Sunday School, Sunday School Lesson

Sunday School Lesson (April 5, 2020) God’s Just Servant and A Just Servant Isaiah 42:1-9

God’s Just Servant / A Just Servant Isaiah 42:1-9

Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com.  In this week’s lesson Second Isaiah writes the first Servant Song that describes God’s just servant.  Second Isaiah writes about a just servant who will bring a justice that Townsend Commentary explains “it connotes much more than judicial equity. In its broadest sense, it involves societal order in which the concerns of all are addressed.”  That is the kind of justice that God promises in a just kingdom. Jesus the Christ, also known as the Messiah and the Saviour will be the one who brings about this just kingdom. Isaiah writes these words about 500 years before Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  In this prophecy God knew the ending 500 years before the beginning. God is the one who has created the heavens and the earth and all that dwells therein. When God inspired Second Isaiah to write chapter 42 God already knew. Likewise God continues to inspire us and to write the chapters of our lives just as God did with Isaiah.  In the person of Jesus Christ, God sent a light for the Gentiles. The servant of the LORD is an example of the very best of Godly leadership. Some key ideas surrounding this week’s text includes the terms:  

Messiah

Servant Song

Background:  

The book of Isaiah is the first of the five major prophets of the Old Testament.  As we discussed in previous weeks, minor prophets are only called minor because of the size of their writings.  Whether minor prophet or major prophet, both are equally valuable in every way to the other.  

The New Interpreter’s Study Bible explains that “scholars agree, Isaiah is an amalgam, consisting of the oracles of two or perhaps three prophets, designated as First, Second, and Third Isaiah”.  So while many people may not think of this book as having more than one author, when I read Isaiah my initial approach is to hear it with one voice.  Having more than one author of a book in Holy Scripture is not uncommon.  The NISB continues “First Isaiah (also called “Isaiah of Jerusalem”) conducted his ministry in Jerusalem beginning in c. 742 and continuing through at least 701 and perhaps 689 BCE.  Broadly speaking his literary work consists of Isaiah 1-39.”  Some of the very familiar and well loved passages in First Isaiah from the KJV include Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD”; Isaiah 2:4 where is says “they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks”; Isaiah 6:1-8 which says “In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.  (then verse 8) 8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me”.  And Isaiah 38:1-5 where God says “Go, and say to Hezekiah, Thus saith the Lord, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will add unto thy days fifteen years.”  And of course there are many other well loved and often quoted passages from First Isaiah.

The NISB also clarifies that “chapters 34-35 belong to the oracles of the Second Isaiah that date from c. 540 BCE”.  So First Isaiah begins his ministry in 742 BC. It was in the year that King Uzziah died where Isaiah saw the LORD sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up.  The angel touched Isaiah’s lips with a hot coal which took away his guilt and atoned for his sin (Isaiah 6). The NISB also notes that “chapters 36-39, are almost identical to 2 Kings 18:13-20:19, and seem to be copied from there”.  

Standard Lesson Commentary notes that Isaiah “is comprised of two parts.  Chapters 1-39 has been described as the Book of Judgement; it focuses on the sins of the people of Judah.”  Chapters 40-66 are described as the Book of Comfort and looks forward about a century and a half to the time when Judah’s exile in Babylon is about to end.”  

The NISB explains that Second Isaiah is the name scholars give to the anonymous prophet whose oracles are found in chapters 34-35 and 40-55.  These oracles date from c. 540 BCE, about 45 years after the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem by the Babylonian Empire and subsequent deportation of many Isralelites to Babylon.”  So our text this week deals with the writings of Second Isaiah.  

Verses one through four of this week’s text is one of the four biblical passages known as the Servant Songs.  Westminister’s Dictionary of Theological Terms identifies the Servant Songs as “Isaiah 42:1-4; 49:1-6, 50:4-9; 52:13-53:12.  The term describes the “servant of the Lord,” whom some have identified with historical individuals or the nation of Israel itself.  From the Christian perspective, the servant has been identified as prophesying Jesus Christ.”

The NISB notes “Matthew 12:18-21 rather freely paraphrases all of Isaiah 42:1-4, especially using the notion of silence in v. 2 to explain why Jesus urged those who followed him not to make him known.”  So in the New Testament this text in Isaiah is quoted as a description of Jesus Christ. What Isaiah describes as the Messiah in about 540 BC becomes Jesus Christ the Saviour hundreds of years later.  

The forty-second chapter deals with the servant as a light to the nations, a hymn of praise, and Israel’s disobedience.  It is a description of a just servant, God’s just servant. But as Townsend Commentary notes, there is “longstanding debate over the identity of the servant.”  For example the NISB “understands the servant to be Israel, called by God to bring to the nations the covenant precepts originally revealed to the Israelites through Moses and championed by the prophets.”   As we continue our focus on justice, this week’s lesson is an example of justice to the nations. Townsend Commentary explains that the Hebrew word for “justice” (mispat) connotes much more than judicial equity.  In its broadest sense, it involves societal order in which the concerns of all are addressed.” As I said earlier the text for this week is an example of justice for the nations. So not only is God concerned about justice and righteousness for individual people but also for the nations and the world.  Some important terms to consider about this text include:

Messiah 

Servant Song

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

In last week’s lesson Malachi like the other minor prophets we have studied speaks truth to power.  Malachi gave us an example of the importance of leading justly and the need for just leaders. The priests had forsaken the way of righteousness and the people were no better.  It had been 1,000 years since Moses wrote Genesis. Moses opened the Old Testament with Genesis and Malachi closed the Old Testament and the post-exilic period with the last word in Malachi being a threat of curse.  Townsend Commentary described Malachi as “an argument between God and the people.” Like we studied in Micah, Malachi had an unusual dialog between God and the people. Also like Micah, Malachi warned Judah of coming judgement if they didn’t change their ways.  And like Micah and other prophets we studied it was the oppression of vulnerable people that would bring God’s judgement. God was utterly disgusted with the priests and would bring them to abject shame and humiliation. In chapter one of last week’s text the people accused God of not loving them and God responded.  God accused the priests of being disrespectful. In chapter two God threatened to take the priests away from the priesthood and Judah of profaning the covenant. Chapter three covered the coming messenger, how the people had robbed God of tithes and offerings, and the reward of the faithful. Malachi closed with the warning of the great day of the LORD.  The last chapter of Malachi reminded Judah to remember the teachings of Moses and that God would send the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the LORD. God closed Malachi with a warning saying “so that I will not come and strike the land with a curse.” Townsend and Boyd’s Commentaries title this week’s lesson God’s Just Servant.  Standard Lesson Commentary titles this week’s lesson A Just Servant.  The scripture text comes from Isaiah 42:1-9.   

I want you to hold in your mind the idea of Jesus as the servant and the idea that the servant could be Israel.  I think many if not most Christian’s take the Christological viewpoint.  But again, there is a longstanding debate about who this Servant Song describes.  

What Takes Place in This Passage:  

This lesson opens in chapter forty-two, verse one with the first Servant Song.  As I mentioned in the background a Servant Song describes the servant of the Lord.  When Second Isaiah writes these words it would be another 500 years before Jesus Christ makes his triumphal entry into Jerusalem as Saviour.  The NISB notes that “elsewhere in Second Isaiah, Israel (also called Jacob) is called God’s servant and God’s chosen (41:8-9; 44:1-2, 21; 45:4-53:12).”  The NISB also notes that even “in the Servant Song of 49:3 Israel is called God’s servant. Yet 49:5-6 might suggest the servant is to be differentiated from Israel/Jacob and in related chapters 55-66, God’s servant is identified as Moses (63:11).”

This section of scripture is titled “the servant, a light to the nations”.  Verse one begins “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him.”  The King James Version uses the term “mine elect,” the NIV and NRSV use the term my “chosen one”. This should not be considered as part of the doctrine of election.  

Verse one begins with God as the speaker.  It is a description of the servant of the Lord.  God will choose this servant, uphold this servant, delight in this servant, and God will put God’s spirit upon this servant.  Note that in the Old Testament the Spirit of God did not indwell people as God’s Spirit does now, after the resurrection of Jesus and the coming of the Holy Spirit.  Verse one concludes with the promise that the Lord’s servant will bring forth justice to the nations. As I noted earlier, Townsend Commentary explains that this justice “involves societal order in which the concerns of all are addressed.”  So this will be a justice that is concerned about equity and righteousness for all.  

Verse two begins “He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street”.  This is a stark contrast to the previous prophets we have studied. Each of the previous prophets were well known to cry aloud and spare not.  The NISB notes that “the servant is not to accomplish his mission through preaching (v. 2) or aggression (v.3). That interpretation lends itself to the idea that Israel is the servant of the Lord.  

Verse three tells us “a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.”  This brings to mind a description of someone who “walks softly”. It is a description of someone who is non-violent. The Pulpit Commentary notes “this image represents the weak and depressed in spirit, the lowly and dejected.  Christ would deal tenderly with such, not violently.” Verse three closes with “he will faithfully bring forth justice.” This is a prophecy that indicates finally, one day, true justice will come.

Verse four reads “He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law.”  With as much unrighteousness that exists in the earth, setting judgement in the earth will require someone who can not fail or be discouraged.  The good news is that when the Servant of the Lord does set judgement in the earth, even the distant nations across the earth will await his justice.  

Verse five is an eloquent description of how God is the creator God. God is the one who has created the heavens and the earth and all that dwells therein.  God stretched out the heavens and spread out the earth. God gives breath to the people upon it and spirit to those who walk in it. This reminds me of Psalm 24:1 “The earth is the Lords and the fullness thereof; the world and they that dwell therein.”  

In verse six God says “I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations,”  In these words God is describing the Servant of the LORD. God’s servant will be righteous and kept by God. God’s servant will be a covenant, an agreement between God and the people of one who rules with equity, justice, and righteousness.  As a light for the Gentiles, the servant of the LORD will be an example of the very best of Godly leadership.

In verse seven we learn more of the purpose of the LORD’s servant.  The servant will open blind eyes, set captives free, and free those who sit in darkness in the dungeons.  I’ve said many times that God is always on the side of the poor, the vulnerable, and the oppressed. God cares about people.  God cares about how people are treated. This verse helps us understand that the Servant of the LORD will open blind eyes and set captive prisoners free.  Standard Lesson Commentary notes that “this prophecy likely carries a double meaning. In the first sense Isaiah is probably looking about 150 years ahead to his people’s release from captivity in Babylon.  In the context of the calling of the servant… this servant will provide liberation from the bondage of sin (compare Acts 26:18; 2 Timothy 2:26; Hebrews 2:14, 15).”

