Sabbath School Lesson for October 23-29, 2021

See Teresa’s “extra” this week…

Overview of Lesson 5

Deuteronomy has some valuable insights into how we can love the stranger in our gates. We consider them by seeking an answer to these questions:

  • Sunday: What does it mean to have an “uncircumcised heart”?
  • Monday: How can we “love the stranger” the way God does?
  • Tuesday: When were we “a stranger”?
  • Wednesday: How does fighting for human rights show our love for the stranger?
  • Thursday: What is the highest expression of our love for God through the law?

Last week we concentrated on the greatest commandment. Jesus replied to a lawyer’s question about this by quoting Deuteronomy 6:5. We are told to love the Lord our God supremely–with all our heart, soul, and strength.

But Jesus didn’t end there. He went on to say in Mark 12:31, “And, the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” He was quoting Leviticus 19:18, also from the writings of Moses. Of course, these two commandments are alike because they both speak of love. Paul would agree that “love is the greatest” virtue (1 Corinthians 13:13).

Memory Text: ” ‘Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.’ ” Deuteronomy 10:19 NKJV

We’ve all been strangers at some point in our lives, before God provided a way for us to escape the bondage of sin. As a matter of fact, we continue to be strangers on this earth, strangers and pilgrims (Hebrews 11:13), in search of a better land, a heavenly one.

We are not to treat the stranger as we’ve been treated, but as we would LIKE to be treated. Doing this is fulfilling the gospel of love.

Sunday: Circumcise Your Hearts

In chapters 9 and 10 of Deuteronomy, Moses told the story of the rebellion of the Israelites that took place while God was giving the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai. Moses was so angry and upset with their idolatrous, licentious behavior that he threw down and broke the tablets with the Ten Commandments.

After another forty days and nights of prayer, Moses sought forgiveness for himself and the people and was finally blessed to have God re-write the Law on stone tablets again. The Law was too important for their salvation to deny them this key to loving God and each other.

Part of the covenant established with Abraham and his descendants included circumcision of males, a tangible reminder to trust God in providing the Messiah through their bloodline. However, Moses emphasized that this outward sign of faith must be accompanied by the inward sign of love in their hearts. They would continue in that love by circumcising their hearts, by cutting out sin and instead showing love to God and others (Deuteronomy 10:16).

Every one of God’s followers must have this inward circumcision of the heart. We must stop, or cut out, being “stiff-necked”, as Moses called their stubbornness. David understood this inward change well. He declares in Psalm 51:6, “Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, and in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.” NKJV

Bible Verses to Read and Discuss:

Deuteronomy 10:14-16

  • For what reasons are we encouraged to circumcise our hearts?
  • What does it mean to be “stiff-necked”?

Monday: Love the Stranger

Moses finished chapter 10 with many reasons why we should love strangers. First of all, God made and owns everything and everyone (Psalm 24:1). Therefore, He loves the stranger. So to be like God, we must also love everyone. Besides, we are all strangers and should easily be able to identify with them. See Deuteronomy 10:17-19.

Moses included in this plea to love the stranger some exact ways this should be done. We should show impartiality and honesty in all our dealings. We can show justice by providing food and clothing to those who are needy, seeing that they get their fair share of God’s material blessings (Deuteronomy 10:17, 18). It’s our moral duty to show love by supporting those who are marginalized in society, those who suffer most from the negative impact sin has had on our world.

The covenant obligations, and certainly our keeping the commandments, must include efforts to help those less fortunate than ourselves. It doesn’t matter what color their skin, or nationality or culture they come from. We should treat strangers mercifully, both in thought and action.

Bible Verses to Read and Discuss:

Deuteronomy 10:17-19 and Psalm 68:5

  • How is God described, and how can we be more like Him?

Tuesday: For You Were Strangers in Egypt

Most people are familiar with the “Golden Rule”, which states that we are to treat others as we would like to be treated. Almost all people, however, think that this Rule originated with Jesus.

Although it does come from Him, since God and Jesus are the same (John 10:30), the Rule existed long before Jesus lived on earth. Leviticus 19:18 clearly states that “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Many cultures and religions have thankfully adopted this principle.

