Christianity, Sunday School Lesson

Sunday School Lesson (December 1, 2019) David Worships God in Jerusalem / David’s Worship 1 Chronicles 15:1-3, 14-16, 25-29a

David’s Worship / David Worships God in Jerusalem 1 Chronicles 15

Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com.  In this week’s Sunday School Lesson King David worships God in Jerusalem in ways that had never been done before.  David’s worship is heartfelt and sincere.  David has built luxurious houses for himself and the city of Jerusalem.  And now he wants the Ark of God in Jerusalem also.  David wants to honor God.  But this isn’t the first time David tried to bring the ark to Jerusalem.  This time, he is determined to get it right and get the ark in Jerusalem so all Israel can worship with the symbolic presence of God among them.  David gives the Levites specific instructions; he tells them to bring singers, musicians, trumpets, harps, lyres, and cymbals.  He and the Levites dress in fine linen robes.  This is going to be a grand celebration.  David is going to honor God.  He is going to worship God and he intends for all Israel to join him in this great and grand celebration of thanksgiving and praise.  Some of the ideas surrounding this week’s text include the terms: 

Honor

Worship

So this is the first lesson of the Winter Quarter.  And I just want to say, as we approach the holiday season, please be kind to others.  I just want to remind all of us that the holidays in particular can be difficult for some people who now have to go forward in life without their loved ones.  If you notice someone really struggling, if you can, help them to get help.  So that’s just a reminder for all of us as we approach the holiday season.  It’s a great season of love and joy but not everyone is celebrating all the time.  Remember to be kind to others.

Background: 

Most scholars agree that First and Second Chronicles were originally one book.  The New Interpreter’s Study Bible notes that the original composition was entitled “The Events of the Days”.  “The translators of the Septuagint (LXX) divided it into two books assuming it was a supplement to the earlier history of Samuel and Kings, and gave it the misleading title “The Things Omitted””.  The Septuagint is the translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek completed approximately a century before Christ by seventy-two men (Septuagint).  It was the Bible of the early church and included the Apocrypha.  As it turns out, Chronicles is not supplemental or merely additional material that adds to Samuel and Kings.

The NISB notes that the Chronicler “is more selective than supplemental in his use of Samuel and Kings”.  Dr. Renita J. Weems writes in The Africana Bible Reading Israel’s Scriptures From Africa and the African Diaspora that “the fourth-century translator of the Latin Vulgate suggested that the name “Chronicon or “A Chronicle of All of Sacred History” more aptly described the book and thus gave it the name “Chronicles””.  So these two books began as one book entitled “The Events of the Days”, was later renamed “The Things Omitted”, and later still renamed to what we now have as First and Second Chronicles.  The NISB notes that no one knows who the original chronicler was.  Nelson’s Bible Handbook proposes the author was Ezra but acknowledges not all scholars accept the theory of Ezra’s authorship. 

Dr. Weems also notes the book / books cover “a period stretching all the way from Adam to Cyrus the Great (538 B.C.E)”.  So this text has had several names and as Dr. Weems also notes was “edited in its final form during the fifth-century Persian domination”.

The fifteenth chapter of 1 Chronicles deals with King David bringing the Ark to Jerusalem.  This isn’t the first attempt to bring the Ark to Jerusalem.  On the first attempt God was angered when Uz’zah put out his hand to hold the ark when the oxen shook it (1 Chron. 13:10).  This time David ensures only the Levites touch the Ark.  Townsend Commentary notes that “While only the Levites could carry the Ark, David involved the entire nation in the celebration.” 

David has prepared a tent for the Ark of God.  After David built luxurious buildings for himself and the city of Jerusalem he recognized that the symbolic representation of God was not in the city.  David wanted the Ark of God in the city of Jerusalem.  It would be a grand celebration.  A celebration worthy of what David thought was best for what this ark represented among them.  Some important words to consider from this text include:

Honor

Worship

Review of Last Week and How it Connects to This Week:

Last week’s lesson opened with 2 Peter 1 verse 1.  At verse one Peter described himself as a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ.  I noted how Apostle is a high title today and the point is you don’t get too high or too big to serve.  I also noted how Peter explained the righteousness of God and precious faith was given by God.  It’s precious in the sense that a price has been paid for this righteousness.  The righteousness of God and Jesus Christ is not cheap.  It’s been purchased with the precious blood of God’s only begotten son, Jesus who is the Christ. 

I also noted how even in the salutation, he knows his death is coming.  But he wants these saints to know God’s grace and peace in abundance.  We all need grace.  We all need peace.  I noted how we can have all the riches of this world, but if you don’t have peace you don’t have much of nothing

I noted how in verse four Peter tells the saints through knowledge and God’s precious promises they are able to escape the corruption of this world.  I don’t know how bad corruption was in Peter’s time.  But I know it’s bad today.  Corruption, violence, sickness, and disease seem to be on every hand.  If there is any chance to escape any of this corruption Peter wanted the saints to know about it and to be able to participate in what he called the divine nature. 

In verses five, six and seven Peter was essentially saying because of this corruption make every effort to support and strengthen your faith.  Then he lists these seven actions – goodness, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godliness, mutual affection, and love.  I noted how these may not be a road map to holy living but they are certainly building blocks on which holy living can be built.  I also noted how I like how these seven building blocks start with faith and end with love.   

Verse nine told us the problem saints have when they don’t have these building blocks.  It says if anyone lacks these things they are nearsighted and blind and forgetful of the cleansing of past sins.  In other words they would forget where God had brought them from.  When you are grateful for what somebody has done for you, you don’t soon forget what they did.  We ought to be grateful for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and not soon forget what God has done for us through Jesus Christ.

In verses twelve and thirteen Peter told the brothers and sisters that he intended to keep reminding them of those building blocks.  He intended to keep reminding them of the path to holiness.  He intended to keep reminding them of the things they already knew.  Some things you don’t need anybody to remind you of, you already know it.  You just need to do it.  Peter is so concerned that he essentially said as long as he’s living he’s going to keep reminding them. 

Verses fourteen and fifteen closed last week’s lesson with Peter telling the saints that he knew his death was coming.  And not only was it coming, but it was coming soon because Jesus Christ had made it clear to him.  Peter knew what he was facing.  He knew what lay ahead for him.  So while the blood was still running warm in his veins, he was going to do what he can do to help these brothers and sisters get on and stay on the right track with Jesus Christ. 

Last week Peter wrote to encourage and remind the saints to hold on and keep on holding on.  He outlined seven building blocks that moved from basic faith to a rich love that supports holy living.  The Apostle reminded the saints that God extends the invitation to faith in Jesus Christ to all people.  He reminded them that believers should confirm their salvation through Jesus Christ by carrying out God’s purposes.  He reminded them of how their faith is precious because it has been bought with a price.  This week we begin a new quarter with a new focus on honoring God in worship.  In this week’s lesson we consider the heart and attitude of King David as he desires a better place for the representation of God among the Israelites.  Townsend and Boyd’s Commentaries title this week’s lesson “David Worships God in Jerusalem”.  Standard Lesson Commentary titles this week’s lesson “David’s Worship”.  The scripture text comes from 1 Chronicles 15:1-3, 14-16, 25-29a. 

What Takes Place in This Passage: 

The Lesson opens at verse one with the chronicler noting how David built houses for himself in the city of David.  Townsend Commentary notes that “the city of David was originally known as Zion or Jerusalem.  Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms explains that Zion is “used in the Old Testament for all or part of Jerusalem.  In both Old and New Testaments it refers to God’s heavenly city (Isa. 60:14; Heb. 12:22; Rev.14:1).  In the Christian church Zion is an image for heaven”.  So this helps us understand the long, deep, physical, literal and figurative relationship with this piece of land where David has pitched a tent for the symbolic representation of God to dwell.  Both in the Old Testament, New Testament and in the life to come Jerusalem is significant in the life of God’s people.  Note also that the Ark of God, the Ark of the Lord, and the Ark of the Covenant are the same thing.  Westminster defines it as “the chest carried by the Hebrews that contained the tablets of the law.  It was lost from history after the time of Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction of the Jerusalem (586 B.C.). 

In verse two David directs that no one but the Levites were to carry the ark of God.  This was a responsibility of the Levites.  Deuteronomy 10:8 says “at that time the Lord set apart the tribe of Levi to carry the ark of the covenant of the Lord, to stand before the Lord to minister to him, and to bless in his name, to this day.”  David had already learned from his first attempt to bring the ark to Jerusalem that these rules still apply.  God had not changed God’s mind about who was to minister to God.  I also noticed that the chronicler uses the ark of God and the ark of the LORD interchangeably. 

In verse three David assembled all Israel in Jerusalem.  In this verse the chronicler is careful to mention “all Israel”.  At this time David reigns over a united kingdom.  Later the kingdom would become divided into Southern and Northern Kingdoms.  The chronicler also now switches from the city of David in verse one to Jerusalem in verse three.  Townsend notes that the city was renamed city of David because this was where David was crowned king of Israel.  Our lesson skips verses four through thirteen which lists some of the descendants of Aaron and the Levites. 

In verse fourteen the priests and Levites sanctified themselves to bring up the ark of the LORD, the God of Israel.  Westminster notes that sanctify means to make holy by purifying from sin. 

In verse fifteen the Levites carried the ark of God on poles upon their shoulders.  It seems that this manner of carrying the ark is different than in chapter thirteen when it was possible for Uz’zah to put out his hand to hold the ark when the oxen shook it. 

Verse sixteen gives us an idea of what kind of instruments would be used along with singers all from the Levites.  There would be singers playing on musical instruments, there would be harps, lyres, and cymbals to raise loud sounds of joy.  This was going to be a grand celebration worthy of the occasion.  The lesson then skips to verse twenty-five.

In verse twenty-five David and the elders of Israel, and the commanders of thousands, went to bring up the ark of the covenant of the LORD from the house of Obed-Edom with rejoicing.  This wasn’t a celebration just for David.  Notice how he includes the elders of Israel.  David is the king and he has absolute authority, but he does not neglect the elders nor does he neglect the leaders of his military.  This is a celebration for all of Israel.  Townsend notes that the ark had been in the home of Obed-Edom for three months before it was brought to Jerusalem.

In verse twenty-six the chronicler notes that because God helped the Levites who were carrying the ark, the Levites sacrificed seven bulls and seven rams.  2 Samuel 6:12b-19 also describes this event but in a different way. 