In verse eight God gives us a gentle reminder that this is God’s plan and God’s doing.  We should remember that just a few verses ago we were reminded that God is the creator of the heavens and the earth and all that dwell therein.  When this verse says “I am the LORD, this is my name” it does at least two things. It tells us to put some respect on God’s name and secondly it reminds us that this is the same all powerful God who created the heavens and the earth previously mentioned.  

Verse nine closes this lesson with God saying “See, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth, I tell you of them.” 

I like to say that God knows the ending before our beginning.  This verse helps us understand that. The former things have already been revealed.  The new things that are yet to happen, God will declare before they happen. Only the one true God can do this.  Not like the idols mentioned in verse eight. When Isaiah writes these words it would be about 500 years before Jesus makes his triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  Jesus would come as a gentle servant riding on a donkey. Not like the Jewish people expected as a king prepared to lead them in rebellion against Rome. 

Context

God knows the ending before our beginning.  As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads across American we can be sure of God already knows.  God knows about the disruption, the anxiety, the legitimate concern and even fear that many of us feel. God knows about the interruption of our daily work schedules and worship schedules.  God knows. God is not surprised by this pandemic. Since God knows and we are God’s people, as we continue to take prudent precautions, we should continue to place our faith, trust, and confidence in God.  500 years before Jesus rode triumphantly into Jerusalem, God knew and God inspired the writing of Isaiah chapter 42. God knows what we are facing and God is present, still inspiring, and still writing the chapters of our lives today.  

Key Words:  

Messiah – The promised deliverer of Israel who would establish God’s rule.  Christians see Jesus as the “Christ” and the one in whom God’s promises are fulfilled (Acts 2:31-36) and who will ultimately rule the world and its new divine order (Phillipians 2:5-11).   

Servant Song – Four biblical passages (Isa. 42:1-9; 49:1-6; 50:4-9; 52:13-53:12) describing the “servant of the Lord” whom some have identified with historical individuals or the nation of Israel itself.  From the Christian perspective, the servant has been identified as prophesying Jesus Christ.      

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas:  

God knows. 

Question:  

What is the significance of waving palms on Palm Sunday?  

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:

Next week’s lesson is Resurrection Sunday or Easter.  Next week we move from the Old Testament to the New Testament and continue to study justice in the context of God promising a just kingdom.   The lesson for April 12, 2020 comes from 1 Corinthians 15:1-8, 12-14, 20-23, 42-45. Townsend and Boyd’s Commentary title next week’s lesson Resurrection Hope.  Standard Lesson Commentary titles next week’s lesson A Resurrected Savior.  

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Sunday School, Sunday School Lesson

Sunday School Lesson (March 29, 2020) Leading Justly and Need for Just Leaders Malichi 2:1-9 and 3:5-6

Leading Justly / Need for Just Leaders Malachi 2:1-9; 3:5-6

Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com.  In this week’s lesson Malachi like the other minor prophets we have studied speaks truth to power.  Like last week with Micah, the religious leaders are corrupt. Malachi shows the importance of leading justly and the need for just leaders.  The priests have forsaken the way of righteousness and the people are no better. It has been 1,000 years since Moses wrote Genesis. Now Malachi closes the Old Testament and the post-exilic period with the last word in this book a threat of curse.  Townsend Commentary describes Malachi as “an argument between God and the people.” Like last week this is an unusual dialog between God and the people. Like last week Malachi warns Judah of coming judgement if they don’t change their ways. And like last week it is the oppression of vulnerable people that will bring God’s judgement.  God is utterly disgusted with the priests and will bring them to abject shame and humiliation. If God’s own servants won’t reverence God’s name why would anyone else?  In chapter one the people have accused God of not loving them and God responds.  God accuses the priests of being disrespectful. In chapter two God threatens to take the priests away from the priesthood and Judah of profaning the covenant.  Chapter three covers the coming messenger, how the people have robbed God of tithes and offerings, and the reward of the faithful. And the book closes with the warning of the great day of the LORD.  The last chapter of Malachi reminds Judah to remember the teachings of Moses and that God would send the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the LORD. God closes Malachi with this warning saying “so that I will not come and strike the land with a curse.”  Some key ideas surrounding this week’s text includes the terms:  

God’s Immutability

Injustice

Background for today’s text:  

The book of Malachi is the twelfth of the twelve minor prophets.  It is also the last book of the Old Testament. The book does not reveal any details about Malachi, the man.  Nelson’s Bible Handbook notes that “Malachi was likely written about 450 B.C. which would have been about 1,000 years after Moses, the first Bible writer.”  So, Moses opens the Old Testament with Genesis and the book of Malachi closes the Old Testament about 1,000 years later. Nelson’s also notes that “Malachi leaves us with the feeling that the story is not yet finished, that God still has promises to fulfill on behalf of His people.  After Malachi came 400 years of silence.” So Nelson’s is trying to tell us that the story is not yet finished in the sense that Malachi speaks of a coming messenger. This messenger will prepare the way for the Messiah (Malachi 3:1). The 400 years of silence refers to the Old Testament and New Testament canon of scripture.  There are no accepted Protestent writings during the 400 years between Malachi and the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ.  So the Christological interpretation is a prophecy that a coming Messiah will arrive in the form of Jesus Christ with John the Baptist as his forerunner.  In the Protestant canon God is silent for 400 years from Malachi until Jesus begins his earthly ministry. So Malachi is the bridge between 1,000 years of God’s work and old covenants in Hebrew and Isralite life, with the New Covenant in Jesus Christ which occurs nearly 500 years later.  

The New Interpreter’s Study Bible notes that “the book’s insistence on proper sacrifices and its high regard of Levi (2:4-6) fit well into the postexilic period, when the Temple took on new importance in the community.”  So Malachi is on the scene about 100 years after the Babylonian enforced deportation I mentioned last week, and about 450 years before Christ.  During the post exilic period Shesbazzar and Zerrubabel would have already led the first major group of exiles back to Judah around 537 and 538 B.C.  The second Jewish Temple would have been rebuilt about 520-515 B.C.  And Ezra and Nehemiah would have already led the second and third major group of exiles back around 458 to 445 B.C.  Ezra and Nehemiah are written about 430 B.C. So the post-exilic period spans from 587 B.C. when the first Temple was destroyed to the time of Malachi, Ezra, and Nehemia with Malachi ending the Post-exilic period.  The Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible notes that “Malachi had to deal with the same sins mentioned in Nehemia 13 so it is likely the prophet ministered either during Nehemiah’s second term as governor or just before his return.”  So the placement of Malachi in our Old Testament as the last book of the Old Testament corresponds with the ministries of Nehemia and Ezra.

Townsend Commentary explains that “Malachi voices an argument between God and the people. The people of Judah had returned from exile about a century earlier but were committing the same sins that had sent them into exile!”  This argument between God and the people is a back and forth dialog with God accusing the people, and the people accusing God. Even though God has blessed them to return from exile they have forsaken the ways of righteousness and are now faithless and unjust.    

As with the other Minor Prophets we have studied (Amos, Habakkuk, and Micah), Malachi “cries aloud and spares not.”  He warns Judah of coming judgement if they don’t change their ways. Townsend Commentary explains that “God threatens to bring swift judgment upon those who ignore His covenant and oppress vulnerable people.”  Again, it is the oppression of vulnerable people that will bring God’s judgement. The last chapter of Malachi reminds Judah to remember the teachings of Moses and that God would send the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the LORD.  God closes Malachi with this warning saying “so that I will not come and strike the land with a curse.” Judah has oppressed the vulnerable and dishonored God among many other sins; and the last book and the last word of the Old Testament ends with the threat of curse.  The priests have abused their power and corrupted the worship of God. The people have been faithless, sinful, and unjust toward others.  

In chapter one God responds to the accusation of the people that God does not love them and God accuses the priests of being disrespectful.  In chapter two God threatens to take the priests away from the priesthood and Judah of profaning the covenant. Chapter three covers the coming messenger, how the people have robbed God of tithes and offerings, and the reward of the faithful.  The book closes with the warning of the great day of the LORD.

The focus of today’s lesson is the call to lead justly and the need for just leaders.  The priests have abused their power, corrupted worship, and the people practice idolatry.  Some important terms to consider about this text include:

God’s Immutability

Injustice

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

In last week’s lesson the prophet Micah spoke truth to power.  The religious leaders were corrupt. The political leaders were corrupt.  The Northern Kingdom of Israel with its capital of Samaria had already fallen and Micah knew the same would happen to Jerusalm if the corrupt leaders didn’t change.  Micah’s job was to warn the nation of Judah so they could turn from their unjust and wicked ways. The two tribes of the Southern Kingdom knew how the Northern Kingdom of Israel was brutally defeated, taken into captivity, and many deported to Assyria.  Yet their headlong slide into idolatry, corruption, and injustice didn’t seem to persuade them to seek justice and righteousness. Instead they sought bribes, committed murder and told lies. The leaders were corrupt and they only cared about themselves and their friends.  Micah preached a message of doom against all of Judah and he cried out against the priests, the false prophets, and the rulers of Judah. Money, greed, and power had replaced justice and righteousness and God would destroy the Holy City of Jerusalem if Judah’s leadership wouldn’t do right by the people they were oppressing.  Townsend and Boyd’s Commentaries title this week’s lesson Leading Justly.  Standard Lesson Commentary titles this week’s lesson Need for Just Leaders.  The scripture text comes from Malachi 2:1-9 and 3:5-6.   

Pay attention to how disgusted God is with the religious leaders, the priests who have left righteousness and justice and now cause people to stumble instead.  God will bring judgement on the liers, the adulterers, those who oppress the poor and vulnerable, the migrant, and the immigrant.  

What Takes Place in This Passage:  

This lesson opens in chapter two verse one with Malachi having already opened with an inscription describing this text as the word of the LORD by Malachi.  The book opens in the same way as we studied in Amos, Habakkuk, and Micah. Malachi’s inscription identifies him as a prophet from God. Chapter one begins the back and forth dialog between God and the people. The people have accused God of not loving them.  God responds by reminding them of their distant past when God chose Jacob over Esau. Esau was the father of the Edomites who for much of Israel’s history were an enemy. God then tells them that the priests despise God’s name by offering polluted food on God’s altar.  In fact, God tells them “Try presenting that to your governor; will he be pleased with you or show you favor?”  They were bringing sacrifices that had been taken by violence or lame or sick.  God deserved better. They knew their own governor would not accept substandard sacrifices so they should have done better by God.  

Verse one begins with a direct message to the priests.  “And now, O priests, this command is for you.” The text calls it a command, but what follows is a threat.  

Verse two begins, “if you will not listen, if you will not lay it to heart to give glory to my name, says the LORD of hosts, then I will send the curse on you and I will curse your blessings; indeed I have already cursed them.”  God expects these priests to honor God’s name; to give glory to God’s name. They are not to give honor that belongs to God to anyone or anything else.  The KJV and NRSV use the term “to give glory to my name”. The NIV uses “to honor my name”.  The result is the same whether it’s called glory or honor. God is to be respected and revered properly.  Westminster’s Dictionary of Theological Terms defines honor as “Glory or respect: worship owed to God as the sovereign creator and redeemer (Ps. 96:6; Rev. 5:12-13).  Also, the elevating of a person within the eyes of a community (1 Sam. 15:30; Prov. 23). I’m reminded of Romans 13:7 which tells us “Pay to all what is due them—taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.”  The text in Romans is primarily speaking about government officials.  So if we are going to respect government officials, we certainly ought to respect God.  

Part b of verse 2 tells us what God will do if they don’t honor God properly.  It reads “then I will send the curse on you and I will curse your blessings; indeed I have already cursed them, because you do not lay it to heart.”  This curse refers to the blessings the priests were supposed to give to the people.  The Pulpit Commentary notes “These blessings God would not ratify, but would turn them into curses, and thus punish the people who connived at and imitated the inequities of the priests.”  The priests would not be able to bless the people and the people would be denied the blessings because they conspired with the corrupt priests.

Verse three helps us understand how disgusted God is with these priests and the people who have abused God’s authority and corrupted God’s worship.  It reads “I will rebuke your offspring, and spread dung on your faces, the dung of your offerings and I will put you out of my presence.” The UBS Handbook on Malachi explains that there are four potential interpretations to “I will rebuke your offspring”.  It notes that “a literal translation is “I will rebuke the seed for your sake.  But there are four understandings of “seed”.”  

  1. The first meaning is literal.  So that the clause refers to the failure of crops.  
  2. The second meaning takes “seed” figuratively to refer to the descendants of the priests.  
  3. Some modern scholars read the Hebrew word for “seed” with different vowels and translate seed as “arm”.  This makes it necessary to decide what rebuke could mean in connection with a part of the human body.
  4. The New American Bible translates “arm” as “shoulder” and translates rebuke to mean deprive.  

The UBS Handbook recommends translators follow the Hebrew text and accept the interpretation found in the Revised Standard Version.  It notes that “this interpretation means that the promise given to the priestly line in Numbers 25:12-13 would be canceled.” So if God is cancelling a promise made to the priestly line, that is another indication of how disgusted God is with these corrupt priests.  

God continues, “I will rebuke your offspring and spread dung on your faces, the dung of your offerings, and I will put you out of my presence.”  God is not playing with these priests. They have dishonored God, corrupted the worship of God, and abused their authority. Now the priests will be dishonored, disgraced, and disrespected.  The UBS Handbook on Malachi notes that “the word translated dung refers to the contents of the stomachs of sacrificial animals, not what they had already excreted.”  UBS also notes “the final clause (I will put you out of my presence) is difficult to understand. Its literal translation is “one shall take you away to it”.”  A translation UBS offers for this verse would be “See, I am going to punish your descendants. I will spread on your faces the dung of the animals you sacrifice, and you will be taken away with the dung.”  No matter how this verse is ultimately translated the result is the same. The priests will be utterly humiliated and put to shame.  

Verse four says “Know, then, that I have sent this command to you, that my covenant with Levi may hold, says the Lord of hosts.”  God keeps God’s covenants. God has issued this command / threat in order to maintain the covenant with the priest descendants of the tribe of Levi.  The Pulpit Commentary notes “the covenant with Levi was the election of that tribe to be the ministers in the sanctuary.” The Pulpit Commentary further explains this verse as meaning “to understand God as implying that God warned and punished the priests, because God willed that the covenant with Levi should hold good, and God thus desired to have a body of priests who would keep their vows and maintain true priestly character.”  It is clear that the priests Malachi identifies have lost the character God expects from God’s servant priests.

Verse five explains what part of that character involved.  “My covenant with him was a covenant of life and well-being, which I gave him; this called for reverence, and he revered me and stood in awe of my name.”  God gave this priesthood life and well-being and God expected in return reverence and respect on God’s name and work.  If God’s own servants won’t reverence God’s name why would anyone else? These priests are supposed to set an example worthy of following, and worthy of the greatness that God is.  

In verse six God further explains what God expects by describing Levi “True instruction was in his mouth, and no wrong was found on his lips. He walked with me in integrity and uprightness, and he turned many from iniquity.”  This is the example the priests in Malachi should be following.  This is how these priests should be conducting themselves. True instruction not twisting the rules for their own benefit, truth not lies to get away with injustice, integrity and uprightness not dishonesty, immorality and irresponsibility, and faithfulness to God turning many from iniquity.  These priests have failed. They lack the character, faithfulness, integrity, and righteousness God expects.

Verse seven shows the importance of what the priest says “For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts.”  These priests have a responsibility.  They are supposed to be the intermediaries between God and the people.  The people look to them for knowledge and instruction because they are supposed to be messengers from God.  Instead they are the messengers of their own desires, their own injustice, and their own unrighteousness.  

Verse eight begins a description of what these priests are  like instead of what they should have been like.  It reads “But you have turned aside from the way; you have caused many to stumble by your instruction; you have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the Lord of hosts.”  The Pulpit Commentary notes “by their example and teaching they had made the Law a stumbling block, causing many to err, while they fancied they were not infringing God’s commands.”  These priests have broken covenant with God. These are religious leaders who have failed to lead justly and Malachi denounces these religious leaders.  

Verse nine continues the same thought.  Here God says “and so I make you despised and abased before all the people, inasmuch as you have not kept my ways but have shown partiality in your instruction.”  Standard Lesson Commentary notes “this verse makes the case that the problem is not one of mere negligence;” So this is a wilful disobedience and defiance. Standard continues “the phrase but have shown partiality in matters of the Law points to conscious, intentional disregard of God’s ways.  Showing partiality in the Law is abject injustice. The people had a right to expect justice from the messengers of God but instead some were treated better than others.  The text then skips to chapter three verse five.

Verse five outlines a long list of sins and violations of the covenant with God.  In summary it lists sorcerers, adulterers, liers, corrupt employers. It describes injustice to the poor and vulnerable, oppression of the poor, the migrant, and the immigrant.  Townsend Commentary explains, “God threatens to bring swift judgment upon those who ignore His covenant and oppress vulnerable people.” I continue to say God cares about how we treat people.  We are all created Imago Dei.  We are created in the image of God.  That means Christians are created in the image of God.  That means Muslims are created in the image of God. That means Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Mexicans, Chinese, and any and all other faiths and nationalities.  HUMANS are created in the image of God no matter where they’re from or what they worship or don’t worship.  And if you can’t treat other humans right (no matter where they are from), you can’t treat God’s people right.  God cares about how we treat people.  

Verse six closes the lesson with God speaking again, saying “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, have not perished.” Townsend Commentary notes this as a description of God’s immutability.  It notes God’s immutability “provides a foundation for the faith and hope of those who believe. God does not change, remaining faithful even when subjects of the kingdom of God do not (see 2 Timothy 2:11-13).  Westminster’s Dictionary of Theological Terms defines God’s Immutability as “God’s freedom from all change, understood to emphasize God’s changeless perfection and divine constancy.” These priests and these people had changed but God had not.  God chose Jacob and created from him a great nation.  God delivered the people of Israel from the bondage and injustice of Egypt’s Pharaoh. God has favored these people, delivered these people, and provided for these people for over 1,000 years.  Yet here in Malachi’s time they have left righteousness, faithfulness, and justice for their own ways in injustice and faithlessness.  

Context

With the onset of the worldwide pandemic of covin-19 Coronavirus, things have had to change.  Churches meet on-line, restaurants are closed, and people practice good hand washing and social distancing.  We live in what seems like an ever changing world. Winds change, seasons change, people change, minds change, feelings change, bodies change, prices change, trends change, technologies change, fashions change.  The serenity prayer tells us “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”  James Baldwin reminds us “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” and Angela Davis tells us “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change, I am changing the things I cannot accept.”  

One thing that seems to remain constant is change.  In a changing world that can often be cruel, harsh, and unforgiving, It’s good to know that the immutable God does not change.  

Key Words:  

Immutability – God’s freedom from all change, understood to emphasize God’s changeless perfection and divine constancy 

Injustice – The ethical wrong of not rendering to another that which is due.  It is condemned by the biblical prophets (Isa. 58:6, Jer. 22:13, Hos. 10:13).    

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas:  

Speak truth to power.  (Malachi confronted the corruption of the priest and called out the sin and injustice of the people.  These corrupt religious leaders and faithless people disgusted God. Malachi warned them of the judgement to come. 

Question:  

Malachi saw the sin, injustice, and faithlessness of the priests and the people, what did he do about it?

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:

Next week’s lesson is Palm Sunday.  Next week we continue in the Old Testament but we switch from the minor prophets to one of the major prophets.  The lesson for April 5, 2020 comes from Isaiah 42:1-9. Next week’s lesson is titled God’s Just Servant and A Just Servant.  

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Sunday School Lesson (March 22, 2020) Corrupt Leaders / An Argument Against Corruption Micah 3:1-3, 9-12; 6:6-8

Corrupt Leaders / An Argument Against Corruption

Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com.  In this week’s lesson the prophet Micah speaks truth to power. The religious leaders are corrupt.  The political leaders are corrupt. The Northern Kingdom of Israel with its capital of Samaria has already fallen and Micah knows the same will happen to Jerusalm if the corrupt leaders don’t change.  Micah’s job is to warn the nation of Judah so they can turn from their unjust and wicked ways. The two tribes of the Southern Kingdom know how the Northern Kingdom of Israel was brutally defeated, taken into captivity, and many deported to Assyria.  Yet their headlong slide into idolatry, corruption, and injustice doesn’t seem to persuade them to seek justice and righteousness. Instead they seek bribes, commit murder and tell lies. These leaders are corrupt and they only care about themselves and their friends.  Micah preaches a message of doom against all of Judah and he cries out against the priests, the false prophets, and the rulers of Judah. Money, greed, and power have replaced justice and righteousness and God will destroy the Holy City of Jerusalem if Judah’s leadership won’t do right by the people they are oppressing.  Some key ideas surrounding this week’s text includes the terms:  

Zion

Injustice

Background:  

The book of Micah bears the name of the prophet centered in this book.  It is the sixth book of the twelve minor prophets and as we studied with Amos and Habakkuk the inscription at the beginning of the book identifies Micah as a prophet of God.  According to the New Interpreter’s Study Bible “Micah’s preaching spanned two periods: the last years of the divided monarchy and the first years of the existence of Judah alone.”  Jerusalem was the capital city of Judah and now stands alone as Israel’s capital city of Samaria has fallen. The NISB notes that “Samaria’s Northern Kingdom (Israel) officially became  one of the provinces of the Assyrian Empire in 722 BCE.” The Southern Kingdom consisted of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin with the Northern Kingdom containing the remaining tribes. So if Micah was written in 700 BCE, Micah’s prophecy of the utter destruction of Jerusalem would occur 113 years later in 587 BCE when the first Jerusalem Temple is destroyed.  Micah’s job is to warn the nation of Judah so they can turn from their unjust and wicked ways. The ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom of Israel have already fallen. The two tribes of the Southern Kingdom know well how the Northern Kingdom of Israel was brutally defeated, taken into captivity, and many deported to Assyria (2 Kings 17:3-6).  Micah knows Jerusalem is next if the political leaders and religious leaders don’t turn the nation around.

The NISB also notes that “this book is a collection of oracles written in a variety of styles and perhaps representing several periods.  Many scholars believe the earliest speeches were spoken by Micah in the eighth century and that others updated the vocabulary, added lines, and entire speeches in later centuries, but there is little agreement on the details.”  In my view what is certain is that this book is a powerful account of the injustice in Judah, the righteousness of God, and is a message to us today.  

The NISB also lists three themes in Micah.  These themes are derived from attention to the proper names of “Israel”, “Jacob”, and “Micaiah”.  It notes that “Micah generally chooses to refer to the Southern Kingdom (which is Judah) as “Israel”.  He wants to remind his listeners of the unity of the people as the LORD’s covenant partner. Even though “Israel” ceased to exist in 722 BCE.”  So when you see Israel in the text, in most cases it specifically refers to Judah but broadly to the Northern Kingdom of Israel as well. Micah knows that even though the monarchy of King David was divided, the ten northern tribes were still a part of the great work God did in the nation’s history.  The NISB also notes that “Micah calls Judah “Jacob”, referring to Jacob and Israel.”  Additionally, “Micaiah is the full form of Micah’s name.  His name asks the question “Who is like the LORD?”  

Nelson’s Bible Handbook notes that “Micah exposes the injustice of Judah and that about one third of the book indicts Israel and Judah for specific sins.  Another third of the book predicts the judgement that will come, and the remaining third is a message of hope and consolation. God’s justice will triumph and the divine Deliverer will come.”  So of the seven chapters in this book one-third is an indictment that tells them what they are doing wrong.  Another third tells them what will happen because of their wrong doing and another third offers the hope of God if they turn from injustice.  Nelson’s also explains that “Micah begins by launching into a general declaration of the condemnation of Israel (Samaria) and Judah (Jerusalem).  Both kingdoms will be overthrown because of their rampant treachery. Some of the specific causes of judgement include premeditated schemes, covetousness, and cruelty.”  

It is this kind of injustice that causes Micah to speak out against the political leaders, and the religious leaders of his day.  Micah speaks truth to power. He confronts the political and religious leaders of Judah with their injustice. Micah preaches a message of doom against all of Judah and he cries out against the priests, the false prophets, and the rulers of Judah.  That message of doom begins in chapter one as the NISB notes “Micah portrays the destruction of Samaria as a theophany, or divine appearance: The LORD will walk on the earth, bringing destruction (vv. 3-4) because of the evil of the Northern Kingdom, Israel.”  If you read the first chapter you will get the sense of utter destruction and doom by the hand of LORD. It is an indictment against the religious leaders of Judah. They are guilty of idolatry.  

The second chapter is an indictment against people who devise wickedness and evil deeds on their beds at night and against the corrupt priests and prophets.  These are economic injustices and again an indictment against religious leaders.  

The third chapter is an indictment against the rulers of Judah.  These include the prophets, priests, and political leaders. The prophets are corrupt, the priests are corrupt, and the political leaders are corrupt.  Money, greed, and power have replaced justice and righteousness.  

The sixth chapter presents a metaphorical courtroom with God making the case against Judah, telling them what God requires, and that cheating and violence will be punished.  In all of this God reminds the Judahites of what God has delivered them from and where God has brought them from. Their wickedness, corruption and unrighteousness will bring punishment if their unjust and unrighteous ways don’t change.  Some important terms to consider about this text include:

Zion

Injustice

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

In last week’s lesson the prophet Habakkuk learned that there would be consequences for the injustice of Juda and especially of Babylon.  He had taken his watch on the tower wall. He questioned God and was expecting an answer from God.  He had made his complaint known and now he would watch and wait to hear an answer from God.  God graciously answered the prophet. God told Habakkuk to write and to make it plain. And that is exactly what Habakkuk did.  Habakkuk essentially trash talked the Babylonians when he wrote the prophecy containing the five woes that would befall the wicked and evil Babylonians.  He wrote the prophecy and there would be no question about who he was writing about and who would cause the woes to befall the Babylonians. When God said something will come to pass, people would be able to look back at the record and know that it was God who brought it to pass.  The wicked and evil Babylonians were on top at the moment, but judgement was coming. And when it did come, it wouldn’t be pretty. God would still use the evil Babylonians to punish Judah. Judah wouldn’t escape but the Babylonians would fall and when they do fall it would be epic.  This week we continue in the theme of justice and the prophets.  This week’s prophet is Micah. In this week’s text Micah speaks truth to power.  The religious leaders, the prophets and the priests are corrupt, the political leaders are corrupt and the people devise wicked ways to cheat people.  Justice and righteousness have been replaced with money, greed, and power. Micha’s job is to call out the injustice and warn the people of the coming utter destruction if their ways don’t change.  Townsend and Boyd’s Commentaries title this week’s lesson Corrupt Leaders.  Standard Lesson Commentary titles this week’s lesson An Argument Against Corruption.  The scripture text comes from Micah 3:1-3, 9-12; 6:6-8.   

Pay attention to how the political leaders hate good and love evil.  How the religious leaders judge for a bribe, teach for a price, and the prophets tell fortunes for money.  Both the political and religious leaders of the country are corrupt and righteousness and justice has been replaced with money, greed, and power.    

What Takes Place in This Passage:  

The lesson opens in chapter three verse one with Micah having already indicted both the religious and political leaders of Judah.  He has pronounced judgement against Samaria in Israel and Judah, declared the doom of the cities of Judah, and denounced the social injustices of the land.  Micah knows what has already happened to the Northern Tribes of Israel and it’s capital in Samaria and he knows what will happen to the Southern Kingdom of Judah and it’s capital in Jerusalem if the injustice doesn’t stop.   

Verse one begins “And I said: Listen, you heads of Jacob and rulers of the house of Israel!”  The Pulpit commentary notes that these heads of Jacob and rulers “addresses the heads of families and the officials to whom the administration of justice concerned.”  These are the rulers, the priests, and the prophets. They are leaders in charge of the political systems and religious systems in Judah. They are supposed to know justice, practice justice, and meet out justice.  The Pulpit Commentary notes that “these magistrates and judges seem to have been chiefly members of the royal family in Judah.” Of all people, these are the people who should know, understand, and practice justice.  They should be concerned with justice, fairness, and righteousness. These people in the royal family are the ones Micah is speaking out against. Micah speaks truth to power.  

In verses two and three Micah declares “you who hate the good and love the evil, who tear the skin off my people, and flesh off their bones.”  These rulers are corrupt. Instead of loving justice and righteousness they hate good and love evil. It should go without saying that people in authority, people who have power can do so much more damage when they are ruled by evil instead of good.  The NISB notes that “they are portrayed as cannibals who eat the people they are charged to govern. No wonder the LORD will not respond when they ask for help from the trouble that is coming (v. 4).”  

In these three verses Micah speaks truth to power, he accuses the rulers of hating good and loving evil.  He portrays the rulers as cannibals who eat their own people. Clearly, Micah has no respect, no regard, and no affection for these corrupt leaders who are only concerned about themselves and their friends.  The text then skips to verses nine through twelve.  

If you read verses five through eight, you get the picture of a prophet who cries loud and spares not.  In these verses Micah directly accuses the corrupt prophets. The NISB notes that “the prophets tailor their messages to the amount (food in v. 5, money in v. 11) paid to them by their audiences (vv. 5, 11).  

Verse nine begins “hear this, you rulers of the house of Jacob and chiefs of the house of Israel who abhor justice and pervert all equity.”  Micah is driving home the point that these rulers are corrupt. They haven’t simply replaced justice with greed, they abhor justice and pervert equity.  The UBS Handbook on Micah notes that “By their attitudes and actions the rulers were really undermining the whole social structure of the nation and their own position within it.”  The New American Commentary notes that “Jacob” and “Israel” in this verse refers to Judah.  

In verse ten the writer continues the same line of thought saying “who build Zion with blood and Jerusalem with wrong!”  The Westminster’s Dictionary of Theological Terms defines “Zion” as “used in the Old Testament for all or part of Jerusalem.  In both Old and New Testaments it refers to God’s heavenly city (Isa. 60:14; Heb. 12:22; rev. 14:1). In the Christian church it is an image for heaven.”  So in this case Micah is referring specifically to Jerusalem. He declares Zion or Jerusalem is built with blood. The UBS Handbook on Micah notes that “the city’s moral foundation was one of murder and injustice:  The rich could only afford these buildings because they were cruel and oppressive to the poor.” The injustice of Micah’s time is not unlike the injustice of our time. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer because of corrupt leaders who care only for themselves.  Not only did they disregard the poor they broke their covenant with God. UBS also interprets this verse as “You are able to do so much building in the city only because of the murder and injustice by which you gain your money and your power.”  

In verse eleven the political leaders hate good and love evil.  The religious leaders judge for a bribe, teach for a price and the prophets tell fortunes for money.  Both the political and religious leaders of the country are corrupt. The political system and the religious system have failed the people.  Even with this corruption they still tell the people “isn’t the LORD among us? And reassure the people that no disaster will come upon us.” UBS explains “the leaders of the nation, both the secular rulers and the religious priests and prophets, are all corrupt and have more interest in growing rich than in doing their jobs properly.”  

In verse twelve the writer tells us “Therefore because of you Zion shall be plowed as a field; Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins, and the mountain of the house a wooded height.”  Micah is laying it bare. The house of God, the Temple in Jerusalem where for centuries now the people have gone to worship God will be destroyed. And it will be destroyed because of corrupt leaders.  UBS notes that “The LORD sees through their pretense and will bring judgement upon Jerusalem rather than allow their evil deeds to continue.” So God would rather destroy the holy city than to see it used in this way to uphold injustice and oppress the poor.  I continue to say that God is more concerned with how we treat people than God is concerned with us following the rules and regulations of the law. The priests were still making sacrifices and conducting religious services but their hearts were far from God. The text then skips to chapter six verses six through eight.

