International Sunday School Lesson for November 19, 2017
To pursue peace and express gratitude for the gift of God’s unshakeable kingdom through Jesus
Background: Hebrews 12:14-15, 18-29; Psalm 66
Hebrews 12:14-15, 18-29 (CEB)
14 Pursue the goal of peace along with everyone— and holiness as well, because no one will see the Lord without it. 15 Make sure that no one misses out on God’s grace. Make sure that no root of bitterness grows up that might cause trouble and pollute many people.. . .
18 You haven’t drawn near to something that can be touched: a burning fire, darkness, shadow, a whirlwind, 19 a blast of a trumpet, and a sound of words that made the ones who heard it beg that there wouldn’t be one more word. 20 They couldn’t stand the command, If even a wild animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned. 21The sight was so frightening that Moses said, “I’m terrified and shaking!”
22 But you have drawn near to Mount Zion, the city of the living God, heavenly Jerusalem, to countless angels in a festival gathering, 23 to the assembly of God’s firstborn children who are registered in heaven, to God the judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous who have been made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks better than Abel’s blood.
25 See to it that you don’t resist the one who is speaking. If the people didn’t escape when they refused to listen to the one who warned them on earth, how will we escape if we reject the one who is warning from heaven? 26 His voice shook the earth then, but now he has made a promise: Still once more I will shake not only the earth but heaven also. 27 The words “still once more” reveal the removal of what is shaken—the things that are part of this creation—so that what isn’t shaken will remain. 28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that can’t be shaken, let’s continue to express our gratitude. With this gratitude, let’s serve in a way that is pleasing to God with respect and awe, 29 because our God really is a consuming fire.
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that can’t be shaken, let’s continue to express our gratitude. With this gratitude, let’s serve in a way that is pleasing to God with respect and awe, because our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:28-29)
This is our next to last lesson on covenants. Today’s lesson hits very close to home for a lot us us. Our nation, our churches and even are families have become divided. I think the question is can peace and holiness survive together in today’s world?
I am reminded of a quote from John Wesley “Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may. Herein all the children of God may unite, notwithstanding these smaller differences.”
Today our Christianity is challenged, regardless of which political leanings we choose to follow. The questions seem to be is peace more important than holiness? Or can you have true holiness without peace? I have never experience a chasm so deep as what we find today. Christianity, Evangelical, and Progressive have all become unacceptable words for a lot of Americans.
Any church that calls themselves Evangelical, is considered a fringe belief outside of true Christianity. Likewise anyone calling themselves Progressives is considered outside of any serious belief in Christianity.
The writer of Hebrews faced a similar problem in 60-70 A.D.. No one is certain of the writer of Hebrews, but most believer he/she may have been more of a preacher rather than writer. Most also believe the target of the letter or sermons were those house churches in Rome. And the struggles may have come from those converted Jews and the Gentiles that also believed. This dynamic created friction in practice and teachings.
The first two verses of today’s lesson addresses the problem. Just as those in Rome could not allow a division, neither can we. Our love for each other should not be determined by our political or doctrinal belief. We are called to love one another. Today families are fractured, and we have allowed it to remove the love we are to have for one another.
From the beginning there was a problem with disagreement between brothers, Cain and Abel were jealous, and it led to murder. Abel became the first sacrifice, interestingly Jewish teachings have Abel and Christ being sacrificed on the same day. Abel’s blood, shed by Cain, cried out for vindication (Genesis 4:10). The same day (14th of Nisan) that Jesus shed his blood on the cross is traditionally held by the Jews as the day Abel was slain (as well as the day of Passover).
Like Cain and Abel we can choose how we worship, but only one way was acceptable to God. Cain chose to do his own thing, which we would call the way of the world.
Our lesson looks back at Mount Sinai, and the rules God put forth for that meeting between God and Moses. Disobedience was a death penalty even for the animals that touched the mountain. Thankfully, it then looks forward to a mediator that is acceptable to God, and that is Jesus. Even the priest in Moses day could not make themselves righteous enough to approach God face to face. God appeared in many different ways all of which frightened them to death and they begged not hear God or see God for fear of death.
Then the author reminded the people that if they willfully resisted the voice of God they would no less suffer the consequences that the Israelites in the wilderness suffered when they disobeyed that voice. The same voice that proclaimed from an earthly hill (Sinai) counseled them from the heavenly Zion to consider the danger of faithlessness.
We have a new covenant with God, through a sacrifice He can accept, His Son Jesus.
The final verses of our lesson tells us this: 28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that can’t be shaken, let’s continue to express our gratitude. With this gratitude, let’s serve in a way that is pleasing to God with respect and awe, 29 because our God really is a consuming fire.
My hymn for this week is “Our God is an Awesome God.”