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June 5 lesson: The Day of the Lord

May 23, 2016
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The Day of the Lord

Summer Quarter: Toward a New Creation
Unit 1: Judgment and Salvation

Sunday school lesson for the week of June 5, 2016
By Rev. V.L. Daughtery, Jr.

Lesson Scripture: Zephaniah 1:4-6; 1:14-16; 2:3-4
Background Scripture: Genesis 1:1-2:3

Introduction: During the westward migration on the American frontier, the Methodist circuit rider was an accompanying companion. Approaching a homesteader plowing new land, the visiting horseman said: 

“Brother, are you ready for the ‘Day of the Lord?’” 

“When is it going to be?” replied the man.

“It could be today, tomorrow, or the next day,” answered the clergyperson.

“Well,” said the pioneer, “Don’t tell my family, because they will want to go all three days, and they are needed here to plant crops.”

Many humans do not want to be present for “The Day of the Lord.”

Read aloud Genesis 1:1-2:4

God, the source of all that is good, intended his creation to be a reflection of his own being. This new world is to be populated with humans. In each of these new beings, God places a divine image of himself. That inner gift remains unsatisfied unless it maintains a connection with the creator. 

The creation account in Genesis illustrates that God’s authority maintains order. The name “genesis” means “origin” or “beginning.” In the powerful descriptive language of Genesis, a portrait is painted of the origin of humans and the universe. The Scripture for this lesson is a theological report in answer to the question, “Why?” The writer of Genesis never intended to present a scientific study on “How?” A reader is told the origin of humans and the negative decisions they made leading to sin. Such human rebellion creates a desperate need for salvation. God’s intentional will has been marred by human sin. God’s ultimate will can be accomplished in human history only by God’s intrusion into the world. This dynamic mighty act of God is “The Day of the Lord.”

God feels good about his creation (Genesis 1:31). The creator calls for a day of rest after six days of creativity. The seventh day will be a period of holy rest. This act is intended to be a pattern humans are expected to follow. 

Yet, humans in this paradise disobey, deny, rebel, and sin. Their forgetfulness becomes a historical repetitive human lifestyle. Those embracing evil need to be confronted and judged. The faithful, who are longing for deliverance, need to be restored. God’s remedy is a mighty act of entering his creation by “The Day of the Lord.”

God’s intrusion will provide a new genesis. On this occasion, God will judge sin, punish evil practitioners, claim the faithful, and provide a new creation. The people of God will be cleansed of injustice, immorality, and worship of false gods. Such a “Day of the Lord” will be God’s perfecting a new creation. To announce God’s entrance into the quagmire of human sin requires a courageous prophet. Zephaniah and Peter Cartwright are examples. 

The fiery and combative Peter Cartwright was a Methodist circuit rider of a bygone century.  Upon arrival for a preaching appointment, the evangelist was told that President Andrew Jackson would be in the congregation. Cartwright was admonished by his host to be sensitive in his remarks. The preacher than began with a powerful declaration. 

“Andrew Jackson will go to hell if he doesn’t repent.” Old Hickory was confronted by “The Day of the Lord.” So are we in today’s lesson. 

Read aloud Zephaniah 1:4-6, 1:14-16; 2:3. 

In religious art this prophet is shown walking the streets of Jerusalem with a lamp in his hand. He is looking for those faithful to God who will be saved on “The Day of the Lord.” Do the words written 2,646 years ago have relevance to a time of computers, satellites, and smartphones? Indeed they do! 

Zephaniah preached in the period 638-609 B C. It was the invasion of the Scythians that awakened Zephaniah’s call to be a prophet. He thought that Scythians were the announcers of God’s judgment. Words of woe and judgment are delivered by Zephaniah to Judah, Jerusalem, and other nations. God is a jealous God. He will not allow practices from pagan religions to adulterate the faith of his people. Zephaniah has a bill of indictment. Foreign garments are being worn. People have adopted the pagan practice of leaping over thresholds (I Samuel 5:1-5). Violence and fraud are common. 

To address these sinful conditions, God will appear in “The Day of the Lord.” Punishment will be administered to officials and princes. Jerusalem will be searched by a lamplight. God will show that he is not complacent in his attitude about good and evil. “The Day of the Lord” is at hand. It will be, for some, a terrible experience. Yet in this atmosphere of hopelessness comes the possibility of relief. There are requirements to escape this tribulation. Persons must join together (2:1), and they must seek the Lord (2:3). God will hide the faithful on the day of his appearing. 

Reflections to be discussed from Zephaniah 1:4-6; 1:14-16; 2:3-4
a.    God has an ultimate plan for all he has created. That plan is for his will to be done on earth and in each human as his will is done in heaven.
b.    God holds all humans accountable. Each will be required to account for life and service.
c.    Sin may attack, thwart, and delay God for a time.  All the forces of sin, however, ultimately will be defeated by God’s will. 

Rev. V.L. Daughtery, Jr. is a retired South Georgia pastor. Contact him at vl_daughteryjr@mchsi.com

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