How to Live as Redeemed People

Explore the Bible Series

July 17, 2005

 

Background Passage: Ezekiel 34:1-37:28

Lesson Passage: Ezekiel 34: 2b-5; 10a, 16-24

 

Introduction:

The spring rains in North Texas often precede the oppressive heat and arid conditions of the summer. This part of the country receives a large percentage of its annual rainfall during the months following winter, and, those rains help sustain the area throughout the long, hot summers. This year, however, the rains did not come with their normal frequency or intensity.Now, as the region enters the difficult, dry months of the year, the land is showing the effects of drought: shrinking creeks and rivers, withered plant life, and large cracks in the soil.Under these conditions, occasional summer rains are welcomed.

 

The last two afternoons thunderclouds have darkened the western sky.Lightening streaks have appeared on the horizon, and the low rumble of thunder slowly crept closer and closer. The lightening and thunder troubled the afternoon sky for sometime, and the clouds seemed ominous.Then, much to the delight of those who live here, the life-giving rains followed the spectacular afternoon light show.The rains came and refreshed the earth.Two rain storms have brought some relief to the landscape, and the sprinkler systems rested for a while.The flowers, lawns, and trees drank in the moisture, and everything seems greener and healthier.This natural phenomenon parallels the spiritual circumstances we find in the Prophecy of Ezekiel (See Ezekiel 34:26).

 

The first thirty three chapters of Ezekiel depict the dismal moral and spiritual state of the people of God.The prophet filled these chapters with distressing promises of judgment because of the horrific sins of Judah.Reading this section of Ezekiel has a profound effect on Bible students.The lightening and thunder of the Lordís judgment dominated the spiritual landscape of these people, and modern readers may wonder if mercy would ever rain upon these guilty people again.Thankfully, as the rains of North Texas follow the lightening and thunder, so the showers of Godís mercy fell upon his ancient people.The chapters we will consider in this lesson foreshadow the life-giving mercies of God.

 

The message of chapters 34-37 ring with the message of Godís merciful delight in his people.The religious leaders of Judah had miserably failed to meet the needs of the Lordís people, but God pledged, in this section of material, to become Judahís shepherd.Furthermore, God promised to avenge his people (See Chapter 35), renew their fortune, cleanse them of their iniquity (See Chapter 36), and revitalize them (See Chapter 37).Again, he would be their God, and they would be his people (See 37:27-28).

 

 

 

 

Outline of the Background Passage:

 

I.                    God Will Shepherd His People (34:1-31)

A.     Godís Displeasure with the Shepherds of Judah (vv. 1-10): The commentators (Block, Poole, and Henry) believe the term ďshepherdĒ refers to both the political and spiritual leaders of Judah.I have no major objection to their view, but I wonder if the text has primary reference to the religious leadership.The imagery of feeding the flock of God, in my judgment, reflects the responsibility for the spiritual needs of the people.Perhaps verse 23, with its reference to King David, persuaded these scholars to focus on political leaders, but I see this as a clear Messiac passage.That, it seems to me, points toward the Lordís provision for the Redeemerís ministry to the spiritual needs of the people.The provision fits the need.

1.      Judahís shepherds fed themselves, starved the flock, refused to tend to the wounds of the people, and allowed the flock to be scattered (vv. 1-6).

2.      God was against the shepherds (vv. 7-10).

B.     God promised to shepherd his people (vv. 11-31)

1.      God himself would take the place of the selfish, negligent shepherds (v. 11).

2.      God promised to gather his scattered people (vv. 12-13).

3.      God promised to feed and tend to his flock (vv. 14-16).

4.      God promised to discern between the sheep and the goats (vv. 17-22)

5.      God promised to raise up his servant David who would tend to the needs of the sheep (vv. 23-24).

6.      God pledged to bless and protect his flock (vv. 25-31).

 

II.                 Godís Judgment on the Inhabitants of Edom (35:1-15): Mount Seir is part of a rugged mountain range east of the Dead Sea.The region was very fruitful, but the jagged mountains made the area treacherous and, in some places, impassible.The descendants of Esau lived in this area, and they harbored a deep animosity toward the Lordís people (See Ezekiel 25:12-14). This passage indicates that God planned to vindicate his people as a provision of their restoration.††

A.     Edom had perpetuated its hatred and violence against Godís people (v. 5).

B.     God promised to make Edom a place of death and desolation (vv. 1-4 and 6-15).

 

III.               Godís Promise to Restore Judah to Its rightful Place of Prominence (36:1-38)

A.     Judahís neighboring nations devoured the Lordís people, and God pledged to restore and vindicate his people (vv. 1-15).

1.      The pagan nations possessed Judahís land and devoured its inhabitants (vv. 1-4).

2.      God, in his holy jealousy, swore that he would bring shame upon the nations and restore Judah to her former glory (vv. 5-15).

B.     Despite her sins, God will revive Judah (vv. 16-38).

1.      God poured out his fury on Judah because of her sin, but, because of his nameís sake, the Lord promised to restore his people (vv. 16-21).

2.      God will gather and bless his people for the sake of his own glory (vv. 22-38).The Lord promised to gather his people (vv. 22-24), cleanse them from their sins (v. 25), give them a new heart (v. 26), place his Spirit within them (vv. 27-28), deliver them from their uncleanness ( vv. 29-32), and reverse the desolation of the land (vv. 33-38).

IV.              Ezekiel Saw the Vision of the Valley of Dry Bones (37:1-28).

A.     God gave Ezekiel the great vision (vv. 1-10).

1.      God showed the prophet the valley of dry bones (vv. 1-3).

2.      Ezekiel preached to the dry bones, and they miraculously came to life (vv. 4-10).

B.     God interpreted the vision for the prophet (vv. 11-14).I have heard sermons that interpreted this vision as a picture of regeneration; however, the text clearly indicates that this oracle referred to Godís restorative work among his ancient people.The people of Israel, devastated by the captivity, were not without hope.God promised to revive his people.The passage seems to reflect a theology of revival more so than to depict regeneration.

C.     God gave the analogy of the two sticks (vv. 15-28).

1.      God commanded Ezekiel to write the names of Israel and Judah on two sticks (vv. 17).

2.      God promised to make one stick of the two (vv. 18-23).

3.      God would make a covenant of peace with his people and establish the Lordís servant David to rule over them (vv. 24-28).

 

Observations Concerning the Lesson Passage:

 

  1. (34:2-5, 10)What does this passage tell us about the nature of Christian leadership?Compare, for instance, this passage with Hebrews 13:7-8, 17 and I Peter 5:1-3.What particular temptations do leaders face?How should you pray for those who lead you and your family?
  2. (34:16-24)What does this text reveal about Godís attitude toward persons who have an aggressive, abusive spirit among Godís people?How does God respond to the meek and lowly (See the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:1-12)?

 

As I put the finishing touches on this lesson, I heard a distant thunder.Soon the clouds gathered and the wind began to blow.I wondered if the rain would ever come.Finally, a shower came and refreshed the landscape.We live in a spiritually arid land.Lord, send the rain and revive your work in the midst of the years.