Into the Lesson
Below are several statements about morality from the pens of famous writers. Ask your students to critique the quotations.
1. “I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after” (Ernest Hemingway); 2. “Morality is simply the attitude we adopt toward people whom we personally dislike” (Oscar Wilde); 3.”Morality is the best of all devices for leading mankind by the nose” (Friedrich Nietzsche); 4.”What is morality in any given time or place? It is what the majority then and there happen to like and immorality is what they dislike” (Alfred North Whitehead); 5. “Morality is the theory that every human act must be either right or wrong, and that-99-percent of diens are wrong” (H. L .Mencken).
When you finish your discussion, explain that today’s lesson deals with upholding God’s moral standards in an immoral society.
Into the Word
Divide the class into pairs. Ask each to read Zephaniah 3:1-9 and answer these questions:
- What does the word woe signify in verse 1?
- The people were guilty of what four sins, according to verse 2?
- What do the images of lions and wolves tell us about how the rulers treated their people?
- In what way could the Judean prophets be guilty of treachery?
- How did the priests pollute the sanctuary and do violence to the law? (See 2 Kings 21:4, 5.)
- How did God bring His judgment to light? How did the unjust respond to these revelations?
- What nations had God destroyed before that time? (See Deuteronomy 3:1-11; Joshua 18; etc.)
- How had God warned Jerusalem concerning sin and impending destruction (v. 7)? How had the people responded?
- What warning did God give the nations? What promise did He make to the people?
- What is the contrast between the promised “pure language” of verse 9 and the treachery of the false prophets in verse 4?
When your pairs have completed the exercise, discuss their answers. Also, explain (from the les-son Conclusion) the concept of the “day of the Lord” in Zephaniah and the other prophets. Then ask your students to read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:15. Use these questions to discuss that passage. Answers are indicated in parentheses.
- To what event does Paul link the day of the Lord? (the return of Christ)
- What will happen to those who are not ready for His return? (they will be destroyed; see Matthew 24:36-44; 25:31-46)
- How will Christians escape the wrath of God? (through the death of Christ; see also Romans 5:6-11)
- Knowing all this, how should Christians behave? (with self-control, living by faith, love, and hope; we encourage one another)
Ask your students to return to the quotations from the Into the Lesson exercise. Below are summary statements of these quotes and a criticism of each based on today’s lesson. Tell students to turn to their student books and do a three-way match: each author with a summary statement and a criticism. (If you don’t use the student books, reproduce the text below as necessary.)
A. Morality is just the opinion of the majority; B. Morality is based on personal feelings; C. Morality is just a means of controlling others; D. Morality is just a theory that most human behavior is bad; E. Morality is a means to criticize people we dislike.
a. Biblical morality is about self-control, so that we are ready for Christ’s return; it is not about controlling others; b. Christians are to use morality to encourage one another to be like Christ, not simply to condemn people; c. Only behavior that contradicts God’s Word is evil; d. Morality is based on God’s nature and His Word, not on human feelings; e. Morality is based on God’s nature and His Word, not on majority opinion. (Answers: 1Bd, 2Eb, 3Ca, 4Ae, 5Dc.)
Discuss answers and relate them to question four of the 1 Thessalonians exercise.