Christianity, religion, Sunday School, Sunday School Lesson

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

Faithful Despite Unfaithfulness / God Hears Our Cry – Numbers 13

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

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

Fidelity

Despair

Background: 

Numbers is the fourth book of the Old Testament.  Tradition has it that Moses is credited as its author.  The New Interpreter’s Study Bible explains that “the English title refers to the many numbers contained in the two census lists that form the central pillars of the book’s structure in chapters 1 and 26”.  So these censuses are central to the structure of the book, but the message of Numbers is the story of the old generation out of Egypt dying off as the new generation prepares to move into the Promised Land.  The NISB also explains that “the central narrative of Numbers is the spy story of chapters 13-14.  Those are the two chapters we’ll cover today.  These chapters narrate the theme of judgement and death for an old generation and the birth and hope of a new generation of God’s people”.  They tell the story of why the old generation lost the Promised Land and the new generation would receive it.  That theme is a result of the old generation failing time after time after time to trust God.  Their faithless acts of disobedience and rebellion ultimately led to their demise in the wilderness while a new generation would be prepared to trust and follow God.  So Numbers talks to judgement and death of the old generation, placed against the birth and hope of the new generation. 

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

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

Fidelity

Despair

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Takes Place in This Passage: 

The lesson opens at chapter thirteen verses one and two with the LORD speaking to Moses.  The LORD instructs Moses to send men into the land of Canaan.  The LORD specifies “the land which I am giving to the Israelites”.  This is the land that God promised Abraham.  The Promised Land and the nation of Israel were hundreds of years in the making but now the descendants of Abraham were on the verge of receiving the long awaited promise. 

The text skips to verse 17a where Moses sends the 12 spies into Canaan to explore the land and determine its suitability for the conquest.

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

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

In verse 27 the spies reveal that the land flows with milk and honey.  Not only do they tell of the goodness of the land but they bring back evidence of the bountiful harvests that await the other side. 

In verse 28 despite them seeing the bountiful blessing of the land; the spies report that the people are powerful and the cities are fortified and very large.  I should note that the first census reported over 600,000 men.  Historians report that this would have been an unusually large number of people because most nation states were not this large at that time.  So it seems that these spies see the blessings possible in the Promised Land, they see the powerful people, they see the large cities, but they do not see the fulfilled promise of God nor do they see themselves are powerful in God’s might. 

The text skips to chapter fourteen verses one and two where the entire congregation lifted up their voices and cried and the people wept that night.  They weep because they have believed the exaggerated report of the ten spies.  The New Interpreter’s Bible One Volume Commentary explains that there are two versions of the spy’s negative report.  “In the first version the land flows with milk and honey.  In the second version verses 32-33 declare that the land itself is so bad that it eats its inhabitants”.  Additionally, “the spies warn of giant Anakites and of a mythological and semi-divine race of giants known as the Nephilim”.  The Israelites see these giants and once again fall into fear.  Instead of believing God, instead of believing they were powerful and strong and brave, instead of believing they were enough and that they had enough.  They choose instead to believe the report of these men instead of the command of God.  They are out of Egypt.  They have been delivered from enslavement by mighty works and wonders of God.  God has provided them with mana in the morning and meat in the evening.  God has turned bitter water to drinkable water.  Even with all these miraculous works they cannot see how God will give them this Promised Land.  Once again, they complain against Moses and Aaron.  Once again, they wish that they had died in the land of Egypt or in the wilderness.  As they wept that night, God heard their cry.  They cry out not in faith, but in unfaithfulness.  They don’t cry out in belief, but in unbelief.  Theirs is not a cry of hope, but hopelessness.  Although the old generation has seen the mighty works of God; this conquest is just a step too far for them to take. 

In verse five Moses and Aaron fall on their face before all of the assembly.  They realize what the Israelites are doing.  They realize this entire nation is choosing to reject God even after all God has done for them.

Verses six and seven show Joshua and Caleb as the faithful few who believe God can and will do what God said God would do.  They tear their clothes in frustration and declare again that the land they went through was an exceedingly good land. 

In verse eight they explain that if the LORD is pleased with them The LORD will give them this land that flows with milk and honey. 

In verses nine and ten they warn the Israelites not to rebel against the LORD and do not fear the people of the land.  Instead of heeding the warning of Joshua and Caleb, the whole congregation threatened to stone them.

Context:

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

Key Characters in the text:

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

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

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

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

Key Words: 

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

Despair – utter loss of hope.

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas: 

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

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

Questions

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

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

Concluding Thought:

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

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:

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

Sunday School, Sunday School Lesson

Sunday School Lesson (September 15, 2019) Faithful During Uncertainty / Bread From Heaven Exodus 16:1-8; 13-15

Faithful During Uncertainty / Bread From Heaven Exodus 16:1-8; 13-15

Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com.  This week I review God’s provision for the Israelites as they begin their journey in the wilderness.  God is faithful during uncertainty while providing the Israelites bread from heaven.  About 45 days after they begin their journey, they complain bitterly to Moses and Aaron and blame the two brothers for bringing them into the wilderness to die.  There are no soldiers chasing them, no slave masters whipping them, and no Pharaohs enslaving them.  Yet they complain and wish they were back in Egypt because they are hungry.  Had they forgotten how God miraculously delivered them from Pharaoh and his enslavement with mighty works and wonders?  They had given up, capitulated, and thrown in the towel because at least in Egypt they had food to eat.  Now they blame Moses and Aaron for their hunger.  They blame them saying “you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger”.  Once again, God is faithful by providing quails in the evening and mana in the morning for the Israelites to eat.  God provides their daily bread.  Likewise it’s important for us to know that just as God provided what the Israelites needed; God can do the same for us today. 

