Mercy and Justice in Psalms and Proverbs (2019, Quarter 3, Lesson 4)

by admin admin July 20, 2019

Mercy and Justice in Psalms and Proverbs (2019, Quarter 3, Lesson 4)

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Sabbath (July 20): Mercy and Justice in Psalms and Proverbs

In this week’s lesson we look at God’s mercy and justice as revealed in a few passages from the books of Psalms and Proverbs. Let’s begin our study this week by reading this insightful statement from the book Patriarchs and Prophets:

Even when he was cast out of heaven, Infinite Wisdom did not destroy Satan. Since only the service of love can be acceptable to God, the allegiance of His creatures must rest upon a conviction of His justice and benevolence. The inhabitants of heaven and of the worlds, being unprepared to comprehend the nature or consequences of sin, could not then have seen the justice of God in the destruction of Satan. Had he been immediately blotted out of existence, some would have served God from fear rather than from love. The influence of the deceiver would not have been fully destroyed, nor would the spirit of rebellion have been utterly eradicated. For the good of the entire universe through ceaseless ages, he must more fully develop his principles, that his charges against the divine government might be seen in their true light by all created beings, and that the justice and mercy of God and the immutability of His law might be forever placed beyond all question. {PP 42.3}

Discussion Questions:

  • Why do you think that “only the service of love can be acceptable to God”? (God desires a true relationship with His creatures, one that is not forced but that is voluntary on our part. Any kind of service other than that of love would, to some degree, be based on fear or selfishness or coercion.)

  • Why is it true that “a conviction of [God’s] justice and benevolence” is necessary in order to serve God in love? (Perfect love casts out fear [1 John 4:18], and part of the fear that God’s love must cast out regards misconceptions and lies about the character of God and how He responds to sin.)

  • For what reasons did God’s perfect justice require that sin not be immediately destroyed? (God’s justice would not have been understood, some would have served God from fear rather than love, and the influence of the deceiver would not have been fully destroyed.)

  • What three things will God secure forever because of how He has dealt with sin? (The truth of His justice, His mercy, and the immutability of His law.)

Sunday (July 21): Psalms: Songs of Hope for the Oppressed

Modern science has shown that music in some ways bypasses the frontal lobe of the listener, and can directly affect a person physically and emotionally in powerful ways. How fitting it is, then, that some of the Bible’s most urgent pleas for justice and mercy are found in the Psalms.

Discussion Questions:

  • Read Psalm 9:1-4. For what reasons does David praise God in this passage? (He praises God for His marvelous works, which include His judgment and justice. He also praises God for “thy name,” or the character of God that leads Him to execute such timely and fair judgment.)

  • Read Psalm 9:7. What does it mean to you that God has prepared His throne for judgment? What might this have to do with the fact that God’s kingdom will “endure for ever”? (Answers will vary. The Bible assures us that justice and judgment, especially for the oppressed, is a guaranteed and fundamental aspect of God’s kingdom. Even though we may not always see evidence in this world as we would like to that justice will ultimately be done, God promises that this is so. Ultimately, God’s kingdom will endure forever because the way He is dealing with sin will be revealed as so just that it will never rise again.)

  • Read Psalm 9:8. What does it mean that God will judge the world in righteousness and uprightness? (There is very little justice in our world today, and even in courts of law, far too often, justice is not served. The Bible promises that God’s justice is far different from the “justice” we observe so often in this world.)

  • Read Psalm 9:9. In what ways have you experienced this to be true in your life? (Answers will vary.)

  • Read Psalm 9:16. For what reasons do you think God has tied our understanding and knowledge of Him to His judgment? (The unavoidable reality of God’s judgment, and the mercy that is also associated with it, were among the first lessons about God that humanity learned following Adam and Eve’s first sin. Humanity’s ongoing questions about who God is and what kind of God He is often boil down to questions about His justice and judgment: How will God respond, and how is He responding, to sin? Is His response fair and just? The great controversy between good and evil will not be truly finished until these questions are clearly answered.)

