Friday, April 24, 2020

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday April 26, 2020

Over 236,000 readers worldwide

(Good news for the oppressed)
(Isaiah 61:8-62:4)

   In the Greek, the word used for “messenger” is “aggelos” (ang-el-os), and “it describes one who brings news or tidings by divine order from GOD”. The Old Testament prophet served as, quite literally, “the contemporary voice of GOD”. They cried out boldly, not only to foretell future events, but also to correct sinful behavior in his or her current generation.
    Their messages were intended to also help mankind to shape “a more moral society”, by adhering to the Word of GOD, for both his, and, for future generations. And every prophet GOD sent was clearly focused on “justice”. So much so, that the word “justice” can be found in Scripture more than 90 times, and the word “just”, as in “being just”, more than 40 times.
    For about 700 years of Israel’s history, from the time of Samuel to the time of Malachi, and even beyond that, to the time of John the Baptist, the prophets each served as GOD’s special messenger in their own generation. Their legacy of fierce dedication to the LORD and HIS ways, are forever preserved for us to see, in the annals of Holy Scriptures.
    And even though their messages were not largely heeded, during the days that they themselves walked along the stage of human life (and still are not largely heeded today), that, never stopped them from performing their “personally assigned creation roles” from the GOD in Heaven, WHO sent them.
    GOD’s servants, and HIS followers, will always suffer in a world that is totally averse to HIS Will and HIS ways. Originally, GOD planted Israel into the world to be “a beacon of light”, to HIS world, which had long ago fallen into darkness. Israel went on to fail GOD on practically every level, and they, instead, began to desire the ways of the world, that they themselves, had been expected to positively influence.
    The Apostle Paul often referred to “Salvation” as clothing for the righteous, and even JESUS used that analogy in several of HIS parables. JESUS referred to the righteous as “guests” who were clothed in special garments that were provided by the host (Matthew 22:11-14). Being dressed in such garments showed that that person was “an invited guest” having a full right to join the celebration.
    Here in Isaiah 61, verses 8-11, we see the prophet Isaiah announce that “a justice loving GOD”, WHO, hates robbery and wrongdoing, will faithfully reward HIS people for their suffering here on earth. GOD will make an everlasting covenant, not only with those who suffer in this present generations, but HE will also bless their descendants in generations to come. Everyone will recognize GOD’s people by the way they have been blessed (Vs.8-9).
    Isaiah was overwhelmed with joy in the LORD because he was “dressed with the clothing of Salvation”, and “draped in a robe of righteousness”. He felt like a bridegroom all dressed up in his wedding attire, or like a bride flossing in her jewelry (v.10). In verse 11 Isaiah gives us this message from the LORD, saying, “The sovereign LORD will show HIS justice to the nations of the world”.
    GOD is a lover of justice, and injustice anywhere, is a threat to justice everywhere. GOD calls on “HIS greatest creation”, mankind, to hate unfair treatment of anyone at any time, in any place on earth. Living GOD’s way requires that we apply justice, and insist on creating a moral society for ourselves, and also leaving a pattern of GODly examples for our children, and all future generation to follow.  
    In Isaiah 62:1-4, the prophet prays for his beloved Israel. Here he proclaims; “Because I love Zion, because my heart yearns for Jerusalem, I cannot remain silent. I will not stop praying for her until her righteousness shines like the dawn, and her salvation blazes like a burning torch. The nations will see your righteousness. Kings will be blinded by your glory. And the LORD will give you a new name. The LORD will hold you in HIS hands for all to see --- a splendid crown in the hands of GOD. Never again will you be called “the GOD forsaken City” or “the Desolate Land”. Your new name will be “the City of GOD’s Delight” and “the Bride of GOD”, for the LORD delights in you and will claim you as HIS OWN” (NLT).
    Here Isaiah continues to maintain a sense of joy as he commits himself to continued prayer for a fallen Jerusalem until their day of deliverance comes. Perhaps this prayer not only refers to Israel’s returned exiles, but also to future generations of Christians, even here in this 21st century. GOD has given HIS followers “a new name”, “Christians”, who extend well beyond the borders of Zion, and indeed, can be found, even in many remote places in the world today.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

                                           LARRY DALEXANDER- Official Website


Friday, April 17, 2020

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday April 19, 2020

Over 235,000 readers worldwide

(Speaking out courageously against injustice)
(The Book of Esther)

   The Almighty GOD in Heaven has always, throughout the history of HIS Creation, used that Creation to judge and discipline “the greater segment”, mankind, for his sins against HIM. Sometimes HE uses “pestilence” or “famine”, while at other times HE uses the “weather”, and even “beasts”. Here in the Book of Esther we see an example of how GOD uses “human beings” to accomplish HIS purpose, rather than doing it directly HIMSELF.
    The book of Esther, even though it does not mention GOD, is ironically Scripture’s greatest example of “divine providence”, and GOD’s divine intervention using “people of great courage” to achieve HIS Will here on earth. Here we see the courage and national pride of Esther and Mordecai, neither of whom seem to be particularly religious, on display in a remarkable way.
    In the Hebrew, the two most commonly used words for “courage” are “chazaq” (khaw-zak), which is courage displayed in a physical sense, such as being “manly” or “physically stout” when facing adversities or crises (i.e. Samson). The other is “amats” (aw-mats), which is courage, not only in the physical sense, but perhaps, even more so, “from a mental standpoint”.
    A less commonly used Hebrew word for courage is “ruwach” (roo-wach), which also means “spirit”, and, more or less, refers to “a spiritual courage” that does not necessarily apply here in the book of Esther. In fact, here Mordecai hides both, he and Esther’s Jewish heritage in order to gain favor with the ungodly King Xerxes, before later claiming it, and using it as an excuse not to acknowledge Haman by bowing down in his presence.
    The biblical account of Esther takes place in the ancient Persian capital of Susa, a city located in what is now present-day Iran. All of the events in this book occur during the reign of King Xerxes, the son of King Darius, and the grandson of King Cyrus. King Cyrus was the first king to allow the Jews to return to their homeland for the express purpose of rebuilding the Temple of GOD in Jerusalem. This permission by Cyrus in 539 B.C. would unofficially signal the end of the Jews captivity in Babylon, which ultimately lasted 70 years.
    This story tells of a plot by a man named Haman, King Xerxes’ Prime Minister, to kill all the Jews in the Persian Empire, simply because one Jew, Mordecai, repeatedly refused to bow down to him, or at least, it seems that way on the surface. However, if we dig deeper into the background of these two men, perhaps we can see another reason for this deep seeded hatred between these two, come into focus.
    In Esther 3:1, Haman is called an “Agagite”. Jewish tradition identifies Haman as a descendant of Agag, the Amalekite King whose people, King Saul of Israel, failed to destroy, as GOD had directed him to do, through HIS prophet Samuel (1 Samuel 15). Mordecai, on the other hand, was a direct descendant of King Saul (Esther 2:5), who lost his kingship as a direct result of this incident.
    And so we see, coming into focus, that this current situation may very well be just the latest episode in an ongoing feud between hereditary enemies. Here we see Haman’s quest for revenge, and Mordecai’s pride, endangering the lives of an entire nation of people.
    In this passage of Scripture, Esther, is the orphan girl who was raised by Mordecai, who was her cousin, following the death of her parents. Esther, who was also called “Hadassah”, rises to prominence through the careful planning and guidance of Mordecai. She was a very beautiful woman who, through divine providence from GOD, ended up in the right place at the right time to fill the vacancy left by Queen Vashti, who was deposed by her husband, King Xerxes, for her refusal to obey his royal summons.
    In this account (Esther 3:8-15), Haman seeks and obtains a written edict from King Xerxes to kill all the Jews living within the Persian Empire. After learning this, Mordecai then calls on now, “Queen Esther” (Esther 4:1-9) to use her new-found royal influence to stop the order from being carried out. The order was to take affect exactly one year later.
    Esther responded to his request by telling him that she had not been able to see the king in over a month (Esther 4:11), and that, it could mean death to go to the king without an appointment. However, Mordecai convinced her that death for all Jews, including her, was probably eminent, if she did not, at least, try.
    And so, Queen Esther summons up enough courage, and decides that she would go before the king. She tells Mordecai by messenger to “gather up all the Jews in Susa and fast for me for three days, and I will do the same. And then, though it be against the law, I will go in to see the king. If I must die, I am willing to die” (Esther 4:15-16) (NLT).
    Esther’s fears turned out to be for naught, as the king not only received her, but he also told her to ask anything she desired of him, up to half his kingdom (Esther 5:3). In the meantime, Hamon, after another rebellious encounter with Mordecai, is encouraged by his wife and his friends to build a 75-foot high gallows and ask the king to hang Mordecai on it. This suggestion pleased Haman very much, and he ordered that the gallows be built immediately (Esther 5:9-14).
    Divine intervention continues to manifest itself in chapter 6, as it is put on the king’s mind to review the historical records of his kingdom, by which he is reminded that the Queen had told him of Mordecai’s heroic deed of foiling an assassination attempt on his life by his palace guards. And so, the king set into motion a plan to honor Mordecai for his heroics at a banquet that was staged by Queen Esther.
    From there Esther is able to devise a plan to make King Xerxes aware of the fact that Haman’s plan to kill the Jews also included her and Mordecai. This infuriated the king and he ordered that Haman be hanged on the gallows that he had built to execute Mordecai on (Esther 7).
    And so, we see that, because of GOD’s divine providence, and Esther’s courage and willingness to step out, she was able to save her people from destruction. And even though GOD is not mentioned in this book of Esther, one can sense HIS Spiritual presence every step of the way. Many events happened in this book that were beyond anyone’s control except GOD’s. It is a book that is filled with irony, and with ways in which things mysteriously turned out in favor of GOD’s chosen people.
    The “Feast of Purim” is celebrated annually by the Jews because of the many divine events that occur in the Book of Esther. It is observed as a reminder to the people to “be of good courage”. And, even though we cannot physically see GOD, just as we can’t see HIM mentioned in this biblical account of Esther and Mordecai, GOD is still everywhere, and in control of all things, at all times, from a Heavenly vantage point.   