In chapter six verses six through eight the NISB notes that “the scene shifts from judicial to liturgical.  Israel as worshiper asks what offering is needed to placate the LORD proposing increasingly extravagant gifts, ending with child sacrifice.”  God is not interested in their sacrifices. God is interested in their obedience. “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”  UBS explains “in verse seven the offerings suggested gradually increase in size and value until they reach a climax which is both horrifying and self-defeating. It was quite beyond the ability of the ordinary Israelite to offer a thousand sheep.”  

Verse eight is the answer to the question.   God is interested in relationship. There is liberty in Christ Jesus and that liberty frees us from sacrifices, it frees us to come before God just as we are with our hearts turned toward God and not pretentious rules and regulations when our hearts are far from God.  

Context

In 1936 Dale Carnegie published “How to Win Friends and Influence People”  that self-help book has been re-published many times and in many different languages and formats since then.  It’s nice to have friends and it’s especially nice to have friends in high places. But hopefully those friends aren’t corrupt.  Micah wasn’t trying to win any friends in high places. In fact, he specifically denounced the rulers and leaders of both the political and religious systems.  Micah spoke truth to power. He was concerned with righteousness and justice because he knew what was at stake – the very life of his nation. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to suggest that the same applies to us today.  Righteousness and justice are the foundations of a safe and secure society.  

Key Words:  

Zion- used in the Old Testament for all or part of Jerusalem.  In both Old and New Testaments it refers to God’s heavenly city (Isa. 60:14; Heb. 12:22; rev. 14:1).  In the Christian church it is an image for heaven. 

Injustice – The ethical wrong of not rendering to another that which is due.  It is condemned by the biblical prophets (Isa. 58:6, Jer. 22:13, Hos. 10:13).    

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas:  

1. Speak truth to power.  (Micah wasn’t afraid to confront the corruption of the ruling class in his society.  He denounced both the corrupt religious leaders and the corrupt political leaders.)

Question:  

Micah saw the injustice of both the political and religious systems.  What did he do about it?

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:

Next week’s lesson continues in the Old Testament minor prophets.  The lesson for March 29, 2020 comes from Malichi 2:1-9 and 3:5-6. Next week’s lesson is titled Leading Justly and Need for Just Leaders.  

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Sunday School, Sunday School Lesson

Sunday School Lesson (March 15, 2020) Consequences for Injustice Habakkuk 2:6-14

Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com.  In this week’s lesson the prophet Habakkuk learns there will be consequences for injustice. There will be consequences for Judah and there will especially be consequences for Babylon.  He has already taken his watch on the tower wall. Habbakuk is expecting an answer from God.  He has made his complaint known and now he will watch and wait to hear an answer from God.  God graciously answers the prophet. God tells Habakkuk to write and to make it plain. And make it plain he does.  Habakkuk essentially trash talks the Babylonians when he writes the prophecy containing the five woes that will befall the wicked and evil Babylonians.  He writes the prophecy and there will be no question about who he is writing about and who will cause these woes to befall the Babylonians. When God says something will come to pass, people will be able to look back at the record and know that it was God who brought it to pass.  The wicked and evil Babylonians may be on top today, but judgement is coming. And when it does come, it won’t be pretty. God will still use the evil Babylonians to punish Judah. Judah won’t escape but the Bablyonians will fall and when they do it will be epic.  Some key ideas surrounding this week’s text includes the terms:  

Theodicy

Evil

Background:

As I stated last week the book of Habakkuk is the eighth book of the twelve books we call the minor prophets.  It is called minor only because it is shorter in length and comes behind the five major prophets in the Old Testament.  Not much is known about Habakkuk, the man. In fact, the New Interpreter’s Study Bible notes that “the book of Habakkuk provides no information about the prophet himself.”  The CSB Study Bible notes that “Habakkuk is not mentioned anywhere else in the Bible and by the time of Habakkuk “Chaldean” had come to be a synonym for “Babylonian”.” Although Habakkuk is not mentioned elsewhere in the Bible and little else is known of him we can at least deduce that he was a man of great faith.  The New American Commentary explains that “one thing appears clear about Habakkuk, he was a person of great faith and great courage who dared take the theological teaching of his day and test it against the experiences of his own personal life and of the nation.  Habakkuk adopted the role of philosopher of religion and was an honest doubter.”  I think it’s important to acknowledge Habakkuk’s doubts.  He looked around at what was going on in his own life and in the life of Judah and it left him with honest questions for God.  I don’t think Habakkuk stands alone in his honest doubts. I see Habakkuk as knowing who God is and ultimately believing in God’s character but doubting what God was doing.  Habakkuk could not initially reconcile God’s character with God’s method of bringing about justice.  He could not understand the pain, suffering, and violence he saw in Judah.  He couldn’t understand why God would allow evil to go unpunished in Judah and how a righteous God could use Babylon – a wicked nation – to judge sin in Judah.  I explained how Habakkuk was essentially asking the question – why do bad things happen to good people.  After all, these were God’s own people, the nation of Judah. All of this brings forward the notion of theodicy.  

Last week I defined theodicy as “the attempt to defend God’s omnipotence and goodness in the face of the problem of evil in the world (Lexham Bible Dictionary).”  Theodicy is not a unique concept to Habakkuk. Lexham Bible Dictionary explains theodicy also appears when

  • “Abraham asks the LORD “Shall not the Judge of the whole earth do right?” (Gen 18:25)
  • Moses asks that the LORD write him out of the record of history in Exodus 32:32 after God’s massacring of those who constructed the golden calf at the base of Mount Sinai.  
  • Isaiah 45:7 says of God: “I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the Lord, do all these things.”
  • The book of Job deals directly with the subject of theodicy.”  

Lexaham also explains that “Ecclesiastes echos Job’s questioning of a God oblivious to human suffering.  It shows man’s incapability of answering the question of theodicy.” It also notes that “many of the Psalms are lamentations bemoaning the feeling of an absent God during crisis.”  So these questions and doubts about God’s presence or absence during suffering and crisis are not isolated incidents.  They form a collection of genuine people bringing their genuine concerns and genuine doubts before an omnipotent God.  

Lexham also explains certain aspects of theodicy in the New Testament.  For example “The New Testament shows how God uses and allows evil for God’s greater purposes.  Three approaches concerning evil and how believers may understand its presence in the world include: 

  1. Evil is a natural repercussion of free human choices.  Romans 2:3-5 explains how persons who practice evil do so out of the hardness of their hearts.  This however, does not explain every form of evil such as painful deaths caused by natural events.  (One example of natural events would be the horrific tornado that killed at least twenty-five people in Nashville TN this past week.  There is a difference between human evil and natural evil).
  2. Evil may be used by God to help shape a believer and sanctify them further (1 Cor 9:24-27; Heb. 12:3-13).  Human suffering comes as God either directs or permits suffering to teach. As humans suffer, God is bringing about discipline and maturity in their lives.  (if we are talking about honest doubts, like Habakkuk had, I have honest doubts about this.  I completely agree with the text in Hebrews, but not in the context of explaining how God uses evil.  I don’t discipline my children with evil to teach them a lesson. I discipline my children with love that may be painful but not evil.  So the idea that evil may be used by God to help shape a believer and sanctify them further is suspect  in my view).
  3. Though evil may be carried out and performed, God will one day execute justice and fairness on all evil doers (John 14:1-3, 2 Cor. 4:16-18).  All suffering and wrongs will be righted at the end times when God will judge the world.”  That may be true but it is of little comfort when, Like Habakkuk you see, know, understand, and experience the pain and suffering right here and now.

So I hope this helps us deal with the subject of theodicy.  Habakkuk in his day could not explain all that God is and why God chooses to do things the way God does.  And if God is still God, we can’t explain all that God is and why God does what God does either.  I think that’s especially important for us to remember when we are trying to comfort those who have experienced death, or sickness, or some other crisis.  If we’re not careful, we can cause more harm by trying to explain what God is doing or why God allowed something to happen.  Often times it’s enough just to be present with someone and to let them know that you care about them.  

The second chapter of Habakkuk deals with God’s reply to Habakkuk’s complaint as Habakkuk stands watch on the tower, and the five woes of the wicked that are surely to come.  This chapter contains familiar passages. Namely, “Then the LORD answered me and said:  Write the vision and make it plain” in verse two. Verse four tells us “the righteous live by their faith” and verse twenty with “But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him!”  Some important terms to consider about this text include:

Theodicy

Evil

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

In Last week’s lesson the prophet Habakkuk questioned God on his way to a prayer for justice.  Habakkuk didn’t understand how God could justify using the evil and wicked Babylonians to punish Judah, God’s own people.  Habakkuk was hurt, he was probably disillusioned and discouraged. Then he came to the realization that God did this! This was God’s work, God’s plan, and God ordained.  God was responsible for what Habakkuk believed was unjust suffering, violence, and pain.  Habakkuk had been praying, asking, and pleading with God for some time and all he saw was pain and violence.  Habakkuk saw iniquity, injustice, wrongdoing, wickedness, and immorality. And as far as he could tell, God was doing nothing about it.  Habakkuk was hurt. He was not happy with how God had allowed this violence to happen and he questioned God.  When God graciously answered Habakkuk, he was not satisfied and he questioned God again.  In his unusual dialog with God Habakkuk laid the violence and injustice at the feet of God.  He thought God had been indifferent and silent to the violence and suffering in Judah. It was God who allowed evil to go unpunished in Judah and it was God who would use the evil Babylonians to punish Judah.  That brought the notion of theodicy into view. How could God be good and just when evil exists the way it does. This week we continue in the theme of justice with the prophet Habakkuk awaiting God’s answer to his complaint.  In this week’s text, Habakkuk comes to realize that faith in God is the answer to questions that have no human answer.  In this text Habakkuk realizes the just shall live by their faith.  Townsend, Boyd’s, and Standard Lesson Commentaries title this week’s lesson Consequences for Injustice.  The scripture text comes from Habakkuk 2:6-14.   

There are three woes in this text and Habakkuk lists the crimes of the Babylonians.  Judgement is coming and they will surely pay the price for their evil, their wickedness, and their injustice.    

What Takes Place in This Passage:  

The lesson opens in verse six with Habakkuk the prophet having already taken his watch on the tower wall.  Habakkuk is expecting an answer from God.  He has made his complaint known and now he will watch and wait to hear an answer from God.  God graciously answers the prophet. God tells Habakkuk to write and to make it plain. When the prophecy is written and made plain for all to know, there will be no question about who is doing what.  When God says something will come to pass, people will be able to look back at the record and know that it was God who brought it to pass.  

