Friday, June 23, 2017

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday June 25, 2017

Over 133,000 readers worldwide

(GOD can do miraculous things through us)
 (Judges 13)

   Of the 340 years of Israel’s history that is recorded in the book of Judges, this 40-year stint of oppression, that the Israelites suffered at the hands of the Philistines in chapters 13-16, is the longest period of servitude that “GOD’s chosen people” had to endure at one time. Here in these chapters, we find chronicled, the now famous account of the life of Samson, who ruled over Israel for the final 20 of those years.
    Samson, whose name means “distinguished”, was a man, whose great “physical strength”, and equally great “moral weaknesses”, made him famous throughout the land in his day. He is the last judge mentioned in the book of Judges, and even though his parents (Manoah and his unnamed wife) showed evidence of their great faith in GOD, Samson can quite clearly be characterized as a man who became just a product of his era (worldly).
    Here in this passage (Judges 13), “The ANGEL of the LORD” (a manifestation of CHRIST in the Old Testament) instructs Samson’s parents before his birth, regarding the manner of lifestyle which he was to lead. Samson was to be raised as a “Nazarite”. He would become the first of only three men in Scripture to be born under a “lifetime Nazarite Vow” (the others are Samuel and John the Baptist). This meant that he would be dedicated to GOD from birth, and would serve as an example to Israel, personifying a commitment to the LORD forever (Vs.3-5).
    However, Samson fell far short of this mark throughout most of his life, as his passion for pagan women and the pleasures of this world led to, first, his physical blindness and enslavement (the Philistines gorged his eyes out – Judges 16:21), and then ultimately, his dramatic demise during a festive pagan celebration of his capture, in the temple of the idol god Dagon, which he himself, ultimately destroyed (Judges 16:23-31).
    Chapter 13 starts out as most of the chapters in this book do, with the familiar words “Again the Israelites did what was evil in the LORD’s sight”. And so, as is equally familiar, the LORD placed HIS people into servitude, this time, into the hands of the dreaded Philistines, who, as I said earlier, oppressed them for 40 years.
    Samson’s parents, a man named Manoah, and, his wife (who is not named), were members of the Israelite tribe of Dan. They resided in the town of Zorah, which originally belonged to the tribe of Judah (Joshua 15:20 and 33), but was later allotted to their tribe by Joshua. Manoah’s wife was unable to bear children, and so, when “The ANGEL of the LORD” first appeared to her to tell her that she would bear a child, she was ecstatic, and she couldn’t wait to run and tell her husband the good news.
    However, first she had to patiently wait and receive the instructions that the LORD had for her and Manoah. The LORD told her that she would give birth to a son, and, that she must not drink any wine or alcoholic beverages, nor eat anything that is forbidden in their diet by GOD, while she was pregnant. HE also told her that her son’s hair must never be cut, and that, he would be dedicated as a Nazarite from birth. And finally, the LORD tells her that her son would one day rescue Israel from the Philistines (Vs.3-5).  
    After receiving their instructions from “The ANGEL of the LORD”, the woman ran home to tell Manoah, and upon hearing this news, he immediately prayed to GOD asking HIM to re-send the ANGEL to them for the sake of his own hearing, and the LORD did. However, again the LORD appeared first to his wife, and his wife ran and got him and brought him to the place where the ANGEL of the LORD awaited them.
    When the LORD told Manoah WHO HE was (v.11), Manoah believed HIM, and then he asked the LORD, “In what manner he was to raise the child?”. Here (v.12) we see the faith of Manoah, as he didn’t ask, “IF” YOUR words come true?”, but rather he states emphatically that “WHEN” YOUR words come true, what kind of rules should govern the boy’s life and work?” And the ANGEL of the LORD replied, “Be sure your wife follows the instructions that I gave her” (NLT).
    When Manoah asked the ANGEL what was HIS name, the ANGEL simple responded, “Why do you ask MY name? You wouldn’t understand if I told you”. Not pressing any farther, Manoah asked The ANGEL of the LORD to stay and eat a meal with them.  The ANGEL accepted Manoah’s invitation to stay, but HE declined to eat anything, telling Manoah to instead, offer up a burnt offering sacrifice to the LORD. After the sacrifice was prepared and underway, the ANGEL of the LORD ascended back up into Heaven upon the flames of that sacrificial offering, never to appear again to Manoah and his wife.
    And when their son was born, they called his name Samson, and the LORD blessed him as he grew up. One day while in Mahaneh-dan, which was located between the towns of Zorah and Eshtaol, the SPIRIT of the LORD began to take hold of Samson, and ironically, as the LORD would have it, this would be the same place where Samson would later be buried following his demise, which resulted by way of his own request to the LORD, that he die with his enemies, in Philistine (v.30).

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander


Friday, June 16, 2017

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday June 18, 2017

Over 132,000 readers worldwide

(GOD calls on the unlikely)
(Judges 11)

   Jephthah was the illegitimate son of a man whose legitimate family resided in Gilead. His father conceived him through a sexual encounter with a prostitute. His many half-brothers, by the man’s legitimate wife, grew up hating Jephthah, and eventually, they were able to chase him off their land, vowing that he would never be allowed to share in their father’s inheritance.
    Jephthah, fearing for his life, fled from Gilead, and settled in the land of Tob. Tob was a place located between Ammon, and Mannasseh, and it was there that Jephthah was able to pull together, a loose band of brigands, who would serve as his new family. The group became confident in his leadership, and, over time, they were willing to follow him anywhere.
    Jephthah and his group quickly gained a reputation as great warriors and the stories of his exploits began to spread back to his former home in Gilead. It was about this time that the Ammonites had begun to wage war against Israel, and the elders of Gilead (some of them were his half-brothers), who had all by now, caught wind of Jephthah’s notorious reputation as a great warrior, decided to swallow their pride, and shamelessly send word to him, begging for his help.
    After some mild rebuke from Jephthah (V.7), reminding them of how they had treated him earlier, the leaders of Gilead humbly conceded that they needed him and would make him their new ruler, if he would lead their army against the Ammonites (v.8). However, not trusting them, Jephthah made them swear an oath before the LORD that they would keep their promise to him (Vs.9-10). He then went with them to Mizpah, where they had a formal “swearing in” ceremony for him.
    Unlike Gideon before him, Jephthah was initially called to his position by men, not GOD. However, GOD was called on to witness this event, and HE later placed HIS HOLY SPIRIT upon Jephthah (v.29), and the SPIRIT enabled him to be victorious in his military campaign against the Ammonites.  
    However, Jephthah’s first move as Gilead’s leader was a diplomatic one, as he immediately sent messengers to the king of Ammon demanding to know why Israel was being attacked by them. The king responded by accusing the Israelites of stealing their land 300 years ago, when they first came out of Egypt, and crossed the Red Sea. He told Jephthah that he would leave them in peace if they returned all of the land to them (even that part that was not originally theirs). This included all of the land situated between the Arnon, Jabbok, and Jordan rivers.
    Jephthah refuted the king of Ammon’s claims, and presented his own case as to why his accusations were unfounded, and he relied on sacred history to back Israel’s right to ownership of the land which they now resided on. In verses 15-22 he lays out a detailed account of how Israel really came into possession of the land that was now in dispute, over 300 years earlier. He then tells the king that it was the LORD GOD of Israel who took the land from the Ammonites, the Moabites, and, the Amorites, and gave it to them.
    However, Jephthah’s attempt at diplomacy failed as the king of the Ammonites paid no attention to his message. And so the SPIRIT of the LORD came upon Jephthah, and he went throughout the land of Gilead and Manasseh, leading an army against the Ammonites that devastated 20 of their cities, towns, and villages.
    Jephthah made an “unnecessary vow” to the LORD (because GOD had already assured him victory), stating that, “if GOD gave him victory over the Ammonites, that, he would, in return, dedicate the first thing coming out of his house to greet him upon his return, to the LORD, as a sacrificial burnt offering”.
    And even though the vow that Jephthah made to the LORD was not at all unusual, as far as Mosaic dispensation goes, it was, as I said, unnecessary. He was legitimately seeking to bless the LORD with thanksgiving in anticipation of HIS divinely promised victory over the Ammonites. However, his “rash vow” would later come back to haunt him, as it was his daughter, his only child, who was “the first to come out of his house” (“his first born”).
    GOD takes our vows to HIM, seriously, and, literally, and so we should put more thought into it, before making a vow, and then, don’t do it. This is eternally great advice that comes, not from me, but rather, from JESUS CHRIST our LORD and SAVIOR (Matthew 5:33-37).

