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”.        

Christianity, religion, Sunday School, Sunday School Lesson

Sunday School Lesson (September 22, 2019) Faithful Despite Unfaithfulness / God Hears Our Cry Numbers 13:1-2, 17a, 25-28a; 14:1-2, 5-10a

Faithful Despite Unfaithfulness / God Hears Our Cry – Numbers 13

Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com.  This week’s lesson is titled “Faithful Despite Unfaithfulness” and “God Hears our Cry”.  God is faithful despite the Israelite’s unfaithfulness yet again.  A pattern is beginning to form for this newly freed nation.  Once again they cry out in the wilderness wishing they had died in the land of their captivity.  Just as God heard their cry, God hears our cry.  Prayerfully, we don’t have a pattern of unfaithfulness.  This week I review the beginning portion of this Israelite journey toward the Promised Land.  The old generation from Egypt can’t be trusted.  Now it’s up to the new generation to inherit the promise. 

We began last week with the Israelites just beginning their journey into the wilderness.  This week’s lesson continues that journey as they should be poised for conquest but instead cower in fear, rebellion against God, and faithlessness.  They are at the border of Canaan and spies have gone into Canaan to determine if the land is suitable for their conquest.  Last week after God delivers them from the hand of Pharaoh with mighty works and wonders and after only 45 days into their journey they complain bitterly to Moses because of their hunger.  This week after God has continued to sustain them with bread and meat from heaven they are still faithless and in effect reject God by their disbelief.  Of the twelve spies, only Joshua and Caleb return with a good report.  The faithless nation believes the ten and in effect rejects God.  They could see everything God had already done for them but could not see what God could do through them.  As we continue to understand how God is faithful, this week I focus on how God is faithful despite unfaithfulness in Israel.  Some of the ideas surrounding this week’s text include the terms: 

Fidelity

Despair

Background: 

Numbers is the fourth book of the Old Testament.  Tradition has it that Moses is credited as its author.  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.  Those are the two chapters we’ll cover today.  These chapters narrate the theme of judgement and death for an old generation and the birth and hope of a new generation of God’s people”.  They tell the story of why the old generation lost the Promised Land and the new generation would receive it.  That theme is a result of the old generation failing time after time after time to trust God.  Their faithless acts of disobedience and rebellion ultimately led to their demise in the wilderness while a new generation would be prepared to trust and follow God.  So Numbers talks to judgement and death of the old generation, placed against the birth and hope of the new generation. 

Numbers covers the story of the Israelites in the wilderness.  This is a span of about 40 years.  It opens with the generation that came out of Egypt and the first census of 603,550 males.  This census is in preparation for the conquest of the Promised Land.  The second census of the new generation occurs in chapter twenty-six. 

This thirteenth and fourteenth chapter deals specifically with the twelve spies, one from each tribe, going into Canaan to survey the land and determine if it is ready for their conquest.  The twelve spies return forty days later with a mixed report.  They all report that the land flows with milk and honey but only Joshua and Caleb report that they should move immediately to take the land.  After hearing the faithless and exaggerated report of the ten spies the Israelites again cry out in despair.  Once again, they wish to return to the land of enslavement back in Egypt.  Some important words to consider form this text include:

Fidelity

Despair

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

Last week’s lesson was taken from Exodus 16 and opened with the Israelites having been already delivered from enslavement in Egypt.  They are now wandering in the wilderness at a place called Sin, between Elim and Sinai.  They have been on their journey from Egypt for only about 45 days. 

In verses two and three the whole congregation complained against Moses and Aaron.  They protest so severely that they imagined dying back in the land of their captivity.  They complained, “if only they had died by the hand of the Lord back in Egypt”.  I noted how these are a people who have given up.  There were no Egyptians around to enslave them.  There were no slave masters around to whip them.  There were no Egyptian solders around to slay them.  Yet, they desired to go back to the land of enslavement, back to whippings and beatings, and back to soldiers who could slay them.  They had given up, capitulated, and thrown in the towel because at least in Egypt they had food to eat.  I noted how they saw themselves in this foreign land, this wilderness, dying of hunger.  So then they blamed Moses and Aaron for their hunger.  I also quoted the “The New Interpreter’s Study Bible” explaining that “life as a slave in Egypt is better than the risk of freedom in the wilderness”.  

In verse four the LORD gives Moses a plan.  The LORD tells Moses how bread will be provided and how the people are to gather the bread from heaven.  But the LORD presents this as a test for the Israelites.  God will rain bread from heaven and the Israelites are to gather only enough for their daily needs.  In this way, God will know if they will follow God’s instruction.  Just as God gave the Israelites provision day by day, it is up to us to trust God for our daily bread. 

Verse five gave them instructions on how to gather in preparation for the Sabbath.  On the sixth day they are to gather twice as much in preparation for the seventh day of rest.  

In verses six and seven Moses and Aaron explain to the Israelites the plan the LORD has set forth for their provision.  They tell the people “in the evening you will know that it was the LORD that brought you out of Egypt.  And in the morning you will see the glory of the LORD”.  Moses and Aaron want them to know that they aren’t complaining to them but to God. 

In verse eight Moses makes it plain that the people aren’t complaining against him and Aaron; they are complaining against the LORD.  This won’t be the last time the Israelites complain.  They have seen the great plagues and experienced the great deliverance of God from their Egyptian enslavers.  Yet, a mere 45 days later they are completely defeated with no enemy soldiers in sight. 

The text skips to verses thirteen through fifteen.  Here, the LORD provides quail in the evening and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp.  After the dew lifted there was a fine flaky substance on the ground.  They ask “what is it” and Moses explains “it is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat”. 

As we continue to study God’s faithfulness and responses to God’s faithfulness, this week we see faithfulness in the minority report of Joshua and Caleb.  Joshua and Caleb are faithful.  The others are not.  Not only are they faithless but their rebellion and ultimate rejection of God is the cause of the old generation being condemned to wander 40 years in the wilderness until almost all of them die out.  The lesson this week is entitled “Faithful Despite Unfaithfulness and God Hears Our Cry”.  The scripture text comes from Numbers 13:1-2, 17a, 25-28a; 14:1-2, 5-10a. 

What Takes Place in This Passage: 

The lesson opens at chapter thirteen verses one and two with the LORD speaking to Moses.  The LORD instructs Moses to send men into the land of Canaan.  The LORD specifies “the land which I am giving to the Israelites”.  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 sends the 12 spies into Canaan to explore the land and determine its suitability for the conquest.

At verse twenty-five the spies have returned from their 40 day reconnaissance.  The number forty is used quite often in the Bible.  We see later that the Israelites would wander in the wilderness for forty years.  Jesus fasted forty days and forty nights.  It rained for forty days and forty nights in the great flood.  In Exodus 24:18 Moses spent forty days on Mount Sinai and in Acts 1:3 there are forty days between the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ.  So the number forty occurs quite often and at significant times but we should not give this number any more significance than needed.  Merriam-Webster defines numerology as “the study of the occult significance of numbers”.  While numbers often symbolize something they should not to be given divine meaning unless specifically stated to have divine meaning from God.  Occult practices include numerology, astrology, witchcraft, tarot cards and others.

In verse twenty-six the spies assemble at Kadesh in the Desert of Paran to report their findings to Moses, Aaron, and the whole assembly.  The spies showed them the fruit of the land. 

In verse 27 the spies reveal that the land flows with milk and honey.  Not only do they tell of the goodness of the land but they bring 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 are powerful and the cities are fortified and very large.  I should note that the first census reported over 600,000 men.  Historians report 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 are 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 weep because they have 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 fall on their face before all of the assembly.  They realize what the Israelites are doing.  They realize 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 do not fear the people of the land.  Instead of heeding the warning of Joshua and Caleb, the whole congregation threatened to stone them.

Context:

Perhaps you have heard someone say “I’ll believe it when I see it”.  Seeing and believing seem to complement each other.  Yet sometimes it can be hard to believe what you see.  These Israelites saw the mighty works of God demonstrated in miraculous ways, yet they could not believe what God told them would come next.  Not only had they seen the mighty works of God but they also saw the evidence of a land flowing with milk and honey.  Instead of believing what God would do they choose instead to believe the exaggerations and lies about mythological giants.  The people in the land were real and they were no doubt powerful.  But God is all powerful.  The question for us today is whether we believe God or whether we believe myths.

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). 

Aaron – The brother of Moses and the first high priest of Israel.  Aaron was a descendant of Levi’s and a son of Amram and Jochebed’s (Exodus 6:20).  Born eighty-three years before the Exodus, he was three years older than Moses (Exodus 7:7) but younger than their sister, Miriam (Townsend). 

