Friday, January 27, 2012

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday January 29, 2012

FOLLOWING A TRUSTED LEADER
(Look to GOD as your leader)
(Exodus 15)

The song, or “psalm”, that was written and recorded by Moses in chapter 15, verses 1-18 of the book of Exodus, celebrates GOD’s victory over the Pharaoh’s army at the Red Sea following the Israelites dramatic exit from servitude in Egypt. In fact, it is more than just a song, in that it teaches with words that are easy for future generations to remember.
In every generation, almost since the beginning, songs, music and lyrics, have served as powerful tools to influence the minds of mankind for better, or, for worse. In Moses’ day, such songs had a GODly, wholesome influence, because they were written mostly by men and women who had a healthy respect and reverence for the almighty GOD WHO created them. In today’s society, that may not necessarily be the case, in fact, now, it seldom is.
It is extremely important to recognize that music is the only thing that can enter our human minds without our permission. That is why we have to make certain that we monitor the kinds of music that we and our children listen to, very closely in this day and age. There are many worshipers of satan, and other groups with anti-CHRIST agendas who use hip hop, rock, neo-soul, and even gospel music to program satanic, Luciferic, or anti-CHRIST messages in our heads. We have to make sure, by knowing GOD’s word for ourselves, that the music we listen to, promotes godliness, and not the attitudes, and messed up values of this lost society that we now live in.
This song by Moses praises GOD for HIS deliverance of Israel from the hands of the Egyptians. It contains three distinct sections, and a conclusion (Vs. 17-18). The first section (Vs. 1-6), which is the theme of the poem, talks about the destruction of the Egyptian army in the Red Sea. Here Moses acknowledges GOD’s great strength and power, and he rejoices in HIS awesome salvation.
In the second section (Vs. 7-11), Moses details GOD’s crushing victory, as he praises HIM for HIS sovereign power and control over nature, (the parting of the Red Sea, and then closing it up on the Pharaoh’s army of chariots) sinking like lead, the most powerful military in the world at that time.
And thirdly (Vs. 12-16), we see Moses’ description of the consequences of Israel’s deliverance and the results of GOD’s wonderful triumph for HIS people. As their LEADER, GOD was personally guiding them into HIS promised rest, or, Holy Dwelling in the “Promised Land”. By HIS miraculous actions, GOD also caused other nations to have a pre-disposed fear of HIMSELF as leader and guide of the nation of Israel, even up through the lifetime of Joshua.
In verses 20-21, we see, even the prophetess Miriam, Moses’ sister, add her own verse to the song. Her words of praise to GOD for HIS glorious leadership and victory over a confident Egyptian army, mirrors that of her younger brother Moses. The Egyptians had dared to follow in hot pursuit of the Israelites into the parted Red (Sea of Reed) Sea crossing, and had paid for it with their lives.
After leaving the lakes region, Moses led the Israelites into the Shur Desert. They traveled for three days without any water. When they finally came to a place called “Marah” (which means “bitter”) the people found out why the place was called that. The water was so bitter that no one could stand to drink it. This caused the thirsty Israelites to once again, turn on Moses, cursing him because he had led them there.
So Moses cried out to GOD, his LEADER, for help, and the LORD showed him a branch and told him to toss it into the bitter water. After tossing the branch into the water, it suddenly became sweet and drinkable. Then the LORD laid before them, these instructions that still hold true, even to this day; “If you will listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your GOD, and do what is right in HIS sight, obeying HIS commands and laws, then I will not make you suffer the diseases I sent on the Egyptians; for I AM the LORD WHO heals you” (v. 26) (NLT). Then, after leaving Marah, they came to Elim, a place where there were twelve springs of fresh water, and seventy palm trees, and they camped there for a time, beside the cool springs.
Oftentimes we forget that GOD remains with us, even in difficult times. In verse 24 of this passage, the Israelites seem to exhibit very little of the faith, depth, and understanding that they showed immediately after the Egyptian army was destroyed by GOD on their behalf. We learn from this passage that a faith that depends on circumstances is no faith at all, or is at best, a “weak faith” that GOD will not honor.
The Israelites were singing praises of glory to GOD, right along with Moses, only three days earlier, and now, at the first sign of trouble, they show that their hearts were really not with GOD, in earnest. They had not learned to trust GOD as their LEADER, or trust the man of GOD, Moses, whom GOD sent to represent HIM in the flesh. But I guess, if you really don’t know GOD for yourself, you can’t possibly recognize a leader who displays GOD-like qualities, or, anti-CHRIST-like behavior, right before your very eyes. We, as a Church, need to wake up “individually”, and get to know and trust GOD as our LEADER, through JESUS CHRIST, for ourselves. And the time to do that is “Right Now”.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander


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Friday, January 20, 2012

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday January 22, 2012

THE POWER OF FORGIVENESS
(Forgiveness brings healing)
(Genesis 50)

When Jacob died, at the ripe old age of 147, Joseph ordered that he be given an Egyptian style funeral that lasted for seventy days, following a forty-day embalmment process. This was only two days short of what the Egyptians gave to their own Pharaohs when they died. This was an indication of the Egyptians great respect for Joseph in those days.
This 70-day mourning period was followed by another 7-day funeral for Jacob, after Joseph, his family, and their entourage arrived in Canaan (Gen. 50:1-10). He was finally buried in the cave of Machpelah, which Abraham purchased from Ephron the Hittite, for a permanent burying place. It is also where Abraham and Sarah, and Isaac and Rebecca, were buried. Jacob had also buried his first wife, Leah there when she died a few years earlier.
When Joseph and his brothers returned to Egypt following their father’s funeral in the land of Canaan, the brothers feared that since Jacob was now dead, Joseph would feel free to carry out his revenge on them, for the terrible acts that they had done against him many years earlier. And, even though Joseph had earnestly forgiven them (Gen. 45:1-15), they still carried their own guilt, and thus still feared what he might do, given all the power he now possessed in Egypt, over them. In fact, they feared him so much that they concocted a lie, and sent it in a written message to Joseph, saying, “Before your father died, he instructed us to say to you: “Forgive your brothers for the great evil they did to you, so we, the servants of the GOD of your fathers, beg you to forgive us” (Gen. 50:16-17a).
Here we see that the, still conniving brothers, were overlooking the fact that Joseph had great respect for the GOD of Israel, and had earnestly experienced the grace of GOD for himself, and, that this allowed him to be able to show genuine graciousness to anyone who might have offended him in the past, or may offend him in the future.
When Joseph received their message, he broke down and wept bitterly, as his brothers then came and bowed themselves before him, declaring themselves to be his servants (Vs. 17b-18). Joseph reassured them that his forgiveness was genuine, as he said to them, “Don’t be afraid of me. Am I GOD, to judge and punish you? As far as I’m concerned, GOD turned into good what you meant for evil. HE brought me to the high position I have today so I could save the lives of many people. No, don’t be afraid. Indeed, I myself will take care of you and your families” (Gen. 50:19-20).
When we know and understand GOD’s grace, we can’t help but forgive, and extend grace to others. If we are to be like GOD, we must begin to show GOD-like behavior towards one another, doing good deeds for one another, instead of evil. We need not concern ourselves with judgment (revenge), for that belongs to GOD.
After being reassured by Joseph, he and his brothers lived peacefully together for the remainder of their lives. Joseph died at the age of 110. He lived long enough to experience the joy of spending time with the grandchildren of his sons, Ephraim and Manasseh. Forgiveness has a way of bringing spiritual peace to both the offender and the offended. Joseph life story teaches us many things about having a GODly attitude towards life, and, towards each other. In fact, out of all the great men and women in the annals of Bible history, perhaps Joseph, with his own life, demonstrates to us most clearly that, GOD should be obeyed because of HIS goodness to us, not because we fear HIS judgment.
Before he died, Joseph prophetically made his brothers promise to carry his bones out of Egypt when the time of “The Great Deliverance” came, something that they couldn’t have possibly understood at that time. For, they had not yet began to feel the sting of oppression in Egypt, as they were still welcome guests of the Pharaoh in those days. But there would soon be raised up, a generation of Egyptians and Pharaohs who did not know of the exploits of Joseph, and they would place “GOD’s chosen people” into servitude for over 400 years.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander


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Friday, January 13, 2012

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday January 15, 2012

SHARING BLESSINGS
(GOD always works out HIS plan)
(Genesis 45)

After the predicted seven-year famine had begun, people from all over the world came to Egypt to obtain the grain that they desperately needed in order to feed their families and livestock, and Joseph’s brothers were among those supplicants who came.
In Genesis chapters 42-44, we saw a strange sequence of events, where Joseph engaged in a series of cruel games with his brothers who did not recognize who he was, at that time. These ploys were aimed at drawing them and his entire family into the protective aegis of his newly acquired Egyptian kingdom. Joseph’s follies are also clearly being used here to test his brothers’ sincerity, and to compel them to search their consciences for a reason why the LORD had plunged them into such an unusual predicament with him, the ruler of Egypt.
In Genesis 44:1-26, we see a final test is perpetrated upon Joseph’s older brothers that would seemingly put their younger brother, Benjamin, into jeopardy of becoming a slave to Joseph in Egypt. This was the test that ultimately revealed to Joseph the spiritual transformations that had taken place in his brothers, especially Judah, since they had sold him into slavery 15 years earlier. Judah, whose flaws had been revealed to us back in chapter 38, now shows that he has been purged of the jealousy that he once held toward Joseph. He now seems to be more concerned with his father Jacob’s grief, than he is with the consequences that might befall himself. Here Joseph is able to see, perhaps for the first time, that, he is not the only son of Jacob that GOD is working with.
Here in Genesis 45:1-15, after being deeply moved by Judah’s plea for Benjamin’s freedom (Genesis 44:18-34), Joseph stuns his brothers by revealing to them his true identity. Now, for the third time, Joseph weeps for his brothers as they stood in fear of what he might do to them, in retaliation for their mistreatment of him, when they sold him to the Ishmaelite travelers as a slave. However, their expectations of tearful revenge, turned out to be only tears of reconciliation and love for a family that Joseph had sorely missed for about half of his young life.
Joseph then explained to them how GOD had exalted him to power in Egypt, in order that he might be used to help preserve the “Abrahamic Covenant Promise”, by saving the family from the death-grip of the seven-year famine. He assured his frightened brothers that it was not them who sent him to Egypt, but rather, it was GOD shaping the way in order to fulfill HIS OWN divine purpose.
Bringing reconciliation to a situation where hurt has been both given, and received, invariably calls for confession by the offender. Then too, the person who is offended must also be willing to forgive. We see here in Joseph’s case, that, not only was he willing to forgive his brothers, he was also willing to share his blessings with them, despite the fact that they were his offenders.
The events in the life of Joseph that are chronicled in these chapters of Genesis, show us how, both Joseph, and, his brothers, were all being prepared by GOD for a divine reconciliation and reunion of HIS chosen family. And no matter how bad things may appear to be, or, how dark our society may become, GOD will always preserve the righteous among HIS people.
Whenever we call upon a just GOD, from across the storms of life, HE is faithful to come to us with HIS loving hands stretched out in an offering to “save”. Since the time of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, it has been a promise of the ALMIGHTY GOD, that HE would always preserve a remnant of the righteous to carry on HIS benevolent plan and purpose of salvation.
The great King David once wrote, “The steps of the GODly are directed by the LORD. HE delights in every detail of their lives. And though they stumble, they will not fall, for the LORD holds them by the hand. Once I was young, and now I am old. Yet I have never seen the GODly forsaken, nor have I seen their children begging for bread” (Psalm 37:23-25 – NLT).

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander


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Friday, January 6, 2012

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday January 8, 2012

FAITHFULNESS IS REWARDED
(GOD uses our devotion for HIS glory)
(Genesis 41:37-57)

Joseph’s imprisonment by Potiphar put him into contact with two of the Pharaoh’s top officials who had also been thrown in jail during that time. One day Joseph was able to help the two men by correctly interpreting their puzzling, and prophetic dreams for them (Gen. 40:1-23). Unbeknownst to Joseph at that time, this would set the stage for his release from prison that would come some two years later, when he would be called upon by the Pharaoh himself to help solve his enigmatic dreams, or, as it turned out to be, his visions from GOD.
Two years after Joseph was imprisoned, the Pharaoh had two puzzling dreams that concerned him greatly. In the first dream he saw himself standing on the banks of the Nile River. He saw seven fat, healthy-looking cows suddenly come up out of the river and began grazing on the bank. Then seven other jaunty, ugly looking cows came up out of the river and ate the fat, healthy-looking cows. At that point the Pharaoh awoke from his dream.
A short while later the Pharaoh fell asleep again, only to dream a similarly puzzling dream. This time, however, he dreamed of seven healthy heads of grain on one stalk, having every kernel well-formed and plump. Then suddenly he saw seven other heads of grain, also on one stalk, only these were withered and shriveled by the force of the east wind. Then, just as suddenly, the thin withered heads swallowed up the plump, healthy heads of grain, and the Pharaoh again was awaken to realize it was only a dream.
The next morning the Pharaoh called in all of his magicians and wise men, but none of them were able to interpret his dreams. Then the Pharaoh’s cupbearer, who had served time with Joseph in prison, remembered that Joseph had interpreted one of his dreams while in prison, and, that he had promised to put in a good word for Joseph to the Pharaoh upon his release. He suddenly felt convicted that he had forgotten all about Joseph when he got out jail, and instead, blended back into his old job at the palace, and never gave Joseph another thought until that moment.
After the cupbearer told the Pharaoh about Joseph’s uncanny ability to interpret dreams, he sent for Joseph at once, and he was hastily brought before him. When Joseph heard the details of the Pharaoh’s dreams, he said to him, “Both dreams mean the same thing”. The seven healthy cows, and the seven healthy stalks of grain, represent seven years of prosperity. The seven skinny cows, and the seven withered heads of grain represent seven years of famine in Egypt. The seven years of famine would erase the memory of the previous seven years of prosperity. Having the dream twice meant that GOD had decreed it, and that both these events would soon occur.
Now here’s where Joseph’s faithfulness is rewarded, GOD gave him the solution to the problem, before it physically became a problem. Joseph advises the king to set up a nationwide program by which they would store up one fifth of all the grain collected during the seven years prosperity, so that there would be more than enough food for the people to survive on during the seven years of famine. Impressed by Joseph’s GODly wisdom, and now convinced of his being filled with the SPIRIT of GOD, the Pharaoh put Joseph in charge over all of Egypt, second only to himself (Gen. 41:37-46).
GOD’s plan for Joseph was to teach him humility through the things that he suffered, and HE often has the same plan for each of us. He wanted Joseph to be able to serve HIM in HIS wise plan and purpose for the “Covenant Promise”, and, HE also gave Joseph the privilege to serve in the eventual “Salvation” plan offer for all mankind, which was contained in the first advent of our LORD and SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST.
Being in the will of GOD is always “the right place to be”, and when we abide in that will, even when we are under duress from the pressures of the world, the time is even more right for the LORD’s blessings to be rained down upon us, to ease our oppressed situations.
This passage of scripture serves to remind us that, even when we don’t understand the “why” for the unwanted things in our lives, we must still remain confident that GOD is at work in every life situation and experience, especially in those experiences that are most painful to us. And, although we may not be able to see it at that time, it is during those times, that we are in the best position to serve GOD as completely, as we always should.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander


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Larry D. Alexander Weekly Sunday School Lesson