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander


Friday, June 9, 2017

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday June 11, 2017

Over 132,000 readers worldwide

(GOD equips us with HIS strength)
Judges 6

   Judges chapter 6 opens pretty much the same way most chapters in this book does, with Israel’s, now familiar continuing “Five-cycle pattern” which consisted of “sin”, “servitude”, “supplication”, “salvation”, and then finally “peace”. Over and over again “GOD’s chosen people” would choose to continue to simmer in this physically and spiritually taxing, habitual pattern, from generation to generation.
    In Judges, chapters 6-8, the author of GOD uses 100 verses to relate the story of Gideon’s HOLY SPIRIT-possessed exploits, and his 40-year reign as judge over Israel. As I said earlier, chapter 6 opens just as most of the other chapters in this book does, as the deadly cycle of Israel’s disobedience to GOD, followed by repent, GOD’s judgment and mercy, and finally, peace, continues on in perpetual motion.
    First of all, the Israelites would “sin” against GOD. Then GOD would place them into “servitude” to one of the many pagan nations that surrounded them. This would later be followed by repentance and “supplication” by the Israelites to GOD, which would lead to GOD extending mercy to Israel by sending them “salvation” through one of the many judges mentioned in this book.
    After the judge releases them from their oppression, they would remain in “peace” throughout that judge’s life and reign, before starting the cycle all over again, after that judge’s death. It is a pattern that would persist throughout the 340 years (1390 to 1050 B.C.) of Israel’s history that is chronicled in the book of Judges. In verse 1a we see that, once again, following the death of Deborah, the Israelites have fallen into sin. We also see in verses 1b-6a that GOD allows them to keep on falling, right into the hands of their enemies, the Midianites.
    The Midianites were a powerful, nomadic group of people who came from south of the land of Edom. Their strength was accredited to their unique incorporation of the camel into their army’s military strategy. In fact, this documentation of the use of camels in warfare, here in the book of judges, is the earliest known case of such, in world history.
    In order to understand the Midianites military capabilities more thoroughly, one would have to understand the durability and stamina of the camel. A camel could carry 400 pounds, plus a rider, for a week without drinking water, and could travel up to 100 miles per day. This made the Midianite’s military a very formidable, superior force in those days. Here in this passage, we are told that the Midianites would attack the Israelites at harvest time every year, destroying all of their crops, and eventually driving them to the brink of starvation.
    In verse 6 we see the Israelites repent and cry out to GOD for help, and GOD, as HE always does, answer their call, by first, sending in a prophet, and then, subsequently, HE calls up Gideon, and uses him to rescue HIS fallen people from their oppression.
    “The ANGEL of the LORD”, which is, in Scripture, “a theophany of CHRIST”, or “a manifestation of GOD’s OWN presence”, first appeared to Gideon while he was hiding out at the bottom of a winepress, shielding himself from the Midianites while he continued his work, threshing wheat. He feared that the Midianites would kill him, just as they had slain his brothers earlier (Judges 8:19), if he is ever seen by them.
    The ANGEL tells Gideon that the LORD is with him, but Gideon, being puzzled by the remark, asks, “Why then has the LORD abandoned us?” (v.13). For some strange reason man seems to always expects GOD to be with us while we’re sinning against HIM. We foolishly seem to expect HIS help while we’re doing the work of satan.
