Christianity, religion, Sunday School, Sunday School Lesson

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

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

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

Decalogue

Covenant

Faithfulness

Background 

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

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

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

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

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

Some important words to consider from this text include:

Decalogue

Covenant

Faithfulness

Review of Last Week and How it Connects to This Week  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Takes Place in This Passage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Context

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

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

Key Characters in the text:

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

Key Words

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

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

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

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas: 

1.  Faithful until the end (Moses). 

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

Questions: 

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

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

Concluding Thought:

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

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:

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

Sunday School, Sunday School Lesson

Sunday School Lesson (August 25, 2019) Marriage: A Covenant Of Mutual Love Ephesians 5:21-33

Marriage: A Covenant of Mutual Love Ephesians 5:21-33

Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com.  This week I take a look at a covenant of mutual love.  The lesson comes from Ephesians 5:21-33.  In this lesson we see how both the husband and the wife submit or as the Hebrew word says “line up under” each other in a covenant of mutual love.  Lining up under each other is a good way to form the idea of working together.  We line up under each other to support each other and we line up under Jesus Christ to support the cause of Christ.  What I found particularly interesting about this week’s lesson is how Holy Scripture can sometimes be used to oppress women.  In the first century world of Paul, patriarchy was the only known way to exist.  I suppose it was even radical for Paul to suggest that both men and women should submit to one another.  That was the first step.  Now it’s up to us to dismantle patriarchy and all other forms of oppression. 

The focus of this week’s lesson is a covenant of mutual love.  It is the final lesson of the Sunday School year and an excellent way to close the topic of covenants between people.  Some of the ideas surrounding this week’s text include the terms: 

Household Codes

Covenant

Background: 

Over The last few weeks the lessons have focused on covenants between people.  This week is a little different.  The premise is the same.  While this text does not mention two specific people we are still dealing with two people in the context of a covenant based in marriage.  Just as a reminder “covenant” is defined as a formal agreement or treaty between two parties that establishes a relationship and in which obligations and mutual responsibilities may be enacted.  Part of what I will focus on today is the mutuality of the covenant based in marriage.  This week’s lesson is taken from Ephesians.  The New Interpreter’s Study Bible notes “Biblical scholars disagree over whether the Letter to the Ephesians was written by Paul.  The Greek style in the letter is different from uncontested letters by Paul, and the ideas in Ephesians represent developments in Paul’s thought among other discrepancies”. Even with other discrepancies the “evidence does not prove, however, that Ephesians is not authentically Pauline” (NISB).  Additionally, “some reputable scholars maintain that Paul wrote Ephesians at the end of his life about 58 – 59 CE and the developments in Paul’s thought represents the “mature” Paul.  Nelson’s Bible Handbook notes that Ephesians has a number of notable differences from the undisputed letters of Paul; possibly it was intended as a circular or “open letter” to a number of communities surrounding Ephesus”.

The NISB notes that “the main theme of Ephesians is God’s plan to reconcile Jews and Gentiles, which was accomplished through the death and resurrection of Jesus”.  Our lesson text is taken from a section of the fifth chapter that is focused on the Christian household.  “In the New Testament the first household codes appear in Colossians 3:18-4:1 which is a roster of duties for members of a Greco-Roman household.  Other examples are found in 1 Timothy 2:8-3:13; Titus 2:1-10; and 1 Peter 2:13-3:7” (NISB).  Additionally, the NISB notes that “the household code in Ephesians has been misused: First, because in some editions of the Bible, Ephesians 5:21 has not been printed with the code and second, because editors have not noted that “be subject” does not appear in the best manuscripts of 5:22” (NISB).  Regardless of those controversies, the central message of this passage is mutual submission to one another and the lordship of Christ over all of us.  One additional note of importance mentioned in the NISB is how this

“Text reflects unquestioning acceptance of slavery (chapter 6) as a social and economic institution.  No modern Christian can hold such a view.  Modern interpreters assume that slavery is not universally to be practiced, but they are sometimes hesitant to assert the same about the domination of wives by husbands”.

