Sunday School, Sunday School Lesson

Sunday School Lesson (February 23, 2020) Perseverance in Prayer / Ever-Persevering Petitions Luke 11:5-13

Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com.  In this week’s lesson I give a brief review of the Winter Quarter and show how Jesus teaches his disciples the importance of perseverance in prayer.  After teaching the disciples the model prayer (what we often call the Lord’s Prayer) he uses a parable to explain the importance of ever-persevering petitions.  We need to pray and keep on praying. In this parable Jesus uses the example of a shameless neighbor and an earthly father to help his disciples understand that relationships matter.  He also helps them understand that because of their relationship with God they can trust that God is a loving, merciful, kind, gracious, and generous God. Jesus helps the disciples to know that perseverance pays off.  When we are in God’s will, God answers our prayers. He also helps them to know that we don’t pray to change God’s mind.  God already knows what we need; we pray to get in God’s will.  It’s our job to ask for God’s will; it’s our job to seek God’s will.  When we ask for God’s will, when we seek and search for God’s will, God will open the door to answer our prayers.  Some key ideas surrounding this week’s text includes the terms:  

Parable

Perseverance 

Background:  

The Gospel According to Luke is the third of the four Gospels and the third of the three synoptic Gospels.  Mathew, Mark, and Luke are synoptic whereas John is not. As I explained last week the synoptic Gospels, in large part, talk about the same things and talk about them in the same ways.  The Gospel According to John stands alone. It talks about some of the same things but talks about them differently and it also talks about things the other Gospels does not mention.  

Nelson’s Bible Handbook notes that “the author does not identify himself by name, but does tell us a good deal about himself.”  It notes that “the author is educated, with the best command of Greek of any New Testament writer. He also counts among his acquaintances a person of high social standing, the “most excellent” Theophilus.”  Other important facts from Nelson’s include:

  • As a Gentile the author is interested in Gentiles and equally disinterested in matters purely Jewish.
  • Luke was probably written some time shortly after 70 A.D.
  • Later tradition identifies the author as Luke, the companion of Paul.
  • Luke is the most socially minded of the gospels.  

The New Interpreter’s Study Bible explains that “Luke is most noteworthy for its narrative of the birth of Jesus (chaps 1-2), the lengthy “travel account” in the central section (9:51-19:48), and its unrelenting interest in the marginalized and the dispossessed.”  So, in this Gospel we see how Jesus shows particular interest in the marginalized and dispossessed. Luke highlights these interactions while also highlighting the “theme of salvation for Israel.”  

Our scripture text falls within the long travel account on the way to Jerusalem.  This is Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem. The NISB notes that “Jesus’ journey is especially concerned with the formation of disciples.”  For example, in chapter 11:1 note how the disciples ask Jesus “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” The NISB also notes that this journey is “also characterized by a growing hostility that reaches its acme in Jerusalem.”  Nelson’s Bible Handbook notes that “knowing He is on his last journey to Jerusalem, Jesus instructs His disciples on a number of practical matters including prayer, covetousness, faithfulness, repentance (and more).” After the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem he faces the hostility of the Scribes and Sadducees.  The hostility escalates until ultimately Jesus is crucified.  

The eleventh chapter of Luke deals with what we call The Lord’s Prayer, perseverance in prayer, Jesus and Beelzebul, the sign of Jonah, and among other things Jesus denounces Pharisees and lawyers.  The focus of this week’s lesson is perseverance in prayer. Some important terms to consider about this text include:

Parable

Perseverance

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

In last week’s lesson Jesus gave his disciples an example of a kingdom seeking prayer.  We often call this model prayer of Jesus the Lord’s Prayer. In this portion of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus was showing his disciples a more excellent way to pray.  He was correcting them so they wouldn’t pray like hypocrites. He was correcting them so they wouldn’t pray to be seen like others or to draw attention to themselves. When Jesus says “pray then in this way”  He was teaching his disciples how to pray. That is to say, this is a better way to pray. He had already told them don’t pray like the hypocrites in the synagogue and in the streets. He had already told them don’t pray to bring attention to yourself.  And it’s not as if the disciples weren’t already praying or didn’t know how to pray. This prayer Jesus was teaching his disciples continued his instruction on the new rules and new commands that would govern the citizens of the new kingdom of heaven.  It is perhaps the most well known prayer of all time and many of us learned it at the feet of our mothers.  Townsend and Boyd’s Commentaries title this week’s lesson “Perseverance in Prayer” Standard Lesson Commentary titles this week’s lesson “Ever-Persevering Petitions.”  The scripture text comes from Luke 11:5-13.  

Again, these are the words of Jesus.  He uses this parable not to give the disciples the answers, but to help them think through a situation and come to the right conclusion.    

What Takes Place in This Passage:  

This final lesson of the quarter opens at chapter eleven verse five.  This is the 13th and final lesson of the Winter Quarter. Each of the 13 lessons focused on Honoring God.  We began with David honoring God, then we saw how David remembered how good God had been to him. He knew where God had brought him from.  God had been with King David down through the years and David wanted to honor God by building God a house. David’s heart was in the right place and he was well able to build a great house for God.  But just because you can, don’t mean you should. It was not God’s will for David, but it was God’s will for David’s son Solomon.  I talked about the Davidic Covenant and then moved on to unit two which focused on how Solomon honored God.   

Solomon made a place for the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord and then he made sure to move the Ark so that only the priests would touch the Ark.  Then Solomon made a great celebration to dedicate this new home for God. No longer would God dwell in the tabernacle, the moveable, mobile tent made by Moses; now the Ark of the Covenant would have a permanent place to dwell. 

In unit three we see how Jesus honors God as he teaches about true worship with single minded obedience, piety, prayer, and perseverance.  First God dwelt in the tabernacle. Then God dwelt in the Temple. Now God dwells in our hearts and it’s our duty to honor God even in our prayers.

Verse five begins with Jesus asking his disciples a rhetorical question.  He asks “suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and ask your friend for three loaves of bread.”  Jesus isn’t really expecting the disciples to give an answer. This is a parable. Jesus is about to teach his followers an important lesson.  Westmininister’s Dictionary of Theological Terms defines parable as “A short story based on common experiences that contains a meaning.”  This is a common experience that his followers would be able to identify with.  Lexham Bible Dictionary explains that Jesus’ parables:

  • Are often introduced with a question.
  • Use everyday images.
  • Uses nameless characters.
  • Often describe the Kingdom of Heaven.
  • Sometimes have a shocking punchline.  

It continues, “parables were not stories that merely educated, entertained, or satisfied curiosity; they demanded interpretation and application.”  It is the interpretation and application that nourished and inspired his followers and confounded and confused his detractors.  Lexham also notes that ““parable” occurs 48 times in the synoptic Gospels and twice in Hebrews.  And while Jesus used metaphors such as light, vine, gate, and shepherd in the Gospel of John, none of Jesus’ teachings recorded there are considered parables and the word “parable” is not mentioned in John.”  

One of the points of this parable is to highlight that perseverance pays off.  The friend is in bed. He and his children are asleep. If he wakes up to get the loaves of bread not only will it disrupt his sleep, it will also wake up the entire family.  Jesus uses everyday images and situations that made his listeners think. He didn’t give them the answers in his parables. He helped them think through to their own conclusions.  Was it rude to wake the friend and his family? Was it even more rude to not provide some food for a friend who has probably been traveling through the day and arriving late at night.  Townsend’s Commentary notes that “Hospitality was an important cultural practice. The suggestion that the sleeping man would deny his friend’s request was unthinkable in their culture.”  It seems to me that this parable is also about relationships. Their is relationship between the traveller and his friend. There is a relationship between the person asking for bread and the sleeping friend.  The friend asking for the loaves was not ashamed to keep knocking, to keep asking. It is his perseverance that gets the result he wants. Likewise, it can be our perseverance that gets the results we want when we are in line with God’s will.  God knows what we stand in need of before we ask. Yet, it delights God to answer our prayers. 1 John 5:14,15 reminds us And this is the boldness we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the requests made of him.”  Perseverance pays off. When we are in God’s will, God answers our prayers. We don’t pray to change God’s mind, we pray to get in God’s will.  

In verse nine Jesus continues, “So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.”  That’s the point Jesus is driving home.  Prayer is important. Making our requests known to God is important.  Trusting God to answer our prayers is important. God is a generous, loving, kind, and merciful God.  It’s our job to ask for God’s will; it’s our job to seek God’s will. When we ask for God’s will, when we seek and search for God’s will, God will open the door to answer our prayers.  

I need to interject here to say that sometimes we really don’t know God’s will.  I’ve been in situations in my own life where I honestly didn’t know which way to pray.  The only thing I knew how to do was to trust that God was still a loving God, that God was still merciful and kind.  And that I was still God’s son. Sometimes you don’t know what to do, and sometimes there is nothing you can do; but simply trust God.   

In verses eleven and twelve Jesus continues “Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg will he give him a scorpion?”  Jesus is making the point that God can be trusted to treat God’s children right.  Our God is a loving, merciful, kind, gracious, and generous God. It is unthinkable that any loving parent would give their child a snake instead of a fish or a scorpion instead of an egg.  Likewise, it is unthinkable that our loving God in heaven would give us something harmful instead of something good.

Verse thirteen closes this lesson with Jesus stating the obvious to his disciples.  13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”  In other words, if your earthly fathers know how to give you good gifts, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts?  Jesus is making his point by moving from the disadvantaged earthly father’s perspective to the omnipotent heavenly Father’s perspective.  If your disadvantaged earthly father knows how to give good gifts, how much more will the God of the universe do for God’s children.     

Context

People who say God may not come when you want Him, but He’s always right on time, say that because they have probably experienced God for themselves.  They already know that God is an on time God. Jesus has already taught the disciples the model prayer and in this parable he is teaching them to persevere in prayer.  He is driving home the point that persistent prayer, persevering prayer, changes things. What we should know and believe is that prayer changes things. If not our circumstances or situations, then perhaps us.

Key Words:  

Parable – A short story based on common experiences that contains a meaning.  Parables make up approximately 35% of Jesus’ recorded sayings.    

Perseverance – persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas:  

1.  Prayer changes things. 

2.  Why do we pray?

Question:  

If God already knows what we need before we ask why is it important to ask?    

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:

Next week is the first week of the Spring Quarter.  The focus for next quarter is justice and the prophets.  The lesson for March 1, 2020 comes from Amos 5:18-24 and is titled “Called to Accountability” and “A Call to Accountability”.   

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Sunday School, Sunday School Lesson

Sunday School Lesson (February 16, 2020) The Prayer of Jesus / Kingdom Seeking Prayer Matthew 6:9-15

The Prayer of Jesus / Kingdom Seeking Prayer

Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com.  In this week’s lesson Jesus provides his disciples with a kingdom seeking prayer. We often call this prayer of Jesus the Lord’s Prayer.  In this portion of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is showing his disciples a more excellent way to pray. He is correcting them so they won’t pray like hypocrites.  He is correcting them so they won’t pray to be seen like others or to draw attention to themselves. When Jesus says “pray then in this way” He is teaching his disciples how to pray.  That is to say, this is a better way to pray. He has already told them don’t pray like the hypocrites in the synagogue and in the streets. He’s already told them don’t pray to bring attention to yourself.  And it’s not as if the disciples weren’t already praying or didn’t know how to pray. This prayer Jesus is teaching his disciples continues his instruction on the new rules and new commands that will govern the citizens of the new kingdom of heaven.  It is perhaps the most well known prayer of all time and many of us learned it at the feet of our mothers.  Some key ideas surrounding this week’s text includes the terms:  

Doxology

Kingdom of God

Background:  

This is the third lesson of three from the early chapters of the Gospel According to Matthew.  Over the last two weeks some of the major points I’ve discussed include:

  • How The Gospel According to Matthew and the other three Gospels are placed at the beginning of the New Testament to form a foundation and basis upon which we learn about the life, work, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  
  • How this book is the writer’s recollection of words Jesus spoke decades earlier.
  • How the main subject of Matthew is “the kingdom of heaven” or the “kingdom of God.”
  • How this Gospel presents Jesus as a sort of Moses who delivers the nation of Israel like Moses delivered the nation from Pharaoh in Egypt.
  • How the NISB explains that “the Gospel was probably a rewriting of Mark’s Gospel, written around 70 CE.”
  • How the NISB explains “the antagonism toward the synagogue in Matthew suggests a date in the 80s.” 

In this week’s lesson Jesus gives the disciples a model prayer.  It is perhaps the most well known prayer of all time. Keep in mind that this prayer is a part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount discourse.  In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus outlined some of the rules and commands that the kingdom of God will be governed by. In this prayer Jesus is showing his disciples a more excellent way to pray.  

I want to highlight that this text is likely written after the Temple in Jerusalem has been destroyed.  That’s significant because the Temple was central, or one of the most important aspects of the Jewish religion.  As we have studied in previous lessons the Temple was the place where God would be present among them. Now that place was destroyed.  God’s house was destroyed. And the Jewish people are trying to figure out what that means for them as a people. They want to know if it means that God has abandoned them.  After suffering such a heavy defeat they are confused about their place in the world, what all this means for the Davidic covenant, and if God has truly forsaken them. One of the reasons The Gospel According to Matthew is written is to answer that question.  The writer wants them to know that Jesus is the answer. The sixth chapter of Matthew deals with almsgiving, prayer, fasting, treasures, serving two masters, and worry. In our text for this week Jesus provides an example of how to pray. This model prayer is perhaps the most well known prayer in all of history.  Some important terms to consider about this text include:

Doxology

Kingdom of God

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

In last week’s lesson Jesus gave instructions on how to do good deeds, where to pray, how to pray, and how not to pray.  All of this was a part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  Jesus had been baptized by John the Baptist, he had endured forty days and forty nights of fasting in the desert, then  tempted by the satan. He had begun his ministry in Galilee, called his first disciples, and ministered to the crowds before his first major discourse – the Sermon on the Mount. The instructions in his Sermon on the Mount included how to do good deeds, how to give alms, and how to pray our prayers in ways that won’t draw attention to ourselves.  Because when it’s all about us, when it’s all about drawing attention to ourselves, it’s not about the will of God for our lives. And it’s not about the others that Jesus sacrificed his life for. In last week’s text we also began to see a bit of the antagonism The Gospel of Matthew has toward the synagogue. That antagonism was a result of the division between what I call the old school traditional Jews (who reject Jesus) and the new Jewish Christians who believe Jesus is the Messiah.  I also noted that Matthew does not offer a friendly glowing depiction of the synagogue. I noted how as the Mattheian writer writes to the Jewish-Christian community he recalled the words of Jesus from decades earlier yet his focus was still God honoring Piety. Townsend and Boyd’s Commentaries title this week’s lesson “The Prayer of Jesus.” Standard Lesson Commentary titles this week’s lesson “Kingdom Seeking Prayer.” The scripture text comes from Matthew 6:9-15.  

Again, these are the words of Jesus.  This prayer is a part of his sermon on the mount and it should not be considered as a separate, isolated text.  It is in the context of all the words he just spoke in verses 1-8. This prayer is a part of his first major discourse – the Sermon on the Mount.  It is a part of the rules and commands that govern the citizens of this new kingdom of God Jesus is preaching.  

What Takes Place in This Passage:  

The lesson opens at chapter six verse nine with Jesus having already given instructions on piety or as the King James version puts it almsgiving.  He has given instructions on how to pray, where to pray, and how not to pray. Jesus has warned the disciples to beware of being pious in order to be seen by others and He has told the disciples “do not be like the hypocrites.”  Now he teaches his disciples a model prayer.  

This is the prayer that many of us learned from our mothers when we were but little children.  And because we have known this prayer for so long it can be easy to simply say the words without meaning what we say.  We know it by rote. And since we are so familiar with it and have known it for so long we can fall into the sin of verse 7 which says “When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do.

When Jesus says “pray then in this way”  He is teaching his disciples how to pray.  That is to say, this is a better way to pray than the way you have been praying.  He has already told them don’t pray like the hypocrites in the synagogue and in the streets.  He’s already told them don’t pray to bring attention to yourself. It’s not as if the disciples weren’t already praying or didn’t know how to pray.  Jesus is correcting the way they pray.  Remember the verses before this one talked about not being a hypocrite and not praying to be seen by others.  

The prayer begins by addressing God in heaven.  Westminster’s Dictionary of Theological Terms defines heaven as “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”.  This place where the abode of God is, is also referred to as the third heaven. The first heaven is the atmosphere where we breath, the birds fly, and the clouds exist. The second heaven would be outer space where the sun, the moon, and the stars exist.  And the third heaven would be God’s throne; that place where God most manifests God’s self. Check Genesis 1:1, 2 Corinthians 12:2-4, and Deuteronomy 26:15. Westminster’s defines “hallow” as “To consecrate, set apart, or regard as holy”. So Jesus is telling his disciples to address God in heaven knowing that God is – set apart, and holy.  

In verse ten Jesus says “your kingdom come, your will be done.”  That’s the WHOLE point. God’s kingdom on earth. This is the central reason behind The Gospel According to Matthew.  God’s kingdom on earth, ruled by Jesus Christ. God’s kingdom on earth won’t be like the Roman kingdom that has oppressed the Jewish people and destroyed the Temple.  It won’t even be like the old Jewish kingdoms of David and Solomon. This will be a new way of living, a new kingdom with new rules that govern the citizens of the new kingdom.  This kingdom ruled by Jesus Christ will establish the perfect kingdom of God on earth and in the universe.  

In verse eleven Jesus reminds his disciples to pray for daily provisions also.  Jesus is not so heavenly minded that he is of no earthly good. He knows his disciples and followers often struggle for daily provision.  And he wants us to bring those needs to God in prayer. 1 Peter 5:6, 7 reminds us Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you”.

In verse twelve Jesus instructs the disciples “forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”  I think this verse should be interpreted to mean exactly what it says. We ask God to forgive our debts, just as or in the same way, we forgive our debtors.  However, Marvin R. Vincent in Word Studies in the New Testament  notes that “sin is pictured as a debt and the sinner is the debtor (compare Matt. 18:28, 30).”  That a fine picture and it works for this verse but again, I don’t think this verse needs further interpretation.  Forgiveness is an important theme in both the Old and New Testaments and we bear the duty and responsibility of forgiving when forgiveness is warranted.  

In verse thirteen the New Revised Standard Version says “And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.”  The KJV says “and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil”. And The New International Version says “and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.”  The difference between the three translations is “time of trial instead of temptation” and deliver us from evil versus deliver us from the evil one. The Handbook on the Gospel of Matthew by Barclay M. Newman notes that “This final petition is especially difficult to interpret.  The Greek word translated temptation may also mean “trail or persecution.”  As I have noted in previous lessons, God does not tempt.  James 1:13 reminds us. “No one, when tempted, should say, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one.”  Note also that the KJV includes the doxology – “for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever.  Amen.” These words are not included in the NRSV or the NIV. The Pulpit Commentary explains 

“indeed it was so usual for doxologies of one kind or another to be added by the jews to prayers, that, though we cannot for one moment accept the words here as genuine, we must consider it very doubtful if the Lord’s Prayer was ever used in Jewish circles without a doxology, or that our Lord, as Man, ever intended it to be so used.”  

So, the doxology we quote in this verse was not a part of the original text of the Matthian writer nor is it in Luke’s account of this prayer.  

Verses fourteen and fifteen close the lesson on a note about forgiveness.  Just as God forgives us, we should forgive others. It’s important to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  We ought always to treat people right. Jesus is teaching a new way of living. No longer are the Jews to practice “an eye for an eye” now they are to forgive so that God in heaven will forgive them.  These are new rules and a new way of living for the citizens of this new kingdom of Heaven.  

Context

Why do we pray?  I pray because I believe God can do something about my situation or circumstances.  I pray to have a conversation with God, to praise, or thank God. I pray to process my thoughts and to hear God’s direction.  There are a number of ways and reasons we can and should pray. But in our praying we should know and remember that God is more concerned with the pray-er, than God is with the prayer.  Let’s strive to do as Jesus taught his disciples to pray.

Key Words:  

Doxology – a form of praise to God, such as “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost (Spirit).    

Kingdom of God – God’s Sovereign reign and God’s rule was the major focus of Jesus’ teaching (Matt. 6:23; Mark 1:15; Luke 6:20).  Its fullness is in the future (Luke 13:29; 22:18) and yet it has also come in Jesus himself (Luke 10:9; 17:21).

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas:  

1.  Praying for our daily bread.  (In the same way Jesus taught his disciples about spiritual and heavenly things he also taught them to pray for their daily provisions)

2.  Why do we pray?  (as in all things, our motivations matter.  We ought to pray from a genuine heart)

Question:  

Jesus took the time to instruct his disciple on prayer.  Why is this an important part of the Christians’ life?  

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:

Next week, we move to the Gospel According to Luke but we cover the same subject content of this week.  Next week we again study the Lord’s prayer but this time from Luke’s perspective. The lesson for February 23, 2020 comes from Luke 11:5-13 and is titled “Perseverance in Prayer” and “Ever-Persevering Petitions.”  Again, Jesus teaches us about true worship through prayer.

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Sunday School, Sunday School Lesson

Sunday School Lesson (February 9, 2020) Piety That Honors God / God Honoring Piety Matthew 6:1-8

Piety That Honors God / God Honoring Piety – Matthew 6:1-8

Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com.  In this week’s lesson Jesus instructs us on piety that honors God. This God honoring piety begins with instruction on how to do good deeds.  Then Jesus switches to where to pray, how to pray, and how not to pray.  All of this is a part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  Jesus has been baptized by John the Baptist, he has endured forty days and forty nights of fasting in the dessert followed by temptation from the satan.  He has begun his ministry in Galilee, called his first disciples, and ministered to the crowds before he begins his first major discourse – the Sermon on the Mount. In this week’s text Jesus instructs us to do our good deeds, to give our alms, and to pray our prayers in ways that won’t draw attention to ourselves.  When it’s all about us, when it’s all about drawing attention to ourselves, it’s not about the will of God for our lives. And it’s not about the others that Jesus sacrificed his life for. Additionally, in this week’s text we begin to see a bit of the antagonism The Gospel of Matthew contains toward the synagogue. This antagonism is a result of the division between what I call the old school traditional Jews (who reject Jesus) and these new Jewish Christians who believe Jesus is the Messiah.  Matthew does not offer a friendly glowing depiction of the synagogue. In this week’s text, as Matthew writes to the Jewish-Christian community he recalls the words of Jesus from decades earlier and his focus is God honoring Piety. Some key ideas surrounding this week’s text includes the terms:  

Hypocrisy 

Kingdom of God

Background:

This is the second lesson of three that comes from the early chapters of the Gospel According to Matthew.  Last week I mentioned how Matthew is the first book of the New Testament and the first book of what we call the four Gospels.  I noted how Nelson’s Bible Handbook explains that “Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are placed at the beginning of the New Testament as the theological backdrop for the rest of the New Testament”.  So these four books help form the foundation and basis upon which we learn about the life, work, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Each of the four Gospels tell the story of Jesus from their own unique perspective.  Matthew, Mark, and Luke are synoptic Gospels.  That means in large part, they tell the same stories,  and they tell them pretty much the same way. They go together hand-in-glove.  They are very much alike whereas the Gospel According to John is not synoptic.  John stands alone recording events the other Gospels does not record and when it tells the same stories it tells them in a different way.  

Nelson’s Bible Handbook notes that the main subject of Matthew is the “kingdom of heaven” or “Kingdom of God”.  It continues, “this kingdom of God means the rule or reign of God – in the entire universe, in the world, and in our hearts.”  That’s significant because this week’s lesson deals with some of the rules that govern the kingdom of God.  These are new rules that the Jewish people had not heard before. In this new kingdom of God, with these new rules, people’s lives and society will be changed so they are not oppressing others and not living under oppression.  Nelson’s Bible Handbook explains that “the kingdom is already here in Jesus (12:28), but it is not yet fulfilled (13:43; 25:34).” So God reigns sovereign throughout the universe right now, but the Kingdom of God that Jesus is preaching is not yet fully complete.  If you have a red-letter edition of the Bible you will notice a lot of red in chapters five, six, and seven. In those chapters, Jesus is outlining his rules to govern this new kingdom of God.  Those rules begin with what we call the Beatitudes in chapter 5:1-13.  

In last week’s background I noted how the NISB explains that “the Gospel was probably a rewriting of Mark’s Gospel, written around 70 CE.”  The NISB continues “the antagonism toward the synagogue in Matthew suggests a date in the 80s.” This antagonism The Gospel of Matthew contains is a result of the division between what I call the old school traditional Jews (who reject Jesus) and these new Jewish Christians who believe Jesus is the Messiah.  In this week’s lesson a bit of that antagonism toward the synagogue begins to appear. Matthew does not offer a friendly glowing depiction of the synagogue.  

The sixth chapter of Matthew deals with almsgiving, prayer, fasting, treasures, serving two masters, and worry.  In our text for this week Jesus gives us instruction on how to do good deeds, where and when to pray; and how to and how not to pray.  Some important terms to consider about this text include:

Hypocrisy 

Kingdom of God

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

In last week’s lesson we saw a prime example of single minded obedience as Jesus demonstrated true worship.  After being baptised by John the baptist, experiencing God the Father in a voice from the opened heavens, and the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove, Jesus was immediately taken into the wilderness by the Spirit where he fasted for forty days and forty nights.  After fasting forty days and forty nights Jesus was famished. He may have been God in the flesh but his flesh desperately needed sustenance. Jesus is no doubt in a weakened state physically and emotionally. It was at this point when Jesus was vulnerable that the adversary, the accuser, the tempter, the devil tried to short circuit Jesus’ journey to become King of Kings and LORD of Lords.  Jesus was tempted three times by the satan. Each time he engaged the devil by quoting holy Scripture. If it’s in you, it will come out of you. Jesus fought the devil with what was inside him – scripture. We would do well, if we could do the same when faced with adversity. Townsend and Boyd’s Commentaries title this week’s lesson “Piety that Honors God.” Standard Lesson Commentary titles this week’s lesson “God Honoring Piety.”  The scripture text comes from Matthew 6:1-8.  

Again, these are the words of Jesus.  They are a part of his first major discourse – his Sermon on the Mount and they are a part of the rules and commands that govern the citizens of this new kingdom of God Jesus is preaching.  

What Takes Place in This Passage:  

The lesson opens at chapter six verse one with Jesus giving instructions on piety or as the King James version puts it almsgiving.  His focus in this verse is piety. Westminster’s Dictionary of Theological Terms define “piety” as devotion and commitment to God expressed in the Christian life through a variety of actions.  Different expressions and emphases for piety are found throughout Christian history.  The term is sometimes used synonymously with “spirituality”.”  So piety can be seen as part of one’s religious duty. Something that is done because of and required by one’s religious commitment.  For us today, piety might be as simple as praying before we eat or visiting the sick or elderly.  

In this verse, in the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), Jesus warns us to beware of being pious in order to be seen by others.  The King James Version uses the word alms, the New International Version uses the term right-eousness. And the New Revised Standard Version uses the term piety.  Those are three different words in three different translations. The Pulpit Commentary explains several reasons why “alms” should not be the word used in this verse.  One reason is that “it is improbable that the [Greek] word used here should be rendered “alms” because it has this meaning no where else in the New Testament.” 

At any rate, Jesus is teaching us about the motives of why we do what we do; whether it’s called piety, doing good deeds, righteousness, or some other term.  Jesus warns us to beware of doing what we do in order to be seen by others. He says, “for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.” The implication then, is if we are doing these good deeds not to be seen by others but from a pure motive, then there will be a reward for us.  But the question that immediately comes to mind is whether that reward will be received in this life or in the life to come.  

In verse two we begin to see a bit of the animosity the Gospel writer has with the synagogue.  As the Mattheian writer recalls the words Jesus spoke decades earlier he does not gloss over his disdain for the members of the synagogue.  He calls them hypocrites. Note also that the correct word for alms is now used in the NRSV, the KJV, and the NIV translates alms as “giving to the needy.”  In this verse, Jesus tells us “do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others.”  The idea is that those who give should not draw attention to themselves for the good works they do. When they draw attention to themselves for the work they do the attention they receive is their reward.  

The NISB explains “this passage promotes practices that benefit the other and serve God.”  Serving others and not serving our own self interests is a theme that runs through both Old and New Testaments.  In verses three and four Jesus tells us “when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.”  Giving alms or doing righteousness does not require a great announcement. I think this takes into account the feelings of the person receiving alms also.  Who wants to be the subject of someone making a big deal about how much they helped you. No matter how grateful a person may be, it can be embarrassing for someone to make a big deal about how they helped you.  I think Matthew is concerned about the person on the receiving end of the good deed also. When our alms are done in secret, when we do good works without drawing attention to ourselves, God sees and God knows and that’s what counts.  

