Monday, February 23, 2009

A New Spirit Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Week Ending March 1, 2009

Purpose: To recognize that no matter how bad things may look, God's Spirit is with us to empower and renew.

Scripture Text: Ezekiel 11:14-21 (NRSV)

Ezekiel 11:14-21 (14) Then the word of the Lord came to me: (15)Mortal, your kinsfolk, your own kin, your fellow exiles, the whole house of Israel, all of them, are those of whom the inhabitants of Jerusalem have said, ‘They have gone far from the Lord; to us this land is given for a possession.’ (16)Therefore say: Thus says the Lord God: Though I removed them far away among the nations, and though I scattered them among the countries, yet I have been a sanctuary to them for a little while in the countries where they have gone. (17)Therefore say: Thus says the Lord God: I will gather you from the peoples, and assemble you out of the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel. (18)When they come there, they will remove from it all its detestable things and all its abominations. (19)I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them; I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, (20)so that they may follow my statutes and keep my ordinances and obey them. Then they shall be my people, and I will be their God. (21)But as for those whose heart goes after their detestable things and their abominations, I will bring their deeds upon their own heads, says the Lord God.

My Thoughts by Burgess Walter

Today's purpose statement is very well suited for the current times, and something all of us need to embrace during the present financial crisis. Although we have not been carried away to another country, our economic situation may put us in a place we do not recognize, we are someplace we have never been before.

The Book of Ezekiel was written at a time when the elite and brightest of the Jewish nation had been carried away to a new country, and that included Ezekiel, an apprentice priest at the time. Historically, because of Ezekiel's exact dating, we can say that at chapter 8:1, 14 months after the call of Ezekiel, would be September 591 B.C. by our calendar.

Consider the plight of those that were carried away into captivity. Away from the temple, out of their promised land, and in a relationship of slavery to pagan people, there was every opportunity for doubt and futility to seize their minds. No associations in their lives seemed to point them to God. Amazingly we could say the same is true of every believer who must be separated from home, from the church of his youth and must go forth into a strange environment. The sense of God's presence and power, in fact God's reality, are sure to suffer.

Ezekiel is faced with this problem, everything he had been taught, assumed God was abiding in the temple in Jerusalem in the land that God had given them. Now he would be called to proclaim that is not true, God, in his vision, departs the temple and the city.

God tells Ezekiel, even though you have been carried off, I will still be a sanctuary, wherever you may be. (11:16) and he promises to restore them back to the land he already given them once, but there is a condition, “they must remove the detestable, and all it's abominations”. (vs 18) God's new promise is for a new heart, and if they obey, “Then they shall be my people,and and I will be their God”. (vs20)

So Ezekiel establishes the basic facts of religion. (1) God's existence (2) God's supreme sovereignty (3) God's revelation (4) God's appointed ministers.

How does this lesson apply to your situation today? Is your God limited, to a place or a church building? Your financial standing in your community? A linage? Do you have enough faith to grow spiritually, without any outside influence and away from your Christian friends and family?

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