NBC Sunday School Manual For January 22, 2023 :Topic – God Promises Light In The Darkness
SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON FOR YOUR PREPARATION
NBC SUNDAY SCHOOL OUTLINE
DATE: SUNDAY, 22ND JANUARY, 2023.
TOPIC: GOD PROMISES LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS.
“And if you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.” Isaiah 58:10.
By the end of the lesson, class members should be able to:
● Explain the significance of fasting, as a spiritual discipline;
● Identify the kind of fast God approves and rewards;
● Make a commitment to be a blessing to others, in words and deeds, within the week and beyond.
What is fasting and why is God concerned about the way we fast? Fasting is a spiritual exercise and part of spiritual discipline. Experience has shown that not many Christians understand the true meaning of fasting, even though they pray and fast regularly, whether personal or corporate. To some believers, fasting is the act of depriving oneself of food, drinks and other pleasures, in order to gain favour from God or humankind. Others see it as a weapon to fight spiritual battles and gain victory. They often forget that fasting is the giving up of food (or the like) for a period of time, in order to focus our thoughts on God. Fasting is mentioned both in the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament, fasting was often a way of expressing grief or a means of humbling oneself before God (1 Samuel 31:13), to demonstrate one’s seriousness when appealing to God (Ezra 8:23), to show repentance (Jonah 3:5-10), and to honour the solemnity of the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:29-31). However, in the New Testament, fasting was a means to get closer to God
through prayer, reading of His Word, and meditation or worship.
The book of Isaiah begins by exposing the false religion that had the right form and ritual, but no sincerity. Nevertheless, chapter 58 is one of the sections in the book of Isaiah that deals less with Judah’s immediate plight than with its future deliverance from the Babylonian captivity and her ultimate glory, which is the promise of light in darkness. It is most likely that Prophet Isaiah was speaking to the people of the Northern Kingdom Israel, who were in exile. His concern was God’s acceptable fast rather than simply going through the cycle of religious observance without justice for all. He, however, defined fasting as a compassionate and fair treatment meted to others, especially the poor and oppressed (Micah 6:6-8). The focus of today’s lesson is Prophet Isaiah’s definition of true fasting. According to the passage, fasting of any kind that does not show our commitment to social justice and helping the poor and oppressed (Isaiah 58:6-7) is not true fasting.
THE LESSON EXPLAINED…
A. GOD’S STANDARD OF AN ACCEPTABLE FAST:
After the Babylonian captivity, it seemed that some Israelites still separated the worship of God from right conduct or good relationship with their fellow Israelites. Their fasting period was characterised by exploitation, quarrel, violence and fight, yet they expected their voices to be heard (w. 1-4). Nevertheless, from verse 6, God spoke through Prophet Isaiah to the people concerning the type of fasting that is acceptable to Him. Therefore, true and acceptable fasting means:
● To loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke.
● To set the oppressed free and break every yoke.
● To share their food with the hungry.
● To provide the poor wanderer with shelter.
● To cloth the naked.
● Not to turn away from (the needs of) their own flesh and blood.
In fact, the above-listed standard of God’s acceptable fasting was a major concern for all the great prophets. They proclaimed that there must be justice for all and those who have more should share with their neighbours (Zechariah 7:8-10; Acts 4:32-35). Unfortunately, the people of God only had a form of godliness but denied the power thereof (2 Timothy 3:5). They seemed to be serving God, or honouring Him with their pretentious fasting that was devoid of justice and compassion for the poor. Little wonder it resulted in disagreement, quarrelling, and pretence, without genuine prayer to God. Specific details of God’s standard and acceptable fasting is outlined in verses 5-7. The lesson is a reminder to believers that religious activities like fasting, offering, and sacrifices may not be acceptable to God, if our lifestyle is characterised by injustice, dishonesty, self-centredness, oppression and other vices. This implies that whenever we fast and engage in spiritual discipline, our focus should be on God. We should also be ready to do acts of kindness by helping the less privileged, feeding the hungry and helping those in need. Of course, these are proofs of a heart that is right with God and such fasting will be acceptable to God.
1. Apart from helping the poor, discuss other reasons for fasting.
2. Discuss some wrong ways people fast and the implication, according to the lesson.
B. TRANSGRESSORS FROM THE WOMB:
[Isaiah 48:6-8, 17]
THE BLESSINGS OF ACCEPTABLE FAST Isaiah 58:8-10
Having analyzed His standard of an acceptable fast, God also outlined the blessings that accompany it when the standard is not compromised but maintained. When this is done, according to the passage, the following blessings will abound:
● Their light will break forth like the dawn, and their healing will quickly appear.
● Their righteousness will go before them, and the glory of the Lord will be their rear guard.
● When they cry for help, the Lord will answer them. It is emphasised again in verse 10 that if they care for the hungry, thirsty and those in need, then there will be a turnaround because their darkness will turn into the brightness of noon. In other words, their misfortune and suffering will be forgotten.
God has always promised to reward those who will diligently seek and obey Him. Particularly, in this passage, God promised to reward His people Israel with light, healing, righteousness, protection from trouble and answered prayers, so that they will become a shining testimony of the One True God. However, it should be noted that God’s response to bless the people when they fast appropriately is in contrast with their complaint in verse 3, when they asked: “Why have we fasted,” … “and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?” This is an indication that God is responsive to the prayer and fasting of His people, when it is done properly (Isaiah 65:24). This happens when people are converted, and show evidences of their transformation by the kind of works that reflect their repentant hearts (verses 9-10). The lesson underscores the fact that obedience is the hallmark of enjoying the blessings of God. When we fast appropriately, the exercise will attract God’s blessings and the people of God will become the light of the world that will shine before humankind (the world), and God will be glorified (Matthew 5:16).
1. Discuss the best ways to prepare ourselves for acceptable fasting, so as to enjoy its enormous blessings.
2. What are the spiritual benefits promised to those who fast appropriately by meeting the needs of others?
● Based on today’s lesson, make a personal commitment to practise what God demands whenever we fast, according to today’s lesson.
Fellowship and Ministry Building Activities:
● Let some class members share their fasting experiences and the blessings that accompanied the spiritual exercise.
Take Home: Write down three lessons you are taking home from today’s lesson.
Remain Inspired & Be Lifted!