Friday, March 24, 2017

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday March 26, 2017

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RESTORING RELATIONSHIPS
(GOD can restore us with HIS abounding love)
(Joel 2)

   It must not be forgotten that JESUS HIMSELF was raised on Scripture. HE based HIS entire ministry on what it says. And HE approached HIS death with its words on HIS lips.
    Peter C. Craige once wrote, “When people cease to care, then religion, morality, social customs, and values, all cease to function as mortar that holds together a society, and maintains ancient faith”.
    In the Old Testament book of Joel, the prophet’s strong images of the locust here in chapter 2, verses 1-11, and his urgent call for reform in verses 12-17, remind us that our personal relationship with GOD should take priority over the secular affairs of this life, even marriage (v.16).
    When we become too pre-occupied with worldly affairs, then, we truly have become too pre-occupied with the wrong agenda, and we have become overly concerned about things that we have no control over. The only thing in life that we really can control is our own choices, even though a lot of times the devil can convince us that we don’t have a choice. In fact, satan is forever busy trying to convince us that it is impossible to obey GOD, and then he shows us how easy and fun it is to do the wrong thing, which is obeying him.
    However, we always have control over our own choices, whether we know or not, for perhaps it is the greatest power that GOD ever bestowed upon mankind. Our relationship choices are always critical to our personal wellbeing, and oftentimes, even to the wellbeing of those whom we love. Our relationship with GOD is our greatest asset, and it too can also affect those whom we love and care for, but in a good way.
    In this terse but powerful book, Joel is addressing, not only his generation, but also future generations as well. In verses 12-17 we see “a call for repentance” by the prophet of GOD, as Israel moves ever closer to the catastrophic invasion and capture of Samaria, in northern Israel, by Shalmaneser’s Assyrian army in 722 B.C. (2 Kings 17:7-23).
    However, if we, in this generation, do not put a halt to our moral slide into imperviousness toward GOD, we too can face the same unfortunate results that Israel had to suffer with way back then. We know this to be likely because the same thing happened again to Israel, as history now records how Jerusalem, in southern Israel, fell to Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian forces in a like manner in 586 B.C., and this was an even greater disaster for “GOD’s chosen people” than the first (2 Kings 25).
    The phrase “The Day of the LORD” is one that can be used to describe “any time that GOD chooses to intervene into our existence” for the purpose of “judgment”, or, even “blessing”, as far as that goes. And even though it may be, for the most part, associated with the “End Times” in our thinking, it can, and has, always taken place at any point in history that GOD chooses to exact those actions upon us.
    However, one of the things that Joel points out in this passage is that, it’s not too late to repent, until GOD says it is, and he appeals strongly to his people, Israel, to take advantage of GOD’s grace and patience, buying up whatever time they have left to appeal to GOD with repentant hearts, so as to obtain HIS mercy and forgiveness (Vs.12-14).
    In verses 18-32 we can see a light at the end of the tunnel when we humble ourselves and earnestly appeal to GOD for mercy and forgiveness for our offenses against HIS moral codes and precepts, personally, and, as a nation. The LORD promised HIS people then, and HE promises us now, that, HE will pour out, not only physical blessings upon us, but more importantly, HE will pour out HIS HOLY SPIRIT upon us, and we as a remnant, will experience extraordinary wonders, and this includes men, women, and children alike.
    We can now all experience the beauty of a restored relationship with GOD, through JESUS CHRIST, if we choose to. Joel’s prophesy, contained in verses 28-29, regarding GOD’s outpouring of the HOLY SPIRIT, is one of the oldest such prophesies in Scripture.
    In the New Testament this prophesy delivered by Joel is cited by the Apostle Peter in Acts chapter 2, verse 17, as he delivers his, now famous, “Pentecost Sermon”, the first sermon ever preached in the Christian Church. There Peter suggests that Joel’s prophesy was being fulfilled at that moment, as they celebrated the very birth of Christianity as an organized force of GOD, in the world.
    This timeless book, which seems to place no particular importance on dates, does however suggest that, “even now” is still “the right time” to repent. However, Joel warns us that, “true repentance” is more than just saying, “I’m sorry”, but rather, true repent is a thing of the heart, not just words, or even actions. He tells us in verse 13 that GOD wants us to “rend our hearts”, or “drastically change the way we think” (attack sin while it is still in the thinking stages, before we commit it).
    Earnest repent is not about us hating the consequences of sin (the problems brought on as a result of sin), but rather, it calls for us to actually hate the sin itself (hate sin enough to not want to go there in the first place). When our hearts are truly broken by sin, and we long to return to GOD, then, and only then, will we experience the necessary changes in our lives that GOD promises, are soon to follow.
    In the biblical Greek, the word used for “repent” is “metanoia” (met-an-oy-ah), and it means “to have a strong compunction for” or, in other words, experience “a strong feeling of uneasiness that is brought on by a sense of guilt, or, sting of the conscience, before we do the wrong thing, not after”.
    No one has ever gone through this life, except JESUS, without ever having the need to repent. Only HE, WHO is now much more than man, can make that claim. And so the question for Christian converts becomes, “When the “waves of joy” that we experience when we first become Christians, have crested, and then begins to level off, will our waters still flow in the direction of JESUS CHRIST?
    Conversion to Christianity can never be viewed as “an emotional undertaking”, but rather, it is a “lifestyle change” or “a metamorphosis of the heart”, an alteration from worldly thinking and behavior, to GODly thinking and behavior, sharing the mind of CHRIST, WHO is “the standard example to aspire to”, if, we indeed desire to overcome the world as HE did.
    All GOD ever asks of us is that we stay faced in the right direction, focused on the life example of CHRIST, the only man who has ever overcame the gravitational pull of this world. As our great pioneer, JESUS blazed a “lighted path” through this dark world for us to follow, and to also lead others to. However, this lighted path also goes through “the cross” and so there must be some suffering along the way. But JESUS promises that whosoever can withstand these tribulations until the end, ultimately, will be “saved” (Matthew 24:13).

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander







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