Friday, May 25, 2018

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday May 27, 2018

Over 162,000 readers worldwide

(Praising, praying, and depending on the LORD)
(Psalm 34 and Hebrews 2:17-18)

   Psalm 34 is a righteous man’s praise of GOD for HIS delivering him from life’s troubles and fears that can be magnified in our minds by the wiles of satan and his demons. Here the psalmist, King David, praises GOD for HIS perpetual goodness that HE lavishes upon him each day undeservingly, and in particular, for HIS delivering him from the hands of Abimelech.
    Taking on the role of a teacher, David urges all readers and hearers of the Word of GOD to “taste and see that the LORD is good”. He also teaches us that when we choose to do that which is good, GOD will supervise, so to speak, the results of those wise choices, and turn them into blessings that we will be able to enjoy and share with others.
    This “teaching psalm” shares with us, lessons that David himself learned when he became discouraged and fled to Philistia, and when he was recognized, he pretended to be insane, and was subsequently driven out of this enemy territory back into Israel. In that instance, GOD delivered David, despite his lapse in judgment and faith, showing him how HE was watching over him, even when he put himself into unnecessary peril, as we humans often seem to do.
    David could have just as easily called upon GOD for help while he was still in his homeland of Israel, instead of waiting until he dug a hole for himself in the land of his enemies. However, like most of us, we foolishly wait and see if we can solve our own problems before we call on GOD for HIS wise assistance.
    In verse 8 the phrase “taste and see” is an important figure of speech in biblical vernacular. It is a phrase that suggests that we take full participation in, or experience the full enjoyment of, that which is offered to us by the LORD. It is a call to rely fully and completely on GOD, experiencing the total benefits of a fulltime, personal relationship with HIM.
    David convincingly shares with us his confidence that the Angel of the LORD will shield those who fear GOD, with divine protection from on high. Those who trust in GOD, the true worshipers, will experience genuine joy, and will lack nothing, or, never have to do without “any good thing” in life.                 
    The person who takes total refuge in the LORD is one who does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly. Their sins are covered by the blood of CHRIST, and they trust in the LORD and have HIS divine power available to them when they need help. They are disciplined by HIM, and, they strive to keep all of HIS statutes, because they have a reverent fear of HIM as being the ONE WHO has control over the throne of their life.
    For those who choose to live righteously in the LORD, several assurances are highlighted by David in verses 15-21. First, “the LORD looks favorably upon the righteous”, in verse 15 is a wonderful sign of protection. However, in verse 16 David issues this warning that, “the LORD will turn HIS face against those who do evil”.
    Secondly, David assures us that “the LORD hears the prayers of those who are righteous, humble, and not arrogant or pride-filled”. And thirdly, “even though the righteous may face many troubles, the LORD will rescue them from every one of them”. HE will protect them from harm, and in fact, “not even one of their bones will be broken”.
    In summation to this “acrostic” psalm, where all of the verses begin with a different Hebrew alphabet (one letter is omitted however between verses 5 and 6 causing the acrostic to end at verse 21). Verse 22 is the exception, leaving it to stand alone and call attention to itself with this divine promise; …”the LORD will redeem those who serve HIM. Everyone who trusts in HIM will be freely pardoned” (NLT).
    The word, “redeem”, in verse 22 points to JESUS CHRIST as our LORD and SAVIOR. As a “human being” born to die, JESUS broke the power of sin and death that satan had held over mankind since the days of Adam and Eve. HE came to redeem us as a man, not as an angel, so that HE could fully represent us before GOD the FATHER as our merciful and faithful HIGH PRIEST, coming from a “human vantage point”. Only then could HE offer HIMSELF up as the supreme sacrifice that would satisfy GOD’s price for the sins of the world, once, and for all time (Hebrew 2:17-18).

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander


Friday, May 18, 2018

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday May 20, 2018

Over 161,000 readers worldwide

(GOD wants us to have rest and liberty)
(Leviticus 25:1-23)

   In Leviticus 25 we come to see that worship of GOD the CREATOR, the FATHER of our LORD and SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST, and provider of the HOLY SPIRIT, means not only celebrating HIS presence, but also serving HIS purpose. Here, while he was still on Mount Sinai, Moses is given instructions by GOD to institute among the Israelites, a “Sabbath Year Rest” (once every seventh year), during which no crops should be planted or harvested by them. For one whole year the land itself will be allowed to observe a “rest” from all cultivation by man.
    The Israelites would be able to cultivate and harvest their fields for six consecutive years, and in the seventh year, no crops were to be planted, harvested, or stored away. Not even the fruit and grain that “grew naturally” during the seventh year could be picked and stored away by anyone except the poor and down-trodden, and the wild animals and livestock (Vs.3-5).
    In other words, those who had sold themselves into servitude (Hebrew slaves) to pay off debts to others, those who were hired servants, and any foreigners who lived among the Israelite community, were allowed to partake freely in the “natural crops” of the seventh year, and so too, were the wild animals and livestock allowed to feed, and be fed, from the bounty of the land in the seventh year (Vs.6-7).
    Old Testament Law is filled with special provisions for the poor and down-trodden, and it never assumes that their poverty is their own fault. Here in these passages, and also permeated in other passages throughout the bible, we see clearly how biblical law provides for those in need. Here is a sampling of some of those laws;

