Friday, June 24, 2016

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday June 26, 2016

Over 105,000 readers worldwide
larrydalexander.blogspot.com

GOD’S ANGER AT SIN
(Ignoring GOD’s plain truth)
(Romans 1:18-32)

   Failure to give reverence to GOD will ultimately result in our failure to treat each other right as human beings made in the image of GOD. The reason why the gospel must be preached is because we, as human beings, continue to suppress the truth about GOD, and, the truth about ourselves.  In Romans 1:18-32, Paul shifts gears, from talking about the kind of relationship into which a person can enter into with GOD by faith, to the kind of wrath we can expect to incur if we intentionally ignore GOD the CREATOR, and choose to worship our own ideas and those things which are created by GOD.   
    To the biblical prophets, the wrath of GOD was a perpetual event that would only culminate, or peak, in terror and destruction in “The Last Day”, or coming “Day of the LORD”. Remember, in biblical times, whenever Israel strayed away from GOD too long, HIS wrath would come against them and whip them back into line with HIS thinking.  And so, we must understand that GOD’s wrath will always, even today, visit us before too long.
    Our human sinfulness is seen quite vividly through our wicked acts, but it is also seen in the way we view and respond to GOD day by day. When we publicly and privately approve things that we know are contrary to GOD’s laws, we show HIM disrespect and rejection. We reject GOD morally, for example, through homosexual and adulterous behavior. We reject HIM in our character through greed and wickedness. We also may reject HIM in our relationships by way of envy, murder, deceit, and malice.
    GOD’s generous offer of salvation is sorely needed by each of us, and, we do, after all, stand rightly deserving of HIS divine wrath and judgment instead.  Most of mankind has rejected GOD, because they simply reject the knowledge of HIM that is available to us through HIS Holy and divine Scriptures. It is very much incumbent upon each of us to pick up GOD’s Word daily, read it, and study it, so that we can come to understand plainly, GOD’s Will, and how that Will should play a role in our personal lives.
    We can all see, quite clearly, GOD’s invisible qualities of divine nature and eternal power, both through HIS creation, and through HIS Holy Word, and, GOD shared HIS “invisible qualities”, or, “divine nature” with us, when HE first created mankind, all those years ago (Rom. 1:20). Those invisible qualities, or, “Communicable Attributes”, that make up GOD’s divine nature are, Life, Personality, Truth, Wisdom, Love, Justice, and Holiness. Those attributes are what make it possible for man, out of all of GOD’s creation, to have a personal, experiential relationship with HIM, and thereby, we have no excuse for not knowing GOD (Rom. 1:20), or obeying GOD, even before we received the HOLY SPIRIT as Christians ( see Rom. 2:14).
    Remember, the HOLY SPIRIT, scripture tells us (Matt. 3:16, Mark 1:10, Luke 3:21-22, & John 1:32-34), did not come upon JESUS  until HE was around thirty years old, and HE had perfectly obeyed GOD up to that point, as a 100 percent human being, the same way that we are born. JESUS came to show us first, how it is possible to obey GOD in our natural born state, if we choose to. GOD did not trick us by sending us a “supernatural being” to show us how to live as a “human being”, under HIM, here on earth. HE actually sent JESUS here to function first as a 100% human being in order to show us that we, as 100% humans, can choose to live a life of total obedience to GOD, simply because HE had already placed HIS divine nature in us from the beginning of time.
    GOD is angry at our sin because HE knows that HE made us to do better, for HE made us in HIS OWN “spiritual” image. GOD wouldn’t have been angry at the people of the Old Testament for their sins, if they couldn’t do any better, or, couldn’t help but sin. GOD, from the beginning, made us to be like HIM, spiritually. We know this because JESUS says, “GOD is SPIRIT” (John 4:24) and therefore, this means that GOD doesn’t have a physical image.
    In Genesis 1:26, where GOD says “Let us make man in our Image” HE was not speaking of a “physical image”, but rather, a “spiritual image” consisting of those seven “Communicable Attributes” that I mentioned earlier. They are the “invisible qualities” that Paul speaks of here in Romans 1:20 that, make us look like the GOD WHO created us, spiritually. HE supplied us with those attributes so that we would be able to worship HIM, have a personal, experiential, compatible relationship with HIM, and, in fact, could be like HIM.
    We’ve all lived a sinful life since Adam, but it was because we chose to, not because we couldn’t help it, as most of us want to believe. And we want to believe that because, in our sinful minds, it gives us a palatable excuse to continue to do wrong. However, if we continue to persist in doing wrong things, then, GOD will eventually turn us over to our own shameful desires. And, at that time, our lives will become filled with all manner of wickedness, and we will even begin to invent new ways to sin, in order to enhance our pleasure (Vs 24-31).
    And, even though we are aware of GOD’s death penalty (permanent separation from HIM), because we have, by then, developed a reprobated mind, we will continue on in our sin, and even begin to encourage others to sin also (v. 32). The sin, and sometimes, amoral attitudes, that permeates our society today, and makes our lives so painful to endure, is nothing more than divine judgment on us for rejecting GOD, and choosing immorality over GOD. Our iniquities vividly express our sinful nature, a nature that is adverse to the nature that GOD originally gave us. And it automatically, brings about GOD’s wrath, and subsequent, divine judgment, not just on “The Last Day”, but also, in this day that we currently live in.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander







   

Friday, June 17, 2016

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday June 19, 2016

Over 105,000 readers worldwide
larrydalexander.blogspot.com

THE JOY OF RESTORATION
(GOD will restore a repentant heart)
(Zephaniah 3:9-20)

   Despite Zephaniah’s underlying theme of judgment and punishment, this short three-chapter book closes on a very positive note, not to say that judgment and punishment are not meant to have a positive effect on us, because they are. However, here in verses 9-20 Zephaniah describes a scene immediately following the Israelites Babylonian captivity, just 70 years down the road, as he announces that, after GOD judges HIS wayward nation, HE will raise up a remnant of faithful believers who will continue to serve HIM as HIS covenant people.
    Looking at this in the eschatological sense, he may very well be describing a time of the “second coming” of CHRIST when HE will set up HIS “Millennial Kingdom” here on earth with a remnant of believers who have stood the test of the tribulations of satan. During those days GOD promises to give those survivors a new “human spirit” (Ezekiel 36:26). Similarly, GOD says here that HE will quiet them in HIS love, and rejoice over them with singing (3:17). At that time, “with Judah’s evil purged”, the LORD will gather them up again, and bring them back safely to their homeland.
    And so we see that despite the failure of that generation, or even ours, and future generations as a whole, to maintain a reverence for GOD, the obedience of a few from each generation are assured of a bright future with the LORD. Our hope in CHRIST, “the Christian Hope”, is not just for this life, but rather, it is for the eternal life yet to come in Heaven. That is why true Christians are not, and should not be “miserable people”, but rather, to the contrary, we are people who retain an unshakable joy, while still living here on earth.
    It is a true fact that JESUS has been raised from the dead, and HE became the first fruit of a great harvest of believers who will be raised to life again, after HIM. And just as death came into the world through Adam, resurrection from the dead, into eternal life with GOD, has been ushered in by JESUS CHRIST.
    Everyone dies because of their “earthly” relationship to Adam, but everyone can live again, eternally, through their “Heavenly” relationship with CHRIST JESUS. Death will be the last enemy of man to be destroyed, or nullified, and so, we must not be fooled by unbelievers, desiring to be like them in the world as ancient Israel did, or, as we still do today.
    Remember, bad company corrupts good character, and so we have to come to our senses and quit living in sin, by coming to know GOD on a personal and experiential, “life saving” level, and choosing to follow after righteousness instead of following after the world (Vs.20-34).
    It is a certainty that GOD will always discipline us when we sin, and sin will always be a seed that will produce consequences, judgment, and death. And while we can always be saved from hell, we can, in no way, ever be saved from the LORD’s judgment, or the consequences of our sins. Our sins must run its course, just as GOD says.
     And so finally, this book of Zephaniah, which had begun so miserably, now ends with a proclamation of joyful promise and praise. In verse 20 of this chapter, the phrase “I will give you a good name”, should serve to remind us that, all that we have and receive from GOD, is ultimately, a “free gift”, for GOD can never owe us anything, and no matter what we do, we can never put GOD into our debt. It is the free gift of salvation, the ultimate expression of GOD’s love and grace that we can’t afford to not accept. It is only because GOD is willing and committed to give, that we are able to escape this dark world, and be able to look forward, with confidence, to a bright future in Heaven in GOD’s OWN glorious presence, where JESUS already is.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander






Friday, June 10, 2016

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday June 12, 2016

Over 104,000 readers worldwide
larrydalexander.blogspot.com

THE CONSEQUENCES OF DISOBEDIENCE
(Jerusalem’s rebellion)
(Zephaniah 3:1-8)

   In the opening passage of Zephaniah 3, the prophet announces a three-fold indictment from the LORD against the city of Jerusalem. Those indictments include these three charges;

·         Oppression of its own people
·         Direct rebellion against GOD
·         Defilement of the Temple

    Jerusalem had become a polluted city filled with crime and violence. Her pride had caused her to no longer listen to GOD, and, in fact, they refused any correction from any GODly source, whatsoever. Their officials had become like hungry lions preying on the citizens of Israel, taking them for everything that they could, either by stealth, or by force.
    Their robber judges (dayanneh gezeloths) were like ravenous wolves, who, by dawn, had left no trace of their prey from the night before. Even the prophets of Israel had become arrogant liars, who were out for their own personal gain. And even the priests of the temple were defiled by their shameless failure to obey the laws of the Almighty GOD that they were sworn to serve.
    In verses 6-8 the LORD says that;

“I have wiped out many nations,
    devastating their fortress walls and towers.
Their streets are now deserted;
    their cities lie in silent ruin.
There are no survivors—
    none at all.
I thought, ‘Surely they will have reverence for me now!
    Surely they will listen to my warnings.
Then I won’t need to strike again,
    destroying their homes.’
But no, they get up early
    to continue their evil deeds.
Therefore, be patient,” says the Lord.
    “Soon I will stand and accuse these evil nations.
For I have decided to gather the kingdoms of the earth
    and pour out my fiercest anger and fury on them.
All the earth will be devoured
    by the fire of my jealousy”.

    Here we see that the LORD has already rehearsed HIS actions by punishing the pagan nations that lived around Israel, devastating them, and leaving them desolate, and in some cases, even without survivors. HE wanted to use the judgment of those nations as a warning to HIS backslidden nation of Israel, of what could befall them if they didn’t soon repent and return to obedience.
    The LORD had acted as HE always does, according to HIS OWN righteousness, by judging those nations according to their own wickedness. Still we see a defiant Judah consciously and purposely, if not eagerly, continue to practice their corrupt and evil behavior under the watchful eye of GOD.
    The Israelites mistakenly believed that, because they were known as GOD’s chosen nation, they were exempt from GOD’s judgment. However, here Zephaniah’s prophecy pokes a gaping hole in their prideful delusions, as he vigorously works his ministry to try to alter the fate of his people, from the path of destruction, to the path of righteousness and salvation.
    The Israelites were always careful to remind the nations of the world of the “privilege” they enjoyed as being GOD’s chosen people, but they always failed to realize the “responsibility” that came with that privilege. The city of Jerusalem was not only the political center of Israel, but it was also the religious center of Israel. They also believed that they would be the focal point of the coming MESSIAH, from the line of David, and that GOD’s promise to him, would bring them, both prominence, and peace.  
    However, the Israelites insistence on doing evil, combined with their blatant refusal to learn from the examples by which GOD had judged the nations around them, put the final ingredients into a recipe for their own demise, which would occur in three stages, in 605, 597, and 586 B.C., at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian army.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander





                                 
LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website



Friday, June 3, 2016

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday June 5, 2016

Over 104,000 readers worldwide
larrydalexander.blogspot.com

THE DAY OF THE LORD
(Seek righteousness while you still can)
(Zephaniah 1-2:3)

   The name “Zephaniah” is shared by four men in the Old Testament; the son of Maaseiah (2 Kings 25:18, Jeremiah 21:1, 29:25 & 29, and 37:3), a Levite of the family of Kohath (1 Chronicles 6:36), the father of Josiah (not king Josiah - Zechariah 6:10), and, the man who is the subject of our lesson this week, the prophet and author of this book, Zephaniah. The name “Zephaniah” has, over time, come to have two meanings “YAHWEH has hidden”, and, “YAHWEH treasured”.
    As one of GOD’s spokesman for Judah, the southern kingdom of Israel, Zephaniah began his ministry circa 627 B.C., which is approximately the same time as the great prophet Jeremiah. He was a member of the royal house of Judah, and traced his ancestry back to King Hezekiah. He, like Jeremiah, Habakkuk, and Micah, prophesied during the reign of King Josiah (641-609 B.C.). The fact that so many powerful prophets ministered during Josiah’s reign suggests to us the significance of this time-period.
    During this time, the nation was enjoying a brief period of relief from foreign intervention, as Syria’s power had diminished quite a bit. This gave the Israelites a chance to focus on internal affairs, and young King Josiah chose to concentrate on the moral and spiritual reforms of his people. However, the moral and spiritual decay of the people of Israel ran very deep, and not even the good and righteous intentions of Judah’s last GODly king would be able to save Jerusalem from destruction. And so, while Josiah, the son of Amon, was still king of Judah, the lord gave the messages compiled in this book to Zephaniah, the son of Cushi, the great, great grandson of Hezekiah.
    Zephaniah came along following a gap of silence from the LORD, after the fade of the ministries of Isaiah, Micah, Amos, and Hosea at the end of the eighth century B.C., and to those faithful who were beginning to think that the whole prophetic movement was over, Zephaniah’s appearance on the scene at the end of the seventh century was a welcome relief.
    However, little did the people of Israel know that Zephaniah’s coming would trigger the beginning of a final wave of Hebrew prophecy that would also include Jeremiah, Obadiah, Nahum. It would be Israel’s final chance to repent and return to GOD before HE unleashed the power of Babylon and King Nebuchadnezzar on not just Israel, but upon the whole world as they knew it at that time (Zephaniah 2:1-3).
    In Zephaniah 1, taking up at verse 2, the prophet Zephaniah unleashes a terrible warning of destruction from the LORD. There he tells the people that GOD will sweep away everything in the land of Israel, both people, and animals, birds and fish (in other words, anything that can embody a demon for the purpose of receiving worship through them). Every trace of Baal worship would be eradicated from the land of Israel. Even the priests who worshiped idols in secret, idols such as Osiris (the sun, moon, and stars – today in Freemasonry), and Molech (today in Hip Hop, to whom they sacrificed their children), GOD says, HE will destroy. The LORD also says that HE will even destroy the “backsliders”, those who formerly worshiped HIM, but now seek after other sources of worship (Vs.2-7).
    The “professed Christian Church” (those churches that give the world a bad impression of GOD, and help destroy, the image of JESUS CHRIST), has been prepared by GOD for a great slaughter, and HE has already chosen the elements which HE will use for its demise (v.7). On that day of the LORD’s judgment, HE will punish the leaders of the professed Church, and all those who chose to mix the holy with the profane by endorsing and following pagan behavior in the Church (v.8). HE will punish all those who participate in such worship services, and those who spiritually kill and steal to fill their pastor’s bank account with money (v.9).
    Everyone who sits content in their sinful practices will be searched out by the LORD in HIS coming Day of Judgment, and everything satan has given them, homes, cars, money, food, and drink, etc, will be taken away from them (Vs.12-13).
    In verses 14-18, Zephaniah gives the people a vivid description of what the coming “Day of the LORD” will be like. It will be a day when the LORD’s anger will be poured out;

·         It will be a day when men who have a reputation of being tough and strong, will wither and weep bitterly.
·         It will be a day of terrible distress and anguish.
·         It will be a day of ruin and desolation.
·         It will be a day of darkness and gloom, of clouds and blackness, trumpet calls and battle cries.
·         Strong nations will fall because of their sins, and be made as helpless as a blind man searching to find his way.
·         Blood will be poured out into the dust and bodies will lay rotting on the ground.
·         Money, silver and gold will be of no value.
·         The whole earth will be affected and GOD will make a terrifying end of all the unrepentant people of the earth.

    No doubt Zephaniah sounds here like a religious psychopath, even though he ministered at a time when religion was corrupt, the government had failed, and apathy and indifference ruled the day (umm, sounds like today). However history now tells us just how correct he was in his prophecy, as in 605 B.C. the destruction of Judah by the Babylonians had already begun. In fact, his prophecies were fulfilled quicker than any other messenger of GOD before him.
    When we search out and study the details of these prophecies for actual clues as to the state of humanity at the end of this age, we can see quite clearly that Zephaniah’s messages captures the character of both GOD and man, and what he envisioned can still be seen in the world in this day.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander





   

    

Friday, May 27, 2016

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday May 29, 2016

Over 104,000 readers worldwide
larrydalexander.blogspot.com

JOYOUS FAITH
(JESUS came to seek and save those who are lost)
(Luke 19:1-10)

   The office of “Chief Jewish Tax Collector” was one that was won by the highest bidder for the job. The cost incurred by the winning bidder was then made up by charging the Jews excessive rates, even on those who were poor. The person who held that position usually became the most hated person in any Jewish community.
    In Luke 19, taking up at verse 1, Luke chronicles the “Jericho stop” on JESUS’ final missionary circuit in route to Jerusalem, and HIS appointment with death on a cross at Golgotha (Cavalry Hill). As HE made HIS way through the town, HE encounters just such a hated Tax Collector, by the name of Zacchaeus.
    Zacchaeus was one of the richest and most influential Jews in the tax collectors business. He had come there to get a glimpse of the man, JESUS, WHOM he had heard so much about. Being a man short in physical stature, Zacchaeus was not able to see over the pressing crowd, and so he ran ahead and climbed up in a sycamore tree beside the road to get a better look at the, now famous, healer, exorcist, and preacher and teacher of the Gospel, from Nazareth.
    Here we see unfolding, a wonderful lesson on how to reach people with the Gospel while they are in their own comfortable setting, as opposed to always seeking to reach them in a church setting, where it is considerably more difficult to get them to accept an invitation. When we really think about it, most of a Christian’s successes at converting people from the world, come while we are in settings that are familiar and comfortable to those whom we are trying to convert to CHRIST.
    In verse 5, as JESUS reached the spot of the sycamore that was now occupied by Zacchaeus, HE looked up and called on the curious tax collector to come down and get to know HIM over dinner at his home that same day. And even though Zacchaeus was excited at JESUS’ request, the crowd of people who were gathered around were stunned and displeased at JESUS’ proposal to eat with their most hated enemy, a sinful, cheating, notorious tax collector. They felt that, to “break bread” with a person was a significant sign and expression of fellowship and acceptance between the guest and the host, and many still feel that way today.
    However, hate will always hinder a person from receiving what GOD has to offer us. When we harbor hatred for one another, it makes it impossible to do the work that CHRIST calls us to do. In fact, in such cases, just as the “unsaved” person who needs to be converted is blocked from CHRIST, so too, is the person who hates his fellowman, and yet, somehow, thinks that they themselves are “saved”. Whenever we seek to block someone we don’t like from GOD, it is usually a sign that we ourselves are not saved.
    On the other hand, one of the great indicators that a person is saved, is that, he or she not only does that which is required by the law of GOD, but rather, they are willing to go beyond that and into the territory of “sacrificial offerings”. In verse 8, we see just such a sign from the repentant tax collector, Zacchaeus. There he stands before the our LORD and SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST, and tells HIM, “I will give half my wealth to poor, LORD, and if I have overcharged people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!”
     In Leviticus 5:16, the payment for such an offense of thievery that was committed by Zacchaeus, is restitution, plus, 20%. However, here Zacchaeus is willing to go way beyond the limits proposed by the Law of Moses. Here his genuinely repentant heart dictates to him that he gladly and sacrificially give back “four times more” than is required by the law.
    And so here we see a lesson learned about how we are to seek and save not only our relatives and friends, but also strangers and those who may have an unsavory reputation in our communities. Here JESUS is able to save the most hated sinner in town from eternal damnation, and in verses 9-10 HE expresses HIS joy to do so, to the people of Jericho when HE proclaims, “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a son of Abraham. And I, the SON of Man, have come to seek and save those like him who are lost”.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander







      

Friday, May 20, 2016

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday May 22, 2016

Over 103,000 readers worldwide
larrydalexander.blogspot.com

CHILDLIKE FAITH
(JESUS blesses the children)
(Mark 10: 13-16)
   The healthy attitude of a child toward his or her parents should be one of trust and dependence upon them for their daily needs, their needs for, at least, the near future, their protection from hurt and harm, and, their teaching and training in those things that are right and pleasing to GOD. JESUS says that it is that same trust and attitude of faith that any responsible adult must have toward GOD, if, they are to be able to make their way into the Kingdom of Heaven.  For Scripture says that, “without faith, it is impossible to please GOD”, and that, “GOD will keep in perfect peace the mind that stays on HIM, because it trusts in HIM”, and that holds true, even while one still exists in this life, here on earth.
    In Mark chapter 10, verses 13-16, sandwiched between JESUS’ teachings on divorce and marriage, and HIS encounter with the rich young ruler, we find the account of when several parents were bringing their children (paidia) to JESUS so that HE could lay hands on them and bless them.
    JESUS, not being one who endorses a “boy’s club mentality” was indignant when HIS disciples, who were obviously feeling that children weren’t important enough to merit personal attention from HIM, tried to impede, or block the little ones from receiving their blessings from the LORD. We can also recall on another occasion (Luke 9:49-50) when these same disciples wanted to stop others, who weren’t in their “imagined clique” (boy’s club), from casting out demons in the name of JESUS. There JESUS reminded them that anyone who is not against you is for you.
     In other words, JESUS was trying to communicate that Christianity is not meant to be “exclusive”, but rather, it must be “all inclusive”, and anyone who chooses, of his or her own free will, to leave behind, the temporal things and attitude of this world, and partake in the eternal things of GOD, are indeed welcome to enter into the true family of CHRIST JESUS.
    In verse 14b JESUS tells HIS mistaken band of men to “allow the children to come to ME. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of GOD belongs to such as these. I assure you, anyone who doesn’t have their kind of faith will never get into the Kingdom of GOD.” Here JESUS is saying that, if a person does not divest themselves of “the pride of life” that has so separated them from GOD, and repent, and humble themselves back to the state of what a child exists in, which is one of total dependence and trust (come to the end of “self” where JESUS is waiting), one can’t possibly enter into the greater life, which is in Heaven, where GOD can take us into HIS arms and bless us, just as JESUS does with the children in this passage (v.16), forevermore.  
    It is the humble ones who are in position to be received by GOD into Heaven. It is foolish to place our emphasis on people who seem to be most important, and are well received by the world that they try so hard to be like and impress, and then totally ignore the “little ones” (those who are meek and humble) who are important to GOD, and take pride only in their dependence on, and faith in, GOD.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander







Friday, May 13, 2016

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday May 15, 2016

Over 103,000 readers worldwide
larrydalexander.blogspot.com

HUMBLE FAITH
(Prideful prayers are not honored by GOD)
(Luke 18:9-14)

   Prayer time should be a time when we set our lives beside the life of JESUS CHRIST, and be humbled, and not beside the life of other people, where we think we can be exalted. No one who rates his or her life above the life of others can utter a prayer that is honored by GOD. Unless we pray in the power of the HOLY SPIRIT, we put ourselves in danger of lifting ourselves above our fellowman. The gates of Heaven are low, and the only way to enter through them is on our knees, both physically and spiritually.
    In Luke chapter 18, taking up at verse 9, JESUS shares the story of two men who simultaneously went into the Temple to pray one day. The Scriptures says that JESUS was telling this story to an audience who had great self-confidence in their petitions before GOD, and that, normally they would scorn those whom they thought were religiously inferior to themselves. In other words they were proud, eloquent, and arrogant.
    Now, one of the men was a Pharisee, and the other was a hated, dishonest tax collector whom few people liked or respected. In the first century devout Jews observed three prayer times each day (9 am, 12 noon, and 3 pm), and they felt that their prayers would be especially effective if they prayed them in the Temple.
    The Pharisee, was a man who took great pride in his ability to pray long, eloquent prayers, and was actually, whether wittingly or unwittingly, giving himself a great testimonial before GOD. In this passage JESUS says that this man stood by himself and prayed this particular prayer; “I thank YOU, GOD, that I am not a sinner like everyone else, especially like that tax collector over there! For I never cheat, I don’t sin, I don’t commit adultery, I fast twice a week, and I give YOU a tenth of my income”.
    In those days, not only did devout Pharisees fast twice a week, they made sure that the “little people” in town saw them doing it. They did this by putting on their most used-looking, tattered robes, that they saved for occasions of fasting, and they would go down to the marketplace on its busiest days (Mondays and Thursdays) so that as many people could see them as possible. They were also careful to tithe of the money that they would regularly steal from the poor, the orphans, and widows in the church.
    Contrastingly, standing at a distance from this prideful Pharisee was the ostracized tax collector, who dared not even so much as, lift his eyes up to Heaven before GOD, but rather, JESUS says that this humble man “beat his chest in sorrow”, saying, “O GOD, be merciful to me , for I am a sinner”.  This was the right reaction for a person who chooses to set themselves before GOD in order to petition for HIS mercy and help.
    When we set ourselves beside, what we consider to be, “the worst of society”, odds are, we stand to look pretty good, especially to ourselves. However, when we set ourselves beside the life of CHRIST JESUS, as we must do when we are in prayer (if we want GOD’s attention), we all can see quite clearly that we fall short of the glory of GOD. We can then put ourselves in the proper position of humbleness that is needed to receive mercy and forgiveness from the only SOURCE that can provide it, which is GOD.
    And so, in the end we see that it was the sinful tax collector, one of the most hated men in Israel, who returned home from that prayer session that day, being justified by GOD. And, as for the pride-laden Pharisee, he returned home unchanged, still too proud to request any special favors from GOD. He would, instead, have to continue to pray, useless, eloquent, arrogant prayers to himself, and, to men who enjoyed listening, but could not in any way help him with his issues. And to end this passage JESUS assures us that, when dealing with GOD, “…the proud (the Pharisee) will be humbled, but the humble (the tax collector) will be honored”.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander