International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday November 23, 2014
Purpose: To embrace new beginnings as gifts from God, calling for repentance and change, and then for sharing with others
Bible Lesson: Background: Ezekiel 47:13-23; Acts 2:37-47
Ezekiel 47: 13-23 (CEB)
(13) The Lord God proclaims: These are the boundaries of the portions of land that will be distributed as an inheritance to the twelve tribes of Israel. Joseph will receive two portions. (14) What I swore to give to your ancestors, you will distribute as an inheritance equally. This land is given to you as an inheritance. (15) This is the boundary of the land. The northern limit begins at the Mediterranean Sea and goes in the direction of Hethlon toward Lebo-hamath, Zedad, (16) Berothah, Sibraim (which is between the boundary of Damascus and the boundary of Hamath), and Hazer-hatticon (that is on the boundary of Hauran). (17) So the boundary from the Mediterranean Sea to Hazar-enon will run north of the boundary of Damascus, with the boundary of Hamath to the north. This is the northern limit. (18) For the eastern limit, you will measure continuously between Hauran and Damascus and between Gilead and the land of Israel, along the Jordan River as far as the Dead Sea. This is the eastern limit. (19) The southern limit runs from Tamar to the waters of Meribath-kadesh and from there all along the border of Egypt to the Mediterranean Sea. This is the southern limit. (20) For the western limit, the Mediterranean Sea is the boundary up to Lebo-hamath. This is the western limit.
(21) You will apportion this land among yourselves according to the tribes of Israel. (22) When you distribute the land as an inheritance, the immigrants who reside with you and raise families among you are considered full citizens along with the Israelites. They will receive an inheritance along with you among the tribes of Israel. (23) You will assign the immigrants’ inheritance with the tribe with whom they reside. This is what the Lord God says.
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
This is our final lesson from the Book of Ezekiel. Ezekiel is sharing with both those still in captivity in Babylon and those that have remained in Judea and other parts of the old Nation of Israel established by Kings David and Solomon. This text is essentially the same as that found in the Book of Numbers 34:2-12.
However, Ezekiel’s presumption that those original borders would still be available is a bit of a reach. Israel was never able to regain the original borders first set out in Numbers 34:2-12.
The borders of present day Israel, still have not expanded to the borders mentioned in this passage or the passage in Numbers. There are those that think Israel is entitled to the land described. In my humble opinion, the only way that those boundaries would apply is if the nation of Israel repented and accepted Christ as the Messiah. That would allow God to restore the blessing and permit the boundaries to be expanded. We must not forget that the Jewish nation rejected Christ, but God still wants them to be redeemed.
God has made several covenants with Israel, from Noah, to Abraham, to Moses, and David. However, since God is a holy and righteous God and has perfect justice, he cannot forgive unconfessed sins, or failed repentance. God has always been willing to do his part, but Israel as a nation has not been willing to accept the one thing they cannot afford to deny, Christ was and is the promised Messiah.
When Christ entered the world everything changed, the old covenants no longer applied, Christ made a new covenant. Christ is not bound by borders, race, nationalities or gender. Christ was made available for everyone.
The Promised Land is no longer geographical, it is now the kingdom of God. God’s temple no longer abides in Jerusalem, but in the hearts of believers. Sacrifices no longer need to be made, Jesus was the once for all sacrifice. We should no longer think in terms of the Holy Land, but rather the Land of the Holy.
God’s covenant with Israel was always conditional. They were to be faithful to God’s commands. Failure on the part of Israel made the covenant null and void. The new covenant made by Jesus the Christ in John 1:11-13 says (11) the light came to his own people, and his own people didn’t welcome him. (12) But those who did welcome him, those who believed in his name, he authorized to become God’s children, (13) born not from blood nor from human desire or passion, but born from God.
Paul says in Ephesians 2:14-22 (14) Christ is our peace. He made both Jews and Gentiles into one group. With his body, he broke down the barrier of hatred that divided us. (15) He canceled the detailed rules of the Law so that he could create one new person out of the two groups, making peace. (16) He reconciled them both as one body to God by the cross, which ended the hostility to God.
(17) When he came, he announced the good news of peace to you who were far away from God and to those who were near. (18) We both have access to the Father through Christ by the one Spirit. (19) So now you are no longer strangers and aliens. Rather, you are fellow citizens with God’s people, and you belong to God’s household. (20) As God’s household, you are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. (21) The whole building is joined together in him, and it grows up into a temple that is dedicated to the Lord. (22) Christ is building you into a place where God lives through the Spirit.
The early Jews coming out of Egypt were looking for a place of rest. Jesus promises us that place of rest, where we join Him in Spirit. Those Jews that were led into captivity came back looking for a place of rest, they never found it within the borders described, but now can find it in the hope we have as fellow believers, in Jesus the Christ.
Like the old hymn says, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness”