Friday, June 22, 2018


WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday June 24, 2018

Over 164,000 readers worldwide
larrydalexander.blogspot.com

THE RICH MAN AND LAZARUS
(Reaping GOD’s justice)
(Luke 16:19-31)

   In Luke chapter 16, verses 19-31, JESUS relates the parable of an unnamed rich man, and a poor man named Lazarus. Because JESUS does not normally use personal names in HIS parables, many scholars tend to believe that this story relates to an actual event. The New Testament tells us of many people who were forced to result to begging due to indigence caused mostly by a debilitating sickness or physical condition.
    Most Christians wholeheartedly agree that giving of their time, money, and skills to those who are destitute and in need, is a good and meritorious thing to do, in the eyes of GOD, and man. However, the rich man in this parable refuses to render any help whatsoever to the needy Lazarus, and as a result of his mistreatment of those in need, he died and woke up, and found himself on the wrong side of the “great chasm” (in Hell) (v.26).
    Here in this passage we see that the rich man is portrayed as being fully conscious and aware of his surroundings while he sat suffering in the fires of Hell. We see that he is able to “see”, “hear”, “feel”, and “remember” very clearly, and besides, there is no biblical basis to support the notion that death is an unconscious state anyway. In fact, this parable clearly suggests that human personally, fully conscious and aware, does persist, even after physical death has occurred.
    JESUS tells us that the rich man, who was in much torment, could see Lazarus, the man he denied help to in the physical life, at a distance in Heaven, in the company of Abraham, the great Jewish patriarch. The rich man, who was now anguishing in the flames of Hell, shouted to Abraham, begging him for mercy. He asks Abraham to send Lazarus over with just a drop of water so that he could cool his tongue.
    Abraham said to the man, “Son, remember that during your lifetime, you had everything you wanted, and Lazarus had nothing. So now he is here being comforted, and you are in anguish. And besides, there is a great chasm separating us. Anyone who wanted to cross over to you from here is stopped at its edge, and no one there can cross over to us” (Vs.25-26 - NLT).
    Then the man asked Abraham to send Lazarus to his father’s home to warn his five brothers about Hell, so that they won’t have to go there when they die. However, Abraham responded, “Moses and the prophets have warned them. Your brothers can read their writings anytime they want to” (v.29). The man then said, “No father Abraham! But if someone is sent to them from the dead, then they will turn from their sins” (v.30). Abraham replied, “If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t listen even if someone rises from the dead” (v.31).
    Perhaps JESUS relates this parable to us to help show us that “being rich” has nothing to do with “being righteous”, and in fact, “riches” and “righteousness”, much more often than not, manifests themselves as being polar opposites in the real world. One, like the rich man in this story, lives in complete luxury, perhaps desiring to interact only with his peers, while the other man, Lazarus, lives with abject poverty, hunger, and poor health as his daily challenge. Such a person is much more likely to turn to help from GOD, by way of the mercy and grace of their fellowman.
