Sunday School Lesson – “Jesus Empowers His Followers” John 20:19-23

VERSE DISCOVERY: John 20:19-23 (KJV, Public Domain)

“I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh.”  That was the promise that God spoke through the prophet Joel, (2:28).  Ezekiel 36:26 tells us, “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you…”

What God foretells through His servants, the prophecy’s that came forth, involved a part of Him (“my spirit”), coming to live on the inside (“within”) the heart of those that belong to Him.

How often had that been told to the Jewish people of old?  For generations, His promise had permeated their culture and had been passed from mouth to mouth testifying of His great promise that He wants to move into the lives of His people.

This promise of an outpouring traveled with them through wars and disobedience; through times of favor and times of disappointments.  Exile even dispelled them from their land for a time, but it could not dispel them from God’s promise.

In times before, they experienced God’s power at work in many different ways.  Now, Jesus was ready to take things to another level in bringing His people closer to that pouring out promise; one that would bring about great power, wonders, and deliverances.  Jesus was ready to breathe on them a part of Him; moving upon and in His people, the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.

By the time we get to this lesson in Scripture, the deed to crucify Jesus has transpired.  He had been scourged, thorned, spit on, nailed, and pierced.  The earth shook; the body was wrapped and put in the grave, and He rose again.

Things would never be the same for His kingdom and ministry.  A new level of empowerment was on the horizon and Jesus was ready to place His stamp of approval on these men that would authorize them to work in His promise.

Jesus Appeared to His Followers

John 20:19 “Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.”

Have you ever had someone sneak up on you?  I mean they just seemingly appear out of nowhere and startle you.  It’s a pretty unsettling feeling of being caught unawares.

Now imagine how the disciples who were “assembled” behind closed “doors” felt when they received the surprise of a lifetime; Jesus, their friend, their teacher, their Savior – He, who days before, had been killed and murdered at the insistence of the “Jews,” now stood before them.

To say they were completely shocked doesn’t do it justice.  If it were me, I would be completely freaked out.  Can I take your mind back for a moment when they were being tossed about in the midst of the sea, and saw Jesus walking on water?  Their response: “They were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear,” (Matthew 14:26).

At that time, they had no just cause to believe He was a spirit.  They went off the basis that it was the only logical reason that allowed Him to walk on water.

Here, they would have a very good reason to spaz, so to speak, a bit over His sighting.  Not only do they know for a fact that Jesus had been crucified, but they have heard reports that He is no longer in the tomb Joseph of Arimathea donated for the cause of His burial.

Certain women went to the tomb and pondered how they would roll the stone away only to arrive and find it had already been moved (see Luke 24:1-3; Matthew 28:1-2; Mark 16:1-4; John 20:1).  The news had spread to Peter and the rest.  Reports from the travelers on the road to Emmaus said, “The Lord is risen indeed…” (Luke 24:34).

Not only is He risen, but He is standing before them speaking, “Peace be unto you.”  Though the speaking of a greeting of “peace” was customary among the people, Jesus spoke with the intent of calming the raging storm of emotions these men were dealing with.

When Jesus appeared to them the Bible tells us, “they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit,” (Luke 24:37).  Jesus then asked them, “Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts?” (Luke 24:38).

So, Jesus speaks “peace” to them.  Isaiah 26:3 says, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.”  Jesus had to refocus their troubled thoughts to see the miracle that stood before them now.

Yes, they were in troubling times.  Yes, they were dealing with confusion and disappointment, but Jesus had to calm the turmoil inside of them so that they could accept the great thing that was about to take place.  Therefore, Jesus draws them toward “peace.”

John 20:20 “And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.”

“And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side.”  He showed them proof!  Physical evidence that He had indeed risen was right in front of their faces.  Remember, according to Luke 24:37 they thought He was a spirit, but Jesus showed them the evidence in His glorified flesh.  Later, He invited Thomas to, “Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side…” (John 20:27).

If you will allow me, just look at how many of their 5 senses were involved to establish that Jesus was alive in the flesh:

  • Seeing – they saw Jesus. To many, we would assume, that this would be enough, but with fear running rampart they believed that He was a spirit.
  • Hearing – Jesus spoke and questioned them. Again, in the mind’s eye of their panic over what they were witnessing; what they were hearing could be attributed to a spirit.
  • Touching – This is where the real convincing begins. When one can physically feel the flesh; feel the bones underneath, it can’t get any more real than this. Jesus wasn’t afraid to be closely examined by them. He urged them to get in there and feel the proof for themselves.
  • And if perchance you want to add smelling and taste (no they didn’t smell Jesus or taste Him) but on the “third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead,” (John 21:14); Jesus invited them to “come and dine” with Him (John 21:12). The fire was going, and the fish were frying, Jesus was partaking and invited them to do the same.  And from there, as they say, the rest is history.

Jesus, beyond a shadow of a doubt, showed with many evidences that He was in fact risen and alive.

“Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.”  When they really saw that this was, in fact, their risen Lord (minus the fish fry at this point), they were overjoyed.  Where they were feeling devastated and in deep despair, now they saw hope.  That’s something to get happy about.  When they got past the shock and really “saw the Lord” for who He is, their spirits were raised, and they rejoiced.

Don’t let despair keep you from seeing Jesus.  Even when one is suffering and feeling the burden of this world pressing on them – Jesus is there.

Jesus Breathed on His Followers

John 20:21 “Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.”

“Peace be unto you.”  Jesus again speaks “peace” to His gathered disciples; words repeated to bring comfort to the disciples confused hearts.  Yes, on the night of His arrest they fled and left Him on His own.  They abandoned Him, but He has not forsaken them.

Now, He stands before them speaking “peace.”  Once Jesus speaks “peace” over you, don’t let anyone try to convince you otherwise.  One way the enemy will try to stop us is to keep us in a state of feeling like a failure, of feeling there’s no possible way Jesus can use us now.  We have messed up is what we claim, and we can’t see beyond our own faults and shortcomings to do a mighty work for Him.

Their failures were not hidden from Jesus.  Do you know how I know?  He died on the cross alone and they fled just as He said they would.  He knew it ahead of time.  But their job wasn’t to die on the cross.  And, despite their previous failures, Jesus still had a mission for them.  He said, “As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.” 

Please Note: Sometimes we may feel too gone in our mess, but if you are here and alive today you still have purpose.  God can still use you to make a positive impact for His kingdom.  Stop focusing on the failures of yesterday!  Start focusing on the mission of today!  Jesus wants to “send” you!

The “Father” sent Jesus with a purpose; with a mission.  Now, Jesus says, “So send I you.”  In Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus further defines their “sending;” their mission and their purpose.  He says, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you…”

At other points during His earthly ministry Jesus sent the disciples out on mission trips, so to speak, to heal, set free, and preach the kingdom of heaven (see Mark 6:7; Matthew 10:1 and Luke 10:1).

Just because Jesus won’t physically be with them anymore, they are to still be men on a mission.  Their lives are not to be filled with mindless idleness.  They must work the purpose wherewith he “sends” them; as do we.

We are all called to go out and get involved with His ministry and “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature,” (Mark 16:15).

What is Jesus calling you to do to help the kingdom of God?  Where is it He wants to “send” you?  Don’t ignore the call or cower in fear.  He will empower you, as He did with these original followers, with what you need to make a difference, as our next verse tells us.

John 20:22 “And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:”

“He breathed on them.”  What is the significance of Jesus breathing on His disciples?  In both the Hebrew and Greek, the word “breath” is the same word for “spirit.”  Jesus is the only one with the authority to impart the Spirit in such a way, for Matthew 28:18 tells us, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.”

“Receive ye the Holy Ghost.”  After Jesus spoke to them, He wanted them to “receive” what was necessary to carry out their sending tasks with power.  Think of it this way, different vehicles are designed different ways, but one thing they all have in common is they need a source of power to run on to make their “going” successful.  For some, the power may come from gas.  For some, diesel.  And for others, their power source may be electric or a combination of several sources.  But none will move or function the way they were designed without receiving power.

The same is true for Christ’s followers.  The “Holy Ghost” is our power source.  He steps in our life and fills it from the inside out.  He leads us, guides us, strengthens us, and empower us to do the works of God.  When we “go” into the mission and purpose He has designed for each us, we need Him fully working on the inside of us in order to do it the way He wants us to.    

Therefore, Jesus “breathed” on them to empower and anoint them.  Most believe this was just a partial filling, or in preparation of, or a symbolic act to what would occur fully and completely at Pentecost in Acts 2:1-4.  Jesus was bestowing on them a great gift that would enable them to work mightily for Him.  Without the Holy Ghost, the task ahead would be fruitless and without power.  Zechariah 4:6 plainly declares, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.”  Man can try to operate in his own power but won’t have the effect for God’s kingdom Jesus did.  This mission must be infused with power from on high!

Before His ascension, Jesus spoke to those gathered around Him, and said, “For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence,” and “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth,” (Acts 1:5, 8; emphasis mine; compare Luke 24:49).  They needed to be fully immersed in Him, fully filled with His Spirit to operate fully in the ministry He was sending them into.  One cannot work the Spirit’s work without the Spirit.

Later in Acts, when the events of Pentecost were unfolding, Peter, during his sermon, boldly spoke, “This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.  Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed for this, which ye now see and hear,” (Acts 2:32-33; emphasis mine).  The very promise of the Holy Ghost which Jesus spoke to them to receive, Peter said, we have received.  They have been empowered by His Spirit and it was shown before all there that day.

John 20:23 “Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.”

The Gospel message they and us carry is powerful: it’s the Good News that Jesus saves.  Those who believe and accept this message, and are saved, can find joy in knowing they are forgiven, their “sins” are “remitted unto them.”

This was the climax of all Jesus sought to do on the cross: to save mankind from their sins, to restore them back to fellowship with God.  Those anointed, filled, and empowered by the “Holy Ghost” have the privilege to pass on this eternal-life saving message.  They have no power of their own to forgive sins, but they can open the word of life and lead others to the One who can.

At the same time, those who refuse will “retain” their “sins.”  If they refuse to let Jesus wash away the impurities of this world that stains their soul, it will remain with them into all eternity.

Despite popular beliefs, there are NOT many roads to heaven.  Jesus very clearly stated, “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me,” (John 14:6).

I cannot overemphasize those two words “NO ONE!”  That means no exceptions.  That means no matter how good one thinks they are, if they have not gone through Jesus, if He has not cleansed them from their sins, they will not walk those dirty feet on His heavenly streets.

The disciples, as well as we, are empowered with the Holy Ghost to get that message across.  We all need to be empowered with His Spirit to do His work!

PDF Printable Sunday School Lesson Pack (With easy to read instructions following the P.E.A.R.L. format on how to conduct each lesson with areas for adding personal notes): Sunday School Lesson – Jesus Empowers His Followers

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“Blowing Tube Craft” A simple craft to demonstrate breathing or blowing.  Simply roll up a piece of construction paper long ways and tape.  Cut the top and bottom off to make even.  Attach ribbon, tissue paper or I used cut up streamers and tape on the inside of your tube.  Some should be longer than the tube to help with blowing.  Decorate with crayons or stickers. 

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Bubble Play: Hit up your local dollar store or make homemade bubbles for students to demonstrate Jesus breathing on His followers.  What fun!

Sunday School Lesson – “Jesus Prays for His Followers” John 17:6-21

VERSE DISCOVERY: John 17:6-21 (KJV, Public Domain)

Jesus prayed for His followers.  That’s a statement all by itself.  The power of prayer is not just for an individual but to also share and to beseech God on behalf of others.

When Jesus prayed for His disciples it showed a personal love that He possessed for them that worked so closely with Him and followed Him these three years during His public ministry.  It shows the real love and concern the Savior of the world had/has for His followers.  In His prayer, He poured out His plea for protection and help that the work is not hindered, and His disciples would be able to stand strong.

Jesus’ prayer for His disciples has become one of the most loved and quoted prayers in the Bible.  Before His death, He could think of no better way to spend His time than to cover His people in prayer.

“They Have Believed”

John 17:6-8 “I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest me; and they have kept thy word.  Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee.  For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.”

Going up to verse one of this same chapter, I see the most amazing picture: “Jesus… lifted up his eyes to heaven.”  There stands one of the most beautiful moments in time where we are allowed to see into the depths of Jesus’ prayer.  The King of all of creation is bowed in humility, but with assurance of hope, focuses heaven’s attention on His people.

“I have manifest thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest me.”  Jesus showed them, God.  During His ministry, through His words and His deeds, He showed them, God, as they had never seen or experienced before.  At one point, Jesus explained, “All things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you,” (John 15:15).  He made God known to them.

He showed them the love of God when He healed their sicknesses and diseases and looked on them with compassion because they were as sheep with no shepherd (Matthew 9:35-38).  He showed the mercy of God when He forgave the woman who was caught in adultery and prevented her life from being taken (John 8:1-11).  He showed the peace of God when He stilled the raging storm (Matthew 8:23-27).  He showed the caring nature of God by raising the widow of Nain’s only son from the dead (Luke 7:11-17).  He showed the holiness of God by driving out the moneychangers from the Temple (Matthew 21:12 and John 2:15).  He showed the authority of God by driving out demons and putting the devil in his place (Matthew 4:1-11; Matthew 8:31; Matthew 16:23; Matthew 17:14-18).   “I have manifest thy name unto the men which thou gavest me.”  Jesus showed them what the name of God was all about by showing them what the nature and character of God were all about.

These men who experienced these wonderful things with Jesus; whom God gave to Jesus, were taught the word and “have kept thy word.”  In prayer, Jesus testified to the Father on the faithfulness of His followers.  They hold on to His teachings and treasure and cleave to what has been passed down to them through Jesus.  The psalmist said, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee,” (Psalm 119:11).  They “kept thy word!”

“Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee.”  The disciples believed with all assurance that everything Jesus has done and taught has been directly related in His relationship to His Father.  At one point during His ministry Jesus said, “For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak,” (John 12:49; see also John 5:19 & 7:16) and the disciples have the understanding of this.  “Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? prudent, and he shall know them? for the ways of the LORD are right, and the just shall walk in them: but the transgressors shall fall therein,” (Hosea 14:9).  What Jesus taught them “they have received” because they “have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.”

What Jesus lived out before them, and what they heard and received through all of His teachings caused a chain reaction of belief to stir in their souls.  They could’ve done as many others who witnessed His works and sat under His words, which is walk away.  Treating Christ like a spectator sport or just the newest thing to hear about, and then move on back to your normal life and routine.

No, not these faithful followers.  They took in everything and couldn’t help but to believe that Jesus was sent by none other than the Father from above.  They held on to that belief with everything in them (which we will really see play out in the book of Acts and the rest of the New Testament story).

