Sabbath School Lesson for October 14-20, 2023

In light of the violent conflict in the Middle East this week, and our need personally to continue promoting God’s mission of peace for this world, you might want to read my Outlook blog:

Overview of Lesson 3, God’s Call to Mission

Memory Text: “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” Acts 1:8 NKJV

What to expect from this week’s study:

  • Sunday: Moving Beyond Our Comfort Zone–making a name for themselves at the Tower of Babel (God “scattered” them)
  • Monday: Becoming a Blessing to the Whole World–Abraham’s mission to leave and go to another country
  • Tuesday: Abraham’s Call–Abraham’s mistakes did not keep God from using him
  • Wednesday: The Early Church and Comfort Zones–persecution scattered the early church believers
  • Thursday: Starting From Where You Are–moving out systematically to reach the whole world
  • Friday: Our Challenge–how we can join in God’s mission

God’s original plan for Adam and Eve has never changed. They were to take care of the earth, be caretakers of the natural beauty all around them. Also, they were told to be fruitful and multiply, to fill the world with people (Genesis 1:26-28).

How God’s intentions would be fulfilled changed when our first parents made the unfortunate choice to be unfaithful to God. However, God’s wish for them to scatter and fill the earth has become even more vital in making the plan of redemption available to all God’s children. With the threat of our environment crumbling, making it more difficult to support the life of its creatures, we are also beginning to find this aspect of God’s mission calling for more attention.

Even when men and women made mistakes and His mission was on the brink of failure, God intervened with drastic actions and made more urgent pleas for them to once again take the challenge to do seemingly impossible things. The basic elements of mission were all still there. He just clarified and amplified it from time to time to fit the context of man’s ever-changing needs.

Sunday: Moving Beyond Our Comfort Zone

The attempt to build a tower in Babel, so soon after the Flood, did not turn out to be a wise choice for those involved. They had obviously departed from God’s humble way to conduct themselves. Pride and ambitious selfishness overcame them, leading to a disastrous result.

How often we experience the same desire to “make a name for ourselves” (Genesis 11:4). We have an innate sense of wanting to shine brighter than those around us. In order to accomplish this, people have a tendency to associate only with groups of people who are like themselves.

God’s answer to this selfish, narrow point of view was to confuse their languages as they were building the tower. This forced them to separate, to leave their zones of comfort and scatter across the earth. Just as Adam and Eve had been told to do at the beginning.

It was a drastic intervention, to be sure, but this ill-advised attempt to build a tower demanded God’s miraculous hand to right the ship, so to speak, to keep it from sinking.

Bible Verses:

Genesis 11:1-9

  • What was wrong with their building the Tower of Babel like they were doing?
  • Why did God have to miraculously intervene and stop their plan?
  • How did God’s intervention help the situation?

Genesis 9:14, 15

  • How might God’s promise not to destroy the world by flood again have a part in their decision to build a tower?
  • What did it show about how far they had drifted away from God?

Monday: Becoming a Blessing to the Whole World

From Adam and Eve, on down through the ages, God kept repeating His promise to send Someone (a Seed, they were told in Genesis 3:15) who would save them from Satan’s rule. To others were revealed that a Star would come out of Jacob (Numbers 24:17), the Prince of Peace would come (Isaiah 9:6), the Messiah (Daniel 9:24-27), and He would be called Jesus (Matthew 1:21).

Abraham, one of those first patriarchs, was told to leave his country and extended family and go where God would lead him. From one of his descendants would come the Promised One. Isaac, born through Sarah, and then his son, Jacob, became heirs of the blessing given to Abraham (Hebrews 11:9).

The same faith that caused Abraham to obey and go wherever God sent him should inspire us to go to faraway places, if that is where we are called. Like Abraham, our trust in God will make us a blessing, wherever we are sent.

Bible Verses:

Genesis 3:15, 17:19, Numbers 24:17, Isaiah 9:6, Daniel 9:25, 26, and Matthew 1:21

  • Why did God keep repeating His promise to send a Redeemer to save them?

Hebrews 11:8, 9

  • What was particularly noteworthy about Abraham’s faith?
  • How does Abraham’s faith still inspire us to go where God leads?
  • How can you be a blessing where you are right now?

Tuesday: Abraham’s Call

It soon became apparent that the place where Abram (later called Abraham) was sent was not the kind of place he would want to be. The pagan Canaanites, who resided there, were a cruel, violent people, making those with Abraham feel unsafe and vulnerable. And yet, God told Abram that He would at some point give him the land, as an encouragement to stay (Genesis 12:7).

But then, a large famine swept the land, and Abram felt it necessary to remove his followers to Egypt, in hopes of preventing their starvation. Abraham’s trust was again tested in Egypt when he made the mistake of concealing Sarah’s identity as his wife. This lie, as it turned out, endangered their safety even more, especially Sarah’s, who was taken forcefully to be one of the wives of Pharaoh.

Despite Abraham’s grievous errors, God intervened and allowed Sarah to return to Abraham’s apologetic arms. It was a miraculous rescue, to be sure. Read about it in Genesis 12:10-13:1. It is fortunate we have this episode recorded. It provides us with comforting reassurance that God can continue to use us for His mission, even when our faith is lacking and we make foolish mistakes.

Bible Verses:

Genesis 12:10-13:1

  • What lessons do you most appreciate from this story of Abram’s eventful stay in Egypt?
  • What part does faith have in this story? How is it related to obedience?

Wednesday: The Early Church and Comfort Zones

After Jesus’ death and resurrection, His disciples, still in Jerusalem, began to feel the pangs of persecution (Acts 8:1-4). Most of the Jews were committed to silence their claims of Jesus being the Messiah, causing the disciples to live in fear of arrest or even death, with Stephen being the first Christian martyr.

But this persecution, by Saul and others, became the means of pushing the followers of Jesus out of Jerusalem into other regions, where they preached the good news to Jewish congregations north of Jerusalem–in Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch (Acts 11:19).

The miraculous conversion of Saul, the well-known persecutor later known as the apostle Paul, became the means of another push out of their comfort zone. Paul left the comfortable worship in Jewish synagogues and began to preach to Gentile audiences (Galatians 2:8). Once again, the early church was pulled out of the familiar into the broader ministry of reaching those outside the Jewish faith.

Bible Verses:

Acts 8:1-4, 11:19

  • How did this scattering of the persecuted become a means of fulfilling God’s mission?

Galatians 2:8, 11, 12

  • What made Peter a hypocrite?
  • Why was it so important that the Jews start preaching to the Gentiles? How did it affect their changing Christian values?

Thursday: Starting From Where You Are

Acts 1:8 is our memory text this week. It brings us some vital advice on how to spread the gospel. Jesus told them to start at home and branch out from there. But sometimes overlooked is the timing. Their witnessing must happen AFTER they receive the Holy Spirit. Otherwise, their success would be superficial and temporary. They needed God’s Spirit, most of all, before moving to other fields of service.

We must give God the credit for providing the power needed to accomplish His mission. Our methods will be worthless without the Spirit telling us where to go and what to say. Only from our Spirit-driven, converted hearts will we be able to assist in converting others.

Jesus’ last instruction did prove to be effective, as the disciples, starting at Jerusalem, found themselves fleeing to other places as persecution increased. The persecution that was meant to stop their efforts only made their ministry and characters grow stronger.

Bible Verses:

Acts 1:8

  • Even though it makes sense to minister to those closest to us, who we know the best because they are like us, why is it important to also reach out to people groups who are unlike us?

Friday: Our Weekly Mission Challenge

Identify and make a list of people groups with special needs in your community, whom the church has not made efforts to reach.

Begin praying for an opportunity in the near future to become engaged in mission to people with special needs.

For discussion: What are some  possible special needs that may be explored, as you search in your community for people who may need special help from the church? Why is it important to include them in your mission?

Next Week: Sharing God’s Mission

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