Posts Tagged ‘bible stories for kid’

Sunday School Lessons about Sin Topic Discussion

by on Thursday, April 15, 2010 6:21 under Sunday School.

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1. Jesus said, “For ye have the poor always with you” (Matthew 26:11). What are some proper and improper ways to react to this verse?

We may see the poor as lazy and apathetic. Sometimes that is true (compare 2 Thessalonians3:10), but often it is not true. In reality, it may be that we have become lazy and apathetic in carrying out the teachings of Scripture concerning ministry to the poor!

We make a mistake when we use Matthew 26:11 to justify that there is no use bothering to minister to the poor since there’s so many of them. That interpretation violates James 5:27. Some have neglected to minister to the poor because they think that the poor deserve what they are getting. We fear also that someone who presents himself as poor is conning us, and we don’t want to be taken advantage of. Therefore, we allow fear to restrict us from taking care of some who may have real needs.

2. Why do you find it difficult at times to hate the evil and love the good? How do you overcome this difficulty?

The issue may have to do with what is ingrained in our nature. As prince of this world, Satan deludes our minds. Our eyes see the pleasures of the world, and this tends to override the greater spiritual reality that is unseen. At times that which is evil seems to provide the most pleasure, so we follow our feelings instead of the principles of God’s Word. We try to stand for that which is morally right, but the tide of evil against us makes us think, “What’s the use?” Thus godly, countercultural behavior often seems to fail us.

3. If God were to come walking through the garden of your life or your church life, in what areas would He find you lamenting your state of affairs? What would you confess to Him? How do you think He would respond?

Often we get our priorities out of order. Instead of seeking the kingdom of God first (Matthew 6:33), we pursue those things that give us the greatest pleasure or meet our “felt needs.” In the church we can be so focused on attaining numbers that we fail to make true, spiritually deep disciples.

The use of money on wrong priorities, both individually and as a church, can be an area where we may be convicted if God were to come into our midst. The important thing to remember, though, is that God is continually walking among us, and the conviction of sin is to be a continual part of our lives.

4. In what ways do our twenty-first century offerings and assemblies please and displease God? How can we do better?

Sometimes we are guilty of bringing to God gifts that are more of a legalistic act than a love offering. We can also be very rigid in the conduct of our worship assemblies, while failing to express love to those gathered. We may present our offerings or gather for our worship for the purpose of trying to gain favor with God rather than trying to glorify God. Also, our worship and giving may be done simply to absolve our conscience rather than to advance the kingdom’s. When this is the attitude, we have failed to realize the true purpose of our giving and our assembling. God is not pleased as a result.

Here’s a very practical idea for making your Sunday morning worship more meaningful to both God and you: make sure you get enough sleep the night before. To stay up “all hours” on Saturday night only to drag your sleepy self to worship on Sunday morning is quite pointless!

5. How will your songs offer worship that is acceptable to God?

Churches continue to experience battles over music styles, volume, and the use of various kinds of instruments. The problem with these “worship wars” is that they begin at the wrong starting point.

Worship that is acceptable to God does not start with the outer aspects of the worship but with the heart of the worshiper. Worship music that is acceptable to God comes from a heart that is dedicated to God and to accomplishing His will. It is music that focuses on glorifying and honoring God. It is also music that is for edification as we teach and admonish “one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Colossians 3:16)

Sunday School Lessons about Sin Activity

by on Thursday, April 15, 2010 6:16 under Sunday School.

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Into the Lesson

Prepare and post three bold and garish signs that say “BEWARE!” one of the signs should be at the entrance to your learning space. When students voice some interest or concern, explain that the lesson writer outlines today’s study with three bewares. Encourage the adults to figure out the three dangers for which they are to be on the alert. (You will be returning to these words of warning in the Into Life section of today’s study). Have also a “NO MINORS ALLOWED!” sign near your room’s entrance. After the  beware introduction, point the class’s attention to the other sign to introduce the Minor Prophets, books from which most of this quarter’s texts are drawn. Be certain the learners know in what way these Old Testament books are “minor” and what ways they are not. The lesson writer has an explanatory note in the Lesson Background.

Into the Word

List the following phrases and ideas on separate sheets of paper, perhaps as cartoon dialogue balloons:

Hate the message? Kill the messenger!

You cannot have your cake and eat it too!

Under the table, and out the door.

A time to speak.

What are you looking for?

It’s a love-hate relationship.

Crocodile Tears.

Passing Through.

Some wanted things are not desirable.

It couldn’t get any worse, could it?

Dark? How dark was it?

A holding-the-nose stench.

Is a gift truly given if it is not accepted?

Some music is nothing more than noise.

No muddy water here

These phrases are designed to summarize a truth of each verse of today’s text, from verse 10

(“Hate the message … “) to verse 24 (No muddy waters”), respectively.

You may choose to display all the above statements at once (in random order), or you may shuffle them and display them one at a time. Say, “Look at Amos 5:10-24 and decide to which verse each of these ideas best relates.” If students see a relationship to a verse other than the one intended, ask for an explanation.

To help your students see the sins that brought God’s words of wrath and condemnation, identify these items as drawn from the lesson writer’s outline: the social sins of Israel (vv.10-15), bad doctrine regarding the Day of the Lord (vv. 16-20), and spiritual sins (vv. 21-24).Ask the class, “What are these sins?”

For social sins, expect such responses as rejection of truth, hatred, oppression of the poor, self-centeredness, sensuality, prejudice, and cowardly silence. For bad doctrine regarding the Day of the Lord, expect responses such as: expecting God to overlook sins because the Israelites were “His people”, or believing that everything was going to be all right when the Lord comes, even though their sins were blatant and persistent. For spiritual sins, expect such responses as: ritualism, substituting for true worship, hypocritical songs, and unrighteousness.

Into Life

From an office supply store, buy sheets of stick-on lettering for the letter B. Give each student one or more of the letters; tell them that it is their B-wear!

As you stick one to your own lapel, suggest they “wear their Bs” to heighten their sensitivity to “Beware!” of the three elements highlighted in today’s study: social sins, doctrine about the Day of the Lord, and spiritual sins. A short discussion of how these dangers are seen in personal lives and society will enhance the value of the letters as they are worn.

Read the Golden Text in unison with the class. After the recitation, ask, “How well are we doing in letting that happen in our community?” Following the responses, ask, “What can we do as a class and individually to enhance the free flow of justice?” Make the list and then ask, “What steps can we take to make these happen?” Create an action plan from this list.

Sunday School Lessons about Sin

by on Thursday, April 15, 2010 6:14 under Sunday School.

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Introduction

A. The Price of Telling the Truth

Have you ever had to tell someone an unpleasant truth? Have you ever paid a price for telling the truth? Amos, the prophet who delivered the message of today’s lesson text, was a truth teller. He paid the price of ridicule, even direct repudiation (Amos 7:12, 13).

Telling the truth was dangerous in Amos’s world. Even today, a person with a message like Amos’s might be dismissed or killed. Yet what the world needs today are more people like Amos, willing to stand up for the truth when it is inconvenient or even dangerous.

Amos is often ignored in the contemporary church. This might be understandable if we had solved all the problems Amos talked about, but we haven’t. Maybe we ignore Amos today for the same reason people ignored him in his own time, he hit too close to home.

B. Lesson Background

Amos is one of what are often called the Minor Prophets. These prophets are not called minor because their books are insignificant. They are called minor because the books are relatively short. The Minor Prophets are collected in a group of 12 books that could be contained on a normal sized scroll. Amos is third on the list. Amos prophesied around 760 BC. He prophesied to the northern kingdom of Israel, about 38years before it fell to Assyrian invaders. During the time of Amos’s preaching, Jeroboam II was king in that northern kingdom while Uzziah was king in the southern kingdom of Judah (Amos1:1). It appears that Amos prophesied around the same time as Hosea and Zechariah, perhaps a little before Isaiah and Micah. Those desiring to know more about those times should study 2 Kings 14:23-15:7 and 2 Chronicles 26.

Amos is, in certain respects, a rather unusual choice to deliver prophecy. First, Amos himself confessed that he was not a trained prophet, nor was he related to any prophet (Amos 7:14). In some places in the ancient world, there were schools for prophets, where groups of men studied under a prophet. Other places had a notion of succession; they believed that children of those who prophesied might well be prophets themselves. Amos had neither of these credentials. He was a simple farmer and shepherd. Yet God had written on Amos’s heart a message he could not suppress (Amos 7:15).

