- “You shall not take vengeance.” The opening words of this week’s lesson include a command to love our neighbors, even the ones who don’t agree with us. What would life be like if everybody who followed Jesus was eager to share God’s love with others? Was that the purpose God had in mind when He raised up a holy nation several thousand years ago? What has gone wrong? Can all that is wrong be corrected?
- The God who hears. Four hundred years living in slavery. Four hundred years with an unfulfilled promise of freedom. And then…a bush burns in the wilderness. What is God saying to His people through the burning bush? Looking back, who had benefited from four centuries of slavery and harsh treatment? Why didn’t God pay attention to His people suffering as they did generation after generation? Or did He? Did He offer the Israelite nation peace and wealth and comfort in the years to come? As we wait with baited breath for the final fulfillment of God’s promise of redemption, how can we know that God hears us even as He heard His children in their days of suffering?
- The Ten Commandments. How often do you study the ten commandments in depth? Or do you simply glance at commandments like the one that says “thou shalt not murder” and assure yourself that yes, you surely keep that one because you’ve never murdered anyone? What else should be involved in the fulfillment of that commandment? What about the commands that warn us not to steal, not to bow down to carved images, not to take God’s name in vain and the others? How can our thoughts of revenge or anger show we are not keeping God’s commandments to the extent that He longs for us to follow? What can we as Christians do to seal our commitment to God’s law and keep every commandment as God intends?
- Slaves, widows, fatherless, foreigners. What do the Ten Commandments have to do with the multitudes of people who are excluded from the benefits we can enjoy from carefully following all of them? “Detailed instructions” followed the giving of the Ten Commandments. Why do you think these commands and rituals were initiated and preserved for God’s people? Talk about some of these commands with the aim of connecting them to daily life. How does God want us to deal with unfortunate people around us? Why is our treatment of the less fortunate so important in our Christian life? What can you do to support the sharing of food, clothing, comfort and safety with those around us who are in great need?
- Second tithing. Do all persons who belong to the church you attend return an honest tithe to God’s storehouse, the church? Do you need to know this before you plan your own tithing and church support? What about giving a “second tithe”? Is there a special blessing in store for those who double their tithing to provide more support to the church? The principle of giving to help others in need has been established through the centuries. Can even the member who has very little income still return tithe to God’s church? A second tithe? How does God show His approval of generous giving by His people?
- The year of jubilee. Even a fast read of the Old Testament tells of the value land ownership has had to God’s people. What do you think of the plan in the nation of a “year of jubilee” every fiftieth year? What happened to debts and mortgages in that year? What difference would such a policy make in our financial living today? How carefully were the requirements for a year of jubilee carried out by the Israelite people? Since we don’t follow the principle of the year of jubilee in this time, should we remove from our spending plan all consideration for those who are in financial distress? What can we do to help people suffering from financial hardship? What is our reward for generosity and caring?