Closing Thought

In the book The Upward Look we find this comment on the Bible’s revelation of God’s justice:

The transgression of God’s law in a single instance, in the smallest particular, is sin. And the nonexecution of the penalty of that sin would be a crime in the divine administration. God is a judge, the Avenger of justice, which is the habitation and the foundation of His throne. He cannot dispense with His law; He cannot do away with its smallest item in order to meet and pardon sin. The rectitude, justice, and moral excellence of the law must be maintained and vindicated before the heavenly universe and the worlds unfallen.—Manuscript 145, December 30, 1897, “Notes of Work.” {UL 378.6}

Monday (July 22): “Do Something, God!”

Through all of history, God’s faithful people have often pleaded with Him for justice and deliverance from sin and those who work evil. Asaph, the author of this Psalm, dealt with these emotions and questions, and Psalm 73 records part of his very personal journey toward better understanding and trusting in God’s wisdom, timing, and justice.

Discussion Questions:

  • Read Psalm 73:1. What is revealed about the identity of the true Israel here? (Spiritual Israel is composed of those with a pure heart, and is not dependent on having Jewish bloodlines. Compare Galatians 3:7,28,29; 6:6.)

  • Read Psalm 73:2-12. What is Asaph’s question, and, perhaps, even complaint, in these verses? (He does not see that God is blessing or rewarding those in “Israel,” those with a clean heart. Instead, he sees that the unjust and the wicked seem to be more blessed in this world.) Have the same questions ever bothered you? How so, specifically? (Answers will vary.)

  • Read Psalm 73:13. What conclusion is Asaph tempted to reach? (That it is pointless to live an upright and faithful life, and that there really is no reward for those that make up the true Israel.)

  • Read Psalm 73:16,17. What helped Asaph eventually understand God’s righteousness and justice? (The sanctuary, its services, and other lessons revealing God’s method of dealing with the sin problem.) What aspects of the sanctuary and its services speak the most clearly to you about God’s ultimate fairness and justice and love in dealing with sin? (Answers will vary.)

  • Read Psalm 77:13. What does this verse say about how God is dealing with sin? (It is revealed in the sanctuary.) How was Asaph led to respond to this revelation of God’s goodness? (He exclaimed, “Who is so great a God as our God?”)

Closing Thought

In the book Christ in His Sanctuary by Ellen White, we read this powerful statement about the centrality of the sanctuary to a biblical and Christ-centered world view regarding salvation:

The sanctuary in heaven is the very center of Christ’s work in behalf of men. It concerns every soul living upon the earth. It opens to view the plan of redemption, bringing us down to the very close of time, and revealing the triumphant issue of the contest between righteousness and sin. It is of the utmost importance that all should thoroughly investigate these subjects, and be able to give to every one that asketh them a reason for the hope that is in them. {CIHS 67.2}

Tuesday (July 23): A King’s Promises

Psalm 101 contains a moving record of David’s promises to God as King of Israel. His inspiring devotion to God and desire to serve Him contains many principles that can and should guide us as Christians today.

Discussion Questions:

  • Read Psalm 101:1. What two things does David say he will sing about? (God’s mercy and justice.) Do these two things seem to fit together well, or do they often seem at odds with each other? (Answers will vary.)

  • Read Hebrews 1:9. In what ways might this verse help us better understand the relationship of God’s mercy and justice? (They reveal two balanced and basic aspects of God’s character. His love of righteousness leads Him to extend mercy, while His hatred of sin leads Him to execute exact justice.)

  • Read Isaiah 1:27. What does this verse reveal about the relationship between God’s mercy and justice? (God’s people are redeemed through judgment, and it was God’s mercy through the sacrifice of His Son that makes our redemption possible.)

  • Read Psalm 101:2. What important mindset of the sincere Christian is revealed here? (A sincere Christian will seek to live outwardly and inwardly, or publicly and privately, in a way that honors and respects God’s mercy and His justice.)