    The ANGEL tells Gideon to “go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I AM sending you”.  In other words, the LORD seems to be telling Gideon to proceed with the same boldness by which Israel has sinned before HIM, while they were “without HIS help”. This time, however, GOD says, “I AM sending you” to do MY Will, and unlike when you were living outside of MY Will, this time “you have MY help”, and you will not fail. When we stay within the Will of GOD in life, GOD is always with us, rendering us HIS help.
    Gideon then responds, by telling GOD how weak and helpless he is (vs.15). We often have a “can’t do” attitude when it comes to obeying GOD, but when we want to do what we want to do, we can muster up all the power and energy that we need to carry out our own plans, which more often than not, will get us into more hot water.
    After the LORD tells Gideon again, that, HE is with him, Gideon, in the true tradition of the Israelites, asks GOD to show him “a sign”, that will convince him that it is truly the LORD that he is speaking with (Vs.17-21). When Gideon realizes that it was truly the LORD, great fear and reverence came over him. He feared too, that, since he had seen GOD face to face, he would die. However, the ANGEL assured him that it was OK. Gideon then built an altar there to the LORD, and he named it, “The LORD is peace”.
    GOD’s first assignment to Gideon was to destroy his own father Joash’s “altar to Baal”, along with the “Asherah pole” which stood beside that altar. HE instructed Gideon to choose the “second best bull” (the bull was the sacred animal of the Canaanites) in his father’s herd, a seven-year old animal, and prepare it for sacrifice on the new altar that he would build for HIM. GOD also instructed Gideon to use the Asherah pole as firewood for the sacrifice. Here GOD wants to exhibit “a symbolic rejection” of false god worship among HIS chosen people.
    That night Gideon carried out the LORD’s instructions, and the following morning, as the people began to awake and stir around, they noticed that the altar of Baal had been knocked down, and the Asherah pole was nowhere in sight. They also noticed that a new altar had been built to replace it, and there were remains from the bull sacrifice upon it.
    The people were incensed and began to search out the person responsible for destroying their god (is that silly, or what). After finding out that the culprit was Gideon, they went to his father’s house to take him and kill him. However, a now converted Joash, defends his son saying, “Why are you defending Baal? Will you argue his case? Whoever pleads his case will be put to death by morning! If Baal is truly god, let him defend himself and destroy the one who knocked down his altar!” (NLT). From that day forward, Gideon became known as “Jerubbaal”, which means “Let Baal defend himself”, because he knocked down the altar of Baal.
    Soon after this, the armies of Midian, Amelek, and the people of the east, all formed an alliance against Israel and crossed over the Jordan and camped in the valley of Jezreel. It was at that time that the SPIRIT of the LORD came over Gideon and took possession of him, and he began to assemble an army of his own from the tribes of Israel.
    Gideon then inquired of the LORD to give him “more signs” to reassure him of HIS plan to “use him” to rescue Israel, and if so, to give them victory in the coming battle with the Midianites. The LORD responded positively to Gideon, because of newly found faith in HIM, and, because of “his passing of the obedience tests” that GOD presented to him (Vs.36-40).  
    There will be times when many of us will feel just as weak as Gideon obviously felt at that time in his life. However, the lesson here is that, “if we are operating within the Will of GOD”, the LORD is always with us, willing to lend HIS hand, and thereby, we will always have the strength to overcome, even our greatest problems. GOD will never give us a task to do, without also giving us the power we need to accomplish it. And GOD never puts trials and tests before us to make us fail, but rather, HE employs those trials and tests to make us stronger than we would otherwise be, on our own.  

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander      


Friday, June 2, 2017


An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday June 4, 2017

Over 131,000 readers worldwide

(Real men don’t hesitate when GOD calls)
(Judges 4)

   After the death of the Israelite judge, Ehud, the people, once again, returned to their evil ways and practices. And so the LORD handed them over to King Jabin of Hazor, one of the more powerful Canaanite nations in that day. His army was headed by a general named Sisera, who lived in Harosheth-haggoyim, a town in Galilee, on the north bank of the Kishon River near Megiddo. Sisera was a ruthless general who commanded a force of about 900 chariots, and he had taken pleasure in oppressing the Israelite people for about 20 years.
    Here in Judges 4, verses 8-9, and also in Judges 5, verses 8-9, it is strongly suggested that there had been a total breakdown, and indeed, an absolute void in male leadership and responsibility in Israel during this era of the Judges. Even in the homes in Israel, men were scarce, and some men had even abandoned their homes altogether (Judges 4:11). Deborah was the wife of Lappidoth, but the Scriptures here make no mention of where he is.
    The Old Testament account of the life of Deborah serves to illustrate the important truth, that, what qualifies an individual for leadership in the eyes of GOD, is not always sexual gender, but rather, it is one’s personal, experiential relationship with HIM that makes one the most worthy to lead HIS people. It is whoever is willing to make themselves available for service to GOD, that HE uses. In fact, it doesn’t even have to be a “human being” at all. GOD can and will use anything, and everything in HIS creation to get HIS Will done. HE has everything in existence at HIS disposal.
    Even in a male-oriented society, women with exceptional personal and spiritual qualities have often risen to leadership roles, and in Deborah’s case, her impact is only partly explained by her call as a prophetess. Here GOD also uses her life and leadership to repair “the male leadership breakdown in Israel”, as she was given the ability to instill male self-worth and confidence back into Barak and the men of that generation during her 40-year stint as judge over GOD’s chosen people.
    In Judges 4:8-9 we get a vivid picture of the esteem in which Deborah was held by her community. There we see Barak literally refusing to go to battle and face Israel’s enemies unless Deborah personally went with him. This type of reaction by Barak demonstrates the dominant role that Deborah had achieved in Israel’s previously male dominated society.
    Deborah’s acceptance as leader in ancient Israel came at a time when such roles were not extended to women at all. However, her example in this space and time in Israel’s history shows that GOD uses those individuals who are pleasing to HIM, regardless of race, gender, economic status, or even national origin. This account of events in Israel at that time serves to remind us men that, if we don’t step into, and accept our GOD-appointed creation role in society, then GOD, can and will, replace us with our female counterparts, on any occasion.
    The events of chapter 4 takes place in the hill country of Ephraim, between Ramah and Bethel. Taking up at verse 4, Deborah, summons Barak from his home in Kedesh of Naphtali and informs him that GOD had commanded that he assemble 10,000 men from the tribes Naphtali and Zebulun to go to war. And even though GOD promises him victory over King Jabin and Sisera, he refuses to go to war unless Deborah goes with him. Deborah agrees to go with him, but tells him that, because of his wimpy response to not go to war without her, GOD would ultimately give the honor for the victory to a woman.
    The Israelites, however, went on to defeat King Jabin’s army of 900 chariots, killing all of his soldiers in the process. GOD, confounded Israel’s enemies that day with earthquakes and rain storms, causing their chariots to get stuck in the mud, and some, maybe, to fall through the cracks in the earth.
    Sisera, however, was able to escape, and he ran to the tent of Jael, who was the wife of Heber the Kenite, who was a friend of King Jabin, to seek refuse there. Jael was alone at the time, because Heber had moved away from his family, and pitched a tent by the oaks of Zaanannim, near Kedesh (v.11). She invited Sisera in and pretended she wanted to be his ally, but, little did Sisera know, that Jael had something else in mind. She, in fact, was setting him up to take his life.
    Jael accommodated the exhausted Sisera with water, warm milk, and a blanket, and he quickly fell asleep, being set at ease by her refreshments and polite and gracious hospitality. However, soon after he fell asleep, it gave Jael opportunity she needed to fulfill her plan. She quietly crept upon him with a hammer and a tent peg, and she drove the tent peg through his temple, and into the ground, killing the general instantly.
    And so Deborah’s prophesy rang true as she had spoken it earlier to Barak, when she said, “the LORD’s victory over Sisera will be at the hands of a woman”, because he refused to go to war without her being at his side holding his hand (Vs.8-9). And so, on that day, the LORD released the Israelites from 20 years of oppression at the hands of King Jabin and Sisera, through the craftiness of the woman, Jael.
    Barak learned that, when GOD is your ally, you don’t need to, on your own, choose anyone else to help you fight, and win your battles. When you listen to GOD, and HE gives you instructions, HE already has put into place, everyone, and everything, that you need to succeed. You don’t need to add your two cents, or try to change or tweak HIS instructions in any way. In fact, you don’t even need to completely understand them at the time that HE presents those instructions to you, but rather, you just need to respond positively on faith.
    The reason GOD allows us to go through seemingly hopeless situations is that HE is trying to train us to rely on HIS power to deliver us, and not on our own impotent “human ingenuity”. From that day forward, Israel grew stronger and stronger, and Barak went on to become a man who had great faith in GOD (Hebrews 11:32), not Deborah.
    Ironically, this story in the lives of Barak and Deborah begins and ends with men hiding behind the skirt tails of women. It begins with Barak hiding behind Deborah, and it ends with Sisera hiding behind Jael. Judges chapter 4 is clearly an account in biblical history where women are forced to take the lead because men had taken themselves out of the “creation roles” that GOD had placed them in.
     Here Israel found itself under oppression because no man was willing to step up and follow GOD completely, nor, were they even willing to stand up for their own country and families (Judges 5:7-9). It is often said, that, “some things we bring upon ourselves” because of our “fear”, “neglect”, or “ignorance”. Israel’s men had grown so far away GOD spiritually, that, HIS natural order and intentions for them had actually taken a “satanic flip-flop” (the opposite of GOD) in society, pretty much the way it is now, here in this 21st century America. Too many men no longer want to fulfill their role as family, civic, and Church leaders, and so women have to, in order to survive.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