    None of us were put here, as “a man alone on an island”, who, can depend only on himself for survival. GOD put us here to survive by depending on each other, and interacting with other, and from the enlightment that we receive from closely associating with each other, we can readily react to each other’s needs in a positive way, sometimes without being asked, or told. When we show that we care for each other, we show that we love GOD, WHO made us in HIS OWN “spiritual image” (Genesis 1:26).
    In the biblical Greek, the name “Lazarus” means “GOD the Helper” and so maybe JESUS chose this name, not because of one of HIS best friends (Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, whom JESUS would later raise from the dead), but rather, because the character HE was trying to depict (who very well may have been a real person whom JESUS had met) was a poor man who had decided to depend on GOD for his daily provisions, even unto his death.
    Ultimately, and, ironically, the rich man’s “walls of his house” became the “great chasm” that helped prevent Lazarus from receiving “physical salvation”, and he himself, from receiving “spiritual salvation”. I say this because, here, Scripture says that Lazarus lay, quite literally, at the rich man’s front door (v.20), perhaps on his front porch even, and the rich man never tried shooing him away, asking him in, or sending him something out to eat. Instead, he just simply must have stepped over, or walked around him day by day, either just ignoring what his eyes had seen, or taking enjoyment, or mocking, at “Lazarus’ inferior position in life”, all the way up until the time he died and was carried away by angels of GOD.
    After the rich man met his physical demise, he found himself in a place called “Hell” (“Sheol” in the Hebrew, “Hades” in the Greek”), in “total conscience torment”, in “his spiritual life” after death. He was residing directly across “a great chasm” that “separated” himself from Lazarus, the man whom he had daily refused to give alms to on his own front porch.
    Lazarus, on the other hand, was now residing in the comforts of Heaven at Abraham’s side. He was enjoying a “spiritual life” after death that is prepared by GOD, only for those who are obedient to, and dependant on HIM, in their “physical” lifetimes. Just think of how many people, who could have gone to Heaven, who have actually “read” or “heard” the “Word of GOD” since JESUS was raised from the dead, but have chosen instead, to go to Hell.
    In the Gospels of Matthew (7:24-29) and Luke (6:46-49) JESUS concludes HIS, now famous, “Sermon on the Mount” with this warning for us to build our foundations on the “Most High Faith” (Christianity). There we see JESUS demanding two things. First HE demands that we “hear” (receive the Word of GOD into our heart spiritually), and then HE demands that we “do” (live the Word of GOD with our physical bodies). Knowledge does not become relevant until it is, first, “put into action”. In GOD, “knowledge must become action”, “theory must become practice”, and then “theology can become life”.
    In Matthew 25, verses 31-46, JESUS gives us the answers to how, we “as human beings” can be “successful” under GOD. There we see that it is very different from the world’s view of what “success” is. There, JESUS tells us that when HE returns to judge us, HE will base HIS decision upon “how we reacted to human need in our lifetime”.
    So remember, while we do need to be “shrewd managers” of what GOD has blessed us with, we must also strive to balance that “shrewdness”, with the “compassion” that HE has also blessed us with. In addition, that compassion, which governs GOD’s OWN nature that is embodied in each of us, was demonstrated to us, quite vividly, and, quite thoroughly, by CHRIST JESUS in HIS lifetime, here on earth. And so, here in the so-called “Church Age”, all we need to do is, “follow HIM”.

A Sunday school by,
Larry D. Alexander   





                                 
                                           LARRY DALEXANDER- Official Website



Friday, June 15, 2018


WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday June 17, 2018

Over 164,000 readers worldwide
larrydalexander.blogspot.com

JESUS TEACHES ABOUT THE LAW AND INNER PURITY
(Don’t let human traditions be a substitute for honoring GOD)
(Matthew 15:1-20)

   In our Christian Churches today, just like in biblical times, man tends to put his laws and traditions ahead of the Word of GOD through their various so-called Christian denominations. Instead of training people to be Christians, we spend all of our time trying to teach our members how to be Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, Seventh Day Adventist, etc.
    We all tend to look into Scripture and draw our own personal theology from them, instead of letting the bible interpret itself to us through long and careful study and assistance from the HOLY SPIRIT, WHOM JESUS says, will teach us all things and remind us of all things that JESUS taught about the Word of GOD HIMSELF (John 14:26 and 16:13-15).
    GOD did not leave it to “sinful man” to interpret HIS Word to the world or to the Church. Why would HE do such a stupid thing? HE’s an all wise GOD WHO can’t help but show wisdom, and to do such a thing obviously would not be in keeping with HIS superior wisdom. “Christianity” is the only “true religion” because it is the only religion that is a product of GOD’s mind. All of the other denominations of the world, including the so-called Christian ones, are just mere products of a men’s mind, and are only instruments of the devil that he uses to separate or block people from gaining complete knowledge of GOD.  
    In Matthew 15:1-11, a group of Pharisees and teachers of religious law came to Jerusalem to interview JESUS and question HIM about HIS teachings in general, and the first thing they wanted to know is why HE and HIS disciples were disobeying, or ignoring their laws and traditions (i.e., ceremonial hand-washing) which they obviously placed above GOD’s law.
    In verse 3, in response to their ludicrous question, JESUS poses a question and lecture of HIS OWN. Here HE asks them, “And why do you, by your traditions, violate the direct commandments of GOD?” For instance, GOD says, “Honor your father and mother”, and anyone who speaks evil of father or mother must be put to death”. But you say, “You don’t need to honor your parents by caring for their needs if you give the money to GOD instead” (NLT) (They called it Corban for GOD). This is just one example JESUS says, for there are many, many more (Mark 7:13 - NLT).
    And so, by your own tradition, you nullify the direct commandment of GOD. You hypocrites! Isaiah was prophesying about you when he said, “These people honor ME with their lips, but their hearts are far from ME. Their worship is a farce, for they replace GOD’s commands with their own man-made teachings”. And even today we continue to “make stuff up” about GOD, because our Christian denominations are in many ways, a farce also.
    In verse 10 JESUS continues HIS teachings as HE turns to the crowd and says, “Listen to what I say and try to understand. You are not defiled by what you eat; you are defiled by what you say and do”. These statements by JESUS began to concern HIS disciples who were also among the brainwashed parishioners of the Church of Israel in those days. They too had become victims of the “false teachings” (yeast) of the religious hierarchy in the Church.
    In verse 12 we see how the disciples’ concerns are very much misplaced, as they seem to be more worried about “offending the Church leaders” with the Word of GOD, than they are about the Church leaders accepting the truth of GOD’s words.
    In verse 13 JESUS admonishes HIS wayward students that “Every plant that is not planted by GOD the FATHER will be rooted up”. HE then advises HIS followers to “Ignore them. They are like blind guides leading the blind, and if one blind person guides another, they will both fall into the ditch”.  Here JESUS is saying that all Church leaders who are not called by GOD will be eventually eliminated from HIS Church. A person who does not himself know the Word of GOD cannot possibly teach anyone else the Word of GOD. In such cases both individuals will fall down into the pits of hell (Vs. 13-14).
    In the biblical Greek, the word used for “heart” is “kardia”, and it is “one’s thoughts”, motives, or “way of thinking”. And so, in the biblical sense, “heart” is not just an organ in one’s chest. As Christians, we must come to understand that “sin begins in “the thinking stages”, and therefore, so must “repent”. This holy idealism goes to the heart of all of JESUS’ teaching.
    In verse 15, the Apostle Peter asks JESUS to expound on one of the statements HE had made earlier, when HE said, “People are not defiled by what they eat, but rather, by what they say and do”. In verses 16-20 JESUS explains it to Peter this way, “Anything you eat passes through the stomach and then goes out of the body”. On the other hand, “evil thoughts” that produce such sins as murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying and slander are what defiles a person spiritually, morally, and physically in the sight of GOD. What one eats, or, whether or not one washes his or her hands before or after eating, can never make a person unacceptable to GOD.
    If we are, in any sense, to become true followers of CHRIST, we must learn to, first, hear the Word physically and spiritually, and then, do the Word physically. We also have to lay down our “human ingenuity” when it comes to doing the work of GOD. GOD does not need us to re-think HIS plan and try to improve upon it. HIS plan is already perfect, and written out in HIS Word for all to see. HE just needs us to carry out that, “already perfect plan” sacrificially, in, and with, our own bodies that HE gave us.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander





                                 
                                           LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website




Friday, June 8, 2018


WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday June 10, 2018

Over 163,000 readers worldwide
larrydalexander.blogspot.com

PARABLES OF GOD’S KINGDOM
(GOD’s Kingdom grows despite earthly obstacles)
(Matthew 13:24-43)