As God speaks, Habakkuk begins to realize that he has no reason to doubt God.  He realizes that just because you don’t believe it, doesn’t mean it isn’t true.  Others may doubt, but God helps Habakkuk to understand that the just, will live by their faith.  Unlike the Chaldeans or Babylonians who are not just, who are not righteous and not holy, the people of God will be saved in the coming tribulation.  The Pulpit Commentary notes that “the promise looks beyond the temporal future of the Chaldeans and Israelites, and unto a reward that is eternal”.  Judah and the Israelites will still be punished, but ultimately it will be their faith that keeps them safe in God. God wants Habakkuk to know that he can trust in the God of the universe.  Even when God takes him/them through pain, suffering, and violence. The Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible explains that “God’s answer to Habakkuk’s complaint was that he does punish evil, but in his time and in his way.  A truly righteous person will not lose faith because evil is not immediately eliminated or the wicked quickly punished.”  

In verse six Habakkuk begins to write about the five woes that will befall the wicked.  The UBS Handbook on Habakkuk notes the five woes as

  1. Greed for wealth (6-8)
  2. Extravagant private building (9-11)
  3. Extravagant public building (12-14)
  4. Misuse of liquor (15-17)
  5. Idol worship (18-20)

It notes that “each taunt begins with the word Woe except the last where the Woe comes in the middle (v 19).”  

In verse 6 part a Standard Lesson Commentary notes in the NIV that “Him refers to the Babylonian Empire, personified as a single representative person.  The word them refers to nations and people who are the victims of the Babylonian’s aggression and brutality (Hab 2:5).”  Standard also explains that this writing style Habakkuk uses “in context, describes a mocking kind of speech, perhaps similar to what is referred to today as trash talk.”  Habakkuk is making it plain. Everybody is going to know that the Babylonians are going down for their evil and wicked ways.  They will be punished.  Lexham Bible Dictionary describes these verses as “God’s taunt song.  Consisting of five woes against wicked Babylon. In these oracles of woe, Yahweh mocks Babylon.  The sovereign God of Judah will bring down the arrogant empire.”

When Habakkuk says “Alas for you who heap up what is not your own!” How long will you load yourselves with goods taken in pledge?”  He is talking about evil greedy people.  These Babylonians are evil, wicked, and greedy people who take advantage of others.  The Babylonians take what is not rightfully theirs to have, they take what they have not labored for, and they take the dignity and respect of honest working innocent people.  

In verse seven God explains that creditors will suddenly rise up against the wicked.  This is just one of the woes to come. It will be unexpected and sudden. The Babylonians will experience for themselves what they have done to others.  Punishment is in store for the evil and wicked Babylonians.  

In verse eight  God says “Because you have plundered many nations, all that survive of the peoples shall plunder you.”  Again, the evil Babylonians will experience what it’s like to be treated the way they treated others.  Creditors will suddenly come upon them and the surviving people whom they have plundered will rise up against them.  The shoe will be on the other foot and this is just the first woe. The Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible notes that “The Old Testament principle of retributive justice teaches that God’s moral law extends not only to believers but to unbelievers as well.”  In other words the Babylonian’s will reap what they have sown.  

Verses nine through eleven describe the second woe.  It begins, “Alas for you who get evil gain for your house, setting your nest on high to be safe from the reach of harm!”  The Babylonians may be a great world power at the moment, but they are not greater than the reach of God.  They can try to create safety and security for themselves with wealth but their hurt, injury, and pain is coming in Habakkuk’s prophecy.  Standard Lesson Commentary notes that “This person wants to live in the fortress of an enclave of wealth, which is untouched by the poor and needy.”  There is no inherent sin in being wealthy. The sin enters when the wealthy are untouched by the needs of the community.  

In verse ten God highlights how the Babylonians have “devised shame for your house by cutting off many peoples; you have forfeited your life.”  The punishment of the Babylonias will be harsh.  For their pride over others and evil against others, they would lose their own lives.  The houses they built with the resources of those they conquered would be a testimony against them.  The Pulpit Commentary notes that “Even inanimate things shall raise their voice to denounce the Chaldeans wickedness.  The stone shall cry out of the wall.”  

In verse twelve the crime of the Babylonians is building a city upon the shed blood of others.  This is the third woe. The Babylonians have used evil, violence, and injustice to create their wealth, place their trust in a false sense of safety and security, and to build their cities.  Townsend Commentary notes that “Verse twelve introduces violence: a vice particularly observable among the Babylonians, but it is characteristic of our time as well. Here are a people who have gone from greed to injustice to violence.”  

Verses thirteen and fourteen close this lesson now mentioning the LORD of hosts.  As Habakkuk writes what the LORD has spoken to him he knows that all of the Babylonians labor will only feed the flames.  In other words, it will be useless and amount to nothing. What will amount to something is the knowledge and glory of the LORD.  God is the maker and creator of the heavens and the earth and all that dwells therein.  God’s glory will be known throughout the earth and especially to the Babylonians who have chosen injustice and violence instead of justice and righteousness.    

Context

In so many ways it seems as if the righteous suffer and the wicked prosper.  Evil seems to be present on every hand. Asaph laments in the seventy third Psalm “But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; my steps had nearly slipped.  For I was envious of the arrogant; I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” It can be difficult to watch the wicked prosper when your own life seems to be filled with pain and suffering all while living the best you know how to live in righteousness.  In this way, life can seem so unfair. Even when you have done nothing to “deserve” pain and suffering sometimes it comes your way. In these times, Habakkuk provides a good example. He came to understand that the just shall live by their faith. We can trust that God is our God and that God will see us through.  

Key Words:  

Theodicy – The justification of a diety’s justice and goodness in light of suffering and evil.  

Evil – has a broader meaning than sin.  The Hebrew word comes from a root meaning “to spoil”, to break in pieces : being broken and so made worthless.  

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas:  

1. When the righteous suffer and the wicked prosper.

2.  The just shall live by their faith.   

Question:  

How do we explain events like the horrific tornado that occured in Nashville, Tennessee this past week?  

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:

Next week’s lesson continues in the Old Testament minor prophets.  The lesson for March 22, 2020 comes from Micah 3:1-2, 9-12; 6:6-8. Next week’s lesson is titled Corrupt Leaders and An Argument Against Corruption.       

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Sunday School, Sunday School Lesson

Sunday School Lesson (March 8, 2020) A Prayer for Justice Habakkuk 1:1-4, 12-14

Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com.  In this week’s lesson the prophet Habakkuk questions God on the way to a prayer for justice. Habakkuk doesn’t understand how God can justify using the evil and wicked Babylonians to punish Judah, God’s own people.  Habakkuk is hurt, he is probably disillusioned and discouraged. Then he comes to the realization that God did this! This is God’s work, this is God’s plan, and this is God ordained.  God is responsible for what Habakkuk believes is unjust suffering, violence, and pain.  Habakkuk had been praying, asking, and pleading with God for some time and still all he sees is this pain and violence.  Habakkuk sees iniquity, injustice, wrongdoing, wickedness, and immorality. And (at least at this point) as far as he can tell God is doing nothing about it.  Habakkuk is hurt. He is not happy with how God has allowed this to happen and he questions God.  When God graciously answers Habakkuk, he’s not satisfied and he questions God again.  In this unusual dialog with God Habakkuk lays this violence and injustice at the feet of God.  Habakkuk thinks God has been indifferent and silent to the violence and suffering in Judah. It is God who allows evil to go unpunished in Judah and it is God who will use the evil Babylonians to punish Judah.  This brings the notion of theodicy into view. How can God be good and just when evil exists the way it does. Some key ideas surrounding this week’s text includes the terms:  

Theodicy

Justification by Faith

Background:  

The book of Habakkuk is the eighth book of the twelve books we call the minor prophets.  As I explained last week these books are called minor only because they are shorter in length and they come behind the five major prophets in the Old Testament.  Nelson’s Bible handbook notes that “since the book speaks of the coming destruction of Judah, it had to be written some time before Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 B.C.”  You may recall that 587 B.C was when the first Jewish Temple was destroyed.  That was the temple King Solomon built for the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord.  So, King David was on the scene about 1,000 B.C.  King David’s United Monarchy (or the united kingdom) divided about sixty nine years later in 931 B.C. and the fall of Jerusalem occurred about  344 years later in 587 B.C. Nelson’s notes that the most likely time for Habakkuk’s composition is probably 600 B.C.  It also explains “Habakkuk’s first dialog with God takes place in 1:1-11.” Nelson’s continues, “In 1:1-4 the prophet asks God how long will God allow the wickedness of Judah to go unpunished.  The people of Judah sin with impunity, and justice is perverted”. So Nelson’s Bible Handbook notes verses 1-4 as referring to the wickedness of Judah. The New Interpreter’s Study Bible explains these verses refer to the Babylonians.  The NISB notes 

“Although many see the slackening of “law” or the failure of “justice” as an indication that those being referred to as “the wicked” are Judeans, subsequent passages clearly identify them as the Babylonians.”  

At any rate, verses one through four are Habakkuk’s complaint to God.  Whether the wickedness and violence refers to the Judeans themselves or the Babylonians, Habakkuk knows and understands the pain and hurt of violence and wickedness.  Habakkuk complains and questions God in verses one through four and God answers Habakkuk’s complaint and question in verses five through eleven. God’s answer obviously does not satisfy Habakkuk because he questions God again in verses 12-17.  

Habakkuk’s  job is to warn the nation of Judah that destruction is coming.  The New Interpreter’s Study Bible notes 

“although Babylon and Judah had been close allies for well over a century, Jehoiakim’s pro-Egyptian sentiments apparently prompted the Babylonians to treat Judah as a conquered enemy rather than an ally.  The result was a Judean revolt against Babylon in 598 BCE”.

In three chapters consisting of fifty-six verses Habakkuk sets forth his warning to Judah while also bringing forward the significant theological concept of theodicy and setting the precedent for the Apostle Paul’s doctrine of justification by faith. The New Interpreter’s Study Bible notes 

“Paul cites Hab. 2:4 as a major textual witness to support his doctrine of justification by faith.  In modern times, Habakkuk’s address to the LORD raises the question of divine absence in relation to the Shoah (Holocaust) and other atrocities”.

The NISB also notes “the book of Habakkuk addresses the question of unjust suffering and evil by presenting the prophet’s appeal to the LORD’s together with God’s answer to the Babylonian betrayal of Judah”.  So while Habakkuk may be small in size, it plays a large role in both Jewish and Christian theology.  

The Lexham Bible Dictionary notes that “Habakkuk is the fourth shortest book in the Old Testament.  Only Obadiah, Nahum and Haggai are shorter”. Lexham also notes that “the prophet grapples with two mysteries

  1. Why God allows evil to go unpunished in his homeland of Judah.
  2. How a righteous God could use Babylon – a wicked nation – to judge sin in Judah”.

Lexham also notes that “Habakkuk’s form, a dialog with God and a concluding hymn, is unique in Old Testament prophetic books”.  Habakkuk is also unique in that the prophet is in conversation with God for the people; whereas other prophets spoke to the people from God.  

The first chapter of Habakkuk deals with the prophets’ complaint, God’s answer, and is the beginning of his unusual dialog with God.  This chapter introduces the notion of theodicy as it “identifies the LORD as the party responsible for bringing evil upon Judah. (NISB)”  Judgement is coming and Habakkuk’s job is to warn Judah. Some important terms to consider about this text include:

Theodicy

Justification by faith

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

In last week’s lesson the prophet Amos spoke truth to power.  He issued a call to accountability to the kingdom of Israel. Amos was from the southern kingdom of Judah but went into the northern Kingdom of Israel to declare its utter destruction.  Israel had rejected justice and righteousness. They went to worship services and did religious things but their heart was far from God because of the way they treated people. I noted how God has always been more concerned with how people are treated than God is concerned with us following the rules and regulations of the Law.  Israel had utterly failed, they had rejected the ways of God, and God would reject them. Amos wanted Israel to know that they were facing disaster, calamity, and affliction. The day of the LORD would not be a day of victory. It would be harsh, stark, and painful. There would be darkness and gloom with no brightness, no reason to celebrate, no reason to look forward, and no reason for hope in the future.  God literally hated what Israel had become.  Instead of Israel hating evil they hated the advocates for righteousness.  As a result, God hated their presumptuous worship. God was not interested in the Israelites festivals, their worship, nor their fellowship. This week we continue in the theme of justice with the prophet Habakkuk.  In this week’s text, Habakkuk questions God’s justice. He seems to ask the question, if God is really just when there is so much injustice in his homeland of Judah.  Townsend, Boyd’s, and Standard Lesson Commentaries title this week’s lesson “A Prayer for Justice”  The scripture text comes from Habakkuk 1:1-4, 12-14. Verses five through eleven are God’s response to Habakkuk’s first complaint.  Habakkuk is evidently dissatisfied with God’s answer and questions God again beginning with verse twelve.  

Listen closely to how Habakkuk questions God.  He is not afraid to confront God about the evil and injustice that he sees in his world.  Habakkuk knows what injustice and suffering is and he wants God to do something about it.  

What Takes Place in This Passage:  

The lesson opens in verse one with the inscription “the oracle that the prophet Habakkuk saw.”  This inscription explains who we are dealing with.  In other words, this inscription explains that these are the words of God from the prophet Habakkuk.  The New Revised Standard Version uses the word oracle, the King James Version uses the word burden, and the New International Version uses prophecy.  “The oracle that the prophet Habakkuk saw.”  The idea is that this is a message from God.  This isn’t just something that Habakkuk feels passionate about.  This isn’t his idea.  This is from God.  Lexham Bible Dictionary defines oracle as “a divine message communicated through a human mediator to one or more human recipients.”  Habakkuk is the mediator but in this case he is speaking to God for the people.  The Pulpit Commentary notes that “the title prophet which is added in the inscriptions only to the names of Haggai, Zechariah, and curiously to Jerimiah implies that Habakkuk exercised the practical office of prophet and was well known.”  

Verse two begins the prophet’s complaint to God.  When Habakkuk asks the question “how long shall I cry for help?”  it indicates he didn’t just now, start crying out.  He has been crying out for some time.  The Pulpit Commentary notes “The Hebrew is taken to imply that the prophet had long been complaining of the moral depravity of Judah, and calling for help against it.”  It seems to me that Habakkuk is saying – I’ve been asking, I’ve been praying, I’ve been pleading God, and still this pain this violence continues. Habakkuk says “Violence! And you will not save.”  This is painful.  He sees, knows, and understands the hurt, the pain, the harm and the suffering of violence.  The violence is difficult to watch and probably triggering. Habakkuk is laying this at the feet of God.  

Verse three begins with another question, “why do you make me see wrongdoing and look at trouble?”  The NRSV uses the word wrongdoing, the KJV uses iniquity, and the NIV uses injustice.  Again, the meaning is the same regardless of which word is used. Iniquity, injustice, wrongdoing all have similar meanings.  Other words that make the same point could be wickedness, immorality, or abomination. The point is, this is painful for Habakkuk to see.  This also helps us understand that God can handle our questions.  Habakkuk is hurt. He is not pleased with how God has allowed this to happen and he questions God.  Listen, if your God is too small to be questioned; you serve a small God.  It’s not as if God doesn’t already know. God knows the end before our beginning.  When we run up on things we can’t understand, things that are painful, hurtful, and even in our view harmful, you aren’t going to hurt God’s feelings if you ask why.  You’re not going to make God angry by asking why. God knows our pain and is with us in our pain.  Despite what our circumstances may be.  God still loves us. Despite our pain, God still loves us.  Despite the hurt we may feel, God still loves us, cares for us, and is with us through it all.  God loves us even when it’s hard to see the love through our tears.  

Verse four begins “So the law becomes slack and justice never prevails.”  At this point Habakkuk has no confidence in the law. He has lost trust and confidence in what the law is supposed to do and what it’s supposed to stand for.  The Pulpit Commentary explains “the law is slacked” as meaning the law “is chilled, benumbed, no longer of any force or efficacy, or has become a dead letter.”  The law is supposed to be the guide for justice and righteousness. Habakkuk believes there is supposed to be justice but instead, he sees injustice, wrongdoing, and iniquity.  When the writer says “The wicked surround the righteous, therefore judgement comes forth perverted.” I’m reminded of 2 Corinthians 4:8-10 which reads 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.  In both of these cases the pain is real. The suffering is real.  The big difference in Corinthians is that Paul has hope in Jesus Christ whereas Habakkuk, at least at this point, shows no hope.  All Habakkuk sees at this point is injustice and wrongdoing on every side. 

Our text now skips to verse twelve.  Verses one through four deal with Habakkuk’s first complaint to God.  Verses five through eleven is God’s response.  

Verse twelve begins with a rhetorical question.  Habakkuk asks, “Are you not from of old, O Lord my God, my Holy One?”  Habakkuk may have lost trust and confidence in the law in verse four, but in this verse he knows God is the God from everlasting to everlasting.  The law may have lost its power but he knows God is still the able God.  You may also notice that the KJV says “we shall not die” whereas the NIV and the NRSV says “you will never die”.  The Pulpit Commentary explains “the original text reads “thou” (or you) will not die” and that the KJV was altered for reverence’ sake.”  Verse twelve continues “O Lord, you have marked them for judgement; and you, O Rock, have established them for punishment.” Here, Habakkuk is saying God caused this.  God did this. God made, God created, God caused this pain and hurt. It was God who established or ordained the Babylonians for Judah’s punishment. I imagine that it’s hard for Habakkuk to believe that this is true.  That it was God’s doing to cause the Babylonian’s to inflict them like this. It’s true, God did do this and I just imagine that it’s crushing Habakkuk to come to this realization.

This raises the notion of theodicy.  Theodicy asks the question, how can God uphold God’s justice and goodness when we have all this suffering and evil.  The Lexham Bible Dictionary defines theodicy as “the attempt to defend God’s omnipotence and goodness in the face of the problem of evil in the world.”  I imagine that’s what Habakkuk is feeling. Habakkuk wants to know why bad things happen to good people. After all, these are God’s people that are suffering violence.  Lexham continues “theodicy is based on the belief in an orderly universe which is created by a beneficent God. It seeks to answer how a benevolent, omnipotent, omniscient God allows suffering and pain in God’s creation.”  I think many of us can identify with that question – why do bad things happen to good people.  It’s a genuine and honest question.  And if you’ve lived longer than a few days you’ve probably had to ask that question yourself.  

Verse thirteen begins “Your eyes are too pure to behold evil, and you cannot look on wrongdoing;”  In the first part of this verse Habakkuk knows God is still able to deliver. He has a confidence in who God is.  Habakkuk may have lost confidence in the law in verse four.  But at least in the first part of this verse he knows God is still a righteous God.  Habakkuk understands and knows the nature and character of God.  

In part b of this verse he still doesn’t understand.  He knows who God is but that doesn’t mean he knows what God is doing.  He is still hurt and confused about this pain, this violence, and suffering.  Habakkuk asks God a rhetorical question as if to urge God on to do something about this situation.  He asks “why do you look on the treacherous, and are silent when the wicked swallow those more righteous than they?  He is asking, why was God allowing these Chaldeans, these Babylonians to inflict this evil upon Judah?  

Verse fourteen closes the lesson with what the UBS Handbook on Habakkuk calls the “the beginning of a figurative description of how the Babylonians treat their enemies.”  The point in verse fourteen is that Judah is like the fish of the sea and crawling things that have no ruler, no king, or master to guide them.   

Context:

You may have heard someone say “the only dumb question is the one you don’t ask.”  I don’t think that’s completely true, but the idea is that you shouldn’t be afraid to ask a genuine question.  I think it also helps us to know that you have to ask the question if you want an answer.  Habakkuk wanted an answer from God and he questioned God not once but twice.  Genuine questions brought before God out of a sincere heart will never anger, disappoint, or frustrate God.  When we come before God just as we are, God receives us just as we are.  

Key Words:  

Theodicy – The justification of a diety’s justice and goodness in light of suffering and evil.  

Justification by Faith (Protestantism) – The theological principle, emphasized in Protestantism, that salvation comes to an individual by God’s grace through faith, so that to be “declared righteous,” or “justified,” or “saved” is on the (sole) basis of one’s faith in Jesus Christ apart from any works or merit (Rom. 1:17; 3:28; 5:1).   

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas:  

1. When bad things happen to good people.

2.  Seeing God’s love through our tears.

Question:  

Why is it okay to question God from a genuine and sincere heart? 

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:

Next week’s lesson continues in the book of Habakkuk.  The lesson comes from the 2:6-14. The lesson for March 15, 2020 is titled “Consequences for Injustice.”     

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Sunday School, Sunday School Lesson

Sunday School Lesson (March 1, 2020) Called to Accountability / A Call to Accountability Amos 5:18-24

Called To Accountability / A Call To Accountability Amos 5:18-24

Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com.  In this week’s lesson the prophet Amos speaks truth to power. He issues a call to accountability to the kingdom of Israel.  Amos is from the southern kingdom of Judah but goes into the northern Kingdom of Israel to declare its utter destruction. Israel has rejected justice and righteousness.  They go to worship services and do religious things but their heart is far from God because of the way they treat people. God has always been more concerned with how people are treated than God is concerned with people following the rules and regulations of the Law.  Israel has utterly failed, they have rejected the ways of God, and now God would reject them. Amos wants Israel to know that they are facing disaster, calamity, and affliction. The day of the LORD will not be a day of victory. It will be harsh, stark, and painful. There will be darkness and gloom with no brightness, no reason to celebrate, no reason to look forward, and no reason for hope in the future.  God literally hates what Israel has become.  Instead of Israel hating evil they hated the advocates for righteousness.  As a result, God hated their presumptuous worship. God was not interested in the Israelites festivals, their worship, nor their fellowship.  Some key ideas surrounding this week’s text includes the terms:  

Justice 

The Day of the Lord

Background:  

The book of Amos is one of the twelve books we call the minor prophets.  These books are called minor only because they are shorter in length and they come behind the five major prophets in the Old Testament.  The major prophets include Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, and Daniel.  The minor prophets are the twelve smaller books following these five larger books.  The minor prophets are just as significant and meaningful as any of the other books of the Bible.  

