outnumbering those found in the other Gospels. The main feature of this Gospel may be expressed in the motto “I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17).

This Gospel sets forth a view of Jesus as Christ and portrays him as an heir to King David’s throne.

The cast of thought and the forms of expression employed by the writer show that this Gospel was written by Jewish Christians of Judea.

Biblical Truths 3

In Matthew 18:1-5, our Divine Lord Jesus Christ shows a beautiful example of the virtue of humility. He calls His disciples to a childlike faith, humility, and obedience.

Verses 1-6. See also Mark 9:33-41; Luke 9:46-60. By the kingdom of heaven they meant the kingdom which they supposed he was about to set up– his kingdom as the Messiah. They asked the question because they supposed, in accordance with the common expectation of the Jews, that he was about to set up a temporal kingdom of great splendor; and they wished to know who should have the principal offices and posts of honor and profit. This was among them a frequent subject of inquiry and controversy.

Verses 2-3. Change means, to change or turn from one habit of life, or set of opinions, to another, James 5:19; Luke 22:32. See also Matthew 7:6; 16:23; Luke 7:9, etc., where the same word is used in the original. It is sometimes referred to that great change called the new birth, or regeneration, Psalms 51:13; Isaiah 9:5; Acts 3:19 but not always. It is a general word, meaning any change. It means that their opinions and feelings about the kingdom of the Messiah must be changed. They had supposed that he was to be a temporal Prince. They expected that he would reign as other kings did. They supposed he would have his great officers of state, as other monarchs had. And they were ambitiously inquiring who should hold the highest offices; Jesus told them they were wrong in their views and expectations. No such things would take place. From these notions they must be turned, changed, or converted, or they could have no part in his kingdom. These ideas did not fit at all the nature of his kingdom.

And become as little children. Children are, to a great extent, destitute of ambition, pride, and haughtiness. They are characteristically humble and teachable. By requiring his disciples to be like them, he did not intend to express any opinion about the native moral character of children, but simply that in these respects they should become like them. They should lay aside their ambitious views, and pride, and be willing to occupy their proper station–a very lowly one. Mark 9:35 says that Jesus, before he placed the little child in the midst of them, told them that “if any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all.” That is, he shall be the most distinguished Christian who is the most humble, and who is willing to be esteemed least, and last of all. To esteem ourselves as God esteems us is humility. And it cannot be degrading to think of ourselves as we are. But pride, or an attempt to be thought of more importance than we are, is foolish, wicked, and degrading.

Verse 4. That is, shall be the most eminent Christian; shall have most of the true spirit of religion.

Verse 5. That is, whoso shall receive and love one with a spirit like this child–one who is humble, meek, unambitious, or a real Christian.

Mark 9:38 and Luke 9:49 add a conversation that took place on this occasion, that has been omitted by Matthew. John told him that they had seen one casting out devils in his name, and they forbade him, because he followed not with them. Jesus replied, that he should not have been forbidden, for there was no one who could work a miracle in his name that could lightly speak evil of him. That is, though he did not attend them, though he had not joined himself to their society, yet he could not really be opposed to him. Indeed they should have remembered, that the power to work a miracle must always come from the same source, that is, God; and that he that had the ability given him to work a miracle, and that did it in the name of Christ, must be a real friend to him. It is probable from this that the power of working miracles in the name of Christ was given to many who did not attend on his ministry.

Items for Discussion

  • If Jesus is calling us to become children to enter heaven (the entrance requirements) then why do we convert our children through confirmation classes, Bible classes, and the like so they will be saved? Children are already children.
  • If we are to regress to enter heaven, then exactly what is salvation based on? (Knowledge, use of gifts, love of God, purity of faith, etc.)
  • Why is this concept of becoming childlike (as Christ defines it) so hard for adults to do?
  • What would the difference be between childlike behavior and childlike humility?

Discussion Challenge

  • Children are, to a great extent, destitute of ambition, pride, and haughtiness. They are characteristically humble and teachable. How does a church bring these attributes back to the adults that make up its congregation?

Notes:

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