Psalms - Weekly Lesson

2024 Quarter 1 Lesson 11 - Longing for God in Zion

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Jan · Feb · Mar 2024
Quarter 1 Lesson 11 Q1 Lesson 11
Mar 09 - Mar 15

Longing for God in Zion

Weekly Title Picture

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week’s Study

Psalm 84; Rev. 21:3; Psalm 122; Psalm 87; Gal. 3:28, 29; Matt. 28:18–20; Psalm 46; Psalm 125.

Memory Text:

“My soul longs, yes, even faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God” (Psalm 84:2, NKJV).

The songs of Zion are joyous hymns that magnify the beauty of Zion and the sovereignty of the Lord, who reigns from His holy mountain. These psalms often praise the merits of the Lord’s house and express a love for the sanctuary that can be found in other psalms, as well. Many of these psalms were composed by the sons of Korah, who had firsthand experience of the blessedness of the Lord’s house as the temple musicians (1 Chron. 6:31−38) and keepers of the temple gates (1 Chron. 9:19).

What makes Zion the source of hope and joy? Zion represented God’s living presence among His people. As the people of Israel are God’s chosen people (Deut. 7:6), so Zion is God’s chosen mountain (Ps. 78:68, Ps. 87:2). God reigns from Zion (Ps. 99:1, 2) and founded His temple on Zion, as well (Ps. 87:1). Thus, Zion is a place of divine blessings and refuge. Zion is often referred to in parallel, or even interchangeably with, Jerusalem and the sanctuary, the center of God’s work of salvation for the ancient world.

The blessings of Zion overflow to the ends of the earth because the Lord’s person and grace exceed the boundaries of any holy place. Zion is the joy of all the earth (Ps. 48:2), affirming that the whole earth belongs to God.

*Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, March 16.

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10th of March

A Day in Your Courts Is Better Than a Thousand

Read Psalm 84:1–4. Why does the psalmist long to dwell in the sanctuary?

The psalmist “longs” and “faints” to make the sanctuary his permanent abode so that he can be near God forever (Ps. 84:1, 2). God’s living presence (Ps. 84:2) makes the sanctuary a unique place. In the sanctuary, worshipers can “behold the beauty of the Lord” (Ps. 27:4, NKJV; also, see Ps. 63:2) and be “satisfied with the goodness of [His] house” (Ps. 65:4, NKJV). In Psalm 84, unparalleled happiness is achieved in relationship with God, which consists of praising Him (Ps. 84:4), finding strength in Him (Ps. 84:5), and trusting Him (Ps. 84:12). The sanctuary is the place where such a relationship is nourished through worship and fellowship with fellow believers. The living presence of God in the sanctuary gives the worshipers a glimpse of God’s glorious kingdom and a taste of eternal life.

Read Psalm 84:5–12. Who else can be blessed by the sanctuary?

God’s blessings are described as radiating from the sanctuary, bestowed first on those who serve in the sanctuary (Ps. 84:4), then on the pilgrims on their way to the sanctuary (Ps. 84:5–10), and finally reaching as far as the ends of the earth. The expectation of meeting God in the sanctuary strengthens the faith of the pilgrims (Ps. 84:7). Whereas the strength of the ordinary traveler weakens under the burden of the tiresome journey, with the pilgrims to the sanctuary, their strength increases the nearer they come to the sanctuary.

Even when physically removed from the sanctuary, God’s children continue to bear a stamp of God’s sanctuary by living a worthy life (Ps. 84:11), which characterizes the righteous who enter the Lord’s sanctuary (Ps. 15:1, 2). The Lord is called “a sun,” showing that the blessings from the sanctuary, like the sunrays, extend to the ends of the earth (Ps. 84:11). Thus, those who abide with God through faith receive His grace, regardless of the place where they are.

Read Revelation 21:3. What hope reflected in the earthly sanctuary is revealed here to us? How do we now even begin to imagine what this experience will be like?

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11th of March

Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem

Read Psalm 122:1–5. What are the sentiments of the worshipers upon their arrival to Jerusalem? What do they hope to find in Jerusalem?