·         Judges were required not to favor the wealthy in civil cases (Leviticus 19:15).
·         Family land could not be lost permanently, but rather, had to be returned to the original owners every 50 years (Leviticus 25:8-23). We’ll get to this in just a moment.
·         The poor must be allowed to gather food from the natural crops of other’s land, during the Sabbatical year when no crops were allowed to be planted or cultivated.
·         Even during the regular annual harvests the poor must be allowed to come onto the edges of the fields to pick grain, and to also gather anything that had fallen to the ground, or, that had been left unpicked after the first picking by the owner (Exodus 23:10-11 and Leviticus 19:10).
·         Loans to the poor could carry no interest charges, and sales of food to the poor could not be profited from by the seller. It had to be sold to them at cost (Leviticus 25:35-37).
·         All outstanding debt has to be completely forgiven after seven years (Deuteronomy 15:7-11).
·         A regular collection (once every 3 years) of a 10% tithe on all crops was gathered and stored up locally to be distributed to the poor and needy (Deuteronomy 14:28-29)

    These are just some of the ways that GOD has incorporated mercy and justice into HIS laws, as a way to mediate systematically among mankind and to show HIS deep concern for the poor and oppressed members of society. These laws serve to motivate, and indeed, challenge us to find ways to become self-supporting by sharing with others, “GOD’s provisions”, that are not truly ours in the first place, but rather, really belong to GOD, the GREAT PROVIDER to us all.
    The Israelites went on to violate this Sabbath Year Rest 70 consecutive times (490 years in all) before GOD intervened and punished them by turning them over to King Nebuchadnezzar, and his Babylonian forces destroyed Jerusalem and transported them into Babylon for seventy years, one year for each Sabbath Year Rest that they violated.
    In verses 8-23 we see GOD’s instructions to the Israelites to earmark a “Jubilee Year” by counting off seven “Sabbath Years” (seven years times seven), 49 years in all. Then, on the “Day of Atonement” in the fiftieth year they were to blow the trumpets loud and long throughout the land. This fiftieth year would be set aside as a “holy time” upon which there would be a “release” for all who live in Israel. It would serve as a “liberation of debts and losses” for all who had come into poverty in Israel, giving everyone and their families a fresh new start in life financially and economically.
    The “Jubilee Year Law” meant that each person could return to the land that was originally owned by their ancestors, rejoin their clan members, and reclaim ownership of that land. However, they were to remember that it was also a Sabbath Year, and that the laws of the Sabbath year remained in effect as normal. They were to be careful to continue on observing them despite the fact that they may be inspired to celebrate the return of lost property to the family after 50 years.   
    To keep the Israelites from using their “human ingenuity” to get around the Jubilee law, or, to keep them from using the law to, somehow, take advantage of others, the LORD adds specific details in verses 14-17;

    When you make an agreement with a neighbor to buy or sell property, you must never take advantage of each other. When you buy land from your neighbor, the price of the land should be based on the number of years since the last jubilee. The seller will charge you only for the crop years left until the next jubilee. The more the years, the higher the price; the fewer the years, the lower the price. After all, the person selling the land is actually selling you a certain number of harvests. Show your fear of GOD by not taking advantage of each other. I the LORD am your GOD” (NLT).

    To assure the people and encourage them to have faith in HIS system, GOD promises that, if they continue to obey HIS laws, HE will bless them with a bumper crop each year, and they will always be able to eat until they are filled. And as far as their worries about what they will eat during the seventh years, the LORD promises that HE will bless the sixth year’s crops with enough of a harvest to feed them for three years. In other words they will be able to eat off of the crop harvested in the sixth year, until the ninth year. And they were to remember that the land must never be sold on a permanent basis.
    GOD wanted Israel to know that the land was actually HIS property, and that, they were only “tenants” on HIS land. GOD’s land was never intended to be exploited by man for his enrichment, nor, to contribute to the impoverishment of his fellowman. In fact, GOD ends this passage by saying, “You are only foreigners and tenants (in other words “leasing”) living with ME” (v.23b – NLT).