As we continue to understand how God is faithful, this week I focus on the miraculous provision of God for the people of God.  Some of the ideas surrounding this week’s text include the terms: 

Mana

Sabbath

Background

Exodus is the second book of the Old Testament.  It tells the story of the origin of the Israelite nation.  Like its name says, it tells the story of the exodus of the Hebrew people from the enslavement of Egypt.  But it’s not just any departure.  It’s a miraculous deliverance and redemption by God for God’s people.  Nelson’s Bible Handbook explains that “the Bible’s entire message of redemption grows out of the covenant relationship between God and God’s people first described in this book”.  So in Exodus redemption is the central message and this becomes the central theme throughout all of Christian Scripture.  Many of the other themes in Exodus can be found in the New Testament Gospels also.  For example, “Moses received the law on Mount Sinai; Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount.  Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness to give life to the people; Jesus was lifted up on the cross to bring eternal life to all who trust him.  And the Passover served as a base on which Jesus developed the Last Supper”.  So in these ways, there are themes in Exodus that are repeated in the Gospel record.  In these ways and others, the book of Exodus is central to both the Jewish and Christian religions. 

The New Interpreter’s Study Bible explains that

“Exodus begins (Exodus 1:1-15:21) with a narration of the conflict between the LORD and Pharaoh over Israel’s fate, an epic conflict between kings and God.  The weapons of war are the forces of nature:  The LORD summons reptiles, insects, and meteorological phenomena, including hail and darkness, in an assault on Pharaoh (chp. 7-10).  Exodus ends with the LORD finally descending from Mount Sinai to enter the completed tabernacle on new year’s day (40:1-2, 7) filling the sanctuary with fire and smoke.”

 Chapter sixteen deals with God’s provision for the Israelites.  After about forty-five days in the wilderness, the Israelites complain bitterly to Moses and Aaron.  They complain because they are hungry.  God provides meat in the evening and bread from heaven in the morning for them to eat.  This mana from heaven is just one way God is faithful during uncertainty to this nation now wandering in the wilderness.  Some important words to consider from this text include:

Mana

Sabbath

Review Last Week and how it connects to this week 

Last week’s lesson was taken from 1 Samuel 1:9-20.  As the lesson opens Hannah along with her husband Elkanah and Elkanah’s other wife Peninnah are gathered at the temple in Shiloh.  After eating and drinking, Hannah arose and presented herself before the Lord to pray. 

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

I also discussed a reference from Townsend Commentary explaining that “ancient Eastern legal texts allowed an infertile wife to provide her husband her maidservant to bear children for her as his heir.  Therefore, the principal wife may possess legal rights to the children of her servants”.  Now, if you can’t imagine what that looks like you can watch as few episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale.  The Handmaids tale depicts an example of what one wife owning the child of an enslaved woman looks like.   This however, was not the desire of Hannah’s heart.  Hannah desired a man-child birthed from her own body.  Hannah is distressed, she is distraught, and she is ready for her circumstances in life to change.  She was tired of being picked on and talked about.  She was tired of being laughed at and scorned.  Even though her husband loved her, she was tired of being treated badly about something for which she had no control.  She had no child of her own and there was nothing she could do about it.  Last week I referenced Dr. Theodore W. Burgh in the Africana Bible Dr. Theodore W. Burgh explaining “Hannah feels the pressure of the high value her society placed on bearing a child – particularly a male – in order to confirm her womanhood, she prays diligently to her god asking to become pregnant”. 

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

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

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

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

In verses twelve, thirteen and fourteen Hanna continued praying silently with only her lips moving.  Eli the high priest notices her and thinks she is drunk.  Eli said to her “how long will you make a drunken spectacle of yourself? Put away your wine”.  I noted the NISB explaining that Eli’s first speech shows his inability, unexpected in a priest, to distinguish between prayer and drunkenness.  He could not distinguish between the sincere prayer of a powerless woman and the antics of someone drunk with wine.  Perhaps there are ways in our own lives we mistake someone’s sincerity for what we see as playful antics.

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

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

Verses nineteen and twenty closed last week’s lesson with Hanna and the others rising the next morning, worshiping God, and then traveling back to their home in Ramah.  At some point Elkanah had sex with Hannah and the Lord remembered her.  Hannah conceived the son she wanted so desperately and named him Samuel.  Verse twenty says “she named him Samuel, for she said “I have asked him of the Lord””.  Hannah got an affirmative answer to her prayers.  The birth of Samuel changed her life and her circumstances.

This week’s lesson continues with the theme of God’s faithfulness.  This time God is faithful to a grumbling and complaining people.  God is faithful by providing both bread from heaven and meat from heaven to a hungry people now wandering in the wilderness.  Like Hannah the people are in distress and distraught, but unlike Hannah they look to Moses and Aaron with complaints instead of trusting God to provide.  This week we see God’s provision despite the acts and conduct of the Israelites.  They have completely given up, “thrown in the towel” and concluded that all hope is lost.  But as God often does for the Israelites and for us today, God makes a way, out of no way.  The lesson this week is entitled “Faithful During Uncertainty” and “Bread From Heaven”.  The scripture text comes from Exodus 16:1-8; 13-15. 

What Takes Place in This Passage

The lesson opens at verse one with the Israelites already delivered from enslavement in Egypt.  They are now wandering in the wilderness at a place called Sin, between Elim and Sinai.  They have been on their journey from Egypt for about 45 days. 

In verses two and three the whole congregation complained against Moses and Aaron.  But it wasn’t just a complaint.  They protest so severely that they imagined dying back in the land of their captivity.  They complained, “if only they had died by the hand of the Lord back in Egypt”.  These are a people who have given up.  There are no Egyptians around to enslave them.  There are no slave masters around to whip them.  There are no Egyptian solders around to slay them.  Yet, they desire to go back to the land of enslavement, back to whippings and beatings, and back to soldiers who could slay them.  They have given up, capitulated, and thrown in the towel because at least in Egypt they had food to eat.  Now they see themselves in this foreign land, this wilderness, dying of hunger.  So now they blame Moses and Aaron for their hunger.  They blame them saying “you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger”.  The New Interpreter’s Study Bible explains that “life as a slave in Egypt is better than the risk of freedom in the wilderness”.  