Verse twenty-seven describes the clothing of David and the Levites and singers as a robe of fine linen. It also notes that David wore a linen ephod. 

Verses twenty-eight and twenty-nine (a) close this lesson with a description of how they brought the ark up.  It was with shouting to the sound of the horn, trumpets, cymbals and loud music on harps and lyres.  You get the idea that David really outdid himself with this celebration.  Not only did David intend to honor God by bringing the ark to Jerusalem.  He intends to worship God with a great celebration in the process.  It reminds me of Psalm 150:6 – Let everything that hath breath praise the LORD.  Praise ye the LORD.  As Mi’chal looks out the window to see David praising God we are reminded that her father Saul did not honor God in the way David is doing. 

Context:

You have probably heard someone say “when praises go up, blessing come down.”  I like this saying.  I don’t know how theologically accurate it is and it certainly isn’t a scripture in the Bible.  But still… I like what it conveys.  God is worthy of our praise.  God is worthy of our praise in the good times and in the bad times.  We don’t praise in order to get blessings; we praise God simply because God is worthy.  Not only did King David honor God by bringing the ark to Jerusalem, he worshiped God with singing, dance, and praise.  Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.

Key Characters in the text:

King David – The central figure as he conquers the City of Jerusalem and builds a place to keep the Ark of the Covenant (Townsend). 

Key Words (not necessarily in the text, but good for discussion): 

Honor – Glory or respect: it is also worship owed to God as the sovereign creator and redeemer.

Worship – The service of praise, adoration, thanksgiving, and petition directed toward God through actions and attitudes. 

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas: 

1.  When praises go up, blessings come down.      

2.  Let everything that has breathe praise the Lord (Psalm 150:6)             

Question: 

1.  David honored God by bringing the ark to Jerusalem.  In what ways do you honor God today?    

Concluding Thought:

Worship, honor, and praise are closely related in that all are a part of our life and interaction with God.  In each of these parts we have a heart of thanksgiving toward God.  It’s a heart of thanksgiving not only for what God has done and what God can do, but also for simply who God is.  Worship, honor and praise is personal.  To you, maybe God is your healer, or maybe God is your provider or your protector.  Whoever God is to you give God thanks, in worship, honor, and praise. 

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:

Next week’s lesson continues in the very next chapter of 1 Chronicles.  In Chapter sixteen the Chronicler reminds us to give thanks to God and to praise and worship God with gratitude.   The lesson is titled “A Heart Filled With Gratitude”.  The text is taken from 1 Chronicles 16:8-12, 19-27.    

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Christianity, Sunday School Lesson

Sunday School Lesson Winter Quarter Overview With Mind Map December 2019, January 2020, February 2020 Honoring God in Worship

Winter Quarter Overview with Mind Map Honoring God

Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com.  In this overview of the Winter Quarter I want to lift for you the major themes and movements of the next thirteen lessons.  So as we study these lessons you will have some idea of where the lesson series is taking us. 

King David made a place for the Ark of the covenant in Jerusalem.  The time came when the Tabernacle was replaced by the Temple.  Solomon the son of King David built the Temple in Jerusalem.  Moses built the tabernacle, but the time came when the tabernacle was replaced by the Temple.  Solomon built the Temple.  But the time came when that Temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon in 583 B.C.  The second rebuilt Temple survived until King Herod rebuilt it.  It was that Temple that Jesus walked in.  But that temple was also destroyed.  Now let’s walk though how our Winter Quarter get us here. 

The overall focus of the Winter Quarter is honoring God in worship.  We have thirteen lessons through December, January, and February divided into three units. 

 Unit one deals with David as he honors God.  Unit two deals with dedicating the temple of God.  And unit three deals with Jesus teaching us about true worship.

For each of the three units and each of the four or five lessons in the units I’ll give you a mind map graphic that highlights the big picture.  In this overview I’ll focus on key characters, key words Key scripture texts, and since we are dealing with honoring God in worship I list the key places of worship the text shows us. 

The theme for unit one is “David Honors God”.

The theme for unit two is Dedicating the Temple of God

And unit three is Jesus Teaches about True Worship.

So let’s take a look at unit one.  There are five lessons in unit one all of which come from 1 Chronicles except our Christmas lesson which comes from the Gospel according to Luke. 

So in very broad terms we are going to look at the Ark of the Covenant of God which was housed in a tabernacle (tent).  We move from the tabernacle to the Temple in Jerusalem and then from the Temple in Jerusalem to the heart of every believer.

So the time came when the Tabernacle was replaced by the Temple.  Solomon the son of King David built the Temple in Jerusalem.  That Temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, and the Israelites were taken prisoner to Babylon. About seventy years later, a remnant of those in captivity returned to Jerusalem and rebuilt the first Temple.  Moses built the tabernacle, but the time came when the tabernacle was replaced by the Temple.  Solomon built the Temple.  But the time came when that Temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon.  That rebuilt second temple survived until King Herod rebuilt it, taking forty six years to do so (John 2:20). It was this Temple which Jesus visited, but even this temple was destroyed.  It was destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70. And that Temple has never been rebuilt to its former glory.  And that leads us to where God dwells today.  The tabernacle no longer exists; the Temple made with human hands has been destroyed.  It is the book of Acts that reminds us that “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth. Does not dwell in temples made with hands” (Acts 17:24). As Christians, we have been redeemed through the death of Jesus.  And as Peter reminded us last quarter “You were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold … but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:18, 19). And because of that redemption, because of that shed blood on Calvary’s cross, God now dwells in, amongst, and with every believer.  Knowing that God is with us is good reason to honor God and celebrate God’s presence with us.  Unit one deals with how David honors God.  Unit two deals with how Solomon his son built the Temple or God and unit three brings it home with Jesus Christ teaching us about true worship.  The tabernacle is gone, the temple is destroyed, but God is with us through the presence and power of God’s Holy Spirit. I hope you will join me each week this quarter as I explore David, Solomon, and Jesus in the weekly Sunday School lesson.  Thank you and may God bless you real good.

Christianity, religion, Sunday School Lesson

Sunday School Lesson (November 24, 2019) Stick To Your Faith / Faith That Escapes Corruption 2 Peter 1:1-15

Stick To Your Faith / Faith That Escapes Corruption 2 Peter 1:1-15

Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com.  In this week’s Sunday School Lesson Peter writes to essentially tell the saints to stick to your faith and to have faith that escapes corruption.  Peter is essentially saying if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.  Peter is concerned about these brothers and sisters.  In this first chapter he outlines seven building blocks that move from basic faith to a rich love that supports holy living.  The Apostle reminds the saints that God extends the invitation to faith in Jesus Christ to all people.  He reminds them that believers should confirm their salvation through Jesus Christ by carrying out God’s purposes.  He reminds them of how their faith is precious because it has been bought with a price.  The righteousness and faith of God and Jesus Christ is not cheap.  It’s been purchased with the precious blood of God’s only begotten son, Jesus, who is the Christ.  Some of the ideas surrounding this week’s text include the terms: 

Corruption

Remember

Background: 

Just as in last week’s lesson in 1 Peter, the author of The Second Letter of Peter is also credited to its namesake – the Apostle Peter.  Jesus gives Simeon the name Peter in Matthew 16:18.  Peter is sometimes called Simon Peter because his name was originally “Simeon bar Jona” which means Simeon “son of Jona”.  Simeon is the Hebrew form of Simon.  The Aramaic name Cephas means “rock” and is translated “Peter”.  The Greek name Petros also means “rock” and is translated “Peter”.  So whether he is called Simon, Simon Peter, Cephas, or Petros he is still the same impetuous, hot headed, passionate, knife carrying fisherman from the outskirts of Galilee.  Also just as in last week, the authorship of 2 Peter is debated.  The New Interpreter’s Study Bible notes “even more emphatically than in the case of 1 Peter, most interpreters doubt that the apostle was the actual author”.  Again, the Apostle may not have crossed the T’s and dotted the I’s but this letter conveys the thought and intent of the Apostle. 

This first chapter of 2 Peter deals with the Christian’s call and election.  Westminster’s Dictionary of Theological Terms define “call, general” A term used by John Calvin to indicate the invitation God extends to all people to have faith in Jesus Christ.  It defines election as “God’s choosing of a people to enjoy the benefits of salvation and to carry out God’s purposes in the world (1 Thess. 1:4; 2 Peter 1:10).  So in this first chapter of 2 Peter, the Apostle is reminding us that God extends the invitation to faith in Jesus Christ to all people.  Secondly he reminds us that believers should confirm their salvation through Jesus Christ by carrying out God’s purposes.  As this chapter deals with the Christian’s call and election we should be mindful of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ which makes our calling possible and the grace and mercy of God that extends the invitation to all humanity.  Peter writes this letter to remind the saints of this before his impending death.  Some important words to consider from this text include:

Corruption

Remember

Review of Last Week and How it Connects to This Week:    

Last week’s Lesson was taken from 1 Peter 1 and opened at verse thirteen with Peter telling the scattered saints of Asia Minor to prepare their minds for action.  I noted how the King James Version says “gird up the loins of your mind” and that term gives you the picture of someone preparing to go to work.  So Peter was essentially saying discipline yourselves, prepare your minds for work, and set your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring when he returns.  I explained how Peter was essentially saying things might be tough right now but you just hold on a little while longer – Jesus is coming back and when he gets back he’s going to make things right.  The saints in Asia Minor were to endure their hardship and persecution with the hope of knowing that Jesus is going to set things straight when he returns. 

In verse fourteen I noted how important obedience was to holy living.  Peter had mentioned obedience in verse one and mentioned it again in verse fourteen.  So while the chapter was about holy living and encouraged the saints to live holy lives with a faith that is focused, we also saw how important obedience was to holy living. 

In verses fifteen and sixteen Peter quoted the Old Testament law of Leviticus 11:44-45 and 19:2.  He reminded them that God had already said “you shall be holy for I am holy.”   Peter was telling the saints to imitate God.  He reminded them that God is holy and since God is holy they should be also.  This was their call to holiness.  It was the central purpose of why he wrote 1 Peter.

In verse seventeen he reminded the saints to keep the faith during their exile.  He reminded them to have a reverent fear of God knowing that God would be their Judge when Jesus returns.  I noted how you might have heard the old folk say something like “I’m just a pilgrim passing through.”  That was the idea I got when I read this verse.  Peter was telling the saints you’re just passing though.  Do what you need to do, do what you have to do, to get through the other side.

In verses eighteen and nineteen he reminded them of the price that was paid by Jesus.  They were ransomed from the futile ways of their ancestors.  They weren’t ransomed with perishable things like silver or gold but with the precious blood of Jesus Christ like that of a lamb without spot or blemish.  Peter was reflecting back on Old Testament practices of sacrificing animals as atonement for sins. 

In verse twenty Peter told us that Christ was destined before the foundation of the world.  That reminded us that God knows the ending before our beginning.  Peter wanted to reassure the saints that their suffering and persecution was not unknown to God.  And just as Jesus Christ was foreordained to suffer Calvary for the redemption of all humanity their present suffering was not lost on God and it would be made right in the coming return of Jesus Christ. 

In verse twenty-two Peter brought up obedience again.  He told the saints that their souls had been purified by their obedience to the truth.  It was because of this truth that Jesus Christ was coming again that they should have genuine mutual love and that they should love one another deeply from the heart.  So while this chapter told the saints to live holy lives with a faith that is focused, we also see how important obedience is to living holy.

In verse twenty-three he reminded the saints that they had been born again.  In the same way he reminded them in verse eighteen that they had been bought with the imperishable blood of Jesus Christ in verse twenty-three he reminded them that they had been born again with the imperishable seed of the living word of God. 

Verses twenty-four and twenty-five closed last week’s lesson with a quote from Isaiah 40:6-8.  Peter reminded the saints that life is fleeting.  But God is eternal.  I noted how this verse reminded me of the saying “only what you do for Christ will last.”  Everything we know about life is in transition.  It is either growing up or growing old, increasing or decreasing.  Life is fleeting but God is steadfast and eternal.

What Takes Place in This Passage: 

The Lesson opens at verse one with Peter describing himself as a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ.  These days apostle is a title, it’s not just a title but a high title.  So not only did Peter carry this title but he also called himself a servant.  The point is… You don’t get too big to serve.  Not only was Peter an apostle of Jesus Christ he was also a servant of Jesus Christ.  He continues by addressing those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours.  It’s important to note that he says it is through righteousness of God and Jesus Christ that their faith was received and also that their faith was precious.  It’s precious in the sense that there is a price that’s been paid for this righteousness.  The righteousness of God and Jesus Christ is not cheap.  It’s been purchased with the precious blood of God’s only begotten son, Jesus who is the Christ. 

In verse two he mentions grace and peace be yours through the knowledge of God and Jesus.  Listen, Peter is talking to these saints.  Even in this salutation, this greeting in the second verse of the first chapter of this letter; he knows his death is coming.  But he wants these saints to know grace and peace in abundance.  We all need grace.  Grace is unmerited favor.  Grace is – I didn’t deserve it… But God gave it to me anyway; God blessed me anyway.  And we can have all the riches of this world, but if you don’t have peace you don’t have much of nothing.  Peter wants them to know the blessings of God’s grace and God’s peace. 

Verse three tells us God’s divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life.  That’s living holy.  That’s what the godly life is, it’s living holy.  And we are able to live that godly life through knowledge of who called us.

In verse four Peter tells the saints through knowledge and through God’s precious and great promises they are able to escape the corruption of this world.  I’m not sure how bad corruption was in Peter’s time.  But I know it’s bad today.  Corruption, violence, sickness, and disease seem to be on every hand.  If there is any chance to escape any of this corruption Peter wants the saints to know about it and to be able to participate in what he calls the divine nature. 

In verses five, six and seven Peter is essentially saying because of this corruption make every effort to support and strengthen your faith with goodness, and strengthen your goodness with knowledge, and your knowledge with self-control, and your self-control with endurance, and your endurance with godliness, and your godliness with mutual affection, and your mutual affection with love.  This may not be a road map to holy living but these are certainly building blocks on which holy living can be built.  The foundation of these seven building blocks is faith and I like how it starts with faith and ends with love.  All of these seven actions are helpful with supporting faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and growing us to better saints. 

In verse eight Peter tells us why these building blocks are important.  He says if these seven action words are yours and they are increasing in you won’t be ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. 

Verse nine tells us the problem saints have when they don’t have these building blocks.  It says if anyone lacks these things they are nearsighted and blind and forgetful of the cleansing of past sins.  In other words they forget where God has brought them from.  Listen; when you are grateful for what somebody has done for you, you don’t soon forget what they did.  We ought to be grateful for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and not soon forget what God has done for us through Jesus Christ.

In verses ten and eleven Peter tells the brothers and sisters to be eager to confirm your call and election.  In other words, he has laid out for them the building blocks, he has told them the actions they need to take, and if they follow the instructions they won’t have to worry about their calling and election from God.  And if they get this right, the eternal kingdom of Jesus Christ will be theirs. 

In verses twelve and thirteen Peter tells the brothers and sisters that he intends to keep reminding them of these building blocks.  He intends to keep reminding them of the path to holiness.  He intends to keep reminding them of the things they already know.  Listen; some things you don’t need somebody to remind you of, you already know it.  You just need to do it.  Peter is so concerned that he essentially says as long as he’s living he’s going to keep reminding them. 

Verses fourteen and fifteen close this lesson with Peter telling the saints that he knows his death is coming. And not only is it coming, but that it’s coming soon because Jesus Christ has made it clear to him.  Peter knows what he is facing.  He knows what lay ahead for him.  So while the blood is still running warm in his veins, he is going to do what he can do to help these brothers and sisters get on and stay on the right track with Jesus Christ. 

Context:

If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.  Peter is telling these sisters and brothers to stick to your faith.  There are some things that are yes or no, black or white and no grey area in between.  The building blocks Peter lays out for these saints will help them navigate the grey areas of life.  The areas were the answer is yes but also, or no but on the other hand.  Through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, though the knowledge of Jesus Christ and God’s word we have the building blocks to stick to your faith and to have faith that escapes corruption.    

Key Characters in the text:

Peter – One of Jesus’ twelve disciples.  Originally named Simon, Peter was a Galilean fisherman, the son of John and brother of Andrew.  (Townsend)

Key Words (not necessarily in the text, but good for discussion): 

Corruption – The theological description of the manifestation and result of human sin. 

Remember – a verb – To have in or be able to bring to one’s mind an awareness of (someone or something that one has seen, known, or experienced in the past).

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas: 

1.  If you don’t stand for something you’ll fall for anything.    

2.  I will call to mind the deeds of the Lord (Psalm 77:11)             

Question: 

1.  How have you had to take a stand for your faith? 

Concluding Thought:

We have to stick to our faith to have faith that escapes corruption.  Corruption in this life seems to be everywhere.  It is our reminder that there is a new heaven and a new earth that we can look forward to one day.     

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:

Next week begins the first lesson of the winter quarter.  Through the months of December, January, and February the overarching theme will be honoring God.  Next week we move to the Old Testament book of Chronicles and explore how David honors God by bringing the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem.  The lesson is titled “David Worships God in Jerusalem”.  The text is taken from 1 Chronicles 15:1-3, 14-16, 25-29a.    

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Sunday School Lesson (October 20, 2019) Faith Can Heal / Humble Faith Luke 7:1-10

Faith Can Heal / Humble Faith Luke 7:1-10

Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com.  This centurion from the Roman Empire DESERVES a favor from Jesus.  He loves the Jewish people, he’s kind to them, and he even built them a synagogue.  If anyone deserves a favor from Jesus shouldn’t it be him?  Well, that’s not exactly how things work with Jesus.  As benevolent and kind and generous as this centurion may have been portrayed, Jesus is not a transactional Savior.  You can’t expect God to move on your behalf based solely on your good deeds and good works.  Kindness, humility, generosity, modesty, and meekness are all great virtues.  But those virtues don’t move God on your behalf.  If you want God to move on your behalf it will take faith.  In this case the centurion knows faith can heal and he demonstrates humble faith.  Faith was the key for this centurion and it’s the key for us today.  Some of the ideas surrounding this week’s text include the terms:  

Gentile

Slavery

Background 

The Gospel According to Luke is the third of the four Gospels.  It is also the third of the three synoptic Gospels – Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  The synoptic Gospels tell much of the same stories, use much of the same sources and tell those stories in much the same way.  The Gospel according to John is not synoptic and tells somewhat different stories and tells them in a different way. 

 Nelson’s Bible Handbook notes that “the author does not identify himself by name, but he does tell us a good deal about himself.”  Most people understand Luke to be a physician and a writer with excellent command of the Greek language.  Nelson’s also notes that Luke was likely written sometime after the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 AD.  Some scholars suggest it was written about 80 or 90 AD but neither the exact date nor the true author is known.  Luke is also known as a Gospel written for the Gentiles.  Nelson’s notes that “Luke is the most socially minded of the Gospels; in it Jesus blesses the poor, the hungry, those who weep, and the excluded (6:20-23).” 

This seventh chapter of Luke begins with the story of Jesus healing a centurion’s servant.  While the text calls him a servant I should note that the text is referring to the centurion’s slave.  Additionally, this is the same story in Matthew 8:5-13.  In the Matthew eight version the servant is referred to as a slave.  Townsend Commentary explains that Matthew 8:6 describes the servant as “lying at home paralyzed, in terrible distress”.

While Townsend notes that “slaves in the New Testament period were not mistreated as a rule” Dr. Mitzi J. Smith explains in True to Our Native Land An African American New Testament Commentary that “slavery under Roman Empire was no different from other slave societies in the cruel and inhumane treatment of slaves.”  She continues, “slave-owners regularly forced slaves and criminals to fight against gladiators and wild beasts in the arena and that even with legislation against cruel treatment of slaves it was the slave-owners who determined what was extreme cruelty.”  The point is we should not think of New Testament enslavement as somehow more benevolent or less cruel than American chattel enslavement. 

I should also note that this text provides an example of why translations matter.  In verse two, the King James Version interprets the centurion’s sentiment toward his slave as a servant who was dear to him.  The New Revised Standard Version interprets his sentiment toward the enslaved as someone the centurion valued highly.  I think differently about something that is dear to me than I do about something that I value highly.  Something that is dear to me is usually a person.  Something that is valued highly is usually a thing, not a person. 

In this text, the centurion is a Roman official.  The Israelites are under the rule of an oppressive Roman Empire.  Yet even in the midst of oppression this text highlights a supporter or patron among the oppressors.  Townsend Commentary notes that “people often have faith in others based on their good reputation.”  Clearly Jesus’s reputation preceded him in the case of this Roman Centurion both believing and acting on his belief in the authority of Jesus.  The centurion knows that with Jesus faith can heal.  Some important words to consider from this text include:

Gentile

Slavery

Review of Last Week and How it Connects to This Week.    

Last week’s lesson was focused on the faithfulness of both the widow of Zarephath and Elijah the prophet.  The lesson began at 1 Kings 17:8 with an often used phrase in the Old Testament.  “The word of the LORD came to me”.  This phrase indicates the reader should pay special attention because God is about to speak.

In verse nine the LORD told Elijah to go to Zarephath which was a city near Sidon on the Phoenician coast.  The LORD told Elijah to live there because The LORD had commanded a widow who lived there to feed him.  The NISB explains that “God sent Elijah among the Phoenicians, which was the center of Baal worship, to demonstrate that even in the land of Baal, the LORD was sovereign.  In other words, God was sending Elijah away from the land of Israel into a foreign land.  And ultimately God would show that the one true and living God was God outside Israel also. 

I explained that it was important to note two things.  First, the LORD had already commanded a widow to take care of Elijah.  And secondly, the widow lived in the heart of Baal worship territory so she was likely not a worshiper of Elijah’s God.  She probably worshiped Baal.  I noted that Townsend Commentary explains that “the Old Testament portrays God as being particularly concerned for “the widow, the orphan, and the poor” – that is, the vulnerable and marginalized in society”.  In chapter seventeen we saw God using a woman who most likely didn’t even know who the one true and living God was.  But yet, God used this woman to show God’s sovereignty.  I made that point that, God can use whomever God wants to use.  God can deliver whomever God wants to deliver.  And just because they don’t do religion the way you do religion doesn’t mean God doesn’t care for them. 

In verse ten Elijah went to Zarephath.  When he arrived the gate of the city the unnamed widow was there gathering sticks.  Elijah asked her for a drink of water.

In verse eleven as she was going to get the water Elijah asked her for a morsel of bread. 

In verse twelve the unnamed widow said “as the LORD your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar and a little oil in a jug”.  Elijah had traveled all that distance, only to discover that this woman God commanded to feed him only had a handful of meal.  She told Elijah that she was gathering a few sticks so she could go home, prepare her meal for herself and her son, and then eat it and die.  This unnamed widow was in a terrible situation.  She only had a handful of food left and she literally had no hope of living beyond her last meal.  She had given up hope and had no one and nowhere to turn to for help.  I noted that Townsend commentary explained that “the status of widows in ancient Israelite society was precarious.  Having no inheritance rights and often in want of life’s necessities, the widow was exposed to harsh treatment and exploitation”. 

In verse thirteen Elijah told her, don’t be afraid, go and do as you said, but first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, then make something for yourself and your son.  It’s this verse that struck me as a powerful way to show Elijah’s faithfulness also.  Elijah had to know that God would provide.  What man in his right mind would dare ask a woman who is about to make her last meal for her only child to feed him first.  This took faith on Elijah’s part.  He had to know that God was going to take care of this woman and her son. 

In verses fourteen and fifteen Elijah told the widow, “The LORD, the God of Israel says the jar of meal will not be emptied and the jug of oil will not fail until the LORD sends rain on the earth”.  The unnamed widow did as Elijah said so that Elijah and her household ate for many days.  This woman deserved every bit of credit due her for not just listening to the man of God but truly believing that God would be her provider.  Can you imagine what your mother might have said to someone who told her to feed them first, when she knew all she had was a small handful of food?  The faith of this unnamed widow was astounding.  She really believed!  She believed the man of God and she believed that God would take care of her and her son. 

Verse sixteen closed the lesson helping us to know that God did provide.  The jar of meal was not emptied; neither did the jug of oil fail according to the word of the LORD that Elijah spoke.  The unnamed widow only had a handful of meal and a little oil.  But God made her little bit last a long time.  God multiplied her little to become much.  Beloved that’s good news for us today.  You might not have much in your own eyes, but what you do have God can use it and make it last. 

Last week, both the widow of Zarephath and Elijah’s response to God’s faithfulness was demonstrated by their trust in God’s provision.  They both had active faith and they were both blessed for faithfulness.  God took Elijah to a foreign land among foreign people who worshiped a foreign god.  But God’s sovereignty didn’t end at the borders of Israel.  Even in Phoenicia God was sovereign and showed his power through a nameless widow by saving her life and the life of her son.  This week we see a Roman Centurion who is a supporter to the Jewish people demonstrating both humility and faith.  The centurion is a man who understands the power of authority.  Despite his great authority over Roman soldiers and as a Roman official he recognizes the authority of Jesus to heal his valuable slave.  Townsend and Boyd’s Commentaries title this week’s lesson “Faith Can Heal” Standard Commentary titles this week’s lesson “Humble Faith”.  The scripture text comes from Luke 7:1-10. 

What Takes Place in This Passage

Chapter 7 begins with Jesus having finished talking about loving your enemies, not judging or condemning others, and a parable about two foundations in chapter six.  When Jesus finished these sayings he went into Capernaum.  I should note that Capernaum is his home and where he begins his earthly ministry.  Matthew fourth chapter explains that Jesus begins his ministry in Galilee.  Matthew 4:12 reads

“Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. 13 He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled”

In chapter 6 of Luke Jesus calls his twelve disciples.  He has now entered Capernaum and this will become his home. 

Verse two explains that there is a centurion’s slave whom his master valued highly that was sick and about to die.  A centurion was a Roman soldier responsible for one hundred men.  That means he would have been an official of the Roman Empire and a man with substantial authority over the Jewish people and over his own soldiers.  Dr. Mitzi J. Smith in True to Our Native Land An African American New Testament Commentary writes that “when the centurion describes his slave as “highly valued” (entimos), he refers to the slave’s socioeconomic value”.  I highlight this detail because I think it’s important to dispel the myth that American chattel enslavement was worse than New Testament enslavement and vise-versa. 

The Greek word used for slave (or servant in some translations) is doulos.  The correct term is slave and is defined as a person who is legally owned by someone else and whose entire livelihood and purpose was determined by their master.  Dr. Mitzi J. Smith also writes “the owner is eager for Jesus to heal his servant because of the loss of revenue resulting from the slave’s sickness and inactivity.”  I should note that Townsend Commentary explains “centurions who appear in the New Testament are generally shown to be men of positive character”.  As I noted in the Background section, an enslaved person in New Testament days would not have been treated any better than those enslaved in the American chattel system. 

In verse three the centurion hears about Jesus and sends Jewish elders to ask Jesus to come and heal his slave.  The reputation of Jesus precedes him.  This centurion knew about Jesus before even meeting Jesus.  The centurion already knows that Jesus has the authority and is capable of healing his valuable enslaved possession.  Evidently the centurion has the clout or authority to send Jewish elders to Jesus on his behalf.  In Matthew’s recollection of this story in  Matthew the eighth chapter, the Centurion speaks directly to Jesus.  

In verse four, when the Jewish elders come to Jesus they appealed to Jesus on behalf of the centurion.  They wanted Jesus to know that the centurion was deserving of this miracle.  I should note that this takes place in the early part of Jesus’ ministry.  It was in chapter 6 that Jesus called his twelve disciples.  Yet, his fame is already spreading.  The Jews who come to Jesus evidently believe Jesus can heal the servant also. 

Verse five explains why the Jewish elders believe the centurion deserves this miracle.  They explain to Jesus “because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue”. 

In verse six Jesus goes with the Jewish elders.  When Jesus was not far from the centurion’s house the centurion sent friends to tell Jesus not to trouble himself, because he didn’t deserve to have Jesus under his roof.  This centurion’s humility cannot be diminished.  He is a man of authority.  Yet he recognizes despite his own great authority, the authority of Jesus was far superior.    

In verse seven the centurion explains that he didn’t come personally to Jesus because he didn’t see himself as worthy.  And his next statement is what really sets the centurion apart.  He says “but say the word, and my servant will be healed.”  Not only is the centurion demonstrating humility, he is also demonstrating faith.  This centurion believes in the power of Jesus.  He believes faith can heal. 

In verse eight the centurion explains the he is a man under authority with soldiers and servants that he can tell to go and come and to do and they will do what he tells them to do.  The centurion wants Jesus to know that despite his own authority, he respects the authority of Jesus.  Having faith is having confidence or trust in a person.  I often pray that I’ve placed my faith, my trust, and my confidence in Jesus and Jesus alone.  While this centurion might have been kind to the Jewish people his kindness was not what moved Jesus.  Even though he may have been generous by having their synagogue built it wasn’t his generosity that moved Jesus.  What moved Jesus was this centurion’s faith.  This wasn’t wishful thinking.  It was a deep conviction that Jesus was the man who could and would make his slave well.  The centurion had an expectation that all Jesus needed to do was say the word.    

In verse nine, after hearing this centurion’s faith, Jesus was amazed.  Townsend notes that “this is one of two places in the gospels where Jesus is said to be amazed – here in Capernaum by faith and in Nazareth by unbelief (Luke 7:9; Mark 6:6). 

Verse ten concludes the lesson helping us to know that Jesus did, in fact, heal the slave.  When the men returned to the house they found the servant well.  Jesus spoke the word and the slave was healed. 

Context

After being kind and generous to the Jewish people by building them a synagogue one might think the centurion would have thought himself worthy of a favor from Jesus.  Yet he thinks himself unworthy of Jesus to even come under his roof.  Humility, modesty, and meekness are virtues.  They are in contrast to arrogance, conceit, and pride.  The centurion demonstrated these admirable virtues in ways most people can only hope for.  After all, he was a man of substantial authority, he was known to love the Jewish people, and he had even committed valuable resources to have the synagogue built.  If anyone should deserve a favor shouldn’t it be him?  But that’s the thing about Jesus.  It’s not a transactional relationship.  Jesus doesn’t do for us because he “owes us one”.  What motivates God to move on our behalf is our faith.  Faith can heal.  This centurion had humble faith.  Let’s strive to do likewise and live a life in humble submission to God’s purpose and direction for our lives.   

Key Characters in the text

Jesus – Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah and according to the Christian church the incarnate second Person of the Trinity.  He was crucified on a cross and raised from the dead by the power of God.  His followers worship him and seek to obey his will.    

Centurion – The commander of a “century” – one hundred soldiers, the smallest unit of the Roman army.    

Key Words 

Gentile – A term used by Jews for one who is not Jewish by racial origin, In the Old Testament, “the nations” is used. 