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander  

LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website

Friday, May 11, 2018

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday May 13, 2018

Over 160,000 readers worldwide

(Give faithfully and generously to GODly causes)
(Leviticus 23:9-14 and 22)

   In Leviticus 23, verses 1-2, the LORD instructs the Israelites through Moses, to reserve several dates for “national public days of worship and sacrifice”. On these “appointed feast days” (“mo`adim), the people were to observe, through festive celebrations, holy occasions during specific times of the year, which the LORD HIMSELF named and established.
    In verses 9-14 we see highlighted “The Festival of Firstfruits” which the LORD established for the dedication of the first fruits of the Israelites harvest after they entered into the “promised land” of Canaan. Here the LORD instructs them to bring a portion (a sheaf) of that first grain harvest to the chosen place of assembly, and give it to the priest so that he may offer it up before the LORD as a sacrifice that can be accepted on their behalf.  
    The Festival of Firstfruits is the third feast that was appointed by the LORD to be observed by the Israelites annually. It was most likely a “wave offering” of barley, since barley is the first fruit, or “grain” of the new year (March-April time period on our Gregorian calendar and “Nisan” on the Jewish calendar) to be harvested. The priest, on this occasion, will lift up a sheaf of barley and “wave it” before the LORD on “the day after the Sabbath”, the sixteenth day of the month of Nisan. The symbolism of this occasion foreshadows the resurrection of CHRIST, WHO was called “a FIRSTFRUIT” in 1 Corinthian 15:20-23.
    The feasts and festivals of Israel were community observances where the poor, widows, orphans, and foreigners were all invited and encouraged to attend. The foods at these gatherings consisted of community contributions, and were a “potluck” type of get-together. The festivals were intended by GOD to highlight the importance of worshipping and thanksgiving to HIM, and also the importance of sharing our blessings with our neighbors (each other).
    However, the Israelite community was restricted from partaking in the food of the Festival of Firstfruits in any way, until after the “yearling lamb offering”, “double portion of grain offering”, and “the oblation of wine” was first dedicated and offered up to the LORD. Putting GOD first and sharing in our blessings with others are the key things. When give thanks to GOD, by sharing with those in need, we show GOD that we understand what “true tithing and offering” is all about.
    In Luke 11, in the final part of JESUS’ statement to the Pharisees and teachers of religious law, HE shines the spotlight on three of the many flaws in the way that they operated under GOD, disregarding “justice” and “the love of GOD”. HE begins, however, in verse 42, by pointing out the distorted way in which they regarded “divine causes”, such as “tithing” and “giving”. Even though they were teachers of the law of GOD, they still did not comprehend the true reason as to why GOD institutes and emphasizes the importance of “giving”. The concept of giving and sharing was instituted by GOD to benefit us by removing us from the effects of the curse HE put on soil of the earth after Adam and Eve sinned against HIM.  
    When sin entered into the world, one of GOD’s judgments on man was that HE “cursed the ground” (Genesis 3:17). Everything that we see existing in the world originates from that “now cursed” ground, and therefore, everything man makes or raises from the ground contains that curse.
    However, GOD, through HIS boundless mercy and grace, instituted “giving” (tithing and reacting positively to human need), the sharing of one’s possessions and one’s self, as “the only way to remove that curse” from the produce and products of the earth. When we give at least 10% of our earnings, and we are willing to share our time, talents, and prosperity with those who are in need, “we take the curse off of not only that which we give, but also, off of all that which we retain for ourselves and our family’s need”.
    In addition, JESUS says in effect that, “through our generosity here on earth, we store up treasures for ourselves in Heaven!” (Luke 16:9 - NLT). It is a formula that, if used correctly, would, quite literally, mean death to “greed”, selfishness, and “poverty” in the world. That is why it is so important for us to give faithfully and generously to all GODly causes. Our first thoughts after we have received financial or other blessings should be, “How can I benefit someone else who is in greater need than myself? The Christian thought should be to “desire more”, so that we may “have more” to “give away”.  

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website

Friday, May 4, 2018

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday May 6, 2018

Over 159,000 readers worldwide

(Devotion to GOD is best expressed in our giving)
(Exodus 35:4-36:7 and 2 Corinthians 9)

