Christianity, religion, Sunday School, Sunday School Lesson

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

A Heart Filled With Gratitude / David’s Gratitude

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

Gratitude

Psalm

Background: 

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

“The concern for continuity with the past.”

“A concern for “all Israel.””

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

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

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

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

Some important words to consider from this text include:

Gratitude

Psalm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Takes Place in This Passage: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Context:

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

Key Characters in the text:

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

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

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

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

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas: 

1.  A great God deserves a great praise.      

Question: 

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

Concluding Thought:

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

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:

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

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Christianity, religion, Sunday School Lesson

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

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

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

Corruption

Remember

Background: 

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

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

Corruption

Remember

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Takes Place in This Passage: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Context:

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

Key Characters in the text:

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

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

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

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

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas: 

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

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

Question: 

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

Concluding Thought:

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

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:

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

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

Live Holy Lives / Faith That is Focused

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

Holy

Truth

Background: 

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

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

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

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

Holy

Truth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Takes Place in This Passage: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Context:

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

Key Characters in the text:

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

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

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

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

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas: 

1.  Enduring the hardship for the prize. 

2.  Being holy in an unholy land.             

Question: 

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

Concluding Thought:

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

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:

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

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Box 150032

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

Examples of The Faith / Faith That Sets An Example

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

Gospel

Election

Background 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gospel

Election

Review of Last Week and How it connects to this week  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Takes Place in This Passage: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Context:

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

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

Key Characters in the text:

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

Key Words: 

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

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

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas: 

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

Questions: 

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

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

Concluding Thought:

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

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:

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

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Box 150032

Atlanta, GA  30315

Christianity, religion, Sunday School Lesson

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

Blessed For Faithfulness / Active Faith

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

Miracle

Faithfulness

Background 

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

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

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

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

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

Miracle

Faithfulness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Takes Place in This Passage: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Context:

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

Key Characters in the text:

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

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

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

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

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

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas

1.  Faithfulness for the hopeless. 

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

Questions

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

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

Concluding Thought

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

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson

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

Christianity, religion, Sunday School, Sunday School Lesson

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

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

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

Decalogue

Covenant

Faithfulness

Background 

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

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

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

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

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

Some important words to consider from this text include:

Decalogue

Covenant

Faithfulness

Review of Last Week and How it Connects to This Week  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Takes Place in This Passage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Context

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

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

Key Characters in the text:

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

Key Words

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

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

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

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas: 

1.  Faithful until the end (Moses). 

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

Questions: 

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

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

Concluding Thought:

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

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:

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

Christianity, religion, Sunday School, Sunday School Lesson

Sunday School Lesson (September 29, 2019) Faithful in Consequences /God Forgives Numbers 14:10b-20

Faithful in Consequences / God Forgives Numbers 14:10-20

Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com.  Listen, you need to get yourself a Moses on your side.  This week’s lesson is titled “Faithful In Consequences” and “God Forgives”.  I show in this week’s lesson how Moses goes to bat for these unfaithful, rebellious, stiff-necked people.  God is fed up and angry.  Time after time they have refused to believe God.  Even after God has taken significant measures, created ways out of no ways, and miraculously delivered, provided for, and protected these people, they still won’t believe God.  God is angry, God is fed up. And God is ready to destroy the chosen people of Israel. 

But Moses pleads the case for the Israelites.  Like a skillful lawyer, Moses recounts for God the words God told him in Exodus and reminds God of the love, mercy and grace that God is known for.  Moses reminds God that the Egyptians will say God destroyed them because God couldn’t deliver them into the land of Canaan.  God was ready to destroy the Israelites but after Moses pleads the case God changes God’s mind.  Instead of destruction God chooses forgiveness.  You need to get a Moses on your side. 

This week’s lesson picks up exactly where last week ended.  The spies have returned from their forty day reconnaissance.  They all report that the land flows with milk and honey but only Joshua and Caleb say to invade the land immediately.  The other ten spies say that yes, the land flows with milk and honey but there are giants that live in the land.  In their bad report they say that they are mere grasshoppers in the sight of these giants.  They exaggerate saying that even the land itself swallows up its inhabitants.  They could see everything God had already done for them.  They could see how bountiful the land was.  But they could not see what God could do through them.  As we continue in the theme of responding to God’s faithfulness, this week I focus on faithful Moses advocating for an unfaithful Israel.  Some of the ideas surrounding this week’s text include the terms: 

Advocate

Fidelity

Background: 

Numbers deals with the Israelites wandering in the desert for forty years.  Moses is credited as its author.  The structure of Numbers revolves around two censuses taken to number the nation in preparation for invasion of the land of Canaan.  The first census was taken in chapter one and the second in chapter 26.  The first census numbered over 600,000 men.  This did not include women and children.  Nelson’s Bible Handbook explains “if this is correct the Israelite population would have been more than two million people”.  Historians note that this would have been an unusually high population for a nation state.  Nelson’s also notes “one possible explanation is that the word translated thousands in English could have meant something like units, tents, or clans in the Hebrew language.  If so, a much smaller number was in mind”.

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.  These chapters narrate the theme of judgement and death for an old generation and birth and hope of a new generation of God’s people”.  In these two chapters we learn why the old generation lost the Promised Land and the new generation would receive it.  The old generation is beginning to show a pattern.  Time after time, the generation that came out of Egypt fails to trust God.  Because they fail to trust God, God eventually gets fed up of their rebellion and faithlessness. 

In this fourteenth chapter we see the importance of an advocate.  It was Moses who spoke on behalf of the Israelites.  God was fed up with God’s own people.  But because of the advocacy of Moses, instead of destroying these rebellious Israelites God forgives them.  This chapter opens with the congregation weeping aloud and complaining against Moses and Aaron.  Once again, they cry out in despair wishing that they had died back in the land of their captivity.  These are a people who still have not learned that God is their provider, that God is their deliverer, and that God is their protector.   With their faithlessness we see in this chapter how the Israelites reject God, how God decides to destroy the Israelites, how Moses changes God’s mind and how God ultimately forgives the Israelite nation.  Some important words to consider from this text include:

Advocate

Fidelity

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

Last week’s lesson opened at chapter thirteen verses one and two with the LORD speaking to Moses.  I noted that the LORD instructs Moses to send men into the land of Canaan.  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 sent the 12 spies into Canaan to explore the land and determine its suitability for conquest.

At verse twenty-five I noted that the spies have returned from their 40 day reconnaissance and how the number forty is used quite often in the Bible.  I also noted that we should not ascribe any more meaning to numbers than necessary.  We risk playing with occult numerology when giving more meaning to numbers than needed.  Some occult practices include numerology, astrology, witchcraft, tarot cards and others.

In verse twenty-six the spies assembled at Kadesh in the Desert of Paran to report their findings to Moses, Aaron, and the whole assembly. 

In verse 27 the spies revealed that the land flowed with milk and honey.  Not only did they tell of the goodness of the land but they brought 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 were powerful and the cities were fortified and very large.  I noted that the first census reported over 600,000 men.  Historians record 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 as 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 wept because they 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 fell on their face before all of the assembly.  They realized what the Israelites were doing.  They realized 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 not to fear the people of the land.  Instead of heeding the warning of Joshua and Caleb, the whole congregation threatened to stone them.  The lesson this week is entitled “Faithful in Consequences” and “God Forgives”.  The scripture text comes from Numbers 14:10b-20. 

What Takes Place in This Passage: 

This week’s lesson opens where last week’s lesson closed.  Last week the Israelites rejected God’s plan to take the land of Canaan.  They complained against Moses and Aaron and wished to have died, back in the land of captivity.  Joshua and Caleb tore their clothes and reiterated how good the land was and that God would bless them if God is please with them.  Verse 10a says “But the whole congregation threatened to stone them”. 

Our lesson picks up at verse 10b.  Then the glory of the LORD appeared at the tent of meeting to all the Israelites.  The Glory of God is defined as “the divine essence of God as absolutely resplendent and ultimately great”.  In other words, God is manifested at the tabernacle or the tent of meeting in a way that all the Israelites recognize as God.  If all of the Israelites could see this manifestation of God, it seems to me that would be enough to repent and turn to God in faithful obedience.

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

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

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

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

In verses fifteen and sixteen Moses presses his point to God.  He tells God “if you kill this people all at once the nations who have heard about you will say it’s because the LORD was not able to bring this people into the land he swore to give them”.  Not only that but the reason God killed them was because God could not deliver them into the land.  Moses is playing hard-ball with God.  He pulls no punches.  Moses is going to defend these Israelites with everything at his disposal.  You need to get somebody like Moses on your side.  Moses goes to bat for these unfaithful, rebellious, stiff-necked people with all of their faults and all of their failures. 

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

In verses nineteen and twenty Moses asks God to forgive the iniquity of the Israelites because of the greatness of God’s love.  After hearing this passionate plea from Moses God relents.  God changes God’s mind and said “I do forgive, just as you have asked”.  It was this passionate plea that changes God’s mind.  Where God was ready to completely wipe out this nation, God is now ready to forgive only because Moses pleaded on their behalf.  Wouldn’t it be great if we all had a Moses to plead on our behalf?  The good news is that we do.  Jesus is seated at the right hand of God making intercession for us even now. 

Context:

Synonyms for “advocate” include terms like promoter, backer, proponent, campaigner, supporter, and defender among others.  Whatever you want to call it, we all need some of it in our lives.  We need people that see the best in us despite our current faults and failures.  We need people who will love us fiercely despite our not being very lovable at the moment.  Advocates understand that despite your current situation or circumstances there is a better way, there is a better system, there is a better you and that we are all made better when you are better.  Despite their rejection of God and despite the people complaining against Moses and Aaron, Moses chose to fight for a better Israelite nation.  We should do the same in our own families, communities, states and this nation.  Let’s be somebody’s Moses. 

Key Characters in the text:

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

Key Words 

Advocate – one who pleads the cause of another

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

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas: 

1.  You need to get a Moses. 

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

Questions: 

1.  Did God really change God’s mind?  Or was God seriously going to kill the entire nation of Israel?  Discuss whether it is possible for God to change God’s mind.             

2.  Moses is a fierce advocate for the Israelites.  What people or causes should we become fierce advocates for?        

Concluding Thought:

You’ve probably heard someone say “he/she is getting on my last nerve.  That’s where the people of Israel were with God.  God had had enough of their foolishness and just wasn’t going to take it anymore.  Because Moses stepped in to remind God of God’s love and mercy God forgave the nation and relented from destroying them.  Perhaps we need to be the “Moses” in someone’s life.  Moses was a great advocate but Jesus is the ultimate advocate.      

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:

Next week the lesson remains in the Pentateuch but moves to the book of Deuteronomy.  Next week I will discuss how God provided the commandments and how God expects us to follow in obedient faith.  God expects our obedience.   We continue in the theme of responses to God’s faithfulness.  Next week’s lesson is titled “Obedient Faith”.