Christianity, religion, Sunday School, Sunday School Lesson

Sunday School Lesson (December 8, 2019) A Heart Filled With Gratitude / David’s Gratitude 1 Chronicles 16:8-12, 19-27

A Heart Filled With Gratitude / David’s Gratitude

Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com.  In this week’s Sunday School Lesson The Chronicler writes to show us David’s gratitude and how we can have a heart filled with gratitude.  The Chronicler writes an encouragement for the children of Israel to keep hope alive.  It’s important for the Chronicler to help this nation understand that even though they have been defeated and taken captive in the past, that the future is still bright with God on their side.  The Chronicler wants the Hebrew nation to know that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the God of King David and King Solomon is their God and they are God’s people.  He wants them to know that even though their forbears fell into sin and were punished; God has not forsaken them.  They have been through great pain and distress and now they want to know their place in the universe.  Now that they are back in Jerusalem they want to know if the same God that brought King David to power and King Solomon to great splendor is still their God.  The Chronicler gives them a history lesson that shows the greatness of God and the great blessings of God when God’s people live in obedience.  Some of the ideas surrounding this week’s text include the terms: 

Gratitude

Psalm

Background: 

As I noted last week most scholars agree that First and Second Chronicles were originally one book.  Last week I explained how this book was originally named “The Events of the Days” was later named “The Things Omitted” and then finally named First and Second Chronicles by the translator of the fourth century Latin Vulgate.  What I did not mention last week are the theological themes that continually reappear in this text.  The New Interpreter’s Study Bible notes these three themes as

“The concern for continuity with the past.”

“A concern for “all Israel.””

“The chronicler retains from Samuel and Kings the concept of retributive justice.”

The concern for continuity is perhaps the most important of these three themes.  Chronicles is written after the children of Israel have been defeated, exiled, and then returned to Jerusalem.  Chronicles is written to the post-exilic community (those who remain or have come back after the exile to Babylon).  The NISB notes “following the Persian defeat of the Babylonians under Cyrus the Great in 539 BCE, [the Israelites have] returned from Babylon to live under Persian rule in Jerusalem and worship in the rebuilt Temple.”  Dr. Renita J. Weems writes in The Africana Bible Reading Israel’s Scriptures From Africa and the African Diaspora “the writer [creates] a narrative that instilled a sense of mission, national pride, and divine purpose in a people that had once been displaced from their homeland and robed of their cultural memories.”  Dr. Weems continues “the Chronicler was eager to inspire the inhabitants of Judah to hope again and to throw themselves behind a national effort to rebuild and to restore order to their homeland.”  So it’s important for the Chronicler to help this nation understand that even though they have been defeated and taken captive in the past, that the future is still bright with God on their side.

  I think the one verse that captures that image more than any other in this text 2 Chronicles 7:14 “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”  The Chronicler wants the Hebrew nation to know that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the God of King David and King Solomon is their God and they are God’s people.  The Chronicler wants them to know that even though their forbears fell into sin and were punished; God is still their God. 

The NISB explains “instead of asking “Why did this happen to us?” they want to know about their relationship with the past:  “Who are we?” “Are we still the people of God?” “What do God’s promises to David and Solomon mean for us today?””  So, these are a people who have suffered and endured great pain and distress.  They no longer rule themselves; they have been ruled by the Babylonians and now they are ruled by Persians.  They need answers about their place in the universe and the Chronicler writes to help them understand their relationship with their painful past and their present God.  This sixteenth chapter of First Chronicles deals with the Ark of the Covenant of God placed in the tent David prepared for it and David’s Psalm of Thanksgiving.  This chapter is the “conclusion to the Chronicler’s Ark narrative and it institutes public worship (NISB).”  Additionally, the NISB notes that David’s Psalm of Thanksgiving quotes portions of Psalm 105 and Psalm 106. 

Some important words to consider from this text include:

Gratitude

Psalm

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

In Last week’s Lesson King David worshiped God in Jerusalem in ways that had never been done before.  David’s worship was heartfelt and sincere.  He had built luxurious houses for himself and the city of Jerusalem.  And he wanted the Ark of God in Jerusalem also.  David wanted to honor God.  He was determined to get the ark of God in Jerusalem so all Israel could worship God with the symbolic presence of God in their midst them.  David gave the Levites specific instructions; he told them to bring singers, musicians, trumpets, harps, lyres, and cymbals.  David was going to have a grand celebration, he was going to honor God and he was going to worship God with all Israel joining him in a great and grand celebration of thanksgiving and praise. 

