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“FAITHFUL IN THE UNKNOWN”

(About Transitions…great lesson for graduating seniors facing the unknown)


For The Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta
By Sally Ulrey

Key verse: Psalm 118


“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever”

Objective:
 To look at the ways God has been faithful to Israel and to us
 To find courage to face change, knowing how God has always come through in the
past
The Set up: Minimal
The Plan:
 Hook: Skipping Stones (5 mins)
o Show a video of a Japanese game show where contestants have to cross a river by stepping on
stones, some of which are fake and fall through.
 Book: Faithful to Israel (15 mins)
o Looking at all the times throughout Israel’s history the words of Psalm 118 were prayed
 Look: Faithful to Me (20 mins)
o Creating a timeline of when God has been faithful in our own lives
 Took: Trusting the Rock (10 mins)
o Writing a prayer of trust for the unknown times ahead, knowing God’s faithfulness in times past
The Supplies:
 Copy of lesson
 Copies of Psalm 118
 Copies of Group Scripture Pages
 Decorative River Rocks (like these: https://www.homedepot.com/p/Rain-Forest-1-in-to-2-in-20-lb-Medium-Striped-Grade-A-Polished-Pebbles-RFSTPA2-
20/206823922?cm_mmc=Shopping%7cTHD%7cgoogle%7c&mid=sPisFJMXY%7cdc_mtid_8903jx325196_pcrid_246389796694_pkw__pmt__product_206823922_slid_&gclid=Cj0
KCQjw_ZrXBRDXARIsAA8KauTaJ_UQFWXa3HnS6BjfbhytHavEyfcabPaCfFoq9M9wATnNg-JMzVUaAkqZEALw_wcB&dclid=CIzPxvql4toCFQgKgQodzVABhA
ORhttps://www.worldmarket.com/product/multi-colored-mini-river-rock-vase-fillers.do?sortby=ourPicks) About 10 per person.
 Sharpies
 Baggies (paper lunch sacks or plastic ziplocs)
 AV Equipment with Internet Access
 Flip Chart & Marker
 Paper and pens/pencils
The Preparation:
 Print and copy everything
 Cue up Video and song
 Read the Scripture and get very familiar with the mini-lecture
 Leaders: Prepare in advance a timeline of how God has been faithful to you in your own life (see LOOK section)

“Faithful in the Unknown”


by Sally Ulrey for the Diocese of Atlanta
1
ABOUT THE LESSON: Facing the unknown can be scary, but God is faithful through the changes. Looking to
see how God HAS BEEN faithful help us trust God TO BE faithful and walk with us through changes and
hardships and unknowns. The lesson will show students God’s faithfulness to Israel, and help them look at
God’s faithfulness in their own lives. This lesson has special relevance for graduating seniors who are facing
new, unknown circumstances.

Skipping Stones (Hook, 5 mins)


For the opening of the lesson, you’ll show a video from a Japanese game show, where contestants have to
cross a river by stepping on stones, some of which are fake, and won’t bear their weight. This will be an
analogy for God, who is our “Rock” that we can trust to come through for us.

 Show the video (approx 3 mins)


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VKkM9BF0JBE
 Ask: How would this change if contestants were allowed to go through as many times as they wanted?
What would they learn?

Transition: Some of those stones were trustworthy, and some were not. If contestants were given the
opportunity to go test the stones more than once, or were given the benefit of learning stories from other
people’s experiences, they would quickly learn which stones were trustworthy and which ones weren’t. God
is our trustworthy Rock, who comes through for us and never fails. We can learn this by looking at our own
history of God’s trustworthiness, and also by hearing stories from others about how God has been faithful. So
we’re going to take a look at some of the stories from Israel’s history to learn how God has come through for
them over and over again….

“Faithful in the Unknown”


by Sally Ulrey for the Diocese of Atlanta
2
God’s Faithfulness to Israel (Book, 15 mins)
In this section, we’ll have the students briefly look at Psalm 118, and then look at all the times in Israel’s
history the words from that Psalm are used. Those same words are used in trials and triumphs: when God
brought the Israelites out of slavery, when God brought the Ark of the Covenant back to Israel, defeating the
enemies that were oppressing them, when God brought the exiles back from Babylon…and then Jesus sang it
right before facing His death…it was a reminder to the Lord as He faced hardship that God had always been
faithful in the past and could be trusted to be faithful in whatever He faced. A reminder to us as well.
 LEADER TIP: You will want to look over the Scripture, and Mini-Lecture, below in advance to be
familiar with what all is in Psalms.
 Pass out copies of Psalm 118
 Explain that many of the Psalms were probably read responsively even back in the day, just like we do
at church, and you can kind of get a feel for it from the repeated responses.
o Have everyone read Psalm 118 responsively, with the youth reading the bold parts, and the
leader reading the other parts
 Go over the Mini-Lecture (5 mins, see below)