One day, as Jesus was teaching some pretty hard sayings that confused and offended some, many stopped following Him that day and walked away.  Jesus asked His twelve that were with Him, “Will ye also go away?” (John 6:67).  In response to that question, Peter spoke up for these followers of Christ and said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.  And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God,” (John 6:68-69; emphasis mine).  They believed what He taught.  They believed what He lived. And yes, they believed that He was sent from the Father because Peter pointedly stated they were “sure” that He was the Christ, the Son of God.  Although one would betray Him (John 6:70-71), the rest lived their life in faith and belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.  Therefore, He prays a special prayer for them.

“I Pray for Them”

John 17:9-12 “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.  And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them.  And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee, Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.  While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.”

“I pray for them: I pray not for the world.”  Make no mistake, God loves the entire world: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” (John 3:16).  But here, Jesus’ prayer focused specifically on His followers.  They are special people with a special mission: “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light,” (1 Peter 2:9), and they needed the Lord to intercede in prayer on their behalf.

Intercession is going to God on behalf of someone else.  These men would be responsible for carrying the life-saving gospel message to the world.  Some may not receive it as they did.  As a matter of fact, Jesus once told them, “Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake,” (Matthew 24:9).  The mission would not be easy, and they needed prayer.  Therefore, Jesus interceded!

“I am glorified in them.”  While Jesus had some devoted followers who loved and respected Him, there were many who did not.  Often Jesus was verbally attacked and put down by the leaders and those who couldn’t understand His mission and ministry.  But these men, who have adhered to and kept the word; who latched onto and accepted Him as Teacher and everything, are living in light of what has been revealed to them, and through them Jesus is “glorified.”  Honor is brought to Him through their life and ministry in the kingdom of God.

If a parent is called into a conference regarding their child, there can be a moment of hesitation.  Not knowing what the conference will bring forth the parent will cautiously enter in.  Seated in front of the teacher you begin to hear stories of achievements and accomplishments; tales of good reports and it absolutely blows your mind.  You feel exceptional and elated as a parent because of the good traits and nature exhibited; because of the good works that are being exposed in your child.  Jesus once said, “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples,” (John 15:8).  In the same way, that child’s actions cause the parents to feel honored and lifted, when we follow Christ with all diligence, we bring glory and honor to His name.

“And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world.”  By the time we reach the second verse of the next chapter in the book of John, Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane and the process of the betrayal of Judas is underway.  The horrific events that would culminate in our ultimate salvation get underway, and physically, Jesus, for a time, is taken from this world, leaving these men whom He’s praying for behind.

Jesus prays, “I come to thee, Holy Father, keep them through thine own name.”  They needed help.  They needed help from heaven.  They needed guidance.  They needed protection.  They needed to be kept or preserved.  The world is harsh, especially against Jesus and His followers.  John 15:18 states, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.”  They needed help to maintain a steady course forward; to get through it all; therefore, He called on the “Holy Father” to help “keep” them.

“That they may be one, as we are.”  Adversity and trials people face tend to bring in discord and division.  Jesus once taught, “If a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand,” (Mark 3:25).  Though Jesus taught this against the enemy, the same principle applies in every area of life.  Division of any kind makes the foundation weak, and in turn, the building will come crumbling down.

Jesus prayed for oneness for His followers.  Unity mattered to Jesus during His earthly ministry: “For he that is not against us is on our part,” (Mark 9:40); and it matters as the Church continues: Paul prayed, “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you;  but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment,” (1 Corinthians 1:10).

Jesus knew that if His disciples would ban together as one, they could impact the world in a positive way, leading many to believe in Him.  Vice versa, if divisions and contentions prevailed it would not work to draw people to Himself, to His kingdom message; rather, it would repel.

Even in the Old Testament, David recognized the importance of unity among the brethren.  He wrote, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!  It is like precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments;  As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life for evermore,” (Psalm 133).

This kind of unity that Jesus is praying for can only be accomplished on a spiritual level; one that bonds each disciple together through the Spirit.

Twice in verse 12 Jesus states that He has “kept” them.  As a careful Shepherd of His flock, He states, “None of them is lost.”  While with them He tended His sheep; He cared for them and protected them against the wolves and enemies that sought to ravenously destroy His work in these tender lives.

All “but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.”  All points of ministry that He had to fulfill, according to prophecy or “scripture,” had to be completed; even the parts that would lead to His death.  This included the one who traveled with Him in His band, “the son of perdition,” His betrayer.  “The Son of man indeed goeth, as it is written of him: but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! good were it for that man if he had never been born,” (Mark 14:21).

John 17:13-16 “And now come I to thee: and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.  I have given them thy word; and the world hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.  I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.  They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.”

“That they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.”  In a few hours, the world of the disciples would change dramatically.  Their friend, their Teacher, their Savior would be put in chains and arrested, and they the disciples would be scattered leaving Him alone to face His accusers.

Where would the joy be when all seems lost?  When they’re huddled together behind closed doors in fear, would there ever be a time of rejoicing again?  Jesus prepped them prior to this and let them know, “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full,” (John 15:11).

The cross and the process of dying on the cross were ugly, but the results that would come from the cross were beautiful and brought joy to the heart of our Savior.  That’s why the Bible encourages us by saying, “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross…” (Hebrews 12:2).  So, He prayed that His disciples would “have my joy fulfilled in themselves.”

The ministry would be rough at times, but we see Jesus’ prayer fulfilled after the apostles received a beating from the Sanhedrin.  The Bible tells us, “They departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name,” (Acts 5:41).  They carried the joy of Jesus with them through the hardship of the ministry.

“The world hated them.”  Jesus knew the opposition they would feel because he endured the same.  If the Teacher is attacked, the students will be attacked as well, (compare Matthew 10:24-25).

In John 15:19 Jesus stated, “If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.”

There are many animals in the animal kingdom that are very territorial.  If you don’t look like them, act like them, or smell like them, they don’t want you around and you are not accepted into their herd, clan, family, or what have you.

This is true of the world’s system.  In Christ we are made new and not to be conformed to the world (see Romans 12:1-2).  We stand out from the world’s system as disciples of Christ and those of the world do not like that.

Jesus prayed, “Keep them from evil.”  Don’t take them “out of the world;” but keep them!  Their message is lifesaving.  Their lives are testimonies.  Keep them!

John 17:17-19 “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.  As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.  And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.”

“Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.”  Previously, Jesus taught, “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you,” (John 15:3).  That word “sanctify” is akin to “holy” which means to be separated or set apart.  The psalmist asked, “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way?” (Psalm 119:9a).  His own answer was, “By taking heed thereto according to thy word,” (Psalm 119:9b).  Following God’s word will help to keep you.

“I have sent them into the world.”  At other points of time in His ministry, Jesus sent the disciples out on mission trips, so to speak.  He sent them to heal, set free, and preach the kingdom of heaven (see Mark 6:7; Matthew 10:1 and Luke 10:1).  Before His ascension, He will again instruct them regarding The Great Commission (see Matthew 28:19-20 and Mark 16:15).  Their lives are not to be filled with mindless idleness.  They are men on a mission.  As the Father has sent the Son to complete His mission on earth, so the Son sends His followers to do the same.

“For their sakes I sanctify myself.”  One day when Jesus came to Nazareth He entered the synagogue and began reading from the book of Isaiah where it said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,” (Luke 4:18).  After reading some more He closed the book and proclaimed, “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears,” (Luke 4:21).

Jesus’ purpose has always been to go to the cross and lay down His life.  He didn’t need to be cleansed from sin, but He was set apart with a mission to redeem mankind from their sins; therefore, He said, “I sanctify myself.” 

Prior to this Jesus let it be known regarding His life, “No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father,” (John 10:18).  He was purposely set apart for this and He declared, “I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.” 

Jesus set Himself apart as the ultimate sacrifice for His disciples and for us, “that they also might be sanctified through the truth.”

John 17:20-21 “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word.  That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.”

Jesus’ prayer was not just laden with concern and intercession for His current disciples, but for all of us who have come to Christ throughout the generations that followed.  Jesus prayed for each and every one of us also.  How about that?  Jesus prayed for you, and Jesus prayed for me.  We are not only covered under His blood, but we have been blanketed by His prayers.  How awesome is that!

His prayer, at this point, once again focused on unity, “That they all may be one.”  Paul made this plea, “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in loveEndeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, On God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all,” (Ephesians 4:1-6, emphasis mine).

Being “one” is a powerful number!  Oneness in the body of Christ can impact the world like nothing else can and turn this place upside down “that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.”

Jesus prayed for His disciples and Jesus prayed for you, too.  We who have believed are covered by the prayers of Christ that we might go out into the world and help others believe also.

PDF Printable Sunday School Lesson Pack (With easy to read instructions following the P.E.A.R.L. format on how to conduct each lesson with areas for adding personal notes): Sunday School Lesson – Jesus Prays for His Followers

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Sunday School Lesson – “Ruth and Naomi” Ruth 1:1-18

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VERSE DISCOVERY: Ruth 1:1-18 (KJV, Public Domain)

Few relationships in life are stronger than a mother and her child.  A mother would rarely have to think twice before making a sacrifice that would better the life of a child.  So, too, would a child be more than willing to go out on a limb to care for and love on their mother.

Their relationship has been bound together from the womb to the point that love and sacrifice spoken between the two is not a foreign language.

But what is this familial attachment didn’t come from womb binding?  People, every day and all over the world, make the heart decision to love another as their own.  They willingly step into that vacant position of another’s life to fill it with the love and support the other so desperately needs. 

The story of Ruth and Naomi is such a relationship.  When she has nothing to gain and everything to lose, Ruth turned her back on everything comfortable and familiar and walked into a life unknown because she had connected herself and committed herself to love and care for a mother who was not her own. 

All decisions have an end result and little did she know it at the time, but the decision that Ruth made on that day would bless her life greatly.

 Elimelech’s Decision

Ruth 1:1-5 “Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Beth-lehem-judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons.  And the name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife Naomi, and the name of his two sons Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Beth-lehem-judah. And they came into the country of Moab, and continued there.  And Elimelech Naomi’s husband died; and she was left, and her two sons.  And they took them wives of the women of Moab; the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth: and they dwelled there about ten years.  And Mahlon and Chilion died also both of them; and the woman was left of her two sons and her husband.”

The time of the “judges” start when Joshua, Moses’ successor, passes off the scene and continues to the time of Samuel who became the last judge of the people.  This time period is filled with a lot of ups and downs involving Israel’s history.  The downs came by way of the heart of a people that constantly strayed from the will of God (Judges 2:10-12).  People refused to be governed by what was holy and right and decided they would all live according to their own ways and what they thought was right in their own eyes (Judges 21:25).

The ups they experienced as a people came when, despite their sinfulness, God raised judges to deliver them out of their circumstances (Judges 2:16).

Storylines like these show mankind’s pull away from the will of God.  But with God being the Author of all, the hardest storylines can have the sweetest of endings, as the story of Ruth will prove.

One hard part of the storyline is dealing with life-changing circumstances.  A “famine” was in the land and caused one man, one family, to make the hard choice to leave everything behind and go where there is the possibility of something better.  One must believe that’s what drove “Elimelech” to uproot his family and to plant them in a strange land such as “Moab.”

The desperation they were facing must have been strong because the children of Israel and the people of Moab don’t exactly have a cordial background toward one another.  Earlier in their history, when the children of Israel were wandering in the wilderness from their exodus out of Egypt, they were not well-received by the Moabites.  At one point, there was even an attempt at cursing them (Deuteronomy 23:3-6; compare Numbers 22-24).

Leaving their home, Elimelech and his family settled in this new place “about ten years.”  During that time, Elimelech died (vs.3), leaving Naomi alone with her two sons “Mahlon and Chilion.”

How Elimelech died is not recorded, but what is noted that the two sons of Naomi married women of Moab by the names of “Orpah and Ruth,” which was also a direct violation of the Law (Deuteronomy 23:3).  Time passed, and the sons of “Naomi” also died (vs. 5) and now this family has dwindled down to three lowly widows.

What’s a girl to do?  A question we may flippantly toss about in our day during times of frustration, but it was a real question, following real circumstances, that must be answered if there were any hope of a brighter future coming from this dismal past.

Naomi’s Decision

Ruth 1:6-13 “Then she arose with her daughters in law, that she might return from the country of Moab: for she had heard in the country of Moab how that the Lord had visited his people in giving them bread.  Wherefore she went forth out of the place where she was, and her two daughters in law with her; and they went on the way to return unto the land of Judah.  And Naomi said unto her two daughters in law, Go, return each to her mother’s house: the Lord deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead, and with me.  The Lord grant you that ye may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband. Then she kissed them; and they lifted up their voice, and wept.  And they said unto her, Surely we will return with thee unto thy people.  And Naomi said, Turn again, my daughters: why will ye go with me? are there yet any more sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands?  Turn again, my daughters, go your way; for I am too old to have an husband. If I should say, I have hope, if I should have an husband also to night, and should also bear sons;  Would ye tarry for them till they were grown? would ye stay for them from having husbands? nay, my daughters; for it grieveth me much for your sakes that the hand of the Lord is gone out against me.”

So, what’s a girl to do?  Naomi, taking inventory of all that transpired and where she is in life, made the decision that now it was time to return to her own homeland “from the country of Moab” where they have been dwelling these past ten years.  They came to this land during the desperation of a famine, but while in this land she lost even more.  It was time to pick up the pieces and move on.

How she heard it, we don’t know, but Naomi got wind “that the LORD had visited his people in giving them bread.”  Although famine was often used as judgment from God, we are not sure if that’s the reasoning behind the famine that drove Elimelech to leave.  But, one thing is for sure, it was God who is credited with giving the people bread again.  God “visited” His people.  God ended the famine.  God provided their now plentiful supply.

Therefore, Naomi “arose with her daughters in law” to head back home.  Perhaps there she can find solace among her own people.  Perhaps there help for the hopelessness she faced can be found.  Perhaps there this worst-case scenario can have a happy ending.

Please Note: Let God in on your story.  Let God in your decisions.  Elimelech left his homeland because he thought Moab could answer his woes and provide more.  Naomi left Moab to go back home for the same reasons.  How much could this story have been impacted further if they looked to God first before making any moves?  Thankfully, God is Sovereign, and through His providence, He redeems this story to bring about the most beautiful and timely end that glorifies Him alone.

Rising with her daughters in law to begin her journey, Naomi, thinking about not only her future but the future of these two women she has come to love as her own, suddenly realizes it’s not best for them to follow her into a future unknown.  What positive reception would she receive, if any, after being gone so long, let alone, how would these Moabite women be received?  What of the perilous journey?  Surely, it’s not best to have three unguarded women traveling alone.  Even after considering all of that, what kind of future would they really have if they followed Naomi?