Last week I also quoted Townsend commentary and Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms noting that “the city of David was originally known as Zion or Jerusalem” and that Zion is “used in the Old Testament for all or part of Jerusalem. 

I noted how carrying the ark of God was the responsibility of the Levites and David had already learned from his first attempt to bring the ark to Jerusalem that the rules had not changed.  God had not changed God’s mind about who was to minister to God. 

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

In verse twenty-five David and the elders of Israel, and the commanders of thousands, went to bring up the ark of the covenant of the LORD from the house of Obed-Edom with rejoicing.  I noted how David included the elders of Israel.  He was king and he had absolute authority, but he did not neglect the elders nor did he neglect the leaders of his military.  This was a celebration for all of Israel.

This week’s lesson continues last week’s with the Ark of the Covenant of God now placed in the tent David had prepared.   

Townsend and Boyd’s Commentaries title this week’s lesson “A Heart Filled With Gratitude”.  Standard Lesson Commentary titles this week’s lesson “David’s Gratitude”.  The scripture text comes from 1 Chronicles 16:8-12, 19-27. 

What Takes Place in This Passage: 

The Lesson opens at verse eight with David’s Psalm of Thanksgiving.  Westminster’s Dictionary of Theological Terms define psalm as “A hymn, sacred song, or poem.  The Book of Psalms (the Psalter) is composed of 150 religious poems of prayer and praise of ancient Israel, arranged in five books.” 

Verse eight begins by exhorting these recently returned people to give thanks, to call on God’s name, and to make known God’s deeds among the peoples.  After going through what they have gone through the Chronicler reminds them of how King David gave thanks and called on God.  The point for us to know is that when God has been good to you, you ought to tell somebody.  These people had been hurt and defeated but now they are brought back to Jerusalem and somebody ought to praise God for it. 

Verse nine continues with “sing, sing psalms unto God, talk of all God’s wondrous works.  These are action words.  Praising God is active whether singing loud voice or a quite praise.  But more so when we begin to talk about the wondrous works that God has done for us, praise just happens. 

Verses ten and eleven tell us to glory in God’s name, to rejoice, and to seek the LORD.  In these first four verses I see a lot of glory, a lot or rejoicing, a lot of seeking God.  This is a clear example of a grateful heart.  David’s Psalm of Thanksgiving flows from a grateful heart. 

Verse twelve tells us to remember God’s marvelous works, God’s wonders and the judgements of God’s mouth.  It’s good to remember.  It’s good to remember what God has done for you.  It’s good to remember how God brought you through.  It’s good to remember when and where God delivered you.  Remembering the mighty and marvelous works of God in our own lives leads us to a grateful heart and a thankful praise. 

In verses nineteen, twenty and twenty-one, David’s psalm reminds the people that the children of Israel didn’t start out as a mighty and strong nation.  They came from humble beginnings.  From those humble beginnings with the help of God they grew into the mighty nation that King David once ruled.  In verse twelve the psalm told them to remember.  Now, in these verses the psalm tells them what to remember. 

Verse twenty-two just like verses nineteen through twenty-one is a word for word quote from Psalm 105: 12-15.  Twenty-one is a verse I’ve often heard quoted referring to preachers and other ministers of God.  Touch not mine anointed and do my prophets no harm does not mean every preacher or minister is above criticism or even condemnation whey they are outside God’s will.  In other words, it’s not a get out jail free card for preachers or ministers who are in the wrong.

Verse twenty-three elevates the praise from personal to all the earth.  Psalm 24:1 reminds us “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.”  It tells us to proclaim God’s salvation day after day.  In other words, never forget how God delivered you. 

Verses twenty-four and twenty-five declare that God is great and greatly to be praised.  In other words, a great God deserves a great praise.  And a great praise will tell the saints and the sinners what God has done.  Everybody ought to know that God has been good, that God has delivered and that God is great above all other gods. 

Verses twenty-six and twenty-seven close the lesson with David’s psalm reminding the people that idol gods are essentially useless.  Idol worshipers can talk, but God worshipers can point to the heavens and the earth to declare that their God is the one true God.  It is their God who has made the heavens and the earth and this God deserves all the glory and all the honor. 

Context:

Townsend commentary defines the Hebrew word for rejoice as “being glad; associated with dancing, singing, clapping, playing, and external movement consistent with festival celebrations.  In other words, rejoice is party language.”  At first glance I found the description of party language a bit amusing.  But I had to ask myself why?  Parties aren’t inherently bad and it’s great that God’s people know how to party in the Lord.  A heart filled with gratitude and should lead us to want to party for the LORD.

