Wednesday's Word

Wednesday’s Word ~ Ezekiel 18

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Ezekiel 18

The word of the Lord came to me: “What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’? As I live, declares the Lord God, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die.

“If a man is righteous and does what is just and right— if he does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, does not defile his neighbor’s wife or approach a woman in her time of menstrual impurity, does not oppress anyone, but restores to the debtor his pledge, commits no robbery, gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment, does not lend at interest or take any profit, withholds his hand from injustice, executes true justice between man and man, walks in my statutes, and keeps my rules by acting faithfully—he is righteous; he shall surely live, declares the Lord God.

10 “If he fathers a son who is violent, a shedder of blood, who does any of these things 11 (though he himself did none of these things), who even eats upon the mountains, defiles his neighbor’s wife, 12 oppresses the poor and needy, commits robbery, does not restore the pledge, lifts up his eyes to the idols, commits abomination, 13 lends at interest, and takes profit; shall he then live? He shall not live. He has done all these abominations; he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon himself.

14 “Now suppose this man fathers a son who sees all the sins that his father has done; he sees, and does not do likewise: 15 he does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, does not defile his neighbor’s wife, 16 does not oppress anyone, exacts no pledge, commits no robbery, but gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment, 17 withholds his hand from iniquity, takes no interest or profit, obeys my rules, and walks in my statutes; he shall not die for his father’s iniquity; he shall surely live. 18 As for his father, because he practiced extortion, robbed his brother, and did what is not good among his people, behold, he shall die for his iniquity.

19 “Yet you say, ‘Why should not the son suffer for the iniquity of the father?’ When the son has done what is just and right, and has been careful to observe all my statutes, he shall surely live. 20 The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.

21 “But if a wicked person turns away from all his sins that he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is just and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. 22 None of the transgressions that he has committed shall be remembered against him; for the righteousness that he has done he shall live. 23 Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live? 24 But when a righteous person turns away from his righteousness and does injustice and does the same abominations that the wicked person does, shall he live? None of the righteous deeds that he has done shall be remembered; for the treachery of which he is guilty and the sin he has committed, for them he shall die.

25 “Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way not just? Is it not your ways that are not just? 26 When a righteous person turns away from his righteousness and does injustice, he shall die for it; for the injustice that he has done he shall die. 27 Again, when a wicked person turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he shall save his life.28 Because he considered and turned away from all the transgressions that he had committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die. 29 Yet the house of Israel says, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ O house of Israel, are my ways not just? Is it not your ways that are not just?

30 “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. 31 Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? 32 For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.”


The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


Questions to Consider:

1. What is the book of Ezekiel about? Which genre (history, poetry, wisdom, etc.) is the book of Ezekiel? What is the overall theme of chapter 18?

2. How do verses 5-9 describe a righteous man? What kind of heart would such a man have to have in order to consistently live this way? (9)

3. Who is the “he” in verses 11 and 12 referring to? Is this man to be punished for the sins of his son? (13) If the sinful man (14) fathers a righteous son (14-17) is the righteous son to be punished for his father’s sin? (17-18) Which verse(s) in this chapter sum up the principle of individual responsibility for sin? How does this chapter refute the false teaching of generational curses?

4. What can we learn about repentance from verses 21-32? In which does God take delight, pouring out His wrath on the wicked or pouring out His forgiveness on the repentant? (23, 32) How does this passage compare to 2 Peter 3:9?

5. Consider this chapter in light of the gospel. Is any person truly righteous? Where does the Christian’s righteousness come from? How does the New Testament describe Jesus, the righteous Son, being punished for our sin? What effect does this have on verse 4 (“the soul who sins shall die”)?

Evangelism, Old Testament, Sunday School, Types and Shadows

Dem Bones ~ Sunday School Lesson ~ 9-14-14

Dem BonesThese are my notes from my ladies’ Sunday School class this morning. I’ll be posting the notes from my class here each week. Click here for last week’s lesson.

Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 37 ~ Sep. 7-13
Ezekiel 35-48, Joel
Dem Bones

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, [Jesus] interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. Luke 24:27

The most beautiful thing about the Old Testament is that Jesus’ fingerprints are all over it. The imagery and symbolism displaying His life and the gospel pop out from the least expected places to surprise and delight us. And at the same time we see the “far,” New Testament application, of Old Testament passages, we can also see the “near,” or immediate application the passage has for the Bible characters the story is literally happening to. It’s like getting two lessons in one.

