Sabbath School Lesson for July 6-12, 2019
Here are some of the things we can learn from the blueprint God established in Old Testament times to bring about a better world:
- God is a god who hears the cries of His people. (Sunday)
- The Ten Commandments are the core principles of living for God’s people. (Monday)
- In addition to the Ten Commandments, God gave Israel many laws to prevent oppression of slaves, widows, the fatherless, and foreigners. (Tuesday)
- Generous offerings, in addition to the tithe, were encouraged to alleviate the plight of the poor. (Wednesday)
- The year of the jubilee was established to prevent unequal distribution of wealth. (Thursday)
God did more than just work with patriarchs like Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. His purpose was, through them, to reach the masses of people who were not living godly lives. Paganism was a cruel, unmerciful system under which to live. The people deserved better than the emotional and physical pain and suffering that its followers endured.
By the time Moses came on the scene, God had a blueprint to deliver a group of slaves, which would have prepared them to be the god-fearing nation that was promised to Abraham.
Had they kept the covenant agreements, as set forth in the commandments of God, the outcome for God’s special people would have been much different.
Key Text: “ ‘You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.’ “ Leviticus 19:18 NKJV
A key tenet of God’s government is to love other people. It wasn’t just their idolatrous practices, which negated their love for God, but it was their oppressive, heartless behavior and attitudes toward their fellowman that caused them to break God’s covenant and be lost as a nation.
Sunday: The God Who Hears
Almost all of us have experienced heartbreaking events that propel us into thinking that God isn’t there when we need Him. We can’t help but wonder if He is really listening to our pleas for intervention and assistance. What does it take to get His attention? How much grief and torture are we expected to endure on this wayward planet, that seems to be spiraling downward at a bone-shattering pace?
The Hebrews in Egypt had been suffering tremendous oppression from their Egyptian neighbors for generations, having been in the land of Goshen for four hundred years, (Genesis 15:13). Many of the pyramids and other phenomenal structures that took multitudes of back-breaking slave work were there because of the oppression of slaves like the Hebrews, who had settled there since the time of Joseph (Exodus 1:11).
God eventually appeared to Moses, a quiet, unimpressive shepherd at the time, in a burning bush. A bush on fire that curiously was not consumed. God told Moses that he was to be part of a plan to free His people.
God had been listening, caring, and was about to act on their pleas for help. But God didn’t stop there. He also had a plan for a better land for them, a land of milk and honey. And in addition, they were told that before they left they would be compensated for their years of hard labor (Exodus 3:21).
Who would have thought that God would intervene in such a miraculous way…but evidently we can’t out-plan God. He knows the beginning from the end, and just asks us to trust Him to put it all right in the end.
It was God’s desire that this ragtag multitude of uneducated slaves would become a model society that would impress and save the nations around them. If only they had continued to follow His instructions, they would have fulfilled their mission, and sin would not have had such a long, tight hold on earth’s citizens.
Even so, without this intervention, there would not have been the small, faithful remnant there was in Israel at the time of Jesus’ birth (such as the parents of John the Baptist, Mary and Joseph, and others).
Read Exodus 2:23-25, 3:7, and Psalm 103:6. Why does God hear all who oppressed, not just the righteous?
Read Exodus 3:21, 22 and Exodus 36:3, 7. For what use was the plunder made when they left Egypt? What does this tell us about the gift offerings we make to the Lord? Where does it come from and to whom does it really belong?
Read Exodus 4:31. What should God’s blessing cause us to do?
Monday: The Ten Commandments
Adam and Eve knew the commandments of God consisted of love for God and for each other. It offered the only way to a happy existence in the Garden of Eden.
But slavery and hateful oppression had so masked what that love looked like that God expounded on its description when He gave the ten commandments to Moses on Mt. Sinai. The Hebrews needed this simple formula of ten basic rules to survive as a nation that would remain faithful to God.
Exodus 20 makes clear the nature of true love. But we often don’t appreciate the comprehensiveness of its tenets. Jesus came to further explain the love contained in the commandments. These rules are not simply to limit our activities, but to encompass our thoughts, motivations, and feelings as well. To make us better people.
Jesus summarized the first and last commandments, which summarize the other eight. These are seen as the “bookends”, the first and last of the ten commandments. Consider the first commandment: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” is basically our love for God. And the last commandment: “Thou shalt not covet…” is likewise needed to enable us to love our fellowman.
Read Matthew 22:36-40 and Galatians 5:14. What is similar about Jesus’ first and last commandments and the one Paul mentions? Why is how we treat others the real test of our love for God?
Read Matthew 5:21-22. Why is anger (a feeling) just as dangerous as murder?
Read Exodus 20:15. What kind of activities are included in this prohibition against theft? How might incorrectly handling our finances become a form of theft?
Tuesday: Slaves, Widows, Fatherless, Foreigners
God had a good idea who the marginalized populations were in the time of Moses. People on the outside fringes of what respectable society deemed acceptable were often isolated, leaving them with lifelong impoverishment and shame.
Unfortunately, today finds us with even more people being marginalized. Inequality is growing tremendously difficult to endure for most of the world’s population. But God continues to offer hope and counsel for this problem, if only we would listen.
