International Sunday School Lesson for September 24, 2017
To cultivate a new heart and a new spirit, transformed by the grace of God
Background: Ezekiel 36–37; Titus 3:1-11
Ezekiel 36:22-32 (CEB)
22 Therefore, say to the house of Israel, The Lord God proclaims: House of Israel, I’m not acting for your sake but for the sake of my holy name, which you degraded among the nations where you have gone. 23 I will make my great name holy, which was degraded among the nations when you dishonored it among them. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord. This is what the Lord God says.
When I make myself holy among you in their sight, 24 I will take you from the nations, I will gather you from all the countries, and I will bring you to your own fertile land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be cleansed of all your pollution. I will cleanse you of all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you. I will remove your stony heart from your body and replace it with a living one, 27 and I will give you my spirit so that you may walk according to my regulations and carefully observe my case laws. 28 Then you will live in the land that I gave to your ancestors, you will be my people, and I will be your God. 29 I will save you from all your uncleanness, and I will summon the grain and make it grow abundantly so that you won’t endure famine. 30 I will make abundant the orchards’ fruit and the fields’ produce so that you will never again endure the shame of famine among the nations. 31 Then you will remember your evil ways and no-good deeds, and you will feel disgust for yourselves because of your sinful and detestable practices. 32 Not for your sake do I act. This is what the Lord God proclaims. Let that be known to you! Be ashamed and be humiliated because of all your ways, house of Israel.
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you. I will remove your stony heart from your body and replace it with a living one. (Ezekiel 36:26)
The word covenant does not appear in this week’s Bible passage. Yet the language of God’s covenant with Israel emphatically informed Ezekiel’s prophetic pronouncements of God’s word: “Then you will live in the land that I gave to your ancestors, you will be my people, and I will be your God” (Ezekiel 36:28).
The man who conveyed that promise was a late seventh- to sixth-century-b.c. prophet named Ezekiel ben-Buzi. He was born into a priestly family and was probably initiated into the priesthood by the time the Babylonians first besieged Jerusalem (598 b.c.; the city would fall in 587 b.c.). He was married, but his wife died during the siege of the city (24:15-18). Most likely, he was among an early group of deportees from Jerusalem shortly after King Jehoiachin surrendered to Nebuchadnezzar in 598 b.c.
Ezekiel was called to be a prophet, (2:1-5) it was not something he desired. Prophets were not well liked by anyone, their message was never one of great encouragement.
Because the Israelites and Judah had become involved with foreign gods and worshipped them, God had to step in and save His own reputation. God’s original plan was to make these people that He brought out of Egypt a testimony of Himself and of the power of the one true God, the Creator of everything. Unfortunately these stiff-necked people forsook their God and worshipped the gods of the canaanites. In addition they ignored God’s commands and failed to be obedient to the law as given to Moses.
Fortunately, once these people are restored to the land promised them by God, you will not find idol worship from that point forward in the Old Testament. Often, God has to resort to extreme means, to get the attention of His people. God is a jealous God and He will do what is necessary to show the world of His power, and goodness.
Parts of the promise made to Ezekiel have been fulfilled in the past 75 years as Israel has been restored as a nation. Israel is a self sufficient nation, and with the aid of the United States and other nations is producing agricultural products and other goods for the world.
Israel’s existence today is a testimony of God’s power. Every nation has to look at Israel and see that this small nation is one of the most powerful in the world. But they must remember, God is not doing it for them, but so the world will know that He is God Almighty. (32 “Not for your sake do I act”).
My hymn for this week is “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.”