Joshua – The son of Nun, a member of the tribe of Ephraim, and Moses’ lieutenant and successor.  He was originally named Hoshea. 

Caleb – The son of Jephunneh of the tribe of Judah, and one of the twelve spies whom Moses commanded to observe the land of Canaan. 

Key Words: 

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

Despair – utter loss of hope.

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas: 

1.  I’ll believe it when I see it.    

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

Questions

1.  The old generation of Israelites would not see the Promised Land.  Discuss why.             

2.  Joshua and Caleb are the minority with a good report.  Why is their report positive and the other ten spies report negative?      

Concluding Thought:

God promised Abraham that he would become the father of many nations.  God also promised him the land of Canaan for his descendants.  It was hundreds of years in the making but it came to pass.  God is faithful even when God’s people are not.  If God has promised you something, don’t give up.  Don’t give in.  Be encouraged and keep the faith.  God is Faithful.    

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:

Next week the lesson continues in the book of Numbers.  As we continue the God is faithful theme, we see God about to meet out the harshest of punishment against the nation of Israel.  Faithful Moses steps in to plead the case for the rebellious and faithless people and God changes God’s mind.  Instead of punishment God grants forgiveness.  The lesson is entitled God Forgives.      

Christianity, Religion, Genesis, Sunday School Lesson

Sunday School Lesson (September 8, 2019) Faithful During Grief / God Answers Prayer 1 Samuel 1:9-20

Faithful During Grief / God Answers Prayer 1 Samuel 1:9-20

Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com.  This week I review how God answers prayer for Hannah.  Hannah is a childless woman in a society that values women with children and male children in particular.  Hannah is distressed, distraught, and discouraged.  She faces “baby mama drama” from her husband’s other wife and she’s had about enough of living in this pain.  In the end, Hanna’s situation works out.  God answer’s her prayer.  But for so many people, things don’t always work out the way we think they should.  Like Hannah, many people are unable to do anything about their circumstances, knowing that only God can work it out.  Like Hannah, we rejoice when things do work out.  But when life throws us twists and turns we can be confident that God loves us no less, and in fact God’s love for us is infinite.   Hannah didn’t know things were going to work out.  But after hearing the man of God tell her to go in peace; her soul was no longer troubled.  She had a calm assurance that somehow God was still on her side.    

As we continue to understand how God is faithful, this week I focus on Hannah as she responds to God with calm assurance after promising to give her firstborn child back to God as a Nazarite.  Some of the ideas surrounding this week’s text include the terms: 

Vows

Nazarite

Background

The books of 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel bear the name of the Priest / Judge / Prophet however, Samuel dies before 1 Samuel ends.  The New Interpreter’s Study Bible notes that “these two books were originally one book and remain one book in the Jewish canon.  The division into two books probably originated in the second century BCE with the translation of the Hebrew into Greek”.  Regardless of whether Samuel is read as one or two books, its major themes remain the same and are seen through both books.  The NISB notes “there are two large and interlocking themes in 1 Samuel.  The first is public:  the importance of good government.  The second major theme which continues in 2 Samuel is personal: the complexity of relationships both between people and God and among people”.  Additionally, Nelson’s Bible Handbook explains that “1 Samuel records the critical transition in Israel from the rule of God through the judges to God’s rule through kings”.  It also notes that “all of 2 Samuel and a major portion of 1 Samuel deal with events that happened after Samuel’s death”.  This is likely an indication of the importance of Samuel as a major figure during a transitional time for the Israelites. 

The NISB notes as part of the second major theme in Samuel “the complexity of relationships between families.  These inter-human relationships are almost always conflicted, beginning with Hannah and Peninnah and going through Eli and his sons, Samuel and his sons, and Saul and his children.  Listen, Parent/child relationships are a constant concern in all of Samuel”. 

This first chapter of 1 Samuel opens with the story of Samuel’s mother Hannah praying to conceive a man-child.  Hannah, a barren woman has been tormented by Peninnah the other wife of Hannah’s husband Elkanah.  They have come to Shiloh to offer sacrifices unto the Lord.  The text notes that Elkanah gave portions to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters; but to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the Lord had closed her womb. 

The NISB explains that “there are three themes in this story: 

1) Strife within the family.

2) God acting behind the scenes in ways that are apparent only to those who look for such actions.

3) God’s penchant for unexpectedly raising up the lowly”.

The central theme of this week’s lesson continues to be God’s faithfulness – this time during grief, and that God answers prayer.  In this text we see a powerless woman beset with family conflict and we see how God moves on her behalf to answer her prayer.  Our text will reveal how Hannah prayed, how God answered, and how Hannah honored God for answering her prayer.  One note of caution… Please be considerate knowing that God has not favorably answered the prayer of every woman and every man who desires to have a child.  Many women and men struggle for years to have a child only to be disappointed.  We know that God is able and that God can change their situation.  What we don’t know is when or even if God will.  So please be considerate.  Some important words to consider from this text include:

Vows

Nazarite

Review of Last Week 

Last week’s lesson was taken from Genesis nineteenth chapter.  It was titled Faithful During Distress and Faith and Doubt.  Verse one began with two angels arriving Sodom in the evening.  When Lot sees them from the gates of Sodom he got up to greet them.  The text then skipped to verses four and five and then fifteen.  I covered verses two through fourteen as a way to more fully understand the entire story.

In verses two and three Lot invited the two angels to spend the night at his house where he showed them great hospitality by providing shelter and making a feast.  Before they fall asleep all the men from the city, both young and old, surrounded Lots house and demanded “bring them out to us so that we may know them”.  I quoted the NISB’s explanation that “since know them is a veiled reference to sexual intercourse (4:1), the men of Sodom must be intent on homosexual relations with Lot’s guests”.  I also quoted the NISB explaining

“While Israelite law prohibited sexual relations between men (Lev 18:22, 20:13); the narrator appears more appalled by other aspects of the Sodomites’ behavior.  This story is particularly critical of their mistreatment of guests and disregard for the inviolable (unbreakable) codes of hospitality and of their mistreatment of an alien in their midst.  This is an instance of the social oppression identified as the cities chief sin (18:20-21)”.

I noted that this is a story focused on the punishment of Sodom because of inhospitality toward its guests as well as its violence toward aliens in their midst.  The men of Sodom were evidently seeking to gang rape these guests.  And for these transgressions God would destroy this city.  I quoted the The New Interpreter’s Bible One Volume Commentary noting that “The obligation to extend generous hospitality to vulnerable strangers is deeply rooted in Israelite law (Exod. 22:21; 23:9; Lev. 19:33; 23:22; Deut. 10:19; 24:17-21)”.  Additionally, it notes their intention to have sexual relations with these strangers

“Signals their intention to commit the violent act of male rape, a technique of humiliation and torture of vulnerable people (both men and women).  The wickedness of Sodom here is not homosexuality.  Sodom’s sin is the lack of hospitality and the threatened violence by heterosexual men against vulnerable people in the community, those considered aliens and strangers in their midst”. 

Again, this text is not primarily focused on homosexuality, but more so the violence and inhospitality.  Ezekiel 16:48 – 50 explains the sin of Sodom.

48 As I live, says the Lord God, your sister Sodom and her daughters have not done as you and your daughters have done. 49 This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. 50 They were haughty, and did abominable things before me; therefore I removed them when I saw it. 

Lot begs the men to not act so wickedly.  Then surprisingly he makes the horrible offer to give the men his two virgin daughters instead of the two guests.  Keep in mind that this was a patriarchal society.  Women were often if not always treated as property.  Women had little if any rights at all and were treated at best as second class citizens.  The men refuse Lots offer and then threaten that they will deal worse with Lot than with his guests.  The NISB notes that “this is a desperate act of a man trying to preserve both his life and the ancient codes of hospitality; but it also reveals the perilous place of women as second-class citizens in ancient society”. 

After these two guests rescue Lot by reaching out to bring him in the house and shut the door behind him the angels strike the men outside the door with blindness. 

When morning dawned, the angels urged Lot to take his wife and two daughters out of the city so they would not suffer the same punishment of the city.  Lot lingers, the angles seize him, his wife, and two daughters by the hand and took them outside the city.  The text does not say why Lot lingered. 

Verse seventeen told us “When they brought them outside they said, flee for your life; do not look back or stop anywhere in the plain; flee to the hills or else you will be consumed”.  These guests are intent on sparing Lot and his family. 

Verses eighteen and nineteen show Lot’s gratefulness but they also show his doubt that he could make it to the hills. 

In verse twenty, Lot offers an alternative.  Instead of fleeing to the hills he asks to flee instead to a nearby small city.  Lot believes he can make it to this nearby city and there his life would be spared. 

