Friday, July 21, 2017

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

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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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Friday, July 7, 2017

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday July 9, 2017

Over 134,000 readers worldwide
larrydalexander.blogspot.com

ISAIAH IN THE TEMPLE
(Responding to a holy GOD with confession and obedience)
(Isaiah 6)

   The Prophet Isaiah was born in Jerusalem, into the family of Amoz, who was related to the royal house of Judah. He spent his early years as an official of King Uzziah (Azariah), who reigned over Judah for 52 years (2 Chronicles 26:3). In the year that Uzziah died of leprosy, around 740 B.C. (2 Kings 15:5), Isaiah received his calling from GOD one day in a stirring vision in the Temple at Jerusalem.
    Isaiah was married to a woman, who Scripture only describes as the “Prophetess” (Isaiah 8:3), and he was the father of two sons, who bore highly symbolical names. “Shear-jashub” (Isaiah 7:3), his first son, whose name means “a remnant shall return”, prophesies the return of the Jews to Judah, after their deportation and captivity had ended in Assyria.
    The second son, “Maher-shalal-hash-baz”, (the longest word in the Bible), whose name means “swift spoil, speedy prey”, prophesies the doom of Damascus and Samaria, and the destruction of Syria and Israel, who had formed an alliance against Jerusalem. 
    Isaiah’s connection with the royal family may explain why he was always able to enter into the presence of the king, seemingly at will. His active career spanned from around 738 B.C. until, at least, 701 B.C., and probably, even up until 690 B.C. He lived through a succession of political crises, including “the intervention of Assyria” (2 kings 16:5), “the Syro-Ephraimitish War” which began in 734 B.C. (2 kings 15:37-16:9), “the fall of Samaria” in 722 B.C. (2 Kings 17:5-6), “the siege of Ashdod by king Sargon” in 711 B.C. (Isaiah 20:1), and “the attempted invasion of Sennacherib” in 701 B.C (2 Kings 19).
    Isaiah has well been called “the Prince of Prophets” and “the Prophet of Faith”, and he went on to become a sublime figure of Faith in the supremacy of the “Spiritual” over the “Earthly”, and GODLY ideals from on High, over the brute force and physical power of men on earth.
    For Isaiah to have combined such lofty faith with his practical statesmanship, shows that he is essentially a man of action, and is worthy of being called one of the greatest men of any age. To Isaiah, GOD was first and foremost, a holy GOD. In fact, the holiness of GOD was the first thing that impressed Isaiah when he saw GOD in all HIS glory in the temple at Jerusalem here in Isaiah 6:1-8.
    However, GOD’s holiness also reminded Isaiah of his own sin and weaknesses, an effect that the knowledge of GOD should have on us all. Isaiah’s humble cry shows no resemblance to mere surface humility, but rather, it manifests a deep realization by the prophet, of the overwhelming superiority of GOD’s holiness.
    After confessing his imperfections before the presence of the LORD, and being cleansed of his sins by GOD through the placement of the hot coal upon his lips (symbolic of a burnt offering on the altar), Isaiah now stands ready to, both, worship, and serve the LORD completely.
    This account of Isaiah’s call to service, by GOD, is perhaps the classic prophetic summons of the Old Testament. Isaiah’s answer to GOD’s request of “Who shall we send?” is one of the most well-known statements of the Old Testament prophets. His utterance of “Here I am, send me” shows a courageous willingness by Isaiah to step into the unknown, armed only with faith.
    However, it was this faith that would allow him to overcome the perils and rigors of this world, as he pressed on for decades, delivering GOD’s message to those, who, for the most part, weren’t even willing to listen. It prompts one to recall the Apostle John, as he wrapped up his colorful career and vivid account of JESUS’ ministry, during the final weeks of HIS divine life here on earth.
    The “disciple whom JESUS loved” cited the eighth century prophet, Isaiah’s written words in Isaiah 6:10, which had resonated in his own heart and mind, down through the years of his life. There the LORD tells Isaiah, “Harden the hearts of these people. Close their ears, and shut their eyes. That way, they will not see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn to ME for healing” (NLT).
    It was the classic statement that would seem to explain why so few Jews had responded favorably to Isaiah’s message in the eighth century B.C., or the MESSIAH’s message in the first century A.D. In fact, it is indeed no different from “the attitude of indifference” and unresponsive way that we are now responding to GOD’s messengers here in this, the twenty-first century. Our GOD is a Holy GOD, and in the hearts of those who love and fear HIM, HE still moves and inspires to worship and service, all the day long.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander




                      Larry DAlexander's Books and Publications Spotlight

                                 
                                           LARRY DALEXANDER- Official Website