Nelson’s Bible Handbook explains that “the last seventeen books of the Old Testament are books of prophecy.  As a unit, these books make up about one-fourth of the total Bible, and were written across a period of about 450 years.”  So these seventeen books, whether large or small in size make up a significant portion of what we believe and hold as sacred.  That also indicates the 450 year period these books were written in was a significant point in time. Nelson’s notes this timeframe as from about “750 B.C. to around 450 B.C.”  Just a small portion of some of the events happening during that 450 year period includes:  

  • Jonah preached to Nineveh (725 B.C.).
  • Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego (605 BC).
  • The first Jewish Temple is destroyed (587 B.C.).
  •  Exiles return with Zerubbabel (538 BC).
  • The second Temple is built (520 – 515 B.C.).
  • Ezra leads a group of exiles to Jerusalem (458 B.C.).

So these seventeen books cover a lot of the story of the Hebrew people.  They are all prophetic books, meaning they contain prophecy.  Westminister’s Dictionary of Theological Terms Defines prophecy as “speaking on behalf of God to communicate God’s will for a situation.  In the New Testament it is a gift of the Spirit (Rom. 12:6; 1 Cor 12:10; 14:22).  It is also used for the prediction or declaration of what will come to pass in the future.”  So a prophet or prophetess (Miraim, Deborah, Hulda) speaks for God and they are trying to communicate the will of God so that people get the message loud and clear.  The Holman Treasury of Key Bible Words explains that “although the ability to foretell the future is an important role of a prophet, it is not the major function.  A prophet was first of all called to speak forth the word of God as delivered to him or her whether it referred to the past, present, future or to all these aspects of life at the same time.”  It also notes how Luke’s gospel “asserts that Jesus, because he is God, was a powerful prophet when he was on earth.”

The New Interpreter’s Study Bible (NISB) notes that “Amos was a prophet who worked during the reigns of Uzziah of Judah and Jeroboam II of Israel, probably in the 750s BCE.”  So this was about two hundred years after the United Monarchy of King David divided into the kingdom of Israel and the kingdom of Judah.  The NISB also notes that “Amos was a southerner, from Tekoa, some ten miles from Jerusalem. But it seems that his prophetic activity took place in the northern kingdom of Israel.”  So Jerusalem was in the southern Kingdom of Judah and the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel was Samaria. It seems to me that Amos was an especially bold prophet. He lived in the southern Kingdom of Judah but went into the northern Kingdom of Israel to pronounce severe and harsh judgement upon its officials and people.

Other points the NISB notes include:

  • The Northern Kingdom of Israel was enjoying a period of relative prosperity.  
  • Unlike his younger contemporary Hosea, Amos concentrates on the treatment of one section of society by another.
  • We see in Amos the first example of the prophets as the nation’s conscience, condemning those in positions of power and influence for the ill-treatment of those who cannot defend themselves.
  • It is this radical message of the need for social justice that has made Amos such an important prophet for many modern readers of the Bible.  

The fifth chapter of Amos deals with a lament for Israel’s sin and the day of the LORD as a dark day.  The NISB notes that this section is a mixture of condemnations and threats and three exhortations to repent or change course.  The focus of this week’s lesson is how Amos calls Judah to accountability for its treatment of the poor and disenfranchised. Some important terms to consider about this text include:

Justice 

The Day of the Lord 

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

In last week’s lesson I gave a brief review of the Winter Quarter and talked about how Jesus taught his disciples the importance of perseverance in prayer.  After teaching the disciples the model prayer (what we often call the Lord’s Prayer) Jesus used a parable to explain the importance of ever-persevering petitions.  I highlighted the fact that we need to pray and keep on praying. In last week’s parable Jesus used the example of a shameless neighbor and an earthly father to help his disciples understand that relationships matter.  He also helped them understand that because of their relationship with God they could trust that God was a loving, merciful, kind, gracious, and generous God. Jesus helped them to know that perseverance pays off. When we are in God’s will, God answers our prayers.  Jesus 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 and search for 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.  Townsend and Boyd’s Commentaries title this week’s lesson “Called to Accountability”  Standard Lesson Commentary titles this week’s lesson “A Call to Accountability”. The scripture text comes from Amos 5:18-24.  

Pay attention to how dark and grim this text is.  Amos is issuing a terrible prophecy upon the nation of Israel.  Amos is God’s prophet and he is telling it like it is. He is speaking on behalf of God and this is what they have to look forward to.   

What Takes Place in This Passage:  

The lesson opens in chapter five at verse 18 with the woeful prophecy of Amos.  He asks the question “why do you want the day of the LORD?” Amos knows the day of the Lord will not be what they expect it to be.  If they have any hope in the coming day of the Lord it is a false hope.  Westminster’s Dictionary of Theological Terms defines Day of the LORD as “A term associated with coming judgement in the Old Testament (Isa. 13:9; Joel 1:15; 2:11; Amos 5:20) and in the New Testament with the second coming of Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:10).”  In this case Amos is not simply prophesying judgement, but abject, stark, and grim judgement upon the nation. If the people were expecting victory they would only receive defeat, if they were expecting pleasure they would only receive pain, if joy they would only get sorrow.  Amos lets them know the day of the LORD is not something to look forward to for the nation of Israel. The NISB notes that “the offenses against God are not war crimes but instances of social injustice within the nation.”  Amos speaks truth to power.  

In verse nineteen Amos paints a picture of the disappointment Israel will experience on the day of the Lord.  He compares and contrasts darkness to light, fleeing a lion only to run into a bear, and resting your hand against a wall only to be bitten by a snake.  The UBS handbook on Amos notes this is “a short illustration of an unlucky man who escapes from two dangerous animals, only to be killed by a snake in his own home where he thought he was safe.”  Amos wants Israel to know that they are facing disaster, calamity, and affliction. The day of the LORD will not be a day of victory. It will be harsh, stark, and painful.  

In verse twenty Amos asks a rhetorical question.  “Is not the day of the LORD darkness, not light, and gloom with no brightness in it?”  If they hadn’t understood by now, at this point he is making it plain. There will be darkness and gloom with no brightness, no reason to celebrate, no reason to look forward, and no reason for hope in the future.  

At verse twenty one Amos records the words of the LORD.  It begins “I hate, I despise your festivals.” This is God speaking and God uses the word “hate”.  Westminster’s defines hate as a “Strong opposite to love; the desire that harm or evil might come upon another person.  It is characteristic of sinners in relation to God (John 15:23) and toward others (Gal. 5:20). It is contrary to the love Jesus requires (Matt. 22:37-40).”  So yes, hate is a strong word and should probably never be used by Christians to describe our feelings toward others. So that gives me an indication of how disgusted, outraged, and repulsed God is with Israel.  The New American Commentary explains that “Hate and despise are strong words. The term for hate is used three times is Amos, all in this chapter. Rather than hating evil (v. 15), Israel hated advocates for righteousness, therefore God hated their presumptuous worship (v. 21).”  God was not interested in the Israelites festivals to worship and praise God. The people had shown by their actions that they were not interested in true righteousness or justice.  

In verses twenty-two and twenty three God continues “Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them.”  “Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps.” God rejects their sacrifices and their songs. The New American Commentary also explains

 “the three sacrifices mentioned here are the first three of the five main Levitical offerings presented in Leviticus 1-7.  These are the “pleasing aroma” offerings.  They are the ones that in particular represent consecration and worship as opposed to the other two used solely for atonement.”

God is not interested in their worship, God is not interested in their sacrifices, and God is not interested in their songs.  These are a people who disgust God with their fake worship and fake festivals.  “Burnt offerings were sacrifices in which the entire animal was consumed on the altar and arose to God in smoke.  Grain offerings could only be used on various sacrifices brought as a gift. Fellowship offerings were those in which part of the animal was consumed on the altar and part of it was eaten by the worshiper, thus symbolizing communion between the worshiper and God.”  Again, God is not interested in anything they have to offer. God rejects all that they presumptuously believe they are doing to please God.  

Verse twenty-four closes this lesson with God plainly saying what the right response should be.  “Let justice roll down like water, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. quoted these words in his Letter From A Birmingham Jail.  Dr. King’s letter highlighted some of the same issues and problems Israel was guilty of thousands of years earlier.  Israel had rejected justice and righteousness and God had rejected Israel. The New American Commentary also notes that “justice would mean “reparations for the defrauded, fairness for the less fortunate, and dignity and compassion for the needy”; righteousness would entail “attitudes of mercy and generosity, and honest dealings that imitate the character of God.””  If Israel wanted to please God then justice and righteousness should burst forth like an overflowing stream.  

Context

Retributive Justice is the view that God’s justice intends to give sinners that which their sins deserve (Jer. 5:29; 20:12).  Restorative justice is the view that justice repairs the harm caused by crime with victims, offenders, and community members all deciding how to make the repair.  Victims and often their families need equitable repair. Harsh punishment can destroy the offender as well as the offenders family and in turn the offenders community.  It seems to me that restorative justice acknowledges the needs of the victim without destroying the offender. There would be no restoration for Israel in Amos’ prophecy.  For too long Israel had ignored the call of justice and righteousness. Now they would face judgement. The road to justice and righteousness begins with simply striving to “do right” by those we come in contact with.  When we treat people right our families, our communities, states and our nation will become a better place for all.  

Key Words:  

Justice – Classically, the concept of each person receiving what is due.  Biblically, the emphasis is on right relationships and persons receiving a share of the resources of the society.  Concern is expressed for the oppressed and their right treatment. Justice is related to love and grace.  

The Day of the LORD – A term associated with coming judgement in the Old Testament and in the New Testament with the second coming of Jesus Christ. 

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas:  

1.  Do the right thing.

2.  God hates fake.

Question:  

What civil rights leader is known for quoting Amos 5:24?

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:

Next week’s lesson continues in the minor prophets.  The lesson comes from the book of Habakkuk 1:1-4, and 12-14.  The lesson for March 8, 2020 is titled “A Prayer for Justice.”   

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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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