Thursday, March 5, 2009

"New Leadership" Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Week Ending March 8, 2009

Purpose: To display confidence in God to provide servant leaders who will shepherd the lost, the least, and the neglected.

Scripture Text: Ezekiel 34:23-31 (NRSV)

Background: Ezekiel chapter 34

Ezekiel 34:23-31
(23) I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. (24)And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them; I, the Lord, have spoken.

(25) I will make with them a covenant of peace and banish wild animals from the land, so that they may live in the wild and sleep in the woods securely. (26)I will make them and the region around my hill a blessing; and I will send down the showers in their season; they shall be showers of blessing. (27)The trees of the field shall yield their fruit, and the earth shall yield its increase. They shall be secure on their soil; and they shall know that I am the Lord, when I break the bars of their yoke, and save them from the hands of those who enslaved them. (28)They shall no more be plunder for the nations, nor shall the animals of the land devour them; they shall live in safety, and no one shall make them afraid. (29)I will provide for them splendid vegetation, so that they shall no more be consumed with hunger in the land, and no longer suffer the insults of the nations. (30)They shall know that I, the Lord their God, am with them, and that they, the house of Israel, are my people, says the Lord God. (31)You are my sheep, the sheep of my pasture,* and I am your God, says the Lord God.

My Thoughts by Burgess Walter

I think the first thing you should do when studying this lesson, is read Matthew 25: 31-46. The passage in Matthew is where Jesus talks about separating the sheep and the goats and the judgment is against the goats for not caring.

In today's scripture text, Ezekiel says pretty much the same thing. It is important to read the entire 34th chapter to understand Ezekiel's message. Remember Ezekiel is a prophet and a priest. The chapter is an indictment of the Shepherds of Israel. The responsibility for Israel's plight is laid at the door of the greedy and cruel kings and priests who had exploited and led the people astray. It is against this background Ezekiel sees a vision of the Future Shepherd of God's people in the coming Messiah (see Vs. 15, 23, 24), under whom there shall be no more suffering, and “there shall be showers of blessing” (Vs. 26).

Ezekiel shows his priestly side when he refers to “a covenant of peace”. This first appeared in Numbers 25:10-13, where God tells Moses to give the blessing to Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron, and also promises an everlasting priesthood.

After the kingdom of David was divided, the kings were more interested in seeing how much they could increase their own wealth, and they cared very little for the people. They were not servant leaders, as God had intended. Ezekiel sees a new leader, one that will protect, as well as feed his people, and they will be respected by the rest of the world. One could probably say that the nation of Israel today reflects Ezekiel's vision. The establishing of Israel as a nation, and their position as the most powerful nation in the Middle East, certainly looks like a fulfillment of Ezekiel's prophecy. But as Christians, we also know that the total fulfillment of this prophecy will not happen until Christ, “the prince among them” is established as the King.

The question for us is this; Who is our king? How would you stack up as a servant leader? The parable of the shepherd and the sheep could use some updating. What would your modern day parable be? The most important question is; do we find ourselves counted with the sheep or the goats from Matthew 25?

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