Ezekiel 37:1-14

Something Old
God sent this vision to Ezekiel the night before the messenger came with word of the fall of Jerusalem. The people of Israel were devastated and fearful, and this vision was meant to comfort and reassure them.

The valley (1) represented the areas of the world to which Israel and Judah had been (or would shortly be) exiled. As the skeletons were scattered all over the valley, so God’s people were scattered in various parts of the world.

The bones (2-3, 11) are a picture of death. With exile impending, Israel felt that all hope was dead and gone. The fact that the bones in the valley were “very dry” means that they had been there for quite a while, just as Israel would be in exile for seventy long years. It was the death of life as they knew it.

The prophecy (4-10, 12-14, Jeremiah 3:12, Isaiah 54:8, Psalm 30:5) this time, after so many prophecies of God’s coming wrath, was a prophecy of hope and restoration. God would breathe the breath of life and hope back into Israel. He would raise them up out of the grave of those pagan lands and resurrect them to a new life back in the Promised Land.

Go, and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, “‘Return, faithless Israel, declares the Lord. I will not look on you in anger, for I am merciful, declares the Lord; I will not be angry forever. (Jer.)

In overflowing anger for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,” says the Lord, your Redeemer. (Is.)

For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. (Ps.)

What a kind and compassionate God! He justly executes judgment, but graciously forgives sin when His people repent.

Something New
The first layer of our lesson today was the “near” application– the literal, immediate application to Israel. From that, we’ve learned that God will not tolerate idolatry, that He is patient with His children, but does discipline them, and that He is merciful and forgiving towards Israel.

The second layer of the story is the “far,” or New Testament layer. It takes those attributes of God and redemption that we’ve just learned about in Israel’s story and shows us how Jesus “fleshed them out.”

The valley (1) could be anywhere. People are scattered over the whole earth just the way the bones were scattered across the valley.

The bones (2-3, 11, Ephesians 2:1-2a, John 15:16; 6:44, Hebrews 11:6, Romans 6:23) are people who are still dead in sin and have never come to repentant faith in Jesus Christ.

Let’s take a look at Ephesians 2:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked.

Prior to salvation, we are spiritually dead. Just like a corpse can’t move, act, think, or decide, we can’t do anything to choose God (Jn. 15), or please Him (Heb.), or decide on our own to get saved (Jn. 6).

And not only are we spiritually dead during our time on earth, but eternal death awaits us when our earthly lives are over (Rom.). Without Christ, we are born dead, live dead, and die unto eternal death.

Gives you kind of a hopeless feeling (like the Israelites had) doesn’t it?

The prophecy (4-10, 12-14, Matthew 13:57, John 11:25-26; 3:6-7; 16:7; 20:22, 2 Timothy 3:16, Romans 6:4, Ephesians 2:4-7, 2 Corinthians 1:22)
Just like God sent the prophet Ezekiel -“Son of Man” (God calls him this 93 times)- to his people with the good news of the hope of new life, He sent His Son -also called the “Son of Man” (87 times in the New Testament)- the greatest prophet (Matt.), not just to proclaim the good news of new life, but to become that good news by giving His life on the cross so that we might not die, but live.

Verse 6 says: And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.”

At Lazarus’ tomb, “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (Jn. 11)

Just as Ezekiel prophesied to the bones (7-10) and they were born again from the dead, Jesus preached, “You must be born again.” (Jn. 3:7). And just as the bodies in verse 8 were fully fleshed out but had no spirit in them, Jesus said, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (Jn. 3:6)

Ezekiel prophesied to the breath and it entered the dead bodies and brought them to life. You may have a footnote in your Bible on the word “breath” in verse 5, 6, 9, or 10 that says “or spirit.” The Hebrew (the Old Testament was written in Hebrew) word ruah is the same for “breath” or “spirit.”

In John 16, Jesus prophesied to His disciples that the Holy Spirit would come and fill them: “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.”

And in John 20: “…he [Jesus] breathed on them [the disciples] and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

Interestingly, the Greek (the New Testament was written in Greek) word pneuma means both “spirit” and “breath.” You probably recognize this Greek word as the root of our English word “pneumonia,” a disease of the lungs, or “breath.” The branch of theology that deals with the study of the Holy Spirit is called pneumatology. When 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is inspired by God…” the word translated “inspired” is theopneustos, or God (theo) breathed (pneustos). It is not until the Holy Spirit, the breath of life, enters us that we are “raised to walk in newness of life.” (Rom.)

As God said to Israel in verses 13-14, “And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord.”

so He says to us in Ephesians 2, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”

“and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” (2 Cor.)

Something Borrowed, Just for You
We have seen the “near” application to the Israelites, and the “far” application to the gospel, so what is the “now” application for us? What can we “borrow” from this passage to do in our own walk with the Lord?

We are to follow in the footsteps of Ezekiel and Jesus and preach (share) the gospel of the resurrection to new life to dry, dead bones, and pray God to do His mighty work of raising sinners from the dead.

Can these bones live? Oh, Lord God, You know.

Evangelism, Gospel, Old Testament, Sunday School

Watching and Warning with Ezekiel ~ Sunday School Lesson ~ 9-7-14

EzekielThese are my notes from my ladies’ Sunday School class this morning. I’ll be posting the notes from my class here each week. Click here for last week’s lesson.

Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 36 ~ Aug. 31- Sep. 6
Ezekiel 16-34
Watching and Warning with Ezekiel

Well, Ezekiel is still prophesying (and he’ll still be prophesying until Saturday :0) God is still sending out the same message through him. Again and again, God chastises His people, trying to shake some sense into them so they will repent and turn back to Him. Not because He wants to exercise judgment on them but so “they will know that I am the Lord.” (That phrase is used 74 times in the book of Ezekiel.) No one could say God was unfair because He didn’t warn them of His coming judgment or that He hadn’t given them enough time or that he hadn’t been clear.

Ezekiel 33:1-16

What’s a Watchman?
As we’ve talked about in the past, large or important cities normally fortified themselves against their enemies by constructing a tall, thick wall (sometimes an inner and an outer wall as we saw with Jericho) around the perimeter. These are great for keeping the enemy out once they get there, but not so great for being able to see whether or not the enemy is coming in the first place. We’re talking low visibility. So they would often build high watchtowers at various intervals around the city wall (sometimes outside the wall in a field or on a hill, but fairly close to the city). A watchman would be stationed in the watchtower, and it was his job to alert the higher ups that the enemy was approaching, a messenger was arriving, etc. To be good at his job, he needed good eyes. He needed to be able to discern a messenger from an enemy. He needed to stay alert and vigilant. He needed to act quickly and decisively. He needed to be able to rapidly and clearly convey an urgent message to the right person at the right time. And if he failed even once in any of these duties, he could likely kiss his life goodbye.

33:1-9- Ezekiel: Israel’s Spiritual Watchman (Matthew 23:37a)

If we’ve learned anything from studying these prophetic books, we’ve learned that being a prophet was not some cushy job. Most of the time, God did not have good news for His people, and most of the time, the people did not want to hear it. Jesus even said,

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!” (Matt.)

But Israel needed a watchman, and God said, “Ezekiel, you’re it.” (7)

Every time God had a message of warning for the people, Ezekiel was to faithfully proclaim it without delay. He was not to hold back from speaking harsh truths to scary people just because he was afraid. If the person Ezekiel was speaking to chose to reject God’s message, that was on that person’s head (9). But if Ezekiel kept his mouth shut, he was being just like that watchman on the wall who didn’t do his job right, and God would hold him accountable for the death of the intended hearers, who would still die in their sin (8).

33:10- What Was the Warning? (Ezekiel 18:4)
What was the warning? It was the warning to repent before God’s coming judgment. Verse 10 gives us a small glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe God’s message was getting through to a few people:

“Surely our transgressions and our sins are upon us, and we rot away because of them.”

EXACTLY. Israel’s sin and transgressions are bringing God’s wrath upon her. That is what has caused all this calamity and the continuing sermons of doom from His prophets. As God had already told the people back in chapter 18, “The soul that sins shall die.” (18:4). But the story doesn’t end there.

33:10-16- Good News!
Look at the people’s hopelessness in verse 10:

How then can we live?

Their sin has done them in, and now they’re coming to grips with a horrifying reality: they have transgressed a holy God. They recognize that they deserve any punishment God wants to dole out and that He will be justified in pouring out His wrath upon them. What hope could they possibly have?

They have the hope of a God who is not only perfectly just, but rich in mercy and forgiveness and grace. A God who has “no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live.” (11)

“Turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?” (11) He pleads with them. This God who pleads with them now, and has been for nearly 800 years, is not the cruel, selfish, and vindictive god some portray Him as, but the tender, compassionate Father who will move heaven and earth to keep His children from destroying themselves.

Turn away from your evil ways and turn to My mercy and forgiveness, and you will live, He says. “None of the sins that he has committed shall be remembered against him.”

But remember, it’s your repentance and reliance on my mercy that saves you, God tells them. Don’t think you can get by on your past good deeds. “…if he trusts in his righteousness and does injustice, none of his righteous deeds shall be remembered, but in his injustice that he has done he shall die.”

None of the people are so bad that God won’t save them and none of them are so good that they don’t need God to save them.

Following in Ezekiel’s Footsteps
Although we’re not prophets, God has given us a similar charge to the one he gave Ezekiel. We, too, who have the good news of the gospel are to be spiritual watchmen for all those in our circle of influence. We have God’s word, we know what it says, and He has commissioned us to carry that message to people. Like the watchman, we need to stay alert and vigilant for opportunities to share the gospel. We often need to act quickly and decisively to share the gospel before the moment slips away. We need to be able to clearly convey the urgent message of salvation to the right person at the right time. And we need to take this duty deadly seriously.

What? A Warning?
Sometimes when people present the gospel, they do it by using what salesmen call a “hook,” a promise of what the product will do for the person or how it will make his life better. “Want to go to Heaven when you die?” “Jesus will make your life awesome!” But that’s not our message. Jesus isn’t a product we’re trying to convince people to buy.

Like Ezekiel, our first job is to warn people that they have broken God’s law, and that the penalty for breaking His law is God’s wrath, an eternity in hell. God doesn’t just automatically forgive everybody when they die (that’s a false teaching called Universalism). And, just like Ezekiel told the people, you can’t get by on your own good deeds. The warning always has to come first. People don’t know they need to flee to safety if they don’t know they’re in danger.

Our Good News
But as soon as the person we’re sharing with begins to feel like the Israelites– Surely our transgressions and our sins are upon us, and we rot away because of them. How then can we live? (10) –we have the unbelievable privilege of telling them the beautiful news of God’s mercy and grace for sinners like you and me:

As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die? (11)

None of the sins that he has committed shall be remembered against him. He has done what is just and right; he shall surely live. (16)

How could we ever keep such wonderful news to ourselves?

Idolatry, Old Testament, Sin, Sunday School

The Benefit of Israel’s Experience ~ Sunday School Lesson ~ 8-31-14

Benefit of Israel's Experience

These are my notes from my ladies’ Sunday School class this morning. I’ll be posting the notes from my class here each week. Click here for last week’s lesson.

Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 35 ~ Aug. 24-30
Jeremiah 51-52, Lamentations, Ezekiel 1-15
The Benefit of Israel’s Experience

For weeks now, we have watched Israel and Judah sink farther and farther into idolatry and other sin, and now they are facing God’s wrath for it. It’s easy to look back thousands of years later and think this is an ancient story that has no bearing on us today. But Israel was God’s people, like we are. They were prone to sin, like we are. Among the many things we can draw out of Israel’s story is that we as God’s people don’t want to go down the same road to sin that they did. What can we learn from what they did wrong, and how do we keep from becoming like them?

Ezekiel 14

It’s a slow fade (Exodus 14-17,32)
That’s the title of a Casting Crowns song. Another line of the song says, “People never crumble in a day,” and that is certainly true. In the same way that someone doesn’t just wake up one morning and decide to have an affair, Israel didn’t just wake up one morning with Asherah poles in their back yards and prostitutes in the temple. We’re in about 593 BC here in Ezekiel. The exodus occurred around 1445 BC, with the golden calf incident occurring not too long after that. Give or take, we’re talking about 800ish years that Israel has been involved with idolatry. This depth of depravity didn’t happen overnight.

But even back in Exodus, there were “smaller” sins leading up to idol worship: they didn’t trust God, and they weren’t satisfied with God. They coveted fleshly security. At the Red Sea, they doubted God and wailed and moaned that they were going to die. They didn’t trust God for water or bread. And, finally, they grew impatient and distrustful that God would ever bring Moses down from Mt. Sinai. All of that culminated in the making and worshiping of the golden calf.

What can we learn? (2 Timothy 2:22, 2 Corinthians 10:5, Matthew 5:27-30)
There is no such thing as a little sin, because little sins always lead to bigger sins. Ever watch the Animal Planet show, Fatal Attractions? It was all about these various crazy people who adopted baby tigers, chimps, bears, etc. into their homes and then were shocked when these animals grew up and ripped their faces off (sometimes literally).

That’s what a “little” sin will do to you. It starts off looking cute and cuddly and harmless and then you embrace it and nurture it and think you’ve got a handle on it, and it grows up to rip your face off or kill you.

“Small” sins have to be dealt with swiftly and decisively. We must immediately turn from them and ask God’s forgiveness. We can’t play around with them even a little bit. That’s why the Bible tells us to “flee” (2 Tim) from sin and to take even our thoughts captive to obey Christ (2 Cor.). Hey, poke out your eye or cut off your hand if you have to, is what Jesus said (Matt.).

Lip service is a lie
The elders in 14:1 were not genuinely seeking to worship or obey God. It had been a long time, if ever, since they had done that. They were making a pretense to make it look to the people of Judah like they were actually following God and that God was pleased with them. And God answered that fake inquiry with real judgment.

What can we learn? (Isaiah 29:13-14)
Merely going through the motions doesn’t cut it. Putting your body in church once a week, reciting memorized prayers, giving offerings out of habit, mindlessly singing the hymns does nothing to make you godly. In fact it can help lull you into thinking you’re good with God and have nothing to worry about with regard to falling into sin.

Isaiah said about the Israelites:

“…this people draw[s] near with their mouth and honor[s] me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me…” (Is.)

and look what happened to them.

The same can be true of us. We must ask the Lord to hold us close and help us cling to Him. We must daily run to God’s word and prayer, humble ourselves and remember our dependence on Him. We must celebrate the gospel every day, remembering the price Christ paid for our sin, His love for us, and our love for Him.

Repentance is always the answer
Even at the brink of destruction, God’s message to Israel (14:6) is repent. He had brought all these calamities upon them to bring about their repentance. But the people and their leaders would have none of it.

What can we learn?
We’re going to sin. There’s just no way around it. But when we do, the answer is always to turn to Christ in repentance. One of the verses we have talked about so many times in this class is 1 John 1:9:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

While the idolatry the Israelites committed was a grave sin, what was even worse was that they refused to repent.

Sometimes, the cheese stands alone (Genesis 6:8, Daniel 6:4, Job 1:8)
Noah, Daniel, and Job- what do we remember about these guys? Each of them stood for righteousness surrounded by a sinful culture, and they all stood alone or nearly so. Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord (Gen.). Daniel was “faithful, and no error or fault was found in him.” (Dan.) God Himself said Job was “a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil” (Job)

And yet, God said that even if these three men had been present at Ezekiel’s time, their righteousness would have saved only themselves, no matter how hard they prayed or preached, because Israel refused to repent.

What can we learn?
Daniel, Job, and Noah were not righteous in and of themselves. They didn’t find favor with God because they were good deed doers, but because they believed God, walked in repentance, and were faithful to Him– some of the things we’ve already discussed today.
It seems simplistic to say that the lesson here is “Be like Daniel, Job, and Noah, not like the Israelites,” but sometimes it really is that simple. We must be faithful to God like they were even when no one else around us is.

I’ll take you back
If you could boil it down to one sentence, what would you say was God’s end goal in hitting Israel so hard? Check out verses 10-11:

And they shall bear their punishment—the punishment of the prophet and the punishment of the inquirer shall be alike— that the house of Israel may no more go astray from me, nor defile themselves anymore with all their transgressions, but that they may be my people and I may be their God, declares the Lord God.”

No matter how far they had strayed or what they had done, God still loved His people and wanted them back. His desire was never to destroy them but to reconcile them to Himself.

What can we learn? (Luke 15:11-32)
As the parable of the prodigal son so beautifully demonstrates, we may fall into all kinds of horrible sin, but when we come to God broken and sorrowful over that sin, He wraps His arms around us in love and welcomes us back. That’s what He wanted to do for Israel, and that’s what He wants to do for us. That’s the reason Jesus came. The reason for the cross. The reason for the empty tomb.

For some purpose, known only to Himself, God loves us and wants us back.