2012-08-22 / Religion

Sunday School Lesson

God promised to be with us
Rev. James Temples

Ezekiel 34

We are correct as we speak of the love and mercy of God. Yes, our heavenly father — the creator of the universe — loves all mankind. The human race is created “in the image of God” (Genesis 1:27), and, thus, bears many of the attributes that are part of the life of the one who made us (Psalm 100:3). It is important that each one keeps in mind the fact that there is a justice and righteousness side of God. Our God expects obedience from those who he has made. Yes, a one-sided message is being presented too often. Some speak only of his love; others speak only of his judgment. The Biblical picture is that of balance.

The nation of Israel — the Northern Kingdom — was overrun by the Assyrians. 2 Kings 18:11, 12. This devastation left only the Kingdom of Judah to represent “God’s Chosen People.” These people did not learn the lessons that God desired for them to accept. They, generally, continued to turn their back on the messages of the prophets that came to them with a call to repentance. Many faithful messengers were sent to them, yet, they did not repent.

When the Babylonians first came to Jerusalem, only certain goods and people were carried away captive. 2 Kings 24:10-16. Among those who were captured at that time included Daniel, the three Hebrew children, the prophet, Ezekiel, and others of great ability and renown. Finally, Jerusalem was overrun and destroyed by these pagans. 2 Kings 25:1-21. Disobedience to divine calls to repentance does have consequences.

It is important for us to remember that our God does not forget his own. As Ezekiel began the record that bears his name, he knew that he was, physically, a captive in a foreign land. However, his spirit was free to listen to the voice of God, and was given a message that would be for the people of that day, and for ages to come. He stated the time, and declared that “as I was among the captives by the river Chebar, that the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God.” Ezekiel 1:1. This fact seems to have been verified by person who helped make the record of the visions of Ezekiel — “and the hand of the Lord was there upon him.” Ezekiel 1:3c. Many of the visions were pictures of the future. Some were messages for that day.

Even though the picture of justice that is often painted might not be clear in many portions of scripture, one can rest assured that the divine will is unfolding, and that divine justice will be accomplished.

The prophets who ministered before the fall of that kingdom had used the picture of the king as a shepherd for the flock of God. These leaders had used and abused the flock, and not tended to its needs. Ezekiel continued this word picture. “And 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.” Ezekiel 34:23. Those who heard these words recognized the fact that he was speaking of some future offspring of David, since the king had been dead for centuries. Thus, the prophet was speaking of the one who is the “Good Shepherd” (John 10:1- 30) who would make divine provisions for all who will accept that which is offered.

In a direct way, he showed the hearers — and readers — that he was speaking of the offspring of David. “And I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David a prince among them; I the Lord have spoken it.” Ezekiel 34:24.

A promise of a restoration of their nation was given. “And 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.” Ezekiel 34:25. There would need to be a nation in order for them to make a covenant and have territory of woods and wilderness.

A personal advantage of coming safety was only one portion of the promise that was given at that time. Their spiritual life would be restored, if they would accept the provision. “And 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.” Ezekiel 34:26. These words have brought encouragement to people through the centuries.

As the picture of restoration continued to unfold, the words of the prophet carried a message of encouragement for the people. The scenes were that of a flourishing agriculturalbased economy — “And 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.” Ezekiel 34:27. In our day, there are those in authority who use those over whom they have been given the privilege to serve. Simon Peter wrote of those in church leadership positions who make merchandise of you. 2 Peter 2:3b.

In this future that Ezekiel pictured, he declared that “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.” Ezekiel 34:28. The view of a personally planted exotic tree would get the attention of the hearers. “And 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.” Ezekiel 34:29.

Those who listened to the words of Ezekiel were also captives. The promise of that which was to come would have no direct impact on the life that each of them presently knew. However, is was important for them to recognized the fact that God had not forgotten them, as a nation, but made a great promise for their offspring. “Thus 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. And ye my flock, the flock of my pasture, are men, and I an your God, saith the Lord God.” Ezekiel 34:30, 31. We, too, can personally claim the promises of God. John 3:16.

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