|EXPLORE THE BIBLE: (20 minutes)
Draw a circle on the board and give this mini-lecture: all the other ancient religions saw history like this circle. Things never really changed. The seasons always came and crops grew and got harvested and there was nothing new under the sun. The role of their gods was to insure that the spring rains came and that the land produced crops and women produced children. Above all, the gods never stepped into history, into the real lives of men and women, and changed things. They didnt do that. Now draw a straight line and finish the explanation: The Israelites, however, had a different understanding about God. God wasnt just some cosmic pop machine that produced rain and children if you prayed just right. God actually could and did step into real historyand changed things. And the Hebrews believed that God was great precisely because he stepped into history.
Prepare the students to do an oral reading of Psalm 136. Use the NRSV version of Psalm 136 if possible. Assign 3-4 strong, enthusiastic readers to always read the phrase for his steadfast love endures forever. Ask a person with some drama background to read the parts of the verses that talk specifically about an actual historical event (the first part of verses 4-25). Ask another youth to read the first parts of verses 1-3 and the first part of verse 26. Finally, the rest of the group is to yell Yes! after each steadfast love endures forever phrase. The yes should be like the yes after a winning touchdown at a football game. After a bit of practice, do the reading with all the gusto you can manage!
Then ask the group if they remember the definition of steadfast love. Part of Gods steadfast love (covenant or unfailing love) is Gods willingness to change history for the better, even when people dont deserve it. The slaves in Egypt didnt deserve Gods rescue, but they needed it. That is a great way to look at steadfast love. God gives us what we need, not necessarily what we deserve.
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