In verse twenty-one the angel says to Lot “very well, I grant you this favor too, and will not overthrow the city of which you have spoken”.  The angels have indeed been gracious to Lot.  God’s compassion and mercy toward Lot has been on display throughout this story. 

In verses twenty-four through twenty-six the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven and he overthrew those cities and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.  Because of their sins of inhospitality and the mistreatment of aliens in their midst God destroys these two cities, the plain surrounding the cites, all of its inhabitants, and all that grew on the ground therein.

Verse twenty-nine restates how God destroyed the cities of the Plain, but remembered Abraham.  Because God remembered Abraham, Lot and his two daughters were saved from the destruction of the cities.  It was Abraham’s faith that God would do justly that saved Lot.  “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is Just”?

This week’s lesson continues with the theme of God’s faithfulness.  This time God is faithful during grief; but God ultimately answers Hanna’s prayer.  In the same way Abraham pleaded with God on behalf of Lot and his family, now Hannah pleads with God to answer her prayer for a man-child.  Last week we saw how God was faithful to Abraham.  This week we see how God is faithful to Hannah and how Hannah honors God for God’s faithfulness.  The lesson this week is entitled Faithful During Grief and God Answers Prayer.  The scripture text comes from 1 Samuel 1:9-20. 

What Takes Place in This Passage: 

The lesson opens at verse nine.  Hannah along with her husband Elkanah and Elkanah’s other wife Peninnah are gathered at the temple in Shiloh.  After eating and drinking, Hannah arose and presented herself before the Lord to pray.  Eli the priest is seated in the temple door.  The NISB notes that at this point “Shiloh is the central Israelite shrine which contains the Ark of the Covenant”. 

In verse ten Hannah is deeply distressed as she prays to the Lord weeping bitterly.  Hannah is a woman without a child in a society that values women who have sons.  She weeps bitterly because not only is she childless but Peninnah her husband’s other wife is her rival and provokes her severely to irritate her (verse 6).  Dr. Theodore W. Burgh writes in The Africana Bible that “Hannah’s antagonistic rival torments her with vicious barbs and taunts.  Hannah is caught in the midst of what could be understood in contemporary street vernacular as “baby mama drama””. 

Townsend Commentary notes that “ancient Eastern legal texts allowed an infertile wife to provide her husband her maidservant to bear children for her as his heir.  Therefore, the principal wife may possess legal rights to the children of her servants”; if you watch The Handmaid’s Tale that sounds familiar.  But this however, is not the desire of Hannah’s heart.  Hannah desires a man-child birthed from her own body.  Hannah is distressed, she is distraught, and she is ready for her circumstances in life to change.  She’s tired of being picked on and talked about.  She’s tired of being laughed at and scorned.  Even though her husband loves her, she’s tired of being treated badly about something for which she has no control.  She has no child of her own and there is nothing she can do about it.  In the Africana Bible Dr. Theodore W. Burgh explains “Hannah feels the pressure of the high value her society placed on bearing a child – particularly a male – in order to confirm her womanhood, she prays diligently to her god asking to become pregnant. 

In verse eleven Hannah makes a vow.  She vows to God that if God will remember her with a man-child she’ll give him back to God as a Nazarite until the day of his death.  Elkanah loves Hanna despite the Lord having “closed her womb” (vs 5).  And now Hannah believes this is something only God can fix.  She makes a bargain with God.  If only God will bless her with a man-child, she’ll give the child back to God as a Nazarite. 

Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms define “vow” as that which one has promised, particularly to God or to other persons, that binds one to them.  And as much as Hannah wants a child of her own she promises God she’ll return the child to God if only God remembers her with this blessing.  We can look upon Hanna’s vow with compassion and understanding as a powerless woman desperately desiring to change her circumstances.  However there are numerous other uses of vows throughout scripture that we can look at both favorably and unfavorably.  Jonah makes a vow inside the great fish (Jon. 2:9).  Jezebel vows to kill Elijah (1 Kings 19:1-2).  Jacob vows at Bethel if God will keep him, that he’ll serve God. (Gen 28:20, 21).  And in Acts 23:12 certain Jews vow to kill Paul. 

But Hannah’s vow was specific.  Hannah vowed to give God a Nazarite.    Westminster defines a Nazarite as a member of a group of Israelites who vowed abstinence from eating or drinking the fruit of the vine, who let their hair grow long, and who sought to avoid contact with dead bodies (num. 6), as a way of expressing their devotion to God.  Hannah’s child will be special.  Hannah’s child will serve God in a specific way.  This child will be set apart for service to God and as the rest of 1 Samuel will show how Samuel indeed becomes an iconic servant of God.  Hannah like many parents today wanted her child to make a difference in the world. 

Additionally, Dr. Theodore W. Burgh explains in the Africana Bible that “a Nazarite was a male or female who dedicated himself or herself, or who was dedicated to YHWH by others, through specific vows (Num. 6:1-21, Judges 13:7). 

In verses twelve, thirteen and fourteen Hanna continues praying silently with only her lips moving.  Eli the high priest notices her and thinks she is drunk.  Eli said to her “how long will you make a drunken spectacle of yourself? Put away your wine”.  The NISB notes that Eli’s first speech shows his inability, unexpected in a priest, to distinguish between prayer and drunkenness.  This raises the question of how effective a leader such an out-of-touch man can be, especially one who is the priest of the nation’s most important shrine”.  Eli was indeed out of touch.  He could not distinguish between the sincere prayer of a powerless woman and the antics of someone drunk with wine.  Perhaps there are ways in our own lives we mistake someone’s sincerity for what we see as playful antics.

In verses fifteen and sixteen Hannah sets the record straight.  Hannah tells Eli she hasn’t been drinking.  She’s been pouring out her soul before the Lord.  She informs Eli that she has been “speaking out of great anxiety and vexation all this time”. 

After having set the record straight, verses seventeen and eighteen show Eli is at least an understanding priest.  Now he recognizes Hannah’s pain and distress.  Now he sees her for the woman she is and he tells her to “go in peace; the God of Israel grant you the petition you have made to God”.  So many people have been in Hanna’s situation.  Unable to do anything about their circumstances and knowing only God can work it out.  After hearing the man of God tell her to go in peace her soul is no longer troubled.  Hannah has a calm assurance that somehow God is going to work it out.  She left her place of prayer, went to her quarters, ate and drank with her husband, and she was no longer sad. 

Verses nineteen and twenty close this lesson as Hanna and the others rise the next morning, worship God, and then travel back to their home in Ramah.  At some point Elkanah has sex with Hannah and the Lord remembered her.  Hannah conceives the son she wanted so desperately and names him Samuel.  Verse twenty says “she named him Samuel, for she said “I have asked him of the Lord””.  Hannah gets the answer to her prayers.  The birth of Samuel changes her life and her circumstances.

Context

Hannah’s prayers were answered.  She was blessed with the child she so desperately wanted.  Her circumstances changed for the better and she has a happy ending to her story.  But sometimes our stories don’t end like we thought they should.  Life takes us on twists and turns that we would not have chosen on our own.  Regardless of the bargains we make or the vows we take with God, our circumstances will be what God purposes for them to be.  Sometimes we desperately hang on to any thread of hope that God will hear our prayer and answer for us positively.  We rejoice when things work out.  But sometimes things don’t work out like we thought they should.  Beloved, even when things don’t work out like we think they should, know that God’s love for you is infinite and what we don’t understand now, we’ll understand better by and by. 

Key Characters in the text:

Hannah – She is the mother of Samuel and wife of Elkanah.  She prays fervently at the temple in Shiloh for God to relieve her bareness.   

Elkanah – He is the father of Samuel and husband of Hannah.  Despite Hannah’s barrenness he confesses and demonstrates his love for her.    

Eli – He is the high priest at the temple in Shiloh.  Also one of the last minor judges; in the latter role he is said to have served for forty years (Townsend). 

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

Vow(s) – That which one has promised, particularly to God or to other persons, that binds one to them.  In the Roman Catholic tradition, the entrance into the religious life is marked by vows.  Other vows may be made for undertaking specific actions. 

Nazarite – A member of a group of Israelites who vowed abstinence from eating or drinking the fruit of the vine, who let their hair grow long, and who sought to avoid contact with dead bodies (num. 6), as a way of expressing their devotion to God. 

Ark of the Covenant – 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 Jerusalem (586 B.C.).