   One of the main differences between the “Church” and the “Kingdom of Heaven” is that the Church includes both “saved” and “unsaved” people alike, whereas the Kingdom of Heaven will only be populated with those who are saved, and so too will the earthly “Millennial Kingdom” of CHRIST be. Here in Matthew 13, JESUS provides us with several parables that witness of that fact, as now we see a very distinct turning point in HIS ministry here on earth.
    Up until this point JESUS had done much of HIS teaching in the synagogue, but now because of open opposition from the Pharisees, Sadduces, and Scribes, the doors to the Church were slowly being closed to HIM. And even though HE was still being welcomed by the common folks of the congregation, the hierarchy of Judaism was beginning to search for ways to discredit HIM, and were, more and more, dead set on trying to trap HIM in HIS words.
    Taking up at verse 24, JESUS relates the parable of the farmer who planted good seeds of wheat in his field. That night, however, while everyone slept, his enemy came and planted weeds all among the wheat that he had sowed.
    As the crop began to grow, the farmer came to the realization that he had a “weed problem” to contend with in his field, however, instead of disturbing and running the risk of destroying his wheat crop, he decided to let the wheat grow to maturity among the weeds, and then, just prior to the harvest, remove the weeds without doing any damage to the valuable wheat that was needed for food and nourishment.
    After the crop ripened and became ready for harvesting, the harvesters first removed the weeds from the wheat field and burned them. Then, they harvested all of the wheat from the field and stored it safely within a barn.
     This parable by JESUS paints a vivid picture to those who were familiar with Palestinian farm life. The weeds, or “tares” depicted in this story were one of the most hated problems that a farmer had to contend with in his labors. These particular weeds, called “bearded darnel”, in their early stages, very much resembled wheat, and in fact, it was extremely difficult to distinguish between the two at that point in their growth. However, once they matured, the task of distinguishing became very easy, and so a farmer would be wise to wait until then to separate the two.
    Sandwiched in between “the parable of the wheat and tares” and its explanation, we find two other short parables, one of the “Mustard seed”, not the smallest seed, but rather, it was the smallest of all the seeds for gardening in Palestine in those days, and was often used in the proverbial sense to describe something very tiny. And, there is also “the Illustration of the Yeast”, which explains how a very trace amount of something can become a very large influence in life, or have a huge affect on life as a whole.
    In the parable of the Mustard seed, JESUS imparts to us a fact that has been historically proven over all of time, and that is, “great things always begin small”. The Mustard seeds of Palestine were likened unto that, as they often grew into 10 to 12 feet plants. And so we can see here that this parable is not an exaggeration by JESUS, by any stretch of the imagination.
    The Kingdom of GOD had come into the world through the presence of JESUS. Christianity would start with one MAN, but would catapult into a major religion before the end of the first century. This was one of the most personal parables that JESUS ever spoke, however, HE wanted HIS small group of young men to realize the challenge they were up against, and HE also wanted them to know that with GOD, all things were possible.
    There would be no room for discouragement. Each man had to first serve as one witness in every place that they went. And from all those small beginnings in each place, the influence of CHRIST would grow, until all the kingdoms on earth, have become Kingdoms of GOD.
    The parable of the yeast can be likened to the illustration of the mustard seed, as only a very small amount of leaven is needed to make bread rise. The amount applied may be small, but its influence on the way things turn out is tremendous. Christianity had small beginnings, but in the end its influence, the transforming power of CHRIST, will overcome the world, just as HE did.
    In the end, man will not be judged by any “single act”, or even “stage”, of his life, but rather, we will be judged by the whole of our lives. For, that is why GOD reserves judgment until the end, and not at the beginning. The parable of the wheat and tares serves to teach us that lesson. The world is full of both good and bad people, and sometimes, because of hypocrisy (play acting) it is difficult to tell which is which. However, if we wait and observe for long enough, eventually they will both, through their actions, help us to identify, just who they really are.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander





    


Friday, June 1, 2018


WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday June 3, 2018

Over 162,000 readers worldwide
larrydalexander.blogspot.com

JUSTICE AND SABBATH LAWS
(Mercy is more important than human rules)
(Matthew 12:1-14)

   Human need must always take precedence over ritual law, and even the Pharisees, who vehemently opposed JESUS, had always taught that people should adhere to that principal. Strangely, however, when JESUS applied this same principal in their presence, over and over again they acted as if HE were violating GOD’s Will by attending to the needs of the people.  
    One Sabbath day when JESUS and HIS disciples were walking through some wheat fields, HIS disciples begin to  pick off some of the heads of the wheat, rub off the husk with their hands, and eat them. A group of Pharisees, who were spying on them, begin to rebuke them for their actions. “Your disciples shouldn’t be doing that! It’s against the law to work by harvesting grain on the Sabbath” they cried.
    Here in this passage the disciples were being scrutinized and rebuked by Israel’s religious hierarchy for several actions that they deemed to be contrary to the Word of GOD, and as forbidden work on the Sabbath. Here they actually cite these four, rather ridiculous, violations against JESUS’ disciples;

·          Reaping (by picking the wheat),
·         Threshing (by rubbing the husk from the wheat in their hands),
·          Winnowing (by tossing the husk in the air to let it blow away), and, believe it or not,
·         Preparing their food on the Sabbath (the very fact that they then ate the wheat that they picked).  