“Naomi said unto her two daughters in law, Go, return each to her mother’s house.”  She gave them a lifeline.  She gave them free course to go back home.  She released them from any obligation they may have felt tied them to this dear woman.  “Each” one had a choice.  “Each” one had the option to move on.  “Each” one, I’m sure she felt a motherly concern for and was seeking their best outcome with this announcement.  They were still young and had many years ahead that could be filled with so much more than what Naomi could offer.  Therefore, she spoke, “The LORD deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead, and with me.”

Through all of the loss and uncertainty, they have stood by Naomi’s side.  In the camaraderie of widowhood, they have shared in the pain and concern for one another, but now it is time to move on.  Staying as things are now will help none of them, so Naomi spoke again, “The LORD grant you that ye may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband.”  A future with her remains in the unknown, but if these daughters would go back to their own land and find “husbands” there they could have “rest” and the security they so needed in those days.  For this reason, she urges them away because she genuinely loves them.

So much so, at the announcement of her decision, “she kissed them; and they lifted up their voice, and wept.”  This expression shows that their love for one another is as real as if they had come from her own womb.  Although Naomi’s suggestion of this separation was for their good, it was still heart-wrenching and they “wept” because that’s what you do when something is hurting you like it was hurting these women.  To lose so much in such a short amount of time, and now this.  Their sorrow was overwhelming.

Overwhelming or not, the women couldn’t fathom doing anything but staying with Naomi until the end.  They said, “Surely we will return with thee unto thy people.”  They just were not ready to let of this dear woman so easily.  Originally, they both claimed they would give up everything to follow her.  Originally, they were both unwavering in each of their personal commitments to their mother-in-law, but Naomi stepped in and explained in further detail how that decision could affect their future happiness and well-being.

She, herself, is well-advanced in years.  She has no husband of her own any longer.  She has no more “sons”.  She has nothing to offer these women.  No one to step in place for her.  No one to fill the void her sons left in these widowed women (see Deuteronomy 25:5).  As far as she could see, the only way for them to have a happy ending to this sad story was to go back home.

Even if she were to marry tonight and have sons, would it seem reasonable or fair to ask these women to wait until they are of age?  “Would ye tarry for them till they were grown?” she asked.  Would you refrain yourselves from having the love and security of a husband now, and for all those years?

That was a heavy burden to bear, especially for women in that day.  Without a husband or older children to care for them, times were very hard.  For these women, with so much possibility ahead, Naomi couldn’t ask them to stay as they are just for her.  Naomi grieved over her situation and for her daughters’ sake.  She felt as if the “hand of the LORD” was against her.  Little did she know, God’s hand was working something wonderful out for her in this time of despair.

Ruth’s Decision

Ruth 1:14-18 “And they lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother in law; but Ruth clave unto her.  And she said, Behold, thy sister in law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister in law.  And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:  Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.  When she saw that she was stedfastly minded to go with her, then she left speaking unto her.”

Weeping, and saying her good-bye’s, “Orpah” headed back to her people and her mother’s house.  She reluctantly agreed with Naomi’s take on their dire circumstance and sought something more for herself by returning to her home.

But Ruth, not seeking to make life easier for herself, could not bear to leave Naomi.  The Bible says, “Ruth clave unto her.”  She would not let her go without her.  She would not detach herself from her.  She loved this woman and refused to walk away from her.

One must ask, what of Ruth’s own mother?  What of her family and the chance to see them all again and to live with them again?  Surely, she could have had a comfortable life by staying in the comfort zone of the familiar.  But, she feels the pull to walk away from it all, declaring, “Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.” 

She stood her ground on her original commitment.  She committed herself to Naomi, her people, and her God for life!  “Nothing,” she declared, “but death part thee and me.”  That, my friend, is genuine love.  Due to her husband’s death, she could have been cleared from all of this, but genuine love and commitment caused her to hold on and go all the way with Naomi and God, wherever that future may lead.

The Bible tells us, “Happy are the people, whose God is the LORD,” (Psalm 144:15b).  The one who willingly attaches themselves to God attaches themselves to the best.  They are truly blessed regardless of everything they have left behind.  Ruth, a faithful woman, refused to have it any other way.

Naomi no longer tried to stop her.  “When she saw that she was stedfastly minded to go with her, then she left speaking unto her.”  Ruth’s heart and mind were made up and she would not be dissuaded from her choice.  Seeing her commitment and love, not just in words, but in action, moved Naomi’s heart also to allow this beautiful daughter in law to follow her home into the new life that was waiting for them both.

Ruth’s story will continue beyond the verses covered in this lesson.  In the end, her faithfulness to Naomi and God brings about a blessing she could have never possibly foreseen.

Stay faithful, dear friends, for every decision, just like those in this lesson, brings about a certain end result.

PDF Printable Sunday School Lesson Pack (With easy to read instructions following the P.E.A.R.L. format on how to conduct each lesson with areas for adding personal notes):  Sunday School Lesson – Ruth and Naomi

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Sunday School Lesson – “Abraham’s Faith is Tested” Genesis 22:1-14

VERSE DISCOVERY: Genesis 22:1-14 (KJV, Public Domain)

Even in the hardest and most difficult circumstances we may face, as Abraham finds out in this lesson, God calls us to still be obedient to His calling, walk with Him by faith, and He will provide the end results.

 Abraham’s Test

Genesis 22:1 “And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.”

If we take a step back to view the story as a whole, we can gain a better understanding of everything that is transpiring here.  God has already spoken a promise for Abraham to be fulfilled through Sarah.  She was going to be blessed by God to have a son and “she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her,” (Genesis 17:16).

God followed through on His promise.  “And the LORD visited Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did unto Sarah as he had spoken.  For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him,” (Genesis 21:1-2).  Every wonderful promise God spoke to this elderly couple was fulfilled.  That set things up for the future course of events to play out according to the rest of the promises given to Abraham concerning this child.

But as we approach this lesson there seems to be a proverbial wrench thrown in the midst of the plans.  At a time when Abraham probably thought everything was safe, secured, and at rest in his life, God disrupted his comfort zone and asked Abraham to do the seemingly impossible.

“And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham.”  Some time had passed since the birth of their promised son had arrived in their tents.  Abraham’s other son, Ishmael, the one born of the slave Hagar, was sent away by this point in time (Genesis 21:8-10).  The reason being, God declared, “In Isaac shall thy seed be called,” (Genesis 21:12; Romans 9:7).  And, although God would take care of Ishmael (Genesis 21:13-21), he was not included in this promise of God.

With that move of obedience to send his firstborn away, and with the settling of the covenant between himself and Abimelech (Genesis 21:22-34), surely Abraham must have thought that was it.  Perhaps there was a sense of accomplishment that all he had to do now was to sit back, enjoy and raise his son, get on with life, work and live it to its fullest.  No worries.

But God came with a new message that may have shaken any ease Abraham possibly felt.  This message and what it required was meant to put Abraham to the test, or “tempt,” as our lesson translates it.

We must be extremely careful in how we apply that word “tempt” when we’re talking about God.  Often when we are thinking of tempting, we are thinking along the lines of one trying to get another to sin.  This is a far cry from the plan that God is setting up through the line of Abraham that will eventually bring in the Messiah to save mankind.  Furthermore, God can NEVER be accused of tempting someone to sin (see James 1:13-14).  Sin is against the holy nature of God.  God wants people to be where He is, and sin would be a hindrance to that.  If one is drawing away it is of their own doing, not God’s.

Rather, the word “tempt” here means to test or to prove.  How far would Abraham go in obeying God?  Was he all-in?  Was he really with God all the way, no matter what?  Was his heart really tied to God?  Or, did Abraham love something or someone more?

A lot of people can have a bold profession of faith on the outside, but the real teller of what’s inside an individual is when the heart is tested.  And, God wanted to see what was really in Abraham.

Not knowing what was in store, when God called his name, Abraham responded, “Behold, here I am.”  He opened himself up to receive whatever it is God was getting ready to speak.  Not only to hear but with a readiness to obey.  How would his faith in God and obedience to God hold up under the pressure of the next words the Almighty will speak?

Often, one never even knows the fullness of their own heart until it has been pushed and pulled beyond familiar limits.  Only when it is stretched with trials can one tell how their strength and stamina in the Lord holds up.

Genesis 22:2 “And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.”

God didn’t beat around the bush with His instructions.  He was very specific with what He had asked Abraham to do.

“Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac.”  Many Bible students are very familiar with Abraham’s lineage.  But, as noted earlier, Ishmael was not included in this promise.  At this time, he is off the scene and the focus is on “Isaac, whom thou lovest.”

Love can be a sweet thing, but if it keeps you from the will of God, if it keeps you from being fully devoted to God, it can be a bitter thing because it keeps you tied in an affection other than God.

Promises are wonderful, but they can never replace the relationship with God we are called to have.  God must always come first in all things.  The heart must be measured to see what it is really full of because when we want our cup overflowing, we want it to be overflowing with Him and not things that keep us from Him.  So, the focus of Abraham’s test is something his heart is attached to; something he loves.

Will the thing that he loves stand in the way of complete obedience to God?

Surely at the mention of Isaac, God has Abraham’s undivided attention and with that, He further relays His instructions of what to do.  “Get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering.”  One of the hardest things that another could ask is something that would bring harm to their child.  Mama bears are notoriously known for the protection of their children, and people are too.

God didn’t ask Abraham to take Isaac with him to offer a burnt offering, but He told Abraham to “offer him there for a burnt offering.”  Give up what you are holding dear in your heart, Abraham.  What must’ve been going through his mind at the idea of such a request?  Did he experience that moment of trepidation, those tingling twinges in the stomach that make one’s heart flutter in the wrong way?  Did beads of perspiration gather on his upper lip that couldn’t utter any words at the impact of what was being said?

The Scriptures don’t clue us in on the emotional side of what Abraham maybe was feeling.  But, regardless of how he felt, it tells us of what he did that mattered.

Abraham’s Obedience

Genesis 22:3 “And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him.”

“Abraham rose up early in the morning,” not to flee and try to get away from this hard thing that God asked him to do like Jonah did (Jonah 1:3), but he “rose up” to move closer in obedience to God; to pursue his faith on a deeper level.  Not knowing completely how the end of this journey would turn out, Abraham set out and prepared to follow God’s leading through the pain of this hard thing.

He gathered all the necessary things to follow through with the “burnt offering.”  He followed his normal routine and preparedness to make a sacrifice to God, right down to making sure he had an adequate “wood” supply needed for the offering.  He didn’t give himself room to negotiate out of what he was asked to do, like, “Well, God, you see, I didn’t bring enough wood or such and such.  I’ll just have to come back another time and try again.”  Nope.  Abraham prepared to fully comply with God’s instructions no matter the cost.  And, this offering would cost.  It would be painful.

Genesis 22:4-5 “Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off.  And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.”

Traveling three days journey, “on the third day,” coming into the land where God directed him, Abraham “saw the place afar off.”  Moriah was in his view, but obedience was in his heart.  If thoughts plagued him such as, “I can’t go through with this,” he didn’t let on.  He didn’t give them room to plant in his conscience.  He traveled this far to complete the task at hand, and he wouldn’t let how he felt about it disrupt his observance of what God wanted from him.  He was a determined worshiper if I ever saw one.

Resolutely staring at that place, his mind and heart were fixed to go all the way with God; to follow through to the next level of what he needed to do.  With what I am sure was a painstaking move, Abraham instructed the “young men” who accompanied him and Isaac on this journey how this would all go down.

“Abide ye here with the ass.”  They were not invited to join him and Isaac on the next leg of this journey, the actual approaching of and performing the burnt offering.  How would they have responded if they did accompany Abraham all the way?  Would they have stood by and not gotten involved or would they have run interference, preventing Abraham from following through?

When God calls us to a task, some steps of that journey may have to be walked without the assistance of others.  They may not comprehend it being a journey of faith as you do.  And, faith is exactly what Abraham had and what he was going on.  He knew what he was called to do, but his next words tell us he also believed for a better outcome.

“I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.”  If suspicions were raised, Abraham’s confidence in what was going to happen must have allayed any concerns.  Abraham’s words relayed nothing but faith in God.

“I and the lad will go… and worship… and come again.”  After they worshiped, Abraham’s expectations were to return with his son.  What went into this sort of faith?  One can only imagine that Abraham held tightly in total belief of all God already promised.  He may have not known the ins and outs of how all this would transpire, but he was in a covenant relationship with the only God who did.  He kept that as a light before him, shining the pathway as he took steps closer to that place of worship.

Going over into the book of Hebrews, we get a peek behind the scenes to some of Abraham’s reasoning and thought processes during this event: “Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence he received him in a figure,” (Hebrews 11:19).  Romans also tells us, “…he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were,” (Romans 4:17).  The process looked like it was going to be painful, but that didn’t diminish Abraham’s faith.  Abraham believed God and the promise He had for him, more than the pain of the process.

Genesis 22:6 “And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together.”

A three days journey required the help of the men, but with their command to stay put Abraham and Isaac would literally have to shoulder the weight of the offering.  Each of them would carry, physically and spiritually, the responsibility of this offering.

Physically, “Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son.”  This picture really comes to light in the New Testament where we see Jesus bearing his own cross in the march toward His own place of sacrifice, Calvary (John 19:17).  This, along with other implements necessary for the sacrifice, the “fire” (coals), and the “knife,” the two of them walked “together,” closer to the testing grounds of faith.

The spiritual aspects would be soon in coming as noted in the next few verses.  However heavy their load is now; it would become an extreme weight in just a bit.  Oh, what strength it took to continue that march forward.

Genesis 22:7 “And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”

Isaac, presumed to have attended these sacrifices before, and of age enough to know that something important was missing, had a very good question to ask his father regarding this particular offering.  He sees the fire and wood, but “where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” he asked.  I wonder if those young men he left behind were thinking the same thing?  How would they carry out a proper sacrifice without a “lamb?”  There needed to be an animal for a burnt offering (compare Genesis 2:20 and Exodus 29:38).

Genesis 22:8 “And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.”

Abraham’s response was short, but it was full of the faith he carried deep in his heart.  He said, “My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering.”  He doesn’t know how, but Abraham knows “God will provide.”  This trip, this offering, would end according to God’s plan and provision, even if it meant falling along the lines of what was already stated from Hebrews, that Isaac could be raised from the dead.

Abraham’s faith looked beyond what he was experiencing and trusted that “God will provide.”  His hopes, his future, and his son was in the hands of God.

“So they went both of them together.”  Father and son carried on with the journey, trusting God every step of the way, each with the loads they bear.

Genesis 22:9 “And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood.”

This and the next verse is where we really start to see the spiritual aspects of the weight they both carried.

As they “came to the place” where the offering was to occur, and with no alternative means in sight, Abraham continued in following all the necessary procedures for the burnt offering.

“Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order.”  He prepared for the sacrifice.  An “altar” was erected, probably of stone.  It is on this he would lay down his only son.

Abraham then “bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood.”  Out of all that was happening before him, Isaac appears to let it be so, without giving his father a struggle.  Abraham was one hundred years old when Isaac was born, and even at this point in time, many more years have passed.  It would have been tremendously easy to avert this painful process, but he seems to allow it in submission to his father’s will.  Doesn’t that remind you of Jesus?

Oh, the burden of this spiritual weight these two were bearing.  Isaac in his laying down of self to allow this happen and Abraham in the performing of it as shown in the next verse.

Genesis 22:10 “And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.”

“By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac…” (Hebrews 11:17).  Abraham did not withhold his hand from the deed, his heart from following God, nor his son in his willingness to offer him up.  Abraham proceeded to carry out the last detail required for the burnt offering.  He “stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.”  All the way to the very end, he continued to choose God’s will over his own.

PLEASE NOTE: Sacrificing people, humans, children are NEVER something God condones or asks for.  As a matter of fact, it is a pagan practice He strongly stood against and opposes (Leviticus 20:1-5).  Evil practices such as these provoke the LORD to anger (see 2 Kings 17:17; compare Ezekiel 20:26).  God states it is something, “Which I commanded them not, neither came it into my heart,” (Jeremiah 7:31).  A human sacrifice was NEVER God’s intention or will.  Just a testing of the human heart, as the next verse proves.

God’s Provision

Genesis 22:11-12 “And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I.  And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.”

God prevented the burnt offering involving Isaac from going forth.  True to His holy nature, God prohibited such an action from taking place.  When it seemed like the unthinkable was going to occur, God stepped in the path of the process and stayed the hand of Abraham.

Calling his name “out of heaven… Abraham, Abraham,” He spoke, “Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him.”  Like a rushing waterfall, relief must have washed over this man of faith and his son.

Abraham’s faith was tested and proven to be true, for He said, “Now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.”  One can speak of their great faith and make a boast in themselves, or they can wholly follow God and let Him proclaim it for you.

What was in Abraham’s heart was evidenced by what he did and was willing to do.  Abraham’s faith was active and alive, and it was for God whom he knew would provide.  God recognized that and commended him for not keeping anything back from Him, including his “son.”  Abraham’s faith caused him to live in total surrender to God.

Genesis 22:13-14 “And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.  And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah-jireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen.”

At that moment, those previous words spoken by this great patriarch, “God will provide,” came to pass.  For there in the “thicket” was a “ram caught… by his horns.”  A substitute for the sacrifice was given.  Oh, what a foretelling of what Christ would do for all mankind as He laid his life down for us.

“And Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.”  Abraham used the offering God provided to bring freedom to his son.  When he previously told the young men, they would both be back, surely Abraham’s steps back to their point of return would be lighter, taking in all that God had done for them.

He was to Abraham, “Jehovah-jireh.”  “God who sees; God who provides.”  That place is renamed by Abraham in recognition of God’s awesome provision there.  Moriah would no longer just be a mount on the map.  Eventually, it will be the place where God would lay down His ultimate provision for humanity in the form of Jesus Christ.  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” (John 3:16).

This “place” would be where Jerusalem is established; where Solomon’s temple is erected (2 Chronicles 3:1); the city where God refused to withhold His only begotten Son for our sins.

Since God has provided for the hardest thing, our salvation, can’t we have faith and trust Him with everything else in our lives?

PDF Printable Sunday School Lesson Pack (With easy to read instructions following the P.E.A.R.L. format on how to conduct each lesson with areas for adding personal notes): Sunday School Lesson – Abraham’s Faith is Tested

Suggested Activities:

Draw the Scene: Abraham’s Faith is Tested Draw the Scene

Adult Journal Page: Adult Journal Page – Abraham’s Faith is Tested

Kid’s Journal Page: Kid’s Journal Page – Abraham’s Faith is Tested

Blank Journal Pages: Blank Adult and Kid’s Journal Pages (Using the blank journal pages allows you to bring out the points of the lesson that are most important to you and your class.  Also, the blank journal pages and be used to support the “Life” section of the printed lesson.)

Word Search: Abraham’s Faith is Tested Word Search  Answers: Abraham’s Faith is Tested Word Search Answers

Crossword: Abraham’s Faith is Tested Crossword  Answers: Abraham’s Faith is Tested Crossword Answers

Word Scramble: Abraham’s Faith is Tested Word Scramble  Answers: Abraham’s Faith is Tested Word Scramble Answers

Other Resources:

“Abraham Sacrifices Isaac”

“Abraham and Isaac Video”

“Abraham and Isaac Altar Craft”

“In God We Trust”

“Abraham and Isaac Flannel Board Figures”

“Abraham Offers Isaac Magic Window”

“Abraham and Isaac Object Lesson/Activities/Coloring Page”

“Abraham and Isaac Coloring Page”

 “Genesis 22 Activities”

 

Sunday School Lesson Series: “Getting to Know God Better”

When we enter into a new relationship it takes time to begin to understand and know the other individual.  This knowledge does not come instantly.  It comes with patience and perseverance; it comes by spending time with someone to get to know them personally.  It’s how we figure out all those special things that make them, them.

Getting to know God better, I believe, operates in much the same way.  The more time we spend with Him and the more time we take to understand Him and those special things that make Him, Him, the greater our love and appreciation for Him grows.  That growth is important because our understanding of who God truly is has eternal implications.  Jesus Himself spoke and said, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent,” (John 17:3; emphasis mine).

Can I tell you a secret?  God wants us to know Him.  He spoke in Jeremiah, saying, “Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord,” (Jeremiah 9:23-24; emphasis mine).

The greatest thing we could ever have is a solid relationship with God.  Fortifying that comes by taking the time to get to know Him better, which is the gist of this new lesson series.  Each lesson focuses on some of those things that make up the beautiful character of our wonderful God.  In the end, my prayer is that your faith in Him and your relationship with Him would be strengthened all the more.  We have this promise in the Bible: “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you…” (James 4:8).  I pray that the words written in these lessons would help you to do just that, get closer to God.

To access the lessons, simply click on the links below.  They can be studied individually or grouped together as a series.

The power of God is over all! The power of God is responsible for all things created! The power of God cannot be matched and Job declares, even during the roughest patch of his life, that God’s sovereignty over all remains.

When we truly grasp the understanding of the love of God for us, then can we learn to love others better.

“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance,” (2 Peter 3:9). God’s longsuffering is God’s patience at work in the best possible way.  Believe today and turn to the Lord for salvation.

Holiness is still right! Isaiah saw a vision of God’s holiness in heaven, unmatched by anything we can know down here or imagine. Peter lets us know, the only way we will get to experience heaven, is to live holy while down here on earth. We must be holy because God is holy!

I am expecting to add more lessons to this series in the future so please stay tuned for updates.  For now, I’m off to work on other projects and series.  Many blessings to you all!

Sunday School Lesson – “Always Pray and Not Faint” Luke 18:1-8

Photo by Diana Simumpande on Unsplash

VERSE DISCOVERY: Luke 18:1-8 (KJV, Public Domain)

Above the door frame of my front door, there is an elongated plaque mounted.  Inscribed upon it are the words, “Handle with Prayer.”  Every time you come through that door or walk around the living room, this visible reminder stands as a testament of what to do with everything in life: Handle with Prayer.

I believe strongly in prayer and in the power of prayer.  And, I believe it is a part of our relationship with God where we can never stop growing in or do too much.  I believe prayer is a wonderful privilege that God extends to us to come and talk to Him, to lay everything at His feet.  I believe prayer shouldn’t be our last resort when times become difficult.  Rather, it should be the first life-saving ring we grab when we are drowning and hold on to it for dear life.

Is it always easy?  No.  But, then again, neither is life, hence the need for these reminders to take everything to the Lord in prayer before, in the middle of, and after feeling totally overwhelmed by it all.

Prayer is something that should be a natural part of every Christian’s life, but something many use too infrequently or stop when they don’t receive an immediate answer or results they were looking for.  What Jesus teaches us in today’s parable is sometimes you must keep going for it.  We cannot always expect microwave results.  Sometimes we must labor in prayer, and through the power of prayer, repeatedly keep petitioning heaven with those requests.

 Lesson Summary

Luke 18:1-3 “And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man:  And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary.”

The operation or workings of prayer have been a mystery to some through the ages.  For some prayer seems to be some mundane Christian civic duty; a check off list, if you will, of something that needs to be done.  For others, prayer seems to be elusive; difficult to understand the concept of and even more difficult to do.

Good news!  Prayer is not either of those things.  Prayer is something that is given to us as an honor; as a way to reach the heavenly Father personally, one on one.  How awesome is that?  Prayer is as essential to the Christian life as breathing or eating.  It is necessary to stay spiritually nourished in Him.

Jesus, therefore, sets about in this lesson opening to His disciples the importance of not giving up in prayer.  To keep laboring through it and being persistent in our requests to God.

Many today teach that if we keep going to God repeatedly with the same request, then that is a sign that we don’t have the proper faith attached to our request, or that we don’t believe God.  Whereas Jesus teaches us in this lesson, “men ought always to pray, and not to faint.”  And, as we find in our lesson, that also covers when we repeatedly take the same request to Him in prayer.

This was a necessary concept for His disciples to grasp.  Jesus had just finished talking to them about His second coming (Luke 17:20-37).  Which means, there must be a departure from His first coming, or as we know, His death, resurrection, and ascension.

During His earthly ministry, Jesus spoke of and demonstrated a life of prayer.  After His departure, prayer is where the disciples must find strength in the continuing forth of the ministry left for them to fulfill.  If Jesus depended often on prayer, surely the disciples, and we, need it even more.

A Christian’s lifeline is held open with God through prayer.  The opened prayer line fosters that interpersonal relationship between God and man. It is not only life-sustaining, but it’s soul-sustaining keeping that glorious love connection betwixt the two opened and flowing.  That’s what Jesus did, He prayed!

Good, effective prayer is not only active during emergency rescues when we turn to Him as a last resort.  A good and effective prayer life will be used to guide our daily steps, saying, “God, I need You and Your counsel and direction in my life this day!”

A strong life of faith cannot be fostered through just those desperate moment prayer request rescues, but when a life hungers to be connected to its source, it willing seeks out that Source all the more, because anything less than what that true connection offers just won’t do.

Therefore, Jesus Christ Himself said, “men ought always to pray.”  That word “always” tells us there is never a time when it is not a good idea to pray.  Prayer in an appropriate action for the Christian to take at all times, or always.  The Apostle Paul taught, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God,” (Philippians 4:6; emphasis mine).  Simply put, and agreeing with our Lord, prayer is something that we should always do, and it is always a good idea.

Prayer will also help us to “faint not.”  Pray, and don’t give up.  Pray, and don’t let the temporary of this life get the best of you.  Victory is ahead for the ones that “faint not.”

The word “faint” speaks of weariness to the point that it wears you out and you want to let it go.  Many of us have often spoken those same words declaring the tiresomeness, annoying, and weakened state one may be feeling over a situation, work, or even just dealing with people.

But, for Jesus’ disciples, there would be no room in their new mission for weak-willed, fainthearted workers.  The gospel was the mission, and souls would be the target of that mission.  Life and death would hang in the balance of those who received the words these men of God would soon proclaim and spread to all regions of the world.  They had to be strong.  Prayer would help keep them strong; it would help keep them grounded and tied to their Savior in His absence.  Prayer can make the difference to a life well-lived for God, or not.  Foregoing a persistent prayer life was not an option.  With that, Jesus opens this lesson, saying, “Men ought always to pray, and not to faint.”  Never give up on prayer!

Then, as in other parables, Jesus gives them a story of how this may look in their real, everyday lives; an example of how to act out the principle of prayer that Jesus is teaching.  This is a sign of a good teacher, of which we know Jesus is.  He doesn’t just tell people what to do, He shows them how to do it. 

With that, He opens his story talking about a “judge” who dwells in a certain “city.”  This judge is later identified by Jesus as being “unjust” (see verse 6).  

Unjust means he wasn’t right.  To prove that, Jesus even stated of this man he “feared not God, neither regarded man.”  He had an, “I don’t care” attitude.  He did what benefited him, and most likely, his own pockets.  A judge of any people, particularly God’s people, is supposed to operate with the rule of justice as his measuring rod.  He or she is to uphold all that is true and right.  They are to be fair and impartial in their decisions.  This was not the case here.

Many suppose this man may not have been of Jewish descent because he does not have the fear of God in him, which means he doesn’t respect God, he’s not going to uphold God’s law, nor will he take into consideration God’s ways above what he thinks.  At the same time, some of the judges/leaders throughout history who were of God’s people behaved in the same manner.  So, with the information given, we can’t say one way or another.  But what we do know is God expected more from the judges, especially when it came to helping the weak.  In the book of Isaiah, God pronounced a “woe” against unjust judges who, “turn aside the needy from judgment, and to take away the right from the poor of my people, that widows may be their prey, and that they may rob the fatherless,” (10:2; read 10:1-4).

Nevertheless, whether he was a Jew or a Gentile, he was in a position to help and to judge fairly those who seek his assistance.  But, as we find out, this is not what he is in the habit of doing.

The next character in this parable is a “widow.”  Widows got a rough deal in those days and without a husband or children to care for them their situations could turn disastrous quickly.  They could become prey for those who would take advantage of them and fall victim to the many schemes of unscrupulous peoples.

God had many stipulations in His Word to guard and benefit the weaker members of society, including the widows.  Deuteronomy 27:19 declares, “Cursed be he that perverteth the judgement of the stranger, fatherless, and widow…”  Exodus 22:22 says, “Ye shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child.”  And, in the New Testament, James says, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world,” (1:27).

This “widow” came seeking justice.  She came because she had a case and apparently, to say that things weren’t going right, is an understatement.  She had an “adversary” to deal with and unless she was “avenged;” unless someone like this judge would pay attention to her needs and stand up for her cause, she would most likely go under and succumb to the unfair treatment she was receiving.  She had nowhere else to go, and so, she wasn’t going anywhere.  She refused to accept things as they were.

Luke 18:4-5 “And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.”

“For a while” the judge refused her or turned away any fair judgment she was searching for.  “For a while” he ignored her pleas and her dire circumstance.  “For a while” he “would not” do anything for her to bring her case to a satisfactory conclusion.  But then there came a time when he was ready to move on her behalf.

There was an “afterward” moment of revelation for this judge.  After he saw her stamina in her “continual coming.”  After he saw that tenacious spirit in her that refused to let her accept anything less than what she deserves, “he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her.”