Friday, May 26, 2017

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday May 28, 2017

Over 131,000 readers worldwide
(GOD is in control, even when we are frustrated with HIM)
(Jonah 4)

   In Jonah 4, we see the prophet throwing a major, adult-sized temper tantrum, storming out of the city of Nineveh, and sitting himself in the shade of a large leafy plant that GOD had provided for his protection from the blazing hot sun. There he literally sulked and pouted for the remainder of the day, and throughout the whole night.
    Jonah was angered and very disturbed earlier by the fact, that, because of his preaching GOD’s message to the Ninevites, they had put an end to their evils ways and practices. God, as a result of their conversion, had granted them mercy and did not carry out HIS previous plan of judgment upon them. Jonah was angered, although he knew that this (leading people to salvation) was the GODly thing to do.
    And so after his salvation mission was complete, Jonah complained bitterly to the LORD about HIS decision to grant the Assyrians, who were Israel’s enemies, HIS favor. In verses 2-3 Jonah laments; “Didn’t I say before I left home that YOU would do this, LORD? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that YOU were a gracious and compassionate GOD, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. I knew how easily YOU could cancel YOUR plans for destroying these people. Just kill me now, LORD! I’d rather be dead than alive because nothing I predicted is going to happen” (NLT).
    However the LORD replied to Jonah’s anger and disappointment with this question, “Is it right for you to be angry about this? GOD continues to deal with HIS disgruntled prophet, and attempts to console his discomfort somewhat, by providing the large leafy plant, that, unbeknownst to Jonah, would later serve it purpose further, in “an object lesson” that is being prepared here in this passage (Vs.5-8) by the LORD.
    After the LORD gave shade and comfort from the scorching sun to Jonah with the large leaves of this unidentified plant, Jonah was very grateful. However, here the LORD is just setting Jonah up for the lesson in “compassion” that he so sorely needed, because later HE would send a worm to eat at the stem of huge plant, causing it to die and wither away by morning.
    As the sun rose the following day, and became hotter and hotter, the LORD then sends a scorching hot wind from the east to blow on Jonah causing him to grow very faint. Jonah became so uncomfortable that he felt that he was about to die, and in fact, he declared to the LORD that it was better that he did die (v.8b).
    Just as GOD had asked Jonah earlier, “Is it right for you to be angry because the Ninevite’s lives were spared? Here HE poses a similar question to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry because the plant died? And Jonah’s replies “Yes, even angry enough to die!”
    GOD then calls out Jonah’s failure to employ “GODly wisdom” to this situation, a wisdom which had been squelched by his emotion of “anger”. Here GOD ends this book of Jonah on a “cliffhanger” by saying to HIS angry prophet, “You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. And a plant is only, at best, short lived. But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great (populous) city?” (NLT)
    Here GOD exposes Jonah as a man who is ruled by his “emotions”, rather than being ruled by his “compassion”, a condition that “men of GOD” can’t afford to put themselves into. He has developed and nurtured an attitude that now leads him to believe that there are some people in this world, and animals, that deserve less mercy from GOD and man, than a single plant that may be here today, and gone tomorrow. He clearly, because of his lack of self control over his emotions, has pushed his priorities way out of the realm of GOD’s intended order for us to live by.
    The lesson that GOD is trying to teach Jonah here is that, when we cause HIM to withdraw HIS favor from us, through our own ungratefulness, disobedience, and lack of compassion, we don’t have a right to be angry when we see GOD bestowing HIS grace and compassion upon someone else, who is more obedient than we are, even if HE bestows it upon someone we don’t necessarily like.
    We cannot be sure whether or not this lesson was wasted on Jonah, because the book of Jonah ends without him ever responding to GOD’s final comments to him. However, as I said in the last commentary, Jonah was clearly at fault with his attitude of not wanting GOD’s Will and compassion to be demonstrated in the lives of others, even if he felt, through his lack of faith, that they might somehow harm him in the future. If we pray for GOD’s Will to be done, even in the lives of those we think might harm us, as Believers, we have to know that GOD, can and will, act on their heart for the better, and thus, remove us from the peril of their wicked intentions.
    The book of Jonah has often been referred to as “the Gospel of Second Chances” because it clearly shows that when we know GOD, HE will not let us run away from obedience for too long. And sometimes, HE may have to place “great storms” in our lives, or “great fish” in our path, to get our attention. However, we can be thankful, because ultimately, our good and compassionate GOD always has our best interest at heart.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander



Friday, May 19, 2017

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday May 21, 2017

Over 130,000 readers worldwide
(GOD shows compassion to repentant sinners)
(Jonah 3)

   The prophet Jonah ministered during the reign of Jeroboam II. Years earlier, during the reign of Jeroboam’s great grandfather, Jehu, the nation of Assyria had established dominance in the east. They had secured tributes from Jehu, and, in effect, had made him their “vassal”, or, “puppet king”. Sometime later however, the Assyrians suffered a temporary setback due to dissension within their own camp, and this allowed Jeroboam to expand Israel’s territories to its greatest size since the “United Kingdom” days of David and Solomon.
    Unfortunately, because of Jeroboam’s continued disobedience to GOD, and his leading of Israel farther into idolatry, GOD, in an effort to give him a chance to repent and make things right, sent both Amos and Hosea into northern Israel to warn him of HIS impending judgment on their sins and social injustices. In fact, the prophet Hosea specifically told Israel that GOD would use the Assyrians to topple them because of their refusal to return to HIM (Hosea 11:5).
    It seems likely that, because Assyria, at that time, had been lingering in a weakened and declining state for some years, Israel was not inclined to believe the words of GOD’s prophets, and thus remained stubborn, steadfastly refusing to heed the prophets warnings from GOD.
    And perhaps, these prophecies from Amos and Hosea also served to explain why Jonah, who did believe them when they said that Assyria would destroy Israel, was reluctant to obey GOD and go to preach repentance to Nineveh, the capital city of Assyria. He understandably had a real problem with going to save his enemy so that they could come later and destroy Israel.
    Here in chapter 3, we see, a now obedient Jonah, traveling to Nineveh to deliver GOD’s message to the Assyrian populace, still hoping in his heart, that they would not heed his warning of imminent judgment. However, much to Jonah’s surprise, after the king  himself heard his message, he came down from his throne, took off his royal robes, wrapped himself in sackcloth, and sent out a royal decree commanding that all the people of the kingdom repent and pray earnest prayers to the GOD of Israel.
    Everyone, all the way down to the least in the kingdom, was required to dress themselves in sackcloth, and fast and pray. Even the animals in the kingdom were not given any food and water during this period of fasting and praying. And when GOD saw the Assyrians demonstration of earnest repent and obedience to HIM, HE had mercy on them and did not carry out HIS alternate plan of judgment and destruction. Jonah’s mission had been an overwhelming success, even though Jonah himself was not happy at all with the results.
    Genuine repent always tends to melt the heart of GOD, even though, in this case, it did nothing but harden the heart of Jonah. Whenever GOD sees genuine repent and GODly sorrow in the human side of HIS creation, HIS compassion is rained down on those individuals who exhibit it. He is always pleased to grant us HIS mercy, grace, and forgiveness, whenever we decide to turn from our own way of doing things, and embrace HIS way, which has already been laid out for us to follow, through the human life example of CHRIST JESUS, that HE exhibited to us, while living here on earth.
    Nineveh’s repentance delayed GOD’s wrath on them for another 150 years. However, as mankind seems to always do, the people of Nineveh in the next generation fell back into the doldrums of sin, and ultimately, their city still had to be destroyed because of it. World history now tells us that Nineveh was invaded and destroyed by the Babylonian king, Nabopolasser, with help from his ally Cyaxeres the Mede, in 612 B.C. (also see Nahum’s prophecy in the Book of Nahum). And, by the way, because of Jonah’s negative attitude towards that generation of Ninevite’s salvation, GOD had to continue to deal with him concerning those issues, after his mission in Nineveh was complete. Stay tuned.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander


Friday, May 12, 2017

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday May 14, 2017

Over 130,000 readers worldwide

(Pray when your situation seems hopeless)
(Jonah 2)

   After GOD had miraculously altered Jonah’s self-conceived itinerary, and caused him to be swallowed up by a very large fish, during “a divinely provoked storm” at sea, the prophet now sits in the belly of this great creature, praying, not so much for rescue, as he is praying for forgiveness for refusing to honor GOD’s charge to him to go to Nineveh, and deliver HIS message to his pagans enemies who lived there.
    After much repent and prayer by Jonah, GOD, in HIS OWN unique way, releases him back on dry land, giving him a second shot at obedience. Here in Jonah 2, the prophet abandon’s his previous selfish attitude of “national pride” and now incorporates the travel plans that GOD had originally given him back in Samaria.
    Despite the simplicity of the story of Jonah, it is perhaps one of the better books in the Old Testament, as far as its teachings on spiritual lessons are concerned. In this terse but wonderful book, GOD is rightfully presented as being deeply concerned about the welfare of all people, not just the Israelites. In this book we also see how gracious HE can be with the people whom HE calls, despite their great effort to ignore HIS calling.
    In essence, Jonah’s mission to Nineveh would also serve as an object lesson to Israel, who at that time, as far as their behavior was concerned, was living just as far away from GOD as Nineveh was. Perhaps the timing of this mission, which came during the reign of Jeroboam II, a time of great prosperity in Israel, served to confront those social injustices and various other evils that seemed to grow right alongside the Israelite’s fledgling and immensely healthy economic conditions.
    We can consider ourselves very fortunate that GOD has compassion on all mankind, believers and unbelievers, and HE allows it to rain on both the “just”, and, the “unjust” at the same time, and perhaps, this is the reason why; There are many people in this world who don’t believe in GOD, and yet, are still very capable of doing “a right thing” from time to time. Also, there are many Christians in this world, who often know “the right thing to do”, but yet, they yield to their own “sin nature” and choose to do “the wrong thing” anyway.
    We have to always keep in mind that it is GOD’s desire that all men be saved, and that is HIS eternal attitude toward mankind in general. However, GOD also knows that most people are going to choose to go to Hell, and that, only a remnant will ultimately choose salvation over their own selfish desires. Jonah erred in his attitude and behavior toward the Assyrians, because he did not desire that “GOD’s Will” be done in the lives of other human beings, who, like himself, are also made in the spiritual image of GOD.
    GOD embodies us all with the same “communicable attributes” (HIS Nature) from birth. HE endows only the “human side” of HIS creation with the attributes of Life, Personality, Truth, Justice, Love, Wisdom, and Holiness. These attributes automatically renders all human beings, no matter whom they are, or, where they come from, capable of worshiping GOD, and having a personal, experiential relationship with HIM. And so, an “obedient witness”, regardless of their race, creed, or national origin, can, through their speech and behavior, be effective in fulfilling the desires of GOD, for all mankind, here on earth. And that includes all of us.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander