Sunday School is a vital part of any ministry. In it one is able to experience a deeper knowledge of God’s Word. We here at “Word For Life Says” want to help you help others. Below you will find resources to help you prepare for your upcoming lessons. May God bless you!
August 23, 2015
“God Wants Justice!”
PDF Lesson Print Out is now Located at the Bottom of the Lesson. Please Scroll Down, Click and Enjoy! Blessings.
*****Please Note: This is a reworking of the previous published Sunday School Lesson titled “Right Over Rituals.” The previous title was confusing to some. While the content is basically the same, I have changed the name on everything and also added a craft project and a different Draw the Scene activity to go with this lesson. To avoid any further confusion, the previous lesson will be taken down. I hope you will enjoy!*****
Please Note: All lesson verses and titles are based on International Sunday School Lesson/Uniform Series ©2010 by the Lesson Committee, but all content/commentary written within is original to wordforlifesays.com unless properly quoted/cited)
Why do you do what you do?
Think about that for a minute. Some of the questioning may seem simple to answer while some . . . well, may trip us up a bit.
For example, if I ask why do you go to work every day? You may say, “I go to work to make money. I’ve got bills to pay. I have to provide for myself and my family. I need food on the table and clothes on our backs. Therefore, I must work.”
If I ask, “Why do you take a bath?” You would probably look at me and go, “Duh! That’s just gross! I take a bath because I don’t want to stink. I take a bath because I don’t want to start growing fungus like a rotting log,” and so forth.
Alrighty, then! Next question. . .
Now, what if I ask you why do you go to church? “Well, hmmm. I go because I have a responsibility. I go because it’s what I am supposed to do on a Sunday. I go because I am a leader. I go because I can fellowship with other believers. I go to meet Jesus there. I go to hear the Word. I go because I feel drained and need a spiritual pick-me-up. I go because . . .”
We can answer that question in many different ways. We can answer to what appears to some as superficial surface reasoning or to some we can sound deeply devoted. But, the indicator to what is true is not found in the answering; rather, in the heart and in the living.
You see, it doesn’t matter how one answers on the outside. What really matters is what the heart is saying on the inside. What really matters is if there is a genuine commitment to God and His ways that’s being produced in the life that says they have yielded all to Him.
Please note: In absolutely NO WAY am I telling you not to go to church. This was merely an exercise of questioning motives. The Bible commands us, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching,” (Hebrews 10:25).
With that, we must ask ourselves are we really living this life like He wants us to. Have we made a career out of rituals with no spiritual substance? What is it that God really wants from me individually?
God used Zechariah in today’s lesson to answer that exact question.
Zechariah prophesied to the exiles returning to Jerusalem and spoke of rebuilding the temple. Upon their return, the exiles faced a home in ruins. The war that ended in the people going into captivity left the land and all its buildings desolate and in need of major repair. But, what needed to be repaired more above the buildings and the temple was the heart of the people. The very thing that caused their downfall and led to their demise and captivity needed to get in proper alignment in its relationship with God.
Zechariah, being another of the chosen prophets, was used by God to teach the people about living a life ensconced by justice; living a life that is truly pleasing according to Him, and not what man thinks by his traditions.
It was one of their traditions that lay at the heart of today’s lesson. The people, over the time of their Babylonian captivity, had developed and kept particular fasts in the fifth and seventh month of the year (Zech. 7:3, 5).
Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with fasting. Jesus, Himself, recognized that some issues can only be dealt with through prayer and fasting (see Matthew 17:21 and Mark 9:29). He also was an example of fasting. Many other biblical characters are noted to have fasted (Moses, Ezra, Esther, and Daniel, just to name a few). Fasts varied and lasted from 1 day to 3 days to 21 days to 40 days. Every year on the Day of Atonement, the people would afflict their souls, (Lev. 16:30-31).
Ezra was another Bible character that believed in fasting. In Ezra 8:21 it says, “Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance.” He used the words, ““afflict ourselves before our God.”
When the body is “afflicted” in this manner it’s not giving into its cravings and desires; it’s not given into its natural passions and hunger. When one participates in a fast it puts God as number one priority over what the body naturally wants, therefore causing affliction. In essence, through their personal denial of selfish wants they are worshipping God by putting Him first.
Or, are they?
To Zechariah’s audience the question could be asked was their fast something done unto God or something done that’s altogether different? Was what they were doing pleasing to God or was their ritual drawing a bigger wedge in their relationship with Him?
Jesus used to have heated lessons in regard to the importance man placed on certain rituals over God’s law and a genuine, heartfelt relationship with Him. In one instance He in fact chastised the Pharisees as being hypocritical in their fast (see Matthew 6:16-18).
Jesus knew their hearts weren’t right in following their prescribed rituals. Jesus was not against fasting (and neither is this lesson against fasting) but he was against the motives behind their reason for doing it. They weren’t doing it for God; rather, they were doing it to gain the attention and respect of man. Jeremiah 17:10 says, “I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.”
And so, as our lesson goes today, God, through Zechariah, tells the people what it is He really wants from man. He wants justice. He wants a heart that chooses to do the right thing over man-made rituals.
Zechariah 7:8-10 “And the word of the LORD came unto Zechariah, saying, Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Execute true judgment, and shew mercy and compassions every man to his brother: And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart.”
In reply to the people’s questioning about whether they should continue in their traditional fast, God asked them, “When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even those seventy years, did ye at all fast unto me, even to me? And when ye did eat, and when ye did drink, did not ye eat for yourselves, and drink for yourselves?” (Zechariah 7:5-6; not in today’s lesson text).
In other words, God questioned their motives of why they were doing what they were doing? We see in the above verses the word “yourselves” appears twice. Was God at the center of their fast? Was building a deeper relationship with Him the reasoning behind their ritual? Was it really for Me, God asked?
Is what you are doing or observing really for the Lord? Paul reminds us in the book of Romans, “He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks,” (Romans 14:6; emphasis mine). Anything that we do is to have only one motive: for the Lord.
Rituals are to never supersede relationship when it comes to God. Rituals do not overshadow the right things in our dealings with one another (see what Jesus taught in Mark 7:11-13 when the Pharisees placed more importance on Corban than people, “Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition.”).
In our lesson, their fasting was for themselves. In Isaiah the people there were rebuke for selfish motives behind fasting. “Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high,” (Isaiah 58:4).
God was more interested in justice; He was more concerned with how they operated in their relationship with Him and with people over their rituals.
He asked them, “Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?” (Isaiah 58:6-7).
In today’s lesson God focused on justice as well. Which, by the way, was the same words the LORD tried to get them to understand when He sent the “former prophets, when Jerusalem was inhabited and in prosperity . . .,” (Zechariah 7:7; not in today’s lesson text), before the time of their captivity.
If they were going to escape the condemnation of their forefathers that led to captivity in the first place they had to approach what they were doing and the reason they were doing it with a different mindset.
God told them to, “Execute true judgment, and shew mercy and compassions every man to his brother.”
Some may tend to think that these lessons are a bit redundant in always talking about “judgment,” meaning justice. Rather, what they show is the seriousness of the subject with God. He literally leaves no stone unturned in teaching people about what it truly means to be in a relationship with Him.
A few lessons back we hit on the note of talking about “true judgment.” There it says:
“They will seek to do right in their dealings with one another. Remember in previous lessons they were accused of injustices and bribes that would show favor to the more affluent of society while leaving the less fortunate at the disposal of the greed and wickedness of those who had more power.
This has been a great grievance of God against His people for some time. Their lack of justice and operating in a fair and balanced system has caused oppression for the weakest of society” (Word for Life Says/Amend Your Ways!).
Proverbs says, “To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice,” (21:3). This is the life that pleases God the most.
God wanted them to live and show “mercy and compassion every man to his brother.” There has to be genuine inner love and concern toward each other that compels them to look beyond themselves and want to do right.
If one is living a life of hatefulness and injustice, and yet, fasting, God is not pleased with that. Even in the New Testament we see the command that “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also,” (1 John 4:20-21).
One’s lifestyle has to match up with their profession. And, our lifestyle should show love “mercy and compassion every man to his brother.”
God knows what He’s looking for in one who claims to be truly of Him. Micah said, “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God?” (Micah 6:8). God has already showed them that He is looking for a life that does right and loves like He loves.
“And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart.” We won’t spend a lot of time rehashing these same sentiments, but here God is hitting to what led the people into captivity in the first place. Not only was it their lack of judgment that was on trial toward the weakest of society (i.e., the widow, the fatherless, the stranger, and the poor); people who were continually taken advantage of due to the greed of those who could afford to bride the courts of justice and turn what was not theirs into their favor.
But, their “heart” was on trial as well. .” Proverbs 4:23 admonishes us to, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” It was the issues in their heart where the injustice toward their fellow man began. It was the issues in their heart where they were accused of plotting evil plans to take what was not theirs. They should learn to pray as the psalmist when he said, “Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word,” (Psalm 119:36-37, NIV). This would keep their heart from imagining “evil against his brother.”
Zechariah 7:11-14 “But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear. Yea, they made their hearts as adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the LORD of hosts hath sent in his spirit by the former prophets: therefore came a great wrath from the LORD of hosts. Therefore it is come to pass that as he cried, and they would not hear; so they cried, and I would not hear, saith the LORD of hosts: But I scattered tehm with a whirlwind among all the nations whom they knew not. Thus the land was desolate after them, that no man passed through nor returned: for they laid the pleasant land desolate.”
“But they refused to hearken.” When God, by the “former prophets” put the call out there for repentance; when He urged the people to veer away from their life of sin and selfishness and to take up righteous living in Him, they didn’t want to hear what He had to say.
There is a great danger to the soul that refuses to hear from God. There are many voices during their time as well as ours that vie for our attention; voices that make offers to try to get you to follow their ways. But, the only voice that matters is the voice of God. He is the one they should “hearken” to instead of refusing to hear and heed, (see also Nehemiah 9:29). Rather they are accused of “pulling away the shoulder and stopped their ears” like a child would do when having a temper tantrum and doesn’t want to hear from their parents.
Their “hearts” were as “adamant stone,” meaning it was hardened to the point that it wouldn’t give way to hear and take in what God had to say and make a positive change in their lives. It was an out and out refusal to obey God at all. They were resistant to every attempt of God to turn them from their wicked ways that they may not suffer captivity and punishment.
How many do we see today who have hearts that seem impregnable to the word of God? Let us continue to pray for these that their hearts would be softened; that they might receive what thus saith the Lord and be saved because everything starts with a heart that will hear, receive from Him, and bend to His will.
To those who refused, they suffered “a great wrath from the LORD of hosts.” God had had enough. God wants and demands justice. If they would not adhere to His call for justice, then sin has to be answered for, and answer it will.
Since “they would not hear” when God sent out the call for them to turn; God, in turn, “would not hear” when they cried out to Him. His plans to chastise them for their wickedness would go forth.
And, go forth it did. God “scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations whom they knew not.” They went into captivity for seventy years to fulfill the sentence God had pronounced against them; leaving the “land . . . desolate after them.”
Coming back and rebuilding, they are reminded starkly of that desolation for much of it they can still see with their own eyes. And, if they want to avert the same path of their ancestors they would do wise to walk differently. They must learn to live righteously before God from the inside out.
Let me make one thing perfectly clear, in this lesson I am not speaking against anyone’s particular traditions. That’s between you and God. What the center of the lesson bases on is making sure the inner man matches up with what the outer man is doing.
Remember, their fast WAS NOT unto God (the original issue of this lesson). This lesson does not speak against fasting or the like. Their fast was something they did in and of themselves without a changed heart to match. And, as stated in the lesson, it is the heart that God wants the most.
God is looking for justice then and He wants justice now in the lives of His people.
(Click here for PDF: God Wants Justice Sunday School Lesson, or simply click the print button below. Enjoy!)
Below are activities to support this week’s lesson. Enjoy!
Draw the Scene: God Wants Justice Draw the Scene (Use this PDF link for accurate printing)
How Many Words?: God Wants Justice How Many Words (Use this PDF link for accurate printing)
Zechariah 7:9 Coloring Sheet: Zechariah 7 9 Coloring Sheet (Use this PDF for accurate printing) Can be used as is or as a journal as shown below. Simply cut out and glue onto construction paper. Then staple together at the top with blank pages cut the same way. Use to record or show acts of compassion. Enjoy!
Below are Activities/Links/Resources to support this week’s lesson. Enjoy!
“What’s the Right Choice?” (Game found on page 9 of this resource goes very well with the lesson. Enjoy!)
Below are activities that show us how to work together to help others. Enjoy!
“Pasta Master” (Yes, PASTA! Using spaghetti and paper plates this fun activity really expresses the idea of cooperation and being co-workers. So easy. So simple. I am soooo doing this. Enjoy!)
“Cup Challenge” (Another wonderful and easy idea that will get your students working together. Or, I may do this one. Either one will get the point across and be fun to watch as a teacher 😉. Enjoy!)
“5 Simple Activities That Promote Teamwork” (All of these are great and geared toward our younger students. Enjoy!)
“Marshmallow Challenge” (Using the list of supplies, each team works to build the structure. What fun! Click to find out more. Enjoy!)
“Air Lock Teambuilding Game” (Fun for large groups and if you have space. Enjoy!)
“Generosity Through Rainbow Fish” (This will help students to combat that Diotrephes mentality we see in today’s lesson and be more like Gaius. Enjoy!)
“10 Ideas for Teaching Generosity and Gratitude” (Again, these activities will teach children not to be selfish like Diotrephes. Enjoy!)
“35+Service Projects for Kids” (Here are some great ways to introduce the idea of helping and serving others to your students. Enjoy!)