Friday, June 28, 2013

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary

For Sunday June 30, 2013
_____________________________________________

Over 46,000 readers worldwide
larrydalexander.blogspot.com

JOYFUL WORSHIP RESTORED
(Worship requires sacrifice)
(Ezra 3:1-7)

Tishri, the seventh month on the Jewish calendar was a great month for the Israelites in terms of their observances of religious rites and celebrations. In the month of Tishri, which is correlated by September-October on our calendar, are no less than three religious festivals that are highlighted in the Holy Bible because they were imposed by GOD HIMSELF.
·         First, on the very first day of the month, the “Feast of Trumpets”, also known as “Rosh Hashanah” takes place (Leviticus 23:23-25). It is a celebration of “complete rest” (a Sabbath Day) and all regular work must cease. All the people were called together into a sacred assembly with a loud blast from a trumpet, and they presented offerings to the LORD by fire all day long.
·         On the tenth day of the month, exactly nine days after the Feast of Trumpets, came the “Day of Atonement” (Leviticus 23:26-32). It was another day of “complete rest and fasting”, and, atonement for sins was performed, in total humility, by burning offerings to GOD by fire on the altar. This day was considered to be a “Sabbath Day” also.
·         And then finally on the fifth day following the Day of Atonement, the Israelites would begin a “Festival of Shelters”, or, “Feast of Tabernacles” (Leviticus 23:33-43), which would continue for eight days. This feast began with a day of complete rest, and a sacred assembly by the people. On each of the seven festival days burnt offerings were presented to the LORD by fire. On the eighth day they again gathered for a sacred assembly. It was also a work-free day, and one of presenting still more sacrificial burnt offerings and grain offerings to the LORD.
In the book of Ezra, taking up at chapter 3, we see a re-instating of these great observances following the release of the captured Israelites from Babylon. The people had now taken about three months to re-settle in their new homes, and despite their fear of local residents, they began to rebuild GOD’s sacred altar on the old site, where it stood prior to the Babylonian Invasion in 586 B.C. Immediately they began to sacrifice burnt offerings on the new altar of the LORD, every morning, and every evening (Vs. 1-3), a full fifteen days before the Festival of Shelters began.
That month the Festival of Shelters was celebrated on time, just as it was prescribed by Moses, the man of GOD, and they offered the burnt offerings that were specified for each day of the festival. They also offered the regular burnt offerings, offerings required for the new moon celebrations, their “freewill offerings”, and, they also observed all the other annual festivals to the LORD during that year. And this was all before they began laying the foundation for the LORD’s temple (Vs.4-6).
Later on the people, with help from King Cyrus, hired masons and carpenters, and bought cedar logs from Tyre and Sidon (modern-day Lebanon), paying for them with food, wine, and olive oil, and they floated the logs down from the Lebanon mountains, along the Mediterranean Sea to Joppa (v.7). These cedar logs were the same as those that were used by King Solomon to build the original temple at Jerusalem. They were massive trees that grew up to 120 feet in height, and had a circumference of 30-40 feet. The wood was the most fragrant in the world and resisted rot, and repelled insects very well.
The people of Israel had learned the valuable lesson that, GOD is their only protector. That is why they rebuilt the altar of praise and worship before they rebuilt the wall. GOD had proven HIMSELF to be their “protector and sustainer” in exile, while they were surrounded by the enemy, and they were sure that GOD would be their “wall of protection” during this reconstruction period.
They also wanted to send a message to the surrounding community that they didn’t need a temple in order to worship and praise GOD. The leaders also clearly wanted to establish a precedent for their own people, that, the first reconstruction efforts should be a place of “dedication to GOD”, and for “repentance of sin”. And by putting GOD first, they would be able to succeed in the rest of their efforts.
It is GOD, WHO will bring us through the trials and tribulations of this world, and, it is the “true Christian” who faithfully ascribes salvation to GOD. The salvation GOD gives us is not a deliverance of escape, but rather, it is a deliverance of conquest. When one escapes, he has to constantly look over his shoulder to see if what he escaped from is gaining on him. But when one is able to conquer that which bothers, threatens, or controls him, he becomes free from all such frets and worries. He can then have that measure of peace and protection that we all seek. And it is that kind of protection, a person can only receive through faith in, and obedience to, the Almighty GOD, our SAVIOR, through JESUS CHRIST.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander





                                 
                                           LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website

Friday, June 21, 2013

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary

For Sunday June 23, 2013
_____________________________________________

Over 45,000 readers worldwide
larrydalexander.blogspot.com

THE GLORIOUS NEW CREATION
(Rejoice in what GOD is always doing)
(Isaiah 65:17-25)

Isaiah 65, verses 17-25 contains the final of four prophecies in this chapter that represent actual responses by GOD to the remnant’s prayers of Isaiah chapters 63 and 64. In many ways these responses sum up the greater message of the entire book. In this fourth prophesy the LORD says that HE will establish a glorious kingdom in which peace and righteousness will grow and flourish.
Here the prophet Isaiah, whom GOD is speaking through, does not seem to distinguish between this kingdom (millennial kingdom) and the one described by the Apostle John in Revelation 21 (coming after the millennial kingdom). In fact, his description seems to combine elements of both. Never the less, apparently, Isaiah saw the two as one, in this most elaborate of visions, which reaches beyond time and into eternity.
Isaiah chapter 60 and Ezekiel chapters, 40-48, also contains parallels of the vision shared here in this passage concerning the “new heaven”, the “new earth”, and a New Jerusalem. The Israelites had long understood that the “earthly Jerusalem” was always intended to be the site for the temple of GOD. Since the days when King David first moved the Jewish worship center from Mount Gerizim to Jerusalem, he had in mind to build GOD’s temple there.
Biblical history records, however, that the task of building that temple would be assigned to King Solomon, David’s son. The temple would be a symbol of GOD’s presence among HIS people, and would be a place where GOD could be approached in worship. As seen in Revelation 21, the “new” Jerusalem fulfills the promise of the “old”, and we see GOD is present in reality, and, it is only HIS people who can worship him freely, for all eternity.
John’s vision of the new Jerusalem magnifies to a great degree, the visions of the Old Testament prophets that were expressed and depicted hundreds of years earlier. Isaiah, Haggai, and Ezekiel, all had visions of a “rebuilt” Jerusalem. When we consider those facts, it becomes increasingly easy to see that the idea of a “new” Jerusalem had been a constant dream of GOD’s faithful over the years.
In the Greek, there are two words that are used for “new”. One is “neos”, and it is “a new version, or “type” of something that already exists, for example, a new car. We can build a new car, and in fact, new cars are constantly being built daily, however they are not new to the world, as cars have existed since the turn of the 20th century.
The other Greek word used for “new” is “kainos”, and it is something that is new to the world, and has never existed before”, it is in this sense that the LORD is speaking in this passage (Isaiah 65:17), as well as in Revelation verse 5, where HE says, “Behold, I make all things new”.
In verse 22, of John’s revelation, he reveals that there is no temple in this “new” Jerusalem. This may come as a surprise when we consider how precious the temple was to the Jews who lived in the Jerusalem of Isaiah’s day. However, the apostle’s description of the new city, as being in the shape of a cube 1400 miles in width, length, and height, suggests that Jerusalem itself is a temple, having GOD and the LAMB, both, eternally present within it. The city will need no physical edifice to serve as a temple, because, wherever JESUS is, there, the Church will be also. And we should always remember, that, it is the presence of CHRIST JESUS that makes a gathering a Church.
Furthermore, John reveals that there will be no need for light in the New Jerusalem, because the glory of GOD will provide ample illumination with JESUS the CHRIST being its lamp. John also sees a city whose gates will remain open forever, because there will be no night. And in Revelation 21:24 we see that, everyone who is saved will walk in the light of this wonderful city, and they will bring with them, the glory and honor that is uniquely their own.
From every nation of the earth, we have extracted some unique gift or talent, and our gifts and talents are our glory, given to us by GOD. To the Romans we owe for the ability to organize, formulate, and administer governmental law. And to the Greeks we owe for theology. But, on a smaller scale, every person that comes into the Church, for the purpose of serving, has talents and gifts that the LORD can use.
Shifting gears, in verse 27, John concludes chapter 21 of Revelation with a stern warning to those who refuse to discontinue in the evilness of their ways. Those who refuse to depart from evil will be forever barred from becoming citizens of this great new community of GOD. And Isaiah says in 65:20-22 that he envisions that those who are obedient will live as long as trees, but does not speak of the same eternal life as John does. However, in both instances it is safe to say that, “It is not the “repentant sinner”, but rather, it is the “defiant sinner”, whose name will not be found in the LAMB’s Book of Life. All defiant sinners will be barred from entrance into the city of GOD.
All in all, it doesn’t really matter what we take away from these prophetic, mysterious accounts of these men of GOD. And, in spite of what we think, their central focus will forever remain consistent as their writings continue to be passed down from generation to generation. The lingering message found within these passages, is one that is crystal clear despite their reputations of having enormous complexities. They simply serve to remind us that, in times of great conflict, GOD’s people must remain faithful, humble, and patient to the end.
The promise of victory through CHRIST, over the forces of the evil one, is something that is virtually assured. And to the unbeliever I have only this statement; “It is a life-changing thing, both, getting to know, and, becoming accustomed to practicing, the word of GOD. GOD’s word has already come, in fact, it has been with us since the beginning, and it simply cannot be, nor, will not be, disregarded. GOD’s word is synonymous with life, and therefore, it is effective and penetrating. It absolutely scrutinizes all of our thoughts, desires and intentions.
All things lay naked before GOD, as HE simply 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 lifetime, and, whether or not we believe that HE exists, therefore, becomes totally irrelevant.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander





                                 
                                           LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website






Friday, June 14, 2013

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary

For Sunday June 16, 2013
_____________________________________________

Over 45,000 readers worldwide
larrydalexander.blogspot.com

MEANINGLESS WORSHIP
(The condition of our hearts and lives influences our worship)
(Isaiah 29:9-16)

Many pre-dominantly African-African churches are well-known for long Sunday worship services that feature loud gospel music, and praise dancing. We even see hand clapping, and outstretched hands to GOD, even while they are performing “demonic miming” in the church. We seem to have developed a knack for “honoring GOD with our lips” and “dishonoring HIM with our actions and hearts”, at one and the same time.
However, great prophets such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel provide strong warnings to all people who attempt to entertain and impress each other with a public display of religious ceremonies that tend to veil a heart that has no genuine connection to GOD, or, to JESUS CHRIST.  
Isaiah 29, verses 9-24, like the passage of verses 1-8, comprise of a prophecy that consist of two parts;
·         The first part (Vs.9-16) is actually made up of three short prophecies of judgment, likely from the years leading up to 701 B.C., and the threatened invasion by the Assyrian King, Sennacherib, into Judah (2 Kings 18). The three short prophecies all have the same subject, which is the blindness and the lack of understanding of Judah’s leadership.
·         The second part (Vs.17-24) is a prophecy of salvation that is reminiscent of parts of Isaiah chapters 24-27 (Isaiah’s apocalypse) and chapters 40-55. The obvious pattern of “sin”, “judgment”, and “hope” seems to strengthen with each catastrophe, and continues throughout the book of Isaiah. Here also (Vs.9-12), the way Isaiah seems to go about his mission, may very well remind us of Isaiah’s vision in the temple in chapter 6,verses 1-13.
In verses 13-14, which are also about “blindness”, we see that, because of the hypocrisy of Israel, its leaders would be deprived of the resourcefulness that is needed to guide the nation through a difficult crisis ahead. The original context of this prophecy seems to speak of a time when irresponsibility and short-sightedness led to the devastation of Judah. However, as it stands, it can be taken as a general attack on the “lip-service” of GOD’s people who were faithfully attending acts of worship, mouthing the words of prayer and hymns, without actually taking seriously, what they were saying and doing.
The LORD judged Judah’s hypocritical attempt to maintain a show of worshipping HIM, while actually living as though HIS ways were not important at all. The people had replaced “true worship” with “lip-service”, “man-made rules”, and bible text that they merely memorized and reduced down to justchurch talk”. While using their mouths to flatter GOD, their hearts remained far from HIM, and in truth, they loved many other things more than they loved GOD.
GOD hates “false worship” and so HE promises to confound Judah with many wonders. The LORD would demonstrate that HE alone is worthy of worship and praise, and in the midst of HIS wondrous acts, the wisdom of the wisest men in Israel would vanish, and all understanding of the people would be hidden. Whenever we separate ourselves from a right relationship with GOD, our human wisdom fails us, and here we clearly see GOD saying that HIS power will confound the very best of “human intellect”.
In verses 15-16 we see just WHO is sovereign and in charge in this world, and that, of course, is the LORD. Hypocritical worship grows out of selfish pride, and selfish pride leads to self-delusion. It is very possible for a person to convince himself, or herself, that they can hide their plans and actions from GOD. Here in these verses, Isaiah confronts those who were going to great lengths to keep their unfaithfulness secret from GOD.
Such attempts are not just limited to Isaiah’s day, but perhaps, are even more common here in the twenty-first century church. In today’s church we surely seem to need reminding that nothing is hidden from GOD, and we would do well to adopt what I call “the attitude of Hagar”, and become convinced that the GOD of Abraham is “the GOD WHO sees me”.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander





                                 
                                           LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website


Friday, June 7, 2013

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary

For Sunday June 9, 2013
_____________________________________________

Over 45,000 readers worldwide
larrydalexander.blogspot.com

GIVE THANKS
(GOD is my salvation. I will praise and thank HIM)
(Isaiah 12)

The biblical names “Isaiah”, “Joshua”, “Hosea”, and of course, “JESUS”, are all associated with “Salvation” by definition. Words such as “save”, “salvation”, and “victory” all derive from the same Hebrew root word, and are among the most common theological terms in the Old Testament. Salvation, or victory, is something that can only come from the only Wise GOD, our SAVIOR through JESUS CHRIST. No human entity, or idol god, can claim “saving power”.
Isaiah chapter 12 rounds off the first section of the book by using two short “songs of thanksgiving” to draw together its two themes, which are, “GOD’s wrath kindled against Israel”. and “GOD’s triumphant victory that set them free”. The words of these poems provides a “continuity” between what goes on before GOD’s anger turned away, and, when the singing, rejoicing, and shouting of victory comes in later chapters.
The two songs have much in common with the Hallel Psalms (113-118 & 136), and Psalms 105-106, and probably even have a liturgical origin also. They also allude to Exodus (Exodus 15), Moses’ Song of the Sea. Some scholars even suggest that these songs were originally composed for the Jewish Passover, even though they are not used in the Holy ritual as we now know it.
This chapter emphasizes the joyful return and gathering of the remnant that survived the Assyrian invasion and captivity of 722 B.C. The phrase, “In that day” refers to the time of deliverance that is further described in chapter 11 of this book. The people who return will thank GOD and encourage each other to tell the world what GOD has done for Israel. GOD’s name, or, revealed character, is to be exalted, or, vindicated before the whole world, and all mankind will come to know that GOD always fulfills HIS promises. People will praise GOD for HIS wonderful and glorious deeds forever (Vs 1-3).
Isaiah chapter 12 also highlights the contrast between the eventual fall of the Assyrian Empire, and the sudden rise of GOD’s glorious future kingdom, where JESUS CHRIST, our LORD will be in power forever. People will then live according to GOD’s glorious standards, which will allow us to participate in the joy and blessings that HE will surely provide. And people will sing to GOD, and thank and praise HIM for HIS wonderful deeds (Vs. 4-6).
The phrase, “The wells of salvation” that is alluded to in verse 3 of this chapter, serve to remind us of the water that sprang up out of the rock in the wilderness some time following Israel’s exodus from Egypt. It also reminds us of “The cup of salvation” that is mentioned in the Hallel Psalms, and the occasion in John chapter 4 when JESUS speaks of “a spring of water welling up to eternal life”. The joy of drawing from that well is also the idea presented here by Isaiah 12.
As Christians (saved people), we need to praise GOD for salvation, strength, and joy, and we need to praise HIM until the whole world hears us. We need to speak loudly and boldly about the Good News concerning JESUS CHRIST and the greatest of GOD. GOD does not just give us added strength, HE is our “strength and song”, and without HIM, all living things cease to exist, period.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander  





                                 
                                           LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website