Monday, August 17, 2009

God Calls for Obedience- Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Week Ending August 23, 2009

Purpose: To respond wholeheartedly to God's covenant love by faithfully obeying God's law and teaching it to others.

Scripture Text: Deuteronomy 6:1-9, 20-24 (NRSV)

Deuteronomy 6:1-9, 20-24
(1)Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the ordinances—that the Lord your God charged me to teach you to observe in the land that you are about to cross into and occupy, (2) so that you and your children and your children’s children may fear the Lord your God all the days of your life, and keep all his decrees and his commandments that I am commanding you, so that your days may be long. (3)Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe them diligently, so that it may go well with you, and so that you may multiply greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has promised you.

(4) Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. (5)You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. (6)Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. (7)Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. (8)Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, (9)and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

(20) When your children ask you in time to come, ‘What is the meaning of the decrees and the statutes and the ordinances that the Lord our God has commanded you?’ (21) Then you shall say to your children, ‘We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. (22)The Lord displayed before our eyes great and awesome signs and wonders against Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his household. (23)He brought us out from there in order to bring us in, to give us the land that he promised on oath to our ancestors. (24)Then the Lord commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our lasting good, so as to keep us alive, as is now the case.

My Thoughts by Burgess Walter

I would like to begin by talking briefly about the “Purpose” statement. The point that should be made is: (1) The response God desires from us is faithful obedience, and (2) we must pass the Christian way of life on to others.

Our text for this lesson includes what the Jew's call “The Shema”. Shema is the Hebrew word for “hear”, which is the initial word of the commandment found in verses 4 & 5. We have come to know this passage as the “Great Commandment” referred to by Jesus in Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:30, and Luke 10:27.

The nation of Israel was called as a nation to a life of total commitment, but, if you study the words “you” and “your” found in the commandment, you will find they are singular, in other words, this commandment was addressed to each member of the community. Each of us is called to respond to God's command. Martin Luther once wrote, “Everyone must do his own believing just as everyone must do his own dying.” The three words at the end “heart”, “soul” and “might” imply a “whole-being” with a total devotion to the Lord. The “love” that God speaks of is not an emotion, but rather an action. In the context of a covenant, love is shown by faithful obedience to God's revealed will.

I think it is worth noting the order of our intentional review and remembrance found in verses 7-9. The first priority is the instruction of our children. Devotion to God begins in the home. Then we are to establish visible reminders, and then to personal responsibility and behavior. The doorpost would represent our home and the gates would represent our work or business life, or where we meet the community.

Verse 20-24 offers a hypothetical question that children will ask, and the proper response that should come from the parents. The liberation of Israel from Egypt was not an end to itself, but rather a means to the achievement of God's plan for the salvation of the nations. John F. Kennedy said, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” Without gratitude, a vital relationship with God is reduced to religious obligation, a life lived under those conditions can end in bitterness and cynicism. God wants grateful followers not obligated followers, if we have been transformed by God's kindness, “In that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” Our responsibility to live grateful lives means we do not live for ourselves, but for others. This community of people that God was trying to teach and train was for the rest of the world to see the one true God and Him alone.

Is your relationship with God rooted in obligation, or does it flow out of gratitude? What sort of person do I need to become in order to live a life of faithful obedience?

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