Key Scriptures: Exodus 20:1-26, Exodus 21 – Leviticus 27, 2 Samuel 6:1-7, Numbers 4:15, Exodus 25;12-14, Numbers 7:9, Matthew 5:17-20, Matthew 22:36-40, John 14:15, 1 John 5:3, Luke 6:46-48, 1 John 3:24, Luke 11:28, James 1:22-25, Hebrews 5:9, John 15:10, Romans 6:16, Matthew 7:21, 2 John 1:6, John 13:17, Matthew 5:23-24, Matthew 5:25-26, Matthew 5:33-37, Matthew 5:39-41, Matthew 5:44, Matthew 6:1-4, Matthew 6:19-21, Matthew 7:15, Matthew 15:4, Matthew 18:15-17, Matthew 20:26-28, Matthew 22:21, Mark 10:19, Luke 17:3
Guiding Question: What will our lives look like if we are truly obedient to God?
Optional Introductory Activity: Bring in paper. It can be “pretty” paper or plain paper. Tell students you want to teach them a great way to make an origami cross. Start talking them through the instructions (There are multiple free patterns and Youtube instructions online.). Every few steps. Start telling an instruction, stop yourself before you complete saying it and then say something like, “You know what? I don’t like that instruction. Let’s do xyz instead.” (Insert a totally different direction in place of xyz.)
After a few minutes, you and your students should have a piece of paper that resembles nothing close to a cross. Look at your students and say, “Hmm. That’s weird. It doesn’t look very much like a cross.” You can allow students to comment or just begin the lesson at this point.
Lesson: (Questions for students are in bold italics.) Not long after the Israelites left Egypt, they reached Mt. Sinai. Read Exodus 20:1-26. Why do you think God may have chosen this particular time to give the people laws that were written down? What do you think Moses meant in verse 20?
You may have already known about the Ten Commandments, but they were only a small piece of the entire group of laws God gave Moses for the people. It’s important to remember, the Israelites were coming out of Egypt and creating a new society – soon to be a new country. Just like any country, they needed laws to keep their society running well. Since God was their King, it made sense all of their laws came from God (at least at first).
Have students flip through Exodus 21 to Leviticus 27. Although there are a few stories in those chapters, it is mostly a list and explanation of their laws. You may want to have students point out some of the categories of laws and maybe even read a few of the more specific and interesting laws to show how detailed and extensive these laws were.
Someone has said there were 613 commandments God gave to Moses (counts vary slightly). No matter the exact number, there were a lot of laws about a lot of things. (As the years went on, the Pharisees added to these 600+ laws. These additions were their own ideas and not given or endorsed by God. By the time of Jesus, the Israelites had to follow an additional 365 negative commands and 248 positive laws added by the Pharisees. Source: Bible.org)
Did God really expect the Israelites to obey all of those laws? Can you give an example of a story that shows God expected obedience – complete obedience to His laws? The story of Uzzah is probably one of the most dramatic examples of what could happen when someone disobeyed God. Read 2 Samuel 6:1-7. Why did God punish Uzzah so severely for what seems like an innocent mistake? Uzzah was punished, because his mistake wasn’t innocent at all. They had decided to transport the Ark of the Covenant in ways that were disobeying God’s laws about how it was to be moved. Read Numbers 4:15, Exodus 25;12-14 and Numbers 7:9. What Laws were they breaking in moving the Ark in a cart pulled by oxen?
To us, it may seem harsh for God to kill someone for breaking what seem like weird or even sort of silly laws to us. Yet go back and notice what the Bible says in the original passage – 2 Samuel 6:7. God punished Uzzah so severely because Uzzah was being irreverent – he was disrespecting God by being rebellious regarding God’s laws.
Uzzah thought he didn’t need to obey God. Evidently, his attitude to God was not one of humble obedience to his King – God. Rather his attitude – his heart – was irreverent. He lacked respect for God and didn’t take Him seriously. God was making a loud statement about the importance of our hearts and our attitudes towards Him. Attitudes which are made known by whether or not we choose to obey all of his laws. Whether we particularly like them or not isn’t important to God. He expects us to trust Him and obey His laws – with respect for who He is to us – our Creator and King.
A lot of people think all of God’s Laws disappeared when Jesus came to Earth. They believe that other than getting baptized, there really aren’t any rules to follow. Obedience beyond becoming a Christian isn’t necessary because of our “freedom in Christ”. To believe that though is a huge misunderstanding of what Jesus did and what God still expects from us.