Not because suddenly he turned his life over to God or got a spiritual revelation.  That wasn’t it.  Not because he suddenly developed a warm spot in his heart for this woman.  That wasn’t it either.  His stance in both of those situations had not changed.  But, because she wouldn’t be stopped, he was going to take up her case and make sure she received justice and possibly those who had done her wrong would be punished, “lest by her continual coming she weary me.”

She wore him out!  She came and invaded his space repeatedly with her pleas.  However many times it took, she was all in.  She came until her request was heard, and her situation was resolved.

How much more will God do for His own who come to Him?

Luke 18:6-8 “And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith.  And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?  I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?”

God is not an unjust judge, nor can He be worn out through our prayers.  The point of this story is to persist in prayer.  If the unjust judge heard the woman and saw to it she was avenged due to her diligence, what do we think about God?  Is not God so much more!  He said, “He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honour him,” (Psalm 91:15).

Therefore, be diligent.  Never let anything hinder one’s pace toward that throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16), especially in those coming days where the need to be fortified in prayer will be all the more prevalent.

Keep coming!  Keep going to God!  Never stop looking to Him as your source for everything in life.  Handle everything with prayer!  The widow refused to be silenced, and don’t you be silenced by those around you or your circumstance either.

God has an opened invitation for His people.  God shall “avenge his own elect” in their time of need, according to His perfect and holy will, and time.  There are days now when God’s people are treated unfairly and seem to have drawn the short end of the stick.  In the last days, the heat will be turned up all the more, but God is not ignorant now or then to what His people face.  He will “avenge!”  Therefore, keep praying! 

Every injustice will be repaid.  Every wrong anything done against us will be turned in the favor of God’s people who don’t give up, who keep going despite what it looks like, who hold on to Him and seek Him no matter how hard it may be sometimes.  Those who persist in prayer will see a righteous end to everything they are facing.

But one must hold on to faith because faith and persistence go hand in hand.  And, faith is what Jesus is questioning at the end of this parable.  He says God will do His part.  When His people “cry day and night unto him,” He hears.  Not only does He hear, but He will do something about it.  He will “avenge” and stand for the justice of His own, and He will do it “speedily” without hesitation.

He may not come when you want Him, but as they say, He’s always right on time.  He may “bear long” with His people (see verses on God’s long-suffering in Ex. 34:6; Numbers 14:18; Isaiah 30:18; Romans 2:4 – just to name a few), but at the right moment, He will answer prayer.

As God is patient and longsuffering and will come at the right time, we too are commanded to be patient, and in that patience, persist.  “Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain.  Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.” (James 5:7-8).

Yes, it will be hard sometimes, but persist.  Yes, it will seem unfair at times, but persevere.  Yes, there will be times when you will be wronged, and it will hurt, but keep going and keep coming to God to seek everything you need.

“Nevertheless,” Jesus asked, “When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?”  Events leading up to that coming day will be times of persecution, to say the least.  How will people respond?  How will the disciples and us who are attached to the Lord through His blood covenant respond?  “Shall he find faith on the earth?”

The widow woman was unrelenting in her pursuit of justice.  Are we just as unrelenting in our faith?  True faith requires commitment, and commitment requires one to persist and not yield to the pressures to give up and throw in the towel.

“Shall he find faith on earth?”  As Jesus was preparing His disciple to put their faith into the perspective of hardships they can and will face due to their allegiance to Him, He is also preparing us.  Our faith and trust in Him is the key that unlocks the door to victory.  “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith,” (1 John 5:4).  At the same time, our faith and trust in Him should strengthen our stance that we won’t back down from the fight, that we don’t cave due to pressure, and we won’t give in despite the persecutions we may face.  We will keep on going!  We will keep on praying!

In a previous article, I wrote:

“Jesus questions trust.  He questions whether or not anyone will believe in the promise and power of prayer.  He questions if there is real, alive faith working in mankind somewhere.  He questions.

One’s faith lies at the center of this questioning, for if we really believed wholeheartedly, there would be no hindrance to bring every request and problem before God in prayer.  This is what Jesus is getting at.  True faith unencumbered.  True faith that takes the shackles off God’s promises and allows one to run freely forth, believing He hears, He knows, and He will answer.” (Jesus Questions Trust/WordForLifeSays.com)

To be the men prepared for the mission Jesus has in store for these disciples, their lives must measure up and be able to fully answer this question well.  They must be willing to go all in and let nothing stop them from having a powerful prayer life.  And, so must we.

Conclusion

One day Jesus is coming back.  Until then, keep praying and don’t give up!  Your heavenly Father hears every cry uttered from your lips and spoken silently in your heart.  You are loved, my friend.  Let your faith rise in your Savior today and believe in His love and power at work in your life. Keep on keeping on.  Always pray and not faint!

PDF Printable Sunday School Lesson Pack (With easy to read instructions following the P.E.A.R.L. format on how to conduct each lesson with areas for adding personal notes): Sunday School Lesson – Always Pray and Not Faint

Suggested Activities:

Kid’s Journal Page: Kid’s Journal Page – Always Pray and Not Faint

Adult Journal Page: Adult Journal Page – Always Pray and Not Faint

Blank Journal Pages: Blank Adult and Kid’s Journal Pages (Using the blank journal pages allows you to bring out the points of the lesson that are most important to you and your class.  Also, the blank journal pages and be used to support the “Life” section of the printed lesson.)

Word Search: Always Pray and Not Faint Word Search  Answers: Always Pray and Not Faint Word Search Answers

Crossword: Always Pray and Not Faint Crossword  Answers: Always Pray and Not Faint Crossword Answers

Word Scramble: Always Pray and Not Faint Word Scramble  Answers: Always Pray and Not Faint Word Scramble Answers

Draw the Scene: Always Pray and Not Faint Draw the Scene

Memory Verse: Always Pray and Not Faint Memory Verse

How Many Words: Always Pray and Not Faint How Many Words

Prayer Chain Craft: A simple, easy and affordable project to throw together for your students. A prayer chain becomes an easy, take-home reminder of different request students can pray for one another about.  Example below. Enjoy!

My Project 263-001

“Easy Craft Idea”

“Several Printable Activities for the Widow and the Unjust Judge”

“Persistent Prayer”

“The Parable of the Persistent Widow”

“Jesus’ Parable of the Persistent Widow and the Unjust Judge”

“Persistence in Prayer”

 

Sunday School Lesson – “The Holiness of God” Isaiah 6:1-5; 1 Peter 1:15-16

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

VERSE DISCOVERY: Isaiah 6:1-5; 1 Peter 1:15-16 (KJV, Public Domain)

The Bible commands us, “Exalt ye the Lord our God, and worship at his footstool; for he is holy,” (Psalm 99:5).  All throughout the Bible, God’s holiness is prevalent.  When His holiness was disregarded in exchange for a bite of fruit, sin entered in, separation occurred, and mankind lost his place in the sacred garden paradise (Genesis 3).  When God’s holiness was substituted, the people fell into idolatry with a golden calf, people died, names were blotted out of God’s book, sins would be punished, a plague would follow, and God sent an Angel to guide them for He said, “I will not go up in the midst of thee; for thou art a stiffnecked people: lest I consume thee in the way,” (Exodus 33:3; Exodus 32:1-33:3).  Throughout the times of the judges, prophets, all biblical history, and even today, every time the holiness of God has been forsaken, tragedy strikes, and people reap the consequences of their decisions. 

God does have a standard, and holiness is not only who He is, but it is His standard by which all else is measured.  In today’s lesson, we are looking at God’s holiness with a heavenly perspective.  As Isaiah witnessed the events of chapter 6 unfolding before him, he reveals what he experienced when he viewed God’s holiness in the heavens and through that, he prepares us for the extreme holiness of God. 

There, His holiness supersedes everything, and the seraphims cry out, “Holy, Holy, Holy!”  There, when man comes face to face to the untainted character of God, he realizes just how tainted he is.  There, everything falls away in light of His glory.  If we want to live there, we must learn about the true holiness of God, and how we ought to live before Him.

God’s Holiness Shown in Heaven

Isaiah 6:1 “In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.”

“I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne.”  I have loved the vision of God sitting on a throne for some time now.  When I pray, I imagine myself coming before our great King, bowing before His presence and humbly lifting my eyes to Him in supplication and petition.  Because of our lack of a monarchy here in the States, we don’t really appreciate what it is to come before royalty in utter humility.  But there, in his vision, Isaiah sees God on a throne where we would expect Him to be, reigning in all sovereignty and power as the ultimate King of all kings, and Lord of all lords.

The irony in Isaiah’s vision is when the earthly king passed off the scene; Isaiah was able to see the one who truly was in charge the whole time.  Nothing is ever predicated on our earthly rulers or those who may be currently in power.  Even if it doesn’t feel like it, God always has His hands at the helm of life and events.

“throne” is a place of rulership, which in turn is a place of judgment.  Israel had been long divided as a nation at this point in history.  The ten kingdoms to the north were referred to as Israel while the two kingdoms to the south were Judah.  God’s people were divided from each other, but they were also divided from God.  The people had drawn away from God through sin and rebellion (See Isaiah 1:2-4).  God was now “sitting” in the seat of judgment.  Proverbs 20:8 tells us, “A king that sitteth in the throne of judgment scattereth away all evil with his eyes.”

“High and lifted up.”  Where else would He be?  God is exalted above all!  Psalm 108:5 rejoices and says, “Be thou exalted, O God, above the heavens: and thy glory above all the earth.”  God is above!  Not Beneath!  There are many kingdoms established upon this earth, but God supersedes all!  He is “lifted up!”  Every rule of man must bow to the ultimate King.  “The princes of the people are gathered together, even the people of the God of Abraham: for the shields of the earth belong unto God: he is greatly exalted,” (Psalm 47:9).  God’s dominion outranks every other power imaginable!

“His train filled the temple.”  Many of us are familiar with the idea of “train” on a bridal gown.  When she walks into the room and goes forth down the aisle everyone focuses on the floor behind her gracious steps to see how long the train is.  The long, flowing fabric embellished with love moves down behind her giving her a royal appearance.  God didn’t need the appearance of royal, He is royal, He is King!  His “train,” the hem of His holy garment, marked His majestic stance above all else and it “filled the temple.”  Can you imagine seeing just this much of the glory of God in heaven, with heavenly hosts gathered all around, and His flowing garment encompassing and enveloping everything?  Amazing!

When God’s presence is in the place, His presence takes completely over the place!  He occupies every crevice of that heavenly “temple.”  There is not a place there where He is not.

Isaiah 6:2 “Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.”

“Above it stood the seraphims.”  As I studied this, I found out that this is the only place in the Bible where the word seraphims appear is here in the book of Isaiah.  This is a unique opportunity that God has given to Isaiah.  For those whom God draws near to Himself and are willing to be a vessel for His use, will experience unique opportunities that are not privileged to everyone else.

“Each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.”  These seraphim dwelt with God in heaven yet felt a need to “cover” themselves.  Here is tells us twice of them being “covered.”  First, with the “face” and then with the “feet.”  Why the need to feel covered?  Perhaps, they know their unworthiness before this Judge who sits on the throne.  Residing in heaven with Him, they don’t only know of His majesty, they know He is completely majestic.  His holiness transcends all others, therefore, they “cover” themselves.  How brash is mankind in thinking that he can approach God in any form or fashion?  When the residences of heaven bow and cover, what more should we do when in His holy presence?

May all men reevaluate their own status before the Lord and give Him the same blessed honor of reverence the seraphim did.  Not necessarily hiding the face (although a little humility can go a long way), but knowing who He is compared to who we are; knowing that we are not worthy except the blood of Christ covered us like those wings of the seraphim, and made us worthy to stand before Him in that coming day.

Isaiah 6:3 “And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.”

“And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts.”  I love it when the weather is nice and beautiful, and I can keep my windows open to experience nature.  One of the things I get to experience is the birds calling and communicating with one another.  They are sounding off their beautiful sonnets in hopes of attracting a mate or just relaying and revealing stuff in their own bird language.

The seraphim’s message that was being sounded off to one another, and for us to witness through Isaiah’s vision, is that the holiness of God is like no other.  We cannot, with a human perspective, imagine how far and beyond us His holiness is.  Here “one cried unto another… Holy, holy, holy.”  Anytime Jesus wanted to teach a truth with great emphasis, He would use the phrase “Verily, verily.”  Saying it twice really brought attention to the point He was making.  Here, twice was not good enough when professing the holiness of God.  They announced it three times.  That means we cannot comprehend it!  We just better be ready to stand before it!

“The whole earth is full of his glory.”  Everything on the earth gives God the full glory in the way they were created except for man.  When the trees sway in the wind they glorify God because they are fulfilling their design.  When the squirrel gathers nuts, it does so at the command of God over its life.  All of creation speaks of the glory of God.  We may not hear it audibly, but we can see it all around us.

“The earth is the LORD’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein,” (Psalm 24:1).  Everything is under God’s ownership, therefore, “Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD.  Praise ye the LORD,” (Psalm 150:6).  Jesus, on His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, said, “I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out,” (Luke 19:40).  Why?  Because “the whole earth is full of his glory!”  The magnificence of God can be seen throughout all His creation and if we don’t sing with the seraphim, “Holy, holy, holy,” then the rocks will cry out in our place!

Isaiah 6:4 “And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.”

“The posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried.”  A voice so thunderous; a voice so powerful and so awe-strikingly moving to be heard that it caused the doorposts in that temple to shake.  And this is just speaking of the seraphim.  No wonder when the children of Israel, when gathered around Mt. Sinai, they were afraid to hear the voice of God speaking to them.  “And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die,” (Exodus 20:19).  To be in God’s awesome, holy presence is nothing to be played with.  When we enter the place where true holiness resides, we enter in with the humility that He and His tabernacle deserve.

“And the house was filled with smoke.”  There is no mistaking when God is in the building or inhabiting the mountain.  Back to the children of Israel at Mt. Sinai, the Bible says, “And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off,” (Exodus 20:18).  What is our response to the true presence of God in our lives?  How do we act when we approach His glory?  The children of Israel “stood afar off” and in our next verse Isaiah was moved with his own unworthiness.  What of our own humility before Him who sits on the throne in pure holiness?

Isaiah 6:5 “Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips, for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”

“Then said I.”  What follows is a personal testimony of a man faced with his own sinfulness.  This is his personal statement of what happened in his own heart when he stood before the presence of the Almighty.  This was his response before the Creator of all the heaven and all the earth.  Think about it, what will you say before Him who knows all and sees all, yet called you before His throne anyway?

“Woe is me!”  Can you sense the agony of sin standing before the Sinless?  It’s as if someone pulled back a curtain to reveal all the evils in human nature and the sight of his own role in humanity made Isaiah say, “Woe!”  When was the last time we “woed” at our own incompleteness without Him and before Him?  Even the best-behaved person on the face of this earth would have to “woe” before the Almighty.  This is all about Him and our complete unworthiness to be before Him.

But thank God for where Christ has placed us now: “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.  For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.  Let us therefore COME BOLDLY UNTO THE THRONE OF GRACE, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need,” (Hebrews 4:14-16; All Capital Emphasis Mine).

“For I am undone.”  This reminds me of the testimony of some who, in a life-changing moment, saw their life flash before their eyes.  Could this be what Isaiah was experiencing?  Every sin, every wrong, and every transgression comes to the forefront when there’s nothing to hide behind anymore.  Standing before the Revealer of all, he declared, “I am undone.”  

The Bible reminds us, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23).  Standing in His glory, one soon realizes just how “short” from being worthy they truly are.

“Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.”  Jesus, in condemning the scribes and Pharisees said it best.  “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man,” (Matthew 15:18).  Using the uncleanness of his own lips and those of people in general, he could see that his life was not ready to stand before the King of all kings and the Lord of all lords.  The uncleanness of the lips is synonymous with the uncleanness of the heart.  Continuing in Matthew, Jesus further said, “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man…” (15:19-20a).  But Jesus started off His chastisement saying, “Out of the mouth come forth from the heart.”  What is our conversation saying of our hearts?  Do we really understand how “unclean” we are?

“For mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”  It only takes a moment to see the miraculous to change your life forever.  Many people who desire to see God in a face to face encounter on this side of glory don’t know what they ask for.  First of all, no man can see God and live (read Exodus 33:20).  Secondly, sometimes when we read stories in the Bible where people came face to face with just an angel of God, and wind up falling down before them in fear. How much more would they be able to stand before the holiness of the Almighty King?  The majority of us will never experience the sight of Him until we get to heaven, “For we walk by faith, not by sight,” (2 Corinthians 5:7).  OH!  But if we did, I’m sure it would have the same impact on us as it did on Isaiah: “For mine eyes have seen the king, the LORD of hosts” and the awesomeness of that moment would make us tremble before His perfect holiness.

But one day, we are hoping to be there where He is, to see the “King, the LORD of hosts” for ourselves.  Anything or anyone that does not fall in line with God’s holiness will not have that privilege.  “And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life,” (Revelation 21:27).

God’s Holiness is to Show in Us

1 Peter 1:15-16 “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.”

Reading of all Isaiah experienced and what he saw of God’s holiness in the heavens, and knowing that one day we too will come face to face with the extreme holiness of God, how should we then live?  We must live lives that represent the holiness of the “holy” God we serve.

Hebrews 12:14 tells us, “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (emphasis mine).  God is looking for a sanctified life.  When we receive His Spirit, the sanctification process has started to turn our lives around getting us ready for a heaven-bound journey.  A lot of people have grown unaccustomed to associating our walk of faith with a walk of sanctification.  We talk a lot about faith, but little is covered anymore about being holy.  But a sanctified people are what we are called to be, and I must ask, is there a fervency for holiness still present in the modern church?

God is still calling for holiness, and holiness is still right!  During the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry, He taught, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in there at: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it,” (Matthew 7:13-14).  Holiness is the only way through that gate!

God wants hearts that are in tune with His.  God wants people who are in the world but not of the world (John 17:16).  God our Father is holy, and His children, who are us, are to be holy demonstrators of His character. Peter said in today’s lesson, it has already been “written” in the Old Testament, and nothing has changed in the New Testament: “Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16; compare Leviticus 11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7, 26).  Our lives are to be lives of separateness and devotion to God alone, instilled with His Spirit to live differently than the rest of the world.

Peter continues to describe us as “an holy priesthood” and “an holy nation” (1Peter 2:5, 9).  The common denominator is holiness!

Holiness is a prerequisite for access to our heavenly Father.  Sin will hinder a full and beautiful relationship with God.  Isaiah 59:2 reiterates this truth, saying, “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.”  Therefore, holiness must be the mark that the Christian aims for in his/her daily life in order to see the Lord at the end of this journey.

And, it must not just be present in some areas of our lives; rather, “be ye holy in all manner of conversation”; in every area of life.  A life submitted to and in complete devotion of the Father who has saved them.  An uncompromising life, that doesn’t pat a sin on the back here and condemns something different over there.

All sin is sin, and every area of our lives must be lived in submission to being “holy.”  If we are going to be identified as His children, then we must be identified as He is, and that is “holy!”  “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God,” (2 Corinthians 7:1).

PDF Printable Sunday School Lesson Pack (With easy to read instructions following the P.E.A.R.L. format on how to conduct each lesson with areas for adding personal notes): Sunday School Lesson – The Holiness of God

Suggested Activities:

Adult Journal Page: Adult Journal Page – The Holiness of God

Kid’s Journal Page: Kid’s Journal Page – The Holiness of God

Draw the Scene: The Holiness of God Draw the Scene

“Holy, Holy, Holy Glitter Sheet Activity”: Another activity that can be done is this “Holy Holy Holy” Glitter sheet.  Use the sheet as is to color or do as I did.  I colored and cut out the words and glued them on blue construction paper (sky).  Then, using a white crayon you can make clouds.  Finally, since it is a holy place where these words are being uttered, I used gold glitter to bring out the words “Holy, Holy, Holy!”  Enjoy!  PDF: Holy coloring sheet

 

Word Search: The Holiness of God Word Search  Answers: The Holiness of God Word Search Answers

Crossword: The Holiness of God Crossword  Answers: The Holiness of God Crossword Answers

Word Scramble: The Holiness of God Word Scramble  Answers: The Holiness of God Word Scramble Answers

“Sin Revealed” from Kidssundayschool.com (Great object lesson to go with being “undone” and “unclean lips” because it shows how our sin can’t hide before God).

“Sanctified Lips” from Calvarycurriculum.com

“Heaven is Awesome”

“Heaven Lesson Bible Plan w/ tons of activities and crafts”

“Molded to be Holy” Object lesson from Childrensministry.com

“Heaven” Ideas/Lesson from Ministry to Children

Sunday School Lesson – “The Patience of God” 2 Peter 3:9-15a

Photo by Lindsay Henwood on Unsplash

VERSE DISCOVERY: 2 Peter 3:9-15a (KJV, Public Domain)

Waiting for things and promises to come to pass can be extremely hard sometimes.  Especially if you have been hearing it for a while but have yet to see the fruition of it.  This is a matter that Peter addressed in this portion of his letter.  The gospel has been preached for some time by now.  Those that believed were hopefully waiting for the promises preached to come to pass.  They’ve heard the story of Jesus’ ascension and the urging to keep focused for His return.  Yet, the scoffers (unbelievers) were making it hard to hold onto their faith.  They ridiculed their beliefs and mocked their devotion.

Peter taught there’s a different end for us who are believers than for those who are unbelievers.  Those that believe should never let go of the promise that He is coming back again regardless of how long it seems to us.  Just look at this way, we are thanking God for His patience and longsuffering because it gives more people a chance to be saved.  I think that’s well worth the wait, don’t you?

Scoffers May Disbelieve

2 Peter 3:3 “Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts,”

“Knowing this first.”  Peter wrote in 1 Peter 4:12, “Think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you.”  Yet, it still amazes us when we go through hardship.  We are still taken aback at any signs of adversity.  Here, Peter said the “first” thing you should know is there are going to be “scoffers.”  There are going to be people who don’t believe what you believe and because they don’t, they will mock, ridicule, and make fun of you for what you believe in.

If you have ever watched a clown perform you have probably laughed.  Why?  Because much of their performance is mocking the actions of another and the way they jokingly do it tickles our funny bone.  “Scoffers” work in much the same way except it’s not funny at all.   I think if we had the predetermined mindset to “know” these things will happen it will prepare us for when those times do come.  Especially in these “last days,” referring to the time between the first and second return of Christ.   

“Walking after their own lusts.”  The word “lusts” has an s on the end of it signifying that there are various pursuits of ungodliness that the unbeliever and scoffer delve into.  They scorn and mock that which is right with the end purpose of being able to do what they want to do.  If they convince themselves there is no return of Christ to look forward to, then what is there that would prohibit living a life of sin and dishonor.  If they believe there will be no repercussions to their current actions and lifestyle choices now, why would they stop pursuing those things and ideas they desire to pursue, even though they are wrong.

We see this attitude alive in the world now.  We see Christians are rallied against because they raise a standard in their life and take a stand for their beliefs, yet at the same time, the mindset of the world is the Christian better not say anything about the beliefs of others.  For if they do then they are considered intolerant of others for not supporting their lifestyles.  All so that the unbeliever/scoffer can continue “walking in their own lusts.”  “Lusts” are sinful desires that go against the plan and design that God has for humanity.

2 Peter 3:4 “And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.”

A large part of gospel preaching and teaching is focusing on and preparing people for the return of Christ because their eternity hangs in the balance.  Since the scoffer is not looking toward the same heavenly treasure as the believer and does not believe themselves that this event will take place, their job is to try to tear down and even use human reasoning against those who are awaiting God’s promise through the return of Christ.

“Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.”  Their reasoning, yesterday came and went, and nothing happened.  Last year came and went and nothing happened.  As a matter of fact, since the world was created, days and years came and went, and nothing happened.  You keep saying it, but “Where is the promise of his coming?”

Most people base everything they believe or don’t believe on what they see with their natural eyes and their short-sighted minds.  When the unbeliever looks down through history, they don’t see the chain of events that brought salvation to mankind.  They don’t see the promise of good that God has stored up for our futures.  They don’t see the fulfilling prophecies that brought God’s kingdom closer to man.  When they look down through history all they see is a normal course of events that has continued uninterrupted.  They don’t see this beautiful, epic love story where God tries to woo mankind back to Himself.  Therefore, they can’t fathom this incredible promise either.  To them, nothing has changed.  Since they don’t see it, they don’t mind letting their hatred for those of us who do see it show.  They ridicule and mock the one who believes in the return of Christ (compare Jude 1:18-19).  They trust that everything will remain as it has since the beginning of creation.

2 Peter 3:5-7 “For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.”

“They willingly are ignorant.”  Here it states that this is one’s choice in the matter of whether they believe or not believe.  God is not going to arm wrestle someone into faith.  God has blessed every human being with a free will, and they are the ones who will choose whether or not they will follow Him.

“Willingly” implies truth or no truth, they will not comply.  Their minds are made up to purposely follow a life of sin and what they believe or disbelieve to be true and right, regardless of the evidence before them.  Here, their ignorance will not allow them to believe in the order of Creation as stated in the Bible or any other biblical truths that follow.  For too long man has opposed God’s truth to his own finite theories of evolution and reasoning on how the world came to be.

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.  The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.  And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters,” (Genesis 1:1-2).  Before God stepped in there was just chaos.  Our lesson speaks of “the earth standing out of the water and in the water.”  This was God’s doing!   Nothing that we see in this world today existed nor did it evolve from some species.  But on the third day of creation, God said, “Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together in one place, and let dry land appear: and it was so.  And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering of together of the waters called he seas: and God saw that it was good,” (Genesis 1:9-10).

Though the order of creation is apparent and evident some still choose to disbelieve.  The apostle Paul said this doesn’t excuse them.  “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse,” (Romans 1:20).

And, it is by those same waters that God stepped into history and judged mankind for his sin once before through the great Flood (see Genesis 6:6:5-7; 7:11-24; compare 2 Peter 3:6 of the lesson text), therefore Peter teaches, He will do it again!  Whether or not one is looking for it, the time of final judgment will come.

Scoffers laugh and jeer because God is taking so long for the time of His coming when they should be rejoicing that He is taking His time.  Instead, they use this time to indulge in evil.  “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil,” (Ecclesiastes 8:11).

In God’s proper timing, when He is ready, He will, “by the same word” He spoke during those times speak again and everything that we see around us today will perish.  Jesus Himself stated that “Heaven and earth shall pass away,” (Matthew 24:35; emphasis mine).  Psalm 102:26 tells us, “They shall perish, but thou shalt endure…” (emphasis mine).  One day, their hope, which is not in God, will die.  Yet, they still ignore the one who will “endure.”  Go figure?

Still, God is patient today, but there will come a time for “judgment and perdition of ungodly men.”  He is reserving everything for that fulfilling time.  For now, He is holding back His “word” for that “day of judgment.”  But then, everything that was spoken of for that day will happen and the ungodly will perish.  There is a different end for the wicked as opposed to those who believe.  “Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup,” (Psalm 11:6).  It will happen!

…But God is Not Slack

2 Peter 3:8-9 “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.  The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

But we, as His children, are not to operate in “ignorance.”  We are to be fully aware of the ways of God.  One thing is, God is not on a timetable such as we are.  We mark our days by when the sun rises and sets at night.  We mark our seasons by the temperature in the air, the budding or non-budding of plants, and by the harvests we reap.  We mark our lives by age milestones.  When you are a child you can’t wait to hit the double-digit numbers and be 10.  After that, other milestones are marked such as when becoming a teenager (13), sweet sixteen, at 18 you are considered a legal adult and so forth.

God is infinite.  He cannot be marked by time.  “I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty, (Revelation 1:8).  There never a time when He wasn’t because He always was!  With that being said, “One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”

“For the Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness.”  God is not an unreliable resource to depend upon like man.  Many get confused along the way because they attribute man’s faulty characteristics to the holy and perfect God.  When someone promises something but takes a long time fulfilling it, we tend to lose faith in that individual.  But God cannot be counted in the same category as man.  His not moving right now is not due to “slackness” or an inability to perform.  Habakkuk tells us, “For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry,” (2:3).  Shortly after that in the next verse, he says, “The just shall live by his faith,” (2:4b).  Every word of God for good or for bad, for happy or for sad, for those who believe or for those who don’t believe will come to pass!

For right now He is withholding His hand of final judgment so that as many people as possible can be saved.  For everyone out there, there is hope for salvation if they will just turn to Him and repent and be saved.  They don’t have to go out like that when God is waiting for them right now, right this moment.

God’s waiting won’t add to the demise of people.  Rather, His “longsuffering” is because He is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”  Will all come and get into this life He offers through Jesus Christ?  No.  But God loves mankind so much that He wants to get as many people as possible out of that life of sin and unbelief that is seeking to take them down for all eternity.  God wants as many people as possible to be saved and living in heaven with Him.  How beautiful is His love toward us!

But people must repent!  They must turn to Him.  They must turn away from their old life; change their mind from their sinful thinking and living and turn to Him. A true, repentant heart admits that it has fallen short of the glory of God and is seeking restoration and salvation that only God can give through Jesus Christ our Lord.  “For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye,” (Ezekiel 18:32).

2 Peter 3:10 “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the earth shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.”