Key Characters in the text:

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

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

Gratitude – The response to God and God’s blessings that is an expression of praise and devotion.  In the Christian context, believers respond in gratitude for the “indescribable gift” (2 Cor. 9:19) of Jesus Christ, who is the supreme expression of God’s grace. 

Psalm – A hymn, sacred song, or poem.  The book of Psalms is composed of 150 religious poems of prayer and praise of ancient Israel, arranged in five books.    

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas: 

1.  A great God deserves a great praise.      

Question: 

1.  Remembering what God has done for you is important.  Do you remember a time when mother or father couldn’t do it?  But God did.    

Concluding Thought:

The Chronicler writes to encourage the children of Israel to keep hope alive.  They have been through great pain and distress and now they want to know if God is still on their side.  Now that they are back in Jerusalem they want to know if the same God that brought King David to power and King Solomon to great splendor is still their God.  The Chronicler gives them a history lesson that shows the greatness of God and the great blessings of God when God’s people live in obedience.  The same God who reassured the broken and defeated people of Israel back then is here to reassure us today.

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:

The lesson for December 15th continues just as last week’s lesson by going to the very next chapter in Chronicles.  Next week in chapter 17 and chapter 21 I will consider the Chronicler’s description of the roles of The Prophet Nathan and King David as David desires to build a Temple for God.  Public worship has been instituted and now David believes the people need a Temple to worship God that’s worthy of God’s greatness.  The lesson is titled “Building God’s House” and “David’s House”.  The text is taken from 1 Chronicles 17:1, 3-4, 11-14; 21:18, 21-27.    

If you want to support this blog I accept correspondence and gifts at

1590 Jonesboro Rd SE

Box 150032

Atlanta, GA  30315

Christianity, religion, Sunday School Lesson

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

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

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

Corruption

Remember

Background: 

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

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

Corruption

Remember

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Takes Place in This Passage: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Context:

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

Key Characters in the text:

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

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

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

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

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas: 

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

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

Question: 

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

Concluding Thought:

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

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:

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

If you want to support this channel I accept correspondence and gifts at

1590 Jonesboro Rd SE

Box 150032

Atlanta, GA  30315

Uncategorized

Sunday School Lesson (November 17, 2019) Live Holy Lives / Faith That is Focused 1 Peter 1:13-25

Live Holy Lives / Faith That is Focused

Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com.  In this week’s Sunday School Lesson 1 Peter is written to the scattered saints in Asia Minor to encourage them to live holy lives with a faith that is focused.  In what is modern day Turkey these saints were being persecuted, mistreated, and misunderstood.  This letter is written to encourage them, to tell them to keep the faith, and to let them know that God knows about their suffering.  They are encouraged to keep on holding on because their suffering can be endured in the hope of Jesus Christ.  When Jesus returns, things will be made right.  Just as last week’s lesson encouraged the Thessalonians to imitate Paul, Silas, Timothy and Jesus; this week’s lesson encourages the saints to imitate God.  Peter reminds them to be holy just as God is holy.  It is the central point and purpose of why this letter is written.  Some of the ideas surrounding this week’s text include the terms: 

Holy

Truth

Background: 

The author of The First Letter of Peter is credited to its namesake – the Apostle Peter.  Peter was a Palestinian fisherman who was well known for being impetuous, hot headed, and passionate for what he believed.  Of all of the twelve disciples of Jesus, Peter is perhaps the most well-known.  Peter was also one of the first disciples, coming after John and Andrew (John 1:35-42).  The New Interpreter’s Study Bible notes

“Although attributed to Peter, modern scholars debate 1 Peter’s authorship because the Greek used in this letter is among the most literary and sophisticated of the entire New Testament, an accomplishment unlikely for a 1st-century Palestinian fisherman, even if he did speak some Greek.  Additionally, personal references in the letter to Peter’s own experience as a follower of Jesus are rare and oblique.  It is more probable this letter was written in Peter’s name by someone influenced by his ministry.  This person evokes the apostle’s authority on behalf of the letter which was not unknown in the ancient world and in the Bible itself.  This was a sign of reverence for the attributed author’s authority.”

So the authorship is debated but this letter still carries the thought and intent of the Apostle Peter.  Peter likely didn’t dot the I’s and cross the T’s but the thought and intent of the letter is likely his.

This first chapter of 1 Peter is a call to holy living.  Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms define “holy” as that which is regarded as sacred or able to convey a sense of the divine.  Also, that which is set apart for God’s will or use or that which is godlike by being spiritually whole, well, pure, or perfect.  Townsend commentary defines “holy” as saint; pure; or morally blameless.  The idea of holiness is that it is not what is common to humans.  In other words, holiness does not come in the absence of God’s presence.  1 Peter 1:1 tells us this call to holy living is written to the exiles of the Dispersion (1 Peter 1:1).  These exiles are Christians who had been scattered abroad because of persecution.  Peter writes to encourage them even in the face of hardship.  Some important words to consider from this text include:

Holy

Truth

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

In Last week’s Sunday School Lesson the Apostle Paul showed us faith that set an example and the Thessalonians showed us how to be examples of the faith.  Paul began his letter with thanksgiving for how the Thessalonians had kept the faith and endured despite the suffering and persecution they experienced.  He complimented their faith, how they had turned from worshiping idols to the true and living God, how the whole region knew about their faith, and how they had imitated him and ultimately Jesus Christ.  These Thessalonians were doing the work.  Paul patted them on the back for doing the work so well, and they deserved the accolades and compliments he bestowed upon them.  They were imitators of Christ. 

I noted how Paul wanted them to know that he is praying for them.  And if you really believe in the power of prayer, that had to be a comforting feeling.  It had to be a comforting feeling to know that the person who organized their church, the one who led them to Christ, was praying for them. 

I noted how Paul remembered them.  He remembered their work of faith, their labor of love, and steadfast hope in Jesus Christ.  And that was important because sometimes it takes work to have faith.  Sometimes it takes labor to have love, and sometimes it takes patience to have hope.  Paul remembers them and it’s good to remember good things.  These Thessalonians were doing good things and Paul wanted them to know, that he knew.

I noted how Paul gave the Thessalonians an enormous compliment.  He told them that they were an example to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.  And if you are an example to all the believers in the place where you live, that’s high praise and that’s saying something. 

I also noted how these Thessalonians deserved their pat on the back.  They were being persecuted!  But they didn’t give up and they didn’t give in.  They persevered and kept the faith and endured the hardship of living a faithful life in Christ.  They deserved Paul’s praise and it was clear that Paul was proud of how they were holding up.  

Last week Paul showed us faith that set an example and the Thessalonians gave us a glowing example of the faith.  Paul wrote an inspiring letter to encourage the Thessalonians.  This week Peter writes to encourage the scattered Christians of Asia Minor to live holy lives with a faith that is focused.  In the same way Paul told the Thessalonian’s to imitate him, Silas, Timothy and Jesus now Peter tells the saints to imitate God by living holy.  Townsend and Boyd’s Commentaries title this week’s lesson “Live Holy Lives”.  Standard Commentary titles this week’s lesson “Faith That Is Focused”.  The scripture text comes from 1 Peter 1:13-25. 

What Takes Place in This Passage: 

The Lesson opens at verse thirteen with Peter telling the scattered saints of Asia Minor to prepare their minds for action.  The King James Version says to gird up the loins of your mind.  Gird up the loins of your mind gives you the picture of someone preparing to go to work.  So Peter is essentially saying discipline yourselves, prepare your minds for work, and set your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring when he returns.  Peter is telling these saints to hope with expectation that when Jesus returns grace will rule.  He’s essentially saying, things might be tough right now but you just hold on a little while longer – Jesus is coming back and when he gets back he’s going to make it alright.  These saints are to endure their hardship and persecution with the hope of knowing that Jesus is going to set things straight when he returns. 

In verse fourteen Peter mentions obedience again.  He mentioned obedience upfront in this first chapter in verse 2.  So while this chapter is about holy living and encourages the saints to live holy lives with a faith that is focused, we also see how important obedience is to holy living.  It is an obedience to Jesus Christ not their former way of life. 

In verses fifteen and sixteen Peter quotes the Old Testament law of Leviticus 11:44-45 and 19:2.  He reminds them that God has already said “you shall be holy for I am holy.”  Again, this chapter is about holy living and Peter is telling the saints to imitate God.  He reminds them that God is holy and since God is holy they should be also.  This is their call to holiness.  It is the central purpose of why he writes this letter.

In verse seventeen he reminds them to essentially keep the faith during their exile.  He reminds them that God as Father, judges all people impartially according to their deeds.  That’s good news for those who live according to the ways of Jesus Christ.  And he continues that thought by reminding them that they should have a reverent fear of God knowing that God will be their Judge when Jesus returns.  You might have heard the old folk say something like “I’m just a pilgrim passing through.”  That’s the idea I get when I read this verse.  Peter is telling them you’re just passing though.  Do what you need to do, do what you have to do to get through the other side.

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

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

In verse twenty-one Peter continues the previous thought reminding the saints that through Jesus they have come to trust God because it was God that raised Jesus from the dead. 

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

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

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

Context:

Something must happen for us to live holy lives or have faith that is focused.  Neither can happen without the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.  It is the spirit of God that makes us able to live holy.  One definition of holy is being morally blameless.  Our morals, ethics, beliefs, and principles are based in a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  Like these saints in Asia Minor, we have hope in a returning Jesus Christ who will reward the morally blameless when he returns.  Like them we don’t know the day nor the hour but we do know by faith that Jesus is coming back. 

Key Characters in the text:

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

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

Holy – that which is regarded as sacred or able to convey a sense of the divine.  Also, that which is set apart for God’s will or use or that which is godlike by being spiritually whole, well, pure, or perfect.

Truth – That which accords with reality or is genuine.  The Hebrew Old Testament emphasis is on trustworthiness and reliability, supremely God’s (Deut. 32:4).  In the New Testament, Jesus is truth (John 14:6).  The church seeks to understand the truth of God’s revelation in Scripture. 

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas: 

1.  Enduring the hardship for the prize. 

2.  Being holy in an unholy land.             

Question: 

1.  The saints in Asia Minor fully expected the return of Jesus Christ to set right the persecution and suffering they had experienced.  Is there a difference from their expectations and ours?

Concluding Thought:

How can we live holy lives?  We can live holy lives with a faith that is focused on living according to the teachings of Jesus Christ.  Both holy living and focused faith are the keys to every saint’s success in this life.   

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:

Next week’s lesson comes from 2 Peter first chapter.  In this lesson we remain on the topic of faith and how it leads to holy living.  Next week’s lesson is titled “Stick To Your Faith”. 

If you want to support this work I accept correspondence and gifts at

1590 Jonesboro Rd SE

Box 150032

Atlanta, GA  30315

Uncategorized

Sunday School Lesson (November 10, 2019) Be Examples Of The Faith / Faith That Sets An Example 1 Thessalonians 1:2-10

Examples of The Faith / Faith That Sets An Example

Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com.  In this week’s Sunday School Lesson the Apostle Paul shows us faith that sets an example.  The Thessalonians show us how to be examples of faith.  Paul begins this letter with thanksgiving for how these Thessalonians have kept the faith and endured despite the suffering and persecution they have experienced.  He compliments their faith, how they have turned from worshiping idols to the true and living God, how the whole region now knows of them, and how they have imitated him and ultimately Jesus Christ.  These Thessalonians are doing the work.  Paul pats them on the back for doing the work so well, and they deserve the accolades and compliments he bestows upon them.  They are imitators of Christ.  Some of the ideas surrounding this week’s text include the terms:  

Gospel

Election

Background 

This first letter to the church at Thessalonica is written by the Apostle Paul.  While 1 Thessalonians is the thirteenth book of the Protestant New Testament, The New Interpreter’s Study Bible explains that this letter is the “oldest existing piece of Christian literature”.  Additionally, the late Dr. Cain Hope Felder explains in True To Our Native Land An African American New Testament Commentary that

“Once readers of the New Testament realize 1 Thessalonians is its oldest document this letter takes on much greater significance for understanding the concerns and theology of the Apostle Paul.” 

So this is just a reminder that the books of the New Testament are not ordered according to the date they were written.  The NISB notes “this letter was written about 50 Common Era, some 20 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus and twenty years before the Gospel of Mark.”  Dr. Cain Hope Felder notes that “1 Thessalonians was composed in the immediate aftermath of Paul’s first visit to Thessalonica, after he had established the Christian church on European soil at Philippi about one hundred miles away.”  He notes that Paul, Silvanus (Silas), and Timothy enter Thessalonica, after having founded the church at Philippi (under some duress (1 Thess. 2:2)).”  Additionally, I should note that the Thessalonians are mostly Gentiles (NISB) and they also face some kind of suffering or persecution from their compatriots (2:14) (Felder).  So although this letter is very positive in tone and Paul seems delighted to write to the Thessalonians all is not well in Thessalonica.  This newly formed Christian body of believers is experiencing some form of persecution or suffering and Paul is writing to reassure and encourage them.  The NISB One Volume Commentary notes

“the positive tone cannot mask an anxiety over some unspecified persecution the young converts are facing, persecution that may or may not have been also responsible for Paul’s own hasty retreat from the city almost immediately after he founded the congregation.”