Our lesson this week is entitled A Covenant of Mutual Love.  The importance of this mutual love should be the central focus with the lordship of Jesus Christ as the overarching guide.  Some important words to consider from this text include:

Household Codes

Covenant

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

Last week our lesson came from Ruth chapter 3.  Verses one and two began with Naomi’s concern for Ruth’s security.  Naomi’s care and concern for Ruth underscored her love for her daughter-in-law.  After realizing Boaz had shown interest in Ruth, Naomi knew exactly what to do.  Naomi knew the customs of the barley harvest and as the reaping season drew to a close she gave her daughter-in-law specific instructions on how to conduct herself. 

In verse three Naomi told Ruth to wash, anoint herself with perfume, and to put on her best clothes.  Naomi told her to go to the threshing floor but not to make herself known to Boaz until after he has finished eating and drinking.  Naomi knew exactly what she was doing.  With the specific instructions she gave Ruth she hoped to ensure Ruth’s success with convincing Boaz to marry her. 

Naomi’s instructions continued in verse four.  She told Ruth “when he lies down, observe the place then go and uncover his feet and lie down; and he will tell you what to do”.  In verse five Ruth demonstrated her obedience to Naomi telling her “all that you tell me I will do”.  I cited the NISB noting that the Hebrew word for “lie down” is used eight times in 3:4-14.  The NISB noted that “Lie down” can simply mean “sleep” but this word is also frequently used in biblical texts to imply sexual intercourse.

Verse six told us Ruth followed Naomi’s instructions.  Verse seven is not in the lesson, but it told us how after Boaz was content with eating and drinking he lies down at the end of a heap of grain and how Ruth “came stealthily and uncovered his feet, and lay down”. I cited the New Interpreter’s Bible One Volume Commentary noting that “The Hebrew of this scene is filled with words that may have either ordinary meanings or sexual overtones, especially the words “feet” (used euphemistically for genitals) and “lie down” (for sleeping or sexual relations).  Both in content and choice of vocabulary, the storyteller establishes the possibility for a sexual tryst outside of marriage, yet draws back from saying exactly what took place”.

Verse eight told us that at midnight Boaz was startled discovering a woman laying at his feet.  It’s easy to understand how he might be startled having gone to sleep alone only to wake in the middle of the night with a woman lying next to him.  I also noted that Boaz is likely a pious man given his greeting in chapter two verse four. 

In verse nine Ruth explained “I am your servant; spread your cloak over your servant, for you are next-of-kin”.  This is Ruth’s marriage proposal.  The NIBOVC noted that “spread your cloak over your servant” is in effect elevated language for a marriage proposal.  Verse ten helps us understand just how wise Naomi was.  Naomi had given Ruth specific instructions and now Boaz says “may you be blessed by the Lord, my daughter; this last instance of your loyalty is better than the first”.  Here Boaz recognizes Ruth’s actions toward him as better than her actions toward her mother-in-law.  He knows how loving and faithful Ruth has been toward Naomi.  Now he sees that same kind of love and faithfulness toward him by Ruth. 

In verse eleven we saw the covenant to marry that Boaz made to Ruth.  In verse nine Ruth proposes marriage.  In verse eleven Boaz makes the covenant to marry Ruth.  He promises her “do not be afraid, I will do for you all that you ask”. 

Verse twelve introduced a twist.  Boaz told Ruth there was another kinsman more closely related than he was.  Yet, Boaz will be determined to see this matter through successfully.

In verse sixteen Ruth returns to her mother-in-law who asks “how did things go with you, my daughter”.  Ruth tells Naomi all that happed and in verse seventeen she says “He gave me these six measures of barley, for he said; do not go back to your mother-in-law empty-handed”.  Naomi’s plan worked.  Boaz sent Ruth home with six measures of barley to show his appreciation.  And in verse eighteen Naomi told Ruth to simply wait.  She knows Boaz will not rest until this marriage is settled.

This week’s lesson deals with marriage as a covenant of mutual love.  It closes our lessons on covenants between people.  This week we look at the husband wife relationship within the household codes of Ephesians.  Paul emphasizes how husbands and wives submit to one another in reverence to Christ.  He gives specific instructions especially to the husbands as their instructions are much longer than the wives.  Townsend and Boyd’s Commentaries title this week’s lesson Marriage: A Covenant of Mutual Love.  Standard Lesson Commentary titles it A Covenant of Love.  The scripture text comes from Ephesians 5:21-33. 

What Takes Place in This Passage: 

Verse twenty-one is the key verse in this text.  It is the central focus of this passage and our lesson.  Be subject to one another.  The Greek word for “subject” “is a military term meaning to line up under” (NISB).  I think that’s a good expression to form the idea of working together.  We line up under each other to support each other and we line up under Jesus Christ to support the cause of Christ.

Verse twenty-two says that wives ought to submit themselves to their own husbands as unto the Lord.  I have personally witnessed how terribly this verse can be misused by a husband.  So let me by clear.  This verse does not make a husband superior, greater, more authoritative, more respected or more valuable in any way, shape or form that his wife.  This verse does not put the husband above the wife in any way.  Men are not better than women, husbands are not better than wives.  What really bothers me is that some women will accept being treated inferior as if that is somehow pleasing to God.  It’s not.  Women and wives ought to be full participants in the cause of Christ.  In most of the churches I have been associated with, the church would close down if women didn’t show up.

 Having said that, I refer you again to verse twenty-one; we are to submit ourselves one to another.  Marriage is teamwork.  There are areas where my wife needs to lead.  When she leads, I line up under her and follow her leadership.  That’s one way mutual love is expressed. 

Verse twenty-three tells us the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church, the body of which he is the savior.  Jesus Christ is our example.  If Jesus wouldn’t treat a woman in an inferior way, neither should a husband.  Additionally, keep in mind that life in this first century world revolved around patriarchy.  Every area of life in this first century world centered on a male authority system that oppressed and subordinated women through social, political, and economic institutions and practices.  For Paul to say that women and men should be subject to one another is a radical thought for his time.  Yet, given the oppression women faced in his time and the oppression women still face today I wish that he had gone further to tear down the ideology of patriarchy. 

Verse twenty-four reminds us that the church is subject to Jesus Christ.  So, as the church lines up under Jesus Christ, so too should wives line up under their husbands.  Again, I refer you to our key verse – Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Verse twenty-five tells husbands to love their wives just as Christ loved the Church.  Christ’s love for the church was sacrificial.  There was literally nothing greater that Christ could have given other than his own life.

Verse twenty-six gives us a reason to love sacrificially.  That purpose is “In order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word”.  The NISB notes that the washing of water presents the “image of baptism or the ritual purification baths of Jewish women”.  At any rate, the sacrificial love of the husband is again an effort in teamwork.  The picture is one such as Christ giving himself for the church and the husband giving himself for the wife. 

Verse twenty-seven goes even further helping us understand that because of this sacrificial love the church is presented in splendor, without a spot or wrinkle so that she may be holy and without blemish.  The husband’s sacrificial love does this for the wife.  While the wife is called upon to submit to her husband, the husband is called upon to love his wife. 

Verses twenty-eight through thirty drive the point home for the husband.  In all of this teaching, “it is the husband who receives the longest instruction” in this household code (NISB).  Just as husbands love their own bodies, they should also love their wives.  Furthermore, “he who loves his wife loves himself”.  Perhaps this is a point that sometimes gets overlooked, but in verse twenty-nine Paul is saying the husband nourishes and tenderly cares for his body.  I see this as a part of our duty both to ourselves and to our wives.  Toxic masculinity kills men.  Men, it’s okay to get rest when you need it.  It’s okay to take care of yourselves.  It’s okay to take time off from work to see your doctor, your counselor, your psychiatrist, psychologist or any other medical professional.  We have to take care of ourselves or our wives may end up widows. 

Verse thirty-one is a familiar passage telling us “for this reason a man will leave his father and mother, be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.  In this verse Paul reminds us of Genesis 2:24 where it says “a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and they two become one flesh.  So, a mutual love covenant is about teamwork, working together, supporting, and loving one another as we line up under one another as unto Jesus Christ. 

In verse thirty-two Paul admits that two becoming one flesh is a mystery.  The point for us to understand is that husbands and wives should work so closely together that they seem to be as one unit.  There should be no daylight between the husband and wife as they both seek to serve God’s purposes. 