Psalm 122 expresses the pilgrims’ excitement upon their arrival at Jerusalem. The pilgrimages to Jerusalem were joyful occasions when God’s people joined together three times during the year to commemorate God’s goodness toward them in the past and present (Deut. 16:16). Jerusalem was the center of the nation’s life because it contained “the Testimony of Israel” (Ps. 122:4, NKJV) and the thrones for judgment (Ps. 122:5). “The Testimony of Israel” refers to the sanctuary that was at times called “the tabernacle of the Testimony” (Num. 1:50, NKJV) and contained the “ark of the Testimony” (Exod. 25:22, NKJV). The thrones set for judgment depict the judicial system in Jerusalem (2 Sam. 8:15). Pilgrimage was thus the time when one could seek and obtain justice. Faithfulness to God and administering justice to people were never to be separated.

Read Psalm 122:6–9. What is the main prayer of God’s people?

Praying for the peace of Jerusalem invokes God’s blessings upon the city and its inhabitants, and it unites the worshipers, causing peace to spread among them (Ps. 122:8). Jerusalem could be the city of peace only if peace existed between God and His people, and among God’s children themselves. Thus, prayer for the peace of Jerusalem conveys an appeal to God’s people to live in peace with God and one another. In Jerusalem’s peace, the people will prosper (Ps. 147:12–14).

The psalm teaches us that the prayer for the well-being of the community of faith should be the main subject of the prayers of God’s children because only the strong and united people of God can proclaim the good tidings of God’s peace and salvation to the world (John 13:34, 35).

Praying for the peace of Jerusalem is still a privilege and responsibility of the believers because it keeps alive the hope in the end-time coming of God’s kingdom of peace, which will embrace not only the city of Jerusalem but the whole world (Isa. 52:7; Isa. 66:12, 13; Revelation 21, 22).

What are practical ways that we can strive for harmony among us as a people now?

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12th of March

Zion—The Home of All Nations

Read Psalm 87:1, 2. What makes Zion such an esteemed place?

Psalm 87 is a hymn celebrating Zion as God’s specially chosen and beloved city. The foundation of God’s temple is on Mount Zion (Ps. 2:6, Ps. 15:1). At the end of time, Zion will rise above all mountains, signifying the Lord’s sovereign supremacy over the whole world (Ps. 99:2, Isa. 2:2, Mic. 4:1). Psalm 87 refers to Zion as “mountains” to highlight its majesty (Ps. 133:3). God loves the gates of Zion “more than all the dwellings of Jacob” (Ps. 87:2, NKJV), expressing the superiority of Zion over all other places in Israel that were special gathering places of God’s people in the past, such as Shiloh and Bethel. Thus, the psalm affirms that true worship of God is in His chosen place and in His prescribed way.

Read Psalm 87:3–7. What are the glorious things that are spoken of Zion?

The glory of Zion draws all the nations to God, and so, the borders of God’s kingdom are extended to include the whole world. Notice that God does not treat the other nations as second-level citizens, even if Zion is portrayed as the spiritual birthplace of all peoples who accept the Lord as their Savior.

The registering of individuals was done according to their birthplace (Neh. 7:5, Luke 2:1–3). Three times the psalm states that the nations are born in Zion, meaning that the Lord provides them with a new identity and grants them all the privileges of lawfully born children of Zion (Ps. 87:4–6).

Psalm 87 points to salvation of both the Jews and the Gentiles and their being united in one church through Christ’s redeeming ministry (Rom. 3:22; Rom. 10:12; Gal. 3:28, 29; Col. 3:11). The psalm’s portrayal of the prosperity of Zion is reminiscent of Daniel’s vision of God’s kingdom becoming an enormous mountain that fills the whole earth (Dan. 2:34, 35, 44, 45) and of Jesus’ parable about God’s kingdom growing into a huge tree that hosts the birds of the air (Matt. 13:32).

How does Zion’s readiness to adopt all people find its fulfillment in the church’s Great Commission to preach the gospel to every nation (Matt. 28:18–20)? How does this idea fit in with our call to preach the three angels’ messages?

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13th of March

Safety and Peace of Zion

Read Psalm 46:1–7. How is the world poetically depicted here?

This psalm gives a vivid description of the world in turmoil, and it is portrayed with the images of natural disasters of unprecedented intensity (Ps. 46:2, 3). The image of disturbed waters often depicts the rebellious nations and various problems that the wicked cause in the world (Ps. 93:3, 4; Ps. 124:2–5). Likewise, in Psalm 46 the images of natural calamities depict the world controlled by nations waging wars (Ps. 46:6).

It is clearly a world without the knowledge of God because God is in the midst of His people, and where God dwells, peace abounds (Ps. 46:4, 5). Yet, although the world rejects Him, God does not abandon the world. God is present in the world by being among His people. In other words, no matter how bad things appear, God’s presence is here, in the world, and we can draw personal hope and encouragement from knowing this foundational truth.

The Lord, who is the perfect refuge, is the Source of Zion’s lasting peace and security. The word that highlights the security of Zion is “though” in Psalm 46:3. Though the world is in turmoil, the people of God are safe. This shows that peace is not the result of total absence of trials but God’s gift to His trusting children. Unreserved trust in God can render God’s child peaceful and secure in the middle of the storm (Matt. 8:23–27). The question that poses itself is: Will God leave the world to its destructive choices and actions forever?

Read Psalm 46:6–11. What is God’s response to violence and destruction in the world?

God responds with such a force of displeasure that His word, which had created the earth, now causes the earth to melt (Ps. 46:6). Yet, the melting does not end in destruction but renewal. Notice that God extends His peace from Zion to the ends of the earth. God will make wars cease and extinguish the tools of destruction, which the wicked nations used to bring oppression into the world (Ps. 46:9). This is the great hope that Christians have, which will occur at the second coming of Jesus.

How do we learn to have peace and to trust God amid a world that, indeed, has so much turmoil?

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14th of March

Immovable Like Mount Zion

Read Psalm 125:1, 2. How are those who trust God portrayed here?

Those who trust in the Lord are compared to Mount Zion, the symbol of steadfastness and strength. The magnificent view of the mountains surrounding the city of Jerusalem inspired the psalmist to acknowledge the certainty of divine protection (Ps. 5:12, Ps. 32:7, 10). Unlike the mountains ruled by the wicked, which are being tossed into the seas (Ps. 46:2), the impressive durability of the mountain upon which Jerusalem was built inspires profound trust. The confidence in God’s protection becomes even bolder in the face of the painful reality in which evil seems to prevail so often. Yet, even amid that evil, God’s people can have hope.

Read Psalm 125:3–5. How are the righteous tempted? What is the lesson for us?

God’s children can be discouraged by the success of the wicked and, perhaps, tempted to follow their ways (Ps. 73:2–13, Ps. 94:3). The utmost stability of Mount Zion cannot secure those who depart from the Lord. The people are still given freedom to “put forth their hands unto iniquity” (Ps. 125:3) and “turn aside unto their crooked ways” (Ps. 125:5). The Lord is just and will judge the individuals who remain in rebellion along with other unrepentant sinners.

Here is the call for God’s people to remain immovable in faith and trust in the Lord, just as Mount Zion is their immovable refuge. That is, even when we don’t understand things, we can still trust in the goodness of God.

“The entrance of sin into the world, the incarnation of Christ, regeneration, the resurrection, and many other subjects presented in the Bible, are mysteries too deep for the human mind to explain, or even fully to comprehend. But we have no reason to doubt God’s word because we cannot understand the mysteries of His providence. . . . Everywhere are wonders beyond our ken. Should we then be surprised to find that in the spiritual world also there are mysteries that we cannot fathom? The difficulty lies solely in the weakness and narrowness of the human mind. God has given us in the Scriptures sufficient evidence of their divine character, and we are not to doubt His word because we cannot understand all the mysteries of His providence.”—Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ, pp. 106, 107.

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15th of March

Further Thought

Contemplate the message of Isaiah 40 and Isaiah 51:1–16.