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander 

LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website

Friday, April 10, 2020

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday April 12, 2020

Over 235,000 readers worldwide

(A resurrected SAVIOR)
(1 Corinthians 15:1-11)

   In the biblical Greek the word used for “resurrection” is “anastasis”, and it is “a moral recovery of spirit truth”, and in the physical sense, it means, “to stand up again”. The sins of Adam and Eve ushered “physical death” into the world, and by contrast, the resurrection of CHRIST JESUS brought “spiritual life”. Adam, the first man, came from the dust of the earth, while JESUS, the second man, came from Heaven (1 Corinthians 15:47).
    It was William Barclay who wrote, “Cleverness can never be the basis of true religion, and true religion can never be the product of a man’s mind”. The resurrection of CHRIST is the essence of the Christian Faith, and, is the core of all of the apostle’s teachings, and mine.
    No man is capable of producing or concocting a “True Religion”, or “Faith”. Only GOD, the CREATOR of Heaven and Earth, is capable of meeting the qualifications necessary, and setting the examples that every man can benefit from, 100% of the time. Man, through his imperfections, will never be able to spiritually rule over another man, and so, “Christianity” remains as the only true religion, simply because, it is the only religion that is “a product of GOD’s mind”. 
    In 1 Corinthians 15, the Apostle Paul offers us an indebt understanding of the subject of “the resurrection of CHRIST JESUS”, and the powerful impact that that resurrection has on those who choose to believe in HIM in this world. The resurrection is guaranteed through the sacrifice of CHRIST JESUS, the author and finisher of the only true faith, Christianity.
    He begins by reminding the Corinthians in particular, and the world in general, of the important teaching that he had passed on to them in a previous time, regarding the resurrection of CHRIST. He then tells them of the many witnesses to that resurrection, which included himself, Peter, James, and many more, including all the other apostles.

1 Corinthians 15:12-33

    In verses 12-19 Paul embarks upon a logical argument explaining the centrality of the resurrection of CHRIST to the Christian Faith, and the belief that because of that resurrection, all who die believing in HIM will also be raised from the dead, and into eternal life with GOD, just as HE was.
    Our hope in CHRIST, “the Christian Hope”, is not just for this life, but rather, it is for the eternal life yet to come in Heaven. That is why true Christians are not “miserable people”, but rather, to the contrary, we are people who retain unshakable joy while still living here on earth.
    It is a true fact that JESUS has been raised from the dead, and HE became the first fruit of a great harvest of believers who will be raised to life again, after HIM. And just as death came into the world through Adam, resurrection from the dead into eternal life with GOD has been ushered in by JESUS CHRIST.
    Everyone dies because of their relationship to Adam, but everyone can live again, eternally, through their relationship with CHRIST JESUS. Death will be the last enemy of man to be destroyed, or “nullified” (“katargeo”), and so, we must not be fooled by unbelievers. Remember, “bad company corrupts good character” (v.33), and so we have to come to our senses and “quit living in sin” (v.34), by coming to know GOD on a personal and experiential, “lifesaving” level (Vs.20-34).

1 Corinthians 15:35-56

    Paul concludes this chapter with the analogy of the “dead seed” that is planted and then, through nourishments from GOD, once again becomes “a living thing”, full of life and growth, producing life-giving food, and even more seeds for future growth. However, the dead seed (lost person) had to first fall into the hands of a sewer (a witness) who could introduce it to “new life” (JESUS) by planting it firmly into the nourishment of GOD (The Word). Death is then swallowed up by victory, and its sting (sin) is taken away (Vs.35-58).   
    The person who has met and accepted the “Risen LORD” will be able to live forever in the joy of HIS presence. They will be able to come to rest in the knowledge that nothing can ever again separate them from HIS saving grace. And so, we should be able to see quite clearly now how no man can give another man that kind of religion. It is something that only GOD is capable of doing. That is why the Christian can “believe”, “share”, and “rejoice” in the saving power of GOD.
    Through the birth, ministry, passion, death, and resurrection of JESUS CHRIST, GOD is saying to us, as only HE can, that HE loves us with an everlasting love that can withstand all of the suffering that this world has to offer.
    Sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power (v.56). How we thank GOD, WHO gives us “victory” over sin and death, through JESUS CHRIST our LORD. With GOD, it is possible for us to make “a moral recovery of a spiritual truth” found only in HIM, and when we accept that TRUTH, we become fully able “to stand up again” and live forever in the presence of the ALMIGHTY GOD in Heaven.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander 

LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website

Friday, April 3, 2020

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday April 5, 2020

Over 234,000 readers worldwide

(The LORD’s chosen servant)
(Isaiah 42:1-9)

   The prophet Isaiah was born in Jerusalem into the family of Amoz, a relative of 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 King Uzziah died of leprosy (2 Kings 15:5), around 740 B.C., Isaiah received his calling from GOD in a stirring vision while visiting the Temple in Jerusalem (Isaiah 6).
    Isaiah was married to a woman described only in his book as “the Prophetess” (Isaiah 8:3). He fathered two sons with her who are given two highly symbolic names. “Shear-jashub”, his first son, whose name means “a remnant shall return”, prophesies “the return of the Jews to Judah, after their deportation and captivity in Assyria” (722 B.C.). 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 how he was always able to enter into the presence of the kings of Israel, seemingly, at will. His active ministry spanned over 60 years, from around 740 B.C. to, at least, 701 B.C., and possibly until as late as 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 Asdod by King Sargon in 711 B.C. (Isaiah 20:1), and the attempted invasion by Sennacherib of Assyria in 701 B.C. (2 Kings 19).
    In the Book of Isaiah, the phrase “servant of the LORD” usually refers to “the nation of Israel”. However, the servant Israel, at this point, had failed miserably to answer her charge and mission that had been given to her by GOD.
    Another famous phrase that refers to Israel is “GOD’s chosen people, or, nation”. It is a phrase which takes on three separate meanings, neither of which is what most people think they are. Contrary to popular belief, it does not mean that the Jews are “people of special privilege” as much as it means that they are “people of special responsibility”. The Jews were chosen by GOD to perform basically three duties, and they are:

·         To bring GOD’s Word to the world and exhibit it through their behavior.
·         To bring GOD’s Law to the world and incorporate into their community and society.
·         To bring GOD’s SON into the world so that HE might communicate to humanity how to live obediently as “human beings” under GOD, and to offer mankind salvation through HIS vicarious sacrifice on the cross at Gologtha.

    The Jews, as a nation, had, at that time, already failed miserably to perform the first two, of those divinely appointed duties. Their continued sin and disobedience had severely separated them from GOD, and their lifestyles and society had begun to, more resemble the pagan nations around them, than it did the ideology that GOD had commanded them to follow. And now, they were only 700 years away from the third and final part of their mission of fulfilling their responsibility to their FATHER GOD in Heaven (birthing JESUS into the world).
    JESUS, our LORD and SAVIOR, would soon be born into world through the Davidic line of the Jewish nation. HE would be, to the world, what the entire nation of Israel in general, had failed to be, since its inception. They had never fulfilled their responsibility to be an example of GODly behavior here on earth.
    Here in Isaiah 42, the MESSIAH is “the SERVANT of GOD”, of which the prophet Isaiah speaks. Here he is prophesying of the “coming”, or “first advent”, of our LORD and SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST into the world to be the “gentle servant of hope”, WHO would bring “full justice” to all who have been wronged. HE would bring “truth” and “righteousness” throughout the world, and all men would wait for HIS instructions (v.14).
    In this passage we see that JESUS would come to complete the mission that Israel had proven itself to be incapable of completing. In verses 5-7 Isaiah tells us that the coming SERVANT would have a goal to become “a light to the world”. GOD would give this SERVANT to HIS people to guard and support them, and, to be a “personal” confirmation of HIS Covenant with them.
    JESUS, the GREAT SERVANT, would guide “all nations” to GOD the FATHER, and HE would open the eyes of the spiritually blind, freeing them from their incarceration in sin, and thereby, releasing them from the darkness of a sinful existence. And the LORD warns us in verse 8, that, HE will not cede HIS glory to any man, nor, any carved idol made from the hands of men, anywhere in the world.
    Isaiah 42:1-4 is the first of four passages in his book that have famously become known as “Servant’s Songs”. The others are Isaiah 49:1-6, 50:3-9, and 52:13-53:12. These verses serve to emphasize again and again, “the qualities of servanthood” that every Christian must aspire to embody and exemplify throughout all the days of their Christian Walk.
    The successful servant is upheld and chosen by GOD, and they are endowed with the HOLY SPIRIT to strengthen, council, and guide them. They must be humble and sensitive to the degree that they realize that, even “those whom society rejects as having no value”, are “worth saving” to GOD.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

                                           LARRY DALEXANDER- Official Website