Slavery – A condition of involuntary servitude.  While slavery was practiced during biblical times, the emergence of biblical principles and eventually Christian ethical views that recognized the evils of slavery as a social phenomenon have led to its condemnation in many countries.    

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas

1.  Virtues of an important man.    

2.  You deserve a favor.       

Questions

1.  Why does is matter that New Testament enslavement was not different than American chattel slavery?          

2.  The centurion was a Gentile.  Is that an important detail in this story?   

Concluding Thought

I saw this YouTube video of Nelson Mandela explaining the importance of humility.  As my concluding thought I’ll leave a link to that video.  It says what I wanted to say much better.  After this video finishes check the description section or the comments section for a link to it. 

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson

Next week’s lesson continues in the same chapter in the book of Luke.  It skips down to the thirty-seventh verse and continues through the forty-eighth.  Next week I discuss the very touching story of a woman who washes the feet of Jesus with her tears.  The lesson is titled “Faith Saves”. 

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Sunday School Lesson (October 13, 2019) Blessed For Faithfulness / Active Faith 1 Kings 17:8-16

Blessed For Faithfulness / Active Faith

Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com.  What man in his right mind, asks a woman to feed him first, before she feeds her ONLY child her last meal?  If he’s in his right mind the answer is clearly a man with a LOT of faith.  This week I show how both the prophet Elijah and the unnamed widow of Zarephath are blessed for faithfulness. They have active faith in God’s provision.  Elijah travels a great distance only to learn that the woman God commanded to feed him had just a handful of food.  I believe it took a great deal of faith for Elijah to ask this nameless widow to feed him first.  I also believe it took even more faith for the nameless widow to actually follow Elijah’s instructions.  Can you imagine your mother, or can you imagine YOU feeding someone you don’t even know the last part of your meager meal?  This is real faith.  They both had to really believe that God really would provide.  This foreign woman didn’t know Elijah and she didn’t know Elijah’s God, but somehow she knew what the true and living God required of her and she did it.  Likewise, Elijah was in the heart of Baal worship territory and he knew nothing about this woman.  But both of them were faithful to what God instructed and as a result both were saved in their time of distress.  Some of the ideas surrounding this week’s text include the terms: 

Miracle

Faithfulness

Background 

The books of 1 and 2nd Kings, like its name suggests, features the kings of the kingdoms of Judah and Israel. 1 Kings begins with King David as an old man about to leave the scene.  But before David dies, of course, there is family drama surrounding who will succeed him.  In the first chapter, after some drama, Solomon ascends to the throne.  This is before David’s United Kingdom is divided into two kingdoms.  The two books of 1 Kings and 2 kings “were originally one book in the Hebrew Bible but were divided into two scrolls when the Hebrew Bible was translated into Greek” (New Interpreter Study Bible).  Together they cover a period of “almost 400 years from the ascension of Solomon to the fall of Jerusalem in 587 BCE” (NISB).  The NISB also notes that

“The writers of Kings selected, combined, and arranged the written and oral traditions of Israel and Judah to express their theological understanding of their histories.  The sources they used include The Books of the Acts of Solomon (I Kings 11:41), the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Judah (mentioned 15 times, beginning with Rehoboam in 1 Kings 14:29) and other unnamed sources including a narrative of the last days of David and several sources providing information about the prophets Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah and other prophets”.

Just as the first five books of the Old Testament are known as the Books of Law, 1 and 2 Kings are two of the twelve books known as the Books of History.  Nelson’s Bible handbook notes that

“Early tradition credited the prophet Jeremiah with the writing of these two books, but most scholars today no longer hold to the Jeremiah theory.  Evidence points to an unknown prophet who worked at the same time as Jeremiah to compile this history”.    

The seventeenth chapter of 1 Kings introduces the prophet Elijah.  Nelson’s indicates that Solomon entered the scene about 971 BC, the kingdom divided about 931 BC and Elijah and Elisha would have entered the scene about 66 years later around 865 BC.  Scholars believe Elijah’s prophetic ministry lasted from 865 to 847 BC.  It’s important to note that part of what Elijah portrays is God’s power over other false gods.  Miracles happen in 1 Kings that as the NISB says “reflect prophetic opposition to the rise of the cult of Baal and Asherah in Israel as introduced by Ahab and his wife, Jezebel”.  1 Kings 16:30 tell us that Ahab did evil in the sight of the LORD more than all who were before him.  Ahab marries Jezebel who lived among the Phoenicians.  Phoenicia was in the heart of Baal worship territory (Townsend).  In this seventeenth chapter God sends Elijah into the heart of Jezebel’s home territory.  Elijah’s mission is to demonstrate God’s power over and above the power of Baal.  Townsend Commentary notes that Baal was worshiped as a fertility god and was supposed to make it rain.  Some important words to consider from this text include:

Miracle

Faithfulness

Review of Last Week and How it Connects to This Week.    

Last week’s lesson covered Moses’ perspective after wandering in the wilderness for forty years.   The focus last week was to understand that God expected Israel’s obedience.  At this point Moses knew that he would not enter the Promised Land.  Moses knew that there would be new leadership guiding the Israelites into the Promised Land and going forward.  So at this point Moses was driving home the importance of obeying God.  The old generation had died out.  The new generation was about to see the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham. 

In verse one, Moses opened with an admonition to heed the statutes and ordinances that he was teaching.  He told them “so that you may live to enter and occupy the land that the LORD, the God your ancestors, is giving you”.  Moses knew and all of Israel should have known that the old generation died in the wilderness because they were not faithful and obedient to God.  Moses reminds them “so that you may live”. 

In verse two Moses warned the Israelites not to add anything to what I command you nor take away anything from it.  This same idea is echoed in Revelations 22:18-19.  The NISB notes that “the comprehensive nature of God’s law did not rule out additions to its written text.  See Deuteronomy 1:5 where Moses expounded on earlier laws.  The written law could receive clarification and revision but its fundamental truth as God’s covenant law would remain unchanged”.

In verse three Moses reminded them of what God did to those who followed the Baal of Peor.  I noted how the NISB explained that Baal is another name for a god and that the Baal of Peor mentioned here “involved sexual relations with the women of Moab (numbers 25:1-5).  This worship of Baal of Peor encouraged these sexual encounters with Moabite women at the sanctuary.  Townsend Commentary noted that 24,000 Israelites died because of unfaithfulness.

In verse four Moses made the stark contrast between faithfulness and unfaithfulness.  He told the Israelites “those of you who held fast to the LORD your God are all alive today.  This is a reminder that unfaithfulness leads to death.  Their parents and forbears had died because of unfaithfulness. 

In verse five Moses told the Israelites he was following instruction from God.  He was teaching them to observe statutes and ordinances that they should observe in the land.  Moses knows they will face temptation to stray away from God just as their parents and forebears did in the wilderness. 

In verse six he pressed the point to follow the statutes and ordinances diligently.  Then he added that following these statutes and ordinances diligently will show your wisdom and discernment to the peoples who when they hear them will say “surely this is a great nation of wise and discerning people”.  Moses expected the neighboring nations to admire the Israelites.  However the Israelites would show soon enough that Moses’ faith in the people was misplaced. 

Verses seven and eight show how much hope and trust Moses placed in the Israelites.  Moses imagines other nations saying “what other great nation has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is whenever we call to him”?  Moses knew he wouldn’t enter the Promised Land.  He knew things would soon be out of his control.  These laws, these statutes and ordinances that God had given him were his greatest possession.  These were the statutes and ordinances that he had worked on across the years.  Theses statutes and ordinances, these laws were his most valuable possession and the very best he had to offer to a people who would soon stray from the very God who Moses had so diligently served. 

In verses twelve and thirteen Moses reminded the Israelites of the power, majesty, and grandeur of the God of their covenant.  He reminded them how God spoke to them out of the fire.  And he reminded them that it wasn’t just him coming up with these laws all on his own.  These laws came from God.  They weren’t just laws to follow but more so these laws were the covenant between them and God.  In these Ten Commandments they would understand their “duties and responsibilities toward God and their fellow human beings” (NISB).  I noted that these Ten Commandments may have been written 3,400 years ago but they are still relevant today.  In these commandments and statutes we begin to understand how to relate to God and each other. 

Last week, Moses’ response to God’s faithfulness was to encourage the Israelites to remain faithful going forward.  He knew they would face temptation to worship other gods but wanted them to remain obedient in faith.  This week we see a widow who has almost nothing left and by her own words is about to eat her last meal and die.  It is her act of faith to feed the prophet of God first that saves her and her sons life.  She is blessed for her faithfulness.  Townsend and Boyd’s Commentaries title this week’s lesson “Blessed for Faithfulness,” Standard Commentary titles this lesson “Active Faith”.  The scripture text comes from 1 Kings 17:8-16. 

What Takes Place in This Passage: 

At first glance it would seem that this week’s lesson is focused on the faithfulness of the unnamed widow of Zarephath.  Without question, she deserves that consideration but when I look a little closer I see the faithfulness of Elijah also.  At any rate, faithfulness is the topic. 

Our lesson begins at verse eight with a phrase that is often repeated in the Old Testament.  “The word of the LORD came to me”.  This phrase indicates the reader should pay special attention.  God is about to speak.

In verse nine the LORD tells Elijah to go to Zarephath which is a city near Sidon on the Phoenician coast.  The LORD tells Elijah to live there because The LORD has commanded a widow who lives there to feed him.  The NISB explains that “God sends Elijah among the Phoenicians, which is the center of Baal worship, to demonstrate that even in the land of Baal, the LORD is sovereign.  In other words, God is sending Elijah away from the land of Israel into a foreign land.  And ultimately God will show that the one true and living God is God outside Israel also. 

It’s important to note two things here.  First, the LORD has already commanded a widow to take care of Elijah.  And secondly, this widow lived in the heart of Baal worship territory so she was likely not a worshiper of Elijah’s God.  She probably worshiped Baal.  Townsend Commentary notes that “the Old Testament portrays God as being particularly concerned for “the widow, the orphan, and the poor” – that is, the vulnerable and marginalized in society”.  In this chapter we see God using a woman who most likely doesn’t even know who the one true and living God is.  But yet, God uses this woman to show God’s sovereignty.  The point is, God can use whomever God wants to use.  God can deliver whomever God wants to deliver.  Just because they don’t do religion the way you do religion doesn’t mean God doesn’t care for them. 

In verse ten Elijah goes to Zarephath.  When he arrives the gate of the city the unnamed widow was there gathering sticks.  Elijah asks her for a drink of water.

