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The Consequences of Disobedience
Summer Quarter: Toward a New Creation
Unit 1: Judgment and Salvation
Sunday school lesson for the week of June 12, 2016
By Rev. V.L. Daughtery, Jr.
Lesson Scripture: Zephaniah 3:6-8
Background Scripture: Genesis 1:1 – 2:3; Zephaniah 3:1-8
: In a class of 5-year-olds, one was using crayons. “Van, what is your drawing?” asked the teacher. “I am painting a picture of God,” he responded. “But God is a spirit, and no one knows what God looks like,” said the instructor. “They will when I finish,” replied the confident lad.
In the creation story of today’s lesson, there is a portrait of God. The outstanding features of God are his mouth and his eyes. By God’s mouth, everything is created. In God’s sight, the results are all good.
Read aloud Genesis 1:1-23
The first activity of God is to provide light. On the fourth day, sources of light are brought into existence. Variety and abundance are the results of omnipotent desire, design, and purpose. All is a symbol of God’s redemptive will on behalf of all he makes.
Into paradise God introduces man and woman made in his own image. The creatures are to have dominion over what has been made. God has given to humans a share of his own authority. Humans are to be stewards of all God has brought into existence.
On the seventh day, God rested. The Hebrew word for rested is “Shabbat.” From this word comes the name for the Christian’s day of rest. In the Jewish community, “Shabbat” begins at sunset on Friday and is observed until sunset on Saturday. These hours are consecrated to God in remembrance of God’s rest.
Cycles of work and rest with worship on the Sabbath are God’s will for his creation. Interruption of this process causes abuse of stewardship of the world. Humans’ forgetting the Sabbath leads to a stagnation of the human image of God.
Two children were discussing what they wanted to become as adults. One said, “I think I will be a clergyperson.” “Why?” asked the other. “It has been my observation ministers work three to four hours on Sunday. I like the hours.”
To do God’s will require more than a few hours a week. Failure to rest and worship lead to negative consequences.
Read aloud Zephaniah 3:1-8
Failure in doing God’s will (3:1-5)
The prophet Zephaniah gives an analysis of the city of Jerusalem in the middle of the seventh-century B.C. In no way does this metropolis resemble the garden created by God in Genesis.
Zephaniah’s indictment describes a community: wicked, impure, unjust, and refusing to listen to any call of God. The ruling class in Jerusalem was indifferent to God. They take advantage of their fellow citizens. Charges include rebellion, pollution, oppression, being obstinate, and violation of trust, and irreligious. Even priests are guilty of sacrilege and not keeping the laws of God. Officials have become roaring lions, and judges are wolves on the prowl. Those who claim to be God’s prophets are extravagant and men without faith. The Lord entrusts persons with leadership in order to do his will. Persons in Jerusalem are living and leading contrary to God’s will.
These horrible conditions are in contrast to the Lord who is present within the city. The Lord in his righteousness does no wrong. His control over nature is displayed with each day’s rising sun. God can be depended upon in all relationships with humans. Justice is administered in the mornings, and it never fails.
Failure to respond to correction (3:6-7)
God is not a visiting tourist to Jerusalem. He is within the city. Citizens of Jerusalem are reminded of what God has done to other nations. They have been cut off. Their fortifications are in ruin, and their streets are desolate. Surely Jerusalem and Judah will be moved to make corrections by this evidence of what has happened in other places. Instead the sinful deeds of Jerusalem became worse. The people will not learn from observance of others or from the prophet Zephaniah.
An apocryphal story tells of a new minister called to a church who had proclaimed the same sermon from the same text for six Sundays. Church leaders met with the young clergyperson and asked if he could use a different Bible verse and a fresh sermon. “Indeed I can,” he responded. “When the congregation starts doing what my current message is requesting.” It is easier to look for a new message than to change.
Not changing brings punishment (3:8)
God has attempted in many ways to motivate the people of Jerusalem to change. Their refusal will bring about universal judgment. Judah and Jerusalem will share the fate of other nations who have become enemies of God. Divine judgment will be universal. There is finality to this “Day of the Lord.” Zephaniah’s plea should have brought an end to wickedness and brought recovery. Judgment will bring an end to Judah, Jerusalem, and all in rebellion against God.
Reflections to be discussed from Zephaniah 3:1-8
a. For every word about sin, punishment, and disobedience there should be five words about the love of God. We are to repent and love with a stronger encouragement than sins’ destructive power.
b. What are some of the actions surrounding us we feel are displeasing to God?
Rev. V.L. Daughtery, Jr. is a retired South Georgia pastor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.