    In verses 3-5 JESUS reminds these teachers of religious law of what King David did when he and his companions were hungry (1 Samuel 21:1-6), and they went into the House of GOD and ate the special “showbread” (the Bread of Presence) that was reserved for the priests only. There they took the twelve loaves of special bread that was placed weekly on the Sabbath, on a table made of solid gold, three feet long, eighteen inches wide, and nine inches high, and he ate it, and gave some to his men. In that particular incident, David’s “human need” took precedence over “their religious rules and regulations”, HE cited, and then, JESUS exclaimed, “I, the SON OF MAN, am master even of the Sabbath”.
    I’ve often said, that, it is extremely important that man approach the Scriptures with an open mind, and time and time again, it was clearly demonstrated by the Pharisees that they did not come to GOD, with an open mind. Despite all of their deep studies, somehow, they regularly seemed to miss the moral and spiritual message that is comprised in GOD’s Word. It is something that has become the absolute downfall of leadership in the professed Christian Churches, even here in the twenty-first century. So often, man has come to Scriptures, not to learn of GOD’s Word, but rather, to find their own theology, within GOD’s Word.
    Man has long sought a god that is made in his own image, instead of desiring to serve and worship the GOD, WHO made us in HIS. When we come to GOD’s Word with no sense of need, we always miss the most profound importance of its meaning. Here in this passage of Scripture, once again, we see these leaders of religion in Israel, doing just that.
   Taking up at verse 9, on yet another Sabbath day when JESUS was teaching in the synagogue, we see a man with a deformed hand catch HIS attention. The teachers of religious law closely watched JESUS to see what HE would do, because they were eager to find some legal charge to bring against HIM.
    JESUS, knowing their thoughts, said to the man with the deformed hand, “Come and stand here where everyone can see you”. After the man came up, JESUS said to HIS critics, “I have a question for you. Is it legal to do good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing harm? Is this a day to save a life, or to destroy it? (Luke 6:8-9)
    JESUS intently looked around at each of them, one by one, and then said to the man with the deformed hand, “Reach out your hand”. The man reached out his hand and it became normal again. The religious leaders became very angry, and they began to discuss among each other what they should do about JESUS.
    In these passages of Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospel accounts, conflict with the religious hierarchy in Israel over Sabbath-keeping heats to a boil. Their emphasis on ceremonial observances has clearly distorted what GOD’s intent was on giving man a Sabbath day of rest. They, perhaps unwittingly, had set aside the more important issue of caring for the needs of others.
    JESUS clearly understood that the man in question was not in a life-or-death situation, however, what JESUS is demonstrating and expressing here is that, anything that impairs the quality of human life, as GOD intended it to be, does, over time, destroy life altogether. When we fail to set right, those things that impair the quality of life, we, in effect, show disrespect to GOD’s greatest gift, which is life itself. And besides, JESUS tells us that, when HE returns, HE is going to judge us according to how we reacted to “human need”, in our lifetime (Matthew 25:31-46).

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander





    



Friday, May 25, 2018


WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday May 27, 2018

Over 162,000 readers worldwide
larrydalexander.blogspot.com

REJOICING IN RESTORATION
(Praising, praying, and depending on the LORD)
(Psalm 34 and Hebrews 2:17-18)

   Psalm 34 is a righteous man’s praise of GOD for HIS delivering him from life’s troubles and fears that can be magnified in our minds by the wiles of satan and his demons. Here the psalmist, King David, praises GOD for HIS perpetual goodness that HE lavishes upon him each day undeservingly, and in particular, for HIS delivering him from the hands of Abimelech.
    Taking on the role of a teacher, David urges all readers and hearers of the Word of GOD to “taste and see that the LORD is good”. He also teaches us that when we choose to do that which is good, GOD will supervise, so to speak, the results of those wise choices, and turn them into blessings that we will be able to enjoy and share with others.
    This “teaching psalm” shares with us, lessons that David himself learned when he became discouraged and fled to Philistia, and when he was recognized, he pretended to be insane, and was subsequently driven out of this enemy territory back into Israel. In that instance, GOD delivered David, despite his lapse in judgment and faith, showing him how HE was watching over him, even when he put himself into unnecessary peril, as we humans often seem to do.
    David could have just as easily called upon GOD for help while he was still in his homeland of Israel, instead of waiting until he dug a hole for himself in the land of his enemies. However, like most of us, we foolishly wait and see if we can solve our own problems before we call on GOD for HIS wise assistance.
    In verse 8 the phrase “taste and see” is an important figure of speech in biblical vernacular. It is a phrase that suggests that we take full participation in, or experience the full enjoyment of, that which is offered to us by the LORD. It is a call to rely fully and completely on GOD, experiencing the total benefits of a fulltime, personal relationship with HIM.
    David convincingly shares with us his confidence that the Angel of the LORD will shield those who fear GOD, with divine protection from on high. Those who trust in GOD, the true worshipers, will experience genuine joy, and will lack nothing, or, never have to do without “any good thing” in life.                 
    The person who takes total refuge in the LORD is one who does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly. Their sins are covered by the blood of CHRIST, and they trust in the LORD and have HIS divine power available to them when they need help. They are disciplined by HIM, and, they strive to keep all of HIS statutes, because they have a reverent fear of HIM as being the ONE WHO has control over the throne of their life.
    For those who choose to live righteously in the LORD, several assurances are highlighted by David in verses 15-21. First, “the LORD looks favorably upon the righteous”, in verse 15 is a wonderful sign of protection. However, in verse 16 David issues this warning that, “the LORD will turn HIS face against those who do evil”.
    Secondly, David assures us that “the LORD hears the prayers of those who are righteous, humble, and not arrogant or pride-filled”. And thirdly, “even though the righteous may face many troubles, the LORD will rescue them from every one of them”. HE will protect them from harm, and in fact, “not even one of their bones will be broken”.
    In summation to this “acrostic” psalm, where all of the verses begin with a different Hebrew alphabet (one letter is omitted however between verses 5 and 6 causing the acrostic to end at verse 21). Verse 22 is the exception, leaving it to stand alone and call attention to itself with this divine promise; …”the LORD will redeem those who serve HIM. Everyone who trusts in HIM will be freely pardoned” (NLT).
    The word, “redeem”, in verse 22 points to JESUS CHRIST as our LORD and SAVIOR. As a “human being” born to die, JESUS broke the power of sin and death that satan had held over mankind since the days of Adam and Eve. HE came to redeem us as a man, not as an angel, so that HE could fully represent us before GOD the FATHER as our merciful and faithful HIGH PRIEST, coming from a “human vantage point”. Only then could HE offer HIMSELF up as the supreme sacrifice that would satisfy GOD’s price for the sins of the world, once, and for all time (Hebrew 2:17-18).

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander





    

Friday, May 18, 2018


WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday May 20, 2018

Over 161,000 readers worldwide
larrydalexander.blogspot.com

THE SABBATH YEAR REST AND THE YEAR OF JUBILEE
(GOD wants us to have rest and liberty)
(Leviticus 25:1-23)

   In Leviticus 25 we come to see that worship of GOD the CREATOR, the FATHER of our LORD and SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST, and provider of the HOLY SPIRIT, means not only celebrating HIS presence, but also serving HIS purpose. Here, while he was still on Mount Sinai, Moses is given instructions by GOD to institute among the Israelites, a “Sabbath Year Rest” (once every seventh year), during which no crops should be planted or harvested by them. For one whole year the land itself will be allowed to observe a “rest” from all cultivation by man.
    The Israelites would be able to cultivate and harvest their fields for six consecutive years, and in the seventh year, no crops were to be planted, harvested, or stored away. Not even the fruit and grain that “grew naturally” during the seventh year could be picked and stored away by anyone except the poor and down-trodden, and the wild animals and livestock (Vs.3-5).
    In other words, those who had sold themselves into servitude (Hebrew slaves) to pay off debts to others, those who were hired servants, and any foreigners who lived among the Israelite community, were allowed to partake freely in the “natural crops” of the seventh year, and so too, were the wild animals and livestock allowed to feed, and be fed, from the bounty of the land in the seventh year (Vs.6-7).
    Old Testament Law is filled with special provisions for the poor and down-trodden, and it never assumes that their poverty is their own fault. Here in these passages, and also permeated in other passages throughout the bible, we see clearly how biblical law provides for those in need. Here is a sampling of some of those laws;