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas: 

1.  Let your request be made known to God (Phil 4:6). 

2.  Praying your heart’s desire.

Questions

1.  Why did Hannah want her child to become a Nazarite?         

2.  God answered Hannah’s prayer positively.  How should we respond when we see no positive results to our prayer? 

3.  Did you know women could take the Nazarite vow in the Old Testament?

Concluding Thought:

God answers prayer.  Sometimes the answer is yes, sometimes the answer is no, and sometimes the answer is not now, maybe later.  At any rate, God answers prayer.  It’s up to us to understand the answer and continue to move forward in God’s plan. 

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:

Next week the lesson comes from the book of Exodus.  We see God’s faithful provision for the Israelites in the wilderness.  Very soon after departing Egypt the Israelites face difficult times and they began to mummer against Moses and Aaron.  When they face hard times in the wilderness God demonstrates God’s faithfulness by miraculously supplying their needs.  The lesson is entitled “Bread From Heaven”.    

Christianity, Sunday School, Sunday School Lesson

Sunday School Lesson (July 7, 2019) Jesus Teaches About Fulfilling The Law / Fulfilling The Law Matthew 5:13-20

Fulfilling The Law Matthew 5:13-20

Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com.  This week I take a look at the second lesson of the Beatitudes.  In this week’s lesson Jesus continues to outline what righteousness looks like and the rules and regulations of his Kingdom.  Matthew gives us an honest account of the tension between what I keep calling the “old school” Jewish hierarchy and these new upstarts that are telling people about a man named Jesus who can save the world.  “Old school” Judaism and these new Jewish Christians don’t agree and they don’t get along.  Matthew is writing to these new Jewish Christians to point them in the right direction concerning this New Covenant and how Jesus fulfills the Old Testament.  Some of the ideas surrounding this week’s text include the terms: 

The Law

The Prophets

Scribes and Pharisees

Background: 

The overall focus for the summer quarter is a heartfelt covenant.  Heartfelt is an adjective.  It is a describing word.  It adds context to or describes a noun which in this case is covenant.  So, we’re talking about a heartfelt covenant.  Heartfelt is defined as “a feeling or its expression that is sincere; deeply and strongly felt”.  When something is heartfelt it is genuine, it’s authentic.  In our lessons this summer we are studying different aspects of this heartfelt, this genuine, authentic, and sincere covenant established by Jesus Christ.  But what I really want to highlight is that WE are the ones who experience this covenant in a heartfelt way. 

With that in mind, I’ll provide some background on the origin of the book of Matthew, a bit of background on the people this Gospel was written to, and then I’ll narrow the focus to this week’s study which is the 5th chapter of the Gospel According to Matthew. 

Matthew is also known as Levi the son of Alphaeus (Mark 2:14).  Matthew is a tax collector when Jesus finds him sitting at a tax booth.  Jesus simply says “follow me” and Matthew got up and followed him.  As a tax collector, Matthew was likely despised by other Jews because he would have been seen as a collaborator with the Roman Empire.  Also, tax collectors were called unclean and often defrauded and cheated people by charging excessive taxes.  So Jews did not associate with tax collectors.

Additionally, keep in mind this text is likely written after 70 A.D.  The Jewish temple has been destroyed and Matthew is writing to Jewish Christians.  The New Interpreter’s Study Bible explains that “although the name Matthew is linked with this Gospel about 100 years after it was written, it is not known who the real author is, when the text was originally written, or why this work is named Matthew”.  An illustrated biographical dictionary explains that “although Mark is the shortest Gospel, Matthew and Luke substantially use the same text as Mark but supplement it with additional writings”. 

The fifth chapter of Matthew begins Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  The sermon covers chapters 5 through 7.  Chapter 5 begins with “blessings and sayings (5:3-16) the middle section of the sermon has six interpretations of scripture (5:17-48), instructions on three distinctive discipleship practices (6:1-18), and teaching on social and economic practices (6:19-7:12)” (NISB).  Over the next four weeks I will cover all of chapter five and close the last lesson with chapter 7.  Some important words to consider from this text include:

The Law

The Prophets

Scribes and Pharisees

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

Last week was the first of five lessons from the Gospel According to Matthew.  The text was Matthew 5:1-12 which is the beginning portion of the Beatitudes.  I began with a description of verse one and two observing how Jesus took notice of the crowds, and then how he withdrew to an unnamed mountain to address his disciples.  I also noted that “So far there are only four disciples (4:18-22; 10:1-4), but they represent all disciples” (NISB).  I also noted that the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, and those who hunger and thirst after righteousness is important language for a people who are oppressed, persecuted, and subjugated by the Imperial Roman government and their fellow Jewish nationals. I provided a definition of the poor as “those who are economically or spiritually without sufficient resources and noted that God has a special concern for the poor.  Contemporary liberation theology emphasizes reading Scripture from the perspective of the poor.  I also quoted the NISB noting that “The second half of each blessing promises God’s future reversal of imperial situations” (NISB). 

I also mentioned mercy from verse seven.  Mercy is an important descriptor of God.  Our homes are better when mercy is present.  Our communities are better when mercy is present, and our governmental policies make society better when they deal with poverty as a priority. 

A Pure Heart

I also admitted my inability to explain what a pure heart is.  At least in terms of righteousness, I’m certain the only way my heart can be declared pure is through the shed blood of Jesus Christ on Calvary’s cross. 

I also talked about the difference between peacemakers and peacekeepers.  Peace makers do the work of justice and righteousness.  A peace keeper may or may not do this work.

Verses eleven and twelve closed the lesson proclaiming that we should rejoice and be glad because we will receive a great reward in heaven when we are persecuted falsely on the account of Jesus.  It’s important to stress that this applies to those who are falsely persecuted, not justifiably persecuted. 

Now, As we focus on the idea of a heartfelt covenant this week’s lesson deals with how Jesus fulfils the Law.   This is the second lesson from the beatitudes and the second of five from the Gospel According to Matthew.  In this second lesson we hear directly from Jesus as he outlines some of the rules of his kingdom.  The beatitudes are a guide for our everyday living that should be heartfelt by all Christians.  Townsend and Boyd’s Commentary title the lesson Jesus Teaches About Fulfilling the Law.  Standard Lesson Commentary titles it Fulfilling the Law.  The scripture text comes from Matthew 5:13-20. 

What Takes Place in This Passage: 

In verses thirteen and fourteen Jesus describes his disciples and by extension all of us who follow him as salt and then light.  These two metaphors are descriptors that should help us understand how we should be and how we should be seen in the world.  Salt is a seasoning and a preserver.  It seasons our food and makes it taste better.  Likewise we should strive to make life “taste” better for those around us.  Instead of creating problems we can help solve problems.  Instead of simply criticizing others we can offer constructive criticism that makes others better.  Salt also preserves.  We ought to preserve the good in our lives and encourage others to do the same.  In preserving what is good we can become lights in a dark world.  When people see your good works you become a light for them to emulate, a beacon of what can and should be instead of what is.  We should not underestimate the power of a good example.  Because sometimes the only sermon someone may hear is the one they see in how you live.  Saint Francis of Assisi is credited with saying “preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary use words”.  That’s a great explanation of what it means to be salt and light in this world. 

Verses 15 and 16 encourage us to put our light on a candlestick so others may see our good works.  In other words, our lights should shine bright.  Don’t dim your bright light because others are intimidated, jealous, envious, or any other reason.  Your good works, your example, your ministry, your life’s example should be to God’s glory.  And as long as you’re walking with God, let your light shine. 

Verse 17 deals with the title of this week’s lesson.  Here, Jesus tells the disciples that he has not come to destroy the law or the prophets but to fulfil.  Jesus does not do away with the old, he makes it better.  In next week’s lesson we see some of the ways Jesus makes the Old Testament better. 

Verse 18 tells us that nothing will be taken away from the Old Testament; not one word, not one letter, not even a stroke of one letter will be taken away until all has been fulfilled.  Keep in mind that this is the very beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry.  He has just called his first disciples in Galilee and they don’t yet know that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law and the prophets.  Standard Lesson Commentary notes that “God did not give the law intending that it would last forever.  Ultimately it points to Christ, who makes perfect what the law could not perfect (Rom 3:20-31; Hebrews 7:16-19).  In other words, the Old Testament points to Jesus as its own fulfillment.

In verse 19 Jesus declares that those who break one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven.  It’s been said many times that no one can keep all of the commandments of the Old Testament.  Again, Jesus offers a better testament, a better covenant.  Here, in the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry neither his disciples nor the gathered crowd know how Jesus will fulfill the Old and make it better.  The writer of Matthew is recalling events that happened about 27 AD.  So when the final version of this text is complete at least forty years have passed.  The disciples may not have known at this point so early in Jesus’ ministry but eventually they would come to understand exactly who Jesus is and how he fulfills the Law and the prophets.