This chapter closes with Paul reminding both the husband and the wife of their duties to one another.  The husband should love his wife and the wife should respect her husband. 

Context:

Some of you may know that one of my daughters will be joined in a covenant of mutual love next month.  I am excited for her and her future life-long partner.  Their mutual love is evident to everyone that knows them.  The covenant they will enter is just one way God shows God’s love in this world.  The ceremony is a great representation of that love.  But it’s in the actual day to day living and loving, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health that true love is made known.  I’m excited for my daughter and her covenant partner.  I’m excited that God will be represented in their marriage ceremony, but I’m more excited that God will be represented in the way they love each other, with their friends and family, and in their community.  Marriage is a covenant of mutual love.

Key Characters in the text:

Apostle Paul – A minister of the Word of Christ to Gentile believers in many parts of the Asian continent during the early development of the church (Townsend).    

Key Words: 

Household Codes – New Testament passages that provide ethical instruction for various social parings: wives and husbands, children and parents, slaves and masters (Eph. 5:22-6:9; Col 3:18-4:1; 1 Peter 2:18-3:7).  

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

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas: 

1.  Real men love their wives. 

2.  Teamwork makes the dream work.        

Questions

1.  Ephesians is a first century letter to a church in which patriarchy ruled the day.  How does patriarchy exist today?      

2.  Husbands are commanded to love their wives.  Discuss whether that is possible if the husband does not take care of himself.        

Concluding Thought:

Biblically sanctioned patriarchy is just as wrong as Biblically sanctioned slavery.  No one argues for the return of biblical slavery as if somehow Biblical slavery was less violent than American chattel enslavement.  It is plainly evident that all forms of enslavement are wrong.  Likewise, Biblical patriarchy oppressing women is wrong and should not be tolerated today.  Paul makes a small step in the right direction when he tells us to be subject to one another.  It’s up to us to go the rest of the way toward a more equal and always loving society.

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:

Next week begins the first lesson of the new Sunday School year and the Fall Quarter.  This Fall our lessons revolve around how we respond to God’s grace.  Through the month of September the focus is on how God is Faithful.  Next week’s lesson deals specifically with the ideas of faith and doubt as Lot and his family escape Sodom.  The lesson is entitled Faith and Doubt. 

Sunday School Lesson

Sunday School Lesson (August 4, 2019) A Covenant Between Friends I Samuel 18:1-5, 19:1-7

Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com.  This week I take a look at a covenant between friends taken from I Samuel 18:1-5 and 19:1-7.  In this lesson we see a friend’s loyalty tested by someone in authority.  But it’s not just anyone and it’s a test that could mean life or death.  In this text we see Jonathan essentially committing treason against his father Saul.  Saul is the King.  His commands are absolute.  Yet, Jonathan’s love for his friend David is more powerful than Jonathan’s willingness to obey his father.  It’s easy to say right is right and wrong is wrong; but Jonathan had to choose between loyalty to his father the king and loyalty to his friend David.  In this week’s lesson we see a glimpse of how he chose between the two and how Jonathan put himself at risk of death to save his friend.  I am reminded of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr as he said “In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends”.  Jonathan was not silent.  He spoke up for and on behalf of his friend.  It took courage.  He spoke truth to power.  I am convinced that our communities, our cities, states, and our country would be better if our real friends would only speak up.  Some of the ideas surrounding this week’s text include the terms: 

Covenant

Treason

Jealousy

Background: 

This week’s lesson begins the first of three lessons in the Old Testament.  These lessons deal with covenants between people.  This week the covenant is between Jonathan and David and the next two week’s will come from the book of Ruth.  With that in mind I’ll give a broad overview of the Old Testament, an overview of the book of Samuel, and then a few background thoughts on chapters surrounding this week’s lesson.

What Christians call the Old Testament are also Jewish scripture.  Michael Coogan’s “The Old Testament, A Very Short Introduction” notes that “Bible originally meant book but the Hebrew Bible or Christian Old Testament is not one book but many, an anthology of ancient Israelite and early Jewish religious writings”.  The first part is the Torah, also known as the Law.  The Torah or The Law consists of the first five books of the Bible.  The second part is the Prophets.  The Prophets section is divided into the former and the latter prophets.  The Former Prophets are Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings.  The latter prophets are books named after individual prophets (Coogan).  The third section is known as the Writings.  Our lesson this week comes from the section known as the Former Prophets. 

The New Interpreter’s Bible One Volume Commentary notes that “1 and 2 Samuel were originally one work.  They bear the name of Samuel, yet Samuel is the focal character only in the first eight chapters of 1 Samuel, dies before 1 Samuel ends, and is not mentioned in 2 Samuel.  The main interest of both books is David.  First Samuel tells of his rise and 2 Samuel of his kingship”.  It also notes that 1 Samuel is pro-Davidic.  Saul can do nothing right and David can do nothing wrong”. 

This week’s lesson comes from chapters 18 and 19 of 1 Samuel.  These chapters focus on David in Saul’s Court and highlight Saul’s hatred of David, Jonathan’s love of David, and the value of covenant between friends.  “While Jonathan’s love is that of a close personal relationship, “love” in the ancient Near East is also a way of conveying political loyalty.  Thus Jonathan, heir to Saul’s throne, is loyal to David” (NIBOVC).

Our text this week deals with a covenant between friends.  The challenge faced by one of these friends will reveal the loyalty he has placed in his friendship.  As Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said “In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends”.  Covenants have meaning.  The mettle of this friendship is tested in ways that require courage and commitment.  Some important words to consider from this text include:

Monarchy

Jealousy

Covenant

Treason

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

Last week our lesson began in Matthew 7 verses one.  Verses one and two started the chapter with the admonition “do not judge, so that you will not be judged”.  I noted that in this context, Jesus was telling us not to look down on or speak against others as if we are morally superior.  Verse two helped us know that when we judge we will be judged in the same manner.  When you were growing up you may have heard someone say “what goes around, comes around”.  That may not be in the scripture, but the principle certainly is. You can think of sowing and reaping in 2 Corinthians 9:6.

I noted how verses three through five dealt with hypocrisy and provided a theological definition of hypocrisy as “the outward appearance of conveying truth or righteousness that masks the inner state of mind or intention of untruth or evilness”.  Those verses helped us understand that we cannot act morally superior to others whose faults are small compared to our own very large faults.  We should first evaluate our own motives and actions before evaluating the behavior and motives of others.  I thought it was important to mention that while behavior is easy to see, a person’s motives are not always clear.  It’s easy to say “right is right” and “wrong is wrong” but sometimes what we think is right or wrong really isn’t so clear cut. 

Verse six moved away from telling the disciples and crowd to not be hypocrites.  Instead it essentially tells them to be good stewards of discernment.  As I stated in previous lessons, Matthew’s Gospel is not kind to the scribes and Pharisees.  When Jesus talks about not giving that which is holy to dogs and not casting your pearls before swine, he is talking about the scribes and Pharisees.  Standard Lesson Commentary noted that Jesus “does not want them to be hypocrites like the scribes and Pharisees yet Jesus knows the potential for misuse of his exhortation not to judge”.  Equally important was knowing that some people will take advantage of your kindness.  This verse helps us to be on guard for the unrighteous who are not really concerned about righteousness or doing right by others.   

The text then skipped to verses fifteen through twenty-three.  I provided the theological definition of prophet as “One who speaks on behalf of God to God’s people, most prominently the Hebrew prophets whose writings are found in the Old Testament.  In verse fifteen Jesus cautioned his disciples and listeners to beware of false prophets who come in sheep’s clothing but are inwardly ravening wolves.  I noted other words that describe people like this as huckster, grifter, charlatan, imposter, swindler, cheat, fraud, deceiver, and fake.  Jesus tells us to beware of these kinds of people.  Jesus loves everybody, but that love does not mean we should let ourselves be taken advantage of by them. 

Verse sixteen reminded us that we will know them by their fruits.  It’s true that you can’t know what is in a person’s heart.  But it is just as true that you can see what they do.  You can see who and what they support, and you can see what they condone and how they conduct themselves.  You will know them by their fruit. 

Verses seventeen and eighteen say it plainly.  A good tree produces good fruit and a corrupt tree produces corrupt fruit.  In other words, good prophets will do good things and bring about good on behalf of God.  Corrupt prophets will do corrupt things and bring about corruption in the name of God.  But keep in mind that not every false prophet started out corrupt.  Sometimes they fall into corruption somewhere along the journey and become corrupt.  So the point for us is to always keep our eyes on Jesus as our guide and not on a human who is capable of failing us. 

Verses nineteen and twenty told us that trees not producing good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire and that we will know them by their fruits.  Ultimately the end of false prophets will be destruction.  Unrepentant abusers of God’s people have no place among the righteous.  

In verse twenty-one Jesus explained that those who make it into his kingdom will be those who “walk the walk” not just “talk the talk”.  Jesus expects us to live this Christian life. 

Verses twenty-two and twenty-three closed last week’s lesson on spiritual discernment showing us that many will say they have prophesied, cast out demons, and done many wonderful works in the name of Jesus.  Yet, in the end Jesus will tell them “I never knew you, go away from me you evildoers.  I noted that what should be frightening to us is that there will be many who say they have done this in Jesus name.  We must be vigilant and diligent so that we are not deceived by these charlatans, grifters, imposters, frauds, and deceivers otherwise known as false prophets.  Our goal is to walk in God’s perfect love and if we do so with discernment we won’t become victims of these false prophets.

This week’s lesson deals specifically with a covenant between friends.  It’s good to have friends and it’s even better to have good friends.  Good friends don’t need to talk every day, week, or even every month.  What makes the difference is that when called upon, a good friend will do everything within their power to aid and assist you as best they can.  If you are blessed with a good friend and even better, blessed with a lifelong good friend, you are indeed blessed.  Townsend, Boyd’s, and Standard Lesson Commentary title the lesson A Covenant Between Friends.  The scripture text comes from I Samuel 18:1-5 and 19:1-7. 

What Takes Place in This Passage: 

These first five verses of chapter eighteen are a continuation of the David and Goliath story.  In verse one David has already killed Goliath and presented Goliath’s head to Saul.  David is a hero.  He has won the war and single handedly defeated the Philistine enemy of Israel.  Verse one tells us that the soul of Jonathan was bound to the soul of David.  Townsend Commentary notes that “the traditional, mainstream view of the relationship between David and Jonathan is that it was platonic, brotherly love”. 

Verse two leads us to understand that at least at this point, Saul is pleased with David because Saul “took him that day and would not let him return to his father’s house”.  But soon we will see that feelings and opinions can sometimes change like the wind. 

Verses three and four help us to understand a mutual agreement between Jonathan and David.  They made a covenant.  Verse three tells us that Jonathan loved David as his own soul.  The terms of the covenant are not mentioned but based on the actions of Jonathan in verse four we can consider Jonathan’s loyalty to David surpassed his own claim to the throne.

Verse five shows us David’s obedience and wisdom.  David conducted himself wisely.  He was successful in all that Saul put before him.  He was so successful that “all the people, even the servants of Saul approved”. 

At this point the lesson text skips to chapter 19.  I should note that between verses 6 and the beginning of Chapter nineteen a lot transpires.  Townsend Commentary notes that “the events of 1 Samuel 18-20 occurred between 1018 and 1013 BC, and David would have been between fifteen and twenty-two.  He spent approximately seven years living with King Saul before Saul began trying to kill him”.  Additionally, “There is a twenty-five year age gap between David and Jonathan”. 

Verse one of chapter 19 tells us that Saul speaks to Jonathan and to all his servants that they should kill David.  Saul is jealous of David.  This jealousy is the basis of his hatred for David without cause.

Verse two tells us of Jonathan’s treason against his father Saul.  Jonathan’s love for David and his covenant with David means more to him than carrying out the wishes of his father the King.  Jonathan warns David and advises him to hide in a secret place until morning. 

Verses three, four, and five detail the plan Jonathan comes up with to save his friend and how with courage and commitment he speaks truth to power.  In verse three Jonathan details how he will report back to David his conversation with his father.  If warning David wasn’t treason, reporting his private conversation with the King surly is.  Verse four shows Jonathan speaking up for and on behalf of David his friend. In verse five Jonathan reminds his father the King how David risked his own life to kill the Philistine.   He reminds the King that David is innocent.  In this way, Jonathan shows his true loyalty.  He risked his own life for the safety of his friend.  He spoke truth to power.  He was courageous and committed to the covenant he made with David.

