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Assurance and Joy for the Faithful
Summer Quarter: Toward a New Creation
Unit 1: Judgment and Salvation
Sunday school lesson for the week of June 19, 2016
By Rev. V.L. Daughtery, Jr.
Lesson Scripture: Zephaniah 3:9-14
Background Scripture: Genesis 1:1-2:3; Zephaniah 3:9-20
A powerful teaching sermon on Christian perfection concluded with a question, “Will any present who are perfect please stand?” There was no movement in the pews. “Does anyone know an individual who is perfect?” A former widow who had married a widower rose to her feet. “Who is this model of perfection?” inquired the minister. “My husband’s first wife,” she replied. Perfection in doing God’s will is often desired but not obtained.
In reading the story of creation again for the third lesson, readers are reminded of God’s intentional will for the world. Humans designed with the image of their creator and free will choose to bring sin and disobedience to God’s will into their lives. God will, however, intrude and offer humans an opportunity to cease their rebellion and return to him with a new melody in their praise and obedience in worship.
Read aloud Genesis 1:1-2:3
Into chaos, God brings order through light. This mighty act is a vivid illustration of God’s power to offer redemption to all situations needing his reconstruction and restoration. Out of the void, the creator also assigns a preeminent place to humans.
God shares his image and authority by allowing humans the desire and ability to name things (1:5-10). All that God has created has the inherent drive to produce and reproduce (1:11-13). Sun and moon give separation to day and night (1:14-19). Nature reflects the will of its creator by participating in acts of creativity (1:20-25). Humans are placed in the creation by the personal mighty act of God (1:26-31). These humans are to rule over all living things, but they are, in turn, to be ruled by the one who made them.
In the conclusion of the creation, God’s evaluation is that it has all been done as he intended. It is all very good. (1:26-31). According to God’s will, chaos, confusion, and darkness are gone. Order now prevails, and humans have been commissioned to enjoy and maintain all that God has created.
One thing remains. In his joy, God sanctifies the seventh day of the creative process to be a day of rest. He intends for humans to follow his example (2:1-3). Later, it is Jesus who recognizes the proper need and use of this holy day (Mark 2:27-28).
Can God’s original plan for humans ever return? A grandmother was mailing a Bible to her granddaughter soldier who had been recently assigned by the military to a war zone. “Is their anything breakable in this package?” asked the counter clerk. “Nothing but the will of God and the Ten Commandments,” responded the sender.
Read aloud Zephaniah 3:9-20
Zephaniah’s ministry takes place about 630 B.C. during the reign of Josiah (640-609 B.C.). The prophet is believed to be of royal heritage. He proclaims doom for Judah in adopting varied pagan religious worship. God will also extend his judgment to other nations. Comfort and consolation will, however, be given to those who wait and serve God with one accord.
God has the will and the power to make clean all the impurities created by the denial of his will. Beyond judgment, there can be reconciliation and restoration. There will be an adoption of Hebrew as one universal language. All the nations will know and be able to use the same words to call upon God. Worship of false gods will cease. The God of creation will be worshipped.
Universal conversation of nations will extend from Jerusalem and Judah to beyond the then-known world: the rivers of Ethiopia. Acknowledgement of the God who created humans will motivate these new followers to present their offerings to no other gods. Attitudes of God’s people have been made pure. Repentance and commitment have moved Judah and Jerusalem to do God’s will.
Salvation will be made available to a faithful remnant. Divine judgment has removed pride, idolatry, and skepticism. The faithful who remain are committed to God. They are the survivors of the “Day of the Lord.” For the remnant, there are assurances and joy of God’s approval. They can exist unafraid. The remnant is able to engage in celebration and songs.
In the absence of national threats, and with the abiding assurance of God to his restored people, Judah and Jerusalem are invited to celebrate. God will rejoice, feel their gladness, and renew them in his love. This same God who made humans will remove disasters, deal with oppressors, save the lame, and gather those labeled as outcasts. This God who holds his people accountable declares that if they do his will, they will become known and praised among all the earth’s inhabitants.
Reflections to be discussed from Zephaniah 3:9-14; 3:20
Rev. V.L. Daughtery, Jr. is a retired South Georgia pastor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- There will come a time when all nations and persons will be together in worshipping, living, and doing the will of God on earth as it is done in heaven.
- God never gives up on nations and persons who rebel and deny his will and purpose for them. Judgment is promised, but seeking love always follows the prodigal into the pigpen and whispers the address of home.
- Past sin, rebellion, indifference, and apathy toward God can be overcome by God’s cleansing. Such an act cannot take place unless worship is authentic, faith is undefiled, and a life is righteous.