Dr. Mark Scott wrote this treatment of the International Sunday School Lesson. Scott teaches preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College, Joplin, Missouri. This lesson treatment is published in the May 2020 issue of Christian Standard + The Lookout. (Subscribe to our print edition.)
Application: ‘The Natural Response to Being Loved,” by David Faust
Lesson Aim: Because he loves you, love him with all your heart!
By Mark Scott
It is hard to improve the lyrics in the hymn “The Love of God” when verse 3 says,
Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made;
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.
It is equally hard to improve the selected texts for today in their emphasis on the reality that God’s people are truly his “beloved ones.” God’s love brought Israel back from her banishment in distant lands. God’s love brought Israel near by making his revelation so available to her. God’s love brought Israel through their rebellion and sin to make good on his covenant.
God’s Love Brought Israel Back | Deuteronomy 30:4-6
Moses was concluding his sermons to Israel on the plains of Moab before God’s people crossed over to the Promised Land. He reminded them yet again that if they just returned to God upon the occasions of their unfaithfulness, God would bring them home. Even if God had banished (cast out) them to the most distant land (what the Leviticus text called the land of their enemies), he would gather (assemble) them and bring them back. No place under the heavens is beyond the reach of the love of God.
God would make good on his promise to bring Israel back to the land that belonged to their ancestors. In the Leviticus text, the names of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were specifically mentioned. But God would not only bring Israel back, and bring them back to the specific land of their forefathers, God would also make Israel prosperous (better or pleasing) in that land—even more so than their forefathers.
But this stubborn love of God that brings people back to him has a purpose. God does not intend that his people just go on sinning that grace may abound (Romans 6:1). God’s love has a cleansing purpose and moral goal. God would circumcise the hearts of his people; he always intended that circumcision would go beyond the physical dimension (Romans 2:28, 29). The result of this “deep cut” is that his people would love him back with heart and soul (Deuteronomy 6:4, 5).
God’s Love Brought Israel Near | Deuteronomy 30:11-14
Any good preacher will anticipate the contraries (objections or pushbacks) of the audience. Moses probably thought, as he was getting ready to make his invitational appeal to Israel by urging them to “choose life,” that some might say, “This is all too hard. I don’t understand what God expects of us.” Moses met that objection head-on.
God’s message to Israel was not too difficult (hard or even wonderful). It was not beyond their reach. Two portions of creation were chosen by Moses with which to illustrate: the heavens and the sea. Was God’s message so high that it demanded someone’s ascent into heaven to get it? Was God’s message so far away that someone would have to cross the sea to get it? Not at all. God’s message (in the context, a message of life and love) was actually near (closer than a cousin). It was so close it was in their mouths and hearts.
God desired to stamp his own image deep on their hearts. The law was intended to go all the way to their bones. The secret things belonged to the Lord, but the revealed things were intended to be embraced, understood, and implemented (Deuteronomy 29:29). Interestingly enough, Paul quoted this passage in Romans 10:6-8 concerning how we are saved. Salvation is really rather simple—even though it is profound. One confesses with one’s mouth Jesus’ lordship and believes in one’s heart in Jesus’ resurrection. That message is so simple a child can understand it. The message is near.
God’s Love Brought Israel Through | Leviticus 26:40-42
What did God’s love bring Israel through? Through sin! Bringing Israel back to the Promised Land was great. (By the way, many people who love Jesus interpret these verses from these texts as referring to the literal land of Israel during the literal 1,000-year reign of Jesus as supposedly taught in Revelation 20:1-3.) Maybe bringing Israel near God’s message was grand. But bringing Israel through their sin and redeeming them was joy unspeakable.
If the people will confess their sins, humble themselves, and pay for their sins (make amends or please the Lord), then God will remember his covenant. God will bring Israel through their sins and remember those sins no more (Psalms 103:12).
Lesson study ©2019, Christian Standard Media. Print and digital subscribers are permitted to make one print copy per week of lesson material for personal use. Lesson based on the scope and sequence, ©2019 by Christian Standard Media. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.