   Throughout all the ages we can find that, one of the oldest principals of life, which continues to persist in both, the physical, and the spiritual world, is that, the size of a harvest, under normal circumstances, always corresponds directly with the amount of sowing which had been done. Typically, the more generously we sow, the greater our harvest is.
    JESUS tells us in Luke 14, verses 28-30 that we should not begin a building project until we know exactly what it will cost, and, have already procured in advance, the finances necessary to complete the job. In other words, we should never have to construct a Christian Church assembly building, for example, on borrowed money. If and when we do, we make GOD’s House a slave to the worldly lending institutions that financed us, who, by the way, are not governed by the Word of GOD, but rather, are luciferic in their policymaking. When we borrow money from the devil, he, quite literally, becomes our landlord, and I promise you, nothing GODly is going to be happening inside that structure.
    In Exodus 35, Moses, the man of GOD, calls all of the people together and instructs them on what ”thus says the LORD” about how he wants HIS Tabernacle (Church buildings) to be constructed. Here Moses tells them that it will be built on the “generous giving of the time, talent, and treasure of the faithful members of the assembly”.
    In verse 21 we see that the completion of the project would be made possible only by those, whose hearts were stirred by what GOD wanted, and who desired very earnestly to please HIM. The people aligned their interests with GOD, and, as a result, both men and women came with many possessions, their time, and, their GOD-given abilities, to donate those assets, to the fulfillment of the goal.
    In Exodus 36, verses 1-7, we see that, after the skilled laborers, Bezalel, Oholiab, and others, whom the LORD had chosen to oversee the project, came to Moses and confirmed that they had everything they needed “to complete the work”. Then, and only then, did Moses give the order “to begin the work”.
    Over in 2 Corinthians 9, the New Testament records that, as Paul was continuing on with his written lecture to the Corinthians on generous giving, he begins to focus his efforts more clearly on the collection for the Christians central “Mother Church” at Jerusalem.
    In this section of his letter, Paul issues a not- so-subtle reminder to the Corinthians of how eager they were to help the cause of the central church when they had first heard of their troubles a year earlier. This reminder is issued here, first in written form, so as to spare their branch of the Christian Church Network the embarrassment of not being prepared as promised, or, not being willing to follow through on what they had started.
    Paul had been boasting about the generosity of the Corinthians to the Macedonians, and his boasting had helped to stir up enthusiasm there, and, in a lot of other churches along the Christian network of believers. In addition, he had sent Titus, along with two other trusted men from the Church to help ensure that the gifts they had promised would be ready when he himself arrived some time later.
    The relationship between Paul and the brethren at Corinth had been plenty strained in the three years since Paul had visited there, and he had suffered much while he awaited their reaction to his “sorrowful letter” that he had sent earlier by Titus. However, he truly cared for the Christians at Corinth and he wanted to make amends with them, but more importantly, he needed to uphold the integrity of his apostolic credentials. Paul did spend the following winter months in Corinth, and it was at that time, that, he probably wrote his, now famous, letter to the Romans.
    This second letter to the Corinthians, however, is most personal, and perhaps, the least doctrinal of all of Paul’s known letters to the Christian churches of the first century. He tells of some very personal experiences in this letter as he vividly reveals an intense emotion and personality, not seen in any of his other epistles. This letter truly shows us Paul’s deep sincerity and determination to live by the principals of material exchange  between churches, that really had already been laid out by GOD in HIS law since the days of the Israelites desert experience with the “manna from Heaven” (Exodus 16:18). There GOD sought to show us that, the person who follows HIM, needs will always be met. JESUS, our LORD and SAVIOR, sought to show us the very same thing during HIS lifetime here on earth.
    Remember, anyone who sows generously will reap generously, and anyone who sows sparingly, will reap sparingly. Paul warns us, however, that we should not give reluctantly, or, in response to pressure, because GOD only loves the attitude of a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7). And GOD will generously provide for all of our needs, with plenty left over, so that we can share even further with others in need.
    GOD gives us many opportunities to do good deeds, and HE will produce a great harvest of generosity in all those who take advantage of those opportunities by using them to help someone else in need (Vs.10-11). That’s right! The true Christian should want more, so that they can have more to give away. And when we use the blessings that GOD has given us to enrich the lives of others, two things will transpire. First, we will have met the needs of someone who may have otherwise gone without. And secondly, that person whom you helped will hopefully see the need to glorify GOD through their expression of thanksgiving. In both instances, GOD will be pleased, and your generosity will prove to HIM, your good stewardship, and, your obedience to the Gospel of CHRIST (Vs.12-13).
    I’ll leave you with the well-known story of “the widow’s offering”, as it is so vividly depicted by Luke in chapter 21, verses 1-4, of his Gospel account, where it states; “While JESUS was in the temple, HE watched the rich people putting their gifts into the collection box. Then a poor widow came by and dropped in two pennies. Then JESUS responded, “I assure you, this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them. For they (the rich) have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has” (NLT).
    In my mind, this lady’s attitude, and spirit for giving sets the New Testament standard of CHRIST for gracious, cheerful, GODly benevolence on a human level. And her example remains there for all to see and understand, not just in the first century, but even in this day and age.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website