This church is facing persecution and Paul seems happy to send them a letter of encouragement. 

This first chapter of Thessalonians deals specifically with thanksgiving.  The NISBOVC explains that “the thanksgiving in 1 Thessalonians is unique in its unusual length.  In fact, this section is so long that it may well be considered the main body of the letter.”  So, this letter of thanksgiving is addressed to Gentile converts, whom Paul was forced to leave almost immediately after their conversion, and they are now facing persecution as a new congregation. 

In this letter to the Thessalonians Paul encourages them to be an example of faith.  What the Thessalonians show for us today is a faith that sets an example.  Some important words to consider from this text include:

Gospel

Election

Review of Last Week and How it connects to this week  

Last week’s lesson opened at 2 Corinthians 13:1 with verse one with Paul noting this as the third time he is coming to the Corinthians.  Paul then quotes the law concerning witnesses, found in Deuteronomy 19:15 which says “A single witness shall not suffice to convict a person of any crime or wrongdoing in connection with any offense that may be committed. Only on the evidence of two or three witnesses shall a charge be sustained.”  So perhaps Paul is telling them this is his third time and this time will be the third witness to establish guilt if necessary.  I noted how Paul had just a few verses earlier in chapter twelve mentioned that “he feared perhaps there may be quarrelling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder there”.  Paul was concerned.  That was a pretty long list of things to be concerned about and it seemed that the church in Corinth had some of all of it. 

In verse two Paul got to the point.  He had previously warned those who sinned and all the others and now he was warning them again.  This wasn’t the first time Paul has warned them.  In fact, this wasn’t the second time he had warned them.  So this time he was clear – “If I come again, I will not be lenient.  I mentioned how my wife and I have five daughters.  And there have been many times we’ve said “don’t make me come in there!”  Verse two is the equivalent of Paul saying the same thing.  Paul was telling them, if he has to come again it won’t be nice. 

Paul continued in verse three seemingly in the same breath to say “since you desire proof that Christ is speaking in me.  I noted how Paul’s warning here reminded me that I recently heard someone tell a young person “you don’t believe cow horns will hook”.  Paul had had about enough.  He had been disrespected, he had been criticized and he had been insulted.  And now, someone was demanding proof that Christ was speaking in him.  I noted how we need to keep in mind that it was Paul who organized the church in Corinth in the first place and now someone wanted PROOF that Christ was speaking in him.  Paul’s warning was so that “cow horns wouldn’t have to hook” when he got there.  Verse three also dealt again with Paul’s theology of weakness.  Just as Jesus Christ was crucified in weakness he was raised in power and strength.

In verse four Paul continued explaining his theology of weakness.  Just as Jesus was crucified but lived in power, so too, Paul was weak but in dealing with the Corinthians would be strong by the power of God.

In verse five Paul exhorted the Corinthians to examine themselves to see if they were in the faith.  In verse two, someone wanted proof from Paul that he was in the faith.  In verse five Paul turned the question back on them and told them to examine themselves!  He continued – “Do you not realize that Christ is in you unless you fail to meet the test!”  Paul wasn’t questioning their salvation.  He was pointing out the obvious – that since Christ was in them it should be obvious that Paul was speaking for Christ.  I noted also that the King James Version used the word reprobate.  Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms defines reprobate as “Those who are passed over in their sinfulness by God and do not receive salvation.  In medieval theology they are those of whom it is foreknown that they will not accept divine grace and will therefore die in a state of sin.”  Paul was telling them they need to be concerned about their own salvation rather than trying to examine his worthiness. 

In verse six Paul told the Corinthians that he hopes they would find out that we have not failed.  In Paul’s mind, if they had failed he had failed.  Paul was their Apostle and as such he was responsible for them.  Conversely, if they were found in good standing Paul would be also. 

In verse seven Paul continued with his hopes that they would not do anything wrong.  He doesn’t want them to do something wrong just so he can prove his power in God.  He wanted them to do right so he wouldn’t have to use his power in God. 

In verse eight Paul acknowledged that he (and they) couldn’t do anything against the truth, but only for the truth.  Paul wanted them to know that the truth was Jesus Christ appeared to be weak but arose in strength and power.  And just as Jesus arose in power, Paul had the authority to use the power given to him by God as their Apostle.

In verse nine he declared “we rejoice when we are weak and you are strong.”  In other words, he rejoiced that he may be seen as weak as long as they were strong in the faith.  In fact, he said this is what we pray for, so that you may become perfect.  It was Paul’s hope that they would become fully restored.  Where there had been dissension, confusion, and rejection Paul prayed for a full and complete restoration to the fullness and wholeness of one another in Christ. 

In verse ten Paul reminded them that he wrote those harsh words now so that when he arrived in person he would not have to use his authority for tearing them down but to build them up. 

Verse eleven closed the lesson with Paul’s farewell.  He reminded them to put things in order, to listen to what he had told them, to agree with one another, and to live in peace.  These final verses of this chapter and letter end in a much different way than how the chapter began.  It began harsh.  But It closed in a much different tone.

Last week Paul was concerned about the church at Corinth.  He wrote a harsh and stern letter to both defend himself and to warn the Corinthians to get things in order.  This week’s lesson focuses on the beginning of Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians.  He writes to encourage the Thessalonians and he provides a glowing example of how their faith leads to Holy Living.  Townsend and Boyd’s Commentaries title this week’s lesson “Be examples of the Faith”.  Standard Commentary titles this week’s lesson “Faith That Sets and Example”.  The scripture text comes from 1 Thessalonians 1:2-10. 

What Takes Place in This Passage: 

The Lesson opens at verse two with Paul noting how he, Silas, and Timothy always give thanks to God for all of the Thessalonians and how they mention them in their prayers constantly.  Paul wants them to know that he is praying for them.  If you really believe in the power of prayer, that is a comforting feeling.  Not to minimize this but even if it’s only a cordial greeting it’s still comforting to know that the person who organized this church, the one who led you to Christ, is praying for you.  

Paul continues in verse three letting them know that he remembers them.  He remembers their work of faith, their labor of love, and steadfast hope in Jesus Christ.  Listen; sometimes it takes work to have faith.  Sometimes it takes labor to have love, and sometimes it takes patience to have hope.  These are action words.  These aren’t idle, passive words.  They are active, vigorous, action words.  So Paul lets them know that he remembers what they are going through.  And he knows that they are doing the work; and not only that, but that they are doing the work before God.  It’s good, to remember good things.  These Thessalonians are doing good things and Paul wants them to know, that he knows.

In verse four Paul tells the brothers and sisters that God has chosen them.  The King James Version uses the word election instead of chosen.  Keep in mind that this is the earliest known Christian text.  At this point, Paul isn’t trying to put forth a doctrine of election.  He’s essentially telling them that God is on their side.  They have been chosen and God is on their side.  The NISBOVC explains “Paul claims his initial founding visit was the instrument by which God elected the Thessalonians, Gentiles heretofore being outside the covenant.”  So at this point, the doctrine of election is not likely what Paul is thinking of. 

Verse five continues the same thought about election or their chosen-ness.  Paul explains how the message of the gospel came to the Thessalonians.  Paul’s gospel message came in power and in the Holy Spirit, and with full conviction.  In other words, Paul’s gospel message was not weak.  Paul’s gospel message didn’t consist of mere words.  Paul’s message was made of the Holy Spirit and power and conviction.  It seems to me that if you have a real message from God then these are the ingredients that the message ought to consist of.  Paul continues, by reminded them that they know what kind of persons they proved to be when they were with them.  Paul, Silas, and Timothy evidently demonstrated this power and presence of the Holy Spirit with full conviction when they were with the Thessalonians.  

Verse six reminds the Thessalonians that they became imitators of Paul, Silas, and Timothy and of the Lord.  Listen, they imitated them and the Lord despite being in a pagan city, despite being in the midst of idol worshipers, and despite being persecuted.  Paul says they did this with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit. 

In verse seven Paul gives the Thessalonians an enormous compliment.  He tells them that they are an example to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.  If you are an example to all the believers in the place where you live, that’s high praise, that’s saying something, and that’s a pretty high standard. 

In verse eight Paul explains why he can give them such high praise.  Paul explains that the word of the Lord has come forth from them not only in Macedonia and Achaia but in every place their faith has become known.  The faithfulness of these Thessalonians is known far and wide.  There “fame” is spread abroad.  Listen, these Thessalonians deserve their pat on the back.  They were being persecuted!  But they didn’t give up and they didn’t give in.  They persevered and kept the faith and endured the hardship of living a faithful life in Christ.  They deserve this praise and it’s clear that Paul is proud of how they are holding up.   

In verse nine Paul reminds them of how far they have come.  Paul tells them the people of all those regions report what kind of welcome Paul, Silas, and Timothy had and how the Thessalonians turned from idols to serve the true and living God.  Keep in mind Paul had to leave Thessalonica almost immediately after establishing the church.  So their welcome was not an easy joyous one.  But these Thessalonians have thus far held up the banner, they’ve kept the faith and Paul is delighted to write to encourage them further. 

Verse ten closes this lesson with an “apocalyptic climax” (NISBOVC).  Here the Apostle Paul encourages them to wait for God’s Son from heaven who will rescue them from the wrath that is coming. 

Context:

Decades ago when I was a brand new private in the United States Army I could do a MEAN imitation of Drill Sergeant Law.  Some things you never forget.  MSG Law was a short black man and built solid as a rock.  He could do pushups for days, he could run and sing cadence and never get tired or give out of breath.  He had a distinctive voice.  He talked kinda quiet, until he didn’t.  And then everybody knew who he was and where he was.  All of the young men in my platoon did our best to imitate MSG Law. 

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  I could do a MEAN imitation of Drill Sergeant Law.  But the real question, is how my imitation of Jesus?

Key Characters in the text:

Paul – Formerly a leading persecutor of Christians from Tarsus who became the Christian Apostle to the Gentiles (Townsend). 

Key Words: 

Gospel – The central message of the Christian church to the world, centered on God’s provision of salvation for the world in Jesus Christ. 

Election – God’s choosing of a people to enjoy the benefits of salvation and to carry out God’s purposes in the world (1 Thess. 1:4; 2 Peter 1:10).  This doctrine has been of particular importance in Reformed theology. 

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas: 

1.  It’s been said that “you can imitate but never duplicate”.  When it comes to Jesus imitation is the key and duplication is the goal.        

Questions: 

1.  The Thessalonians turned from idols to worship and serve the true and living God.  Are their idols in our own lives that we should turn from? 

2.  The Apostle Paul profusely thanked the Thessalonians for their faithful living despite persecution.  Are there persons we can thank or at least acknowledge for holding up under pressure? 

Concluding Thought:

How should we be examples of faith? We demonstrate faith in a number ways we take for granted each day.  For example, when we sit in a chair we have faith that the chair will hold our weight.  When driving vehicles we have faith that other drivers actually know how to drive.  Saving faith is belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  If we want to be examples of faith, that’s the kind of faith that sets a good example and one that we all should follow. 

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:

Next week’s lesson comes from 1 Peter first chapter.  In this lesson we’ll explore the Christian call to living a holy life.  Next week we explore how faith leads to holy living and show faith in action.  Next week’s lesson is titled “Live Holy Lives and “Faith That is Focused”. 

If you want to support this work I accept correspondence and gifts at

1590 Jonesboro Rd SE

Box 150032

Atlanta, GA  30315

Christianity, Sunday School, Sunday School Lesson

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

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

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

Gentile

Slavery

Background 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gentile

Slavery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Takes Place in This Passage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Context

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

Key Characters in the text

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

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

Key Words 

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

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

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas

1.  Virtues of an important man.    

2.  You deserve a favor.       

Questions

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

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

Concluding Thought

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

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson

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

If you want to support this work I accept correspondence and gifts at

1590 Jonesboro Rd SE

Box 150032

Atlanta, GA  30315

Christianity, religion, Sunday School Lesson

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

Blessed For Faithfulness / Active Faith

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

Miracle

Faithfulness

Background 

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

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

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

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

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

Miracle

Faithfulness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Takes Place in This Passage: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Context:

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

Key Characters in the text:

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

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

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

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

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

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas

1.  Faithfulness for the hopeless. 

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

Questions

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

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

Concluding Thought

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

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson

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

Christianity, religion, Sunday School, Sunday School Lesson

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

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

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

Decalogue

Covenant

Faithfulness

Background 

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

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

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

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

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

Some important words to consider from this text include:

Decalogue

Covenant

Faithfulness

Review of Last Week and How it Connects to This Week  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Takes Place in This Passage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Context

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

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

Key Characters in the text:

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

Key Words

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

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

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

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas: 

1.  Faithful until the end (Moses). 

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

Questions: 

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

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

Concluding Thought:

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

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:

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