What is this?
These Sabbath School lesson outlines aid Sabbath School teachers & members in their weekly study
& preparation for Sabbath School classes.
Join the Discussion
Use the form at the bottom of the page to share with other readers your thoughts about this lesson.
Sabbath School Lessons on The Role of the Church in the Community
About the Author
Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 41 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
What about Ellen White?
to learn why I generally do not cite Ellen G. White in the lessons.
Looking for old Sabbath School lessons?
Sabbath School lesson study outlines from previous quarters are saved in the Sabbath School lesson archive
Got questions or comments?
Go to our contact form
and drop us a note.
SabbathSchoolLessons.com operates like grace: it is free, but not without cost.
We're counting on your ongoing financial support to help us continue providing these
lessons to Sabbath School teachers and members around the world. You may cancel your monthly contribution at any time.
Get these Sabbath School lessons by e-mail! Subscribe to the Bible Study of the Week mailing list:
Subscribe in a reader
Lesson 3: Justice and Mercy in the Old Testament: Part 1 *
Introduction: Did you ever consider the "rule of law" as a program to
benefit the poor? To refresh your recollection, the term "rule of
law" means that people live under established laws, not under the
constantly changing moods and commands of a ruler. I recently watched
a documentary which said that the best way to help the poor in less
developed countries is not to send them constant aid, but rather to
help them with the tools to make a living. These tools include
living under the rule of law, which treats the poor and the rich
equally. Let's jump into our study and see what the Bible teaches us
on this subject!
- Read Exodus 23:2. Why does the Bible warn about the crowd
in connection with perverting justice? (A documentary I
saw this week showed that cheating greatly increased when
it appeared others were doing it.)
- Read Exodus 23:3. Why not? (As I mentioned in the
introduction, another documentary I saw this week argued
that most foreign aid was not intelligently given because
it assumed that the people receiving aid were helpless.
Favoring the poor man is not justice, and it assumes that
he needs the scales tilted in his favor because he is
- Have you previously considered that favoring the poor
showed a bias against them? That seems
- Notice the context: "in his lawsuit." Does that make
a difference in the prohibition on favoring the poor?
(I think so. This is a formal dispute that needs to
be settled, and whether you are poor or not is
irrelevant to the merits.)
- Read Exodus 23:4-5. What other motive might wrongly affect
our judgment? (Revenge. We don't like someone so we don't
give the aid we might otherwise give.)
- Read Exodus 23:6. Now we are told not to deny justice to
the poor! Why would we do that? (Because they cannot help
us. The approach to the poor should be even-handed. Not
favoring them and not disfavoring them in lawsuits.)
- Read Exodus 23:7. How serious a problem is this? (God says
He will not acquit us! This sounds like we lose eternal
- Read Exodus 23:8. If you asked me whether a righteous
person would ever take a bribe, I would say, "no." What
does this text suggest? (It suggests that they would take
a bribe, and it would affect their judgment.)
- Read Exodus 23:9. The Western world is teeming with
aliens. What is the Christian's duty towards them? (This
text seems rather limited - don't oppress them.)
- Consider the historical reference in this text. How
did the Egyptians treat God's people? (They enslaved
- The Sabbath and Justice
- Read Exodus 23:10-11. Does this favor the poor? (Not
really. Letting the land stand fallow every seventh year
allowed it to produce better crops in other years. That
was the goal - to make the farmer's land more productive.
A byproduct was aid to the poor. Even though the farmer
did not do any work on the land, some crops grew
- Is this a hand-out to the poor? (The poor had to
harvest the food themselves. They, however, were able
to benefit from the farmer's land.)
- Do you think the farmer policed his land to be sure
only the poor collected food? (It appears that people
decided if they qualified.)
- Read Exodus 23:12. What is the goal of the Sabbath
according to this text? (To refresh our animals and our
- Do you look at the Sabbath as a day to get refreshed?
- Read Amos 8:4-5. What are these people supposedly doing
right? (They at least superficially keep the Sabbath. But,
they are hoping it will over soon so that they can get
back to work.)
- Are these people refreshed by the Sabbath?
- What are these people doing that is unjust towards
the poor? (They are cheating. They give the poor less
than what they paid for.)
- Why do we find references to the Sabbath and cheating
the poor together? (God wants us to see our
hypocrisy. We think we are keeping the Sabbath, but
in reality our lives are corrupt.)
- Read Amos 8:6. How else can we deal unjustly with the
poor? ( Amos 8:5 refers to "boosting the price" and this
verse seems to refer to paying the poor too little for
their services. We should pay the poor what they are
- Read Isaiah 1:13. Again we see a reference to the Sabbath
and worship. How can God call offerings "meaningless?"
How could our worship ever be "detestable" to God? (Read
Isaiah 1:16-17. Worshiping God is no substitute for
treating the poor and weak with justice. Isaiah 1:13 says
the offerings and incense are "detestable." God does not
want us giving Him what we stole from the poor.)
- Lately, I've been at meetings and read articles about the
issue of justice for the poor in the courts of the United
States. The main problem is that the poor cannot afford a
lawyer, and they are often in court against the rich who
can afford a lawyer. How would the Bible suggest that we
fix this problem? (The texts we read say that the judge
should treat the poor and the rich alike. The poor should
not be favored or disfavored.)
- What about supplying the poor with a lawyer?
- If you pay for a lawyer for the poor, but not
for the rich, is that favoring the poor?
- If a judge is not supposed to favor the poor, to what
does the language ( Isaiah 1:17) "defend the cause of
the fatherless and plead the case of the widow"
refer? (This places an obligation on lawyers and
those who provide the funding for lawyers.)
- We discussed false assumptions about the poor.
Is the Bible suggesting that widows and the
fatherless are helpless? (Yes. Note that the
society involved is a big factor. Widows lacked
- Read Leviticus 25:8-12. This is a "Super Sabbath!" Every
49 years is followed by the "Jubilee" 50th year. Everyone
has to return home. How do they all eat? (Read Leviticus
25:20-22. They are not to engage in formal sowing and
reaping. Instead, God blesses them with an abundant crop
in the sixth year.)
- Read Leviticus 25:25-28. What else happens during the year
of Jubilee? (Everyone gets their property back. This
explains how everyone can return home.)
- Is this consistent with the rule of law? (Yes,
because all know the rules.)
- Read Leviticus 25:23-24. What is the basis for this
rule? (God owns all the property, and since we are
mere tenants, we follow His rule.)
- Does this "return of property" rule favor the poor?
(I don't think so. Since the rule is known, people
would only pay the value of a 49 year lease for a
piece of property.)
- Read Leviticus 25:29-30. Why is this rule different? (Open
land would be farmed, thus the Jubilee return allowed
people to retain the ability to work and feed themselves.
Homes in walled cities are a logically different matter.)
- Read Leviticus 25:39-43. What else happens during the year
of Jubilee? (Human debt is forgiven. This gives people a
- Read Leviticus 25:35-37. Does this favor the poor? (Yes,
in that they pay no interest and get the food at cost.)
- Re-read Leviticus 25:35. What is the condition for
this kind of help? (The person is "unable to support
himself." Those who cannot work are to be helped,
but this does not suggest a handout. It suggests
- What we have read about the Sabbath is something we can
easily do now. But, how could we apply the Jubilee rules?
(While this is an entirely different system of laws then
we have in the United States, we certainly have some
similar concepts. For example, people are freed from debt
through bankruptcy. While their land is not returned to
them, "homestead" laws protect family farms to some
- Friend, consider how the principles of Old Testament
justice might apply in your life. What can you do to
reflect God's sense of justice and mercy?
- Next week: Justice and Mercy in the Old Testament: Part 2.
* Copr. 2016, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.