NBC SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON FOR APRIL 11, 2021 : TOPIC – CONFESSION AND CORRECTION
IN PREPARATION FOR YOUR SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
NIGERA BAPTIST CONVENTION
APRIL 11, 2021
TOPIC: CONFESSION AND CORRECTION
DEVOTIONAL READING: Ezekiel 18:25-32
BACKGROUND SCRIPTURES: Ezra 9-10
LESSON SCRIPTURE: Ezra 10:1-12
“O my God, I am too ashamed and disgraced to lift up my face to you, my God, because our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens. Ezra 9:6
By the end of the lesson, class members should be able to:
• Highlight some of the problems that were common in the days of Ezra;
• Discuss the steps Christians can take in order to return to God;
• State at least three lessons they have learnt from the life of Ezra and the Israelites.
The famous proverb, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is still relevant in our relationship with God and humankind. The Israelites did not remember the importance of this proverb neither did they pay attention to God’s warnings through His prophets. According to the law of Moses, they were forbidden from marrying people from the land of Canaan so that they will not be led astray _ idolatry (Exodus 34:11-16; Deuteronomy 7:1-6). Unfortunately, they disobeyed God. Some of the returnees from exile including their leaders had foreign wives. Some older Jewish men divorced their wives and married younger foreign women, thereby producing children of mixed religious loyalties. Worse still, they began to follow their pagan practices against the will of God. As they continued in this unwholesome behaviour God’s holy name was profaned. When the news reached Ezra, he was grieved. He tore his clothes in despair, shaved his hair and beard and sat down in sorrow. He prayed and confessed that they had no right to come to God’s presence (Ezra 9:3, 15).
Today’s lesson focuses on the plan made by the Israelites to end intermarriage, under the leadership of Ezra. He encouraged them to confess their sins to the God of their ancestors, to separate themselves from foreign wives and endeavour to do what is right always. The lesson emphasises the importance of confession, correction and total repentance as conditions to enjoy God’s blessings.
THE LESSON EXPLAINED
A. GENUINE CONFESSION
When Ezra learned of Israel’s intermarriage with non-Jews, he became troubled. He knelt down in prayer and began to confess their sins as a nation to God. While he was praying, weeping and confessing their sins in the temple, a group of Israelites (men, women and children) gathered around him and they all wept bitterly. Then Shechaniah the son of Jehiel, of the tribe of Elam confessed and said to Ezra, “We have been unfaithful to our God by marrying foreign women from the peoples around us. But in spite of this, there is still hope for Israel.” (v. 3) Thereafter, they made a solemn vow to:
• Send away the foreign wives and their children;
• Do exactly what Ezra and other leaders who honoured God’s commands instructed them to do;
• Do what the law of God requires.
Although the idea of driving away their foreign wives and children seemed rash but it was a necessary step they must take in returning to God in obedience. However, the practice of marrying them and compromising the faithfulness of the next generation was already widespread that even the priests and Levites were involved (Ezra 10:18-24). One major truth from the passage is that Ezra demonstrated an act, which showed the gravity of the sin and genuineness of their plea for repentance. He openly showed a sense of remorse for the sins of disobedience to divine instructions committed by his people. He wept, confessed and bowed down in front of the house of the Lord. Interestingly, the people pledged to support Ezra in the discharge of his responsibility of leading them to repentance. The steps taken by Ezra and Shechaniah revealed genuine repentance. In verse 2b, Shechaniah stated categorically”… we have trespassed against our God… He chose to obey God rather than following the footprints of his father’s household (Ezra 10:21), and requested for a specific action from Ezra in order to appease God. In a nutshell, Christians should understand the necessity of confession of sin, genuine repentance and total obedience to Gods commands as steps to return to God. In addition, Christian leaders should be ready to identify with their people, especially in difficult times. They should endeavour to lead them unto genuine repentance for their wrong doings so that their sins will be forgiven.
1. Discuss some of the ways Christians disobey God today and the likely consequences.
2. State and discuss some of genuine confession and repentance.
B. EZRA’S SINCERE PROCLAMATION
Ezra was a leader per excellence. His prompt response to the counsel of Shecaniah to send all the foreign wives away and do what God’s law requires is quite commendable (v. 3). He began with the priests, the Levites, all Israel and ensured that they take an oath to comply with Shecaniah’s proposal. He went straight into the council chambers of Jehohanan and spent the night there, still grieving over the unfaithfulness of the people, without food and water. A proclamation was made throughout Jerusalem and Judah that all the exiles should gather at Jerusalem within three days. Penalty for disobedience was attached to the instruction. In accordance with the decision of the officials and elders, anyone who disobeys would lose his property and be excommunicated from the community of God’s people (v. 8).
Ezra’s era of reformation is remarkable in the history of Israel. He committed the leaders by making them to take an oath of compliance with the suggestion made by Shecaniah to send the foreign wives away with their children and to do what God required (v. 3). Thereafter, he made a public proclamation throughout the land of Jerusalem and Judah. He summoned them to a meeting to probably discus the modalities of applying Shecaniah’s suggestion of sending away their foreign wives and their children as well as the restoration of worship of the true God. However, it should be noted that Ezra was successful in this adventure because the people acknowledged the fact that he is a trustworthy leader who meant good for them. Also, the penalty of forfeiture of property or the right of inheritance from the community of God’s people, if they fail to attend the meeting is commendable. The challenge, therefore, is that Christian leaders should know that it is their responsibility to lead their subjects to realise their mistakes, encourage them to confess and be ready to return to God. Likewise, it is important for leaders to live worthy lives that would make followers to obey godly instructions from them, as it is seen in today’s lesson.
1. Discuss the importance of confession and true repentance as steps to returning to God.
2. Discuss the implications of taking an oath in order to convince people of your innocence.
3. Was Ezra right to have made the people to take an oath of commitment to comply with the decision of Shecaniah to send away their foreign wives and children? Discuss.
C. EZRA’S CHARGE ON REPENTANCE
The people’s response to Ezra’s summon to a meeting is commendable. All the men Judah and Benjamin responded swiftly to the call that Ezra made in verse 7. They gathered at the temple square in Jerusalem within three days, despite the rain because of the importance of the meeting. Of course, the people understood the gravity and severity of their sin and the punishment that was attached to it. So, they were greatly distressed by the occasion. In verse 10, Ezra the priest arose and addressed the people. He commanded specifically on their faithlessness and how they brought guilt on Israel by marrying pagan women. Then, he admonished them to confess their sins to God and resolve to do what pleases Him alone. He also urged them to separate themselves from the people who live in the land and get rid of their foreign wives. Amazingly, the people responded with a loud voice saying. “We will do whatever you say.”
The response of the people to Ezra’s admonition to repent of their sins and turn to God is similar to that of the people of Israel, in the days of Joshua at Shechem. He challenged them to honour and serve the Lord, the God of their forefathers. Interestingly, the people responded in the affirmative. They said, “We will never leave the Lord to serve other gods!” (Joshua 24:14-16) Obviously, the people’s response is an indication of true and genuine repentance. After all, they were not coerced but they voluntarily confessed their sins with the decision to do God’s will, having listened to Ezra’s admonition. The implication of this is that, no matter the level of moral decadence in our land, if we repent with strong resolution to do only those things that please God, He will hear and forgive our sins. He will heal our land and make it prosperous again (2Chronicles 7:14).
1. Considering Ezra’s approach in solving the problem of his days, how do you think the problem of moral decadence can be solved in our days?
2. Discuss some lessons believers can learn from verses 9-12.
FELLOWSHIP AND MINISTRY BUILDING ACTIVITY
From the passage, mention some steps Ezra took in solving the problem of the people of Israel and discuss how such plan could be implemented today.
• Christian leaders should learn to lead by example, like Ezra did.
• It is good to confess our sins but it is better to repent genuinely.
• Believers should learn to turn to God in prayer and fasting for solving problems of their nation.
• Christians should endeavour to do only what the law of God demands.
• When we confess our sins and repent genuinely, God will forgive us.
• Disobedience to God attracts punishment.