Friday, August 18, 2017

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday August 20, 2017

Over 136,000 readers worldwide
larrydalexander.blogspot.com

CALLED TO PREACH
(Only GOD can change hearts)
(Acts 9:1-22)

   Before we can help a person to change, we must first show that person our love for them just as they are. In Acts chapter 9, verses 1-18, Luke gives us a vivid description, of the most famous, and perhaps, the most sweeping transformation of any human being in the annals of biblical literature. Here we see chronicled, the story of how Saul (the Apostle Paul) was converted by JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF, one day on the road to Damascus, the oldest continually inhabited city in the world, and the capital of Syria.
    Scripture tells us that Saul, who was apparently an important figure to the Libertines (a group of freed slaves who had converted to Judaism), was an arch-enemy of the Christians, who referred to themselves at that time as “Adherents of the way”. Remember the Libertines were the group that stoned Stephen to death back in Acts chapter 7, setting off a round of major persecutions against the followers of CHRIST in Jerusalem.
    Saul embodied a deep hatred for this so-called sect of the Nazarenes that followed and promoted the ideology of JESUS, and, who were gaining much in popularity following HIS death at Golgotha. Little did Saul know at the time, that Stephen’s death at Jerusalem would be used by GOD to birth, and force the spread of Christianity throughout the world, and, that he, would become the face of that radical movement.  
    The strong preaching and teaching of the original Apostles of CHRIST, and other early Church leaders such as Barnabas, Philip, and the like, had catapulted the Christian doctrine of “Good News” into a legitimate threat against the powerful Church of Judaism at Jerusalem. The Gospel of CHRIST was swiftly becoming accepted by vastly increasing numbers of Jewish converts, who were formally associated with Judaism.
    Here in Acts chapter 9, we find Saul, on a rampage, eager to destroy any of the followers of CHRIST who crossed his path. He goes to the High Priest and requests letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus asking their cooperation in the arrest of anyone proclaiming to be a follower of CHRIST that he found there. He wanted to bring them back to Jerusalem in chains to either, jail, beat, or stone them to death.
    However, as Saul was nearing Damascus on this mission of hate, he is overcome by a brilliant light from Heaven, beaming down to the earth and causing him to fall to his knees in helpless wonderment. Suddenly the voice of JESUS rang out saying, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me? When Saul asks, “who are you?” The voice replies, “I am JESUS, the one you are persecuting! Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you are to do.”
    The men with Saul also heard this voice, but they saw no one, and they all stood speechless in utter amazement. Saul, now blind, rises to his feet, and is led by his companions, into Damascus. He abided there for three days, fasting, going totally without food or water.
    There was a believer in Damascus, by the name of Ananias, whom the LORD spoke to, in a vision. HE instructed Ananias to go over to “Straight Street”, the main thoroughfare in Damascus in those days, to the house of Judas, where Saul was residing. A protesting Ananias, who already knew of Saul’s exploits against the followers of CHRIST, is further instructed by JESUS to pray and lay hands on Saul, so that he would be healed of his blindness.
    Ananias reluctantly goes and finds Saul and lays hands on him, as CHRIST had instructed him to do, and the scales fell from Saul’s eyes. Saul is then baptized, and remains in Damascus with the believers for a few days. After being baptized and filled with the HOLY SPIRIT, Saul immediately begins to preach about JESUS in the Synagogues saying, “JESUS truly is the SON of the LIVING GOD!” 
    After Saul’s conversion, he abided in Damascus preaching about CHRIST for a few more days, and all who heard him were amazed at his transformation of doctrine, and, his behavior (his sudden surrender to CHRIST). They could hardly believe that this was the same man who had once terrorized the “Adherents of the Way” (followers of CHRIST) every chance he got. As Saul’s preaching became more and more powerful and effective, the Jews in Damascus were no longer able to refute his proofs that JESUS truly was, and indeed is, the MESSIAH.   
    It is a life-changing thing, getting to know, and then, becoming accustomed to practicing the Word of GOD. Getting to know CHRIST transforms our lives into something wonderful and new, and then, our commitment to that change, catapults us into everlasting freedom from Fear, Self, Other People, and finally, Sin. GOD is not willing that any should perish, and so HE, in HIS wonderful grace, offers this opportunity of change to all mankind, so that HIS grace and mercy towards us will win out over HIS judgment upon us.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander





                                 
LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website


Friday, August 11, 2017

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday August 13, 2017

Over 136,000 readers worldwide
larrydalexander.blogspot.com

PHILIP AND THE ETHIOPIAN EUNUCH
(Called to break down barriers)
(Acts 8:26-40)

   In Isaiah 56, verses 3-5, GOD promises, through the prophet Isaiah, to pour out HIS blessings on the eunuchs of the world, who dedicate themselves to serving HIM and keeping HIS commandments. There the LORD says that HE will reward them with a special place in HIS house, and that it would be a memorial far greater than the honor they would have received by having sons and daughters, and, it would last forever.
    In Acts chapter 8, verses 26-40, we begin to see the first signs of GOD’s fulfillment of that promise. This chapter of the book of Acts depicts a very significant phase in the history of the development of the early Church, as it begins to show signs of an initial shedding of its “strictly Jewish membership status”. Jewish men and women in the newly formed Christian Church were now being called to break down racial, economic, and social barriers that have the potential to block a significant portion of mankind from GOD.
    Here in this passage, we see the Church being compelled by GOD to scatter and flee Jerusalem, as a result of the Christian persecutions sanctioned by the Emperor Nero that, followed the tragic death of Stephen. The “Adherents of the Way” of CHRIST were now unwittingly taking one of the most important steps in the history of the early Church, and, at one and the same time, were discovering that the ideology of Christianity was meant by GOD to permeate the whole world. And when they were forced to leave Jerusalem, they also were forced to spread the Good News of CHRIST JESUS as they traveled from place to place in the Samaritan and Gentile worlds.
    After preaching and teaching in Samaria, an angel of the LORD came to Philip and instructed him to go south down the desert road that leads from Jerusalem to Gaza. As he traveled on his way he met a eunuch who was also the treasurer of Ethiopia. He was a man of great authority under the queen (Candace) of Ethiopia and he was returning from worshiping the LORD in Jerusalem.
    Candace is the name given to the queens that ruled Ethiopia’s governmental affairs, as the king, or “Royal Son” was thought to be above those kinds of duties. Eunuchs were used in trusted positions in royal courts, especially those positions that involved working around the king’s wives and harems.
    This particular eunuch was apparently a student of the Word of the GOD of Israel (the Holy Scriptures), and had converted over to Judaism. He was what was known as a “GOD-fearer” in those days, a person who was non-Jewish, who had converted to Judaism, but did not accept the ritual of circumcision, since he was, after all, a “eunuch”. A eunuch, as we know, is a person who has been castrated, or sexually mutilated, either voluntarily or involuntarily.
    However, whatever his circumstances were, he appeared to be a man who was seeking to know GOD better, and GOD promises that, whoever is willing to seek HIM through HIS Word, will indeed, find HIM. And so we see this royal eunuch riding in his carriage reading aloud, perhaps from the Septuagint (the first Greek translation of the Old Testament), and contemplating the writings of the prophet, Isaiah, when suddenly the HOLY SPIRIT instructed Philip to go over to him and walk along beside his carriage.
    Philip can now hear what the man was reading and asks him if he understood. The man replied, “How can I, when there is no one to instruct me?” he then invited Philip up into his carriage to sit with him and explain the Scriptures to him. The passage he was reading was that of Isaiah 53:7-8 which states;

HE was led as a sheep to slaughter. And as a lamb is silent before the shearers, HE did not open HIS mouth. HE was humiliated and received no justice. Who can speak of HIS descendants? For HIS life was taken from the earth.” (NLT)

    The eunuch asked Philip if Isaiah was talking about himself or someone else, and Philip began with this same Scripture and then used many others to tell man the Good News about JESUS and the gift of Salvation to all mankind who believed. As they rode along, Philip was able to lead the man to CHRIST, and when they came to some water, the man requested that Philip Baptist him, and he did.
    It is a life-changing thing, getting to know, and becoming accustomed to practicing the Word of GOD. GOD’s Word has already come, and in fact, has been with us since the beginning. The Word of GOD simply cannot be, nor will not be disregarded. The Word of GOD is synonymous with life, and therefore, the Word of GOD is effective, and penetrating.  It absolutely scrutinizes all of our thoughts, desires, and intentions.
    All things lay naked before GOD, because HE absolutely sees all, hears all, and knows all that we do. And every one of us will have to make an account for the deeds done in our own bodies, in our own lifetimes. And so, whether, or not, we believe that HE exist, therefore, becomes totally irrelevant.    

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander 





                                 
LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website






Friday, August 4, 2017

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday August 6, 2017

Over 135,000 readers worldwide
larrydalexander.blogspot.com

CHRISTIANS ARE CALLED TO SERVE
(We are called to witness through our behavior)
(Acts 6)

   Racial hostility and ethnic disputes are not problems of opposition that were born during the infancy stages of our nation’s existence, but rather, they are problems that have been around since the infancy of human existence. In Acts chapter 6, verses 1-7, Luke gives us a vivid description of just such a case of “ethnic opposition”, which led to the birth of the “Deacon concept” in the Christian Church.
    Here in this particular passage, we see rumblings of discontent involving “Greek speaking Jewish believers”, who were being discriminated against by “Hebrew speaking Jewish believers”. The Hebrew speaking Jews were unfairly distributing food, showing favoritism toward their own respective “widow population”.
    In order to resolve these disputes, the twelve Disciples of CHRIST, called a meeting of all the current believers. At that meeting they expressed how they, as Apostles, needed to spend their time preaching and teaching the Word of GOD, not administering a food program.
    And so they called on the believers to choose from among themselves, seven extraordinary men, who were full of the HOLY SPIRIT and wisdom, and put those men in charge of the food distribution program in the Church. And so we see here, that, even when we work in a domestic capacity in the Church, we must still be as serious, faithful, honest, and hardworking as any Church leader is expected to be. We must exhibit the same good character as we would expect to see from the pastor of the Church. Here these seven men were known for exhibiting character comparable to the most respected of men in GOD’s house.
    This idea presented by the apostles pleased the people of both groups, and they chose from among them, Stephen, a man full of faith and the HOLY SPIRIT, Philip, who later went on to preach the Gospel from Samaria to Caesarea, Procorus, Nicanor, Timmon, Parmenas, and Nicolas of Antioch, a Gentile convert, first, to the Jewish Faith, and then later, to Christianity.
    The Apostles then ordained the men, and prayed for them while laying hands on each of those individuals. This action by the people of the early church, freed up a wealth of time for the apostles, and afterwards, GOD’s message was preached in ever-widening circles, and the number of believers greatly increased in Jerusalem. Many Jewish Priests also converted to Christianity during this time and the Church began to position itself for greater growth throughout the Roman Empire.
    With that said, let us now focus on one of those seven men, who was chosen that day to serve in the Church at Jerusalem, the one who is called, Stephen. Stephen, whose name means “wreath”, or “crown”, was a man who was full of GOD’s grace and power. He performed many amazing miracles and signs among the people of Jerusalem. In fact, his ministry, arrest, and trial are very similar to that of our LORD and SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST.
    And just like anyone else whose life is patterned after JESUS in this world, opposition arose against Stephen one day in the form of a group of men from the “Synagogue of Freedmen” called “Libertines. They made their headquarters in a Temple in Jerusalem that was dedicated to the Jews who were former slaves of Roman citizens.
    The majority of these “Libertines”, came from Cyrene and Alexandria in northern Africa, the province of Asia, and Cilicia, Paul’s home country, where Tarsus is located. They had all been converted to “Judaism”, probably by Saul (Paul) himself, following their release from slavery.
    Now apparently, these men tried to debate against Stephen, and were not able to prevail against him in a public theological debate forum, and so, they began to conjure up lies about him, falsely accusing him of blaspheme against Moses, and, against GOD, both offenses punishable by “death by stoning”, in the Jewish communities.
    Their accusations aroused the crowds, the elders, and the teachers of religious law against Stephen, and as a result, he was placed under arrest and brought before the high council. These “lying witnesses” spoke of the time when they heard Stephen re-iterate the misunderstood words of JESUS, when HE said HE would destroy the temple, and when HE tried to clarify the meanings of the laws of Moses. Of course these words that they spoke of were taken way out of context, and in fact, had been totally perverted and skewed.
    Whenever we side with CHRIST JESUS, we automatically put ourselves in the position to be opposed by the world. JESUS HIMSELF warned of this in the Gospel of John (John 15:18-25), after HE had taken HIS twelve apostles into private teaching shortly before HIS crucifixion. He told them that, “When the world hates you, remember it hated ME before it hated you. The world would love you if you belonged to it, but you don’t. I chose you to come out of the world, and so it hates you” (John 15:18-19) - NLT).
    JESUS went on to tell them, that, “Since they persecuted ME, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to ME, they would listen to you! The people of the world will hate you because you belong to ME, for they don’t know GOD WHO sent ME. They would not be guilty if I had not come and spoken to them. But now they have no excuse for their sin. Anyone who hates ME hates MY FATHER too….This has fulfilled what the Scriptures said: “They hated ME without cause” (John 15:20b-25) (NLT).
    In the Greek, the word used for “World” is “Kosmos”, and it is from that word that we derive our English word “Cosmos”. In the spiritual sense, “it is that complex intertwining of sinful desires that shape our world of “lost humanity”. When we choose the “Christian Walk”, we automatically become strangers to “worldly behavior”. We are no longer permanent residents of this earth, but rather, we become citizens of Heaven, and therefore, the Laws of GOD, just as they were to Stephen and many other “true witnesses”, must become paramount to us, also.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander





                                 
LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website


Friday, July 28, 2017

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday July 30, 2017

Over 135,000 readers worldwide
larrydalexander.blogspot.com

GOD’S VISIONS TO AMOS
(The results of judgment)
(Amos 7)

   Throughout biblical history GOD has communicated “spiritual visions” to HIS prophets as, both, “an encouragement” to HIS people, and, as “an indication of their moral deficiencies”. The prophet Amos’ ministry is focused primarily on the streets of northern Israel, just outside the luxurious homes of the rich and famous, whom, GOD called him specifically to condemn.
    Inside those homes, the residents were reclined on their ivory-laden beds and couches, feasting on meat and exotic wines, while listening to, and singing, the latest popular secular (idle) music from pagan artists, who, talent-wise, compared themselves to the, now famous psalmist, King David (Amos 6:4-6).
    In Amos, chapters 3-6, we saw the prophet Amos listing a myriad of reasons why GOD must punish HIS wayward people, Israel. Among those reasons were “pride”, “social injustice”, “religious hypocrisy”, and “economic disparity”. Here in chapter 7, Israel has already been charged and found guilty by GOD for their falling away, and, for their covenant violations.
    In this particular passage, Amos begins to relate a series of five visions that he received from GOD, that foretell the results of HIS coming judgment upon Israel. We see here in chapter 7, the revelation of the first three of those visions, with the final two being revealed in chapters 8 and 9.
    The first vision is that of a great swarm of locust that was so vast, it actually cast a dark cloud over the entire land of Israel. When they came, they quickly devoured all of the green vegetation in sight. As we all know, the locust was a frequent instrument of punishment that was used by GOD to deal with HIS wayward people in biblical times, and whenever this type of punishment was handed down, because of its devastating effect on the land, it was naturally always followed by sickness and famine.
    Amos says here, that, this event would occur after the king’s share had been harvested, and just as the main crops were blooming (v.1). As a rule, the first crops in Israel would be taken by the king to feed his vast army and the animals that were used in battle. This meant that the remainder of the people would have to wait a whole year for the second crop to be produced, before there would be ample food for them and their animals.
   After seeing the first vision, Amos prayed “a prayer of intercession” for the people of northern Israel, asking that GOD would relent from HIS anger against them. He knew that no one could survive such a devastating blow as the LORD had just shown in the vision. The people were usually only stocked with enough grain to carry through the first harvest that was taken by the king. A failed crop in the second year would bring about widespread starvation in Israel. And so, because of Amos’ earnest petition of intercession, and GOD’s penchant for showing mercy even upon the guilty, the LORD decided not to fulfill the events of the first vision (Vs.2-3).
    In the second vision, the LORD showed Amos a scene that depicted HIM setting a great fire. It was a fire that had already burned up the depths of the sea and all of the land. Again Amos petitioned to the LORD that HE might postpone HIS dreadful punishment, and again, the LORD granted his request for leniency for the people of northern Israel (Vs.4-6).
    However, even though the prayers of the righteous does prevail probably most of the time, eventually, those who are interceded for must at some point, began to line up and turn their hearts toward GOD. If we can glean anything from Scripture, surely we’ve learned that there is a limit to how long GOD will put up with our foolishness before HE exacts punishment on us, and on the land on which we stand.
    In the ensuing “vision of the plumb line” we are reminded of a very simple and basic tool which was used in building and construction in biblical times. It consisted of a small “weight” that was tied at the end of a “cord” or a “string”. It was held up against a wall to detect its “vertical trueness”. We can liken GOD’s test and measurement of our “moral trueness” to the use of this construction instrument. GOD wants us to see how “true” we are in our “vertical relationship” with HIM.
    In verses 7-9 we see the LORD standing by a wall that has been built using a plumb line. GOD is holding the plumb line against the wall to check its vertical straightness. HE then asks Amos what does he see, and he replied, “A plumb line”. Then the LORD said to Amos, “I will test MY people with this plumb line. I will no longer ignore all their sins (spiritual flaws). The pagan shrines of your ancestors and “the temples of Israel” will be destroyed, and I will bring the dynasty of King Jeroboam to a sudden end”.
    Apparently when the LORD administered this plumb line test upon Israel, the people failed miserably, by way of crooked behavior. In fact, they were shown to be very far off in their vertical relationship with GOD, and so the whole construction of their perverted “horizontal relationship” with paganism and immorality had to be torn down so that Israel could be “re-built”, or, “restored” into a “true vertical relationship with GOD”.
    In the final segment of this chapter (Vs.10-17), an idolatrous priest in Bethel, by the name of Amaziah is told about the visions and prophesies of Amos. He hurriedly gets the message to King Jeroboam informing him of the dim forecast for himself, and, for northern Israel. Amaziah, perceiving Amos’ visions as being “a plot against the king”, sent orders to Amos, commanding him to leave and go back to Judah and preach his message there.
    However, Amos boldly continued to speak to Amaziah telling him that he was not one of his “paid prophets”, and nor was he “trained” to be one. He went on to tell the “misinformed” priest that he was just “a shepherd” who took care of fig trees. But the LORD called him away from his earthly duties so that he might attend to, and obey, the divine commands of GOD.
    Even, and especially, here in this, the twenty-first century, our “professed” Christian Churches are filled with ministers and Church leaders whose only desire is to “kiss up to the pastors” that they sit under, while completely ignoring the Word of GOD altogether. Here in verse 13 we see the phrase “the king’s sanctuary”. This phrase reveals the true heart and allegiance of the chief priest, Amaziah, to King Jeroboam, and not to GOD.
    In this day and age, in our modern churches, with all the money being made and offered to pastors, their assistants, and other church workers, it becomes easy to become confused as to where one’s allegiance should lie. And oftentimes, we let our loyalty to an “unGODly”, or “out-of-focus” pastor, pull us out of the will of GOD also.
    The danger always exists, that, in our zeal to please and protect our “human leaders”, we actually lose track of the fact, that our ultimate loyalty must be to JESUS CHRIST, “the true HEAD of the Christian Church”, and not to the man, who sits under HIM (Psalm 118:8). We don’t want to follow, nor let any man lead us to Hell, by reason of our desire to obtain, or maintain, a position in the Church, and nor, for the love of the money that holding that position might earn us.
    It is absolutely critical that all Church workers, first, have a personal, experiential relationship with CHRIST, the undisputed HEAD of the Christian Church, so that they will be able to help each when one is leaning toward going astray, or who may be operating in error of the Scriptures that we are all sworn by GOD to uphold.
    When we align our thinking with CHRIST JESUS, through a careful study of HIS Word, we will automatically be able to discern that which is right, from that which is wrong, even though, as humans, we will still come into error from time to time. However, we must remember that it is just as much unGODly to let the errors of a pastor, or other Church leaders, go unchecked, as it is to intentionally commit the error ourselves, because, after all is said and done, “we really are our brother’s keeper, and no man is right all of the time. Everyone in the Christian Church needs to be undergirded by one another, all of the time, as no man is an island.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander





  

Friday, July 21, 2017

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday July 23, 2017

Over 134,000 readers worldwide
larrydalexander.blogspot.com

EZEKIEL’S CALL
(Feed on GOD’s word, and then, proclaim HIS message)
(Ezekiel 2:1-3:14)

   In Ezekiel chapter 1, the prophet Ezekiel gives us a vivid description of his, now famous, “vision of living beings”, and he relates to us how a voice, from a man-like figure, which stood high above a throne, spoke to him while he stood on the banks of the Kebar River in the land of Babylon. This all happened during the fifth year of King Jehoichin’s captivity in Babylon, and now, Ezekiel himself had also been transported there by the Babylonians, into captivity.  
    In Ezekiel chapter 2, after seeing the vision, that voice that came from the man-like figure that stood above the throne in that vision, called out to Ezekiel and commanded him to “Stand up”, referring to him as “son of man”. The HOLY SPIRIT of GOD then entered into the young prophet and set him on his feet. He listened carefully as “the divine looking figure from GOD” gave him his calling and commission to speak to the, still rebellious people, of Israel (Ezekiel 2:1-5).
    In the book of Ezekiel the term “son of man” is used 90 times by GOD to address HIS servant Ezekiel. It is most likely used by GOD to remind Ezekiel of his human frailty, and his connection to the people that he was being commissioned to prophesy to. In the New Testament, the term “SON of man” is given to JESUS to emphasize HIS humanity, and HIS dependence on the HOLY SPIRIT of HIS FATHER GOD.
   True prophets of GOD are called to demonstrate GOD’s message with their whole life and body, and only to a lesser degree, with their mouth. This is because the LORD knows that people will not listen to HIS prophets any more than they are willing to listen to HIM, through the reading of HIS Word. And so GOD makes HIS prophet just as hard and stubborn as the people whom HE sends them to communicate with (Ezekiel 3:6-9). GOD commands that HIS true prophets be willing to demonstrate HIS message to the people through physical acts, rather than words, most of the time (Ezekiel 3:24-27& Ezekiel  chapters 4-5). Even when GOD sent JESUS to communicate with us, most of HIS demonstrating was done through HIS behavior and the use of HIS body to personify the message of GOD.
    In the biblical Greek, the term used for “word” is “logos” (log-os), and it, more or less, emphasizes the message of that which is spoken. Our LORD and SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST personifies the Word of GOD, in the flesh. As a 100% human in the flesh, HE is trying to get us to understand that one of the key reasons for HIS first advent was and is, for “communication”. JESUS is the “Spoken Word”, and “Living Expression” of all that which GOD ever sought to communicate to us about HIMSELF. JESUS is both, “identical” to the GOD of the Old Testament concept, and yet, is distinct from HIM.
    In Ezekiel 3, verses 1-3, the voice of GOD tells Ezekiel to “eat what I AM giving you __ eat this scroll! Then go and give its message to the people of Israel” (NLT). Ezekiel opened his mouth and the divine figure fed him the scroll and Ezekiel said it tasted as sweet as honey in his mouth (v.4).
    Before Ezekiel went on the spiritual journey that he was about to embark upon with the divine figure of GOD, it was necessary for him to be spiritually fed to the full with the Word of GOD himself. He had to let the Word of GOD sink deep down into his own heart before he could go out and impart the Word of GOD to others.
    And after Ezekiel had received the Word of GOD, the HOLY SPIRIT “lifted him up” and took him away. And even though Ezekiel says he left in bitterness and turmoil, the LORD had a strong hold on him. The HOLY SPIRIT ultimately set Ezekiel down in the midst of a colony of Jewish exiles in Tel-abib, and he sat there for seven days being overwhelmed and marinated in the Word that GOD had so freshly stored in his heart.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander




  

Friday, July 14, 2017

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday July 16, 2017

Over 134,000 readers worldwide
larrydalexander.blogspot.com

JEREMIAH’S CALL AND COMMISSION
(GOD challenges us with HIS calling)
(Jeremiah 1)

   The prophet Jeremiah was born in the tiny town of Anathoth, which was located about three miles northeast of Jerusalem, in the territory belonging to the tribe of Benjamin. His father was a man named Hilkiah, who was a priest, but is not believed to be the high priest Hilkiah, who discovered a copy of the Law during the reign of King Josiah (2 Kings 22:2-14). This Hilkiah was one of the several Levite priests that were assigned to that area of the southern kingdom of Israel known as “Judah”.
    Jeremiah’s call to ministry begins forty years before the final destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian forces in 586 B.C., and so his career covers the last years of Judah’s existence as a nation. He lived through the entire Babylonian invasion and conquest, including the shameful destruction of the temple in the end. Throughout all those years he constantly pleaded with the people of Judah to turn from their wicked ways ahead of GOD’s judgment, but instead of heeding his warnings, they mocked, persecuted, and ridiculed him the whole time.
   The book of Jeremiah is a collection of sermons that were preached by him over a twenty-year span of his ministry. These sermons are a mixture of poems and oracles, and they also contain Jeremiah’s own personal reactions to the negative responses from his people to his warnings. And even though the name “Jeremiah” means “Jehovah lifts up”, it seemed that most of the time, Jeremiah found himself saddened and depressed by the relative ineffectiveness of his warnings to southern Israel. In fact, Jeremiah found himself crying so much for his people that he became known around Israel as “the weeping prophet”.
    Here in Jeremiah 1, verse 5, Jeremiah says that the LORD gave him a message. In that message, GOD starts out by telling him that “I knew you” (“yada”) before you were formed in your mother’s womb. GOD tells him that, before he was born, HE had already “set him apart” (“qadas”) and “appointed him” as HIS spokesman.
    Interestingly, the word used here in verse 5 for “I knew you” in the Hebrew is “yada”, and it goes far beyond “intellectual knowledge” and actually conveys a sense of an experiential, personal, protective relationship, not unlike the kind of relationship that should be between a father and a son, or a husband and a wife.
    GOD also tells Jeremiah that he had been “set apart” or “appointed” by HIM. Here the word used for “set apart”, “qadas”, means that GOD had “sanctified and made him holy” for “a special use” or “special task” in HIS (in this case) immediate plans. Here Jeremiah is being told that he had been chosen as GOD’s spokesman to a doomed and unsaved Judah, who had chosen to go the same route (toward destruction) as their predecessors in northern Israel in 722 B.C.
    Then Jeremiah tells GOD first that, he was not a good enough speaker to represent him publically, and secondly, he was too young (meaning he was too young to serve in the Temple at that time). Though Jeremiah was a priest from birth, he was, at that time, only in his early to mid-twenties, and wasn’t eligible to actually serve formally in the temple until he reached the required age of thirty years old (Numbers 4). However, GOD’s plan for him, for now, was for work that was largely to be done outside the walls of temple, preaching among the populace of southern Israel, delivering specific messages directly from HIM.
    In verses 9-10 the LORD placed HIS thoughts in Jeremiah’s mind (put the words in his mouth) and then spoke this communication aloud to him, saying; “See, I have put MY words in your mouth! Today I appoint you to stand up against the nations and kingdoms. You are to uproot some and tear them down, to destroy and overthrow them (announce judgment to some). You are to build others up and plant them (bless some)(NLT).   
    Then the LORD shows Jeremiah two visions (Vs.11-15), one of “a branch of an almond tree”, and the other of “a pot of boiling water that was tipping to the north”. In the first vision, the “almond tree” branch, in the Hebrew “shaqed” (shaw-kade) is actually from the word “shaqad” (shaw-kad) which means “to watch”, or “to be on the lookout for”. The almond tree in ancient Palestine was called “the awake tree” because it was the first tree in the year to bud and bear fruit (in late January). Here it symbolizes GOD being awake and watching to see that HIS word is fulfilled.
    The second vision, the vision of “the boiling pot tipping toward the north” foretold the coming of Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, who, would “boil out on all the peoples of Palestine” who worshipped idols that were made with their own hands. Nebuchadnezzar would be used by GOD to exact HIS punishment on Israel, capturing and holding them prisoner, keeping them out of their homeland from seventy years, or, “until their sins ran its course”.
    GOD, however, based HIS 70-year term of punishment on the way the Israelites had violated HIS “Sabbath Year Rest”, which was to be observed once every seven years (Leviticus 25:1-7), the previous 490 years, exactly 70 times in all. HE thereby was sentencing Israel to one year in captivity in Babylon for every one of those Sabbath Year Rests that they violated, or, failed to observe, over that 490-year span.
    With that said, GOD instructed Jeremiah to get up and get dressed, and go out and tell the people of Judah, whatever HE instructs him to say, and whatever HE instructs him to demonstrate. And GOD strengthened Jeremiah for task, and also “warned him to not be afraid of the people”, or else, HE would make him look foolish in front of them.
    However, GOD also tells Jeremiah that, if he would bravely and confidently go forward to the people, HE would make him as strong as “a fortified city” that cannot be captured. GOD promised Jeremiah that no king, officials, priests, or anyone else in Judah, would be able to stand against him, and even though they will try mightily, GOD says, “I will protect you, and they won’t be successful”.
    Unlike most prophets of GOD, both pre-exilic and post-exilic, Jeremiah actually lived to see his prophesy regarding Judah’s demise, fulfilled in 586 B.C. Here in this, the twenty-first century, GOD still calls on men and women to stand up for HIM in difficult situations. And when we obey HIM, no matter what we become faced with, HE will protect us, and cause us to prevail against “the antichrist spirit” that we know, is already in the world.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander




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