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

Verse five gives them instructions on how to gather in preparation for the Sabbath.  On the sixth day they are to gather twice as much in preparation for the seventh day of rest.  Townsend Commentary explains that “the Sabbath was stressed in the giving of manna; though the Law had not yet been given”.  The NISB notes that “the Priestly writer first prescribes the Sabbath rest in the story of creation (Gen. 2:1-3) and reiterates it here in the miracle of manna and in the revelation of the Decalogue (20:8-11)”.

In verses six and seven Moses and Aaron explain to the Israelites the plan the LORD has set forth for their provision.  They tell the people “in the evening you will know that it was the LORD that brought you out of Egypt.  And in the morning you will see the glory of the LORD”.  Moses and Aaron want them to know that they aren’t complaining to them but to God.  The NISB explains that “just as the plagues were signs for Pharaoh and the Egyptians to come to knowledge of the LORD, so also the manna from heaven is intended to bring the Israelites to knowledge of the LORD as the God who brought them out of Egypt”. 

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

The text skips to verses thirteen through fifteen.  Here, the LORD provides quail in the evening and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp.  After the dew lifted there was a fine flaky substance on the ground.  They ask “what is it” and Moses explains “it is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat”.  The NISB notes that “the word mana is a Hebrew pun.  What is it (hu)? But the Hebrew phrase man hu can also be translated as “it is manna” supplying an answer to the question and a name for the food.

Context

This text helps us understand that it can be hard to trust God when our stomachs are empty.  When our basic needs aren’t met it’s easy to do as the Israelites and blame whoever we can.  There were hundreds of thousands of Israelites in the wilderness.  They were hungry, in a foreign land, and there seemed to be no hope of feeding the massive crowds.  After all, they were in the wilderness. 

But that’s the thing about God.  God brought them to the wilderness; and God would see them through the wilderness.  I suppose there are times in our lives when we too are faced with wilderness experiences.  The problem seems so big.  We’re in the foreign place of having no control of our circumstances.  The situation seems dire and desperate.  Beloved, God brought you to it, and God will see you through it.  Just as God gave them instructions for their daily bread; we too should just follow the instructions. 

Key Characters in the text:

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

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

Key Words

Mana – Food from heaven providentially provided by God for Israel in the wilderness (Ex. 16:4-36; Num. 11:4-9).  It is used in the New Testament as a “type” or foreshadowing of Jesus Christ as the living bread from heaven (John 6:31-65) and in the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 10:3). 

Sabbath – The seventh day of the week, set apart for worship and rest (Ex. 20:8).  It is a holy day in Judaism.  Christian practice has been to observe Sunday as a day for worship in celebration of Christ’s resurrection.    

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas: 

1.  Our daily bread.    

2.  Follow the instructions to pass the test.   

Questions

1.  The Israelites had been in their wilderness journey for about 45 days.  They were in an unfamiliar place without food and had already struggled for water.  Discuss other ways they could have responded instead of murmuring to Moses and Aaron.           

2.  Discuss potential ways people are in bondage today and willingly remain in bondage instead of seeking freedom.    

Concluding Thought

This quote from the NISB sits heavy with me; “Life as a slave in Egypt was better than the risk of freedom in the wilderness”.  How many ways do we accept life as a slave in Egypt? 

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson

Next week the lesson comes from the book of Numbers.  As we continue the God is faithful theme, we see yet again the Israelites grumbling and complaining against Moses and Aaron saying “if only we had died in Egypt; Or in this wilderness”!  Again, the Israelites are faithless, complaining, and murmuring.   Next week we see how the Israelites had to be reminded of who God really is.  This time it is Joshua and Caleb who provide the minority report among the spies that the Promised Land can be theirs.  The lesson is entitled “God Hears Our Cry”.     

Christianity, Religion, Genesis, Sunday School Lesson

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

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

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

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

Vows

Nazarite

Background

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

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

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

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

1) Strife within the family.

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

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

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

Vows

Nazarite

Review of Last Week 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Takes Place in This Passage: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Context

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

Key Characters in the text:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ark of the Covenant – The chest carried by the Hebrews that contained the tablets of the law.  It was lost from history after the time of Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction of Jerusalem (586 B.C.).

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas: 

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

2.  Praying your heart’s desire.

Questions

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

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

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

Concluding Thought:

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

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:

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

religion, Sunday School Lesson

Sunday School Lesson (September 1, 2019) Faithful During Distress / Faith And Doubt Genesis 19:1, 15-26, 29

Faithful During Distress / Faith and Doubt Genesis 19

Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com.  This week’s lesson is entitled “Faithful During Distress” and “Faith and Doubt”.  I take a look at how God is faithful during our distress and faith and doubt as it relates to God’s faithfulness.  Specifically, in this lesson, I show how God is faithful to Abraham.  Have you ever heard the saying “somebody prayed for me”?  That was Abraham on behalf of Lot.  If it were not for Abraham, Lot and his family would have perished along with everyone else in Sodom and Gomorrah.  In this lesson, God is faithful to Abraham and merciful and compassionate to Lot and his family.  In this lesson, I focus on how hospitality is an important and central theme in this text.  That’s really important because so many people focus on the homosexuality in this text.  Homosexuality isn’t the central issue.  Although Lot shows hospitality to the angels there is little else (in my view, nothing else) to give him credit for.  In fact, given Lot’s offer of his own daughters to the men of the city he was just as guilty of the same violence as the sodomites. 

The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah would be destroyed because God heard the outcry of their collective violence and inhospitality and the violence with which they treated aliens in their midst.  Lot was saved not because of his own actions, but because Abraham intervened, interceded, and pleaded on his behalf.  I like how Townsends Commentary explains “with Lot’s rescue, the emphasis is on God’s compassion.  Lot acknowledged that he was saved because he had found favor in God’s sight.  This is also true for us.  If it had not been for the Lord who was on our side, where would we be”?  If you have or had praying parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, perhaps you too can identify with Lot.  If it had not been for God on our side, where would we be?

In this first lesson of the new school year our focus has transitioned from covenants to demonstrating how God is faithful.  The focus of this week’s lesson is faithful during distress and faith and doubt.  It is Abraham’s faith that is highlighted and we see Lot’s doubt as he hesitates to leave a city soon to be destroyed.   Some of the ideas surrounding this week’s text include the terms: 

Faithfulness

Hospitality

Angels

Background: 

This first lesson of the Fall Quarter and the new Sunday School year comes from the book of Genesis.  Genesis is a book of beginnings.  It speaks to the creation of the world, the fall of humanity, the great floods and establishment of Nations. It is the first book of the Bible and the first of the five books known as the Pentateuch.  Townsend Commentary notes that “Genesis was written over a long period of time.  It was probably begun in the time of Moses, but later generations added other material and edited the books together.  The book probably reached its final form around the time of Solomon (970-930 BC)”.  The New Interpreter’s Study Bible also notes that Genesis contains narratives from three authors or traditions (1) The Yawist, (2) the Elohist, and (3) the Priestly writer.  These distinct traditions were woven together in the way they appear today by a later editor or by the latest author, the priestly writer.  It’s important to note these writers because it’s important to understand both “the times in which they wrote and the times about which they wrote” (NISB). 

This nineteenth chapter falls within a larger narrative focused on the life of Abraham.  It’s as if the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is parenthetically interjected into the longer story of Abraham, Sarah, and the birth of Isaac. 

Lot is Abraham’s nephew.  The story of Sodom and Gomorrah begins in chapter eighteen.  As Abraham sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day, he looked up and saw three men standing near him.  After Abraham and Sarah show great hospitality to the men (one of whom appears to be the Lord), one of them said “I will surely return to you in due season and your wife Sarah shall have a son”.  When these men leave Abraham and Sarah they set out toward Sodom. 

At this point “The Lord said, shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham shall become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him”?  After the Lord decides to reveal the plan, Abraham and the Lord engage in a philosophical discussion.  Abraham questions the Lord’s plan asking “will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?  Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will you then sweep away the place and not forgive it for the fifty righteous who are in it?  Far be it from you to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked!  Far be that from you!  Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?  Abraham pleads his case for the righteous in Sodom.  If there is any chance at all to save his nephew, Abraham is going to make the case and plead on his behalf.  This is a powerful plea to the Lord. 

When the Lord agrees that the city will not be destroyed if fifty righteous are found Abraham then asks “suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking”?  When The Lord agrees again, Abraham then asks suppose forty are found there.  When the Lord agrees, Abraham then asks suppose there are twenty.  When the Lord agrees he asks once more, suppose there are ten.  If there is any chance at all to save his nephew Abraham is going to go the distance with the Lord on behalf of his extended family.  It’s important to also note that the NIBOVC explains “God is gracious and merciful, forgiving and slow to anger, but God also does not simply “clear the guilty” without some consequences for their sin (Exod. 34:6-7) or, as here in Gen. 18, without some few righteous ones who will redeem the whole.  That’s an important principle to remember; “A few righteous ones who redeem the whole”.  If there are ten righteous in the city, God will stay God’s judgement.  But of course in this story ten cannot be found.  That principle applies to us through Jesus Christ.  Jesus is our righteousness.

This is where our lesson picks up.  The men who visited Abraham and Sarah are now described as two angels (messengers).  They arrive Sodom in the evening, with Lot sitting in the gateway of the city.  Lot greets them in the same way Abraham did in chapter eighteen and he offers them exceptional hospitality. 

Our lesson this week is entitled Faithful During Distress and Faith and Doubt.  It is a view into how Lot responded to God’s grace. Given the background I’ve just covered it is also a view into how God is faithful to Abraham’s plea for his nephew and family.  Some important words to consider from this text include:

Faithfulness

Hospitality

Angels

Review of Last Week.  

Last week’s lesson was titled Marriage: A Covenant of Mutual Love.  The lesson came from the fifth chapter of Ephesians verses twenty-one through thirty-three.  Verse twenty-one was the key verse in the text.  “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ”.  Or be subject to one another.  The Greek word for “subject” “is a military term meaning to line up under” (NISB).  I noted how that is a good expression to form the idea of working together.  We line up under each other to support each other and we line up under Jesus Christ to support the cause of Christ.

Verse twenty-two told us that wives ought to submit themselves to their own husbands as unto the Lord and I noted how I have personally witnessed how terribly this verse can be misused by a husband.  It’s important to know that this verse does not make a husband superior, greater, more authoritative, more respected or more valuable in any way, shape or form than his wife.  Nor does this verse put the husband above the wife in any way.  Men are not better than women, husbands are not better than wives. I also noted how much it bothers me that some women will accept being treated inferior as if that is somehow pleasing to God.  It’s not.  Women and wives ought to be full participants in the cause of Christ.   

 Marriage is teamwork.  There are areas where my wife needs to lead.  When she leads, I line up under her and follow her leadership.  That’s one way mutual love is expressed. 

I also noted how life in this first century world revolved around patriarchy.  Every area of life in this first century world centered on a male authority system that oppressed and subordinated women through social, political, and economic institutions and practices.  For Paul to say that women and men should be subject to one another is a radical thought for his time.  Yet, given the oppression women faced in his time and the oppression women still face today I wish that he had gone further to tear down the ideology of patriarchy. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

This week’s lesson deals with faith and doubt as Abraham pleads for the deliverance of his nephew Lot, and Lot’s family.  This lesson shows us how God is faithful and how Lot responded to God’s grace.  The lesson this week is entitled Faith and Doubt.  The scripture text comes from Genesis 19:1, 15-26, 29. 

What Takes Place in This Passage: 

Verse one begins with two angels arriving Sodom in the evening.  When Lot sees them from the gates of Sodom he gets up to greet them.  Our lesson text then skips to verses four and five and then fifteen.  Verses two through fourteen are not particularly focused on the topic of faith and doubt but I’ll cover them as a way to more fully understand the entire story.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After these two guests rescue Lot by reaching out to bring him in the house and shut the door behind him they strike the men outside the door with blindness.  They question Lot whether he has any sons-in-law, sons, daughters, or anyone else in the city because they are about to destroy the city.  And that brings us up to verse fifteen.

When morning dawned, the angels urged Lot to take his wife and two daughters out of the city so they would not suffer the same punishment of the city.  But Lot lingered so the men took him, his wife, and two daughters by the hand and took them outside the city.  The text does not say why Lot lingered.  But given his choices thus far in the story, both good and bad, any speculation would be just that; pure speculation.

Verse seventeen tells us “When they brought them outside they said, flee for your life; do not look back or stop anywhere in the plain; flee to the hills or else you will be consumed”.  These guests are intent on sparing Lot and his family.  They made sure Lot and his family got out of the city and then gave him instructions to include not looking back, in order to avoid the coming destruction. 

Verses eighteen and nineteen show Lot’s gratefulness but they also show his doubt that he could make it to the hills.  Lot had already lingered coming out of the city, now he knows he must flee and cannot look back at the destruction that would rain down on the city in which he had lived. 

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

In verse twenty-one the angel says to Lot “very well, I grant you this favor too, and will not overthrow the city of which you have spoken”.  The angels have indeed been gracious to Lot.  Instead of destroying the city upon their arrival they lodged and ate a meal with Lot.  Then they protected Lot from the men of the city.  Then they seized Lot and brought him and his family outside the gates of the city. And now they grant him this additional favor to go to a small city nearby.  God’s compassion and mercy toward Lot has been on display throughout this story. 

In verses twenty-two and twenty-three the angel tells him to hurry because the angel can do nothing until Lot arrives. 

In verses twenty-four through twenty-six the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven and he overthrew those cities and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.  Because of their sins of inhospitality and the mistreatment of aliens in their midst God destroys these two cities, the plain surrounding the cites, all of its inhabitants, and all that grew on the ground therein. Additionally, the angels had warned Lot and his family not to look back.  Lot’s wife looked back and became a pillar of salt. 

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

Context:

The prayers of the righteous avail much.  It is the prayers of the righteous that are powerful and effective.  If you believe that prayer really changes things you have probably been the recipient of someone else’s powerful and effective praying.  I like Dorothy Norwood’s song Somebody Prayed for Me.  It captures the feeling of knowing that you didn’t make it to where you are on your own.  Many of us have had praying mothers, fathers, and grandmothers and grandfathers.  Without their prayers where would we be? 

Key Characters in the text:

Lot – isAbraham’s nephew.  He is the son of Haran, Abraham’s brother.  He migrates with Abraham and grandfather from Ur of the Chaldeans toward Canaan (Townsend). 

Angel – A scriptural term for heavenly beings who praise and serve God.  They are variously portrayed in Scripture as announcing a child’s birth and destiny (Gen 16:11; Luke 1:11-20), interceding with God (Gen 22:11), executing judgement (2 Sam. 24:16). 

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

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.     

Doubt, religious – Uncertainty, as opposed to denial, or religious truths. 

Hospitality – Biblical concept often used with the terms “guest”, “stranger” and “sojourner”.  It is useful to limit the meaning of “hospitality” to benevolence done to those outside ones normal circle of friends, as is implied in the literal meaning in the Greek word “love of strangers” (Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible).

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas: 

1.  Entertaining angels (Hebrews 13:2) 

2.  Somebody prayed for me. (Abraham pleading for Lot)

Questions

1.  Lot showed hospitality to the men when they arrived at the gates of Sodom.  Why is hospitality so important?       

2.  If the assault on the angels had succeeded, the result could only be described as gang rape, not a private act.  This presents the sins of Sodom more as social than individual, something that characterizes the entire city (Townsend).  Discuss the depth of Sodom’s inhospitality. 

Concluding Thought:

It was the prayers of Abraham that saved Lot and his family.  It can be argued that on his own merit, Lot was not worthy of the deliverance he received.  Having said that, it can likely be argued that I am not worthy of my deliverance either.  I am reminded of the African Bantu term Ubuntu.  It means “I am, because we are”.  In other words, I exist because we exist together.  Somebody prayed for me.  I am who I am because of the answered prayers of those who prayed for me.  In our praying, let’s remember to pray for others. 

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:

Next week the lesson comes from the book of 1 Samuel.  In this second lesson of five exploring how God is faithful, we see God granting Hanna the son she prayed for.  The lesson is entitled God Answers Prayer.    

Christianity, religion, Sunday School, Sunday School Lesson

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

The New Covenants Sacrifice Hebrews 9:11-22

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

Tabernacle

Covenant

Testament

New Covenant / Agreement

Redemption

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Background: 

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

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

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

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

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

Some important words to consider from this text include:

Covenant

Testament

New Covenant / Agreement

Redemption

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Takes Place in This Passage: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Context:

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

Key Characters in the text:

Jesus Christ – Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah and according to the Christian church the incarnate second Person of the Trinity.  He was crucified on a cross and was raised from the dead by the power of God. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas: 

1.  The only acceptable sacrifice (Jesus Christ).

2.  The Old Covenant and the New You.

Questions

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

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

Concluding thought:

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

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

Christianity, religion, Sunday School, Sunday School Lesson

Sunday School Lesson (June 9, 2019) Jesus Seals The New Covenant Mark 15:6-15, 25-26, 33-39

Jesus Seals The New Covenant Mark 15:6-15

Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com.  This week I take a look at how Jesus Seals The New Covenant.  In the forty-seven verses of this 15th chapter of Mark we see Jesus before Pilate, Pilate handing Jesus over to be crucified, the soldiers mocking Jesus, The crucifixion of Jesus, The death of Jesus, and the burial of Jesus.  In this text we see a crowd ask for Barabbas instead of Jesus.  Only a few days ago a great crowd had welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem shouting Hosanna to the highest.  Perhaps the crowd is the same; perhaps it’s a different crowd.  I think one point we can take away from this lesson is that crowds can’t be trusted.  Some of the ideas surrounding this week’s text include the terms: 

Covenant

Son of God

Son of Man

Background: 

This week we continue to focus on how the New Covenant came to be.  With that in mind I’ll provide some background on Mark the person, a bit more on the book of Mark, and then a bit more on this week’s chapter of study. 

Who’s Who In The Bible notes that “the second century Christian writer Papias first recorded the tradition that this gospel was written by Mark”.  This Mark would have been a follower of Peter name Mark (I Peter 5:13).  The New Interpreter’s Study Bible adds that “Augustine seems not to have known this tradition, for he argued that the Gospel of Mark was merely an abbreviation of the Gospel of Matthew”.  Additionally, “Jerome, the translator of the Bible into Latin, believed that the author of Mark was John Mark of Acts 15:37-38 (NISB).  This is the same Mark who’s other name was John in Acts 12:12.  John would have been his Hebrew name and Mark would have been his Latin Name.  Having two names like this was a common practice for Hellenized Jews (WWITB).  This is the same Mark who accompanied his cousin Barnabas and Paul on their first missionary journey.  When Mark left them and returned to Jerusalem it displeased Paul because when Barnabas asked that Mark go with them on a second missionary journey Paul refused (WWITB).  Acts 15:39 tells us this refusal created a sharp contention between Paul and Barnabas.  The writer of this Gospel may also be associated with Peter who referred to him as “my son” in I Peter 5:13.  However, most modern scholars are hesitant to make this link (NISB).  With that in mind, “The Gospel of Mark, like the other canonical Gospels, probably originally circulated anonymously among Christian groups” (NISB).  In other words we cannot definitively know who the author is.

The book of Mark was likely written “in the decade of 65 to 75 Common Era when Nero’s persecutions of Christians in Rome was soon followed by the first Jewish-Roman war.  In this war Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed by the Romans” (NISB).  Most scholars agree that Mark is the first Gospel to be written.  It is written to suit the needs of Christians under persecution.  This Gospel does not mention the name of its author and it is not written as a letter to anyone in particular.  Mark intends to portray Jesus as a Servant Redeemer.  “Mark shows his Gentile readers how the Son of God – rejected by his own people – achieved ultimate victory through apparent defeat” (Nelson’s Bible Handbook).  

The forty-seven verses of this fifteenth chapter of Mark show us

Jesus before Pilate

Pilate handing Jesus over to be crucified

The soldiers mocking Jesus

The crucifixion of Jesus

The death of Jesus

And the burial of Jesus.

Our Scripture text is interspersed through most of this chapter.  Some important words to consider from these two texts include:

Son of God

Son of Man

King of the Jews

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

Last week our lesson came from two separate texts in the New Testament but the Hebrews text was really a long quote from the Old Testament.  We studied parts of Mark 14th chapter and Hebrews 8th chapter.  The text in Mark began with the 14th chapter 17th verse where Jesus and the twelve disciples were gathered together for the evening Passover meal.  As they ate the Passover meal Jesus told his disciples one of them would betray him.      

Distressed, upset, and sorrowful the disciples took turns asking “is it I”.  Jesus explained “it is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the bowl with me”.  We mentioned how the NISB noted that “Dipping bread into the bowl emphasized the bond of hospitality and intimacy that was about to be broken by betrayal”. 

We discussed verses twenty-two through twenty-four where Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper otherwise known as Holy Communion.  We also discussed verse twenty-four where “He said to them, this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many”.  This was where Jesus mentioned the covenant that was the basis for the new and better covenant mentioned in the text in Hebrews.  That closed the discussion of Mark and then we skipped to Hebrews 8.

Hebrews 8:6 began by explaining that Jesus was the mediator of a better covenant with better promises.  We noted that verse seven explained if the first covenant had been faultless, there would be no need to look for a second one.  No one could keep all the rules and regulations of the Old Testament.  But more importantly, this new covenant would replace the practice of animal sacrifices.  Jesus was the one sacrifice for all eternity to absolve or release humanity of the consequences of sin and separation from God.     

This week’s lesson is the second lesson of the Summer quarter and the second lesson in the Gospel According To Mark.  We will return to Hebrews in the third week of the quarter.  The focus for each lesson remains on the idea of covenant and specifically the New Covenant established by Jesus Christ.  The aim of this week is to show us how Jesus Seals the New Covenant.  As the Nation of Israel rejects Jesus he is turned over to Pontius Pilate for crucifixion.  It is the sacrificial death of Jesus that seals the covenant and establishes our relationship with God.  Standard Lesson Commentary, Townsend and Boyd’s Commentary all title this week’s lesson Jesus Seals The New Covenant.  The scripture text comes from Mark 15:6-15, 25-26, and 33-39. 

What Takes Place in This Passage: 

This Gospel is probably written in the decade of 65 to 75 Common Era.  The events of this chapter take place thirty-five to forty-five years earlier.  Mark 15:6 begins by reminding us that it was customary for Pilate to release a prisoner.  This was customary during the Passover feast.  It could have been any prisoner.  Barabbas was in prison with people who had committed murder during the insurrection.  So Barabbas was likely charged with murder whereas Jesus was charged with insurrection.

It should be noted that “the Jewish council had the power to put offenders they condemned to death.  So this second trial on different charges before Roman authorities seems unnecessary” (NISB).  It also seems remarkable that this crowd would ask for Barabbas instead of Jesus.  Only a few days ago a great crowd welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem shouting Hosanna to the highest.  Perhaps the crowd is the same; perhaps it’s a different crowd.  I think one point for us to take away is that crowds can’t be trusted. 

It’s important to also note that ultimately it is the Roman government that crucifies Jesus not the Jewish council leaders.  That’s an important distinction.  Across the centuries people have used this event to provoke anti-Jewish feelings in those who blame the Jews for Jesus’ crucifixion.  While it’s true the Jewish council turned Jesus over to Roman authorities, it cannot be said that the Jews crucified Jesus.

Verse 25 identifies the time of Jesus’ crucifixion.  The third hour was nine o’clock in the morning.  It was 9AM when they crucified him.  Verse 26 was the charge against him.  Although it read “The King of the Jews” the crime was insurrection.  He was charged with being king in Caesar’s place. 

Verses 33 through 39 speak to the death of Jesus.  The sixth hour is 12 o’clock noon.  The ninth hour is 3PM.  It was at 3PM when Jesus cried out “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me”.  In this text, these are the last words Jesus speaks before his death, burial, and resurrection.  When the some of the bystanders hear his cry they think he is calling for Elijah.  After someone filled a sponge with sour wine and gave it to him to drink they said “wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down”. 

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

Verse 39 closes our lesson text with the centurion proclaiming “Truly this man was God’s Son”!  It is the Roman centurion that proclaims Jesus as God’s son.

Context:

Anti-Semitism is opposition to or hatred of Jews.  It may take the form of discrimination, arrest, or extermination.  Throughout Christian history anti-Semitism has been a real problem spread by the view that Jews crucified Jesus.  It’s important that all Christians prevent the spread of this false narrative.  Although rejected by his own people, It was the Roman government that crucified Jesus.  The good news is the crucifixion, the willing sacrifice of Jesus was part of God’s plan.  Through this sacrifice now all of humanity has direct access to God through Jesus Christ. 

Key Characters in the text:

Jesus Christ – Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah and according to the Christian church the incarnate second Person of the Trinity.  He was crucified on a cross and was raised from the dead by the power of God. 

Barabbas – a man who had been arrested and sentenced to death by crucifixion for insurrection against Rome and murder.  He was freed by Pilate, instead of Jesus, at the request of the crowd during the Passover feast.

Pilate – The Roman governor of Judea from about 26 to 37 Common Era.  Pontius Pilate presided over the trial of Jesus and ordered his execution. 

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

Son of God – An individual who stands in a special relationship with God is a son or child of God (Gal 4:6-7).  The concept is used in the Old Testament for Israel as a nation, David, and kings.  In the New Testament, Jesus Christ is God unique Son.

Son of Man – A Hebrew or Aramaic expression that may be a synonym for humankind or refer to an apocalyptic figure who will judge the righteous and unrighteous at the end time.  It is also used as a title for Jesus in each sense. 

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas: 

1.  What shall I do with him?  (see vs 12)

2.  The Centurion called Him Son of God.  What do you call Him?

Questions

1.  The title of our lesson is Jesus Seals The New Covenant.  What is the seal?

2.  Mark 15:10 identifies the chief priests as the ones who handed Jesus over to Pilate but it was the Romans that crucified Jesus.  Why should Christians refuse to entertain the idea that the Jews crucified Jesus?

Concluding thought:

We’ve been focused on how the New Covenant came into existence.  The short answer is through the shed blood of Jesus Christ in Calvary’s cross.  But just as important is the fact that this New Covenant brings reconciliation.  We are reconciled to God through the grace of Christ on Calvary.  If God would go this far for our reconciliation, shouldn’t we also do the work of reconciliation with our family members, friends, and acquaintances?   

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:

Next week we return to the book of Hebrews.  As we focus on how the New Covenant came to be I will bring the New Covenant’s sacrifice into view.  That sacrifice is the shed blood of Jesus Christ.  It’s this same sacrifice that gives us hope to look forward.  I Corinthians 15:17 reminds us “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins”.  The good news is that Christ is risen and we have salvation through his sacrifice. 

Christianity, religion, Sunday School, Sunday School Lesson

Sunday School Lesson (June 2, 2019) Jesus Institutes The New Covenant Mark 14:17-24, Hebrews 8:6-7, 10-12

Jesus Institutes The New Covenant – Mark 14:17-24

Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com.  This week we take a look at how Jesus institutes the New Covenant at the Passover meal and how Hebrews shows the new covenant was foretold in the Old Testament.  There are several covenants throughout Scripture but this New Covenant is the one covenant available to all humanity for salvation throughout eternity.  The old covenant had its purpose but the new covenant fulfills the requirement for righteousness through Jesus Christ and for all eternity.  Hebrews will tell us that now; there is no need for the Jewish practice of animal sacrifice.  Some of the ideas surrounding this week’s text include the terms: 

Testament

Covenant

Holy Communion

Background: 

This week’s lesson is focused on how the New Covenant came into existence.  Jesus plainly institutes the New Covenant in Mark and this section of Hebrews reflects back to how the New Covenant was foretold in the book of Jerimiah.  But before we go any further, it’s important to understand what we’re really talking about when we use the term New Covenant.  So I’ll define covenant, New Covenant, and then take a look at the backgrounds of Mark and Hebrews. 

The term covenant and testament are used interchangeably.  We have the Old Testament and the New Testament.  The Old Testament can be called the Old Covenant and the New Testament can be called the New Covenant.  It is an Old Agreement and a New Agreement. 

Covenant = Testament

Old Covenant = Old Testament

New Covenant = New Testament

Covenant is defined as a formal agreement or treaty between two parties that establishes a relationship and in which obligations and mutual responsibilities may be enacted.  Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms defines New Covenant as the anticipated action of God in establishing a personal relationship with people (this was foretold in Jeremiah 31:31-34).  Christians see this New Covenant as fulfilled in Jesus Christ.  The term New Covenant is used by Jesus in relation to his death (Luke 22:20; I Cor 11:25) and elsewhere in the New Testament for the effects Jesus Christ brings.  New Covenant is also, a term for the New Testament. 

So the main point is there is an old covenant or an old agreement.  I should also note that there are at least seven covenants in Scripture.  In a general sense when we are talking about covenants; Protestant Christians recognize the Old Covenant as the 39 books of the Old Testament.  There is a New Covenant, and Protestant Christians recognize this New Covenant as the 27 books of the New Testament. 

So with that in mind, I’ll take a look at the background of Mark and Hebrews as they both help us understand this New Covenant. 

 The Gospel of Mark does not mention the name of its author.  “Biblical scholars have tended to date the composition of the Gospel to the decade of 65 Common Era to 75 Common Era” (New Interpreter’s Study Bible).  “Mark was believed to have written the Gospel after Peter’s death in Rome during Nero’s persecutions (NISB)”.  Nelson’s Bible Handbook notes that Mark’s theme is to portray Jesus as a Servant and as the Redeemer of men. 

In the fourteenth chapter of Mark Jesus is at the Passover meal.  Christians recognize this as The Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion.  It is here that Jesus institutes the New Covenant.  It is a new agreement that is a better agreement.

Now, for some background on Hebrews.  The book of Hebrews is one of eight general epistles or letters that are not addressed to a specific church.  The author is not known and Hebrews is more of a sermon/treatise than a letter (NISB).  One of the main emphases in Hebrews is the superiority of the new covenant to the old and the old covenant’s practice of animal sacrifices (NISB). 

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

Some important words to consider from these two texts include:

Covenant

Testament

New Covenant / Agreement

Holy Communion

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

Last week we discussed how Paul began Romans 8 by imploring, pleading with, urging, and what seemed like begging the believers at Rome to “offer their bodies as a living sacrifice”.  We discussed how Jesus Christ is the ultimate sacrifice for all humanity and that we should bring our entire life, all of who we are, our entire bodies as a living, breathing, thinking, sacrifice in service to Jesus Christ. 

We also talked about the different translations of the end of verse one.  The King James Version ends verse one saying “this is your reasonable service”.  The New Revised Standard Version says “this is your spiritual worship” and the New International Version translates it as “your true and proper worship”.  The idea is the same in either translation; we are expected to offer our complete selves holy to God. 

We discussed how verse two tells us to not emulate or conform to the world but rather be transformed or changed and how it is this transformation that is the new life in Christ.  We are transformed by the renewing of our minds.  We discussed how verse three is a gentle reminder and warning not to boast.  This was not doubt wise advice for both the Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians coming from different cultures, customs, and practices who needed to work together. 

We also listed the six spiritual gifts that Paul mentions in verses six through eight.  Those are gifts are prophecy, ministry, teaching, exhortation, leading, and mercy.  Those various gifts are given to each of us by grace.  Paul mentions other spiritual gifts in I Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4.

This week’s lesson is the first lesson of the Summer quarter.  The theme for this week and this quarter will focus on ideas surrounding covenant.  In particular we will try to understand how the New Covenant came to be, how Jesus is the embodiment of the New Covenant and what that means in our day to day living.  Standard Lesson Commentary, Townsend and Boyd’s Commentary all title this week’s lesson Jesus Institutes The New Covenant.  The scripture text comes from Mark 14:17-24, and Hebrews 8:6-7, 10-12.

What Takes Place in These Passages: 

Mark 14:17 begins with Jesus and the twelve disciples gathered together for the evening Passover meal.  As they eat the Passover meal Jesus tells his disciples one of them will betray him.  They all knew betrayal would mean a cruel and painful death.  They also knew that betrayal would likely put them in danger as well.  Can you imagine sitting at the dinner table with friends and someone says one of you will have me killed?  Just knowing that someone close to you is capable of this kind of betrayal is astonishing.    

Distressed, upset, and sorrowful the disciples take turns asking “is it I”.  Jesus explains “it is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the bowl with me”.  The NISB notes that “Dipping bread into the bowl emphasizes the bond of hospitality and intimacy that is about to be broken by betrayal”. 

In verses twenty-two through twenty-four Jesus institutes the Lord’s Supper otherwise known as Holy Communion.  Note especially verse twenty-four.  “He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many”.  Here Jesus mentions the covenant that is the basis for the new and better covenant Hebrews mentions. 

Hebrews 8:6 begins by explaining that Jesus is the mediator of a better covenant with better promises.  Note that verse seven explains if the first covenant had been faultless, there would be no need to look for a second one.  No one could keep all the rules and regulations of the Old Testament.  But more importantly, this new covenant would replace the practice of animal sacrifices.  Jesus was the one sacrifice for all eternity to absolve or release humanity of the consequences of sin and separation from God.      

Context:

Jesus institutes the New Covenant.  When I think about the New Covenant I am also reminded of new life in Christ.  “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. (II Cor. 5:17).  We have taken off the old and put on the new.  The old ways, the old habits, the old routines that created problems, caused sin, and produced confusion in our lives should be put to rest.  We have a new covenant, a new agreement, a new testament that is created in Jesus Christ.  This new covenant is based on righteousness, but its Christ’s righteousness, not ours.  We live in an age of grace and it is that grace that finds us in the newness of Christ’s covenant. 

Key Characters in the text:

Jesus Christ – Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah and according to the Christian church the incarnate second Person of the Trinity.  He was crucified on a cross and was raised from the dead by the power of God.   

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

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

Covenant of grace – The relationship into which God entered to provide, by grace, the promise of salvation to sinful humanity.  It extends throughout the Old Testament by means of various covenants to its final fulfillment in Jesus Christ.    

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

Passover Meal – The commemorative Jewish meal recalling the deliverance of the nation of Israel from slavery in Egypt through the exodus event. 

Lord’s Supper – The sacrament of Communion, or the Eucharist. (Baptist believers use the term ordinance, not sacrament)  It celebrates the death of Christ, his presence with the church, and his future kingdom (reign).  It was instituted by Jesus (I Cor. 11:23-26) at the Last Supper, the last meal which Jesus shared with his disciples before his crucifixion.  

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas: 

  1. A better way
  2. A new agreement.  (Compare and contrast agreement with contract, bond, indenture, testament, etc.)

Questions

1.  What does it mean when Hebrews 8:7 says “For if the first covenant had been faultless”?  Does this mean there was an error in the Old Testament?

2.  There are several covenants throughout Scripture.  Jesus established the New Covenant.  Does that mean we are bound by the old covenants? 

Concluding thought:

Jesus institutes the New Covenant.  The old covenant required the shedding of blood from animals for the remission of sins.  This New Covenant is established by the sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary’s cross.  His sacrifice was once and for all humanity because Jesus lived a sinless life. 

It’s now up to us.  We will never be sinless, but that should be the goal we strive for.  Jesus has established the new covenant and that agreement requires each of us to follow the teachings and example of Jesus.  

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:

Next week we continue in the Gospel according to Mark.  The aim of next week is to show us how Jesus Seals the New Covenant.  As the Nation of Israel rejects Jesus he is turned over to Pontius Pilate for crucifixion.  We will look at what it means to be in relationship with one another, Jesus Christ, and God.  These relationships are made possible by the unselfish sacrifice of Jesus Christ on Calvary.