1 When the LORD brought back his exiles to Jerusalem, it was like a dream! 2 We were filled with laughter, and we sang for joy. And the other nations said, “What amazing things the LORD has done for them.” 3 Yes, the LORD has done amazing things for us! What joy! 4 Restore our fortunes, LORD, as streams renew the desert. 5 Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. 6 They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest. 


“Psalms 120 through 134 are liturgical psalms, probably sung by the people of Israel as they journeyed to Jerusalem for the three annual feasts which the Law established as national festivals.”i As the header notes this is “A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem.” “Those that had returned out of captivity are here called on to be thankful (vv. 1-3). Those that were yet remaining in captivity are here prayed for (vs. 4) and encouraged (vv 5-6).”ii 


This is to be a Season of Growth. There’s to be a concentration on the local church. Themes: Care of the Local Congregation; Edifice; Community; Mission; Advocate for something or someone; “Latch onto a Cause that has eternity in it and let it lift you.” (The late Bishop Howard Thomas Primm) 

  • “The Fifth Episcopal District of the A.M.E. Church has committed this Quadrennial (2016- 2020) to walk in (not “into,” but “in”) our destiny as the Holy Nation that the Lord has ordained us to be.” 
  • “Throughout our journey, we will strive `to let our heaven taught conduct show that we are commissioned from above.’ (Go forth Ye Heralds in My Name!)” 


  1. What mood does, “it was like a dream” (vs. 1) capture? 
  2. What verses show the exiles had mixed feelings and on what do they agree? 
  3. What problems do the people in our text still face (vv. 4-6)? 
  4. Has God ever done something so great you had to pinch yourself to see if you were dreaming? 
  1. How does God tend to answer your prayers: A Flash flood or a long growing season? 


“Tears in Scripture (vv. 5-6) play a unique role in spiritual breakthrough, Here we discover that the planting of seeds accompanied by a spirit of brokenness will not only bring a spiritual harvest of results, but will leave the sower with a spirit of rejoicing in the process.”iv 

i Cf. Hayford’s Bible Handbook, Jack W. Hayford, General Editor (c. 1995) ii cf. What does Every Bible Chapter Say… The Ultimate Bible Outline/Theme Book, John Hunt, Editor (c. 2011) iii Questions gleaned from The Serendipity Bible for Groups (c. 1998 Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI), p. 858 iv Hayford, ibid., p. 772 



10 His disciples came and asked him, “Why do you use parables when you talk to the people?” 11 He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, but others are not. 12 To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them. 13 That is why I use these parables, For they look, but they don’t really see. They hear, but they don’t really listen or understand. 14 This fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah that says, ‘When you hear what I say, you will not understand. When you see what I do, you will not comprehend. 15 For the hearts of these people are hardened, and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes—so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and let me heal them.’16 “But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. 17 I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but they didn’t see it. And they longed to hear what you hear, but they didn’t hear it. 


“We do not know for sure who wrote the Gospel according to Matthew, but its author was a devout believer in Jesus as Messiah and Son of God… Matthew was a Jewish Christian writing for other Jewish Christians who have moved from being traditional Jews to being Jews who thought Jesus was the Messiah to being a separate `Christian’ Community.”

In our focus text, Jesus’ disciples asked why He spoke in parables. Jesus’ answer has caused some scholars to suggest that Jesus was advocating concealing His message from certain people. But in fact the Disciples, who had the benefit of private tutoring sessions with Jesus, were more receptive to His parables and knowing “the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven” (v. 11), while others (the crowds) were not. “Jesus declared that he spoke in parables to the crowds because though they heard (etc.), they didn’t understand what they heard… Through parables, Jesus was trying to reach them for God. If God had not revealed himself to the people in Jesus, they would have no chance to know him. But the choice of whether to be open to God’s truth or reject it was theirs.” 

Jesus concludes this section by pronouncing blessings upon His disciples because of what their eyes and ears were receptive to: His truth. “They were seeing and hearing the things generations of righteous people and prophets had unavailingly longed to see and hear (v. 17).” ii 

The Butterfly is the result of metamorphosis the process of changing into something completely different. The fourth year of this Quadrennial, we’ve been changing into “A Holy Nation.” 

  • There are 33 “in-between” Sundays called “ordinary time” where the Church experiences the on-going divine providence of God among us. We ought to use this time to usher in the consummation of the ages. We are to take on our responsibility of preparing the world for the Second Coming of Christ. 
  • The Kingdom of God is seen in Four Acts: a. Creation; b. Anti-God forces in rebellion; c. Community formed with Kingdom Mysteries revealed; & d. “The Mean-Time” (where we are now). 


  1. What do parables accomplish that simple and direct speech lacks? 
  2. How does Jesus’ challenge in verse 9 help explain verses 11-12? 
  3. How does faith open you up to more and more spiritual insight? 
  4. How does the quotation from Isaiah (vv. 14-15) explain the difficulty of understanding parables? 
  1. In verses 16-17, Jesus gives a new Beatitude. What have these disciples seen and heard that the prophets longed to see and hear? Are we included in this blessing? 


“There is a sober warning in these verses against hardening our hearts. How can we ensure that our hearts remain tender and responsive to God’s Word? How can we pray for those who appear to have closed their minds to the Good News?”iv 

i Excerpted from the New Proclamation Commentary on the Gospels. Andrew Gregory, Editor (Fortress Press, c. 2006) p. 9 & 11 ii Excerpted from the Layman’s Bible Book Commentary, Vol. 15: Matthew by Clair M. Crissey (c. 1981, Broadman Press), p. 73-74 iii Questions gleaned from The Serendipity Bible for Groups (c. 1998 Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI), p. 1345 iv Excerpted from Journey Through Matthew: 62 Devotional Insights by Mike Raiter (c. 2016 by Michael David Raiter), p. 63