(This study is an overview, especially for teachers and Bible study leaders, of the Lifeway “Explore the Bible” Sunday school lesson, “Repentance”, for June 12, 2022. Please feel free to use any of the questions, examples, and illustrations in your lesson. The video version of this overview is available on YouTube at:
ONE way that you could introduce this lesson to your class this Sunday might be to ask them: “What prayer is the best/most touching/most memorable prayer you’ve ever heard?” Does one come to mind?
— I think of a prayer our son Paul prayed when he was a preschooler, after spending at day at Grandma’s house: “God, thank you for letting us smash bugs on grandma’s porch tonight!” I’ll never forget that prayer!!
You/class may have some prayers like that that you remember. It would be a good way to get your people involved & talking to begin class.
THEN you could say: today we are going to look at one of the great prayers of history: the prayer of King Solomon’s prayer I Kings 8.
CONTEXT: Solomon has finished building the Temple of the Lord, and at the beginning of Chapter 8, they bring the Ark of the Covenant into it. When the priests bring the Ark in, :10-11 says the cloud of the glory of YHWH filled the Temple, so the priests couldn’t even stand to minister in it!
And then in :22, Solomon prays a prayer of dedication.
(INTERESTINGLY, :22 says he “stood before the altar …” BUT by the end, :54, “he arose from before the altar of YHWH, from kneeling on his knees with his hands spread towards heaven.”) So at some point in the prayer, he went from standing before the altar, to kneeling before it!
ALSO: notice how Solomon BEGINS his prayer in :23 (this is not the “focus passage, but it’s hard to jump in on the middle of his prayer without some context). He BEGINS WITH PRAISE: “O YHWH (remember when you see “LORD” in all 4 caps, in Hebrew that is the personal name of God, “YHWH” or “Jehovah.”) O YHWH the God of Israel, there is no God like You in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and showing lovingkindness to Your servants …”. He begins his prayer with praise: a good example for us all. “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise,” Psalm 100 says. Jesus taught us to begin our prayers, “Hallowed be Thy name” – praising Him.
After he begins with praise, Solomon makes a series of requests.
Our focus passage :46 has one of those requests; “When they sin against you …”. Solomon is speaking here about the people of Israel. But he makes an important theological point, one we ALL need to be aware of, for then he adds: “For there is no man who does not sin.”
This is the doctrine of the depravity of man: we have ALL sinned.
This is the root of all of our problems: that we have all sinned.
Sometimes we say, or hear people say, things like: “How could somebody do that?” — maybe of some of the recent shootings, or the war in Ukraine, or immorality in a Christian leader, or whatever — the answer is SIN. That’s how they could do it. And that’s how WE could do it too! We are ALL sinners.
Romans 3:23 is a very famous verse in that regard: “For ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We saw a couple of weeks ago that God created us to be fulfilled by his glory. What is it that separates us from that glory? Our sin. SIN is the root of all of our problems. We need to understand this. The word “sin” isn’t much in our society’s vocabulary these days, but it ought to be. Sin is rebellion against God.
Sin is at the root of all of our problems personally.
And sin is at the heart of all the problems we have in society.
It’s not lack of education that is our problem; it is not lack of government laws that is our problem; it is SIN.
And as Solomon makes clear here. He says, “for there is no man who does not sin.” This is an important point. We all HAVE sinned, and we all continue to sin.
NOTE: In Solomon’s prayer, leading up to this point he sometimes says “IF”: for ex, :37 “IF there is pestilence in the land,” and so on. But it is significant that here in :46 he says “WHEN.” “WHEN they sin against You.” Not “if,” but “WHEN.” It IS going to happen. WHY? Because we are all sinners, both by nature, and by choice. We inherited a sin nature from Adam, and we have all also personally chosen to sin.
This is a fundamental doctrine. Each of us has to come to the realization that we are sinners. You can’t really ask Jesus to save you until you realize that you are a sinner. So this realization of SIN, and that we have all sinned, is basic to Christianity.
People often ask, is my child/grandchild ready to be saved? This doctrine helps us there. Do they realize they have sinned?
Let me give you an example: our son David came forward at an invitation one time when he was young and said he wanted to be saved. So I asked him, as I always do: “Do you know what sin is?” He said yes, and he listed some sins. Then I asked: “Have YOU sinned?” And he shook his head: “NO!!” Well, I knew by that, that he was not ready to be saved. You have to know you’ve sinned, in order to ask for a Savior. (And a year or two later David did come forward again, this time with tears in his eyes for his sins, and I knew he was ready to ask Jesus to be his Savior.)
