Sabbath School Lesson for February 21-27, 2015
Pilate asked Jesus the universal question, “What is truth?” This agent of the Roman empire, who held a high administrative office in Jerusalem, was clueless about truth, when the Truth was right before Him.
Do God’s truths apply to everyone? Certainly everyone has an inherent desire to know truth, which implies that our Creator instilled within us a thirst for truth. Would He give us that desire if there were no universal truth within our grasp?
Solomon attempts to plug us into some universal truths in the chapters of Proverbs this week: the last half of chapter 22, and chapters 23 and 24. There are some things that we should avoid and other things that we should seek to include in our lives, no matter what our ethnicity or religion.
Key Text: “Have I not written to you excellent things of counsels and knowledge, that I may make you know the certainty of the words of truth, that you may answer words of truth to those who send to you?” Proverbs 22:20, 21. NKJV
Other cultures, including the Egyptians, had proverbs or wise sayings. Solomon may have revised some of these, giving them a Hebrew perspective. But that’s O.K. It shows that God has an interest in making all of us wise. His truth isn’t just for a few privileged Israelites. Some of God’s truths have infiltrated most every nation, tribe, and people.
But what about us? Is our truth better or more excellent than others? How certain are we of the truths we believe? There is obviously much more on this topic of truth than meets the eye, but this week we will uncover some truths that can safely be shared with all those in our sphere of influence.
Sunday: The Knowledge of Truth
Proverbs 22:17-21 is a pivotal passage in showing us how we acquire truth and what we should do once we get it.
- “Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise [be earnest and concentrate!],
- And apply your heart to my knowledge [don’t just hear it; do it!];
- For it is a pleasant thing if you keep them within you; Let them all be fixed on your lips, [memorize this truth; make it a part of you;” Proverbs 22:17-18 NKJV
The rest of the passage reveals what the experience of knowing the truth does for us.
- It strengthens our trust in God. (“So that your trust may be in the Lord; I have instructed you today, even you.” v. 19 NKJV)
- It increases the conviction of our beliefs. (“That I may make you know the certainty of the words of truth,…” v. 21 NKJV)
- It shows us our responsibility. (“…That you may answer words of truth To those who send to you?” v. 21 NKJV)
Discussion Questions: Proverbs 22:18 talks about keeping the truth “within you”. In what ways could this assimilation be compared to our digestive system?
What are some ways to make truth a part of us?
What should we do if we are missing either trust, conviction, or a sense of responsibility from our belief system? Is it possible to be weak in one of these and still “know” the truth?
Monday: Robbing the Poor
Perhaps one universal truth that can be proclaimed around the world is the necessity of taking care of the poor and oppressed. The extent to which this is accomplished is a telling indicator of a nation’s present and future prosperity and safety.
But also, as individuals, we need to be aware that oppressing OR neglecting the poor is the same as robbing God. If we help God by helping the poor, then just as surely, we neglect and rob from God when we don’t take care of those in need.
The Bible says we rob God when we don’t return to Him a tenth of our income, called tithe. But Malachi 3:8 says we rob Him in tithes AND offerings. One tenth of our income is to be used for the support of the ministry, but holding back in our offerings to aid the needy with our remaining 90% is also robbing God.
King David recognized his sin of robbing God by killing Uriah in order to marry his wife. Nathan’s parable really struck home and opened David’s eyes, not only to his stealing Bathsheba from Uriah, but to the despicable cowardly act that it really was. See II Samuel 12:1-15.
Solomon was very forthright on this issue:
“Do not rob the poor because he is poor, Nor oppress the afflicted at the gate; For the Lord will plead their cause, And plunder the soul of those who plunder them.” Proverbs 22:22, 23 NKJV
Discussion Questions: Read Proverbs 23: 10, 11, noting the mention of Redeemer here. Also read Job 19:25 and discuss if Solomon’s mention of Redeemer might allude to the Second Coming. Is this when God will stand up for the poor and downtrodden? And why is He waiting for this event? Is there no justice in the meantime?
Some atheists in England once got city buses to carry the slogan, “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” Discuss your response to this declaration.
Tuesday: Being Jealous of the Wicked
Sometimes we don’t recognize jealous feelings of the wicked, mainly because the wicked seem to be prospering, and of course, we can’t help but feel somewhat envious of the luxurious lifestyles of the rich and famous.
If we’d just stop and consider the delusion of this apparent wealth though, we’d be hesitant to daydream about winning the lottery or finding a long-lost uncle’s generous inheritance check in the mail. So often the immediate pleasure is not worth the long-term consequences of sin that often result.
Here’s how Solomon advises us about our natural desire for the “good life”:
- “Do not be envious of evil men, Nor desire to be with them; For their heart devises violence, And their lips talk of troublemaking.” Proverbs 24:1, 2 NKJV
- “Do not fret because of evildoers, Nor be envious of the wicked; For there will be no prospect for the evil man; The lamp of the wicked will be put out.” Proverbs 24:19, 20 NKJV
- “Do not let your heart envy sinners, But be zealous for the fear of the Lord all the day;” Proverbs 23:17 NKJV
These verses reveal:
- the violence and trouble that result from not being righteous (24:2),
- the final punishment of death for evildoers (24:20),
- and the way to stay away from them is to know and love God (23:17).
Discussion Questions: Read Ephesians 5:20. How could this verse be used to keep from being jealous of the wicked?
In connection with this verse, is it possible to thank God for a life of poverty? What Bible characters can you think of who suffered materially? Were they always thankful?
Does poverty or wealth determine our standing with God? Is it possible to stay close to God, no matter what our economic standing may be?
Wednesday: What We Put in Our Mouths
According to Proverbs 23, it is very important what we put in our mouths. Of course, the last part of the chapter is often referred to as a warning about the dangers of alcohol, but we need to pay attention to the first part of the chapter as well. Here we address appetite in general, eating AND drinking, so it seems that everyone has a duty to guard whatever comes into our bodies.
Let’s look at the drinking first. Back in chapter 20:1 wine, or strong drink, was called a mocker and something that leads us astray. In chapter 23:29-35 we get a fuller picture of the effects of many substances that numb our senses and becloud our judgment. And it is not a pretty picture.
Going back to the first part of the chapter, verses 1-8, we are led to understand our vulnerabilities more completely. It talks about a man given to appetite, enjoying, to his own destruction, the delicacies of what is called “deceitful meat” or “deceptive food”.
“Do not desire his [a ruler’s] delicacies, For they are deceptive food.” Proverbs 23:3 NKJV
Unfortunately much of what we see in our grocery stores today could be classified as “delicacies”, food that has been processed so extensively by man that it hardly deserves the title of food. Consumers are just becoming aware of the harmful effects and addictive nature of these alterations by the food industry and we see evidence everywhere of attempts to make food more healthy for our bodies.
Discussion Questions: Describe the dreadful results of substance abuse as you’ve seen it in someone you know or have known personally. What does this kind of life do to families and to the individual?
Is it our moral obligation to be an example to others and abstain from harmful substances, including both food and drink?
How can we live as healthy a lifestyle as we can, and not be perceived as judgmental by those around us?
Thursday: Our Responsibilities
Proverbs 24 gives us many hints at what our responsibilities are in relation to others.
- “Deliver those who are drawn toward death, And hold back those stumbling to the slaughter.” v. 17 NKJV
- “…It is not good to show partiality in judgment.” v. 23 NKJV
- “But those who rebuke the wicked will have delight, And a good blessing will come upon them.” v. 25 NKJV
- “Do not be a witness against your neighbor without cause…” v. 28 NKJV
Ezekiel may have had Solomon’s wise words in mind when he relayed this message from God:
“When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you shall surely die!’ and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand.” Ezekiel 33:8 NKJV
Truly our silence when it comes to sharing our wisdom, or our knowledge about a crime, can make us an accomplice of that wicked act, and we share the guilt and punishment for it. What solemn responsibility we hold in imparting the wisdom we have been blessed with. We should not take our duties lightly.
Discussion Questions: Read Ezekiel 33:9 and explain the limitations of our warning to the wicked.
What other limitations might there be concerning our spiritual responsibility to others? Are we all equipped in the same way to impart truth?
Certainly we can’t always go back into our past and rectify situations where our witness could have made a difference, but how can we feel less guilty about our past mistakes, and more mindful (not fearful) about our witnessing responsibilities in the future?
Some universal truths that apply to everyone were uncovered this week. God’s wisdom includes:
- Knowing the truth (by searching for it, applying it, and sharing it)
- Helping those less fortunate (not neglecting or oppressing the poor)
- Not coveting or desiring to be like immoral people (no matter how they may seem to be prospering)
- Keeping a watch on what we put in our bodies (taking care of our health)
- Caring enough about others to warn them when they are doing wrong
Consider what your role might be in fighting the evils of the world, such as hunger, war, injustice, and racism. What part can one person play in these large areas?
Study the lives of people who have made a great contribution to the world: Nelson Mandela, Helen Keller, Gandhi, Mother Teresa. Enlarge this list, recognizing that even one person can make a difference.
Obviously God can use any of us for His purposes. Pray that He will use you this week in some capacity that will make a difference to someone, somewhere.
Next Week: Behind the Mask
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