Verse 20 tells us that our righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees or we will not enter the kingdom of heaven.  The Gospel According to Matthew is not kind to the scribes and Pharisees.  There is tension between these Jewish Christians who are teaching a new way, a new covenant based in Jesus Christ and the “old school” Jewish hierarchy.  Matthew is writing to a community who “with much bitterness and conflict have withdrawn from the synagogue.  It assists a now separate community in defining its identity and shaping its faithful way of life within the diversity of late 1st-century Judaism” (NISB).  The point for us today is to recognize and acknowledge Jesus as our Savior.  And he is our Savior by grace. 

Context:

One of the things I love about Scripture is how is shows both the good and the not so good.  We see the faults and human frailty of the patriarchs through the Old Testament and they serve as an example of both what to do and what not to do.  It’s an honest account of the good and the not so good.  The Gospel according to Matthew is situated in that same vein.  It’s an honest account of the tension between what I keep calling the “old school” Jewish hierarchy and these new upstarts that are telling people about a man named Jesus who can save the world.  “Old school” Judaism and these new Jewish Christians don’t agree and they don’t get along.  When Matthew tells us that our righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees it’s just one more instance of this tension laid bare for all to see.  What we should be mindful of is that Jesus didn’t do away with the old rules, he made them better.  Jesus offers a new agreement, a new covenant, a new testament that is a better covenant for everyone today. 

Key Characters in the text:

Jesus Christ – 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 was raised from the dead by the power of God. 

Matthew – Each of the four Gospels lists Matthew as one of the twelve Apostles.  Most scholars believe Matthew and Levi is the same person.  As a tax collector Matthew would have been associated with the Roman government.  This would have also made him despised by his Jewish countrymen and women.

Pharisees – A Jewish party during Jesus’ time that obeyed the Law of Moses and its unwritten interpretations, known as the tradition of the elders (Mark 7:3).  They focused on holiness (Lev. 19:2).  Some were hostile (John 7:32) others were helpful to Jesus (Luke 13:31). 

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

Beatitudes – Teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount regarding the lives and dispositions of his followers.

Disciples – One who follows and learns from another as a pupil.  Old Testament prophets had disciples, as did John the Baptist and the Pharisees.  It is used specifically for those who follow Jesus Christ. 

Kingdom of Heaven – An equivalent term for “Kingdom of God” found in Matthew’s Gospel. 

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas: 

1.  Old school versus new school.

2.  Salt is a seasoning, are you making anyone’s life “taste” better? 

Questions

1.  Matthew is writing to a people who are trying to figure out if they will be “old school” Jewish or this new style Jewish Christian, or something entirely different.  When is it best to go with the new school approach?         

2.  Is Jesus the spiritual fulfillment of the Old Testament Law?         

Concluding thought:

Matthew writes to a marginalized people, a people who are oppressed by the government and even their own brothers and sisters in the faith and reassures them of God’s plan and points them toward a mission to save the world.  This fifth chapter of Matthew shows some of how that mission began.  It also points us toward a coming Savior that in this chapter begins to outline what righteousness looks like.  It’s not the righteousness of a legal system that requires the sacrifice of animals and keeping certain legal requirements.  It is a righteousness based in love and faith in Jesus Christ.  That’s our task; to love others and to love God.

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:

Anger, adultery, and divorce are a part of next week’s lesson as I will continue where we left off this week.  Matthew 5:21-32 is the text next week and in these verses Jesus teaches us to love one another.  As we keep in mind the idea of a heartfelt covenant I will outline some of what that love looks like.    

Christianity, Sunday School, Sunday School Lesson

Sunday School Lesson (June 30, 2019) Jesus Teaches About Right Attitudes / Right Attitudes Matthew 5:1-12

Jesus Teaches About Right Attitudes

Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com.  This week I take a look at the first of a 5 week series in Matthew.  This week begins a section of the Beatitudes in which Jesus begins to outline what righteousness looks like and what the rules and regulations of his Kingdom are.  Keep in mind that the Roman government severely persecuted the early church and the dominant Jewish community did not accept Jesus as the Savior.  As the writer recounts the words of Jesus these Beatitudes would certainly be a comfort to a distressed and anxious community.  Jesus didn’t do away with the old rules, he made them better.  Jesus offers a new agreement, a new covenant, a new testament that is a better covenant based on his teachings which begins in this fifth chapter of Matthew.  Some of the ideas surrounding this week’s text include the terms: 

Beatitudes

Disciples

Kingdom of Heaven

Righteousness

Background 

The overall focus for the summer quarter is a heartfelt covenant.  Lessons will deal with “matters of the heart”.  In a broad sense these lessons will speak to why we do, what we do.  Our motivations, inspirations, and aspirations say a lot about why we do, what we do.  With that in mind I’ll provide some background on the origin of the book of Matthew, a bit of background on the people this Gospel was written to, and then I’ll narrow the focus to this week’s study which is the 5th chapter of the Gospel According to Matthew. 

This text is likely written after 70 A.D.  “The name Matthew is linked with the Gospel late in the second century, about 100 years after it was written” (New Interpreter’s Study Bible).  So this text existed about 100 years before people began to call it the Gospel According to Matthew.  Matthew is mentioned only twice in this Gospel (9:9, 10:3).  So, no one definitively knows who the author is.

Most scholars agree that Matthew is also “a rewriting of Mark’s Gospel” (NISB).  Some scholars suggest it is a rewriting to show how Jesus was associated with Roman tax collector’s (Matthew was a tax collector).  The early church was heavily persecuted by the Roman government.  If Jesus was connected to people associated with the Roman Government perhaps these new Christians aren’t such a threat is the thinking behind this rational. 

The Jewish temple has been destroyed and this text is written to Jewish Christians.  The NISB Commentary writes that Matthew’s Gospel is written in part to show “God has intervened to reassert the rightful rule of “the kingdom of heaven” and to impart its blessings to the covenant people of Israel, and ultimately to all nations.  Matthew’s main audience is to the nation of Israel and Jewish Christians in particular.

The fifth chapter of Matthew begins Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  The sermon covers chapters 5 through 7.  Chapter 5 begins with “blessings and sayings (5:3-16) the middle section of the sermon has six interpretations of scripture (5:17-48), instructions on three distinctive discipleship practices (6:1-18), and teaching on social and economic practices (6:19-7:12)” (NISB).  Over the next five weeks I will cover all of chapter five and close the fifth lesson with chapter 7.  Some important words to consider from this text include:

Beatitudes

Disciples

Kingdom of Heaven

Righteousness

Review Last Week and How it Connects to This Week 

Last week we studied how Colossians 2:11 describes Christ as a High Priest of the good things that have come.  Those good things were salvation, restoration, and redemption provided through Jesus Christ.   

Col 2:12 described Jesus as entering once into the Holy Place.  I noted how the New Interpreter’s Study Bible says “this place is ideal and not an actual place, but pointing to the ultimate reality of Christ’s atoning work”.  In other words, Jesus symbolically entered into the Holy Place.  Note that Jesus did not enter with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood.  That’s important.

Verses thirteen and fourteen explained that the blood of goats and calves and ashes only sanctifies the outward flesh.  It is Christ’s blood that purifies the conscience or inner person from the dead works of the Old Testament animal sacrifice system.

Verse fifteen explains that because Jesus replaces the old covenant, he is the mediator of the new covenant.  Verses sixteen and seventeen have terminology dealing with the ideas of wills, testaments, and covenants.  I noted that the Greek word for covenant is interchangeable with testament.  It is the same term for which we get the phrase “last will and testament”. 

In verse eighteen the author got to the point from the previous verses; “not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood”.  I noted how the author was trying to help us understand the importance of Christ’s shed blood.  A sacrifice had to be made for the new covenant to become effective. 

Verses nineteen through twenty-two dealt with how the Old Testament required blood.  The remaining verses describe the other things Moses sprinkled blood on and closed by proclaiming “under the law, almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins”. 

The overarching theme of this week’s lesson is a heartfelt covenant.  This lesson is the first of five from the Gospel According to Matthew.  In this lesson from the first part of the beatitudes we hear directly from Jesus as he outlines some of the rules of his kingdom.  The beatitudes are a guide for our everyday living that should be heartfelt by all Christians.  Townsend and Boyd’s Commentary title the lesson Jesus Teaches about Right Attitudes.  Standard Lesson Commentary titles it Right Attitudes.  The scripture text comes from Matthew 5:1-12. 

What Takes Place in This Passage

Verse one and two begin with Jesus taking notice of the crowds, and then he withdraws to an unnamed mountain to address his disciples.  “So far there are only four disciples (4:18-22; 10:1-4), but they represent all disciples” (NISB).  In verses three through twelve there are nine blessings or beatitudes divided into two groups (vv. 3-6 and 7-12) (NISB). 

Verse three declares that the kingdom of heaven will belong to the poor in spirit.  The poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, and those who hunger and thirst after righteousness is important language for a people who are oppressed, persecuted, and subjugated by the Imperial Roman government and their fellow Jewish nationals.  Keep in mind that the Roman government severely persecuted the early church and the dominant Jewish community did not accept Jesus as the Savior.  As the writer recounts the words of Jesus these words would certainly be a comfort to a distressed and anxious community.  Also, the poor is defined as “those who are economically or spiritually without sufficient resources.  God has special concern for the poor and they are blessed.  Contemporary liberation theology emphasizes reading Scripture from the perspective of the poor”.  It’s my view that God is especially concerned with poor and the oppressed. 

Verse four declares those who mourn will be comforted.  Verse five says the meek will inherit the earth, and verse six promises fulfillment for those who hunger and thirst after righteousness.  “In an imperial world that prizes power, wealth, and status; God’s favor is found among the powerless and poor” (NISB).  “The second half of each blessing promises God’s future reversal of these imperial situations” (NISB). 

Verse seven declares the merciful will receive mercy.  Mercy is defined as kind and compassionate treatment extending biblically to forgiveness and the gracious bestowal of that which is not deserved.  It is an important descriptor of God.  Our homes are better when mercy is present.  Our communities are better when mercy is present, and so are our governmental policies if dealing with poverty is a priority. 

Verse eight declares the pure in heart shall see God.  I admit my inability to explain what a pure heart is.  One definition of the word pure is “unmixed with any other matter” another is “containing nothing that does not properly belong” and another is “free from moral fault or guilt”.  At least in terms of righteousness, I’m certain the only way my heart can be declared pure is through the shed blood of Jesus Christ on Calvary’s cross. 

Verse nine declares that the peacemakers will be called children of God.  Note this verse says peacemakers, not peacekeepers.  There is a difference between making peace and keeping peace.  Peace makers do the work of justice and righteousness.  A peace keeper may or may not do this work.

Verse ten promises those who are persecuted for righteousness sake shall have the kingdom of heaven.  If the kingdom of heaven is the ultimate goal, this verse declares how important righteousness is.

Verses eleven and twelve proclaims that we should rejoice and be glad because we will receive a great reward in heaven when we are persecuted falsely on the account of Jesus.  It’s important to stress that this applies to those who are falsely persecuted, not justifiably persecuted. 

Context

The overarching theme for the summer quarter is a heartfelt covenant.  When it comes to matters of the heart I am reminded of Jeremiah 17:9 as it declares “the heart is devious above all else; it is perverse—who can understand it?”  Matthew 15:18 reminds us “what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles”.  Our text today declares those who are pure in heart shall see God.  As Jesus delivers this Sermon on the Mount, he is really outlining the rules for his kingdom.  These are the new rules for the new covenant.  Jesus didn’t do away with the old rules, he made them better.  Jesus offers a new agreement, a new covenant, a new testament that is a better covenant based on his teachings which begins in this fifth chapter of Matthew.

Key Characters in the text

Jesus Christ – 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 was raised from the dead by the power of God. 

Matthew – Each of the four Gospels lists Matthew as one of the twelve Apostles.  Most scholars believe Matthew and Levi is the same person.  As a tax collector Matthew would have been associated with the Roman government.  This would have also made him despised by his Jewish countrymen and women.

Key Words 

Beatitudes – Teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount regarding the lives and dispositions of his followers.

Disciples – One who follows and learns from another as a pupil.  Old Testament prophets had disciples, as did John the Baptist and the Pharisees.  It is used specifically for those who follow Jesus Christ. 

Kingdom of Heaven – An equivalent term for “Kingdom of God” found in Matthew’s Gospel. 

Righteousness – Biblically the term embraces a number of dimensions relating to God’s actions in establishing and maintaining right relationships.  Ethically it is a state of moral purity or doing that which is right. 

Heaven – The place beyond earth that is the abode of God.  In Christian theology, it is the future eternal abode of those who receive salvation in Jesus Christ.  It is portrayed as a place of blessedness, without pain or evil, distinguished by the presence of God. 

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas 

1.  Matters of the heart.

2.  You can’t control everything that happens to you, but you can control how you respond. 

Questions

1.  Matthew is writing to a people who are trying to figure out if they will be “old school” Jewish or this new style Jewish (Jewish-Christian) or something entirely different.  Have you ever been faced with deciding whether to remain “old school” or live differently?       

2.  List ways we can be peace makers when being a peace keeper is not sufficient.        

Concluding thought

This week’s study has a distinct focus on righteousness.  It highlights the rules and regulations of Jesus’s new Kingdom.   If you have a red-letter edition of the bible you will see a lot of red in chapters five through seven.  In his longest recorded sermon, Jesus begins to outline what righteousness looks like and what the rules are for the Kingdom of Heaven.  As disciples of Jesus, our task is to strive to meet the high standard of these next chapters in Matthew as well the other teachings of Jesus.      

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson

Next week I will continue where I left off this week with Matthew 5:13-20. In these verses Jesus teaches about fulfilling the law.  As we consider a heartfelt covenant I will outline what that fulfillment looks like and what our part is toward the new covenant with Jesus. 

Christianity, Sunday School, Sunday School Lesson

Sunday School Lesson (June 23, 2019) Hearts United In Love Colossians 2:1-15

Hearts United In Love

Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com.  This week I take a look at hearts united in love in the second chapter of Colossians.  The Colossians and Laodiceans received Jesus by faith.  Without the extra help of secret knowledge or divination of stars or Gnostic belief systems.  Faith in Jesus Christ is enough for our salvation.  Sometimes things really are just that simple.  For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.  Faith in Jesus Christ is enough for our salvation.  When Paul writes to the Colossians he is essentially repeating the message of John 3:16.  He lets the Colossians know how much he cares for them, he encourages them to be united in love, and then he tells them to unite in love.  It really is that simple.  Faith in Jesus is enough for our salvation.  Some of the ideas surrounding this week’s text include the terms: 

Godhead

Philosophy

Gnosticism

Now, if you have Wi-Fi in your church Sunday School classroom or wherever you share this lesson, this channel is a good way to teach and discuss this week’s lesson.  With Wi-Fi you can start and stop the lesson when you want to discuss parts of the lesson.  What I provide is a concise overview of background, context, characters, themes and topics; that gets to the point, saves you time, and enhances your own teaching and study.  If that’s what you’re looking for you are in the right place.  The ONLY way I know this is helpful is if you subscribe or click the like button.  So please subscribe or like and then share this site with other Sunday School teachers, preachers, and students across your social media platforms. 

So, with that said, welcome again to SundaySchoolPreacher.com and let’s go to work. 

Background 

The focus of this week’s lesson is hearts united in love.  This letter to the church at Colossae was “intended to be read by the church at Laodicea as well.  Colossae was on the coast of the Lycus River in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey)” (New Interpreters Study Bible).  This letter is likely written in the late 50’s or early 60’s AD.  “An earthquake devastated the area in 60 CE, about the time of Paul’s death, and there was probably little left of the city” (NISB). 

Colossians is one of Paul’s prison letters.  He writes these words while imprisoned probably in Rome.  The prison letters also include

Ephesians

Philippians

Philemon

Its central theme is to show the supremacy or completeness of Jesus Christ.  And that the Christian believer does not need anything in addition to Jesus.  In Christ is the fullness of God. 

Paul writes this letter because at some point he heard reports that the Colossians were at least “acknowledging if not worshiping heavenly powers associated with the stars” (NISB). This, in addition to the belief that “food or drink or observing festivals, new moons, or Sabbaths (Col 2:16)” was necessary for salvation all presented a problem that Paul needed to address.  Paul knew there was nothing needed in addition to Jesus Christ. 

This second chapter of Colossians “warns against a particular human tradition about the elemental spirits of the universe, an aspect of astrology that teaches that angels associated with stars controlled human destiny” (NISB).

Some important words to consider from this text include:

Godhead

Philosophy

Circumcision

Baptism

Resurrection

Review of Last Week and How it Connects to This Week

Last week Hebrews 9:11 described Jesus Christ as a High Priest of the good things that have come.  I noted that those good things are salvation, restoration, and redemption provided through Jesus Christ.  We have these good things now because of the sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary’s cross. 

I also noted that verse twelve described Jesus as entering once into the Holy Place.  The New Interpreter’s Study Bible noted that “this place is ideal and not an actual place, but pointing to the ultimate reality of Christ’s atoning work”.  In other words, Jesus symbolically entered into the Holy Place with his own blood.  This Holy Place is what we have to look forward to. 

Verses thirteen and fourteen explained that the blood of goats and calves and ashes only sanctifies the outward flesh.  It is Christ’s blood that purifies the conscience or inner person from the dead works of the Old Testament animal sacrifice system.

In verses sixteen and seventeen we noted terminology dealing with the ideas of wills, testaments, and covenants.  The Greek word for covenant is interchangeable with testament.  It is the same term for which we get the phrase “last will and testament”.   

I noted in verse eighteen that the author makes his point; “not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood”.  A sacrifice had to be made for the new covenant to become effective.  It had to be the once and for all sacrifice of Jesus Christ. 

Last week compared the Old Testament sacrifice to the complete and fulfilled sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  Last week’s lesson connects to this week’s lesson by showing that the new covenant is fulfilled in Jesus Christ and nothing else is required.  Jesus fulfills the new covenant and in him is the fullness of God.  Townsend, Boyd’s, and Standard Lesson Commentary all title this week’s lesson Hearts United In Love.  The scripture text comes from Colossians 2:1-15. 

What Takes Place in This Passage

The text begins with Paul telling the Colossians and Laodiceans that he is struggling or contending for them.  He wants them to know how much he cares for them.  You might have heard the saying that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.  Even though Paul has never visited the Colossians, he wants them to know that he is concerned and that he cares. 

In verse two he mentions four things he desires for the Colossians.  His desire for the Colossians is

For their hearts to be encouraged

United in love

Full richness and complete understanding

To know the mystery of God in Christ.

Keep in mind that one of the reasons Paul writes this letter is because he has heard reports that they have some involvement with spiritual teachings other than Jesus Christ.  “For Gnostics, knowledge of secret lore was the key to salvation.  For Paul, the only knowledge necessary for salvation was knowing Christ” (NISB).

Verse three continues the same thought mentioning that in Christ are hid the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.  Paul writes this to tell the Colossians that there is no salvation in wisdom and knowledge.  But if you desire wisdom and knowledge you can find it in Jesus Christ.  In other words, get to know Christ and you’ll get to know wisdom. 

Verse four is important.  Paul is getting to the point.  He knows there is no salvation in secret knowledge or watching the stars or any of the Gnostic beliefs.  He warns them not to be deceived by fine sounding arguments.  That holds true today, we ought not be deceived just because it sounds good.  You should know what you believe and why you believe it. 

Verse five is a restatement that he cares for them.  Even though he isn’t physically present he is with them in spirit.  He also offers another word of encouragement.  He tells them of his joy that they are disciplined and firm in their faith in Christ. 

Verse six is the central point in this passage and seven underpins it.  Paul is telling them in the same way you received Jesus, just continue that way.  In other words, you don’t need to add anything to what you already have.  You don’t need to add secret knowledge or anything else.  In verse seven he is telling them your foundation was in Christ by faith.  So just stick with faith in Christ Jesus.

Verse eight is a warning against three things rather than complete trust in Christ.  He warns against: 

Hollow and deceptive philosophy

The tradition of men

Spiritual forces of this world

Townsend Commentary notes that “Paul warned the church against believing in human philosophies that were based on empty human traditions instead of the true and divine revelation of Christ”. 

Verses nine and ten says in plain language what all the previous verses were building up to.  In Christ Jesus is the fullness of God.  If you have Christ, you have God, if you have Christ, you don’t need secret knowledge.  If you have Christ, you don’t need to consult the stars for advice.  If you have Christ, you don’t need to Gnostic teaching, beliefs, or anything else.  You are complete in Christ Jesus.  There is no power or authority greater than Jesus.

Verses eleven through thirteen uses symbolism that Paul is familiar with.  Here he talks about:

Circumcision

Baptism / buried and risen

Dead in sins / risen in Christ

Paul is not talking about a physical circumcision.  It’s a spiritual circumcision where the sins of the flesh or unrighteousness is cut away.  When he speaks of being buried with Christ in baptism he uses the symbolism of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.  In the same way, our sinful attitudes, behaviors, and unrighteousness is put to death and buried and we arise to a new life of righteousness with our sins forgiven. 

The lesson closes with verses fourteen and fifteen dealing with the legalism of charges against us that has now been replaced by the grace of Jesus on Calvary.

Context

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him.  The Colossians and Laodiceans received Jesus by faith.  Without the extra help of secret knowledge or divination of stars or Gnostic belief systems.  Faith in Jesus Christ is enough for our salvation.  Sometimes things really are just that simple.  For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.  Faith in Jesus Christ is enough for our salvation.  Paul is essentially repeating the message of John 3:16.  He lets the Colossians know how much he cares for them, he encourages them to be united in love, and then he tells them to unite in love.  It really is that simple.  Faith in Jesus is enough for our salvation.   

Key Characters in the text

Jesus Christ – 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 was raised from the dead by the power of God. 

Paul – A leading persecutor of Christians in the first years of the new faith.  He became a believer in Jesus and one of the most influential voices in the Christian New Testament. 

Key Words

Godhead – The nature or essence of God as Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.    

Philosophy – Love of wisdom.  The study of ultimate reality by the use of human reason, logic, ethics, etc., to answer such questions as: What is real? How do we know? What are we to do?

Gnosticism – An amorphous movement during the early church period which featured complex views that focused on the quest for secret knowledge transmitted only to the “enlightened” and marked by the view that matter is evil.  Gnostics denied the humanity of Jesus.

Unity – Used theologically to describe the oneness between the members of the Godhead, the relationship between God and believers through Jesus Crist, and the relationship of believers in Christ with one another.  Also, a religious movement stressing positive thought and prayer. 

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas

1.  Jesus is enough                                                        

2.  False teaching faces a real Savior.

Questions

1.  This letter warns the Colossians against false philosophies based on secret knowledge and Gnostics beliefs.  No one would believe something that is completely ludicrous.  How do we guard against good sounding arguments that are false?   

2.  Unity sounds like a great goal to achieve.  When should unity be rejected?        

Concluding thought

This week’s study is titled hearts united in love.  I can think of no example where this isn’t a great and admirable goal.  The key here is “in love”.  You can never go wrong operating in love.  However, you can go wrong simply operating in unity.  We should always be united in righteousness and love.  Going along to get along is not a unity that we should strive for.  Unity at the expense of doing what is righteous is also something we should not strive for.  If your unity results in the unrighteous subjection or oppression of others it’s a unity that isn’t based in love.         

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson

Next week we move to the Gospel according to Matthew.  I will explore how Jesus teaches about right attitudes as we study the beatitudes.   We are now focused on the heartfelt covenant of Jesus Christ. 

Christianity, religion, Sunday School, Sunday School Lesson

Sunday School Lesson (June 16, 2019) The New Covenant’s Sacrifice Hebrews 9:11-22

The New Covenants Sacrifice Hebrews 9:11-22

Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com.  This week I take a look at the ninth chapter of Hebrews as it explains the new covenant’s sacrifice.  Of course that sacrifice is the shed blood of Jesus Christ.  Everything the Old Testament required for redemption and restoration is fulfilled in the New Testament with Christ.  In the Old Agreement the high priest went into the tabernacle and the Holy Place to sprinkle blood for the redemption of the people.  In the New Testament Jesus symbolically goes into the Holy of Holies with his own blood.  In the Old Testament the high priest had to continually offer sacrifices for the people.  In the New Covenant, Jesus needs only go in once and it is for all humanity and for all eternity.  Some of the ideas surrounding this week’s text include the terms: 

Tabernacle

Covenant

Testament

New Covenant / Agreement

Redemption

Now, if you have Wi-Fi in your church Sunday School classroom or wherever you share this lesson, this channel is a good way to teach and discuss this week’s lesson.  With Wi-Fi you can start and stop the lesson when you want to discuss parts of the lesson.  What I provide is a concise overview of background, context, characters, themes and topics; that gets to the point, saves you time, and enhances your own teaching and study.  If that’s what you’re looking for you are in the right place.  This is all about helping you understand the lesson in ways that are helpful to you and your listeners.  The ONLY way I know this is helpful is if you subscribe or click the like button.  So please subscribe or like and then share this site with other Sunday School teachers, preachers, and students across your social media platforms. 

Background: 

The focus of this week is the new covenant’s sacrifice.  Of course that sacrifice is Jesus Christ.  With that in mind I’ll provide some background on the book of Hebrews, a bit of background on the chapter preceding this weeks study, and then narrow the focus to this week’s study which is the ninth chapter of Hebrews. 

The New Interpreter’s Study Bible notes that the book of Hebrews “is not really a letter, and certainly not written by Paul.  It does not begin like a letter, and in fact, is more of a sermon/treatise”. 

Hebrews is likely written about 65 Common Era.  Scholars date its composition before the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem (70 CE).  “It is extremely difficult to believe the author would not mention the destruction of the Temple if it had already occurred, since that would have been the validation of his entire argument concerning the outmoded character of the Old Testament sacrificial system” (NISB).  “One of the main emphases in Hebrews is the superiority of the new covenant to the old and its regimen of animal sacrifices” (NISB). 

The eighth chapter of Hebrews deals with the true high priest (Jesus) and the two covenants (old and new).  It naturally, takes a Christological interpretation of the Old Testament book of Jerimiah 31:31-34.  This is the longest quotation from the Old Testament in the New Testament (Townsend Commentary). 

The ninth chapter deals with the sacrifices of the Old Testament in verses 1-10. This was the first covenant.  It describes some of the protocol for priests entering into the Old Covenant tabernacle to atone for the sins of the people and to offer gifts.  Verses 11-22 of our study will contrast Jesus Christ with the Old Covenant as the one and only High Priest that fulfills the new covenant.  These verses deal with the “definitive nature of Christ’s work” (NISB).

Some important words to consider from this text include:

Covenant

Testament

New Covenant / Agreement

Redemption

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

Last week Mark 15:6 reminded us that it was customary for Pilate to release a prisoner during the Passover feast.  Barabbas was in prison with people who had committed murder during the insurrection.  So Barabbas was charged with murder whereas Jesus was charged with insurrection.  Yet the crowd cried out to release Barabbas instead of Jesus.

I also noted that “the Jewish council had the power to put offenders they condemned to death”.  If the Jewish high council wanted to put Jesus to death themselves they could have done so.  But remember that only a few days ago a great crowd welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem shouting Hosanna to the highest.  Perhaps the crowd was the same; perhaps it was a different crowd.  But the high priests didn’t want to order the death of Jesus so they turned Jesus over to the Roman government.    

I also noted the importance of the distinction between who was responsible for the murder of Jesus.  Ultimately, it was the Roman government that crucified Jesus not the Jewish council leaders.  That’s important because across the centuries people have used the crucifixion of Jesus to provoke anti-Jewish feelings in those who blame the Jews for Jesus’ crucifixion.  While it’s true the Jewish council turned Jesus over to Roman authorities, it cannot be said that the Jews crucified Jesus.

I also noted in verse 25 that the third hour was nine o’clock in the morning.  It was 9AM when they crucified him.  Verse 26 was the charge against him.  He was charged with being king in Caesar’s place. 

Verses 33 through 39 spoke to the death of Jesus.  The sixth hour was 12 o’clock noon.  The ninth hour was 3PM.  It was at 3PM when Jesus cried out “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me”. 

In verse 37 Jesus breathed his last breath.  In verse 38 the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.   This tearing of the curtain was significant.  It symbolizes the new direct access to God through Jesus Christ.  Now the high priest no longer needs to enter into the holiest of holies on our behalf.  Now we have direct access through this New Covenant with Jesus Christ. 

Verse 39 closed the lesson with the centurion proclaiming “Truly this man was God’s Son”!  It was the Roman centurion that proclaimed Jesus as God’s son. 

This week’s lesson continues with the theme of a fulfilled new covenant through Jesus Christ.  We have returned to the book of Hebrews as Hebrews references the Old Testament extensively to prove the point that Jesus fulfills the new covenant.  It is through the righteousness of Jesus Christ and the grace of God that we now have a new covenant with God.   This would not be possible without the new covenant’s sacrifice.  That sacrifice is Jesus Christ on Calvary’s cross.  Townsend, Boyd’s, and Standard Lesson Commentary all title this week’s lesson The New Covenant’s Sacrifice.  The scripture text comes from Hebrews 9:11-22. 

What Takes Place in This Passage: 

Verse eleven describes Christ as a High Priest of the good things that have come.  These good things are the salvation, restoration, and redemption provided through Jesus Christ.  We have these good things now because of the sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary’s cross. 

Verse twelve describes Jesus as entering once into the Holy Place.  The New Interpreter’s Study Bible notes that “this place is ideal and not an actual place, but pointing to the ultimate reality of Christ’s atoning work”.  In other words, Jesus symbolically entered into the Holy Place.  This Holy Place is what we have to look forward to.  It is what will ultimately become our reality.  Note also that Jesus did not enter with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood. 

Verses thirteen and fourteen explain that the blood of goats and calves and ashes only sanctifies the outward flesh.  It is Christ’s blood that purifies the conscience or inner person from the dead works of the Old Testament animal sacrifice system.

Verse fifteen explains that because Jesus replaces this old covenant, he is the mediator of the new covenant so that we may receive the promised eternal inheritance.  This is possible because his death redeems believers from transgressions under the old covenant. 

In verses sixteen and seventeen we see terminology dealing with the ideas of wills, testaments, and covenants.  The Greek word for covenant is interchangeable with testament.  It is the same term for which we get the phrase “last will and testament”.  The author makes a play on this term to highlight the double meaning of covenant and testament. 

In verse eighteen the author makes his point from the previous verses; “not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood”.  The author is trying to help us understand the importance of Christ’s shed blood.  A sacrifice had to be made for the new covenant to become effective.  But a sacrifice of goats and calves would never be sufficient.  It had to be the once and for all sacrifice of Jesus Christ. 

Verses nineteen through twenty-two deal again with how the Old Testament required blood.  In verse nineteen the author reminds us of Moses sprinkling blood on the scroll and the people saying “This is the blood of the covenant that God has ordained for you”.  The remaining verses describe the other things Moses sprinkled blood on and closes by proclaiming “under the law, almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins”. 

Context:

The new covenant’s sacrifice is the shed blood of Jesus Christ on Calvary’s cross.  This was a gracious way for God to deal with our sin.  It was a once and for all eternity sacrifice that held the key for humanity’s salvation, restoration, and redemption back to God.  One of the central points the author of Hebrews makes is the importance of the shedding of blood.  It was required in the Old Testament.  Hebrews makes the point that Jesus fulfills that requirement with his own blood in the new covenant.  The blood of Christ is defined by Westminster’s Theological Dictionary as a theological symbol of his atoning death effecting a new covenant, reconciliation, and salvation.  It is the central point Hebrews makes in our lesson. 

Key Characters in the text:

Jesus Christ – 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 was raised from the dead by the power of God. 

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

Tabernacle – The portable tent in which the Hebrews worshiped during the wilderness period of wandering.  The Jerusalem Temple replaced it.  In the Roman Catholic tradition, the “tabernacle” is the boxlike receptacle for the Eucharistic elements. 

Mediator – One who stands between parties in order to effect reconciliation.  The term is applies to Jesus Christ as the “one mediator between God and humankind” in I Timothy 2:5, who has effected reconciliation by overcoming sin. 

Sacrifice – Something of value offered as an act of worship or devotion to God.  Sacrifices were offered throughout the Old Testament, accompanied covenant making, and were of various types.   

Redemption – A financial metaphor that literally means “buying back”.  Used theologically to indicate atonement, reconciliation, or salvation wherein liberation from forms of bondage such as sin, death, law, or evil takes place through Christ. 

Covenant – A formal agreement or treaty between two parties that establishes 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. 

Testament – A person’s last will to dispose of property.  Also, a covenant – as at Sinai.  Both senses are found in Gal 3:15-18.  The term is also used for the division of the Bible into Old and New Testaments (covenants). 

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas: 

1.  The only acceptable sacrifice (Jesus Christ).

2.  The Old Covenant and the New You.

Questions

1.  We are no longer under the Old Testament system of animal sacrifices.  What sacrifice do we need for salvation today?   

2.  The Old Testament tabernacle was destroyed.  The Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed.  Is there a temple or tabernacle for Christians today?  (See verse 11)      

Concluding thought:

This week’s study of Hebrews compared and contrasted the Old Testament or Old Agreement with the New Testament or New Agreement.  What was needed to remit sins in the Old Testament is fulfilled once and for all in the new agreement or the new covenant with Jesus Christ.  The Old Testament required the shedding blood.  That requirement in the New Testament is fulfilled in the shed blood of Jesus Christ.      

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson: Next week we move to the book of Colossians.  As we understand the fulfilled covenant in Jesus Christ we will discuss the fullness of Jesus Christ in the Godhead and how to avoid false teaching.  Colossians will show us the importance of Heart’s united in love.