  • Read Psalm 101:4,5. What good advice is David sharing here? Is he saying that a Christian should never associate at all with those who haven’t yet surrendered their lives to Christ? (The Hebrew word translated as “know” in verse four is yada`, the same word used to describe how Adam “knew” his wife when she became pregnant in Genesis 4:1. In Psalm 51:13 David prayed that God would use him to teach sinners God’s ways, so clearly David desired to have influential relationships with the lost. But clearly, there is a limit to the “intimacy” that a Christian should have with those who do not serve or love God.) What does this principle mean for us as Christians today, in practical ways? (Answers will vary.)

  • Read Psalm 101:6. With whom does David say he does want a more “intimate” relationship? (The “faithful of the land” and “he that walketh in a perfect way.”) Is this good advice for us today? (Yes!)

  • Read Psalm 101:7,8. What does David promise to do in these two verses? (Cut off and remove those in his kingdom that work wickedness.) As a king, David had considerable power and influence to do this. What about us today? What principles in these two verses apply to us as Christians today? (Our “kingdom” and “land” includes our family, our homes, and, to varying degrees, our workplaces and other areas where we have influence in our lives. While we should, of course, always show love to all people, there is a responsibility for Christians to prayerfully and watchfully safeguard and, at times, cut off negative influences from themselves and their families.)

Closing Thought

This statement from the book Patriarchs and Prophets highlights the duty of every Christian to guard the avenues of the soul:

Yet we have a work to do to resist temptation. Those who would not fall a prey to Satan’s devices must guard well the avenues of the soul; they must avoid reading, seeing, or hearing that which will suggest impure thoughts. The mind should not be left to wander at random upon every subject that the adversary of souls may suggest. “Girding up the loins of your mind,” says the apostle Peter, “Be sober, ... not fashioning yourselves according to your former lusts in ... your ignorance: but like as He which called you is holy, be ye yourselves also holy in all manner of living.”

1 Peter 1:13-15, R.V. Says Paul, “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Philippians 4:8. This will require earnest prayer and unceasing watchfulness. We must be aided by the abiding influence of the Holy Spirit, which will attract the mind upward, and habituate it to dwell on pure and holy things. And we must give diligent study to the word of God. “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to Thy word.” “Thy word,” says the psalmist, “have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee.” Psalm 119:9, 11. {PP 460.2}

Wednesday (July 24): Walking With the Lord

The Bible repeatedly calls us to “walk with God.” In today’s lesson we look at several passages from Psalms and Isaiah that explain the challenges and promises that accompany a life lived in answer to this call.

Discussion Questions:

  • Read Psalm 15. What principles regarding true Christian living are revealed in this chapter? (Answers will vary, and may include: truthfulness, righteous living, not gossiping, not seeking revenge, honoring those that fear the Lord, fulfilling promises, not taking advantage of others.) In what ways have you seen the positive results in living according to these principles, either in your own life or in the life of someone that you know? (Answers will vary.)

  • Read Psalm 146:5-7. For what reasons is it so important to remember that our Savior is also our Creator? (As Christians struggling with the trials and temptations of life, we need the divine power of the Creator at work in our lives to resist sin, represent Christ, and remain faithful to Him.)

  • Read Psalm 146:8,9. What comforting promises regarding God’s mercy and justice are found in these verses? (God’s mercy leads Him to “open the eyes” and “raise up” them that are at risk of falling away from Him. His justice works to relieve the burdens of those who are in need and to correct the injustices of this world.)

Closing Thought

The Bible says that Enoch “walked with God” (Genesis 5:22), and we read these challenging and inspiring statements about what this means in the book Our High Calling:

Enoch’s life and character, which were so holy that he was translated to heaven without seeing death, represent what the lives and characters of all must be, if, like Enoch, they are to be translated when Christ shall come. His life was what the life of every individual may be if he closely connects with God. We should remember that Enoch was surrounded with influences so depraved that God brought a flood of waters on the world to destroy its inhabitants for their corruption.... {OHC 278.2}

When Christ shall come, our vile bodies are to be changed, and made like His glorious body; but the vile character will not be made holy then. The transformation of character must take place before His coming. Our natures must be pure and holy; we must have the mind of Christ, that He may behold with pleasure His image reflected upon our souls.... {OHC 278.3}

Thursday (July 25): Proverbs: Mercy on the Needy

Proverbs contains many wonderful promises of blessing to those who extend mercy to the needy and the poor. In today’s lesson we will look at just a few of these promises.

