Sunday School Lesson, Sunday, September 24, 2017 -A Spirit-Filled Heart
To follow along, visit your local Christian bookstore, and ask for the Bible Expositor and Illuminator
Time: Probably 585 B.C. Place: Babylon
Golden Text: “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26).
In 605 B.C., Babylon gained control of Judah and took a number of captives. In 597 B.C., the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar brought his army against Jerusalem because Judah’s king had rebelled. King Jehoiachin surrendered and ten thousand Judean captives were taken away. Zedekiah was then placed on Judah’s throne as a puppet king. He also rebelled against Babylon, leading to the fall of Jerusalem. At first, Ezekiel called on his fellow captives to repent. But many of them did not feel responsible for the nation’s problems. Before Jerusalem fell, Ezekiel warned of coming judgment and condemned Judah’s sins; but he also proclaimed hope once Jerusalem had fallen; pointing to the time Israel will be completely restored of the second coming of Jesus Christ.
Lesson Outline: Honoring God’s Name – Ezekiel 36:22-23
Ezekiel 36:22 – Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord God; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name’s sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went. God was concerned about the salvation not only of the Jewish nation but also of the whole world. To allow His people to remain in sin and be permanently destroyed by their enemies would lead other nations to conclude that their heathen gods were more powerful than Israel’s God, therefore, to protect His holy name, He would return a remnant of His people to their land. God’s people had the responsibility to represent God properly to the rest of the world. Believers today have the same responsibility. For centuries the Israelites had been moving further and further from God. Since they were His chosen people many of them believed they were impervious to defeat. Some even thought the presence of the Temple would protect them from catastrophe. Today’s Christians are like the Israelites, some try to live as close to the edge of the world as they can without completely forsaking God, but according to the Word of God, it is completely or none; He doesn’t want partial Christians. The nation was to have been a kingdom of priests and a holy nation ( And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel – Exodus 19:6). We as the nation of spiritual Jews (But he is Jew which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God – Romans 2:29). We have the responsibility to live as a priest (But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light – 1st Peter 2:9). Just like the Jewish nation who were chosen, as believers, we too have been chosen, we have been grafted into the kingdom through faith in Jesus. So now we have the responsibility of being a representative of our Father. As Christians, it should be evident to the world that we are Christians.
Ezekiel 36:23 – And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the Lord, saith the Lord God, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes. To sanctify is to make holy, or to separate. God’s goal is to see His name restored to its rightful place of honor even among the Gentiles. God wants His name to be great so that the nations may regard Him not as an ineffective tribal god, but as the Lord of the whole earth. When we profess to be Christians but our lifestyle is like the unbeliever; they don’t see a difference in us, we’re bringing a reproach to Christianity, and belittling our God as to one that can’t make a change in us or our situations and issues. While the future restoration will benefit Israel the primary reason for the restoration is not for Israel’s sake but for the sake of God’s holy name among nations. His glory, mercy, and faithfulness will be manifested to all.
Lesson Outline: II. Heart Renewed – Ezekiel 36:24-27
Ezekiel 36:24 – For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. God’s glory had been injured by the sin of Israel when they were in their own land. It was a good land, a land that had the eye of God upon it. But they defiled it by their own way. What was unclean might not be made of the use of. When they entered into the land of the heathen God had no glory by them there, and by them being there His holy name was profaned. Just as God had rescued Israel from Egypt, so He now promised to gather them out of all countries they had been taken captive. The promise return of Israel relates primarily to the end times and the second coming of Jesus Christ. They will be receiving more than just a physical deliverance, but a spiritual deliverance (And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the deliverer and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob – Romans 11:26). God originally intended for the nation of Israel to be a witness of His grace to the nations of the world. Instead, their repeated sin of disobedience was profaned among the heathen nation. God would now act to demonstrate the holiness of His name by gathering Israel from all the countries to which they had been scattered. He would bring them back to Canaan, through this astonishing act all the nations would recognize who God is.
Ezekiel 36:25 – Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. God promises to them that He would cleanse them the pollution of sin, I will sprinkle clean water upon you signifies both the blood and of Christ sprinkled upon their conscience to purify that and to take away the sense of guilt and the grace of the Spirit sprinkled on the whole soul to purify it from all corrupt inclinations. Certain ceremonies in the Mosaic Law required washing or the sprinkling of water as a symbol of ritual purification to employ cleansing from sin. Christian baptism is symbolic of the forgiveness of sins received by faith through the shed blood of Christ. When God brings His people back to the land in the millennium, He will also change their hearts. He used the imagery of sprinkling clean water on them, cleansing them from all their impurities and from all their idols.
Ezekiel 36:26 – A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. The ritual of purification from sin would be empty and meaningless apart from a true repentance and the regenerating and empowering work of the Holy Spirit on the inner spirit of individuals. God giving them a new heart and new spirit to help them follow Him and do His will. Not only will God restore His people to their land and cleanse them from sin but He will also give them a new heart and a new spirit; the heart includes the mind, will, and emotions; it is the seat of the personality, the impulse which drives the man and regulates his desires, his thoughts, and his conduct. The stony heart represents the kind of heart that most of the Jews had for centuries. Their hearts were hard and cold, unwilling to listen to God’s messengers, and the prophets. God will instead give them a heart of flesh, a heart that will be pliable and receptive to the Holy Spirit.
Ezekiel 36:27 I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my status, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. God will cause them to walk in His status and thoroughly furnish them with wisdom and will and give them active powers for every good work. God is promising to take them into a covenant with Him by giving them a portion of His Spirit within their spirit. The presence of the Spirit provides us with the power to obey God’s commandments. It is the Holy Spirit within who enables us to live the Christian life and live a life that manifests the Fruit of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit inspired Scripture to be written; when we read and obey the Word of God, we are being led by the Holy Spirit of God.
Lesson Outline: II. Hope of Restoration – Ezekiel 36:28-32
Ezekiel 36:28 – And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God. The Lord promised His people they would dwell in the land He had given to their father’s. The captivity in Babylon ended with the return of the Jews under Zerubbabel in 536 B.C., seventy years were spent in captivity just as Jeremiah had prophesied. “Their fathers” is a reference to the patriarchs of the nation, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob the ones it was originally promised. Not only was God returning to them to their land but was also returning them to their God. God didn’t forsake them they forsook Him. Because of their sins, it was necessary for God to chastise them, because of their chastisement they thought God had forsaken them. God chastises those who belong to Him when they forsake His instructions and begin to practice sin. Accompanying the restoration and spiritual conversion would be (1) the nation will dwell in the land God promised to them (2) the Israelites will be known fully as God’s people and He will be their God. (3) God will deliver them from their uncleanness and impurity. When God restores the backsliders, He does the same with them as He did with the Israelites the only difference is God restores the kingdom of God to the believer.
Ezekiel 36:29 – I will also save you from all your uncleannesses: and I will call for the corn, and will increase it, and lay no famine upon it. God promised that He would save the people from their uncleannesses, translated earlier as “filthiness”. Because of the people’s sins, the whole land was polluted, to be saved from their sins meant to be saved from the results of those sins as well. The word “corn” does not refer to maize it can refer to any kind of grain. God’s promise was that there will be an increase abundant harvests.
Ezekiel 36:30 – And I will multiply the fruit of the tree, and the increase of the field, that ye shall receive no more reproach of famine among the heathens. Famine and other calamities were often the results of God’s chastisement for sins committed by Israel. The people’s sin brought disgrace among the surrounding nations; Gentiles scoffed at Israel apparently saying they had been forsaking by their own God who had brought famine on them. God still brings famine in the lives of His people when they live in disobedience of His instructions of His written Word. God will allow a famine in their health, finances, marriage, family, business affairs, ministry. Sin brings chastisement, and if the person continues in sin it will bring death both physically and spiritually.
Ezekiel 36:31 – Then shall ye remember your own evil ways and your doings that were not good, and shall loathe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and for your abominations. The Exile would recover God’s glorious reputation among the nations and erase the guilt of the Israelite’s sin. As the Jews reflect on their history as a nation they will be haunted by the memory of a land left desolate, a Temple in ruins and a population carried away. The memory of sin committed in the past can be beneficial; it will remind us what we have been saved from. The people had become so callous of their sin that they had lost all sensitivity to sin like some professing Christians today. Sin separates us from God, this is why we don’t see the manifestation of God’s power in our worship services. Because sin is in the camp the glory of God has left the church.
Ezekiel 36:32 – Not for your sakes do I this, saith the Lord God, be it known unto you: be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel. God reaffirmed the Israelites the reason for His covenant with them was not for their sakes that He would do it but because of His former promise to their fathers who walked uprightly before Him. He would bring back His glory that the nations would know who the true God was. As for the Israelites, they should have been ashamed and confounded. God was going to give them a new heart which means that God will identify Himself with His people. A new heart will be a new sensitivity to sin whereas once there was little or no idea of sin. The new heart will bring an awareness of sin and the determination to fight it. Although God rebuked and chastised them through His love and mercy for them He would restore them; they would be His people and He would be their God.