Monday, June 6, 2011

“God Has Expectations” Adult Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday June 12, 2011

Purpose: To recognize how much our ultimate success in life depends upon faithful obedience to God and God's laws

Scripture Text: Joshua 1:7-16

Joshua 1:7-16 (NRSV)
(7)Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to act in accordance with all the law that my servant Moses commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, so that you may be successful wherever you go. (8)This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to act in accordance with all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall be successful. (9)I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

(10)Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people, (11)“Pass through the camp, and command the people: ‘Prepare your provisions; for in three days you are to cross over the Jordan, to go in to take possession of the land that the LORD your God gives you to possess.’” (12)To the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh Joshua said,(13)“Remember the word that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, saying, ‘The LORD your God is providing you a place of rest, and will give you this land.’ (14)Your wives, your little ones, and your livestock shall remain in the land that Moses gave you beyond the Jordan. But all the warriors among you shall cross over armed before your kindred and shall help them, (15)until the LORD gives rest to your kindred as well as to you, and they too take possession of the land that the LORD your God is giving them. Then you shall return to your own land and take possession of it, the land that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you beyond the Jordan to the east.”

(16)They answered Joshua: “All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go.

My Thoughts by Burgess Walter

In today's lesson and especially in our “Purpose” statement the word “success” is used. Success is a popular word used to motivate in our culture, it is often associated with wealth, power, prestige and things. However, you will notice none of these things are mentioned in our text. Success for Joshua and God's people simply means fulfillment of God's mission.

Two other words used in today's lesson are “strong and courageous.” I am reminded of a famous quote by the late John Wooden, former basketball coach at UCLA. “Success is never final, failure is never fatal, it's courage alone the counts.” Courage and strength are critical in our life of faith. It is what puts legs to our beliefs. Another word which we could use for courageous and strong is commitment, Peter F. Drucker, the political economist and author said, “Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes; but no plans". In today's text we see God's plan carried out by Joshua's commitment.

So how was Joshua instructed by God to be successful? Verses 7 and 8 tell us that God's instructions were to study the Law as dictated by God to Moses and don't deviate from that. The instructions given by God indicated a high degree of study and discerning and sharing God's laws, and trusting God and believing all that God promised He could fulfill. Notice how swiftly Joshua went to work following God's instructions.

Some clarification is required to understand verses 10-15. The camp was set to cross over the Jordan River, and take possession of the “Promised Land.” However it should be noted that the tribes of Reuben, Gad and half-tribe of Manasseh, had already settled in land east of the Jordan River which was given to them by Moses. (Deuteronomy 3:12-20)

Manasseh was one of the sons of Joseph, Ephraim was the other, they were adopted by Jacob just prior to his death, so Joseph did not receive an inheritance but his two sons were each given a ½ share, and since the sons of Levi were distributed amongst all the other tribes they received no land of their own, so with the other 10 sons of Jacob and the 2 sons of Joseph, the total tribes dividing the land God had promised was 12.

The conditional promise made with Reuben, Gad and Manasseh was their warriors would have to help take possession of the land west of the Jordan, and once that was accomplished they could return to farm the land previously given to them that was east of the Jordan River. The response in verse 16 shows their wiliness to accept both God and Joshua's leadership. They understood what God had said and what he had promised.

Way back in the Book of Genesis chapter 3, there are some haunting words when the serpent asks Eve, “Did God really say......?" That was a conversation about God, not a conversation with God. So often today we read the Old Testament stories and God's law as dictated to Moses and instead of accepting it as God's word, we allow the serpent to rephrase it into. Did God really say......? Joshua was successful because he understood the difference between talking about God and talking to God. He listen and believed and did not deviate, his commitment was rewarded with success; that means God's will was accomplished.

It does take strength and courage as well as study, to follow God's commandments and His law of love as given by His Incarnate Word, (Jesus) but, our reward is seeing God's will accomplished on earth as it is in heaven. That is God's expectation for His church.

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