·         Judges were required not to favor the wealthy in civil cases (Leviticus 19:15).
·         Family land could not be lost permanently, but rather, had to be returned to the original owners every 50 years (Leviticus 25:8-23). We’ll get to this in just a moment.
·         The poor must be allowed to gather food from the natural crops of other’s land, during the Sabbatical year when no crops were allowed to be planted or cultivated.
·         Even during the regular annual harvests the poor must be allowed to come onto the edges of the fields to pick grain, and to also gather anything that had fallen to the ground, or, that had been left unpicked after the first picking by the owner (Exodus 23:10-11 and Leviticus 19:10).
·         Loans to the poor could carry no interest charges, and sales of food to the poor could not be profited from by the seller. It had to be sold to them at cost (Leviticus 25:35-37).
·         All outstanding debt has to be completely forgiven after seven years (Deuteronomy 15:7-11).
·         A regular collection (once every 3 years) of a 10% tithe on all crops was gathered and stored up locally to be distributed to the poor and needy (Deuteronomy 14:28-29)

    These are just some of the ways that GOD has incorporated mercy and justice into HIS laws, as a way to mediate systematically among mankind and to show HIS deep concern for the poor and oppressed members of society. These laws serve to motivate, and indeed, challenge us to find ways to become self-supporting by sharing with others, “GOD’s provisions”, that are not truly ours in the first place, but rather, really belong to GOD, the GREAT PROVIDER to us all.
    The Israelites went on to violate this Sabbath Year Rest 70 consecutive times (490 years in all) before GOD intervened and punished them by turning them over to King Nebuchadnezzar, and his Babylonian forces destroyed Jerusalem and transported them into Babylon for seventy years, one year for each Sabbath Year Rest that they violated.
    In verses 8-23 we see GOD’s instructions to the Israelites to earmark a “Jubilee Year” by counting off seven “Sabbath Years” (seven years times seven), 49 years in all. Then, on the “Day of Atonement” in the fiftieth year they were to blow the trumpets loud and long throughout the land. This fiftieth year would be set aside as a “holy time” upon which there would be a “release” for all who live in Israel. It would serve as a “liberation of debts and losses” for all who had come into poverty in Israel, giving everyone and their families a fresh new start in life financially and economically.
    The “Jubilee Year Law” meant that each person could return to the land that was originally owned by their ancestors, rejoin their clan members, and reclaim ownership of that land. However, they were to remember that it was also a Sabbath Year, and that the laws of the Sabbath year remained in effect as normal. They were to be careful to continue on observing them despite the fact that they may be inspired to celebrate the return of lost property to the family after 50 years.   
    To keep the Israelites from using their “human ingenuity” to get around the Jubilee law, or, to keep them from using the law to, somehow, take advantage of others, the LORD adds specific details in verses 14-17;

    When you make an agreement with a neighbor to buy or sell property, you must never take advantage of each other. When you buy land from your neighbor, the price of the land should be based on the number of years since the last jubilee. The seller will charge you only for the crop years left until the next jubilee. The more the years, the higher the price; the fewer the years, the lower the price. After all, the person selling the land is actually selling you a certain number of harvests. Show your fear of GOD by not taking advantage of each other. I the LORD am your GOD” (NLT).

    To assure the people and encourage them to have faith in HIS system, GOD promises that, if they continue to obey HIS laws, HE will bless them with a bumper crop each year, and they will always be able to eat until they are filled. And as far as their worries about what they will eat during the seventh years, the LORD promises that HE will bless the sixth year’s crops with enough of a harvest to feed them for three years. In other words they will be able to eat off of the crop harvested in the sixth year, until the ninth year. And they were to remember that the land must never be sold on a permanent basis.
    GOD wanted Israel to know that the land was actually HIS property, and that, they were only “tenants” on HIS land. GOD’s land was never intended to be exploited by man for his enrichment, nor, to contribute to the impoverishment of his fellowman. In fact, GOD ends this passage by saying, “You are only foreigners and tenants (in other words “leasing”) living with ME” (v.23b – NLT).

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander  





                                 
LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website