Verses six and seven reveal the results of Jonathan’s plea to his father.  Saul listened to his son and he swore “as the Lord lives, he shall not be slain”.  Jonathan took the risk for his friend and in this occasion it was worth it.  It was a tremendous risk for Jonathan.  He had to choose between loyalty to his father and loyalty to his friend.  As Jonathan noted, David was innocent.  Jonathan choose to stand up for what was right.  His loyalty was to his friend, but his loyalty was also to what was right.

That should be our goal.  To stand up for what’s right; to be loyal to our friends but more so, to truth and righteousness. 

Context:

Silence implies consent.  If you won’t speak up about what bothers you then perhaps you aren’t really bothered.  Perhaps you’re okay with the situation.  Perhaps you aren’t directly impacted so you have nothing to gain by personally speaking up.  Perhaps speaking up disturbs your comfort.  Your silence implies your consent.  If you don’t speak up for what is right you accept what is wrong by default.  The real question is why.  Why don’t we speak up for others?  Could it be fear? Fear of what others may think of us.  Fear of losing social standing.  Fear of losing future opportunities.

We should not be driven by fear; instead we should be driven by love.  A love to set right what is wrong in our relationships, our communities, cities, states, and our country.  We should be driven by a fierce love that at times requires the courage to confront our relatives, neighbors, friends, coworkers, and acquaintances.  It takes courage to confront others.  It takes courage to speak truth to power.  But when confrontation and speaking truth is based in love we can be sure that we are doing right by God and God’s people.  That’s the basis of righteousness.  Jonathan spoke up for his friend.  He wasn’t silent.  David knew where Jonathan stood.  He didn’t have to guess or wonder.  Jonathan’s friendship and his loyalty were based in a covenant of love.  As followers of Jesus Christ righteousness should be our guiding principle and love our guiding light.  Even when, if not especially when, we are called to speak up for others.   

Key Characters in the text:

King Saul – The first king of Israel.  “He was plagued by an evil spirit that tormented him to madness, and he was envious of David’s fame and victory” (Townsend). 

Jonathan – “He is the eldest son of King Saul.  He is a biblical model of faithful friendship and fidelity” (Townsend).

David – “He is the eighth son of Jesse.  He was a shepherd, a musician, and a soldier.  He faithfully served and recognized Saul as God’s chosen servant” (Townsend). 

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

Loyal / Loyalty – 1. Faithful to one’s sovereign, government, or state: 2. faithful to one’s oath, commitments, or obligations:  3. faithful to any leader, party, or cause, or to any person or thing conceived as deserving fidelity.

Treason – 1. The offense of acting to overthrow one’s government or to harm or kill its sovereign. 2. A violation of allegiance to one’s sovereign or to one’s state. 3. The betrayal of a trust or confidence; breach of faith; treachery.

Jealousy – Jealous resentment against a rival, a person enjoying success or advantage, etc., or against another’s success or advantage itself. 

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas: 

1.  What kind of friend are you; fair-weather or true?

2.  When so-called friends don’t speak up.        

Questions

1.  Jonathan had to choose between loyalty to his father and loyalty to his friend.  Discuss the criteria he used to decide between the two.

2.  Discuss ways you can speak up for others. 

3.  When is it appropriate to be faithful to friends or loyal to civil authorities (Boyd’s Commentary)?       

Concluding thought:

This week’s lesson teaches us about faithful friendship through a covenant between friends. True friends are hard to find.  After David killed Goliath he was the real MVP (most valuable player).  Everyone loved, praised, and celebrated the great victory over the Philistine.  But like the wind, some people’s opinion of you can change.  In this week’s text David may have started out as the real MVP but when he needed a real friend it was Jonathan who came to his rescue.  True friends are hard to find.  A true friend is a friend in good times and bad times.           

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson: Next week we study the first of two lessons in the book of Ruth.   As we continue to learn about covenants between people we will explore the love of Ruth for her mother-in-law Naomi.  This is one of the most powerful love stories in all scripture.  Next week the text comes from Ruth 1:6-11 and 14-18.