Read Matthew 5:17-20. What do you think Jesus meant when he said he came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets? Prophecies about Jesus are found throughout the prophets’ writings. The Jewish Feasts and other things in the Law also pointed to Jesus. When he came to earth, Jesus fulfilled all of those prophecies about him in what is now our Old Testament.
It doesn’t mean however, that Jesus did not expect God’s laws to be obeyed by Christians. Some laws changed – like sacrifices and dietary restrictions. Many of the main principles and even quite a few of the laws were repeated in the New Testament.
Perhaps the most well known are the two greatest commands found in Matthew 22:36-40. In fact, Jesus even says all of the Law and what the prophets wrote can be placed under these two commands.
Jesus gave us other instructions or commands. Read John 13:34-35, Matthew 5:44-45, Matthew 4:17, Matthew 16:24-25, Matthew 28:18-20, Luke 21:36 for a few of those commands. What were those commands?
The New Testament writer like Paul, Peter and John also gave us commands from God. Read 1 John 4:4-6. What does John say about the things they tell us in their writings? Can you look in just the chapters of 1 John and find some commands from God in them? What are some of them? Do they seem to fit under one of the two Greatest Commands?
Since we as Christians do have commands God has given us, does He expect us to obey them? Or does our freedom mean we get to pick and choose to obey only the commands we like? Why? The New Testament writers actually mention obedience quite a bit. Read the following scriptures. What does each teach us about God’s expectation of our obedience? John 14:15, 1 John 5:3, Luke 6:46-48, 1 John 3:24, Luke 11:28, James 1:22-25, Hebrews 5:9, John 15:10, Romans 6:16, Matthew 7:21, 2 John 1:6, John 13:17.
The New Testament has its own dramatic recounting of an incident when God gave severe earthly consequences for disobeying His commands. Read Acts 5:1-11. What command did they break? One might think they were being punished for not giving all of the money they had made. That wasn’t required though. They made the same mistake as Adam and Eve and many of us still today. They thought they could lie to God and get away with it. The Bible tells us over and over that God hates lies.
In this case, God wanted to make it very clear to the new Christians that God is still King and gets to make the rules. Just like any King, God expects us to obey those rules. We don’t get to vote against rules we don’t like. That doesn’t mean God makes rules to make us miserable. In fact, quite the opposite is true. God makes rules because He loves us and knows what is ultimately in our best interest. Disobeying God is not only rebellious, but we end up hurting ourselves. By disobeying God’s commands, we miss an opportunity to live the best possible life on this fallen earth.
Skills Activity: Review the basic principles from the lesson. The following list of scriptures are just a few of the commands in the New Testament. These particular ones are ones spoken directly by Jesus. You may also want to add a few from other books in the New Testament.
Have large writing surfaces available. Give students paper so they can create their own chart or make notes if they wish. Be prepared for them to want to get into a deeper discussion about a particular command. Use your best judgment. If it seems to be a concern for the majority of your students, it may be more important to spend the extra time on that particular command. If just one student seems upset by that command, you may prefer after a brief explanation to offer to continue the conversation outside of class.
The ultimate goal of this activity is to help students understand the importance of complete obedience to God’s commands. They need to be gently guided to a basic understanding that God’s commands are not to prevent them from having fun, but rather they are a hedge of protection God is placing around them. We do not get to “vote out” commands we don’t personally like or that our culture has determined are no longer “enlightened”. Obedience requires trust in God, respect, humility and doing exactly what God has commanded.
Listen carefully to student responses and guide the discussion in the direction that seems to best help them begin to understand these basics of obedience. Encourage them to write down questions you don’t have time to answer, so you can continue the discussion during the following class. If you don’t know the answer to one of their questions, feel free to tell them you would like to do a little more research before answering the question.
For each of the following scriptures, ask students to state the command. You may want more advanced students to read a few verses before and after the given verse to look for context – what was happening when this command was given? Ask students why they think God has given us this command – What negative consequences are we avoiding by obeying it and/or what are the possible positive outcomes from our obedience? You may also choose to ask students why it is tempting to disobey this command and what they can do the next time they are tempted to disobey it.
Matthew 5:23-24, Matthew 5:25-26, Matthew 5:33-37, Matthew 5:39-41, Matthew 5:44, Matthew 6:1-4, Matthew 6:19-21, Matthew 7:15, Matthew 15:4, Matthew 18:15-17, Matthew 20:26-28, Matthew 22:21, Mark 10:19, Luke 17:3
Application Challenge: Read the book of James. What commands does James give? Which of these are hard for you to obey? Thinking about the lesson, why is it important for you to obey these commands? What can you do to become more obedient to God’s commands in general and any specific commands with which you may struggle?