In verse eleven as she was going to get the water Elijah asks her for a morsel of bread. 

In verse twelve the unnamed widow said “as the LORD your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar and a little oil in a jug”.  Elijah has traveled all this way, only to discover that this woman God commanded to feed him has but a handful of meal.  She tells Elijah that she’s gathering a few sticks so she can go home, prepare her meal for herself and her son, and then eat it and die.  This unnamed widow is in a terrible situation.  She only has a handful of food left and She literally has no hope of living beyond her last meal.  She’s given up hope and has no one and nowhere to turn to for help.  Townsend commentary notes that “the status of widows in ancient Israelite society was precarious.  Having no inheritance rights and often in want of life’s necessities, she was exposed to harsh treatment and exploitation”. 

In verse thirteen Elijah tells her, don’t be afraid, go and do as you said, but first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, then make something for yourself and your son.  It’s this verse that strikes me as a powerful way to show Elijah’s faithfulness also.  Here, Elijah had to know that God would provide.  What man in his right mind would dare ask a woman who is about to make her last meal for her only child to feed him first.  This took faith on Elijah’s part.  He had to know that God was going to take care of this woman and her son. 

In verses fourteen and fifteen Elijah tells the widow, “The LORD, the God of Israel says the jar of meal will not be emptied and the jug of oil will not fail until the LORD sends rain on the earth”.  The unnamed widow did as Elijah said so that Elijah and her household ate for many days.  This woman deserves every bit of credit due her for not just listening to the man of God but truly believing that God would be her provider.  Can you imagine what your mother might have said to someone who told her to feed them first, when she knew all she had was a small handful of food?  Now, my mother has a reputation for feeding people.  Maybe she’s capable of it, but I just can’t imagine her feeding someone else what she believes to be her last meal before she feeds her children.  The faith of this unnamed widow is astounding.  She really believed!  She believed the man of God and she believed that God would take care of her and her son. 

Verse sixteen closes this lesson helping us to know that God did provide.  The jar of meal was not emptied; neither did the jug of oil fail according to the word of the LORD that Elijah spoke.  The unnamed widow only had a handful of meal and a little oil.  But God made her little bit last a long time.  God multiplied her little to become much.  Beloved that’s good news for us today.  You might not have much in your own eyes, but what you do have God can use it and make it last. 

Context:

Townsend Commentary notes that “during the famine, Elijah was fed by God via unclean ravens that brought him food and later by a widow who was not part of the household of faith”.  God is creator of all of this universe.  Acts 10:15 reminds us “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.”  You and I are created “Imago Dei” that is – in the image of God.  Just because someone doesn’t look like you, act like you, wear their clothes like you, speak like you, have the same able-ness of you or have your religious standards doesn’t mean God doesn’t care for and love them in the same way God cares for and loves you.  The unnamed widow of Zarephath didn’t know Elijah, but God saved her and her son in the process of saving Elijah.  As long as we claim to be God’s people, we ought to treat everybody right.

Key Characters in the text:

Elijah – The first great prophet of the northern kingdom of Israel.  Elijah is known to abruptly enter the scene to confront Ahab’s worship of Baal, the Canaanite god of storm, rain, and fertility. 

Widow of Zarephath – An unnamed widow in Zarephath of Sidon, a Phoenician city.  She is known for responded in faith to Elijah’s request to feed him first from her last meal. 

Key Words (not necessarily in the text, but good for discussion)

Miracle – An event that is considered unusual or extraordinary in that it appears to be contrary to what is currently known of nature.  Theologically, the emphasis is on what God has revealed through this event, as in the miracles of Jesus. 

Faithfulness – The characteristic of being steadfastly loyal to a person or to promises.  Theologically, it is a basic description of God who is perfectly faithful to all that God promises, in contrast to sinful humans who are unfaithful in their relationships and actions. 

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas

1.  Faithfulness for the hopeless. 

2.  Faithfulness after hopelessness (Elijah after fleeing Jezebel).       

Questions

1.  If you were the widow of Zarephath would you be able to believe God and feed Elijah first?        

2.  Elijah went to the heart of Baal worship territory.  Would you be able to do the same recognizing that your life might be in danger for speaking against Baal?   

Concluding Thought

Faithfulness can be demonstrated in a number of ways.  Those include in a sexually exclusive marriage, the loyalty of friendship, unwavering commitment to a mission, or resolute and firm trust in a person, group or cause among other ways.  Faithfulness builds relationships, secures hope, and creates trust.  Our God is the ultimate demonstration of faithfulness.  Let’s strive to follow God’s example in our families, and in our communities.    

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson

Next week’s lesson moves from the Old Testament to the New Testament book of Luke.  I discuss how a centurion’s faith can heal.  A Roman centurion’s servant is sick unto death.  But his faith so astonishes Jesus that he declares he has not seen such great faith in all of Israel.  As we continue in the theme of responses to God’s faithfulness, I show next week the importance of faith in the life of believers.  Next week’s lesson is titled “Faith Can Heal”. 

Christianity, religion, Sunday School, Sunday School Lesson

Sunday School Lesson (October 6, 2019) Obedient Faith Deuteronomy 4:1-8, 12-13

Obedient Faith Deuteronomy 4:1-8, 12-13

Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com.  I’m not coming with you, but I’ll be with you when you get there. That’s the sentiment I believe Moses feels when he tells the Israelites he won’t make it to the Promised Land.  Obedient faith is his hope for the Israelites as he reminds them of the Ten Commandments.  He reminds them of the Decalogue and the faithfulness of God.  They have wandered in the wilderness for forty years.  The old generation has died out and the new generation is poised to invade the land of Canaan.  In this text Moses writes about the same events studied last week but from a different perspective.  This text is forty years later with the Israelites poised east of the Jordan River.  Moses knows he won’t make it into the Promised Land.  Soon Moses also would be dead.  At this point in Moses’ life he shares with the Israelites his most valuable possession – he reiterates the statutes and ordinances God had given him.  Moses gives them the culmination of his life’s work, the very best he has – the word of God.  As he looks back on his life he stresses once again how important it is for the Israelites to obey the commands of God.  He reminds them of the 24,000 Israelites who died because of unfaithfulness and they know for themselves that their parents and forbears all died in the wilderness. Moses wants them to live and occupy the land.  He knows that faithfulness and obedience is the key.  As we continue in the theme of responding to God’s faithfulness, this week I focus on faithful Moses preparing the Israelites for obedient faith.  Some of the ideas surrounding this week’s text include the terms: 

Decalogue

Covenant

Faithfulness

Background 

Deuteronomy is the fifth book of the Pentateuch.  Moses is credited as its author although it’s ending chapter writes about the death of Moses.  Since Moses couldn’t have written about his own death scholars believe his lieutenant, Joshua penned the final chapter.  The Israelites have wandered in the desert for forty years and they are now awaiting the invasion of the Promised Land of Canaan.  The New Interpreter’s Study Bible explains that the name Deuteronomy is the Greek translation of the Hebrew words used in Deuteronomy 17:18 for “a second law” or a “copy of the law” given to Israel at Mount Sinai, called Mount Horeb in Deuteronomy”.  So the first law to which Deuteronomy will refer is the Ten Commandments which are also known as the Decalogue. 

Nelson’s Bible Handbook notes that “the New Testament quotes Deuteronomy more than eighty times.  Jesus often quoted Deuteronomy and when asked to name the most important law, Jesus responded with “you shall love the Lord your God with all you heart, with all you soul, and with all you mind”” which comes from Deuteronomy 6:5. 

The NISB notes that “the central themes of Deuteronomy focus on the nature and unique status of Israel as a nation.  One nation, living under one law, and settled on one land are its major goals.  Undergirding the one nation, one law, and one land theme is the realization that there is “only one God who has chosen Israel to be a special people” with which God makes a covenant.

Chapters one and two tell us that forty years have passed since Moses led Israel as an enslaved group of Hebrews out of Egypt and recount the story of Israel’s refusal to enter the Promised Land.  They recount the penalty for Israel’s rebellion, the desert years, and Moses’ view of Canaan from Mount Pisgah after God gives Moses a blistering rebuke declaring that he would never enter the Promised Land.  

Among the events Deuteronomy records is this reiteration of the account of the Israelites just before they invade The Promised Land.  Deuteronomy retells this story from a perspective that is forty years later.  They have traveled through the wilderness all this time and in our text today Moses recounts the instructions God has given them and reminds them of the importance of keeping the commandments.  They should readily understand that importance given that all of their parents and forbears died in the desert because of unfaithfulness and disobedience.  At this point, Moses reminds them again, so that as the take the land they will not become complacent and forget where the one true God has brought them from.  Moses knows that he will not enter the Promised Land with them.  He also knows they will face temptation from other gods once they enter the Promised Land.  So Moses warns them not to make the mistakes of the past but to go forward and be better than they have been in the past.

Some important words to consider from this text include:

Decalogue

Covenant

Faithfulness

Review of Last Week and How it Connects to This Week  

Last week’s lesson opened at Numbers 14:10 saying; “Then the glory of the LORD appeared at the tent of meeting to all the Israelites”.  I noted how the Glory of God is defined as “the divine essence of God as absolutely resplendent and ultimately great”.  In other words, God is manifested at the tabernacle or the tent of meeting in a way that all the Israelites recognize as God. 

In verse eleven the LORD spoke to Moses.  The LORD questioned “how long will this people despise me? And how long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them”?  God was angry with the Israelites.  They demonstrated that they despised God and refused to believe in God despite God delivering them from the Egyptians, despite God allowing them to cross the Red Sea, despite God giving them water to drink and bread and meat to eat.  Despite all of this the Israelites were faithless and God had had enough.  

Verse twelve showed just how angry God was.  God said “I will strike them with pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they”.  I noted that to disinherit is to completely walk away from.  It brings to mind the idea that you don’t even want to see them anymore.  God was ready to disinherit the people whom he promised Abraham would become a great nation and would number as many as the sand of the sea.   I also noted that at this point you get the idea that God wants nothing more to do with this unfaithful, rebellious, stiff-necked people.  God was fed up with the Israelites.  In the same way God promised Abraham to make of him a great nation, now God tells Moses that God will make a great nation of him. 

In verse thirteen Moses skillfully began his advocacy for the Israelites.  Moses like a skillful lawyer defending a client pleads his case with God.  He begins by telling God the Egyptians will hear of it.  God had taken great care to deliver the descendants of Abraham from the Egyptians. 