So this doctrine of sin is fundamental to the Christian life. We can’t really be saved, if we don’t admit that we are sinners. This may help some of your class members with their children/grandchildren — or even their OWN salvation. “There is no man who does not sin”. It is a fundamental doctrine.
And even AFTER our salvation, as God’s people we continue to sin. I John 1:8 says: “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves.” That is present tense: if you say that right now you are having no sin, you are deceiving yourself. We are sinful people, even as Christians, we are fighting our “flesh,” our old nature, and we continue to sin.
Now, there’s a couple of ways we can apply this:
— It is important that we all realize that we still sin. We need that humility, and continual dependence upon the Lord to forgive us.
— And I think it can give comfort to a Christian who is burdened with their sin, to realize that ALL Christians still sin.
— But on the other hand, I think some people take this in a wrong direction. I am increasingly hearing people use this as an EXCUSE for their sin: “Well, we all sin.” “Well no one’s perfect.” As if that’s just an excuse to keep on sinning, because we all sin, so it’s no big deal.
As in everything in the Christian life, it’s important to keep this in balance. YES we all sin; and YES there is forgiveness in Christ; but that should never be used as an excuse to continue to sin, or to treat sin lightly. Our sin is against Holy God, and we are accountable to Him.
SO, in light of that, what happens when we sin? We see that in the next verses:
FIRST the 2nd part of :46 says what GOD does when we have sinned: “and You are angry with them and deliver them to an enemy, so that they take them away captive to the land of the enemy”. This describes the process of God’s DISCIPLINE of His people for sin. When God’s people sin, He disciplines them for it.
— Here Solomon says if they sin, God might deliver them to an enemy. We see numerous examples of this in scripture:
— in Judges especially. Over and over, after Israel came to the Promised Land, they sinned against God, and He allowed other nations to come and conquer them.
— This happened most notably with Israel’s captivity in Babylon. They sinned against God with idolatry for generations, and God finally allowed them to be taken in captivity to Babylon. (But His discipline worked for Israel’s ultimate good, as they never worshipped idols again after the Babylonian Captivity!)
And God’s discipline happens to us as individuals too. David gives us an example of that in Psalm 32: He says in :3, “When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away … (he said) “Day and night Your hand was heavy upon me.” God was disciplining him for his sin. (and then :5 says he finally acknowledged his sin to God, repented and was forgiven.)
This testimony of Psalm 32 is a common one: we sin, God disciplines us, and it brings us back to Him.
If you have an example of this from your own life that you can share, or know of one from someone you know, you might share it — or ask your class if they know an example in their life, or someone they know.
The Prodigal Son is a good scriptural example of this; and there are many “prodigals” who get in the same situation today.
But the point is, God disciplines His children who sin against Him. Hebrews 12:6 says: “For those whom the Lord loves, He disciplines.” You might cross-reference that whole passage of Heb. 12:5-10 in your class Sunday.
One true example from a friend of mine; a young college student who was commuting to college. One night, on the way home, she got a ticket for speeding. She told her mom: “I don’t know why he stopped ME: lots of people were going much faster.” But her wise Christian mom said; “But you are God’s child, and He’s not going to let you get away with it!” You/Group may have other stories like this …
Like Hebrews says; “Those whom the Lord loves, He disciplines”.
We see that here in I Kings 8:46
So what’s OUR RESPONSE going to be to God’s discipline?
:47 & 48 describe for us REPENTANCE. Notice what all actions Solomon itemizes in the next verses (you could point these out, or have your class look at these verses and call them out):
— they TAKE THOUGHT in the land they’ve been taken captive
— and REPENT (literally, “turn,” as we will see …)
— and make SUPPLICATION to You
— Saying “we have sinned/committed iniquity/acted wickedly (3x
— :48 If they RETURN to You with all their heart
— and PRAY to You
ALL of this describes a person who realizes that they have sinned, and who is turning back to God. They think better of what they’ve done, admit their sin, repent, pray to God, return to Him. That’s a pretty full description of repentance.
REPENTANCE is another impt doctrine in this text.
The Hebrew word here is SHUB, “to return, repent.” (significantly, it is used in this passage twice, both in :47 & :48 (repent, return)
It means to turn around, turn back.
In Genesis 8:9 the Bible uses this word of the dove that flew out from the ark, but didn’t find any dry ground so she “returned” to the ark. She turned around; returned, turned back. This is what we do when we repent: we were going away from God, and we “turn around” and go back to Him. It means to turn around; to change direction.
The New Testament word (metanoeo) means literally “a change of mind”, but it also leads to a change in direction. I like that definition: “a change of mind that leads to a change in direction.”