The laws given to the Hebrews were presented to them even before they received instructions to build a sanctuary. Such as rules about slavery, those who had committed violent crimes, how to protect one’s property, and even rules that allowed the poor to obtain free food by gleaning crops. Had these principles been followed, much of the sufferings of the poor would have been eradicated, or at least kept to a minimum.
Read Exodus 23:9 and Hebrews 13:2. How did God appeal to the Hebrews, when telling them not to oppress foreigners? What additional counsel are we given that informs us that God intended for more than just not oppressing strangers, but in actually providing them assistance?
Read Exodus 22:21-23. Who else in our culture today might be considered marginalized as the groups mentioned in these verses?
Read James 1:27. How big a part does caring for the marginalized have in our Christian walk?
Wednesday: Second Tithing
Hebrews 7:1, 2 is specific about the amount that should constitute our tithe, in case someone is still unclear with the fact that it is one-tenth of our income. That amount is said to belong to God, not to us, to directly support His ministry. Malachi 3:8 even calls it robbery to not return that amount to God.
Think of that “bookend” commandment, the first one about not having any other gods before our Creator God. Returning tithe lets God know that we truly worship Him only, and it contributes to our being able to carry out the next three commandments about how to worship Him.
Now let’s think of that other “bookend”. What does it tell us about our covetousness and love for others, if we aren’t willing to support those less fortunate than ourselves? This is why offerings, even amounting to another ten percent (a second tithe), if God has so blessed us, should not be considered too much.
Malachi claimed that the Israelites were robbing God “in tithes AND offerings” (Malachi 3:8). Many times, even conscientious tithepayers leave that second part out of our thinking and forget our obligations to help “the least of these”, not only financially, but with our actual hands-on assistance, when practical. Both are “robbing God”.
What more can we do as individuals, and as church families, to relieve the suffering of those in our local communities and in lands far away? This practice of giving will guarantee that we not only show our love for God in returning ten percent, but we show our love for others by being generous with our offerings.
Read Deuteronomy 26:12. How can churches today also establish designated times to give back to their community? Why is this important?
Read Deuteronomy 26: 8-11 and 2 Corinthians 9:7. Why is it important to rejoice and give with a cheerful heart?
Read Deuteronomy 15:11 and Matthew 26:11. Why will there always be poor people on earth to help, no matter how much we give? Why should this not deter us from helping when and however we can?
Thursday: The Year of Jubilee
Understanding the sinful nature of man, God established many regulations and practices that were designed to lessen the impact of social inequality for His people.
Following Moses’ death, under God’s direction, Joshua oversaw the orderly distribution of the land of Canaan to the tribes of Israel. Over time, however, property would be sold and bought when the need arose, and God knew that eventually, due to man’s greed, the wealth would be left to a few, leaving most in less desirable financial conditions, or even poverty.
To offset this occurrence, God gave them sabbatical years (every seven years) and the year of Jubilee (every fiftieth year), to help correct the situation of social oppression, which has always proved to be a real challenge for God’s people.
God’s concern for the future needs of the poor in ancient Israel only emphasizes His desire to oversee the needs of the less fortunate today. He still depends on the generous hearts of Christians to reduce the effects of oppression felt in most parts of our world.
Read Exodus 19:5 and Leviticus 25:23. Why does God still claim ownership of the land? If not owners, then what is man’s role when it comes to the land (our environment)?
Read Leviticus 25:3, 4 and Deuteronomy 15:1, 5. How would a sabbatical year such as this benefit the nation of Israel?
Read Deuteronomy 15:7, 8, 11 and Luke 10:36, 37. Who is our neighbor, and who is our brother? How does this relate to how we treat foreigners and immigrants, either within or without the borders of our country? What special problems does this hold for the complicated circumstances in today’s world?
God’s intention to help the poor and needy, and His laws and regulations that would make that happen for Israel, would not only benefit the lower classes. The practice of benevolence, consistent and generous giving, is particularly uplifting to the giver as well.
Any time we help those who are sick, or facing any kind of life challenge, both we and the recipient reap valuable spiritual blessings and are drawn closer to each other and our lovely Redeemer. It’s the best and probably the only way to develop the kind, loving, hospitable character that God’s people must have to make it to the Promised Land called Heaven.
But before you think that any kind of giving is good for us, keep in mind the three kinds of givers that someone has identified. (I’m thinking it must have been the pastor of a church somewhere, sometime.)
People generally fall into one of these categories when it comes to giving:
- the flint–you must beat it with a hammer, and then only get flying chips and sparks
- the sponge–the more you squeeze the more it gives
- the honeycomb–you don’t have to do anything to it; the sweetness just oozes out naturally
How much sweeter would our world be if there were more “honeycomb givers” in our churches today?
Next Week’s Lesson: Sabbath, a Day of Freedom
To read the Sabbath School Lesson Quarterly or see more resources for its study, go to https://www.absg.adventist.org/
Other Outlook blogposts by Teresa Thompson, are at http://outlookmag.org/author/teresathompson/