Mini-Lecture (5 mins)
 Hallel Psalms.
o Psalm 118 is the last in a group of Psalms called the Hallel Psalms (Hallel, which means “Praise”… from
Hallelujah, which means “Praise the Lord”).
o The Hallel Psalms were 113-118, and were a group of Psalms sung at the celebration of Holy Days,
particularly throughout the Passover, praising God for how God had been faithful and come through
for Israel, with Psalm 118 at the end of the Passover.
 Writing.
o When. Psalm 118 was probably written in the David’s time or sometime in the period of the Israelite
monarchy
o Phrases. Several of the phrases of Psalm 118 are used both before and after David. They are like
mantras used in many Psalms and Scriptures throughout Israel’s history. The Israelites used them
often. Particularly the phrases “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; his love endures forever” and
“The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation”. David incorporated those already
used phrases into his Psalm.
o Chesed. The word for “love” in that phrase (His love endures forever) is chesed, also translated
“faithfulness” or “loving kindness” or “loyal love”. It refers to when God was faithful to God’s covenant
with Israel to be their God and take care of them.
 Looking at the way these phrases are connected to Israel’s history is enlightening. They were always
used to praise God for something amazing God had done…for when they had faced a change or a trial or
a hardship, and God had come through!

“Faithful in the Unknown”


by Sally Ulrey for the Diocese of Atlanta
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 Put the students into groups of 3-4
o Explain that the words of the Psalm were sung throughout Israel’s history when God came
through for the Israelites time after time.
o Make a timeline on the flip chart/white board like the one below:

1500 BC (ish) 1000 BC (ish) 500 BC (ish) 0 BC (ish)

Moses/Exodus David Exiles Return/ Ezra/ Jesus


Temple Rebuilt
o Give each group a worksheet to study (see how Psalm 118 is connected to Moses, David, Ezra,
and Jesus)
 Have each group report what they learned, and write some key points under the corresponding title on
the flip chart/white board.

Example:
o Moses/Exodus – “my strength and my song…” faithfulness shown through deliverance from
slavery
o David – “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good…” faithfulness shown through recovery of the
Ark from enemies who were oppressing them
o Ezra/Exiles – “love endures forever…” faithfulness shown through rebuilding of the temple after
being in exile…God was restoring what was lost
o Jesus – sang Psalm 118 when facing a great trial… reminders of God’s deliverance and
faithfulness in the past (Exodus, Oppression, Exile) gave reassurances for the present…that God
would be faithful to Jesus as he faced something scary and unknown

Transition (after you’ve gone over the Group Scripture Pages):


Seeing how God has been faithful in the past teaches us that we can trust God to be faithful in our current
circumstances. Singing Psalm 118 reminded Jesus of God’s faithfulness throughout Israel’s history as he was
facing the cross. It helps to see God’s faithfulness throughout Israel’s history, but God is faithful to us in our
OWN histories as well. Let’s look at the ways God has come through for US in the past!

“Faithful in the Unknown”


by Sally Ulrey for the Diocese of Atlanta
4
God’s Faithfulness to Me (Look, 20 mins)
In this part, students will make a timeline of their own lives, looking for examples of when God has been
faithful to them in the hard times. They will write a word/phrase/picture that represents those times on a
rock, one for each one they can think of. We’ll use the rocks to illustrate that our histories tell us that God has
proven time and again that God can bear the weight of our hard circumstances and trials, and hold us up….just
like the real rocks from the beginning video. So God can also get us through whatever we’re facing now, and
whatever comes next.

 Pass out sharpies, and put the pile of rocks in the middle.
 Explain that they’ll be making a timeline (out of rocks) of their own histories and looking for the times
God was faithful to them/their family…times where God brought them through hard circumstances,
brought something good out of a hardship, did something wonderful or amazing, answered a prayer,
kept them safe, etc. For each instance of God’s faithfulness they can think of, get a rock, and write a
word/phrase/picture to remind them of that time.
 LEADERS: (5 mins) Give your own example of your timeline of God’s faithfulness in your own life so
they have an idea of what to do.
o Ideas: it can start when you were born, and include how God provided for you through your
original family…like when your parents needed a job, when someone was healed from a
sickness, when you learned something through a loss or trial, how you got to know God, how
God guided you to be part of your church, or times when circumstances worked out in
unbelievable ways… like if they closed your office and you lost a job, but that caused you to
look for and find the perfect job, and if you hadn’t been looking right then, it would have been
gone! Or if you needed a new roof, but were low on funds, only to find a substantial
anonymous gift with “for roof” attached.
 Give them about 7 mins to finish writing on their rocks, and 7 mins to share any of the stories they’d
like to share in their Scripture small groups from earlier.

 LEADER TIP: Prepare your rocks in advance! Think through your stories of God’s faithfulness, and write
on your rocks before the lesson, so you’re ready to present them!

Transitional Statement
In the Old Testament, every time God did something amazing or miraculous or came through for them, the
Israelites made a pile of rocks at the place where it happened to remember it. God has been faithful to US,
too. Here’s a great quote: “Miracles of the past…treat as the measures of the future.”1 In other words, when
God proves faithful over and over and over again…then we can trust that’s just WHO GOD IS: faithful…and we
can trust God in our present and future circumstances as well. Our histories tell us that God is able to bear the
weight of our hard circumstances and trials, and hold us up….just like the real rocks from the beginning video.
So, what are you facing now that you might need a reminder of God’s faithful love and presence with you?

1
Kidner, Derek. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries: Psalms 73-150. Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity, 1973. Page 440.
“Faithful in the Unknown”
by Sally Ulrey for the Diocese of Atlanta
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Trusting the Rock (Took, 10 mins)
For the closing time, we’ll invite the students to write the circumstances they are facing that are hard or scary,
and then rewrite Psalm 118 as a prayer for God’s provision in those circumstances.

 PRAYERS.
o Using the back of their Psalm 118 paper, have them write down any unknown circumstances
they are facing that might be nerve-wracking. Any unknowns (even exciting changes) can still
cause anxiety.
o Instruct them to write a prayer, using Psalm 118 as a guide. (They can rewrite it to fit their
circumstances. It can be very close to Psalm 118, just with a few things changed, or it can just
be a guide for a general prayer).
o Encourage them to use the phrases Moses, David, Ezra, and Jesus used to help remind them of
God’s faithfulness throughout history.
o While they are writing, play “Reason” by LaRue a couple times through (once while they write,
and again so they can listen or if they need more time).
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ImlTm149yo0
 ROCKS.
o Have them place their rocks in a baggie to take home to remind them that God has proven
trustworthy and faithful in the past, and we can trust God to be faithful now, too!
 QUOTE.
o Read this quote from Corrie ten Boom (who was a Dutch Christian who helped many Jews
escape the Nazis and was sent to prison for it, but was miraculously released): “Never be afraid
to trust an unknown future to a known God”
o Have them write the quote on their baggies with a sharpie

Close in prayer, thanking God for God’s faithfulness in the past, and asking God to help us trust his continued
faithfulness in all our current circumstances, thanking God that we know God to be faithful, and we trust all
the unknowns of our future to God!
AMEN.

“Faithful in the Unknown”


by Sally Ulrey for the Diocese of Atlanta
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Psalm 118
Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;
His love endures forever.
Let Israel say:
His love endures forever.
Let the house of Aaron say:
His love endures forever.
Let those who fear the Lord say:
His love endures forever.

In my anguish I cried to the Lord,


And He answered by setting me free.

The Lord is with me;


I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?
The Lord is with me;
He is my helper. I will look on triumph on my enemies.

It is better to take refuge in the Lord


Than to trust in man.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
Than to trust in princes.

All the nations surrounded me,


But in the name of the Lord I cut them off.
They surrounded me on every side,
But in the name of the Lord I cut them off.
They swarmed around me like bees; but they died out as quickly as burning thorns;
But in the name of the Lord I cut them off.

I was pushed back and about to fall, but the Lord helped me.
The Lord is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation.

The Lord is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation.

Shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous:


The Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!
The Lord’s right hand is lifted high;
The Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!

“Faithful in the Unknown”


by Sally Ulrey for the Diocese of Atlanta
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Group 1—Moses—Exodus 15

INSTRUCTIONS: Read the passage and answer the questions to see how Psalm 118 connects to
the Exodus.

Background: This is right after the Israelites walk through the Red Sea, and the Lord washes
away Pharaoh’s army after the Israelites pass safely through.

15 Then Moses and the Israelites sang this the LORD is his name.
song to the LORD:
4
Pharaoh’s chariots and his army
“I will sing to the LORD, he has hurled into the sea.
for he is highly exalted. The best of Pharaoh’s officers
Both horse and driver are drowned in the Red Sea.[b]
he has hurled into the sea.
5
The deep waters have covered them;
2
“The LORD is my strength and my defense[a]; they sank to the depths like a stone.
he has become my salvation.
6
Your right hand, LORD,
He is my God, and I will praise him, was majestic in power.
my father’s God, and I will exalt him. Your right hand, LORD,
3
The LORD is a warrior; shattered the enemy.

1. Briefly describe what’s going on. Why are they singing? Who is singing?

2. Look specifically at verses 2 and 6 of chapter 15. How does the language of Exodus relate to the language
of Psalm 118? What phrases are the same?

3. Where do you see God’s faithfulness in this major event in Israel’s history? What have they just overcome?

New International Version (NIV)


Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

“Faithful in the Unknown”


by Sally Ulrey for the Diocese of Atlanta
8
Group 2—David—1 Chronicles 16
INSTRUCTIONS: Read the passage and answer the questions to see how Psalm 118 connects to
King David.

Background: After he was anointed King, David started conquering the Philistines (who had
been oppressing Israel)…several victories! Then David tries to bring the Ark of the Covenant
back from the Philistines, but he fails… a set back. Finally, David succeeds in bringing the Ark
of the Covenant back to Israel. 1 Chronicles 16 is right after the Ark comes back to the
Israelites and is brought to Jerusalem.

16 4
David appointed some of the Levites to
17
He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree,
minister before the ark of the LORD, to to Israel as an everlasting covenant:
extol,[a] thank, and praise the LORD, the God of
18
“To you I will give the land of Canaan
Israel…7 That day David first appointed Asaph and as the portion you will inherit.”
his associates to give praise to the L ORD in this
manner:
23
Sing to the LORD, all the earth;
proclaim his salvation day after day.
8
Give praise to the LORD, proclaim his name;
make known among the nations what he has 34
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
done.
his love endures forever.
9
Sing to him, sing praise to him; 35
Cry out, “Save us, God our Savior;
tell of all his wonderful acts.
gather us and deliver us from the nations,
that we may give thanks to your holy name,
15
He remembers[c] his covenant forever,
and glory in your praise.”
the promise he made, for a thousand generations, 36
Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel,
16
the covenant he made with Abraham,
from everlasting to everlasting.
the oath he swore to Isaac.

1. Describe what’s going on. Why are they singing (see background summary above)

2. How does the language of this chapter in Chronicles relate to the language of Psalm 118? What phrases
are the same or similar?

3. Where do you see God’s faithfulness in this major event in Israel’s history? What have they just overcome?

New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission.
All rights reserved worldwide.

“Faithful in the Unknown”


by Sally Ulrey for the Diocese of Atlanta
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Group 3—Ezra—Ezra 3
INSTRUCTIONS: Read the passage and answer the questions to see how Psalm 118 connects to
Ezra and the Israelites’ return from Exile.

Background: After 70 years in exile, the Israelites are finally allowed to return to their homes
in Israel, but everything is in ruins. The temple has been destroyed, and even though they are
given permission to rebuild, they run into many obstacles.

3 10
When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the L ORD, the priests in their vestments and with
trumpets, and the Levites (the sons of Asaph) with cymbals, took their places to praise the L ORD, as prescribed
by David king of Israel. 11 With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the L ORD:

“He is good;
his love toward Israel endures forever.”
And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the L ORD, because the foundation of the house of
the LORD was laid.

1. What’s going on? What major event is taking place?

4. How does the language of Ezra relate to the language of Psalm 118? What phrases are the same?

2. Read verses 10-11. It is likely that David was the author of Psalm 118. What evidence is there that the
exiles were actually singing Psalm 118 at this historical event?

3. Where do you see God’s faithfulness in this major event in God’s history? What have they just overcome?

4. One of the themes of Psalm 118 is that God is always faithful to help. How do you think singing Psalm 118
would have felt to those exiles who had returned and are watching the foundation for the temple be laid?

New International Version (NIV)


Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

“Faithful in the Unknown”


by Sally Ulrey for the Diocese of Atlanta
10
Group 4—Jesus—Mark 14
INSTRUCTIONS: Read the passage and answer the questions to see how Psalm 118 connects to
the life of Jesus.

Background: Psalm 118 is the last psalm in a group of Psalms called the Hallel psalms, which,
since the return from the exile, were sung every year during the Passover meal. Psalm 118,
being the last, ended the Passover meal.

14 12
On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover
lamb…17 When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. 18 While they were reclining at the table eating, he
said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.”
19
They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, “Surely you don’t mean me?”
20
“It is one of the Twelve,” he replied, “one who dips bread into the bowl with me. 21 The Son of Man will go
just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he
had not been born.”
22
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his
disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.”
23
Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it.

“This is my blood of the[c] covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them. 25 “Truly I tell you, I will
24

not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”
26
When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

1. What’s going on? What major event is taking place? What is Jesus about to do?

2. Read verses 26. What evidence supports that Jesus actually sung Psalm 118 right there (see background
info above)?

3. The theme of Psalm 118 is God’s faithfulness throughout history. How do you think this theme affected
Jesus when He sang it before facing the cross?

New International Version (NIV)


Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

“Faithful in the Unknown”


by Sally Ulrey for the Diocese of Atlanta
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