Tag Archives: bible stories

The Rich Young Man

Matthew 19:16-22; Mark 10:17-23; Luke 18:18-23

One day a man asked Jesus, “Good Teacher, how can I enter the kingdom of God? I want to live forever.”

Jesus knew the young man was very rich. He also knew the man had trained for many years to become a religious leader. Jesus told the young man something he already knew. “Follow the commandments.”

The young man said, “I have been careful to follow all the commandments. Now I want to do more.” This man wanted to make sure he was as close as possible to God.

Because of this Jesus loved the young man. He knew, though, there was one thing which stood between this man and God. He knew the young man loved his money and things more than anything else in the world. The man loved God, but he loved being rich even more.

So Jesus said, “You have missed one thing. If you want to become perfect, go and sell your things and give your money to the poor. Then you will have treasure in heaven. Come, follow Me.”

When the man heard this, he became very sad. He lowered his head and turned away. He knew deep down that he had not given God first place in his life. He was not willing to give up his riches and follow Jesus.

Jesus’ disciples still sometimes thought that God’s love could be bought with money. They assumed that people were rich because God wanted to reward them. That is not necessarily true. Jesus said, “Listen, it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to love God more than his money.”

Jesus is part of God’s plan for saving people from all their wrongs. Only through Jesus can they enter the kingdom of heaven. It has nothing to do with how rich people are or how hard they try to be good. People think they have to do all sorts of things in order to earn their way into heaven. The truth is, God makes it possible. It is His gift for anyone who asks for it. You can’t buy it and you can’t earn it. God alone can give it to you.

Jesus said, “Everyone who is willing to leave behind their homes, parents and friends to follow Me will be given a hundred times more while they live on earth and in the world to come. That is the place where people live forever. Many who are first here on earth will come last in heaven. And those who come last here, will come first in My kingdom.”

Bible Story of Sodom and Gomorrah

Genesis 18:1-33

Bible Story of Sodom and Gomorrah

A short time later, Abraham had three visitors. Abraham knew that one of the men was really the Lord. He walked with the three to a hill. From there they could look down at the city of Sodom.

The Lord said, “I have heard how terribly evil the people are who live in Sodom. If it is true, then I will destroy that place.”

The two men who had traveled with the Lord were really angels in disguise. They set off for Sodom.

Abraham wanted very much to ask the Lord a question, but did he dare? He knew, though, that the Lord was his Friend, as well as his God. So he swallowed hard. “Lord, what if there are fifty good people in Sodom? What will happen to them?”

“I will not harm the city if there are still fifty good people.”

Then Abraham asked again and again, each time using smaller numbers, would God spare the city for forty-five good people, for forty, thirty, twenty, or for ten? Each time the Lord said yes.

There were not ten good people in Sodom, but four. The only bright spot in the evil city of Sodom was a man named Lot. Lot was Abraham’s nephew. He lived in Sodom with his wife and two daughters.

Lot met the angels, who were disguised as men. “Come to my house. There you will be safe from the mean people here.”

The people of Sodom tried to hurt the angels, though. The angels told Lot, “You must come with us. The Lord cannot stand this bad place. He’s going to destroy it!  We will help you run away, but you must not look back!”

Just a few hours later, the Lord rained fire onto Sodom. Lot and his family were safe, but Lot’s wife looked back to watch. Instantly she became at all stone!

God had kept his promise to Abraham. He took care of the good people in Sodom.

Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream

Daniel 2:1-13

Soon after Daniel became the king’s adviser, King Nebuchadnezzar kept having a terrible dream. He called all his wizards. “This dream upsets me, I want to know what it means.”

The wizards said. “Yes, Your Majesty tell us your dream and we’ll find out what it means.”

But the king answered “No. You must first tell me what I dreamt, then what it meant. If you can’t do this you and your homes will be torn to pieces. If you can do this thing I’ll give you rich gifts and great honor.”

The wizards thought maybe they had not heard right. So they said again. “Let the king tell us his dream, then we’ll be glad to tell him what it means.”

The king grew angry. “Oh no you don’t, you’re just trying to trick me. Now listen! You tell me my dream and then you can tell me what it means!”

“But no king has ever asked this of his magicians!”

The king became even angrier. He stood up and pointed at all the wizards whining and mumbling in front of him. “Enough! If you cannot follow this order, then I’ll have you killed!”

So the order went out to kill all the king’s wise men. The order included more than just the wizards; it meant all the king’s advisers. That meant Daniel and his friends would be killed too! Daniel and his friends prayed together. Late that night, Daniel had a vision. He thanked the Lord, then ran to see the king.

“Can you really tell me what I dreamt? Can you say what it means?” The king asked.

Daniel said. “No but there is a God in heaven who can; you saw a horrible statue. Its head was made of gold, its chest and arms were made of silver, its waist and hips of bronze, its legs of iron and its feet of both iron and clay.

“A great stone broke loose from a cliff and destroyed the statue, piece by piece. The stone grew to become a mountain which covered the whole earth. “That was the dream and the meaning is that each part of the statue is a different kingdom. You, as king of Babylon, are the head. After you will come another kingdom, and then another. Then finally a fourth kingdom, as strong as iron, will rule. But it will be a divided kingdom.”

God had shown the king how Babylon would fall to Persia, and later, Greece which would be followed by Rome. Rome was the divided empire. Then God would work the greatest miracle of all, using His own Son, Jesus. His would be a different kingdom, based on peace, not war. Daniel went on to talk about this time, so very far in the future.

“While the divided kingdom rules, God will set up another kingdom which can never be destroyed. It will last forever. That is the great stone, cut from the mountain by the same great God who has shown these things to the king.”

The king said to Daniel, “Your God is truly the greatest and wisest!”

Then, the king made Daniel the most powerful man in Babylon, next to the king himself.

Many years passed and King Nebuchadnezzar soon forgot what he had said about Daniel’s God being the only one. Instead he built a giant statue of gold and called this his god. He sent out an order.

“Whenever the royal music is played, everyone must fall to the ground and pray to this statue. Anyone who doesn’t, will be thrown into a blazing furnace to die.”

Before long the king’s men noticed that the three best friends of Daniel were not praying to the golden statue. If they had, they would have broken God’s law. This law said, “I am the Lord your God. I will be your only God. Do not make statues and worship them.”

When Nebuchadnezzar heard this he sent for Daniel’s friends. He called them by their Babylonian names.”Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, is it true you will not worship my statue?”

The three men stood firm. “We can never worship your god. Even if we are thrown into the blazing furnace, our God is able to save us from it.”

Nebuchadnezzar burned with anger. He ordered his soldiers to tie up the three men. “Take them away! And see that the fire is seven times hotter than usual!”

The soldiers threw Daniel’s friends into the furnace. However when they did it was so very hot and the soldiers were the ones who died! Then, the king saw something which was even more amazing. The three men were no longer tied up! They walked between the flames but they did not suffer at all. But, even more astounding, was that a fourth man was in furnace with them and He shone brighter than the fire itself. Could this have been Jesus Himself, sent by His Father to comfort the three men?

The king ordered the men to come out. When they walked out of the fire, the fourth man disappeared. Daniel’s friends were safe!

The king shook his head.”Incredible! Surely your God is the greatest. He protects those who trust Him. From now on no one is allowed to say anything bad about your God.”

Sunday School Lessons about Sin Topic Discussion

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

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


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).


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.


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

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

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

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

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.