The Golden Rule seems especially hard when we apply it to strangers in our land, to anyone who appears different from the culture we were born into. And yet, Moses emphatically mentioned that strangers should be treated fairly and even given special provision when needed. Any who are marginalized in society, who suffer deprivation of any kind, should be the recipient of our compassion and care.

Moses repeatedly pointed out their own stranger status, their people having been held in slavery in Egypt for so many years. The dramatic story of their escape from slavery is a symbol, or type, of our redemption and salvation from sin.

As they approached and established a nation for God in Canaan, they were to remember what it was like to be a stranger. Whenever possible, they were to allow strangers to join them in following God.

Human rights was a subject of concern for God’s people. They were to treat the widow, orphans, and the stranger with the same kindness and fairness they would want for themselves. It was God’s desire for this compassionate treatment to be a witness of God’s true character of love to the surrounding nations, and eventually the world.

Bible Verses to Read and Discuss:

Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 22:39, and John 13:35

  • What is the purpose of our caring for the stranger?

Matthew 25:40

  • How does this impact how we treat others?

Wednesday: Judge Righteously

Jesus talked about judging in the Sermon on the Mount. He told His listeners that they were not to judge (Matthew 7:1). But He then continued that theme by pointing out their faulty methods of justice.

Moses was also concerned with the lack of judicial integrity. It was always his intent for them to have a justice system that would serve all  people fairly. He recommended that they judge righteously. Not just between a man and his brother, but also when it involved a stranger. See Deuteronomy 1:15-17.

No matter what country or culture, no matter what historical period, we’ve seen that the marginalized, the weak and poor, especially those of a minority population, are not treated fairly by those in authority, or even by the common citizen.

We must always try to improve this situation by remembering to be kind, honest, and giving to those less fortunate. Having all the right forms of worship and the correct understanding of biblical truth will not win souls to God if we are mistreating or neglecting those around us. Judging righteously must include helping them in tangible ways.

Bible Verses to Read and Discuss:

Deuteronomy 1:16, 17, 16:19, 24:17

  • What are some of the ways that justice is perverted today?

Thursday: Pure Religion Before God

Some are surprised to learn what pure and undefiled religion is (James 1:27). Keeping the commandments in the most conscientious way first comes to mind when we want to be undefiled.

But to James, religion’s purity must also come from actively serving people who are struggling to survive. People like widows and orphans were particularly in need back then, but we can add many to that list of needy individuals today. Visitation is nice, of course, but our visits would hopefully be used as an opportunity to assess and fulfill the needs of those we visit.

James went on to say in chapter 2 how they were showing partiality, or favoritism, even in their worship services. We naturally tend to gravitate to people who are wealthy or famous, but this should never be done to the exclusion of others who may be struggling with challenges the same or unlike our own.

We are reminded in James 2:5 that the poor of this world are often rich in faith, and all who love God are heirs of His kingdom. This awareness should inform our religious choices, making us more likely to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Bible Verses to Read and Discuss:

James 1:27

  • How does this one verse sum up James’ first chapter, and even sum up what religion as a whole should look like?

Friday: Final Thoughts

Loving our neighbor isn’t necessarily difficult, especially when our neighbor is someone with like interests with whom we share a mutual respect. But it becomes more complicated when our neighbor is decidedly different from us. Can we truly love someone whose ways and culture are the opposite of our own? Loving someone, who not only looks different, but behaves in a way that is foreign to us, may not be as easy.

Jesus always led the way in showing us how to love our neighbor, even ones who were less desirable to associate with. He made friends with tax collectors and prostitutes, with the poor and destitute, the disabled. All these were on Jesus’ friend list.

But to move our love dial up a notch, we must also consider our obligation to love our enemies, people who are decidedly against us and may even do us harm. Jesus dealt with those individuals too–the priests and scribes who were plotting His murder.

He was firm with His enemies, but not threatening. He didn’t purposely engage with them, but He didn’t avoid them either when they came to question and entrap Him. His answers and warnings were always spoken with a heart of love. He always showed love, even to His enemies. On the cross, He fervently asked God to forgive those who didn’t know what they were doing.

What a rich depth of love God has for each of us, which inspires and enables us to love all those “strangers in our gates”.

Next Week: For What Nation Is There So Great?

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