International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday June 24, 2012
Purpose: To explain that as recipients of God's love, we are to be fair, act justly, and love others
Scripture Text: Deuteronomy 10:12-22; 16:18-20 (NRSV)
(12)So now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you? Only to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, (13)and to keep the commandments of the LORD your God and his decrees that I am commanding you today, for your own well-being. (14)Although heaven and the heaven of heavens belong to the LORD your God, the earth with all that is in it, (15)yet the LORD set his heart in love on your ancestors alone and chose you, their descendants after them, out of all the peoples, as it is today. (16)Circumcise, then, the foreskin of your heart, and do not be stubborn any longer. (17)For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, (18)who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. (19)You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. (20)You shall fear the LORD your God; him alone you shall worship; to him you shall hold fast, and by his name you shall swear. (21)He is your praise; he is your God, who has done for you these great and awesome things that your own eyes have seen. (22)Your ancestors went down to Egypt seventy persons; and now the LORD your God has made you as numerous as the stars in heaven.
Deuteronomy 16: 18-20
(18)You shall appoint judges and officials throughout your tribes, in all your towns that the Lord your God is giving you, and they shall render just decisions for the people. (19)You must not distort justice; you must not show partiality; and you must not accept bribes, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of those who are in the right. (20)Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, so that you may live and occupy the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
The history of God's people evolves from a place where paradise existed to a place where man thought himself equal to God. After years of searching God found in Abraham a willing servant that would open his heart and in obedience learn to love, fear and obey the Lord of lords. Through Abraham God had found a way to offer a chance for humankind to be restored to a relationship similar to what existed in the Garden of Eden.
God had taken 70 descendants of Abraham in the family of Jacob/Israel and multiplied them into a multitude that He would lead out of slavery into a land of freedom, but the freedom would come only if there was obedience to the commandments and fear of an almighty God, and a willingness to obey the laws that were imparted, they then would see how much God had loved them. They would also learn that God's love was not limited to them, but that God's love flowed to all humankind.
After wandering in the dessert for forty years they were about to settle a land given to them by God, not just because He loved them, but because He loved all of humankind and was going to use them to bring about a new type of world, where love, respect, and obedience would reign. Also through His people He would send a Son, a Messiah, which would offer salvation to everyone that was willing to fear, love, and obey.
In God's world there are some limitations. Freedom for all can only exist where there is both obedience and justice, and there is a mutual respect and love for all of humankind. God was aware that communities and tribes would need an order for justice to be administered. God seeks justice for orphans, widows and strangers along with those that have achieved wealth and power.
Verse 13 of our text says it best, “(13)and to keep the commandments of the LORD your God and his decrees that I am commanding you today, for your own well-being.”
Most of us can look back on our youth and be thankful that our parents taught us to fear traffic, hot stoves, running with scissors and other perils we faced on a daily basis. Now we know it was for our own good but at the time we wanted to rebel against authority and wondered where was the love in not getting our way. Eventually we learned our parents were not acting out of cruelty or some power grab, but they were acting out of love. So it is with God, it is because He loves us that He requires obedience, and He wants us to both fear and respect Him. God delivers justice and justice condemns unbelief and disobedience. Because of God's love for all of us He gives us every opportunity to obey His laws and to seek Him with a circumcised heart, one that has been committed to Him and set apart for Him and shares in His love for all of us. A circumcised heart is part of the covenant that God has made with us.