The songs of Zion make an absolute commitment to staying mindful of Zion and the living hope in God’s sovereign reign that it represents. While many blessings of God’s sanctuary are experienced in this life, the hope in the fullness of life and joy in Zion is still in the future. Many of God’s children long for the heavenly Zion with tears (Ps. 137:1). To remember Zion implies not merely an occasional thought but also a deliberate mindfulness and decision to live in accordance with that living memory (Exod. 13:3, Exod. 20:8).

Therefore, singing the songs of Zion carries a passionate resolve to keep alive the hope in the restoration of God’s kingdom on the new earth (Rev. 21:1–5). “There, immortal minds will contemplate with never-failing delight the wonders of creative power, the mysteries of redeeming love. There is no cruel, deceiving foe to tempt to forgetfulness of God. Every faculty will be developed, every capacity increased. The acquirement of knowledge will not weary the mind or exhaust the energies. There the grandest enterprises may be carried forward, the loftiest aspirations reached, the highest ambitions realized; and still there will arise new heights to surmount, new wonders to admire, new truths to comprehend, fresh objects to call forth the powers of mind and soul and body.”—Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 677.

A commitment not to forget Zion is an implicit pledge of the Lord’s pilgrims that they will never accept this world as their homeland but await the new heavens and the new earth.

Thus, the psalms of Zion can be sung by believers of all generations who long to live in the New Jerusalem (Rev. 3:12). The songs of Zion encourage us to anticipate the future world with hope, but they also oblige us to be agents of God’s grace in this present world.

Discussion Questions

  1. How do we take the spiritual and theological principles that centered on God’s people in Zion, a literal place in Jerusalem, and apply them to the church and its mission to the world?
  2. How can believers abide in God’s sanctuary today? (John 1:14–18, Heb. 12:22–24).
  3. How will Zion become the city of all nations as envisioned in Psalm 87? (Rom. 5:10, Eph. 2:11–16, Col. 1:19–23).
  4. How do you answer the person who points to the reality of the wicked prospering in this world while many “good” people suffer? What do you say? Why is it important to acknowledge that we don’t have full answers for everything here now?
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Inside Story

Skin and Bones: Part 7

By Andrew McChesney

Inside Story Image


Inside Story Image


Returning to the barracks after a short stint of shoveling coal on a mountain, Sekule informed his commander that he would not bear arms, even in the ongoing Bosnian War.

“I don’t want to shoot people,” he said.

“You must take a weapon,” the commander insisted. “Otherwise, you will have to serve two years instead of one.” Noncombatants were required to serve two years rather than one in the army.

“I don’t care,” Sekule said. “I won’t carry a weapon.”

The commander sent Sekule to an intelligence officer. Only soldiers who were in deep trouble were sent to the officer. He could imprison soldiers.

Sekule explained his position to the officer.

“Fine,” the officer said. “Take a gun and, if you are sent to the front, give it back. That way you will serve only one year instead of two.”

“What do you mean?” Sekule said.

“Agree to carry a gun during training, but the training that you will receive will be on teleprinters instead of the shooting range,” the officer said.

Sekule agreed. He was assigned to office work, helping run military communications by typing on a teleprinter.

The Sabbath turned out to be a bigger challenge than guns for Sekule. Because of the war, Sekule needed to be trained quickly to work on a teleprinter. But he refused to attend training sessions on Sabbath.

Food, also, was a challenge. Military rations were prepared with lard. Sekule’s parents refused to send money for food because they hoped he would change his diet.

Sekule prayed, “Please bless me like You blessed Daniel. He decided not to eat unclean food, and I want to do the same.”

Sekule’s commander didn’t know what to do.

“You won’t work on Saturday?” he asked.

“No,” Sekule said.

“Do you have any suggestions about what we can do?”


“You won’t eat meat?”


“Do you have any suggestions about what we can do?”


The only thing Sekule could eat was bread and tea. In four months, he lost 50 pounds (23 kilograms), dropping to 137 pounds (85 kilograms). He was skin and bones.

Sekule Sekuli´c is an affluent entrepreneur and faithful Seventh-day Adventist in Montenegro. Read more of his story next week. Thank you for your Sabbath School mission offerings that help spread the good news of Jesus’ soon coming in Montenegro and around the world.

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