First Jesus gives us instruction on piety then in verse five Jesus switches the subject to prayer.  Again the Mattheian writer notes that hypocrites can be found in the synagogue “for they love to stand and pray in the synagogue.”  They are hypocrites because they love to be seen. They are hypocrites because they love to look pious but their motives are for self glorification and not from a genuine heart.  Jesus tells us “do not be like hypocrites.” The hypocrites have already received their reward.  

In verse six, Jesus gives us instruction on where to pray.  He tells us to go into our room, shut the door, and pray to the Father who is in secret, and the Father who sees in secret will reward you.  Note that the KJV includes the word “openly”. The NIV and NRSV does not include this word. Public prayer for the praise and approval of others is vain and conceited.  Westminster’s Dictionary of Theological Terms defines “prayer” as: human approach to God and addressing God in praise and adoration, confession, thanksgiving, suppliction, and intercession.  A consciousness of God’s presence, love, direction, and grace may be experienced.” We pray to communicate with God, not to show off or be praised by others.  

In verse seven Jesus tells us how to pray.  He says we should not “heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do.  The KJV calls Gentiles “heathen”. The NIV uses “pagans” for the same word.  The KJV uses heathen, the NIV uses pagan, and the NRSV uses Gentile. At any rate, this implies to me that heathens, pagans and Gentiles pray also.  But I think the point the writer is making is that non-christian people pray and our prayers should not be like those of people outside the faith. The NISB explains that “heaping up empty phrases or babbling is polemic.”  In other words, the Mattheian writer is harshly disagreeing with, if not attacking the way Gentiles pray.  

Verse eight closes our lesson with an admonition not to be like the Gentiles and a reassurance that God the Father knows what we need before we ask.  You may have heard some people say “ it don’t take all that”. In this case, it’s true. We don’t need long wordy prayers that sound a certain way. God already knows what we stand in need of.  I especially like Hebrews 4:16 as a guide to my own prayer. “Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  And God knows, it’s always a time of need.  

Context

Why do we do what we do?  What is our motivation? Do our good works come from a place of genuine concern for others without expecting something specific in return?  I think these are questions that can help guide us in this Christian journey. Jesus instructs us to do our good deeds, to give our alms, and to pray our prayers in ways that won’t draw attention to ourselves.  When it’s all about us, when it’s all about drawing attention to ourselves, it’s not about the will of God for our lives. And it’s not about the others that Jesus sacrificed his life for. Let’s strive to stay grounded in the reasons that matter.   

Key Words:  

Hypocrisy – The outward appearance of conveying truth or righteousness that masks the inner state of mind or intention of untruth or evilness (Matt 23:28; Mark 12:15; James 3:17).  

Kingdom of God – God’s Sovereign reign and God’s rule was the major focus of Jesus’ teaching (Matt. 6:23; Mark 1:15; Luke 6:20).  Its fullness is in the future (Luke 13:29; 22:18) and yet it has also come in Jesus himself (Luke 10:9; 17:21).

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas:  

1.  Stay grounded in the reasons that matter.  (Some things matter more than others, we should always stay grounded in the reasons that really matter)

2.  Why do we do what we do?  (our motivations matter.  If we are seeking our own praise we can be sure we’ve already received all the reward we’ll get)

Question:  

Why do words like humbleness, modesty, and meekness seem to be so much more valued for Christians?

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:

Next week, we pick up where we left off in Matthew sixth chapter.  The lesson for February 16, 2020 comes from Matthew 6:9-15 and is titled “The Prayer of Jesus” and “Kingdom Seeking Prayer.”  Next week’s study deals with what is commonly called the Lord’s prayer. Again, Jesus teaches us about true worship; this time through prayer.

Thank you for joining me on this journey.  I am Rev. Dexter Alexander and you’ve been listening to SundaySchoolPreacher.com. 

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Sunday School, Sunday School Lesson

Sunday School Lesson (February 2, 2020) Single Minded Obedience Matthew 4:1-11

Single Minded Obedience Matthew 4:1-11

Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com.  In this week’s lesson we get a prime example of single minded obedience as Jesus teaches about true worship.  After being baptised by John the baptist, experiencing God the Father in a voice from the opened heavens, and the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove, Jesus is immediately taken into the wilderness by the Spirit where he fasts for forty days and forty nights.  After fasting forty days and forty nights Jesus was famished. He may be God in the flesh but his flesh desperately needs sustenance. Jesus is no doubt in a weakened state physically and emotionally. It’s at this point when Jesus is vulnerable that the adversary, the accuser, the tempter, the devil tries to short circuit Jesus’ journey to become King of Kings and LORD of Lords.  Jesus is tempted three times by the satan. Each time he combats the devil by quoting holy Scripture. If it’s in you, it will come out of you. Jesus fought the devil with what was inside him – scripture. We would do well, if we could do the same when faced with adversity. Some key ideas surrounding this week’s text includes the terms:  

Temptation

Fasting  

Background:  

Over the next four weeks I will explore how Jesus teaches about true worship.  Three of those lessons come from the early portions of The Gospel According to Matthew.  Matthew is the first book of the New Testament and the first book of what we call the four Gospels.  Nelson’s Bible Handbook explains that “Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are placed at the beginning of the New Testament as the theological backdrop for the rest of the New Testament”.  So these four books help form the foundation and basis upon which we learn about the life, work, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Nelson’s also notes that “in Matthew, Jesus is presented as the teacher who is greater than Moses.”  That is significant because Matthew puts Jesus forth with several parallels to Moses. For example Moses gave the Law from Mount Sinai. Jesus begins his major teachings – the Beatitudes – from a place the writer calls a mountain. So Matthew depicts Jesus as a sort of Moses that delivers the people of Israel from their captors in the same way Moses delivered the Israelites from the Pharaoh in Egypt.   

The New Interpreter’s Study Bible also notes that “the time and place of this Gospel’s composition are unclear as well.”  So no one knows for sure when, where, or by whom this Gospel was written. Nelson’s Bible Handbook notes that the author was probably a Palestinian Jew who used the Gospel of Mark plus a Greek translation of Matthew’s Aramaic “oracles” and composed the Gospel in Greek.”  I should note that Townsend’s commentary acknowledges that tradition, various theories, and modern scholars agree that the apostle known as Matthew the tax collector wrote this gospel.”  

The NISB notes that “the Gospel was probably a rewriting of Mark’s Gospel, written around 70 CE.”  The NISB continues “the antagonism toward the synagogue in Matthew suggests a date in the 80s.” This antagonism The Gospel of Matthew contains is a result of the division between what I call the old school traditional Jews (who reject Jesus) and these new Jewish Christians who believe Jesus is the Messiah.  

The fourth chapter of Matthew deals with the temptation of Jesus (our text this week), Jesus beginning his ministry in Galilee, Jesus calling the first disciples, and then Jesus ministering to crowds of people.  So this is Matthew’s account of the story of how Jesus first began in ministry. As we progress through this account of Jesus’ temptation, and the following lessons on piety, prayer, and perseverance we will see Jesus teaching about true worship.

Some important terms to consider about this text include:

Temptation

Fasting

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

In last week’s lesson Solomon closed his dedication ceremony in much the same way as he opened it – by “blessing” the people.  Keep in mind that Solomon was not a high priest, he was not even a priest or a Levite but he seemingly took on priestly roles by leading the nation in prayer, offering sacrifices, and giving a speech during the dedication ceremony.  This was a dedication ceremony and the people had just had a worship experience. They experienced a theophany. They had experienced the presence of God in the thick cloud and they had witnessed Solomon leading the nation in prayer in the presence of God.  Solomon had already reminded the assembly of his father David’s desire to make a permanent home for the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord. He had prayed his prayer, he had made his nine pleas and requests known to God and now just as Solomon began the dedication service by blessing the assembly, he closed the dedication service by blessing the assembly.   Townsend, Boyd’s, and Standard Lesson Commentaries title this week’s lesson “Single Minded Obedience”.  The scripture text comes from Matthew 4:1-11.  

Keep in mind that this portion of scripture deals with the very beginning of when and how Jesus began his earthly ministry.  The first three chapters of Matthew have already told us about:

  • The genealogy of Jesus.
  • The birth of Jesus as the Messiah.
  • How Mary, Joseph, and Jesus escaped to and returned from Egypt.
  • How Jesus was baptised by John the Baptist at the Jordan river.

This text deals with the events that occur immediately following Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River.  

What Takes Place in This Passage:  

The Lesson opens at chapter four verse one with Jesus being led by the Spirit into the wilderness.  Immediately before this text, Jesus had been baptised by John the Baptist and approved by God as the heavens opened, the voice of God spoke from heaven, and the Spirit of God descends like a dove.  I should note that the baptism of Jesus is the only place in scripture that specifically mentions God the father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit as three separate entities located in the same place.  This is the very beginning of Jesus’ road to calvary and kingship and sovereignty over all humanity. Jesus will become King of Kings, but the journey begins in the wilderness with temptations.

In this wilderness experience Jesus will be tempted three times by what Matthew calls the devil, the tempter, and the satan.  The NISB explains that “the central issue in the three temptations concerns who will determine Jesus’ actions. Does God or does Satan?”  I think that question remains relevant to all of us today. Who will determine our actions? Will we follow the ways of God’s righteousness or will we follow the evil ways of the adversary.  Just as Jesus had a choice even in his physically weakened state, we also have a choice. Temptations, adversity, and opposition will come our way; it’s up to us how we respond.

The NISB notes that “Jesus is led away into the wilderness.  This location, away from the center of power, recalls the testing of Israel (forty years [in the wilderness]).”  So just as Moses was forty years in the wilderness, away from the center of power in Egypt, Jesus will spend forty days and nights in the wilderness away from the center of religious power in Jerusalem.  The NISB also notes that the wilderness “was a traditional place for demons. And that the devil, a powerful, non-human figure, resists God’s purposes.” The adversary, the satan, the tempter, the devil is opposed to God’s purposes and opposed to Jesus becoming King of Kings and LORD of Lords.  

In verse two Jesus fasted forty days and forty nights.  Through the Bible there is significance in the number forty.  

  1. It rained forty days and forty nights during the flood (Gen 7:4).
  2. Moses spent forty years in the wilderness (Exodus 3).
  3. Israel spied out the land forty days (Numbers 13:25).
  4. Moses spent forty days on Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:18).
  5. Israel wandered forty years in the desert (Numbers 14:33).
  6. Goliath taunted Israel forty days (1 Samuel 17:16).
  7. Jonah preached repentance to Nineveh forty days (Jonah 3:4).
  8. Jesus fasted forty days and nights in the wilderness before being tempted (Matthew 4:2).
  9. There were forty days between the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ (Acts 1:3).  

So throughout scripture the number forty appears at significant and important times.  

Westminister’s Dictionary of Theological Terms defines “fasting” as “abstinence from food for the purposes of religious devotion and spiritual discipline.”  Jesus was all God and all man in flesh so his physical body required sustenance. After forty days and forty nights Jesus was famished. He would have no doubt been desperately hungry.  

In verse three the tempter came to Jesus with the first temptation.  The tempter asks Jesus – “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”    The tempter begins by questioning Jesus as if Jesus did not fully know he was the Son of God. The tempter’s trick doesn’t work.  Even in his weakened state, Jesus is not swayed, convinced, or tricked by the tempter. He knows who he is and after forty days and forty nights without food Jesus can not be tricked into thinking he is less than the Son of God.  

In verse four Jesus answers the tempter with scripture.  “It is written, one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” is a quote from Deuteronomy 8:3.  It reads “3 He humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”  In the eighth chapter of Deuteronomy the writer is providing instructions for the Israelites.  He provides a warning not to forget God in their prosperity. They had spent forty years in the wilderness and now they were about to enter the promised land.  Jesus remembered this verse in Deuteronomy with the Israelites forty year journey in the wilderness and his own forty days and nights in the wilderness. Notice also that “Man” in the KJV and NIV is capitalized.  The NRSV capitalizes “One” in “it is written, One does not live by bread alone.”  Jesus is referencing himself. Again, Jesus is letting the tempter know that he is the Son of God.    

In verse five the devil took Jesus to the holy city and placed him on a pinnacle of the temple.  Keep in mind that the devil is a spirit being. The devil is not a human. So this travel from the wilderness to the holy city is achieved in some way that is not told in the story.  

The Pulpit Commentary explains that the “pinnacle” of the temple is not known.  No one precisely knows what is meant by the term pinnacle. Also, I should note that this temple is not the same temple built by Solomon as we have studied in previous weeks.  This temptation of Jesus would have happened when Jesus was about thirty years old.  

Solomon built the first temple and it was destroyed.  Zerubbal rebuilt the first temple and that temple became the second temple.  The Lexham Bible dictionary explains that Herod the Great made significant renovations to the second temple in about 20 CE.  So at this point the devil is taking Jesus to the temple that Herod renovated.  

In verse six the devil challenges Jesus to throw himself down from the pinnacle.  He continues by quoting scripture “for it is written, He will command his angels concerning you and on their hands they will bear you up , so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.”  Psalms 91:11-12 is the scripture the devil quotes.  

That seems like it makes sense.  It seems logical that God will protect the Son of God from hurt, harm, and danger.  But that’s exactly how scripture gets misappropriated and misused. At this point, after forty days and forty nights without food Jesus is no doubt in pain and in a weakened state physically, mentally, and emotionally.  But Jesus knows, just because it seems like it makes sense, doesn’t make it right.  I want to stress that this is a REAL temptation.  This is not a spiritual exercise that we can simply say that Jesus was God so he just sailed through this.  No, Jesus is tempted and he chooses to overcome the temptation.

In verse seven Jesus responds with a quote from Deuteronomy 6:16.  “16 Do not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah.”  The NISB explains that “the incident at Massah reflects the people’s unwillingness to trust that God could take care of their needs.”  Jesus quotes this passage to let the devil know that he has complete faith, trust, and confidence in God. He doesn’t need to put God to the test to see if God will come rescue him.  

In verses eight and nine, again the devil takes Jesus to a very high mountain for his third temptation.  On this high mountain the devil showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. Then he tells Jesus “all these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”  Only forty days ago Jesus began his earthly journey to become King of Kings and LORD of Lords. The devil is offering him a short cut, a get rich quick scheme, the easy way to have everything he was supposed to have.  

The truth is, God already owns everything.  Jesus knows he is the Son of God and there is nothing that God does not already own.  So this promise from the devil to give Jesus the kingdoms of the world is an empty promise that he could not fulfil even if he wanted to.  Even in Jesus’ weakened state, he has single minded obedience to God and God alone.  

In verses ten and eleven Jesus tells the tempter (who Matthew now calls the satan) “away with you, Satan! For it is written, Worship the LORD your God, and serve only him.”  Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:13. This time not only does Jesus quote scripture but he demands the satan to leave. Westminster’s Dictionary of Theological Terms define “Worship” as the service of praise, adoration, thanksgiving, and petition directed toward God through actions and attitudes.”  That’s what the satan wanted from Jesus. At this point Jesus has had enough of the satans temptations and commands the adversary to leave.  

Additionally, Westminster’s notes that “Satan” in its Hebrew means accuser, or adversary.  Satan is defined as “the devil, who represents the most diabolical evil in opposition to God and God’s purposes (Matthew 4:10, Luke 10:18; 2 Cor. 2:11).

The lesson closes with this accuser, this adversary leaving Jesus and suddenly angels came and waited on him.  It’s important to note that after the temptations are complete and Jesus has successfully passed through the temptations that it was then that God suddenly sends angels to minister to Jesus.  

Context

The Hebrew word for the satan is the adversary or the accuser.  It isn’t a name, it’s a descriptor. That’s just some of what the evil one does.  As we face temptations, accusations, oppositions, and adversaries we should remember how Jesus handled them.  Even in his physically, and emotionally weakened state Jesus used the Word of God to deal with his temptations.  If it’s in you, it will come out of you. Let’s hope and pray that the word of God is in us enough to come out of us in our time of need.  

Key Words:  

Temptation – Enticement to evil and sin.  Biblically it is “proving by testing” to show someone’s commitment to God (Job 1-2), as well as the inducement to sin.  God does not tempt (James 1:12-15). Jesus was tempted but did not sin (Heb 4:15).  

Fasting – Abstinence from food for the purposes of religious devotion and spiritual discipline.  

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas:  

1.  If it’s in you, It will come out of you.

2.  Focused on Jesus. 

Question:  

It would have made sense and been logical for Jesus to turn the stones to bread.  Why didn’t he?    

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:

Next week, we continue in the Gospel According to Matthew, moving to Chapter six.  The lesson for February 9, 2020 comes from Matthew 6:1-8 and is titled Piety that Honors God and God Honoring Piety.   

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Christianity, Sunday School, Sunday School Lesson

Sunday School Lesson (January 26, 2020) Solomon’s Blessing / Solomon Anticipates Praise 1 Kings 8:54-61

Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com.  In this week’s lesson Solomon closes his dedication ceremony in much the same way as he opened it – by “blessing” the people.  Solomon is not a priest, he is not the high priest, he is not even a Levite but seemingly he takes on priestly roles by leading the nation in prayer, offering sacrifices, and giving a speech during the dedication ceremony.  Keep in mind that this is a dedication ceremony and the people have just had a worship experience. They have experienced a theophany. They have experienced the presence of God in the thick cloud and they have witnessed Solomon leading the nation in prayer in the presence of God.  Solomon had already reminded the assembly of his father David’s desire to make a permanent home for the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord. He has prayed his prayer, he has made his nine pleas and requests known to God and now just as he began this dedication service by blessing the assembly, he closes the dedication service by blessing the assembly also.  One key idea surrounding this week’s text includes the term:  

The Sacrificial System

Background:  

This is the fourth and final lesson from 1 Kings eighth chapter in this quarter.  In this week’s background I give attention to the writer’s concern with faithfulness and the covenant.  In previous lessons (all in the eighth chapter) the unknown prophet who wrote this text mentioned both the Davidic covenant and the Mosaic covenant.  

Just as a refresher, The Lexham Bible Dictionary defines the Mosaic Covenant as “the covenant mediated between God and Israel at Mount Sinai when Israel received the Law (including the ten commandments).  It is also known as the old covenant or the first covenant.” Lexham defines the Davidic Covenant as “the promise made by Yahweh that he would establish for King David a “house” or a dynasty of kings who would perpetually reign over God’s people.”  

Both of these covenants are important to the writer of Kings and he is especially concerned with explaining how and why the nation of Israel and Judah can be blessed if they obey the commands of God.  Nelson’s Bible Handbook explains “the welfare of Israel and Judah depends upon the faithfulness of the people and their king to the covenant.”  In the view of the writer, keeping the covenant and being faithful to the covenant and God is of utmost importance in explaining how the nations had success and failure.  Keep in mind that 1 and 2 Kings covers a 400 year period from before the death of David to the ascension of Solomon on the throne, through Solomon’s death and subsequent dividing of the kingdom, to the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities.  And as I noted last week, this book came about through two editions over the 400 year history it covers.  This is a book of history. The writer is reflecting that history and he wants people to know that faithfulness to God and the covenant is what brings success.  Kings is one of the twelve books of history in the Old Testament and the writer is telling us a portion of the history of the kings of Judah and Israel.  

As I noted last week, previous lesson backgrounds included:

  •  The similarities between 1 and 2 Chronicles and 1 and 2 Kings.
  • How Chronicles uses Kings as a source.
  • How Kings covers almost 400 years of history.
  • When each edition of Kings was written (pre-exilic and during the exile).
  • How Kings is a theological interpretation of the Monarchy and of the kings of Judah and Israel until the reign of Ahaziah.
  • A brief explanation of God’s dwelling places
  • And The major divisions of 1 Kings.  

This eighth chapter of First Kings deals with the dedication of the Temple, Solomon’s speech at the dedication, his prayer of dedication, his blessing of the assembly, and his sacrificial offerings.  The focus of last week’s lesson was Solomon’s dedication prayer. This week our lesson tells the story of how Solomon blesses the assembly after he finishes his dedicatory prayer. An important term to consider about this text is:

The Sacrificial System

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

 In last week’s lesson Solomon continued the Temple dedication service.  I noted how the dedication included worship, prayer, and praise. In Solomon’s dedication prayer he asked for God’s blessings, making nine specific petitions to God.  I also stressed that this event was a worship experience. Solomon and the people experienced a theophany – that is the visible manifestation of God. God made God’s self visible in the thick cloud that filled the Temple.  Solomon faced the Temple raised his hands toward heaven and began to pray his prayer of dedication. He knew exactly who he was praying to. Solomon was praying to the creator of the universe, who already owned all and knows all.  Solomon had no basis upon which to request anything except God’s beloved mercy. As he prayed he made known his nine petitions and led the people in prayer before God’s presence. Townsend and Boyd’s commentary title this week’s lesson “Solomon’s Blessing”.  Standard Lesson Commentary titles this week’s lesson “Solomon Anticipates Praise”. The scripture text comes from 1 Kings 8:54-61.  

What Takes Place in This Passage:  

The Lesson opens at Chapter 8 verse fifty-four with Solomon having concluded his dedicatory prayer.  The people have experienced a theophany. They have experienced the presence of God in the thick cloud and they have witnessed Solomon leading the nation in prayer in the presence of God.  In this dedication they had a worship experience. Solomon has given a speech. He reminded the assembly of his father David’s desire to make a permanent home for the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord.  He has prayed his prayer, he has made his nine pleas and requests known to God and now just as he began this dedication service by blessing the assembly, he closes the dedication service by blessing the assembly also.  This verse notes that Solomon arose from kneeling on his knees.  Townsend Commentary notes that “this is the first mention in scripture of someone kneeling in prayer.”   

In verse fifty-five as he faces the Altar of the LORD, Solomon stands up and with a loud voice blesses the assembly of Israel.  Townsend Commentary notes that “to “bless the people” was the exclusive privilege of the priests (Numbers 6:23-27). Solomon’s “blessing” here was actually a prayer of blessing and praise to God.”  So it may seem as if Solomon is taking on priestly roles by leading the nation in prayer and seemingly blessing the people but he is not a priest and he performs all his acts of dedication and worship outside this newly built temple.  

In verse fifty-six Solomon declares “Blessed be the LORD who has given rest to his people Israel.”  When Solomon speaks of this rest that the LORD has given, he is talking about peace in the land.  Solomon is praying that the unified nation would now enjoy a time of rest from war with its neighboring nations.  The Pulpit Commentary notes that “only under Solomon were the Philistines brought into complete subjection.”  This should be a time of peace and prosperity.  There is no need for a mobile tabernacle housed in a tent that can be moved from place to place.  If the nation is at peace they can have a permanent Temple – a building that doesn’t need to be moved.  Solomon continues – “not one word has failed of all his good promise, which he spoke through his servant Moses.”  Solomon is once again reminding the people that God is a covenant keeper.  God keeps God’s promises. 

In verse fifty-seven Solomon asks God to be with them as God was with his ancestors.  In other words, Solomon wants God to be the God that parted the Red Sea, he wants God to be the God that defeated Pharaoh’s Army, he wants God to be the God that blessed a young David to kill a giant named Goliath.  Solomon wants God to be with them the way God was with his ancestors.  He knows God is a miracle working God, a way-making God, and an omnipotent God.  Solomon continues, “may God not leave us nor forsake us”. Again, Solomon knows that if the people of Israel are to enjoy this rest, the presence, the power, and the protection of God must be with them.  

In verse fifty-eight Solomon says “that God may incline our hearts to God”.  He knows that they must be committed to God. Their hearts must be inclined to God not just in word and deed but in spirit also.  When their heart is inclined unto God and not unto their own ways and not unto the ways of the neighboring nations, then God will be their God and God will be their deliverer.  

In verse fifty-nine Solomon essentially says, let these words, these prayers I’ve prayed, these supplications I’ve made, let these words be close to you oh God.  He says this so that God might keep the cause or give success to Solomon and to the people of Israel.  

In verse sixty Solomon says “that all the people of the earth may know that the LORD is God.”  Solomon is standing before a newly built Temple. He has had a worship experience in the presence of God.  Solomon knows that God is the God of this universe and not just the God for Israel. In verse forty-three he said “43 then hear in heaven your dwelling place, and do according to all that the foreigner calls to you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and so that they may know that your name has been invoked on this house that I have built.”  Solomon wants God to show God’s self as not just the God of Israel but the God of all who will call upon God’s name.  

In verse sixty-one Solomon closes his blessing with a plea to the people to be completely devoted to God, keeping God’s statutes and commandments.  Solomon knows that if his people are to be blessed, that they will have to keep the covenant, to remain faithful, and to keep the commands of God.

Context

Westminster’s Dictionary of Theological Terms defines “bless/blessing” as “to praise, petition for Divine favor, wish someone well, or convey favor.  Used biblically to describe God’s actions, as in the frequent blessings that Jesus conferred on people. A closing blessing or benediction has traditionally been a feature of Christian worship.”  

Our text today highlights Solomon offering a blessing that is really directed to God.  In what ways do we petition God for favor, to wish someone well or to convey favor? Are we blessing others also?  Or are we focused on requesting blessings only for ourselves? 

Key Word

The Sacrificial System – Scott Langston and E. Ray Clendenen write in The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary that Leviticus 1-7 gives the most detailed description of Israel’s sacrificial system, including five types of sacrifices.  The sacrifices and offerings that were brought by the people were to be the physical expression of their inward devotion. Those five types of sacrifice include 1) Burnt offering, 2) Grain offering, 3) Peace Offering, 4) Sin Offering, and 5) Guilt or Reparation Offering.  They continue noting that “the prophets spoke harshly about the people’s concept of sacrifice. They tended to ignore faith, confession, and devotion thinking the mere act of sacrifice ensured forgiveness.” 

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas:  

1.  When the LORD gives you rest.   

2.  Obedience and sacrifice.  

Question:  

Solomon made over 140,000 sacrifices at this dedication ceremony (vs 63).  Is there a sacrificial system in use for Christians today?  

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:

Next week, is the first lesson of Unit Three in the Winter Quarter.  The title of Unit Three is Jesus Teaches About True Worship. There are four lessons in Unit Three and three of those lessons will come from The Gospel According to Matthew.  Next week’s lesson is titled Single Minded Obedience and comes from Matthew 4:1-11.  

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Sunday School Lesson (January 19, 2020) Solomon’s Dedication Prayer / Solomon Seeks God’s Blessing 1 Kings 8:22-30, 52-53

Solomon’s Dedication Prayer / Solomon Seeks God’s Blessing

Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com.  In this week’s lesson Solomon may be in a Temple dedication service, but worship, prayer, and praise is the focus.  In Solomon’s dedication prayer he seeks God’s blessings making nine specific petitions to God. I can’t stress enough that this is a worship experience.  Solomon and the people experience a theophany – that is the visible manifestation of God. God has made God’s self visible in the thick cloud that filled the Temple.  Solomon faces the Temple raises his hands toward heaven and begins to pray his prayer of dedication. He knows exactly who he is praying to. Solomon is praying to the creator of the universe, who already owns all and knows all.  Solomon has no basis upon which to request anything except God’s beloved mercy. As he prays he makes known his nine petitions and leads the people in prayer before God’s presence. Some of the ideas surrounding this week’s text include the terms:  

Altar

Dedicate

Background:  

This is the third lesson of four from 1 Kings eighth chapter.  The background of the previous two lessons revolved around:

  • The similarities between 1 and 2 Chronicles and 1 and 2 Kings
  • How Chronicles uses Kings as a source
  • How Kings covers almost 400 years of history
  • When each edition of Kings was written (pre-exilic and during the exile)
  • How Kings is a theological interpretation of the Monarchy and of the kings of Judah and Israel until the reign of Ahaziah
  • And a brief explanation of God’s dwelling places

In this week’s background I focus on the major divisions of 1 Kings and what dedication means.

The New Interpreter’s Study Bible explains “1 and 2 Kings can be divided into three mains sections:  the reign of Solomon (1 Kings 1:1-11:43); the divided monarchy (1 Kings 12:1 – 2 Kings 17:41); and the Kingdom of Judah (2 Kings 18:1-25:30).”  The focus of unit two of our study is dedicating the Temple so I’ll only highlight the first of the three major divisions. 

The reign of Solomon did not start with a smooth transition from his father David.  When King David was old “Adonijah exalted himself saying I will be king” (1 Kings 1:5).  Joab (David’s nephew) and the priest Abiathar supported Adonijah but the priest Zadok, Benaiah, the prophet Nathan, and David’s own warriors did not side with Adonijah (1 Kings 5-8).  Of course high drama ensues between the competing camps. In this struggle for power the winner is not who would ordinarily have succeeded.  After interventions from Nathan the prophet and Bathsheba, Solomon one of the younger sons of David, is anointed King and ascends to the throne.  

Before his death King David gives Solomon instructions, including who to kill and who not to kill (chapter 2).  After David dies, Solomon consolidates his power, prays for wisdom, and becomes famous for his wisdom all before building the Temple.

Solomon builds the Temple according to the instructions given to him.  The NISB notes “the construction began in the month of Ziv (april – may).  The Temple was 90 feet long, 30 feet wide, and 45 feet high with three rooms:  The vestibule or entrance was 30 feet by 15 feet, the nave, also known as the holy place was 60 feet long; the inner sanctuary, also known as the Holy of Holies or the Most Holy Place was 30 feet long, 30 feet wide, and 30 feet high, a perfect cube.  I encourage you to watch the “Temple” YouTube video created by The Bible Project.  It does a good job explaining aspects of God’s temple. 

Many years after the death of his father King David, King Solomon is in the process of dedicating this newly built Temple.  Westminster’s Dictionary of Theological Terms define dedicate as “to consecrate or set apart for a specific use or function.  Often used in a religious context to indicate the devoting of life and energies to a specific vocation, task, or service.”  The specific use of this new Temple would be the permanent home of God. It would be the place for God to dwell among and with the nation of promise and covenant. Solomon knows that regardless of how magnificent, grand, and opulent this new Temple is, it is all useless if God does not inhabit the Temple.

The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary explains “in the Old Testament people who were set apart included all israel (Exodus 19:5, 6), the priests (Exodus 29:1-37), the altar in the Tabernacle (Num. 7:10-88), silver and gold (2 Sam. 8:11)” as well as other people and things.  Today we dedicate buildings, people, and things that have been set apart for the service and use of God.  

Our focus last week was how God keeps God’s promises and God honors God’s covenants.  This week Solomon prays a prayer of dedication as we continue in the dedication service surrounded with worship, praise, and prayer.  Some important words to consider from this text include:

Altar

Dedicate

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

In last week’s lesson Solomon spoke to the assembled congregation in the midst of a worship experience.  Solomon gave a speech that reminded the congregation of his father King David’s heart. He reminded them that it was his father’s heart’s desire to build a house for the LORD God of Israel.  God may have made the covenant with King David but Solomon was now the King standing before the nation of Israel to make that dream a reality. Finally, after many years Solomon had secured a permanent place for God to dwell.  Even though it took many years for Solomon to achieve, God keeps God’s promises and God honors God’s covenants. Solomon honored God, acknowledged his father and he blessed (or salutes) the people in this worship experience. God occupied the Temple in the presence of a thick cloud and the dedication continued.  Townsend and Boyd’s commentary title this week’s lesson “Solomon’s Dedication Prayer”. Standard Lesson Commentary titles this week’s lesson “Solomon Seeks God’s Blessing”. The scripture text comes from 1 Kings 8:22-30, 52-53.  

What Takes Place in This Passage:  

The Lesson opens at Chapter 8 verse twenty-two.  Solomon stands as he begins his prayer of dedication.  Keep in mind that Solomon is the King. He is not the high priest, nor a Levite nor a priest.  Yet he is leading the gathered leaders, officials, elders, and people of the nation.  He is standing before the Altar of the LORD which is outside the Temple. Even though he is King, he still has no place inside the Temple.  As Solomon stands, he spreads forth his hands toward heaven. This is a worship experience!  Solomon and all the people have just experienced a theophany – the visible manifestation of God to humans.  They know that God is in their presence.  God has manifested God’s self in the thick cloud and now Solomon stands up, raises his hands toward heaven and begins his prayer of dedication.  

In verse twenty-three Solomon begins his prayer addressing God with words that could never be more true.  He says “O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth beneath.”  God is above all, in all, omnipotent and omniscient.  God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and God’s ways are not our ways.  Truly there is no god and no one, that can compare to the God Solomon has just experienced.  Solomon acknowledges that God keeps God’s covenants and God’s love is steadfast or unchanging.  

In verse twenty-four Solomon’s prayer mentions the Davidic covenant.  He talks about how God made the covenant with God’s servant David and how God promised with God’s own mouth to fulfill the covenant.  Solomon acknowledges that the covenant is fulfilled that day by God’s hand. The NISB explains that “the Davidic covenant declared that the LORD chose David to be king and had chosen David’s city to be the location of the Temple.” 

In verse twenty-five Solomon makes the first of nine petitions in his dedicatory prayer.  He prays that God would honor the Davidic covenant and forever have a descendant of David on the throne of Israel.  But also notice that he says “if only your children look to their way, to walk before me as you have walked before me.”  In other words, Solomon recognizes that in order to have this blessing that THEY had to keep God’s commands. In Solomon’s prayer there are obligations and responsibilities that must be adhered to by the people of Israel.

In verse twenty-six Solomon continues by saying “let your word be confirmed, which you promised to your servant, my father David.”  Solomon is simply saying O LORD God, do what you said you would do. Or let it be the way you said it would be.

Solomon begins verse twenty-seven with a rhetorical question.  He asks “will God indeed dwell on the earth?” Solomon knows who he is praying to.  He knows that God is the creator of the heavens, the earth, and all that dwells therein.  He acknowledges that even with all of its glory, majesty, and opulence, this temple as great as it is can not contain God of all creation.

In verse twenty-eight Solomon pleads the case for another of the nine petitions he mentions through verse fifty-three.  Here, Solomon asks God to hear his prayer. He says “that your eyes may be open night and day toward this house.” In other words, whenever God’s people are praying toward this Temple that God would hear their prayer.  In my own prayers I often ask God to hear my prayer and move on my behalf. I get the same sense from this prayer of Solomon. He wants God to hear not only his prayer but the prayers of all of Israel and be their God protecting and delivering God.  

Verse twenty-nine begins with “that your eyes may be open.”  In previous verses Solomon spoke of God’s hand and God’s mouth.  Now he gives the uncontainable God of creation eyes. This is called anthropomorphism.  Westminster’s define it as “the attribution of a human quality to God, such as “eyes,” “hands,” or “arms.”  It uses analogous and metaphorical language (Gen. 3:8, Ps 18:15).” Again, Solomon knows who he is praying to.  But sometimes, mere words are inadequate to express what God can and should mean to us. He wants God’s “eyes” to be open to the Temple so that God can see the worship and hear the prayers of God’s own people as they pray and worship at the Temple.  Solomon declares this because this is the place where God has set God’s name.  

In verse thirty Solomon again pleads for God to hear his prayer and the prayer of God’s people when they pray toward the Temple.  But note that he continues “hear in heaven your dwelling place.” All of the people of Israel have spent enormous amounts of resources to create this Temple specifically as a symbolic place for God to dwell.  Solomon is not confused. He knows that the God of the universe cannot be contained in a mere building built with human hands. So he asks God to hear their prayers even in God’s dwelling place in heaven.  

The lesson skips to verses fifty-two and fifty-three where Solomon again anthropomorphizes God by saying “let your eyes be open”.  Solomon has made his requests known to God in prayer.  In this close of his prayer he pleads again that God would hear his prayer and the prayers of the people of Israel.  In the verses before fifty-two he made nine petitions to God. He closes by again asking God to hear his prayer.   

Context

Solomon offers a prayer of dedication.  In his prayer he makes nine petitions but I think Solomon understood that even with all of the magnificence of the Temple and all of the gold and silver and wealth of the Temple and of his own personal wealth, that he still had nothing with which to bargain with God.  Solomon knew who he was praying to. He knew that he could only plead on the basis of God’s beloved mercy. Likewise we can’t bargain with God. We have nothing with which to bargain. God already owns it all. The Temple was a magnificent and beautiful edifice set apart for service to God.  But in all of Solomon’s petitions he still knew that it would be God and only God if any of them came to pass. We can ONLY plead on the basis of God’s beloved mercy.

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

Altar- The raised place on which sacrifices were offered in the Old Testament period.  In many churches, a raised table as the place where the bread and wine of the Eucharist are consecrated.  

Dedicate – To consecrate or set apart for a specific use or function.  Often used in a religious context to indicate the devoting of life and energies to a specific vocation, task, or service.  

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas:  

1.  Dedicated to You.      

2.  Laying it all before God.            

Question:  

Solomon makes nine petitions in his prayer of dedication.  On what basis did he believe God would answer his prayer?  

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:

Next week, again, we continue in the same chapter and pick up where we left off.  As we study the final lesson of Unit Two with its theme of “Dedicating the Temple of God” we will study Solomon’s blessing.  The lesson is titled “Solomon’s Blessing” and “Solomon Anticipates Praise”.  The text is taken from 1 Kings 8:54-61. 

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Christianity, religion, Sunday School, Sunday School Lesson

Sunday School Lesson (January 12, 2020) Solomon’s Speech / Solomon Speaks To The People 1 Kings 8:14-21

Solomon’s Speech / Solomon Speaks To The People 1 Kings 8

Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com.  In this week’s lesson Solomon speaks to the people in the midst of a worship experience. Solomon’s speech reminds them of his father King David’s heart.  He reminds them that it was his father’s hearts desire to build a house for the LORD God of Israel. God may have made the covenant with King David but it would be King Solomon that would build the Temple and secure a permanent place for God to dwell.  Even though all of this took many years God keeps God’s promises and God honors God’s covenants. In this worship experience Solomon honors God, acknowledges his father and he blesses (or salutes) the people. God has occupied the Temple in the presence of a thick cloud and now the dedication can proceed.  Some of the ideas surrounding this week’s text include the terms:  

Omnipresence

First Temple Period

Background:  

This week’s lesson begins where last week’s lesson ended.  The four lessons of Unit Two are focused on dedicating the Temple of God.  Each of these four lessons come from 1 Kings Eighth chapter. So in this week’s  background I will highlight some of the broad background of Kings and then focus on the history of the Temple.

I mentioned last week how the New Interpreter’s Study Bible explains that Kings covers “almost 400 years of Israel’s history, from the ascension of Solomon to the throne, before the death of David, to the fall of Jerusalem in 587 BCE.”  This book containing almost 400 years of history has several editions. The NISB notes that “Kings was composed in different stages. The first edition was finished in the pre-exilic time, probably before the death of Josiah.  A second edition was written when the Jews were in exile, around 550 BCE, a few years after the release of Jehoiachin (2 Kings 25:27-30).”  

The NISB also notes “as a historical book, 1 Kings is a theological interpretation of the monarchy and of the kings of Israel and Judah until the reign of Ahaziah.  The book describes the kingdom under Solomon and gives the religious reasons for the division of the united monarchy (1 Kings 11:1-13).”  You probably remember that King David united the kingdoms of Judah and Israel but under the reign of Solomon’s son Rehoboam the united kingdom would divide.  The writers of Kings provide theological reasons for why the kingdom divided.  For example, “every king in the Northern Kingdom allowed the religious innovation of Jeroboam to remain and as a result each was judged as having done what was evil.”  In other words, the kings in the Northern Kingdom of Israel did not follow the ways of God like the kings in the Southern Kingdom of Judah and for the writer of Kings, this explains their continuous downfall and evilness.   

Since this unit is focused on dedicating the Temple I provide a brief history of God’s dwelling place also.  In Exodus 25:8 God tells Moses “Have them make me a sanctuary, so that I may dwell among them”. Moses built a tabernacle (tent).  The NISB notes “The plans for the tabernacle were a pattern of the Lord’s heavenly home. Construction of the tabernacle allowed the LORD to descend to earth; thus it connects heaven and earth.”  So the tabernacle was a temporary home for the presence of God and was a connection point between God’s heavenly abode and earth.  Moses built the temporary tabernacle. About 500 years later King Solomon would dedicate a newly built permanent Temple to God. This Temple is known as the First Temple.  Dr Stephen Breck Reid notes in The Africana Bible Reading Israel’s Scriptures From Africa and the African Diaspora 

“When the northern kingdom, Israel split off, it developed its own temple (922 BCE).  When the colonial Persian Judean regime wanted to consolidate their power, they refurbished the temple (515 BCE).”  What Dr Reid calls the colonial Persian Judean regime is when Zerubbabel returned with the exiles and rebuilt the first Temple.  Zerubbabel’s rebuilt Temple marks the beginning of the Second Temple period and that lasted until 70 CE. Dr Reid continues “Through poor intelligence, the Seleucids believed they could transform the temple into a Greek/Hellenistic temple without any political consequences (168 BCE).  Herod the Great again consolidated his power with the people through an extensive expansion of the temple (20 CE).  The Roman general Titus has his army sack the temple (70 CE).”

So over time the place for God to dwell transitioned from the Tabernacle that Moses built to the Temple that Solomon built.  The Temple that Solomon built would eventually be destroyed and the place for God to dwell would transition to every believer in Jesus Christ.  First Corinthians 3:16 reminds us “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?”  

In Acts the 7 chapter before Stephen was stoned to death he reminded his persecutors

44 “Our ancestors had the tent of testimony in the wilderness, as God directed when he spoke to Moses, ordering him to make it according to the pattern he had seen. 45 Our ancestors in turn brought it in with Joshua when they dispossessed the nations that God drove out before our ancestors. And it was there until the time of David, (Stephen is talking about the tabernacle) 46 who found favor with God and asked that he might find a dwelling place for the house of Jacob. 47 But it was Solomon who built a house for him. 48 Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made with human hands;…” 

And that’s Stephen’s record before he is stoned to death reminding us that now, God does not dwell in houses made with human hands. God is omnipresent and now dwells within every believer in Jesus Chirst.  

Our focus last week was how King Solomon brought the Ark of the Covenant from Zion to the newly built Temple.  This week Solomon speaks to the people as he continues the dedication of this newly built Temple.  Some important words to consider from this text include:

Omnipresent

First Temple Period

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

In last week’s lesson Solomon finally had a place for the Ark.  Solomon summoned the Ark from Zion to the newly built Temple in Jerusalem.  Cherubim and the shekinah glory of God were highlighted in the text as the entire nation of Israel participated in the dedication of the new Temple.  It was about 40 years earlier when King David dreamed of a great Temple for God’s permanent dwelling place.  David had the dream, but his son Solomon fulfilled the dream.  The hebrew people had worshiped at the non-permanent tabernacle for about 500 years.  Now the elders, the heads of the tribes, and the leaders of the ancestral houses would lead the procession and dedication of this magnificent new permanent Temple.  The tabernacle was the symbol of God’s presence among the Israelites, now that symbol would be the Temple.  This Temple would become the national sanctuary.

Last week, Solomon finally had a place for the permanent Temple.  This week he speaks to the people as he dedicates what God had provided for God’s own dwelling place according to God’s promise.  Solomon recognizes the role God plays in making this dedication possible and he recognizes the people of God who were the hands and feet God used.  Townsend and  Boyd’s commentary title this week’s lesson “Solomon’s Speech”.  Standard Lesson Commentary titles this week’s lesson “Solomon Speaks To The People”.  The scripture text comes from 1 Kings 8:14-21.  

What Takes Place in This Passage:  

The Lesson opens at Chapter 8 verse fourteen.  The writer begins with “then the king turned”  Solomon turned because he had been facing the Temple where the priests could not stand and the shekinah glory of the Lord had filled the Temple.  Keep in mind that this is a worship experience. God manifested God’s self in a thick cloud and filled the house of the LORD. The priests couldn’t stand, the glory of the LORD filled the house, and Solomon along with the people are no doubt in amazement of the presence of God filling the Temple.  

Solomon turned around and blessed all the assembly of Israel.  Townsend Commentary notes that “Solomon’s “blessing” of the people is a loose use of the word since it was typically priests, not kings, who were authorized to pronounce a blessing on the people.”   Townsend continues, “Solomon was really expressing a blessing to the LORD.”  

In verse fifteen, Solomon offers praise to God.  Again, this is a worship experience. Solomon declares the LORD God of Israel to be blessed and declares that God with God’s hand (or power) has fulfilled what God promised to his father David.  Solomon knows that God keeps God’s promises. Even though God made the promise to Solomon’s father, and even though it took many years to finally fulfill, God is still a promise keeper.  

In verse sixteen Solomon recalls the words of God spoken to his father David.  Solomon tells the gathered assembly how God had not chosen a city from the tribes of Israel since God brought them out of Egypt.  But when God chose David to be over his people things changed. A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures by John Peter Lange et al explains “after He had chosen David to be king, and brought His people by him to the full and quiet possession of the promised land, it was fitting that He, as well as the nation, should have an abiding dwelling-place.”  

In verse seventeen Solomon reminds the assembly how his father David had it in mind to build a house for the name of the LORD, the God of Israel.  Solomon is reminding them of his father’s hearts desire. King David’s heart was in the right place, he had good intentions to honor and glorify God’s name with a permanent house.  

In verses eighteen and nineteen Solomon recalls how the LORD acknowledged David’s good intentions but nevertheless denied David’s desire.  Solomon is recalling the history that has led them up to that present moment. Solomon wants them to know that this is the LORD’s doing and it didn’t just start with him.  It started many years ago with a King who was a man after God’s own heart.

In verse twenty Solomon declares that the LORD has kept the promise and that he has fulfilled his part to build God’s house.  Solomon has risen in the place of his father, he now sits on the throne of Israel, and he has built the house of the LORD his father desired.  David dreamed the dream and it was David’s heart’s desire, but his son Solomon is the one who completes the dream.  

This lesson closes at verse twenty-one with Solomon proclaiming that he has provided a place for the ark.  It is in fact, a magnificent place. The ark Solomon puts in this magnificent place represents the covenant of the LORD that God made with Solomon’s ancestors.  He is essentially saying this has been a long journey. A journey all the way from when God brought us out of Egypt. But God is here now and this is where God belongs.   

Context

Fidelity is defined as “faithfulness to a person, cause, or belief, demonstrated by continuing loyalty and support.”  I think the operative term in this definition is “demonstrated by”.  Faithfulness must be demonstrated. Second by second, minute by minute, hour by hour, day, week, month and year God demonstrates faithfulness to God’s people.  

Solomon understood and recognized God’s fidelity.  God is a promise keeper. The promise may have been made to his father King David, but it was through Solomon that the promise would be kept.  God honors God’s covenants and God keeps God’s promises.  

Key Words:  

Omnipresent – God as an infinite spirit being everywhere present in the cosmos (ps 139:7-10; Jer 23:23-24).  

Temple, Jerusalem –   The structure in Jerusalem that was the center of worship and the national life of Israel from the 10th century B.C when it was built by Solomon, until its destruction by Rome in A.D. 70.  It was rebuilt twice and had three periods, during which the temples of Solomon, Zerubbabel, and Herod stood.   

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas:  

1.  A promise keeping God.    

2.  Complete and wholehearted devotion (dedication).          

Question:  

Solomon dedicates the new Temple to God.  What can we personally dedicate to God?   

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:

Next week we continue in the same chapter and pick up where we left off.  As we continue studying Unit Two’s theme of “Dedicating the Temple of God” we see the second part of what Solomon has to say as he addresses the assembly of Israel.  Next week Solomon’s prayer of dedication links the Davidic Covenant and the covenant at Mount Sinai. The lesson is titled “Solomon’s Dedication Prayer” and “Solomon Seeks God’s Blessing”.  The text is taken from 1 Kings 8:22-30, 52-53.    

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