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Bible Study: September 7, 2014

NASHVILLE (BP) — This weekly Bible study appears in Baptist Press in a partnership with LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Through its Leadership and Adult Publishing team, LifeWay publishes Sunday School curricula and additional resources for all age groups.

This week’s Bible study is adapted from the YOU curriculum.

Bible Passages: Romans 2:14-15; Exodus 20:1-2: Isaiah 40:6-8

Discussion Questions: Where do you turn when facing a challenge to your faith? How does knowing others are facing the same challenge give you courage?

Discussion Questions: Can you recall a time you stood up for what was right when it went against others’ opinions? What influenced you to take a stand? If someone would ask you, “Is there such a thing as right and wrong,” how would you respond?

Food for Thought:

Very young children usually see the difference between right and wrong as plain as black and white. They view rules as rules and seldom question them. However, children quickly grow up and begin to think for themselves. They discover “gray areas” where they can see both sides of a decision. It becomes harder to distinguish between right and wrong — or to discern even if there is such a distinction. Today’s lesson will help you recognize that right and wrong do exist, and they exist because there is a God.

Right and wrong are written on our conscience. In the opening chapters of Romans, Paul showed how all people are sinners in need of salvation. He contrasted bad people (Rom. 1:18-32); good people (Rom. 2:1-16), and religious people, the Jews (Rom. 2:17–3:8). In the middle of this discourse, Paul threw in a parenthetical thought that we see in today’s verses.

The Gentiles did not have the Mosaic Law as did the Jews. The Gentiles did not have the written record of what God defines as right and wrong, so how were they still able to follow a standard for right and wrong? They did it, as verse 14 says, by instinct. It was written on their hearts (v. 15). They may not have had the specifics of the Old Testament law, but they instinctively knew the type of things the law required: taking care of the sick, practicing justice, and so forth.

God’s authority defines right and wrong. At the time God gave the Ten Commandments, the Israelites had just come out of 400 years of slavery in Egypt. God was preparing His people to move into the land He had promised to their forefather, Abraham. God had made a covenant with Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3), and now He made a covenant with Abraham’s descendants. This covenant is called the Mosaic covenant and is found in Exodus 19–23. A unique feature of the covenant is the law summarized in the Ten Commandments. These commandments showed the people how to live as a nation and people in a covenant relationship with God. For this study, we’re not going to focus on the details in the Ten Commandments. Instead, we will focus on how we know it was God who defined this standard of right and wrong.

God spoke (Exodus. 20:1) so there would be no doubt in the people’s minds about the origin of these commandments. Throughout the Old Testament, God spoke to the people through a prophet. Even the law was given to the people through Moses. But God gave the Ten Commandments directly to the people. The “audio-visual” display the people saw in Exodus 20:18-20 testified to the presence of God, and there was no question that the standard was given by God Himself.

Before giving His standard, God reminded the people who was giving these commandments to them (Exodus 20:2). He used His covenant name, Yahweh, with them. The name Yahweh is depicted in most English translations with the name Lord written in small caps, LORD instead of Lord. Yahweh emphasizes He is the sovereign Lord, Creator, Sustainer, and Provider of all there is. His name LORD reminds us He is God alone.

The standard has not changed. Jerusalem’s deliverance in 701 B.C. from the Assyrian King Sennacherib (Isaiah 37) climaxes the prophecies of chapters 1–39. Chapters 40–48 then deal with events that occurred about 150 years later. In 587 B.C., Jerusalem was captured and its people were deported to Babylon (2 Kings 25). God’s people knew firsthand that life can change … and fast! The purpose of Isaiah 40 was to bring comfort from God to His children at a time when their heads were undoubtedly spinning.

Even with such assurance, Isaiah was taken by surprise. He sounded the common complaint of his people: humanity had lost its meaning, being no more significant than grass, which springs up only to be mowed down. The sense of the Hebrew of verse 6 is not conveyed by “beauty” (NLT, NJB), “constancy” (NRSV), “glory” (NIV), “goodliness” (KJV), or “loveliness” (NKJV, NASB), but no other English word is better. The original Hebrew expression, “chesed,” is often used to express the grace or steadfast love of God to human beings, as in Exodus 20:6, and of the devotion people should show to God and to one another, as in Hosea 2:19; 6:4. In the lesson text, the term apparently indicates all the grace and graces of humanity; it is that for which people may be trusted and relied upon.

The lesson passage reminds us of the transitory nature of all things. Though culture, circumstances, public opinion and even relationships change, God does not. Things change, because things are temporary, and what is temporary is unreliable. But the words of God do not change. The Israelites could take comfort in knowing that despite life’s uncertainties, God’s standard remained the same. And so can we. God’s Word doesn’t go out of date or lose its applicability to any of our lives.

Is there an area of your life in which you struggle most with applying God’s standards for right and wrong? Pray and review this lesson’s Scripture passages. Then determine a plan of action to replace the world’s opinions with God’s standards. Remember that God’s standard for right in the Bible is and always will be relevant for you today.

Intentionally focused on African American, urban and multicultural believers, YOU is biblically based with culturally relevant and affirming lessons to help people connect, grow, serve and ultimately be engaged in impacting the world for Christ. This flexible, non-dated, all-in-one quarterly resource offers weekly Bible study for leaders and learners, devotionals, and teaching plans, as well as articles on hot topics and missions. For additional online teaching resources, visit LifeWay.com/YOU.

Other ongoing Bible study options offered by LifeWay for all ages can be found at LifeWay.com/SundaySchool.

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