Discussion Questions:

  • Read Proverbs 19:17. What promise does God give to those who have “pity upon the poor”? (God will repay. This is a safe investment!)

  • Read 2 Corinthians 9:6. What principle is brought out here? (No harvest can be expected unless seed has been sown. Also, a good harvest always produces much more fruit than seed that was planted. We are looking at exponential growth.) What possible connections exist between this principle and the promise in Proverbs 19:17? (Answers will vary. God wants to return a greater blessing to us than we give to others when we take pity upon the poor.)

  • Read Proverbs 11:24. In what ways have you experienced this principle in your life? (Answers will vary, and may include experiences dealing with spiritual things, money, relationships, etc.)

  • Looking at Proverbs as a whole, and the wide range of advice found in it, for what reasons do you think God gave us this collection of wisdom? (Answers will vary. God is clearly interested in our best good in all aspects of life. Compare John 10:10.)

Closing Thought

This encouraging promise is found in the book Testimonies to the Church, vol. 6:

Those who labor for the good of others are working in union with the heavenly angels. They have their constant companionship, their unceasing ministry. Angels of light and power are ever near to protect, to comfort, to heal, to instruct, to inspire. The highest education, the truest culture, and the most exalted service possible to human beings in this world are theirs. {6T 307.2}

Friday (July 26): True Fasting

Isaiah 58 contains both challenges and promises for every Christian. Today we will consider a few passages from this beautiful chapter.

Discussion Questions:

  • Read Isaiah 58:6,7. What is God’s call to every professed Christian? (To live in the same way that Jesus did—by helping people in practical ways and leading them spiritually to the Savior.) In what way is this “true fasting”? (Our natural human inclination is to live for self. Living in answer to God’s call is truly a “fast” from the default self-centered living that we all find comes so naturally.)

  • Read Isaiah 58:8. What promise does this verse contain for those who walk with the Lord and live as Jesus did? (God promises four things: their light will break forth as the morning, their health will spring forth speedily, righteousness will go before them, and the glory of the Lord will be their “rereward,” or literally, “gathering” or “assembly.”) What do each of these promises mean to you? (Answers will vary.)

Closing Thought

This beautiful statement from the book The Desire of Ages summarizes well the Bible’s call to each of us to live as Christ did, for the glory of God and the benefit of humanity:

During His ministry Jesus devoted more time to healing the sick than to preaching. His miracles testified to the truth of His words, that He came not to destroy but to save. His righteousness went before Him, and the glory of the Lord was His rearward. Wherever He went, the tidings of His mercy preceded Him. Where He had passed, the objects of His compassion were rejoicing in health, and making trial of their new-found powers. Crowds were collecting around them to hear from their lips the works that the Lord had wrought. His voice was the first sound that many had ever heard, His name the first word they had ever spoken, His face the first they had ever looked upon. Why should they not love Jesus, and sound His praise? As He passed through the towns and cities He was like a vital current, diffusing life and joy wherever He went. {DA 350.3}

The followers of Christ are to labor as He did. We are to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and comfort the suffering and afflicted. We are to minister to the despairing, and inspire hope in the hopeless. And to us also the promise will be fulfilled, “Thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy rearward.” Isaiah 58:8. The love of Christ, manifested in unselfish ministry, will be more effective in reforming the evildoer than will the sword or the court of justice. These are necessary to strike terror to the lawbreaker, but the loving missionary can do more than this. Often the heart will harden under reproof; but it will melt under the love of Christ. The missionary cannot only relieve physical maladies, but he can lead the sinner to the Great Physician, who can cleanse the soul from the leprosy of sin. Through His servants, God designs that the sick, the unfortunate, those possessed of evil spirits, shall hear His voice. Through His human agencies He desires to be a Comforter such as the world knows not. {DA 350.4}

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