Sabbath School Lesson for July 9-15, 2022

Overview for Lesson 3

While there are many kinds of crucibles, this week we focused on those that bring us maturity, that help us grow closer to God. We examine how crucibles relate to…

  • the Red Sea experience–miracles are possible– (Sunday)
  • the former slaves in Egypt, thirsting in the desert–the same trials may happen more than once (Monday)
  • Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness–yes, God can lead us to them (Tuesday)
  • Peter’s advice to persecuted new Christians–they happen to the best of us (Wednesday)
  • present-day trials and the promises we can claim for them–help comes in many forms (Thursday)

This week’s title “The Birdcage” can be understood by knowing how a captured bird can be taught to sing most beautifully. In the light of day, with so many other competing sounds to hear, the bird is hampered in being able to learn the most beautiful song its owner wants it to sing. Covering the cage, the bird can be taught by listening and mimicking the sounds of music in the dark.

We, too, can find our most beautiful song by listening to God in the darkness of trials that sometimes envelope us. What a sweet melody of faith we have to share, because of our darkest moments.

Memory Text: “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials.” 1 Peter 1:6 NKJV

New Living Translation: So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while.”

Sunday: To the Promised Land via a Dead End (Exodus 14)

Even though a pillar of cloud was guiding the Israelites out of Egypt, they were astounded and confused when they reached the banks of the Red Sea. And yet, this was where God had instructed Moses to set up camp. Pharaoh and his army of chariots were pursuing them rapidly; and when it became apparent they were just on the other side of the cloud, panic set it and God’s children rose up against Moses, questioning his divine leadership. See Exodus 14.

It was only then that God could prove His powerful might, and deliver them from Pharaoh’s clutches entirely. Following Moses, the vast throng walked through the waters of the Red Sea, as if on dry ground (Hebrews 11:29). God was able to deliver them, when they showed faith and obeyed His commands.

We, also, experience at times a place where we didn’t expect to be in life. In a divorce court, a hospital following a car crash, or even in a jail cell awaiting trial. These unexpected circumstances may seem like dead ends, leading us nowhere but to more pain and suffering. But God has the capacity to see us through these seemingly impossible situations. Our faith can grow when it has the opportunity to be exercised in crucibles of all kinds. Even the ones that feel like dead ends, leading to death.

Discussion Questions:

Exodus 14:18, 30, 31

  • Who besides the Israelites were shown God’s power when the Red Sea swallowed up Pharaoh’s army?
  • How were they changed by the event?
  • Who else might grow and benefit from our own troubles and sorrows?

Monday: Bitter Waters (Exodus 15:22-27 and 17:1-7)

Jesus promised that those who hunger and thirst after righteousness shall be filled (Matthew 5:6). After escaping slavery, the Hebrew children were shown miracles that involved water. They passed between two massive walls of water, known as the Red Sea, but after just three days of traveling they found themselves in a desert without water to sustain them.

When water was found, they discovered that it was bitter and undrinkable. They complained about the situation until Moses was told by God to throw a stick in the bitter waters, which miraculously made it sweet and useful to them. God Himself called it a test. See Exodus 15:22-27.

After the manna was provided to satisfy their hunger, another trial involving water came to them. They ran out of water completely, and instead of praying about it, the people again complained to Moses. This time we are told they were testing God’s presence. Was He there for them or not? Of course, God mercifully provided for them again, when Moses was told by God to strike a rock, and water poured out of it for them. See Exodus 17:1-7.

From these episodes of faith (or lack of it), we learn that God may send us multiple trials and miracles, until we are convinced of His power and presence in our lives. He doesn’t expect us to always learn the first time. Instead God patiently sends us crucibles as needed for our developing spiritual maturity.

Discussion Questions:

Exodus 15:25 and 17:7

  • How were God and the people tested in these situations?
  • What lessons should they have learned from these trials, and why did the experience need to be repeated?

Tuesday: The Great Controversy in the Desert (Luke 4:1-13)

The great controversy between Christ and Satan was visibly displayed right after Jesus’ baptism. We are told that God’s Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted there by His adversary (Luke 4:1).

It was the perfect place for a showdown. The isolation and desolation in the environment of a desert allowed Jesus to prepare spiritually through prayer communion with His Father before the assaults came. His response to the temptations endeared Him to the Father even more and gave Him added strength for His life of ministry.

There are times when we question God’s leading–when the path to our destination becomes full of rocks and thorns, like a desert. We not only wonder if God has abandoned us, but if He was even with us from the start. How do we end up in such a blistering environment, when our very survival is in question.

Sadly, God’s path is often one of suffering. Our crucibles have the capacity to make or break us. We can know that God is with us and is leading us, however, even when we are most pounded with crucibles. Jesus’ example becomes the guiding star out of our most difficult trials. His victory over temptation can be ours.

Discussion Questions:

Luke 4:1-13

  • What lessons are there for us in Christ’s temptations in the wilderness?

Wednesday: An Endearing Legacy (1 Peter 1:6-9)

The recipients of Peter’s first epistle, as he addressed them in 1 Peter 1:1, 2, were “pilgrims of the Dispersion”. They were new Christian believers, living in what is now west Turkey. Peter called them the “elect”.

He tried to encourage his readers, as they had fled from persecutions and probably were still enduring undue hardship in their new surroundings. He reminded them of the peace and happiness that would always be theirs, as they continued to have faith in their Lord and Savior.

Their “testing by fire” would be temporary, but would result in genuine faith that would ultimately lead to praise, honor, and glory for God’s Son. Their testimony would live on through those who would be blessed by their examples of courage, despite heavy crucibles. See 1 Peter 1:6-9.

Peter wanted them to know that their continuing trials were not chaotic, and did not happen randomly. They had the purpose of being an enduring legacy for all those who came after them.

Discussion Questions:

1 Peter 1:1, 2

  • Why do even the “elect” suffer in this life?

1 Peter 1:6, 7

  • Why do we rejoice when we have trials?
  • What does this rejoicing look like?

1 Peter 1:8, 9

  • What does faith have to do with our ability to rejoice in our crucible?

Thursday: Trial by Fire

There are many ways to survive our crucibles, or trials by fire. We can recall times when God’s help has been needed in the past…

  1. through Bible stories, like Daniel’s friends being thrown in the fiery furnace,
  2. through the experiences of other pioneers of faith in books we read or even friends and family we know personally
  3. through our own life story, those trials that have already touched us in the past

Two other survival tools would be prayer and trusting in God’s promises that are scattered all through His word. We are told that God will not forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6), to trust in the Lord (Proverbs 3:5), to search for Him with all our heart (Jeremiah 29:13), that with God all things will work together for good (Romans 8:28), that His grace is sufficient for us (2 Corinthians 12:9), and that we should be content with what we have available to us (Hebrews 13:5).

All these things will enable us not give up on God and His will for our life, even if it includes unimaginable pain and suffering. God’s own dear Son has paved the way for us to survive any and all crucibles.

Discussion Questions:

Hebrews 13:5

  • What are some of the things we have to survive trials, and why should we be content with them?

Friday: Final Thoughts

The ending of John the Baptist’s life is a perfect example of the kind of trials that we can expect, if we are faithful servants of God. He was imprisoned, tried, and executed for no other reason than proclaiming the Messiah’s birth. The way he conducted himself during his crucible, even questioning whether Jesus was there for him, gives us insight into the kinds of painful episodes we might expect in life and how they can transform us.

These crucibles of maturity, you might call them, have the capacity to make us grow, not just as individuals, but as families and communities. Salvation is not just a theoretical construct. It can actually be experienced when we are called upon to fight these real battles in the great cosmic conflict between God and Satan.

Crucibles provide us with the best opportunity to sing of Jesus’ love and understand for ourselves all He’s done to save us…

Next Week: Seeing the Goldsmith’s Face

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