We see that in the Prodigal Son: it says “he came to his senses” and said, “I will get up and go to to my father.” He had a change of mind (came to his senses) and it led to a change in direction: went back to his father.
That is what will happen when we repent too: it is a change of mind: I’ve been going the wrong way; this is wrong. And then we change our direction. We STOP going away from God, and come back to Him to obey Him.
We need to emphasize: this element of repentance is vital. We must repent in order to be genuinely saved.
Again, this is a neglected doctrine today; we don’t hear much about repentance. But the Bible is full of verses on the necessity of repentance:
— John the Baptist preached “repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”
— Jesus preached the same thing, and in Luke 13:13 He proclaimed: “unless you repent you will all likewise perish”
— Paul said in Acts 20:21 that the full gospel he shared with them was “repentance towards God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Repentance is VITAL: we MUST repent in order to be saved.
You could use several illustrations of this:
— I once heard of a man was driving down the main street in a small town, and the street just ended, and there was a sign that said, “U-turn absolutely required.” That is true of becoming a Christian too. There is a “U-turn” absolutely required for us to be saved, and that is repentance.
— The main road through our town here in Angleton TX is divided by a median. So if you are going south on the main street and want to go to Whataburger, you have to pass actual pass the Whataburger, and go to the next turnaround, and make a u-turn, and go back to it. A u-turn is required to get to Whataburger!
You can use one of these examples, or you may have one like that in your town/experience. But make the point: the U-turn of repentance is absolutely required for salvation
It is not enough to say, “Oh yes, I believe in Jesus.” As James says, the DEMONS believe! But they haven’t repented. We must repent of our sins; acknowledge we have sinned, and be willing to turn from our sins, to be saved.
We need this message today, because SO many people say they are followers of Jesus, but they have not repented of their sins. And sure, we all sin (we just saw that) but they are not making any EFFORT to repent of their sins; they are content in them; they think God is ok with them — and He is NOT! We MUST repent of our sins in order to have genuine salvation and a real relationship with God.
This message is needed in our world today — and you can help by getting it out to your class members this Sunday.
And remember: it’s not just “all those people ‘out there’ who need to repent: WE as GOD’S people need to repent of OUR OWN sins. Try not to let your class time deteriorate into a lament over all the sins “out there” in the world — make sure they are thinking about their OWN sins too. What do THEY need to repent of? The Christian life is to be a life of continual repentance.
And IF we repent, the good news is, God will forgive us ..
Solomon prays in his prayer, IF they repent and return to You like :47-48, Then :49, “HEAR their prayer …. (:50) “and forgive Your people who have sinned …”
But it is not just Solomon who asked that God would hear and forgive, GOD said He would, didn’t He? II Chronicles 7 says in :11 that after Solomon finished the Temple, that God appeared to him in a dream and said in :12 that He had heard his prayer, and He gave him that great promise in :14, “If My people, who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I WILL hear from heaven, and WILL forgive their sins, and WILL heal their land.”
So God says, IF you will repent like that (notice the phrase, “turn from their wicked ways” – “turn” there is the Hebrew word “SHUB”, the same as “repent” here in I Kings 8:47! — if you will repent, God says He WILL hear, He WILL forgive, He WILL heal.
That is a great promise, and God will keep it. In fact in a great verse of scripture, Solomon says in :56, “Not one word has failed of all His good promise.” That’s a great verse to study & mem!
Then in :60 the lesson closes with “SO THAT” — this is what they call a “purpose clause”; it is the purpose, or reason for all that comes before it. WHY should God do all this? “SO THAT” —
And what IS the “SO THAT”? “SO THAT: all the peoples of the earth may know that YHWH is God; there is no one else.”
God does what He does for us, so that people may see and come to Him. This reminds me of Psalm 67, one of my favorite Psalms: “God be gracious to us, and bless us, and cause His face to shine upon us” (WHY) “THAT Your way may be known on the earth; Your salvation among all nations.”
Why does God give us the blessings, the answered prayers, all that He does? It is “SO THAT” — especially “so that” the world who sees what He does with us, will come to Him. Israel lost sight of the fact that God wanted to use them to reach the nations. Let us not lose sight of it. Let’s ask Him to help us be part of reaching the world for Him. (Our church has a mission team in Bulgaria this week; pray fo them! Let’s all give/pray/go to the nations” — SO THAT God may be known by them!
I hope this overview has been a blessing to you, and will help with your lesson this week. God bless you as , and see you next time, Lord willing! (And remember, you can watch the video version of this overview on YouTube at: