Sunday School 08 26 2012

 

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 “God Promised to Be with Us”

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Lesson Text: Ezekiel 34:23-31

Background Scripture: Ezekiel 34

Devotional Reading: Psalm 23

 

Ezekiel 34:23-31 (KJV)

 

23And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd.

24And I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David a prince among them; I the Lord have spoken it.

25And I will make with them a covenant of peace, and will cause the evil beasts to cease out of the land: and they shall dwell safely in the wilderness, and sleep in the woods.

26And I will make them and the places round about my hill a blessing; and I will cause the shower to come down in his season; there shall be showers of blessing.

27And the tree of the field shall yield her fruit, and the earth shall yield her increase, and they shall be safe in their land, and shall know that I am the Lord, when I have broken the bands of their yoke, and delivered them out of the hand of those that served themselves of them.

28And they shall no more be a prey to the heathen, neither shall the beast of the land devour them; but they shall dwell safely, and none shall make them afraid.

29And I will raise up for them a plant of renown, and they shall be no more consumed with hunger in the land, neither bear the shame of the heathen any more.

30Thus shall they know that I the Lord their God am with them, and that they, even the house of Israel, are my people, saith the Lord God.

31And ye my flock, the flock of my pasture, are men, and I am your God, saith the Lord God.

 

OBJECTIVES

To study God’s promises through Ezekiel to provide a Shepherd who would take care of the people instead of leaving them scattered and neglected.

To show that when Jesus rules, peace and blessings will abound as He delivers and cares for His people.

To show that Jesus’ promise to be with us always should give us peace no matter how dark the situation.

 

INTRODUCTION

Experiencing God’s Presence

   Jon Weatherly writes, “There have been three times in my life when I have experienced God’s presence in what can only be called a “supernatural” manner. One was in the summer of 1965, when a friend and I were doing youth evangelism. I had just graduated from Bible college, and my friend was entering his senior year. He led the singing, and I did the preaching. As we were walking across a field from the parsonage to the church building for one service, a strange sensation came over me—a sensation that led me to go back and change my sermon for the evening.

   I had only 14 sermons developed at that point in my young career. I told my friend to go ahead and start the service, and I would come as soon as possible. I made it to the service just in time to witness a young man interrupt the singing by standing up with great difficulty from a wheelchair. He gave a testimony to the young people about his addiction to alcohol and wild living.

   A year earlier he had had a car accident that resulted in his lying on the highway with legs crushed, the smell of gasoline and alcohol all around. He said, “I met Jesus on the highway that day, and He saved not only my physical life but my life for all eternity. I want you to meet Jesus tonight, not on the highway like I did, but here tonight before it is too late.” He sat down, my friend finished leading the singing, and I stood to preach. The sermon I went back and selected was entitled “When You Meet Jesus.”

  Before I could finish my sermon, young people were running to the front to give their lives to Jesus. It was a supernatural moment when we knew God was present and working through us and in us.

   The other two experiences? They will have to wait for another time. But we hasten to remind ourselves that we do not really need to experience God’s presence in a supernatural way to know that He is with us. All we really need to do is remind ourselves of His promise always to be with us (Matthew 28:20). His presence meets our deepest needs and gives us peace and wholeness. It did for ancient Israel as well.” 

 

LESSON BACKGROUND

Time:about 585 B.C.

Place:Babylon 

   Ezekiel, whose name means “God strengthens,” was the son of Buzi, a priest of the family of Zadok (Ezek. 1:3). What is known about Ezekiel’s life comes from the information he gives in his book. Also, his prophecies contain dates more specific than almost any others in the Old Testament. This makes it possible to correlate Ezekiel’s declarations with Babylonian records and date many of the prophet’s oracles (for example, see 1:1-3; 8:1; 20:1; 24:1; 26:1; 29:1, ,17; 30:20; 31:1: 32:1, 17; 33:21; 40:1). In 597 B.C. when Ezekiel was about 25 years old, the Babylonians took him into exile with Jehoiachin and about 10,000 other Jews (see 2 Kings 24:10-17). When Ezekiel was 30 years old and living in the Jewish colony of Tel Aviv on the Rebar River (near the ancient city of Nippur), he heard God’s call to be His prophet (Ezek. 1:2-3; 3:15; about 593 B.C.).

   Throughout Ezekiel’s ministry, which continued until 571 B.C. (see 29:17), he tried to help his fellow exiles deal with the fact that they were far from their homeland. He taught them that the Lord was close at hand to sustain them during their time of displacement. Ezekiel’s oracles, like those of Jeremiah, fall into three major categories: declarations against Israel, especially before the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.; pronouncements against the nations, such as Egypt and Tyre; and words of consolation for Israel’s future, including visions of a restored nation and a new temple (chaps. 33-47).

   The context of this week’s lesson is the aftermath of the fall of Jerusalem. Based on 2 Kings 25:8, this occurred on August 14, 586 B.C. Five months later, on January 8, 585 B.C., someone who had escaped from the city of David arrived in Babylon and told Ezekiel about Jerusalem’s demise (Ezek. 33:21).

   A pivotal reason for the fateful event was the despicable manner in which the rulers of Israel had led God’s people. The civil and religious authorities were like greedy, self-serving shepherds who tended to their own needs but failed to care for the Lord’s flock. (34:1-2). God had appointed the rulers of Israel to feed and lead everyone in the nation, including the poor and oppressed, But instead of relieving the plight of the disadvantaged, the wicked rich exploited and abused parents, foreigners, widows, and orphans (see 22:7). 

  Israel’s all-powerful God would no longer permit His flock to be abused in this way. He committed Himself to personally judge between the sheep that had grown fat and the rest that had become scrawny (v. 20).  Indeed, He planned to judge every member of His flock by separating the good from the bad.

 

   God declared His intent to set over His people one spiritual shepherd from the family of His servant, King David (v. 23). This ruler like David would feed and lead the chosen people in a way they had never experienced before.  In the years leading up to the first century A.D., no descendant from the royal line of David fulfilled what Ezekiel described (Cook).

   Ezekiel’s message of hope was a vision of restoration and revitalization. The name of the restored city would be “The Lord is there” (Ezekiel 48:35). The promise of God’s presence in this renewed kingdom of God is the essence of our lesson today.

 

Promise of a Shepherd (Ezekiel 34:23-24)

1. What are the themes used by Ezekiel in his prophecy in chapter 34?

   Ezekiel is God’s “watchman” (Ezekiel 33) who offers the exiles hope for a future unlike anything they have ever known. God is going to restore and revitalize all that the exiles have lost. The visionary hope includes restoring of the Davidic kingship (chapter 34), restoration of land (chapters 35, 36), restoration of the nation (chapter 37), respite from enemies (chapters 38, 39), and the return of God’s glory (chapters 40-48). Ezekiel, having foretold and experienced the demise of the Davidic dynasty (chapter 17), now announces its restoration.

   Ezekiel had already exposed the sins of the nation's leaders (chap. 22), but he returned to this theme because it had a bearing on Israel's future. While this message applied to Israel's current situation in Ezekiel's day, it also had application in that future day when the Lord gathers His scattered people back to their land. This message certainly must have brought hope to the exiles as they realized the Lord has not forsaken them but would care for them as a shepherd for his sheep.

2. Who was the “servant David?”  Why did the Lord promise that Israel would have only “one” Shepherd” (Ezekiel 34:23)?

   The Lord promised to set one shepherd over His people.  This Shepherd was identified as “my servant David” and refers to Jesus Christ.  The servant David (Christ) will be a shepherd who will feed the flock. His care will contrast starkly with the many unworthy shepherds who have fattened themselves by spoiling the flock of Israel (Ezekiel 34:1-22). The great golden age of David’s reign (1010-970 B.C.) is a focal point for prophetic hope of a new kind of king for God’s people (see Isaiah 9:5, 6; 11:1; Jeremiah 23:5; Ezekiel 37:24; Amos 9:11).

   The significance of the “one shepherd” is twofold.  First, He will take the place of the many bad shepherds whom Israel and Judah have endured.  Second, the one shepherd image implies the reuniting of Israel and Judah, never again to be divided (1 Kings 12:1-24 Ezekiel 37:15-19; John 10:16). It may also imply the eternal reign of this king, who lives forever (see Ezekiel 37:25).

What Do You Think?

   In what ways can church leaders, being accountable to the chief shepherd Jesus, tend the flock (1 Peter 5:2-4)?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

In whole-church gatherings | In smaller group settings | In church discipline | One-on-one

 

3. How will the “servant David” be God’s representative on earth? (v. 24)

   God’s servant is appointed to be, not only the pastor, but the prince, of the redeemed. His rule is marked by justice and equity, and at the same time by graciousness and compassion. He is the Prince of righteousness and the Prince of peace. His dominion shall be universal—“from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.” His dominion shall be imperishable—from one generation to another, “and of the increase of his government there shall be no end.”

 

Promise of Blessings (Ezekiel 34:25-29)

4. How will peace be characteristic of the messianic age?  (v. 25)

   The messianic age will be characterized by a covenant of peace between God and His people (Ezekiel 37:26).  The Hebrew concept of peace is not simply the absence of hostility but a condition of harmony, wholeness and fulfillment.  It will include harmony with God, men and nature.

   The phrase covenant of peace also occurs in Numbers 25:12; Isaiah 54:10; and Ezekiel 37:26. The covenant being discussed here is what will characterize the messianic age. The covenant Jesus institutes on the night He is betrayed (see Mark 14:22-25) fulfills the prediction of Jeremiah for such a covenant. Peace is to prevail in the relationship between God and His people. The curses of Genesis 3are to be reversed.

5. How will man relate to animals and nature in the messianic kingdom?

   There will be harmony between man and nature as prophesied for the messianic age (Isa. 11:6-9; 35:9; Hos. 2:18).  The Lord will drive out evil beasts from the land.

   Ezekiel sees this peace in terms of the absence of fearful wild beasts, the presence of security in the wilderness, and the ability to sleep in the woods without fear (see Ezekiel 5:17; 14:15, 21; 33:27). The evil beasts could be figurative for the oppressive empires of Assyria and Babylon. But these oppressors are mentioned plainly in Ezekiel 34:27alongside “the beast of the land” in 34:28; thus beasts here in 34:25bis probably literal. Also, “sword” and “beast” are separate instruments of punishment in 14:21.

   The woods are not a place where an Israelite normally would sleep without fear of ferocious beasts that attack at night! But there shall be genuine peace in the heart of the one in covenant relationship with God. We must keep in mind the idea that we are sheep in a wilderness and woods of sin, and God’s servant Jesus is the shepherd that protects us. This goes above and beyond a mere literal application of protection from bears in the woods!

6. What will agriculture be like? Why? (vs. 26-27a)

   An agricultural comparison of Ezekiel 34:26, 27a here can be made with Leviticus 26:4 (“and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit”); 26:5 (“and dwell in your land safely”); and 26:13 (“I am the Lord your God... and I have broken the bands of your yoke, and made you go upright”). The fruitfulness of the land is a characteristic sign of the age to come (see Hosea 2:21-23; Isaiah 29:17; Jeremiah 31:4-14; 32:40-44). The remnant of God’s people in exile will know that Yahweh is God when they experience deliverance from Babylonian bondage. The people will return to a land of their hearts’ desire, a land God blesses with rain.

   As with the beasts just discussed, so with the showers of blessing—the ultimate application is more than literal. God gives to His people spiritual blessings that are as essential to peaceful existence as the rain is to the land’s productivity (see Malachi 3:10).

7.  Why did God deliver Israel from her enemies? (vs. 27b-28)

   The Lord also promised that the people would be safe in the land and not be oppressed by the peoples around them. Except during the reigns of David and Solomon, the nation of Israel has been attacked, conquered, and ravaged by one nation after another, but this will cease when Messiah is on the throne.

   God promised that Israel would know beyond any doubt that He is the Lord, for He would break “the bands of their yoke” and deliver“them out of the hand of those that served themselves of them” allude to a second exodus, when the people return from Babylonian captivity. The first exodus, from Egypt, also is described by such statements (see Leviticus 26:13). Ezekiel uses the language of covenant law to express the new state of the age to come.

   As a result of the covenant of peace and the Davidic servant’s leadership, the flock of God will experience a peaceful life. They would no longer be prey for other nations.  This will be life free from fear of the pagans (the heathen) or beasts. Notice the similar language in

What Do You Think?

   How can God’s presence free us from modern yokes?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

The yoke of worry | The yoke of debt | The yoke of health problems | The yoke of addictions

 

8. How will food supply in the messianic kingdom compare with past famines? (v. 29)

   These blessings of the covenant of peace are real, and they are described in superlative imagery. A good example is the prediction that God will raise up for them a plant of renown. The picture is that of paradise regained.

   Famine will no longer be found in the land in contrast with the experiences of the patriarchs (see Genesis 12:10; 26:1). Israel will have a name for abundance, so that they will no more be consumed with hunger.  The nation once plagued with disciplinary famines will abound in good harvests and a plentiful food supply. Nations will no longer shame the people.

   The Church is a plantation of renown. There is renown in the planting of it. It is customary for a member of the royal family who visits a country place to be asked to plant a tree. If the request is complied with, the young tree is watched with peculiar care and ever after pointed out with interest. It is a plant of renown. Not only has the Church been planted by God; it has been planted at the cost of the sacrifice of Christ. This plantation has been watered with the blood of Christ. It has the renown of the great sacrifice of Divine love consummated on Calvary.

 

Promise of Divine Presence (Ezekiel 34:30-31)

9. What will be Israel’s covenant relationship with the Lord in the messianic kingdom? (v. 30)

   Verse 30 is the climax of the list of blessings belonging to God’s people as a result of the covenant of peace. In the last days, a purged and repentant remnant of Israel will acknowledge their crucified and risen Messiah.  They will enter into a new covenant with the Lord, through which their sins will be forgiven and they will have an intimate knowledge of Him.  They will also have a new understanding of what it means to be His people.

   There should be no greater comfort than the assurance of God’s divine presence. This is a vision of all God’s people gathered together (Israel and Judah) as the house of Israel. Whenever we see the two ideas “their [or your] God” and “my people” together, the image is that of a covenant relationship. It is within this covenant relationship that God promises His divine presence for His people (see Leviticus 26:12; Jeremiah 7:23; 11:4; 30:22; Ezekiel 36:28; a negative example is Hosea 1:9).

   The phrase the Lord God is characteristic of how Ezekiel writes God’s name—Ezekiel uses Lord God more than all the other prophets combined. The rendering of God with small capital letters indicates that the word Yahweh is being translated. The word saith carries the authority of the very words from God’s mouth. The greatest blessing anyone can claim is the divine presence of God in his or her life (see Ephesians 2:22).

What Do You Think?

   What do you find most helpful in heightening your awareness of God’s presence? Why?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

Corporate worship | Observing the Lord’s Supper | Personal prayer or devotional time

 

10. What imagery does God use to remind His people of His care for them? (v. 31)

   Our text ends as it began: with the shepherd and sheep figure. The imagery of the messianic age suspended this briefly in verses 25-30, but now the metaphor is warmly applied to the people of verse 30. The people of God have always been God’s pasture. The bad shepherds (leaders) of Israel and Judah had allowed, and caused God’s people to be scattered (Jeremiah 23:2; Ezekiel 34:7-10). So God himself will gather His far-flung flock from the nations of the world and deliver them from their exile (Jeremiah 23:3; Ezekiel 34:11-22). At just the right moment (see Galatians 4:4), God sends His servant “David,” the one shepherd, to feed the sheep and care for them (Jeremiah 23:4-6; Ezekiel 37:23, 24). That one shepherd is Jesus. The divine presence of God is assured by the new covenant relationship between God and His people.

 

POINTS TO PONDER

1.    The reign of God's Servant-the Lord Jesus-will surpass anything seen or experienced during the glory years of David. The Lord has spoken! (Ezekiel 34:23-24)

2.    All the covenants God establishes with His people have “peace” (v. 25)

3.    God’s pledges of showers and blessings always come down in due season (Ezekiel 34:26; Jeremiah 5:24).

4.    God does not want His children to live in any kind of bondage! Let Him break your yoke, so that you will have nothing and no one to fear! (vs. 27-28)

5.    Today we have an abundance of food in or homes. Some of which even goes to waste. Let us not forget to thank Him. (v. 29)

6.    God knows who you are. Do you know Him? (vs. 30-31).  If not, begin talking to Him today. He’s listening…

 

CONCLUSION

God’s Presence in Christ

   Jesus identified himself with the shepherd imagery of the Old Testament when He said He was sent “unto the lost sheep o Jeremiah 23f the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24). The extended imagery of the good shepherd in John 10:1-30 reflects the imagery ofand Ezekiel 34, 37. Jesus was “moved with compassion” because the people “fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). Jesus’ teaching featured imagery of lost sheep (see Matthew 18:12-14; Luke 15:3-7).

   Leaders in the church are to feed the flock without thought of reward (see 1 Peter 5:2, 3). They do so with the realization that they and their flock have the divine presence of God at all times in Christ. No one needs a special supernatural sign or feeling to be assured of His presence. God’s promise is enough.

 

PRAYER

   Father, we thank You for the blessings of Your covenant of peace that delivers us from wrath. May Your peace and presence be reflected in our lives to an unbelieving world. In Jesus’ name, amen.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER

   “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”

 


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