“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night.”  There’s something to be said for preparing for the unknown.  In life, we put all kinds of securities in place such as home alarm systems to warn against intruders and we stock-up supplies in the event of some horrific storm.  Our future in Christ is not an unknown, yet, still knowing what will take place, some disregard all warnings.  Jesus said, “If the goodman had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up,” (Matthew 24:43).  Thieves are not known for announcing their arrival.  The element of surprise works in their favor.  It catches people off guard when they least expect it.  Here we are told that when we least expect it, it will happen.

“The heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.”  Everything will be gone!  Nothing on this earth will last forever.  Yet, day by day, people put more stock in the things this world possesses and the “works” they can do with their own hands rather than God.  Therefore, Jesus said, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth,” (Matthew 6:19) because the earth and all that is in it will vanish one day.  As stable and as strong as we think a mountain is, Revelation 16:20 tells us, “And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found.”  All will “pass away!”  Peter’s emphasis for us is not what’s going to happen with the world for we should already be prepared for that.  His concern in dealing with the Christian is what’s happening with us personally.

Therefore, How We Live Matters

2 Peter 3:11 “Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness.”

“Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness.”  Since Peter already focused on the times and seasons of the future, he now wanted to focus on his readers and their inner man, and how they are representing themselves to the waiting world.  How do we live our lives considering our eternity?  Knowing that “all these things shall be dissolved” how do we let that information guide us in our life decisions and choices?  Do we act as carefree and irresponsible as those who live with no hope of a better future?  Or, do we make sure the faith we profess on the inside is shining like a beacon on the outside to draw even more people to Christ?

How we live matters!  Talk is cheap!  Actions speak louder than words!  We’ve heard those sayings most of our lives but usually only apply it to someone we are in an argument with.  What Peter really wants us to do is mind our own steps in life.  It’s easy to pick away at the life of another and the choices they have made when we are not as careful to judge our own.  Jesus asked, “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” (Matthew 7:3).  Our eternity is not bound up here, rather we are pressing toward the goal of heaven.  We are working toward the end of salvation.  With that being said, we must mind “what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness.”  We won’t have to answer for nobody but ourselves and how we lived.  And, how we will live matters!

2 Peter 3:12-14 “Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?  Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.  Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.”

In these three verses, we see the word “look” three times.  At the time of this writing, Peter was nearing his end.  This would be the last letter he wrote so he knows something about waiting in expectation of a better future.  Hard times and trials tend to dash one’s hope.  But Peter expressed that “we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth.”  We are not to stop anticipating the better that God has for us.  The unbelievers and scoffers live the way they live because they don’t have this assurance.  But we have the “promise.”  “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19).  God is the author of the promise and God makes good on His promises; therefore, we should never stop looking! (see also Romans 8:31-39).

“Wherein dwelleth righteousness.”  Speaking of our eternal home, the Bible tells us, “There shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life,” (Revelation 21:27).  A lot of works carried out by men and woman today will not see the light of heaven tomorrow.  “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?  Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners shall inherit the kingdom of God,” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).  Not on this list?  It doesn’t matter.  If one is not born again then they will not walk the streets of glory (see John 3:5).  Only the righteous will be there.  (This would be a good point to make a call to salvation for your students urging them to prepare themselves for that coming day).

“Be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace.”  When someone is diligent that means they are putting forth a conscientious effort to pay careful heed and give it their all.  Since that day is inevitable, and since we don’t know the day or the hour, we must be ready to “be found of him in peace.”  Romans tells us, “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness” (1:18).  In that day, those that are not “found of him in peace,” will surely wish they were.

“Without spot and blameless.”  Israel was initially supposed to be the nation that would show the whole world how to have a relationship with God.  They were to be examples of His righteousness but failed.  Nevertheless, God had a plan to bring a Savior into the world “without blemish and without spot,” (1 Peter 1:19).  Now, we are being called to live like Jesus.  “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked,” (1 John 2:6, see also 1 Peter 1:13-25 and Matthew 5:48).

2 Peter 3:15a “And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation.”

“The longsuffering of our Lord is salvation.”  Have you ever really had an off day and thought to yourself that you were glad today was not the day when He came back?  Yeah, me too.  There are others that don’t know Him, and it is during this waiting period of His “longsuffering” they have a chance to accept and experience salvation.  His love compels Him to wait a little longer.  He won’t hold off forever, as the lesson has proven.  Things will change despite what the scoffers believe.  Our job in the process is to thank Him for His patience, hope in His coming, and live like we are in anticipation of the return of Christ, because we should be.

His longsuffering, which is stated twice in this lesson, is God’s patience at work in the best possible way.  Believe today and turn to the Lord for salvation.

PDF Printable Sunday School Lesson Pack (With easy to read instructions following the P.E.A.R.L. format on how to conduct each lesson with areas for adding personal notes): Sunday School Lesson – The Patience of God

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Sunday School Lesson – “God Called Abram” Genesis 12:1-9

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VERSE DISCOVERY: Genesis 12:1-9 (KJV, Public Domain)

What once was
Will not always be,
When we follow the way
The Lord leads.

Abandoning the comforts
And safety we know,
Attaching oneself
To the One who speaks, “Go.”

Stepping out
In this journey of trust.
By faith, we follow,
Leaving the past in the dust.

One foot, one step,
We walk our way through.
Arriving in His promise
Where every word comes true.
©WordForLifeSays.com

Every journey in life starts with a first step.  That step, and the ones that come after it is the way to arrive at the destination that was hoped for.

For most people, when making such a drastic change in life, they have properly prepared for it well in advance.  But, when you’re like Abram, there is no such thing.  The call was made, what will he do with it?  Will he make excuses as to why this is not the right time to uproot his family?  Will he reason himself out of what lay ahead because he just doesn’t have enough details to make a thoughtful and well-informed decision?  Or will he go against the norms of rational, and put one foot in front of the other and walk where God says walk?

At this point, we all know that’s exactly what he did.  Let’s examine the story of his call a little closer that we might find the encouragement to move when God asks us to move with nothing but faith as our guide.

God Called

Genesis 12:1-3 “Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”

In order for there to be a complete blessing, there must be complete obedience.  Our God is not a half-way God.  He does all things well, and when He pursues individuals and welcomes them into His plans, He expects the same follow-through mentality He possesses.  Often, this requires a great deal of faith.

And this, we will find out, is exactly what Abram did and why he is honored by God in the way that he was.  At the command of God, he was willing to leave everything behind that attached him to his old life that he may be more attached to his relationship with God.  Generally, this action is similar to what every Christian is called to do when God delivers them from what they used to do or be.

Back to Abram.  While living life in the land of Ur, minding his business and going about what we assume was his daily routines or normal course of living, Abram’s life was interrupted by God.  This interruption would cause him to nix any plans he had for himself.  This interruption would let him know that he was no longer the most important person in his life, and neither was his family.  This interruption would speak of things the eyes have not yet seen but ask to walk that way anyhow.  This interruption would change the life of Abram forever, but more importantly, it would help usher in the greatest change the world has ever seen.

In the place he was currently in, God said to leave it.  Everything familiar, leave it.  Everything you are comfortable with, leave it.  Every person you have become attached to, leave them.  The life they lived and the place where he was, was not conducive to what God had in store for this man.

Many times, we read stories like this and we think, “Oh, that’s all he had to do.”  It’s more to it than that because whether you admit it or not, as humans, we like the familiar.  We like the things that we are used to.  We like the circle of people who we have come to know their little idiosyncrasies, and they have come to know ours.  We like our positions in that circle of people, so leaving everything behind, especially in the most permanent way Abram was called to leave, takes faith.

God commanded him, “Get thee out of thy country.”  Detach yourself, Abram, from everything that’s not a part of my plan for you.  In that country, idol worshipping prevailed.  In that country, people were not in a relationship with the one true God.  That place would not foster the environment that would grow Abram to be the man that He has designed him to be, nor would it be the right environment for the promises and the people that God has in store for Abram’s future to reproduce and grow.

Some comfortable places are traps.  Some of the familiar things that we have a hard time letting go of are keeping us from where God wants to take us.  Abram had to choose, follow God or stay put and risk losing everything even though he didn’t know anything about where God was taking him.

Abram’s separation was to be a complete severance from “thy kindred, and from thy father’s house.”  Walk away from everything and everyone, with only those that belong just to you in tow.  Turn your back on that auntie who used to pinch your cheeks in the sweetest fashion every time she saw you.  Your cousin, who was more like your best friend, you must leave behind.  All familial holds had to be let go of.

He must go “unto a land that I will shew thee.”  God knew where He was taking Abram, but Abram didn’t.  One must wonder, what was it about this call that would inspire Abram to make such a sudden, life-altering choice.  We don’t know exactly how God appeared to him or how the call was made, but for Abram, a man raised in idol worship, he was more than willing to do what God asked him to do, and follow His leading, sight unseen.  That’s the true definition of faith (Hebrews 11:1).

Ur, he knew.  Haran, he knew.  Where God was taking him, he knew nothing about it.  What would the land be like?  Will it be enough to support us?  Will it be enough to support our herds and the people I have with me?  So many questions must have gone through his mind, yet if there were reservations, they were never allowed to manifest and become a hindrance of following through with where God called him to go.  Rather, his faith was manifested in his obedience to go, in spite of it all.

God not only told him He had a land for him, but God also had promises attached to his act of faith in stepping out.  God was going to “bless” Abram.  That word “bless” meant there were going to be some good things that would come his way.  Things that would be unattainable if he chose to stay where he was.

“I will make of thee a great nation” was one of the blessings attached to his step of faith.  The man who didn’t even have one heir at the time was promised a whole nation.  Considering his age at the time (75), could Abram even fathom this sort of increase on the horizon?  God was going to take Abram’s nothing (from an heir point of view) and “make” it more than he could ever realize.  God was going to create an entire “nation” from this one man of faith (see Genesis 17:4).  God had a definitive plan in mind for this man and when he stepped out in faith, God would accomplish His purposes for him and his future family.

“I will bless thee” was the next portion of the promises for Abram.  In general, God was going to honor Abram with His blessings which could really cover every area of his life (compare Genesis 24:1).  God’s favor would be evident upon Abram.  God would be in a covenant relationship with Abram, and eventually, his people, and the state of their blessedness in Him will show (compare Genesis 24:35).

“And make thy name great” is designed around the reputation Abram (who would eventually become Abraham) would be known for.  To this day, his name, attached to his steps of faith, is known and honored.  He didn’t leave for fame, but fame would follow his faith story.

“And thou shalt be a blessing.”  All that Abram would be and become was not just for himself or his family.  As God has blessed him, he would also bless others.  Abram would “be” a blessing.

“And I will bless them that bless thee.”  When favor was shown to this special man and this special family, God would take special note of it.  One cannot bless the people of God and God not be pleased with it.  When we treat others right, especially those in covenant relationship with God, God notices and rewards.

At the same time, if one mistreats these same ones, then God would turn their “curse” back on their own heads to bear.  When God is in a covenant relationship with His people, God protects them.

Lastly, God promised, “In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”  This was a promise that has been reiterated several times in Scripture (see Genesis 18:18; 22:18, and more).  In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul noted in Galatians, “That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith,” (3:14).  As Abraham received his promise through faith, so too do those who believe in Christ, be they, Jew or Gentile.  When God stated, “all families”, that’s exactly what He meant.  He left the door open for any believing heart to have access to what Christ has to offer.  And Christ would come through the line of Abraham and his family, extending the blessings of God to whoever will receive Him.   

Abram Responded

Genesis 12:4-5 “So Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran.  And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came.” 

Abram responded to the call of God in a positive fashion.  He obeyed.  When he “departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him,” it means he obeyed what the Lord instructed him.  Abram’s faith, as well as our own, is tied to obedience.  Obedience says, I don’t know everything, and he didn’t, but I trust God enough to step into the unknown and do what He has asked me to do.

Abram is seventy-five years old at this point in his life.  How difficult would it have been to leave everything when one is probably well-planted and settled where he is?  Yet, leave is what he did because this is what the “Lord had spoken unto him.”  He moved his life and his family under the direction of God.

Many years later, one of Israel’s future leaders will make a bold declaration for him and his house in obeying what God wills for their life.  Joshua stood and spoke with his faith, and said, “As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD,” (Joshua 24:15).  Whether it’s addressing the issue of properly serving God as opposed to those who went after what is false, or as in Abram’s story of faith that has him trekking on an unknown journey because it is what God commands for his life, both scenarios are journeys of obedience, both require faith, and both had the whole family that belonged to them involved.

When Abram departed, he didn’t go it alone.  He had responsibilities to those who belong to him to include them in on what God was doing in his life now and in the future.  They had to follow him as he followed God.  Therefore, Abram “took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran” with him and they would witness firsthand what faith in following God looked like through their obedient leader.

“They went forth to go into the land of Canaan.”  “They”, all those journeying with Abram followed Abram and “they” all “went forth to go into the land of Canaan.”  They may have not understood but they followed Abram.  They all left Haran.

“And into the land of Canaan they came.”  As Abram would soon find out, this place they were entering was going to be the same place God said He would show him.  This place was going to be a pivotal place throughout their history for so many wonderful things of faith.  This place was going to belong to him and his people.  Others may live there now, but it would be their Promised Land.    

 Abram’s Journey and Worship

Genesis 12:6-9 “And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land.  And the Lord appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the Lord, who appeared unto him.  And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, having Bethel on the west, and Hai on the east: and there he builded an altar unto the Lord, and called upon the name of the Lord.  And Abram journeyed, going on still toward the south.”

If you have ever journeyed on a long trip, you know the sheer joy of arriving.  Arriving means your destination has been reached.  Arriving means whatever travail occurred during the trip can be put into the back of your mind because you are here now and that’s all that matters.

Abram’s journey started on nothing but pure faith in what God promised, and now he is in that very place of promise.  How awesome!

Coming into the land, Abram “passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh.”  He was walking through his promise.  Every step he took, every piece of land he crossed in that place was already his.  This land, though inhabited by “the Canaanite” at that time, his descendants will rightfully claim as their own because he stepped out in faith.

Verifying all of this, “the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land.”  “This land” was promised by God.  “This land”, the very parcel of ground where he stood, and all the borders of the region God would lay out for him was his and his “seed.”  God gave it to them.  God promised it to Abram (see also Genesis 15:18-21).  He may be a “stranger” in this place right now, but God was giving it to him for an “everlasting possession” (Genesis 17:8).

Many, many other verses in the Bible verify this land of promise by God belongs to Abram and his descendants.  God spoke to Isaac, his future son, when a famine hit the area, saying, “Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee; for unto thee, and unto thy seed, I will give all these countries, and I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father,” (Genesis 26:3).  And unto Jacob, He said, “I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed,” (Genesis 28:13).  With many more references throughout God’s holy Word, Abram has the assurance that he is in the place God had for him.  His step of faith led him into what was previously unknown territory into the remarkable position of standing in that very place of promise.

The leaving was worth it.  The journey was worth it.  The stepping out into the unknown was worth it.  God did exactly what He said He would do, and as he looked around the land, and the mountains, and the plains and seeing all the places of “Moreh”, “Bethel”, and “Hai” in his journey, he could see nothing but the fulfillment of everything he hoped for in God.  It was no longer just a dream, but the expectations of that dream had been rewarded to him for his faith.  Physically, and literally, he could see all God had in store for him.

And so, he worshipped.  Worship should always be a part of one’s journey with God, and worship should also be prevalent when we get to where God was leading us (before, during, and after – at all times, Psalm 34:1).  Abram built “an altar unto the LORD, who appeared to him.” 

Abram, through his faith, through his obedience to go, and through his worship, centered his life on the “LORD.”  Herein is a great example to live by.  Knowing and recognizing who it is that has authored not only our lives, but everything in between, and giving Him the proper glory that is due to His name.

Abram “called upon the name of the LORD” and blessed and honored publicly the same God who so blessed and honored him.  He stepped out in faith, and in that same faith, he is declaring his devotion to God alone.

One man out of all the men of the earth.  Taken out of one nation to begin a new nation.  Out of this, one family will increase and grow until centuries later it gives birth to one Savior who will save all mankind from their sins when they turn to Him in faith.

All this started, by faith.  That faith led to obedience, which then led to the fulfillment of everything God promised.

As he continued “toward the south” one can imagine him taking in more and more of the land in utter amazement.  What an awe-inspiring feeling that must have come over him as he took it all in.

One step.  One journey.  One very happy result in the end.

Everybody is not called to take the same journey as Abram did, but when God calls, we are all to respond the same way: in faith and obedience.

PDF Printable Sunday School Lesson Pack (With easy to read instructions following the P.E.A.R.L. format on how to conduct each lesson with areas for adding personal notes): Sunday School Lesson – God Called Abram

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Sunday School Lesson – “Grafted in by Faith” Romans 11:11-24

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VERSE DISCOVERY: Romans 11:11-24 (KJV, Public Domain)

The Jews of the Apostle Paul’s day struggled first with accepting God’s plan of salvation by faith.  Rather, in their own righteousness, relied more on the works of the law (Romans 9:31-33).  Romans 10:4 declares, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.”

Another thing they struggled in was the acceptance of the Gentiles into God’s spiritual family.  Rather than depend on the law, as the Jews previously had done, and the works of the law, they, the Gentiles “have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith,” (Romans 9:30).  Although through the centuries the prophets foretold, “I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved,” (Romans 9:25; see also verse 26).

Paul continued to teach when it comes to accepting Christ by faith, “There is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.  For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved,” (Romans 10:12-13; emphasis mine).

Does this mean that God has cast away His chosen people?  (Romans 11:1).  Absolutely not!  But, by God’s grace, there is still a remnant that will worship Him through faith (Romans 11:1-6).  While some remained spiritually blind, God was using this as an opportunity to bring salvation to the Gentiles.

Neither group had a reason for division amongst them.  God loves the Jews and the Gentiles alike and wants all to be saved if they believe.

Lesson Summary

 Romans 11:11 “I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.”

“Have they stumbled that they should fall?”  Referring to the unbelief of those early Jews and their rejection of Christ as the Messiah, as God’s plan of salvation – does this stumbling at this divine truth mean that this is the end for them?  Are they now a people that are done away with because they have no more purpose in God’s plan?  Has their fallen status become who they are to be permanently identified as?

“God forbid.”  Absolutely not!  God still has a divine plan and purpose in effect for His people Israel.  They may have initially rejected the Christ and transgressed against Him through their unbelief, but God was not completely done with them.

“But rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.”  As noted in last week’s lesson, salvation was never supposed to be exclusive.  God’s chosen people were designed to be carriers of His truth and His revelation to the world – to be a witness to the world of His desired relationship with all mankind.

Due to their current unbelieving status, a doorway would now be opened for the “Gentiles” to have a shot at receiving “salvation.”  Acts 13 tells us what occurred when Paul and Barnabas were blasphemed against and contradicted by the Jews: “Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing you put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles,” (vs. 46).  Thus, the preaching of the gospel was on the move toward the Gentiles.

Does this mean all Gentiles will be saved at the Jews rejection of the Christ?  Again, absolutely not!  Regardless of ethnic background or regional heritage, all must come to Him in and through faith – Jew and Gentile alike.

While the Jews rejection of Christ opened a door of acceptance to the Gentiles, the Gentiles too would become a tool to touch the heart of the Jews, “to provoke them to jealousy.”  Deuteronomy 32:21 foretold, “They have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God; they have provoked me to anger . . . I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation,” (see also Romans 10:19).

Romans 11:12 “Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fullness?”

If through their “fall” and “diminishing” the “world/Gentiles” become “rich” (spiritually so at the accepting of the rich gospel of Christ through faith), “how much more their fullness?”  Those who were not formerly considered to be blessed are now presented with the opportunity to be spiritually blessed.  Israel’s loss is the world’s gain (as some would note it today).

With the offering of Christ and all the blessings a child of God would receive now available to them – greater would be the spiritual riches when the hearts of the Jews are stirred toward the realm of faith in Christ Jesus, bringing them to their “fullness.”

Just imagine and compare the difference it would make.  How much more would their own faith (speaking of those future Jews), touch and turn others, causing a global domino effect of God’s blessings and the turning of people in faith as it ripples through this world?

It would be simply amazing.

Romans 11:13-14 “For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.”

Lest they become haughty in their thinking, Paul directs his next line of thought directly to the Gentiles.  Careful heed should be taken given their now privileged position in Christ.  Paul, “the apostle of the Gentiles,” (compare to Acts 9:15), acting with authority to his calling, says, “I magnify my office.”

The Apostle Paul was the founding father of many churches located in Gentile nations.  His reputation of authority preceded him to the Roman church as well.  As their spiritual leader, he had no qualms in letting them know, “If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.”

Paul may have been an apostle to the Gentiles, but he still had a heart for his own kinsmen.  In Romans 9 he carried, “great heaviness and continual sorrow” (vs. 2) in his heart for his fellow flesh that rejected Christ.  To the point where he stated, “I wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh,” (vs. 3).

His love for his own people never waned though his mission took him to others.  So, if there is some way for their hearts to be pricked to receive the gospel; to open themselves up to God’s truth of salvation through all of this – then, so be it.  He would be enamored with the idea.  To really know his feelings toward his people, think of your own family and the unsaved in it.  What if the similar would happen to cause them to accept Christ?  Wouldn’t you be overjoyed to see them come to salvation?  I would!

So, it is Paul’s hope that the Gentiles turning in faith would provoke his Jewish brethren that as many as will may be saved and brought back from the dead spiritually.  For another analogy, picture if you will in your mind an EMT bringing to recovery a loved one battled in a life or death crisis.  There is rejoicing.  There is joy over the recovering of said loved one.  The same with Paul.

As the Gentiles gained from their loss, oh what it would be if the provocation of such would awaken those Jewish sleeping souls to rise up and grab hold of Jesus for themselves, and “save some of them.”

Awesome!

Romans 11:15-21 “For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?  For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches.  And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.  Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in.  Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear:  For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.”

If their rejection and unbelief have given place for the door of the gospel to be opened to the rest of the world, how much more “shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?”  A national prodigal son story of restoration, if you will.  A people literally brought back to life, being spiritually resuscitated and restored once again.

Therefore, the one who has this privilege bestowed upon them, the Gentiles, should not “boast.”  It’s not of their own goodness (far from it – but, a work of grace) that caused God’s mercy to extend salvation beyond the spiritual borders of His chosen people.  Their disobedience [God’s chosen] made a way for the measure of reconciliation, through Christ, to be made available to all who believe.

Would it not benefit the Gentiles to remember from where they came; their “parent body” of faith to be saved, if you will?  “For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the braches.”

In speaking of the “firstfruit” Paul breaks down for them, the Gentiles, the importance of their faith and what role the Jews played in that.  In Numbers 15:20-21 we learn the importance of the word firstfruit where they would offer up in appreciation “the first of your dough.”  Not until that first portion was offered was it permissible to eat the rest.

Given that the first portion to be offered was considered “holy” (set apart and consecrated), the “lump,” the source of the original would also have to be viewed as holy once it was consecrated.  Thus, making those first-century Christians, who were Jews by birth, vital in the foundation of their faith as well.

“And if the root be holy, so are the branches.”  The root system of any tree supports the branches.  Whatever the root is or has is transferred to the branches that grow from it.

There are varying opinions on which the “root” here is referring.  Some cite the patriarchs, some says God, and some refer this verse to the first Jewish Christians.  I won’t argue either point here.  Regardless of whom it is actually speaking of the main point for the Gentiles believers (whom Paul is currently speaking to) is to realize they and their newfound faith are grounded in the “holy” which came before them.  Again, there was no need to be boastful and haughty in their current status in Christ.  Those that were before them are foundational in their faith now.

Therefore, they are instructed not to lift themselves up with a prideful spirit, as if they are now superior to those Jews who refused to believe.  For God can, at any moment, cut them off as well.  “For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.”

Some of those natural branches were disobedient in their unbelief to believe in the fulfilled promise of Christ.  Thus, they were “broken off.”  A great spiritual pruning had taken place and “some,” not all, of those branches that lack to produce spiritual fruit, were done away with while others were “graffed” in.

This does not mean that God has done away with the Jews as a whole (referring back to the introduction and beginning of the lesson).  Only some were broken off showing God still has a remnant of those that believe.  But the unbelieving Jews were taken out and believing Gentiles, “wild olive tree,” was put in to grow “among them” and “with them partakest of the root and the fatness of the olive tree.”  Tied into the natural tree, as the farmer of an orchard would add branches through the process of grafting, they too would produce spiritual fruit.

The Gentiles believers were always to remember “thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.”  The ones that were broken off were done so because of “unbelief.”  Those who are now grafted in are done so by faith.  Ethnicity didn’t cause the loss of the promise – unbelief did.  Ethnicity didn’t compel the gain of the promise – faith did.  Everything hinges on whether one believes or not.

Living a life of faith through Jesus Christ will gain one a future with God.  Hebrews 11:6 tells us beyond a shadow of a doubt that you cannot please God without faith.  The feet of faith walk forward believing God is, “and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him,” (Hebrews 11:6).  Faith in its highest form removes all worldly shackles.  Ethnicity, background, and prestige all fall away in the eyes of our Savior whose only view is that of an opened heart filled with belief.

Obtaining the promise of being grafted in is directly related to one’s “faith.”  A mind of humility and godly “fear” is to be had as opposed to boastfulness when one realizes the goodness of God.

Romans 11:22-24 “Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.  And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again.  For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree?”

God’s “goodness” has now allowed access to those who formerly had none, and in His “severity” He has cut off some of those who were formerly allowed access from the promise.

Again, everything hinges on belief and unbelief.  Those who believe will experience the goodness of God and those who refuse Him, His severity.

The Bible says, “Good and upright is the LORD,” (Psalm 25:8).  It tells us, “For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations,” (Psalm 100:5).  Over and over again we read of His goodness.  God wants to bless people.  He wants to see them thrive in the spirit, drawing nearer and nearer to Him.  Only the feet of faith will walk one there.

Unbelief is delusional and a robber of the goodness of God.  It separates one from where He wants them to be and through their lack of faith, they experience His severity (cut off).

How much are people missing out due to their lack of faith?  Apparently, a lot.  An eternal promise lies in the balance and faith is the key to enter.  “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith,” (1 John 5:4; emphasis mine).

“If thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.”  Initial faith is not enough.  One must continue in the faith to continue experiencing the goodness of God or else they too would be subject to losing out on the promise; being “cut off.”

The warning for the Gentile Christians is to take heed the path they walk lest they end up in the same destination as those Jewish people whose rejection of Christ led them away from the promise.  “Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away . . .” (John 15:2) – Jew or Gentile.

“God is able to graff them in again.”  If the Jewish heart that was once unbelieving has now turned to Him in faith, God is able to restore that branch back to the tree.  Their relationship with God can be healed.  God has not totally washed His hands of His chosen people, as some believe.  Any heart that turns to Him, Jews included, God, can bring back into His promise.  God specializes in restoration, healing relationships with Him “again.”

“For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree?”  By nature’s law one of one’s “own” is more easily and readily grafted in than a wild one, or one who doesn’t originally belong.

Some packs of animals carry a specific scent for their particular pack.  One who does not bear the same scent would have a harder time being accepted into the pack.  We see a similar example in the human body with organ transplants.  It is so wonderful that God has allowed science to take on such a procedure, but parts that are trying to be incorporated in could suffer rejection because they were not naturally a part of that particular body.

If Gentiles, who were not of the natural olive tree (who weren’t originally God’s chosen people; who didn’t have God’s ordinances and such) can be grafted in – how much easier for the Jews who hearts have been turned to a life of faith (those who bore the markings of the natural)?

Conclusion

God welcomes all to partake of His promises – Jew and Gentile alike.  He can graft any believing heart into the family of God when they operate with a heart of faith.

PDF Printable Sunday School Lesson Pack (With easy to read instructions following the P.E.A.R.L. format on how to conduct each lesson with areas for adding personal notes):  Sunday School Lesson – Grafted in by Faith

Suggested Activities:

“How to Graft a Fruit Tree Video”

Adult Journal Page:  Adult Journal Page – Grafted in by Faith

Kid’s Journal Page: Kid’s Journal Page – Grafted in by Faith

Word Search: Grafted in by Faith Word Seach Answers: Grafted in by Faith Word Search Answers

Crossword: Grafted in by Faith Crossword Answers: Grafted in by Faith Crossword Answers

Word Scramble: Grafted in by Faith Word Scramble Answers: Grafted in by Faith Word Scramble Answers

Draw the Scene: Grafted in by Faith Draw the Scene

Memory Verse: Grafted in by Faith Memory Verse

How Many Words: Grafted in by Faith How Many Words

From previous lessons, but can be applied here as being grafted in as a child of God or in the family of God:

“I Am a Child of Faith” Necklace Craft: I Am a Child of Faith Necklace Craft (Use this PDF for accurate printing) Simply have the student draw their portrait on the necklace, bead any way they want and there you go.  Enjoy!

Coloring Sheet: Not the Same but Loved by God Coloring Sheet

“The Family of God Activities” from Sermons4kids.com(Including group activities such as “Available Grace to All” and “Child of God Headband.”)  Enjoy!

“Adopted into God’s family” from Ministry-To-Children