Second, Amos was from Tekoa, a small town about 20 miles south of Jerusalem (Amos 1:1, compare 2 Chronicles 11:6). That makes him a Judean, yet he was called to go northward from Judah to Israel. There was friction between the two nations, and the northern kingdom was quite resistant to a prophet from the south calling them to account (Amos 7:10-13). Yet God gave Amos a burden. Thus Amos had to speak up.

To the casual observer, it seemed that things in Israel were going quite well at the time. It was a time of general prosperity, and many had become quite wealthy. But Amos looked beneath the veneer and saw great social and religious corruption. The real picture was one of decadence (Amos 2:8; 4:1; 6:1-6), immorality (2:7), and worst of all idolatry (8:14).

In chapters 1 and 2, Amos indicts eight regions for their sins. These areas are Damascus, Gaza, Tyre, Edom, Ammon, Moab. Judah, and Israel. At the end of the book, chapters 7-9 relate certain visions that Amos received. They contain images of grasshoppers, fire, a plumb line, fruit, and God and the altar. All of these visions relate to Israel’s judgment.

In the middle of the book, chapters 3-6 appear to contain three sermons. Scholars have different methods by which to distinguish the three. One common method separates the sermons by the phrases “hear this word” and “hear ye this word” in Amos 3:1; 4:1; and 5:1. So the first sermon is chapter 3; it deals with the sinful affairs in Israel. The second sermon is chapter 4; it speaks of Israel’s past, sinful conduct. The third sermon is chapter 5; it warns of Israel’s punishment if they do not change.

Today’s lesson comes from this third sermon. This entire section of Amos 5:1-17 is also called a lament (see v. 1). The tone of the sermon in chapter 5 is set in verse 5. There Amos warned the people not to go to Bethel. Bethel was historic; it was the place where Jacob saw the vision of angels (Genesis 28:10-22). Nevertheless, Amos did not want the Israelites to go there because of corrupted worship in that place. People had turned Bethel into a substitute for Jerusalem. The worship in Bethel was blatantly idolatrous. This fact leads Amos to condemn Bethel, Gilgal, and Beersheba as a group. Amos looks for evidence of genuine worship in these places and finds none (compare Hosea 4:15; Amos 8:14).This condemnation continues through Amos 5:6.In verse 7 the concern switches from one of false religion to one of false justice. With the tone of the sermon now set, we break in at Amos 5:10.

I. Beware of Social Sins (Amos 5:10-15)

A. Indictment (vv. 10, 11)

10.        They hate him that rebuketh in the gate, and they abhor him that speaketh uprightly.

We catch Amos in the middle of a strong indictment against the behavior of God’s people. This verse deals with a court situation because legal proceedings are held at the city gate. That is where many business and legal transactions take place. It is where the city elders meet (examples: Deuteronomy 21:18-21; Ruth 4:1-11).

Him that rebuketh is someone in authority who renders verdicts. Amos thus charges his listeners with being completely uninterested in justice and truth. In modern terminology we could say that people don’t want honest judges or witnesses (compare Proverbs 24:23-25; Isaiah 29:21).

11.        For as much therefore as your treading is upon the poor, and ye take from him burdens of wheat: ye have built houses of hewn stone, but ye shall not dwell in them; ye have planted pleasant vineyards, but ye shall not drink wine of them.

The rich have robbed tire poor of their livelihood. Tying in with verse 10, the picture is of the rich abusing the court system to steal grain from the poor. There will be punishment! Though the rich may build fine houses, one day they will stand empty. Though the rich may plant vineyards, one day they will stand unpicked. The ancient curse of Deuteronomy 28:30 is about to be fulfilled!  See question #1 page 350.

B. Warning (vv. 12, 13)

12.        For I know your manifold transgressions and your mighty sins: they afflict the just, they take a bribe, and they turn aside the poor in the gate from their right.

God’s anger is justified because the people have committed such injustice. One of the mighty sins is the rich giving bribes to those who pass judgment. Thus the rich use the court system to deprive the poor of their livelihood. If the legal system is corrupted so that those who can afford a bribe can get the outcome they want, then there is no hope for the poor. Denial of justice is specifically forbidden in the covenant (Exodus 23:1-8; Deuteronomy 16:18-20). The penalty for such denial is severe (see Isaiah 10:1-4; 29:20, 21).

TAKING A BRIBE

In the 1980s a major American city was hit by Operation Greylord, an effort to expose corruption among public officials. The facts disclosed were awesome and frightening. Corrupt lawyers conspired to request bribe money from their clients to pay off cooperative judges. In the corridors of the court building, courtroom personnel often bickered over the split of the bribes that were flowing into the judge’s chambers.

A young state’s attorney took $50 from misdemeanor defendants on the “understanding” that they would not be prosecuted vigorously. A secret FBI recording caught one judge requesting help from city politicians to get a different assignment, promising to help support the proposed political slate of new judges. One judge accepted $10,000 to acquit a man accused of assassinating a labor union official. Another judge was accused of “fixing” at least three murder trials. His payoffs were $4,000, $10,000, and $100,000.

By the time the investigation ended, ninety-two individuals were indicted. They consisted of seventeen judges, forty-eight lawyers, eight policemen, ten deputy sheriffs, eight court officials, and one member of the state legislature.

Amos would not have been surprised by such revelations. Even in his time, officials afflicted the just, accepted bribes, and denied the poor their rights. Amos calls these “manifold transgressions” and “mighty sins.” What do we call them?

13.        Therefore the prudent shall keep silence in that time; for it is an evil time.

This seems to be a strange verse at first glance. Aren’t we supposed to speak up when we see injustice and not keep silence? Amos is merely describing the situation as it exists at the time as he observes it. He is not recommending that people stay quiet, he himself certainly hasn’t! He is illustrating that things have become so corrupt that even sensible people are afraid to speak the truth. Things have become so bad that prudent people just keep quiet. They don’t want to make trouble for themselves. They live in a society that does not reward tellers of truth, it punishes them.

C. Plea (vv. 14, 15)

14.        Seek good, and not evil, that ye may live: and so the LORD, the God of hosts, shall be with you, as ye have spoken.

The people think that God is with them, but Amos points out that God is with them only if they decide to pursue good. Often in the Old Testament we see variations of the expression the Lord, the God of hosts, but we forget the impact. This host is an army, a heavenly army. God is its commander (1 Samuel 1:3, 11; Isaiah 37:16). Those who pervert justice have a powerful enemy!

15.        Hate the evil, and love the good, and establish judgment in the gate: it may be that the Lord God of hosts will be gracious unto the remnant of Joseph.

Not only are the people to pursue the good, they also are to hate the evil (compare Romans12:9). This suggests that the commitment to righteousness, while involving the behavior of the people, finds its source ultimately in the heart.The phrase remnant of Joseph hearkens back to Amos 5:6, which has “house of Joseph.”Joseph was father to Ephraim and Manasseh, after whom two of the twelve tribes are named (Joshua14:4). The dire predictions against the house of Joseph in verse 6 are balanced against a promise of hope. It’s not too late to repent!

II. Beware the Day of the Lord(Amos 5:16-20)

A. There Will Be Weeping (vv. 16, 17)

16.        Therefore the Lord, the God of hosts, the Lord, saith thus; Wailing shall be in all streets; and they shall say in all the highways, Alas! Alas! And they shall call the husbandman to mourning, and such as are skilful of lamentation to wailing.

Amos paints a word picture of a nation that will be in total despair. There will be wailing in the city streets as well as on the country roads. Everyone will cry out, from the city dweller to the simple farmer to the professional mourner (one who is skilful of fomentation to wailing).

17.        And in all vineyards shall be wailing: for I will pass through thee, saith the Lord.

What makes the judgment all the more poignant is that the wailing will take place as God walks through their midst. Levitictis 26:6 speaks of what happens when people obey the Lord, it is a time when “neither shall the sword go through your land.” The case before us is just the opposite (Hosea 2:11). God now hates what the people have done in those days. God hates the very things the people think are pleasing to God. The people have made a mockery of God’s holy days.

22.        Though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them; neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts.

The opening chapters of Leviticus established various kinds of offerings. God himself is the author of what those offerings are to be and what they are to represent. Yet Amos says that these offerings have become completely unacceptable to God. God has not “canceled” the offerings in and of themselves in Amos’s day. Rather, it is improper motives and unholy lives of the people who offer false acts of worship that disgust God.

B. Insincere Songs (v. 23)

23.        Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols.

Music is a vital part of Old Testament worship (Ezra 2:65; Psalm 150; etcetera.). Usually God delights in our music of praise but not if offered insincerely. Songs of praise that don’t match holiness in one’s life are so displeasing to the Lord that He demands they be removed from His presence. Many churches are struggling these days over styles of worship and music. While that concern is understandable, a greater concern should be the kind of person the music comes from rather than the kind of music that comes from the person.

C. Blessed Behavior (v. 24)

24.        But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.

This may well be the most familiar verse in the book of Amos. The great civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. quoted it. The verse describes what God wants: justice and righteousness to permeate the land like a mighty stream bringing life-giving water to the people. Justice (judgment) most flow continually—day and night. Justice cannot be an intermittent, three times out of four, proposition.

Conclusion

A.         Speak Up or Stay Silent?

Amos was not a professional prophet, he was not even a citizen of the northern kingdom of Israel. He might well have contented himself with pruning the fruit trees and watching sheep, but he could not keep silent. He chose to tell the people the truth, an unpopular truth at that.

The people’s complacency was exactly why they needed a prophet like Amos. Gary Smith says that Amos’s challenge was much like a doctor telling a patient he has a terminal disease. Sometimes people get angry with the messenger. Instead of being angry with the messenger, they need to take the cure. Amos did not just diagnose, he also prescribed. The problem is that the people did not want the prescription.

Amos drew a lot of attention when he came north. His activities were reported to the king himself (Amos 7:10-12). By coming north and condemning the worship in Bethel, he was coming to the center of idolatrous religion in the northern kingdom. Amos caught the ire of the lead priest at Bethel, who told Amos to go home and prophecy to his own people if he was determined to preach (Amos 7:12, 13).

We know that Amos’s prophecy was true, for history reveals Amos was right. We don’t know if Amos remained a prophet for the rest of his life or if he went back to farming. One thing is sure: his message has not been forgotten. Or has it?

B. Prayer

Dear Father, help me to be concerned about the things that concern You. Help me to live in away that reflects my commitment to You. In my worship let not my rituals be isolated from my behavior and my devotion of the heart, in the name of Jesus, amen.

C. Thought to Remember

Repentance, not ritual. Commitment, not complacency.

Sunday School Lesson on Trust God Topic Discussion

by on Thursday, April 15, 2010 6:12 under Sunday School.

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1. Name some individuals in your life who brought you the Word of God even though they seemed to have been working behind the scenes. In what ways are you doing the same for someone else?

The identities of Elasah and Gemariah would not be known to us if they had not undertaken the task of taking Jeremiah’s letter to the captives in Babylon. The message was a blessing to all who heard it. Ask the class to share stories about individuals who have been a special inspiration and blessing because they brought God’s Word. Next, ask the class to mention the names of those they are blessing through the Word. Discuss ways class members can take the good news of Jesus to many more. Talk about specific methods that can be used (examples: helping a neighbor to take care of an elderly person, or babysitting for a non Christian single mom).

2. What steps do you need to take so you can adjust your purposes to God’s purposes in your current situation?

Personal expectations of “the way things should be” can cause us to miss some of the blessings that God has in store for us while we’re in the middle of very uncomfortable situations. The exiled people wanted to return to their homeland. But God said they could be blessed if they would settle down in the new place and live their lives as if they were back in Judah. God is very capable of bringing blessings to us wherever we are.

One specific step to take is to choose to focus on God rather than the problem or the person that is causing you difficulty. Maintain this focus by regular prayer and devotions. Scripture that deals with the power and sovereignty of God can be particularly helpful.

3. How can your church help fortify Christians so they can discern between God’s message and the messages of false teachers?

Christians can be warned that people have a tendency to seek out the messengers who will tell them what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear (2 Timothy 4:1-4). The challenge of every congregation is to communicate the entirety of God’s Word clearly, no matter how uncomfortable that may be.

Beyond that, Christians can be taught ways to study the Scriptures productively. If we could narrow down Bible study principles to a single, most important idea, that idea would be context. Much doctrinal error springs from failing to pay attention to immediate and larger contexts. Learning to discern the characteristics of false teachers is also important. Such folk may insist that they are the only correct teachers, requiring listeners to accept only their words. They will resist examining what other Christians have taught through the centuries, and they will be good at playing to the whims of the audience (compare Matthew 7:15: 3 John 9. 10; Jude 4, 12).

4. How do you encourage those who have lost trust in God because God did not respond in the way they expected?

One way to dislodge conclusions reached while playing the blame game (“This is all God’s fault”) is to ask the person how he or she arrived at those conclusions. Hearing their own reasoning bounce off the wall and come back into their thinking can cause some people to question their own conclusions.

Asking the person to list all the possible ways and times that God could use to bless them is another way to disrupt this all-or-nothing thinking. Sharing the focus of today’s text may help them see that God may bless them in a much larger context than simply providing a short-term answer for them.

5. How can the account of God’s actions with Judah serve as a model for parents as they deal with the misbehavior of their children?

There should be clear communication about expectations and the consequences if those expectations are not met. When punishment begins, there must be an indication of the ending time of the punishment. This picture should include a description of what a full restoration of privileges will look like. The possibility of a fully restored fellowship with the parent is vital. The goal of child rearing is to raise a responsible, Christian adult. This “long view” is crucial.

Sunday School Lesson on Trust God Activity

by on Thursday, April 15, 2010 6:09 under Sunday School.

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Into the Lesson

As your students arrive, give each one a copy of the following exercise (it is also printed in the student book). Ask your students to read the quotations and write either agree or disagree in response to each:

I.          “A mind troubled by doubt cannot focus on the course to victory.” (Arthur Golden).

2.         “He who despairs over an event is a coward, but he who holds hope for the human condition is a fool.” (Albert Camus).

3.         “Worries go down better with soup than without”. (Jewish proverb).

4.         “If you can solve your problem, then what is the need of worrying? If you cannot solve it, then what is the use of worrying?” (Shantideva).

5.         “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” (Helen Keller).

6.         “Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.” (M. Kathleen Casey).

7.         “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” (Henry David Thoreau).

Discuss your students’ answers. Then tell your class that today’s lesson will draw a clear, scriptural contrast between the daily desperation that many people endure and the hope and assurance that God intends for His people to enjoy.

Into the Word

Introduce this section with a brief lecture on the ministry of Jeremiah, using both the Lesson Background and the lesson commentary. Make sure you mention that although Jeremiah prophesied doom and destruction for Judah, he also foretold the reestablishment of the Jewish nation from the remnant that would survive.

Next, divide your class into pairs. Each pair will study Jeremiah 29:1-14 and create an outline of the passage, placing the phrases below into their proper location in the outline grid. (If you do not use the student books, you will need to reproduce both the grid and phrases.)

I.          (29:1-3)

A.         (vv. 1, 2)

B.         (v. 3)

II.          (29:4-9)

A.         (vv. 4-6)

B.         (v. 7)

C.         (vv. 8, 9)

III.         (29:10-14)

A.         (v. 10)

B.         (v. 11)

C.         (v. 12-14a)

D.         (v. 14b)

Phrases: Build Lives While Waiting; Communication in Captivity; Judah Is Not Forgotten; Judah is Uprooted; Promise of Accessibility; Promise of Prosperity; Promise of Restoration; Promise of Return; Promised Freedom from Captivity; Reject Deception While Waiting; Seek Peace While Waiting; Waiting in Captivity.

When your students have finished their outlining, ask for volunteers to share answers. Write each line on the board as it is completed. Use the text to resolve disagreements.

Into Life

Ask your pairs from the previous exercise to outline a letter that a modern Jeremiah could write to people of our society. Each outline should include the following elements: a listing of and denunciation of the sins prevalent in modern society (see 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Galatians 5:19-21); a warning of judgment from God because of those sins (Matthew 24:36-51; 2 Peter3:3-13; Revelation 20:7-15); an offer of salvation (Acts 2:36-40; 3:17-26); and a promise of restoration to those who are faithful to God (Hebrews10:23-31; Revelation 22:12-17).

When the pairs have completed their work, have each share the results. Challenge your students to identify privately any sins that are a continuing problem in their lives. Remind each one that he or she needs to confess those sins to God (1 John 1:7-2:2). Close with prayer for your society’s repentance and your students’ continuing commitment to Christ.

Sunday School Lesson on Temptation in the Bible Topic Discussion

by on Thursday, April 15, 2010 6:05 under Sunday School.

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1. How can admitting that sin is slavery help us in our battle against temptation?

One of Satan’s most successful strategies involves convincing God’s people that sinful practices are liberating. This was a significant part of his approach to Eve (Genesis 3).

One of the most crucial and successful techniques to resist Satan in this regard involves the willingness to call sin what Scripture calls it: bondage (compare Hebrews 2:15). No one in his or her right mind would find the thought of slavery appealing. Yet many do not acknowledge the enslaving power of particular sins until they experience it firsthand. By classifying sin accurately at the outset we allow the Holy Spirit to guard us against temptation. There is a very real sense in which “forewarned is forearmed.”

2.  What are some ways that we, like the ancient Jews, might be tempted to allow ancestry and tradition to produce an inaccurate view of our spiritual status before God? How do we guard against this?

Those who come from devoutly Christian families might be lulled into assuming that that “godly aura” guarantees a right relationship with God. Due to the impact of their upbringing, people who come from a particular Christian heritage or denomination can at times find it difficult to let the Bible speak on its own terms.

Practices such as the singing of familiar songs, gathering with familiar people, and worshiping in a familiar place can provide great security. However such spiritual rhythms can become dangerous, if they become ends in themselves rather than as means to authentic relationship with God.

3. What are some practical lessons the example of Jesus can teach us regarding how to present the exclusive claims of the gospel?

We can never compromise the gospel message by communicating that salvation can be found in any way apart from an acknowledgment and acceptance of Jesus’ person and work. We must also strive to make sure that if people take offense at the gospel message it is due to the message itself and not to our presentation of the message.

If we suffer rejection for the sake of the gospel, we need to examine if that rejection is a reaction to the gospel message or is a reaction to our own obnoxious or abrasive attitude (1 Peter 3:15, 16).The example of Jesus shows that strong and dramatic language sometimes may be necessary to help people see their spiritual condition. We caution ourselves with the realization that Jesus could see into people’s hearts, but we cannot.

4. How should you as a Christian witness to someone who fears death? How would your witness to a Christian and a non-Christian differ, or would it?

Examining your own view of death is an important first step. Our view should be that death is an enemy, but it is a defeated enemy (1 Corinthians 15:26). Next, finding out why a person fears death is important. Some fear death because it is a great unknown. Some fear death because they dread the painful and difficult ways that people sometimes die. The list goes on.

Christians are not exempt from the pain of death. Yet we know that Jesus has emerged victorious by God’s power, that’s our hope. The fear that each Christian or non-Christian goes through is unique to him or her, so a canned approach will be counterproductive. Pray!

5. In what ways can Jesus’ example help us in efforts to share the gospel with Jewish people today? What are some cautions?

We must be careful not to make blanket comparisons between modern Judaism and the Judaism of Jesus’ opponents in the text. Modern Judaism manifests itself in various streams of belief (Orthodox, Conservative, and Reformed) that are not precisely parallel to the Judaism of Jesus’ day.

Even so, Jesus is still the way, the truth, and the life. To the modem Jew we can demonstrate that Jesus is the Messiah anticipated in the Scriptures. One thing we dare not do is give the idea that a person can reject Christ, stay within Judaism, and still be saved. The missionary work and teaching of the apostle Paul dispels any such possibility (Acts 13:44-46; etc.). Doing all from love is crucial.

Sunday School Lesson on Temptation in the Bible Activity

by on Thursday, April 15, 2010 6:02 under Sunday School.

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Into the Lesson

Display the word FREEDOM in letters large enough to be read across your assembly area. Use a separate sheet of paper for each letter. Next write the following letters on seven separate sheets of paper: A, E, L, R, S, V, Y. As class begins, show these seven letters one at a time in the order given.

As you show each letter, ask. “What is a common sin that begins with this letter?” Accept group answers. (Answers could include the following: swearing and stinginess for S; lying and lasciviousness for L; adultery and avarice for A; violence and vengeance for V; envy and exclusion for E; ritualism and rebellion for R.)

As sins are identified write them on the sheet bearing the letter under discussion. Then stick each sheet over the letters in FREEDOM as follows: A over the first E; E, over D; L over M; R over O; S over F; V over the second E. When you show Y. say, “Do you see ‘Y we’re doing this? The simple answer is ‘Sin takes away our freedom and makes us slaves to evil.’ That’s the theme of today’s study and Jesus’ words in John 8:32-34.”

Into the Word

Now display a large copy of the word IF, either written to fill a poster board or cut out from two poster boards. As you display it, say, “Now There is a BIG word!” Then say, “And today’s text is filled with the word “if”.

Assign a verse from the text to each learner. Then say, “Look at your verse and write an “if”, statements based on your verse’s idea; then personalize it. Give this example, based on verse31: “If I stand fast in Jesus’ Word, then I truly am His disciple.” Allow a few minutes for consideration. Ask for responses in verse order.

Though responses for most verses are probably obvious, expect such things as the following:

Verse 32: “If I know the truth, then I will be truly free.”

Verse 34: “If I commit sin, then sin becomes my master.”

Verse 36: “If I am made free from sin by the Son of God, then I can’t be any freer.”

Verse 48: “If I think Jesus to be less than the Son of God, then why would I listen to Him or follow Him?”

Verse 50: “If I seek my own spiritual glory, then I am substituting self for God.”

Verse 52: “If there is no life after death, then I have believed a lie.”

Verse 53: “If Jesus can give me life after death, then He obviously is greater than Abraham or any of the prophets.”

Verse 54: “If I honor myself, then I am not acting as Jesus did.”

Verse 55: “If I know something and then deny its truth, then I have made myself a liar.”

Verse 56: “If I want to be like Abraham, then I will rejoice in God’s plan as He reveals ill.”

Verse 58: “If Jesus is indeed the great ‘I Am, then I must accept Him as God.”

Into Life

Call attention back to the Into the Lesson activity, which used the words freedom and slavery. Give each student a sheet of paper and ask him or her to draw seven squares. On the front of the paper students are to write the letters of the word SLAVERY, one letter per square. On the back of the paper, students are to write the word FREEDOM. Say, “Place the letters of each word in order back to back: I’ on the back of S, R on the back of L, et cetera.

Then suggest to your students that they use this paper for repentance and prayer times in the week ahead. They can use one block on each of the seven days of the upcoming week.

Give the following instructions: “On Monday tear off the block that has S on one side and I on the other. Consider a personal sin that begins with S such as stinginess, and then flip the square over and use the letter F to ask God for forgiveness. Follow the same pattern each day as a reminder of freedom that we have in God’s grace and forgiveness. Close with a prayer that includes those two ideas.

Sunday School Lesson on Temptation in the Bible

by on Thursday, April 15, 2010 6:00 under Sunday School.

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Introduction

A.         Slaves to Sin

Ron is a longtime Christian who worked for many years as an information technology director for a large company. His boss and coworkers admired his dedication, honesty, and integrity. One day, however, Ron was called to his super-visor’s office to be told that he was being fired for violating the company’s “fair use” policy: a colleague had discovered a huge number of pornographic images stored in Ron’s computer.

Ron confessed that he had become addicted to Internet porn. His technical expertise had enabled him able to hide the files for some time. Ironically Ron had become aware of Internet porn while investigating other employees, several of whom had been fired for similar violations. Ron lost his job but saved his marriage and family by confessing his sin and seeking counseling. He told his counselor that he was glad he had been caught because he had felt for a longtime that the porn had taken control of him. Ron’s situation illustrates the irony of addiction to sinful habits. We fear the loss of short-term gratification if we quit, but at the same time we fear the long-term consequences if we don’t. This is true not only of “high profile” sins such as pornography and drug abuse, but also of more common sins like anger, gossip, and lying. Once we develop a habit of doing the wrong thing, it becomes very difficult to change on our own. In our lesson today Christ offers us freedom from the power of sin and the fear of death.

B.         Lesson Background

The events and teachings recorded in John 7and 8 occurred during one of Jesus’ visits to the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem (see John 7:1,2, 37; 8:20). God instituted this festival for two reasons. First, it was a time of thanksgiving during the season of the olive and fruit harvests (the September-October time frame). Second, it was a time to remember deliverance from slavery in Egypt (see Leviticus 23:33-44).

As something of an object lesson, many who celebrated this festival would live in tents (“tabernacles”) outside the city to reenact the forty years that the Israelites had lived in tents while wandering in the wilderness. It is against this backdrop of deliverance from physical bondage that Jesus proceeds to demonstrate the way to deliverance from spiritual bondage.

I.          About the Jews’ Status (John 8:31-38)

A.         Discipleship and Truth (vv. 31, 32)31.

Then, said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him. “If ye continue in my word, then ye are my disciples indeed.”

The word “Jews” seems somewhat out of place here because both Jesus and John (the author of this Gospel) are Jews by race, culture, and religion. Why would a Jewish person refer to other Jewish people as “Jews,” as though they were somehow different from Himself?

Scholars generally see this unusual terminology as evidence that John had been persecuted by Jewish people by the time he writes, just as Jesus had predicted (John 16:1-4). The story of the blind man in chapter 9 reveals that this sort of persecution already had begun during Jesus’ ministry (see especially John 9:22).

Here at John 8:31 we see that some Jewish people have gone against the grain and have taken a positive view of Jesus. These are the ones which believed in him (see also v. 30). Jesus proceeds to test their faith by stressing that they must accept His teachings if they wish to be disciples. The verses to follow will reveal that they are not quite ready for that level of commitment.

32.        And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

Truth refers back to Jesus’ “word” in verse 31, which He now says will give freedom to believers. The context reveals that John is not referring to Jesus’ ethical commands about lifestyle issues, the Gospel of John actually includes very little of that sort of teaching. In John 8:12-29 Jesus has been speaking about His identity as the light of the world, the one who reveals God in a special way. Believers know the truth in the sense that they accept what Jesus claims about himself; they recognize Him as the unique Son of God. This is the truth that gives us freedom. Our acceptance of Christ through His plan of salvation allows us to become children of God. This liberates us from the power and consequences of sin and death (see John 1:12).

B.         Servants and Sons (vv. 33-36)

33.        They answered him, We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?

At first glance, the Jews seem to be very forgetful. Their people, in fact, had been in bondage many times over the years: slaves in Egypt, oppressed by foreign powers many times during the Judges period; taken in exile to Babylon; dominated by Rome even as they spoke. The reference to Abraham suggests, however, that they are thinking of their spiritual status with God.

Ancient Jews believe that having God’s favor comes from being born as descendants of Abraham, the person to whom God had made covenant promises (Genesis 12:1-3). Jesus, however, seems to say that their descent from that great man is not enough. So they want to know how He can make such a preposterous claim.

34.        Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.

Jesus challenges the Jews’ claim to spiritual freedom by stating the obvious: everyone commits sin. That fact should eliminate any prideful belief that a person can somehow get to God through ancestral connections. Even if the Jews do think of themselves as “born into God’s family,” every subsequent sin should have underlined how far away from God’s will they had gone. Sin alienates us from God and enslaves us to carnal desires. This is a problem that our parents cannot solve for us.

35, 36. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.

Jesus’ words refer to legal relationships in ancient households. A son and a servant may live in the same house, and both serve the same person (the father, who is also the master). But the servant is, ultimately, not a permanent part of the family. He or she has no legal rights. The fact that the Jews are servants of sin shows that they do not enjoy full status as God’s heirs.

A son, however, is heir to everything the father has. A son carries the family name from generation to generation. The son’s status in a household is thus permanent (abideth forever) because he is a true member of the family. The genuine Son in view here is Jesus himself. Jesus as the Son has the power to grant full membership in the family. Abraham, himself a sinner and a servant, cannot grant true spiritual freedom. The phrase free indeed brings with it the sense, “I am the one who can set you free from sin and its power forever.”

C. Attitude and Testimony (vv. 37, 38)37.

I know that ye are Abraham’s seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you.

The word “but” highlights the irony of the situation. As the Jews well know, Abraham was famous for his faith (compare Genesis 12:1-4; 22:1-3). The Jews are not doing a very good job of following their famous forefather’s example. When they hear God’s message through Jesus they respond not with belief but by trying to silence him (compare John 5:18; 7:19, 25, 32, 44).

38.        I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father.

Jesus stresses again and again that He speaks and acts in complete harmony with the Father (see John 4:34; 7:16; 10:38; 12:44; 14:9-11). Jesus’ power both to do great works and to offer freedom from sin finds its source in this unity. Similarly, the Jews’ refusal to accept Him reveals the true source of their thinking. They claim to be Abraham’s descendants, but their lack of faith in the one whom God sent reveals that they actually are children of the devil (John8:43, 44, not in today’s text). The Jews will remain under Satan’s power as long as they reject Jesus’ words.

II. About Jesus Himself (John 8:48-56. 58, 59)

A. First Accusation (v. 48)

48.        Then answered the Jews, and said unto him, Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?

Just before this verse, Jesus had stressed again that His words come from God. Thus He condemns the Jews for their disbelief. He can only interpret their stubbornness as evidence that “ye are not of God” (v. 47).

This claim is extremely offensive to the Jews, but they do not know how to refute it. Jesus invited them to prove Him guilty of sin, but instead they resort to name calling. The Samaritans are a people of mixed Jewish and Gentile descent who live just north of Judea and worship at Mount Gerizim. The hostility between Jews and Samaritans is well documented both in the Bible (Ezra 4:1-5; Nehemiah 4:1-8; John 4:9) and in other literature. Jews and Samaritans each claim to be God’ select people. The accusation that Jesus is a Samaritan follows from His statement that the Jews are not acting as true children of Abraham. The accusation that Jesus is demon possessed is an attempt to contradict Jesus’ statement in verse 38. The Jews think that Jesus’ words do not come from God but rather from the devil, because surely neither God nor a true prophet would call them “slaves to sin”!

You are a Samaritan

The ad hominem argument is one of the oldest fallacies in the history of logic. The name of this argument literally means that it is an argument against the person, rather than against the logic of the person’s argument. It is an easy and convenient way of scoring points off an opponent. Sometimes it can be used in a humorous way. As children we could end an argument by stating, “Your grandmother wears combat boots!” Modern politicians can dismiss certain issues by claiming their opponents are “left wing” or “rightwing.” Valid points can be ridiculed by commenting, “You’re only a truck driver; what do you know about international diplomacy?” By giving people labels with negative overtones, we can dismiss their observations unfairly.

Jesus’ opponents found it hard to respond to His discussion on the proper behavior of the children of Abraham, and the implication that the Jews were not acting as true children of Abraham should. So they simply dismissed His comments by saying that He was a Samaritan. In their minds that ended the discussion. Ethnic Samaritans could not be expected to contribute intelligently to a discussion on Judaism, so Jesus’ comments could be ignored.

Yet ad hominem arguments don’t prove anything. They are a fallacy and therefore irrelevant to the discussion. The observations that Jesus makes are still valid. His critique cannot be overlooked simply by name calling. Neither can modern society dismiss Him by thinking of Him as a mere first-century carpenter.

B. First Response (vv. 49-51)

49-50.   Jesus answered, I have not a devil; but I honor my Father, and ye do dishonor me. And I seek not mine own glory: there is one that seeketh and judgeth.

Jesus, unlike the Jews, does not reject the word of the Father but rather obeys. Further, while the Jews are seeking affirmation of their own spirituality, Jesus is seeking only to do God’s will. God, however, is seeking to glorify Jesus. God knows that what Jesus says is true. The Jews will therefore be in a dangerous situation unless they repent.

51.        Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.

Obviously Jesus is using the word death in away other than in a physical sense, since everyone dies. Death here refers to the lost state of those who do not accept Christ (compare 1 John3:14). That condition will become irreversible once we leave this world. Only those who believe Jesus’ claims about Himself will escape this fate and enjoy eternal life (John 6:63, 68).

The verse before us follows logically from Jesus’ earlier remarks in verse 34 about slavery to sin. As Paul notes in 1 Corinthians 15:56, “The sting of death is sin.” Those who accept Jesus need not fear judgment. Their belief in Him frees them from sin’s power and makes them God’s children.

The phrase verily, verily appears often in the Gospel of John to draw attention to particularly important sayings by Jesus. As is the case here and at v. 34), comments followed by this formula often relates to Jesus’ divine identity or the need to accept Him in order to receive salvation (see John1:51; 3:3, 5, 11; 5:19, 24, 25; 6:47; 12:24; 13:20).

C. Second Accusation (vv. 52, 53)

52-53.   Then said the Jews unto him, Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and thou sayest, If a man keep my saying, he shall never taste of death. Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead and the prophets who are dead: whom makest thou thyself?

Taking Jesus’ discussion of death in a physical sense, the Jews mock His claim. Even their great heroes of the faith, Abraham and the prophets could not grant life; in fact these people died themselves. The Jews’ comment suggests that it would be impossible for any human being to do what Jesus claims He can do.

Apparently the Jews’ earlier “faith” that we saw in John 0:31 was based on the idea that Jesus was some sort of prophet or holy man (compare John 7:40). Now however, they suspect that He may be claiming something more.

D.         Second Response (vv. 54-56, 58)

54.        Jesus answered, If I honor myself, my honor is nothing: it is my Father that honoreth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God.

Jesus responds by pointing out that God, working through Hint, is making Jesus’ true identity plain to the world. Many people may refer to God as Father because they recognize Him to be the creator of the universe, yet Jesus is God’s Son in a unique way. Titus, the Jews (and others) reject God’s offer of freedom and life when they refuse to believe Jesus. God honors Jesus both by empowering His miraculous works and ultimately, by raising Him from the dead and restoring His divine glory in Heaven (John 17:5).

55.        Yet ye have not known Him; but I know Him: and if I should say, I know Him not, I shall be a liar like unto you: but I know Him, and keep His saying.

Jesus now exposes the real reason that the Jews cannot accept Him; their misunderstanding of Jesus reflects a deeper misunderstanding of God. Everything that Jesus does and says reveals the Father in a dark world, so that one can see God in Jesus (John 14:7-10). Those who reject Jesus, then, actually are rejecting the God who sent Him. John raises this point at the very beginning of his gospel by noting that Jesus’ “own” (the Jews), received him not” (John 1:11). They refused to recognize God’s power at work in Him.

KNOWING GOD

I know that World War II happened. I have read books about it, seen pictures taken during, and listened to recordings of speeches by Roosevelt and Churchill. Yet if my father were to say, “I know World War II happened,” he could speak with more authority than I could. In 1943 he was drafted into the army and saw service in New Guinea and the Philippines. I know about the war, but he knew it first hand.

The verb “know” has two meanings, both in English and in Greek. On the one hand it can mean to know something intellectually, or to have what we often call “head knowledge.” This applies to facts, information, et cetera. Another meaning of to know is to have experience of something, this goes beyond mere head knowledge. This has to do with life experience and awareness.

The Jews had knowledge of God. They had learned the Old Testament; they had studied the law. They performed the ritual cleanings and they practiced tithing. The Jews knew factual data and information about God, but had they really experienced God in their hearts?

Jesus could claim, “I know Him,” because He had firsthand experience with God. Jesus invites us to go beyond mere knowledge about Him and experience Him in our hearts.

56-58.   Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad. … Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.

Jesus confirms the Jews’ suspicions by noting two ways in which He is superior to Abraham. First, Abraham rejoiced to see Jesus’ day. Some ancient rabbis believed that God had revealed the secrets of the messianic age to Abraham in a vision (compare Genesis 15:17-24). A better idea may be that Jesus is referring to the joy that Abraham experienced when told by God that “in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). The Jews of Christ’s day have the opportunity to see that promise fulfilled in the coming of Abraham’s descendant Jesus. Abraham, then, was looking forward to what Christ would do.

Second, and much more substantially, Jesus existed before Abraham. Such a statement would be absurd if Jesus were a normal human being (compare John 8:57, not in today’s text). But it is obvious that Jesus is claiming something more. “I am” is drawn from Exodus 3:13, 14, where God refers to himself as Yahweh, meaning “the one who exists.” The ancient Jews came to treat that “I am” phrase as God’s sacred name. Many times in the Gospel of John, Jesus describes himself with a statement that begins with I am—”I am the light of the world”, “I am the good shepherd”, et cetera. But when “I am” is used in the absolute sense and with no other words following, Jesus is applying God’s sacred name directly to Himself. This highlights Jesus’ own divine nature. Jesus can offer freedom from sin and eternal life because He is, in fact, completely one with the God who existed before Abraham. It is therefore pointless for the Jews to appeal to Abraham as their spiritual forefather for Jesus is much greater than he is.

E. Actions (v. 59)

59.        Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.

The Jews’ actions reveal that they finally have come to understand the implication of Jesus’ words. Stoning was prescribed in the law for blasphemy (Leviticus 24:16). Clearly they realize that Jesus is claiming to be God; sadly they reject that claim and the eternal life that He offers.

Conclusion

A. The Freedom Center

Recently a new museum opened in Cincinnati, Ohio, called The Freedom Center. This museum celebrates the men and women who led the Underground Railroad before America’s Civil War. Those heroes helped escaping slaves secretly make their way northward to freedom. The Ohio River, a natural boundary marker between North and South, symbolized a new life of liberty. Many pre–Civil War houses and buildings in northern Kentucky and southwestern Ohio still include secret rooms, trap doors and concealed crawl spaces for hiding. The Underground Railroad provided a means of escape from a world of harsh servitude.

How much more profound is the eternal freedom that Jesus offers! He, and only He, is our “eternal underground railroad.” To reject His route to freedom is both sad and amazing. Yet that’s just what we see people doing in today’s lesson. It is a pattern that continues today.

B. Prayer

Lord, we live in a world full of doubts and temptations. Very often we don’t understand why we do the things we do. We want to do what’s right, but we fall back into our old, bad habits and patterns. Please give us both the power to believe Your Word and the faith to follow it at all costs. Then we can experience the freedom that Christ promised us, in Jesus’ name, amen.

C. Thought to Remember

When facing temptation, ask: Did Jesus come to earth so I could do this or be free not to do it?

Sunday School Lessons on Right Makes Might

by on Thursday, April 15, 2010 5:59 under Sunday School.

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Introduction

A. “Now Go Do the Right Thing”

Laura Schlesinger’s radio program has become one of the most well known and most listened to in the highly competitive world of talk radio. Her no nonsense approach, characterized by a strong emphasis on Judeo-Christian values, has gained her a significant following. At the end of each hour of her broadcast, “Dr. Laura” concludes with this brief but compelling advice: “Now go do the right thing.”

Such counsel seems simple. Yet there is no question that if listeners really took it to heart and applied it to their circumstances, they would avoid numerous heartaches and tensions. Perhaps Dr. Laura would find herself with far fewer callers to deal with!

Today’s lesson comes from Malachi, the last book in the Old Testament. Malachi, the last Old Testament prophet chronologically, is the final messenger of God to address God’s people before the gap of 400 years until the New Testament era begins. As we will see today, the book of Malachi closes the Old Testament with an appeal from God that is appropriate for His people to hear, whether in an Old Testament or a New Testament setting. It may be summarized as, “Now go do the right thing.”

B. Lesson Background

Malachi’s circumstances were somewhat different from those of the other prophets we have studied this quarter. Yet the basic thrust of what all these men of God had to say is the same: being part of God’s covenant people means much more than basking in a special status. God expects a certain lifestyle of those who lay claim to that status. One of the primary tasks of God’s prophets throughout the Old Testament was to call His people to account when they failed to carry out their sacred responsibility.

Not much is known about Malachi himself. One bit of information is his name. In Hebrew it means “my messenger”, a theme that will become crucial in today’s text. We must examine information within the book itself to learn the time in the history of God’s people when Malachi likely prophesied.

Such an investigation points to the time of Nehemiah as perhaps the best fit for Malachi’s ministry. This is because many of the sins highlighted in the book of Malachi are the same sins that Nehemiah had to confront. These included: indifference toward the kind of sacrifices required by the Lord (Nehemiah 10:37-39; 1:6-14), disregard for the Lord’s teaching concerning marriage (Nehemiah 13:23-27; Malachi 2:14-16), and the bringing tithes and offerings to support the Lord’s work ( Nehemiah 10:37-39; 13:10-13; Malachi 3:8-10). Furthermore, the mention of a governor in Malachi, 1:8 fits well with Nehemiah’s time, since he was recognized by that title (Nehemiah 5:14).

Nehemiah had traveled to Jerusalem in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes, king of Persia (445AC). He went there primarily to spearhead efforts to rebuild the wall of the city (Nehemiah 2:1-11).This was approximately 100 years after the Jews had first returned from captivity in Babylon, and about 70 years after the second temple had been completed through the encouragement of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah. Today’s Scripture from Malachi focuses on his challenges to God’s people in his own day, but it also highlights a portion of his glimpse into the future and of what God planned to accomplish through a messenger far greater than Malachi, the Lord Jesus Christ.

I. People’s Complaint(Malachi 2:17)

A. Malachi Alleges (v. 17a)

17a.      Ye have wearied the Lord with your words.

Much of Malachi is written as if the Lord is engaging His people in a dialogue. Malachi pictures the Lord as making a statement, then, he pictures the people as challenging the statement. The Lord then responds to the challenge. In so doing He calls attention to an area of His people’s relationship with Him that they have neglected. Examples of these dialogues are found in Malachi 1:2, 6, 7; 2:13, 14; 3:7, 8, 13-15, as well as in the verses before us.

When Malachi says, “ye have wearied the Lord with your words”, one may ask how this can be true in light of Isaiah 40:28, which declares, “Hast thou not known, hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord fainteth not, neither is weary? There is no searching for understanding, but there is no contradiction. The Lord does not grow weary in the sense of losing His power, strength, or majesty; He can become weary (meaning frustrated and disappointed) with the behavior of His people and their refusal to heed His call to change.

B. People Ask (v. 17b)

17b.      Yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied him?

One can understand why the people would want to know how they have wearied the Lord. Have they spoken blasphemous, angry, or lying words? Have they been practicing what Jesus would later call “vain repetitions” (Matthew 6:7) Is God concerned because their lives are not consistent with their words? What’s the deal?

C. Malachi Answers (v. 17c)

17c.      When ye say, Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and he delighteth in them; or, where is the God of judgment? Here is the answer to the people’s inquiry. The words that have wearied the Lord are words that have questioned His judgment (meaning “justice”). It appears to the people that the Lord no longer cares whether evil is punished or good is rewarded. Earlier, the prophet Isaiah declared, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20). Has the Lord done the same? It seems so in the eyes of Malachi’s audience.

Why would God’s people speak so critically of the Lord? At this point in Old Testament history, God’s people have been back in the Promised Land for nearly 100 years. They know the words of the prophets who had spoken of a glorious new day for God’s people. That day is to be ushered in by the coming of the Branch (Isaiah 4:2-6:111-3; Jeremiah 23:5-8; 33:15, 16). They know of God’s promise to “set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David” (Ezekiel 34:23). But where is this special person? When will He come and do all that the prophets had said He would do? God’s people had finished the temple many decades previously. Hadn’t a prophet declared that at that time the Lord would “fill this house with glory” and that “the glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former”(Haggai 2:7, 0)? The people have done their part, why hasn’t the Lord done His? Where is His glory?

II. Lord’s Coming(Malachi 3:1-5; 4:1)

A. Preparation (v. 1a)

la.         Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me.

The Lord proceeds to answer the challenge. He has not forgotten His promises. “Where is the God of judgment?” He is coming, but He will not come without a messenger to prepare the way before Him.

Earlier we noted that the name Malachi means “my messenger.” Here the Lord promises another messenger. Malachi 4:5 describes him as “Elijah the prophet.” The New Testament is clear that John the Baptist is the one who fulfills Malachi’s prophecy in his role as the forerunner of Jesus Christ. Jesus equated John the Baptist’s ministry with the promised coming of Elijah (Matthew 17:10-13).

E ADVANCE TEAM

My wife and I were in Cincinnati, Ohio, in the1980s when then, President Ronald Reagan was to visit the city for a speech. As we drove down the highway on which the presidential motorcade was to pass, we noticed police officers guarding the route. We drove downtown that evening to see if we would get a glimpse of the president. The streets were cleared of traffic and there were no parked cars along the path the motorcade was to follow. Barricades were up and the airspace cleared.

All of these details were accomplished by an advance team. This team took great care and precaution to ensure that every eventuality was covered and that the president was kept safe for his entire visit. The team wanted nothing to impede the safe progress of the president in accomplishing his mission.

John the Baptist came as a kind of one man advance team for the Messiah. He did all he could to prepare the way for Jesus. The church today plays the role of the advance team for the second coming of Christ. How are you preparing yourself and the world for His return?

B. Place (v. lb)

lb.        And the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple.

As noted previously, part of the reason why God’s people question His whereabouts and His justice is the fact that the temple had been finished many decades previously. Perhaps they are expecting a display of glory similar to what occurred when the first temple was dedicated (1 Kings 8:10, 11). Thus far nothing at all like that has been witnessed with the second temple. However, the glory of the Lord will, in time, fill this second temple. That is exactly what takes place when the Lord Jesus Christ enters there during His earthly ministry.

The word suddenly depicts how most people are caught off guard when He arrives because He comes in a manner that is unexpected. God’s glory will enter the temple but not in the dramatic way it had filled the tabernacle (Exodus 40:34, 35) or the first temple. Rather it will come about because “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us,(and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth”(John 1:14).

C. Program (v. 1c)

lc.         Even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts.

Malachi now declares the Lord to be another type of messenger, the messenger of the covenant. Thus one messenger (John the Baptist) will prepare the way for another messenger (Jesus), who will establish a new covenant. Earlier, Malachi referred to two other covenants. One was “the covenant of Levi,” involving the priests. In Malachi’s day they have “departed out of the way” (Malachi 2:8) and neglected their sacred duties. The other is “the covenant of our fathers” (2:10), which probably refers to the covenant God had established at Sinai. That covenant had been profaned (again, 2:10). Clearly there was a need for a new and better covenant. That is exactly what Jesus comes to establish (Jeremiah 31:31-34; compare Hebrews 8:8-12; 10:16, 17).

It may be with a tinge of sarcasm that Malachi describes the messenger of the covenant as one whom ye delight in. The people of Malachi’s day act as if they desire the Lord to come and vindicate himself, but will they be ready to welcome Him when he does?  Sadly, most in Jesus’ day were not (John 1:11).

D. Purpose (vv. 2, 3a)

2-3a.     But who may abide the day of his coming? And who shall stand when he appeareth? For he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap: and he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.

The two questions in this portion of our text are to be considered rhetorical; that is, they are asked not in order to produce an answer but to challenge people to think. Lest people become too complacent about the Lord’s promised coming, they should realize that when He comes He will make some serious changes!

A refiner’s fire is used to burn away impurities from precious metals such as silver (compare Isaiah 48:10; Zechariah 13:9). Fullers’ soap (an alkaline lye) is used to cleanse, bleach, and sometimes dye cloth. Most likely the cleansing represented by these processes refers to a spiritual cleansing.

Thus it is easy to see why the question is raised as to who can abide or stand such treatment. The sins from which people need to be cleansed are too numerous to count. This messenger of the covenant comes to perform what in today’s terms would be considered an extreme makeover, on the inside!

E.Product (vv. 3b, 4)

3b- 4. And he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness. Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the Lord, as in the days of old, and as in former years.

The sons of Levi include the priests, who have already been called to account for having “corrupted the covenant of Levi” (Malachi 2:8). The priests have also been charged with offering blemished, unacceptable offerings to the Lord (1:6-10). All of this will change when the Lord’s purifying work has been accomplished.

These verses describe another dimension of the consequences of Jesus’ work as the “messenger of the new covenant” (Malachi 3:1). One of the most significant characteristics of the new covenant is that every Christian serves the Lord as a priest (1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 1:6). Priests offer sacrifices and good works. Similarly, every Christian is called to offer the sacrifice of praise and good works to God (Hebrews 13:15, 16).

The period described as the days of old and former years may refer to any period in the history of God’s people when there was a greater consistency between the sacrifices they offered and the lives they lived. This would have been true during the reigns of godly kings such as David, Hezekiah, and Josiah.

F. Punishment (3:5; 4:1)

5.         And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the Lord of hosts. While some will choose to accept the refiner’s cleansing fire, others will refuse to undergo the purifying process. Those who refuse will one day learn, to their ruination, that the fire of refinement can also become a fire of judgment.

Several of the sins mentioned in this verse bring to mind some of the Ten Commandments as listed in Deuteronomy 5. These include the actions of adulterers (Seventh Commandment), false swearers (Ninth Commandment), and those that oppress the hireling, or worker, in his wages (this amounts to stealing, a violation of the Eighth Commandment).

To engage in the practices of sorcerers could violate the First Commandment, which prohibits the worship of other gods. The neglect of the widow, the fatherless, and the stranger is forbidden in Exodus 22:21, 22; Deuteronomy 24:17-22. All of these sins (indeed, any sin) can be traced to one root cause: they are the consequence of failing to fear the Lord. Recall how our printed text began with Malachi alluding to the people’s inquiry: “Where is the God of judgment?” (Malachi 2:17). The verse before us gives the answer: He will come, and His judgment will be swift when He does come. Malachi’s words are reminiscent of what Peter writes concerning Jesus’ return in 2 Peter 3:9, 10.

MISTAKEN IDENTIFY

I was visiting a church one Sunday for the first time. In talking with the minister, he learned that I too was a preacher. Somewhere along the line he got my first name (Gene) confused with another man he knew (Gus). Gus and I have the same last name, although we are not related and have never met.

At the close of the service, the preacher called on me for the prayer. Before I prayed, he told the congregation about the family of Gus and how they had meant so much to his family through the years back in West Virginia. Many came to me after the service, just thrilled at the great story the preacher had told about “my family.”This case of mistaken identity was hard to deal with given the situation. But there is another case of mistaken identity that is even worse. We see the fatherless and the widow, and we mistake them for the lazy who shouldn’t eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10). Though we may smugly rejoice at the thought that swift judgment will be meted out on the sorcerers and the adulterers, we fail to see that the same judgment will be made against those who ignore innocent people who are in genuine need.

4:1.       For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.

This verse also emphasizes the certainty of coming judgment. Both the attitudes of the proud and the actions of all that do wickedness are highlighted. Earlier prophets had used the terms root and branch as the basis for prophecies concerning the coming Messiah (Isaiah 4:2; 11:1; Jeremiah 23:5; 33:15). Now we see that this judgment pronounced by Malachi will be so complete as to leave neither root nor branch. Today’s text describes the impact of both the first and second comings of the messenger of the covenant, Jesus. With His first coming, He initiates a ministry of cleansing and purifying through His sacrificial death on the cross and His resurrection. That ministry continues through the testimony of faithful Christians who bear witness to what Jesus can do for others through the gospel message.

At His second coming, however, the refining ministry of Jesus will mean judgment upon those who have not accepted for themselves His cleansing power. It is similar to the saying that those who do not acknowledge Jesus as the “chief cornerstone” (1 Peter 2:6) will have Him to be “a stone of stumbling” and “a rock of offense” (1 Peter 2:8).The kind of rock and the kind of refiner that Jesus will be for us is up to us. Our choice!

Conclusion

A. Right Makes Might

The phrase “might makes right” is familiar. This reflects a belief that the strong or those in positions of authority generally gain the upper hand because of their ability to exercise sheer force. The supremacy they possess due to these factors gives them the power to determine what is “right” and to enforce their will on others. The more biblical view and the theme of today’s study is that “right makes might.”

When an individual is committed to doing right in the sight of the Lord, he or she gains a sense of accomplishment and purpose that not even the mightiest “might makes right” advocate can possess. We began with a reference to Dr. Laura’s oft heard counsel, “Now go do the right thing.” Consider how often Jesus gave essentially the same challenge. After telling the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus said, “Go, and do than likewise”(Luke 10:37). He told the disciples after washing their feet, “I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you”, John 13:15.Have you learned some important lessons from your studies this quarter? Sit down and make a list of the top ten lessons you have gleaned. With each one, list an action step that you can take in order to apply that particular insight. And then, “Go, and do thou likewise.”

B. Prayer

Father, forgive us when we fail to do right. Forgive us for those times when a Christian’s influence was needed, yet we remained silent and inactive. May we follow the example of Jesus, “who went about doing good” (Acts 10:38). May our light shine in this sinful world, in Jesus’ name, amen.

C. Thought to Remember

Right makes might, not just believing it, but doing it

Sunday School Lesson on Resurrection Topic Discussion

by on Thursday, April 15, 2010 5:56 under Sunday School.

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1.         When Lazarus became seriously ill, his sisters Mary and Martha felt free to call upon Jesus to ask for His help. How will you form that kind of relationship with Christ? What things or attitudes in your life will be a help or a hindrance to this?

One definite help will be to make sure that our regular conversations with Jesus are filled with words of praise and celebration. These should be a natural part of expressing our inner most thoughts. When we build a lasting relationship with Him this way, we will avoid having what we may call a “spare tire” religion: “Use only in emergencies!”

Malachi 2:17 lists a possible hindrance: “Ye have wearied the Lord with your words. Yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied him? When ye say. . . Where is the God of judgment?” This verse should make us gasp! Undoubtedly part of the weariness that we bring to God stems from questions about His judgment, questions such as, “why doesn’t God do something about such and such?” Causing weariness in God will be a definite hindrance to prayer.

2.         Our timetable isn’t always the same as God’s timetable. What are some reasons that God may have for not responding immediately to your prayer requests?

One good way to approach this question is by asking the reverse: What would the world be like if God responded to all prayer requests immediately? The results would be almost too bizarre to contemplate.

As is the case in today’s text, God knows the best way to accomplish His purposes. Sometimes we ask for things that we are not really prepared to accept. What we think is good for us may not be good for others. What may benefit us in the short term may be harmful over the long haul. God is in the position to know all this. Many of us can look back and say with all honesty, “I’m sure glad that God answered my prayer in His way instead of the way that I requested. I can see now that He knew some things that I didn’t.” Reflecting on how God has answered prayers in the past helps us to understand how the Lord’s way is better.

3.         Jesus expects our faith and obedience even when (or especially when!) He doesn’t reveal His plans to us. What was a time or circumstance that you can look back on and say, “Ah, now I see what God’s plan was”?

This kind of question can lead to some lengthy and emotional stories. Be sure to ask this follow up question at the conclusion of each anecdote:”How did your faith grow stronger as a result of how God worked?”

4.         Mary and Martha weren’t alone when Jesus arrived; many were there to comfort them. What are some things we can do as a church or as a class to minister to those who have suffered the loss of a loved one?

Remember this principle: someone suffering grief needs your shoulder more than he or she needs your mouth. The presence of a friend can be of great comfort during a time when many emotions are vying for attention. Just to be there and not say too much is so important. We can show care also by taking away the burdens of everyday chores. Certain helpful acts like bringing covered dishes or mowing the lawn flow from a servant’s heart. For this kind of ministry to be most effective, your church needs to have an advanced plan of ministry action. Having an ongoing plan to help during such times can ensure that the ministry is most effective when it is needed.

5.         Martha’s testimony expressed her confidence in the lordship of Christ, in spite of her grief. In what ways can you use tough times to reinforce your reliance on Jesus?

Several New Testament passages tell us to expect tough times (for example, John 16:1-4; 1 Peter 4:12-19). These times of trouble may refine us (1 Peter 1:7), they may help as serve as examples to others (1 Peter 2:21), or they may come as a test from Satan to determine how firmly committed we are to the Lord (2 Corinthians 12:7).It is especially during tough times that we must keep our focus on Jesus. Others are watching to see how we handle ourselves during tough times. God may want our struggles to serve as a witness to how much we trust Him.