In verse fourteen Moses continued defending the Israelites telling God the Egyptians will tell the people of Canaan that their God was in the midst of them, seen face to face by them, and was with them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.  Moses was making the point to God that God has been present in their deliverance and that if they are abandoned or destroyed now it will be seen as if God could not keep them.  The point Moses was making was that these were God’s people.  If the rest of the world sees them as defeated and wiped out it would reflect on God. 

In verses fifteen and sixteen Moses pressed his point to God.  He told God “if you kill this people all at once the nations who have heard about you will say it’s because the LORD was not able to bring this people into the land he swore to give them”.  I noted that Moses was playing hard-ball with God.  He pulled no punches.  Moses was going to defend the Israelites with everything at his disposal.  You need to get somebody like Moses on your side.  Moses went to bat for those unfaithful, rebellious, stiff-necked people with all of their faults and all of their failures. 

In verses seventeen and eighteen Moses went as far as to remind God of what God said to him in the past.  Moses quotes back to God what God said in Exodus 34:1-9.  Moses reminded God that God should be slow to anger and abounding in love.  He reminded God that God does not clear the guilty but visits upon them the iniquity of the parents upon the children for the third and fourth generations.

In verses nineteen and twenty Moses asked God to forgive the iniquity of the Israelites because of the greatness of God’s love.  After hearing this passionate plea from Moses God relented.  God changed God’s mind and said “I do forgive, just as you have asked”.  It was the passionate plea of Moses that changed God’s mind.  Where God was ready to completely wipe out this nation, God was now ready to forgive only because Moses pleaded on their behalf.  I noted that it would be great if we all had a Moses to plead on our behalf.  Because the good news is that we do.  Jesus is seated at the right hand of God making intercession for us even now.  Standard, Townsend and Boyd’s Commentaries title this week’s lesson Obedient Faith.  The scripture text comes from Deuteronomy 4:1-8, 12-13. 

What Takes Place in This Passage

This week’s lesson covers the same events of last week but from a different perspective.  It was now forty years later.  The focus is to understand that God expected Israel’s obedience.  Moses knows that he will not enter the Promised Land.  There will be new leadership and he is now driving home the importance of obeying God.  The old generation has died out.  The new generation is about to see the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham. 

In verse one, Moses opens with an admonition to heed the statutes and ordinances that he was teaching.  He says “so that you may live to enter and occupy the land that the LORD, the God your ancestors, is giving you”.  Moses knows and all of Israel should know that the old generation died in the wilderness because they were not faithful and obedient to God.  Moses reminds them “so that you may live”. 

In verse two Moses warns the Israelites not to add anything to what I command you nor take away anything from it.  This same idea is echoed in Revelations 22:18-19.  The NISB notes that “the comprehensive nature of God’s law did not rule out additions to its written text.  See Deuteronomy 1:5 where Moses expounds on earlier laws.  The written law could receive clarification and revision but its fundamental truth as God’s covenant law would remain unchanged”.

In verse three Moses reminds them of what God did to those who followed the Baal of Peor.  Baal is another name for a god.  The Baal of Peor mentioned here “involved sexual relations with the women of Moab (numbers 25:1-5) that were encouraged by the worship of the god Baal at the local sanctuary.  False worship led to betrayal of family ties, and the actions are seen as bringing about the evil consequences and plague that followed” (NISB).  Townsend Commentary notes that 24,000 Israelites died because of unfaithfulness.

In verse four Moses makes the stark contrast between faithfulness and unfaithfulness.  He tells them “those of you who held fast to the LORD your God are all alive today.  This is a reminder that unfaithfulness leads to death.  Their parents and forbears have died because of unfaithfulness. 

In verse five Moses tells the Israelites he is following instruction from God.  He is teaching them to observe statutes and ordinances to observe in the land.  Moses knows they will face temptation to stray away from God just as their parents and forebears did in the wilderness. 

In verse six he presses the point to follow them diligently.  Then he adds that following these statutes and ordinances diligently will show your wisdom and discernment to the peoples who when they hear them will say “surely this is a great nation of wise and discerning people”.  Moses expects the neighboring nations to admire the Israelites.  However the Israelites will show soon enough that Moses’ faith in the people was often misplaced. 

Verses seven and eight show how much hope and trust Moses placed in the Israelites.  Moses imagines other nations saying “what other great nation has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is whenever we call to him”?  Moses knows he won’t enter the Promised Land.  He knows things will soon be out of his control.  These laws, these statutes and ordinances that God had given him are his greatest possession.  These are the statutes and ordinances that he has worked on across the years.  Theses statutes and ordinances, these laws are his most valuable possession and the very best he has to offer to a people who will soon stray from the very God who Moses has so diligently served. 

In verses twelve and thirteen Moses reminds the Israelites of the power, majesty, and grandeur of the God of their covenant.  He reminds them how God spoke to them out of the fire.  And he reminds them that it wasn’t just him coming up with these laws all on his own.  These laws came from God.  They weren’t just laws to follow but more so they were the covenant between them and God.  In these Ten Commandments they would understand their “duties and responsibilities toward God and their fellow human beings” (NISB).  These Ten Commandments may have been written 3,400 years ago but they are still relevant today.  In them we begin to understand how to relate to God and each other. 

Context

There will be consequences and repercussions.  That’s what happened to the Israelites because of their unfaithfulness and rebellion.  Consequences are the effect, result, or outcome of something occurring earlier.  In this case what occurred earlier was the rebellion of the Israelites in the wilderness.  The consequence was a severe penalty.  The old generation died in the wilderness and would never see the Promised Land. 

There are consequences and repercussion in our lives as well.  You reap what you sow.  If you are sowing love, grace, and righteousness you will reap the same.  Those are the consequences and repercussion I want in my life. 

Key Characters in the text:

Moses – The first great leader of the Hebrew people, regarded by some as the author of the first five books of the Old Testament.  Moses is revered by Jews, Christians, and Muslims for his daring leadership and diplomacy as well as his promulgation of the divine law (Townsend). 

Key Words

Decalogue – The Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17), which express the will and law of God and deal with relations between humans and God as well as of humans with each other. 

Covenant – A formal agreement or treaty between two parties that establish a relationship and in which obligations and mutual responsibilities may be enacted.  Many biblical covenants are found, some providing only divine promises while others entail obligations. 

Faithfulness – The characteristic of being steadfastly loyal to a person or to promises.  Theologically, it is a basic description of God who is perfectly faithful to all that God promises, in contrast to sinful humans who are unfaithful in their relationships and actions. 

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas: 

1.  Faithful until the end (Moses). 

2.  I’m not coming with you, but I’ll see you when you get there.       

Questions: 

1.  The Israelites worshiped Baal of Peor and the resulting plague killed 24,000.  Why did the Israelites so easily fall into worshiping other gods?      

2.  Are there ways in which we worship other gods today? 

Concluding Thought:

Moses is approaching the end of his life.  I suppose the equivalent of his last will and testament would be the statutes and ordinances God had given him across the years.  As he prepares the Israelites for new leadership he passes on the very best he has and I believe his most valuable possession.  Some people might argue otherwise but for many our most valuable possession is a life lived well in obedience to God. 

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:

Next week’s lesson remains in the Old Testament moving to the book of 1 Kings.  I discuss how a widow in a terrible situation is about to prepare her last meal for her and her son, and as she said, to eat it and die.  The man of God asks her to feed him first.  She follows the instructions of Elijah and God blesses her for her faithfulness.  As we continue in the theme of responses to God’s faithfulness I show next week how God moved in miraculous ways.   Next week’s lesson is titled “Blessed for Faithfulness”.        

Christianity, religion, Sunday School, Sunday School Lesson

Sunday School Lesson (September 29, 2019) Faithful in Consequences /God Forgives Numbers 14:10b-20

Faithful in Consequences / God Forgives Numbers 14:10-20

Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com.  Listen, you need to get yourself a Moses on your side.  This week’s lesson is titled “Faithful In Consequences” and “God Forgives”.  I show in this week’s lesson how Moses goes to bat for these unfaithful, rebellious, stiff-necked people.  God is fed up and angry.  Time after time they have refused to believe God.  Even after God has taken significant measures, created ways out of no ways, and miraculously delivered, provided for, and protected these people, they still won’t believe God.  God is angry, God is fed up. And God is ready to destroy the chosen people of Israel. 

But Moses pleads the case for the Israelites.  Like a skillful lawyer, Moses recounts for God the words God told him in Exodus and reminds God of the love, mercy and grace that God is known for.  Moses reminds God that the Egyptians will say God destroyed them because God couldn’t deliver them into the land of Canaan.  God was ready to destroy the Israelites but after Moses pleads the case God changes God’s mind.  Instead of destruction God chooses forgiveness.  You need to get a Moses on your side. 

This week’s lesson picks up exactly where last week ended.  The spies have returned from their forty day reconnaissance.  They all report that the land flows with milk and honey but only Joshua and Caleb say to invade the land immediately.  The other ten spies say that yes, the land flows with milk and honey but there are giants that live in the land.  In their bad report they say that they are mere grasshoppers in the sight of these giants.  They exaggerate saying that even the land itself swallows up its inhabitants.  They could see everything God had already done for them.  They could see how bountiful the land was.  But they could not see what God could do through them.  As we continue in the theme of responding to God’s faithfulness, this week I focus on faithful Moses advocating for an unfaithful Israel.  Some of the ideas surrounding this week’s text include the terms: 

Advocate

Fidelity

Background: 

Numbers deals with the Israelites wandering in the desert for forty years.  Moses is credited as its author.  The structure of Numbers revolves around two censuses taken to number the nation in preparation for invasion of the land of Canaan.  The first census was taken in chapter one and the second in chapter 26.  The first census numbered over 600,000 men.  This did not include women and children.  Nelson’s Bible Handbook explains “if this is correct the Israelite population would have been more than two million people”.  Historians note that this would have been an unusually high population for a nation state.  Nelson’s also notes “one possible explanation is that the word translated thousands in English could have meant something like units, tents, or clans in the Hebrew language.  If so, a much smaller number was in mind”.

The New Interpreter’s Study Bible explains that “the English title refers to the many numbers contained in the two census lists that form the central pillars of the book’s structure in chapters 1 and 26”.  So these censuses are central to the structure of the book, but the message of Numbers is the story of the old generation out of Egypt dying off as the new generation prepares to move into the Promised Land.  The NISB also explains that “the central narrative of Numbers is the spy story of chapters 13-14.  These chapters narrate the theme of judgement and death for an old generation and birth and hope of a new generation of God’s people”.  In these two chapters we learn why the old generation lost the Promised Land and the new generation would receive it.  The old generation is beginning to show a pattern.  Time after time, the generation that came out of Egypt fails to trust God.  Because they fail to trust God, God eventually gets fed up of their rebellion and faithlessness. 

In this fourteenth chapter we see the importance of an advocate.  It was Moses who spoke on behalf of the Israelites.  God was fed up with God’s own people.  But because of the advocacy of Moses, instead of destroying these rebellious Israelites God forgives them.  This chapter opens with the congregation weeping aloud and complaining against Moses and Aaron.  Once again, they cry out in despair wishing that they had died back in the land of their captivity.  These are a people who still have not learned that God is their provider, that God is their deliverer, and that God is their protector.   With their faithlessness we see in this chapter how the Israelites reject God, how God decides to destroy the Israelites, how Moses changes God’s mind and how God ultimately forgives the Israelite nation.  Some important words to consider from this text include:

Advocate

Fidelity

Review of Last Week and How it Connects to This Week.    

Last week’s lesson opened at chapter thirteen verses one and two with the LORD speaking to Moses.  I noted that the LORD instructs Moses to send men into the land of Canaan.  This is the land that God promised Abraham.  The Promised Land and the nation of Israel were hundreds of years in the making but now the descendants of Abraham were on the verge of receiving the long awaited promise. 

The text skips to verse 17a where Moses sent the 12 spies into Canaan to explore the land and determine its suitability for conquest.

At verse twenty-five I noted that the spies have returned from their 40 day reconnaissance and how the number forty is used quite often in the Bible.  I also noted that we should not ascribe any more meaning to numbers than necessary.  We risk playing with occult numerology when giving more meaning to numbers than needed.  Some occult practices include numerology, astrology, witchcraft, tarot cards and others.

In verse twenty-six the spies assembled at Kadesh in the Desert of Paran to report their findings to Moses, Aaron, and the whole assembly. 

In verse 27 the spies revealed that the land flowed with milk and honey.  Not only did they tell of the goodness of the land but they brought back evidence of the bountiful harvests that await the other side. 

In verse 28 despite them seeing the bountiful blessing of the land; the spies report that the people were powerful and the cities were fortified and very large.  I noted that the first census reported over 600,000 men.  Historians record that this would have been an unusually large number of people because most nation states were not this large at that time.  So it seems that these spies see the blessings possible in the Promised Land, they see the powerful people, they see the large cities, but they do not see the fulfilled promise of God nor do they see themselves as powerful in God’s might. 

The text skips to chapter fourteen verses one and two where the entire congregation lifted up their voices and cried and the people wept that night.  They wept because they believed the exaggerated report of the ten spies.  The New Interpreter’s Bible One Volume Commentary explains that there are two versions of the spy’s negative report.  “In the first version the land flows with milk and honey.  In the second version verses 32-33 declare that the land itself is so bad that it eats its inhabitants”.  Additionally, “the spies warn of giant Anakites and of a mythological and semi-divine race of giants known as the Nephilim”.  The Israelites see these giants and once again fall into fear.  Instead of believing God, instead of believing they were powerful and strong and brave, instead of believing they were enough and that they had enough.  They choose instead to believe the report of these men instead of the command of God.  They are out of Egypt.  They have been delivered from enslavement by mighty works and wonders of God.  God has provided them with mana in the morning and meat in the evening.  God has turned bitter water to drinkable water.  Even with all these miraculous works they cannot see how God will give them this Promised Land.  Once again, they complain against Moses and Aaron.  Once again, they wish that they had died in the land of Egypt or in the wilderness.  As they wept that night, God heard their cry.  They cry out not in faith, but in unfaithfulness.  They don’t cry out in belief, but in unbelief.  Theirs is not a cry of hope, but hopelessness.  Although the old generation has seen the mighty works of God; this conquest is just a step too far for them to take. 

In verse five Moses and Aaron fell on their face before all of the assembly.  They realized what the Israelites were doing.  They realized this entire nation is choosing to reject God even after all God has done for them.

Verses six and seven show Joshua and Caleb as the faithful few who believe God can and will do what God said God would do.  They tear their clothes in frustration and declare again that the land they went through was an exceedingly good land. 

In verse eight they explain that if the LORD is pleased with them The LORD will give them this land that flows with milk and honey. 

In verses nine and ten they warn the Israelites not to rebel against the LORD and not to fear the people of the land.  Instead of heeding the warning of Joshua and Caleb, the whole congregation threatened to stone them.  The lesson this week is entitled “Faithful in Consequences” and “God Forgives”.  The scripture text comes from Numbers 14:10b-20. 

What Takes Place in This Passage: 

This week’s lesson opens where last week’s lesson closed.  Last week the Israelites rejected God’s plan to take the land of Canaan.  They complained against Moses and Aaron and wished to have died, back in the land of captivity.  Joshua and Caleb tore their clothes and reiterated how good the land was and that God would bless them if God is please with them.  Verse 10a says “But the whole congregation threatened to stone them”. 

Our lesson picks up at verse 10b.  Then the glory of the LORD appeared at the tent of meeting to all the Israelites.  The Glory of God is defined as “the divine essence of God as absolutely resplendent and ultimately great”.  In other words, God is manifested at the tabernacle or the tent of meeting in a way that all the Israelites recognize as God.  If all of the Israelites could see this manifestation of God, it seems to me that would be enough to repent and turn to God in faithful obedience.

In verse eleven the LORD speaks to Moses.  The LORD questions “how long will this people despise me? And how long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them”?  God is angry with these Israelites.  They have demonstrated that they despise God and refuse to believe in God despite God delivering them from the Egyptians, despite God allowing them to cross the Red Sea and drowning the Egyptian soldiers, despite God giving them water to drink and bread and meat to eat.  Despite all of this the Israelites are faithless and God has had enough. 

Verse twelve shows just how angry God was.  God says “I will strike them with pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they”.  To disinherit is to completely walk away from.  It brings to mind the idea that you don’t even want to see them anymore.  God is ready to disinherit the people whom he promised Abraham would become a great nation and would number as many as the sand of the sea.   At this point you get the idea that God wants nothing more to do with this unfaithful, rebellious, stiff-necked people.  God is fed up with the Israelites.  In the same way God promised Abraham to make of him a great nation, now God tells Moses that God will make a great nation of him. 

In verse thirteen Moses skillfully begins his advocacy for the Israelites.  Moses like a skillful lawyer defending a client pleads his case with God.  He begins by telling God the Egyptians will hear of it.  God had taken great care to deliver the descendants of Abraham from the Egyptians.  

In verse fourteen Moses continues defending the Israelites telling God the Egyptians will tell the people of Canaan that their God was in the midst of them, seen face to face by them, and was with them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.  Moses is making the point to God that God has been present in their deliverance and that if they are abandoned or destroyed now it will be seen as if God could not keep them.  The point Moses is making is that these are God’s people.  If the rest of the world sees them as defeated and wiped out it will reflect on God. 

In verses fifteen and sixteen Moses presses his point to God.  He tells God “if you kill this people all at once the nations who have heard about you will say it’s because the LORD was not able to bring this people into the land he swore to give them”.  Not only that but the reason God killed them was because God could not deliver them into the land.  Moses is playing hard-ball with God.  He pulls no punches.  Moses is going to defend these Israelites with everything at his disposal.  You need to get somebody like Moses on your side.  Moses goes to bat for these unfaithful, rebellious, stiff-necked people with all of their faults and all of their failures. 

In verses seventeen and eighteen Moses goes as far as to remind God of what God said to him in the past.  Moses quotes back to God what God said in Exodus 34:1-9.  Moses reminds God that God should be slow to anger and abounding in love.  He reminds God that God does not clear the guilty but visits upon them the iniquity of the parents upon the children for the third and fourth generations.

In verses nineteen and twenty Moses asks God to forgive the iniquity of the Israelites because of the greatness of God’s love.  After hearing this passionate plea from Moses God relents.  God changes God’s mind and said “I do forgive, just as you have asked”.  It was this passionate plea that changes God’s mind.  Where God was ready to completely wipe out this nation, God is now ready to forgive only because Moses pleaded on their behalf.  Wouldn’t it be great if we all had a Moses to plead on our behalf?  The good news is that we do.  Jesus is seated at the right hand of God making intercession for us even now. 

Context:

Synonyms for “advocate” include terms like promoter, backer, proponent, campaigner, supporter, and defender among others.  Whatever you want to call it, we all need some of it in our lives.  We need people that see the best in us despite our current faults and failures.  We need people who will love us fiercely despite our not being very lovable at the moment.  Advocates understand that despite your current situation or circumstances there is a better way, there is a better system, there is a better you and that we are all made better when you are better.  Despite their rejection of God and despite the people complaining against Moses and Aaron, Moses chose to fight for a better Israelite nation.  We should do the same in our own families, communities, states and this nation.  Let’s be somebody’s Moses. 

Key Characters in the text:

Moses – The first great leader of the Hebrew people, regarded by some as the author of the first five books of the Old Testament.  Moses is revered by Jews, Christians, and Muslims for his daring leadership and diplomacy as well as his promulgation of the divine law (Townsend). 

Key Words 

Advocate – one who pleads the cause of another

Fidelity – The quality or state of being faithful.  The fidelity of God is shown in God’s dependability, trustworthiness, and reliability. 

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas: 

1.  You need to get a Moses. 

2.  Just because you don’t believe it, doesn’t mean it isn’t true.     

Questions: 

1.  Did God really change God’s mind?  Or was God seriously going to kill the entire nation of Israel?  Discuss whether it is possible for God to change God’s mind.             

2.  Moses is a fierce advocate for the Israelites.  What people or causes should we become fierce advocates for?        

Concluding Thought:

You’ve probably heard someone say “he/she is getting on my last nerve.  That’s where the people of Israel were with God.  God had had enough of their foolishness and just wasn’t going to take it anymore.  Because Moses stepped in to remind God of God’s love and mercy God forgave the nation and relented from destroying them.  Perhaps we need to be the “Moses” in someone’s life.  Moses was a great advocate but Jesus is the ultimate advocate.      

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:

Next week the lesson remains in the Pentateuch but moves to the book of Deuteronomy.  Next week I will discuss how God provided the commandments and how God expects us to follow in obedient faith.  God expects our obedience.   We continue in the theme of responses to God’s faithfulness.  Next week’s lesson is titled “Obedient Faith”.