Monday, March 23, 2009

Envisioning New Life - Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Week Ending March 29, 2009

Purpose: To rejoice that the waters of God's mercy make the barren wastelands of our lives blossom and thrive

Lesson Text: Ezekiel 47:1-12 (NRVS)

Ezekiel 47:1-12
(1)Then he brought me back to the entrance of the temple; there, water was flowing from below the threshold of the temple towards the east (for the temple faced east); and the water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar. (2)Then he brought me out by way of the north gate, and led me round on the outside to the outer gate that faces towards the east; and the water was coming out on the south side.

(3) Going on eastwards with a cord in his hand, the man measured one thousand cubits, and then led me through the water; and it was ankle-deep. (4)Again he measured one thousand, and led me through the water; and it was knee-deep. Again he measured one thousand, and led me through the water; and it was up to the waist. (5)Again he measured one thousand, and it was a river that I could not cross, for the water had risen; it was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be crossed. (6)He said to me, ‘Mortal, have you seen this?’

Then he led me back along the bank of the river. (7)As I came back, I saw on the bank of the river a great many trees on one side and on the other. (8)He said to me, ‘This water flows towards the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah; and when it enters the sea, the sea of stagnant waters, the water will become fresh. (9)Wherever the river goes,every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish, once these waters reach there. It will become fresh; and everything will live where the river goes. (10)People will stand fishing beside the sea from En-gedi to En-eglaim; it will be a place for the spreading of nets; its fish will be of a great many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea. (11)But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they are to be left for salt. (12)On the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.’

My Thoughts by Burgess Walter

This passage is the fourth vision recorded in Ezekiel, and is the third concerning God's glory. Under the circumstances it may have been necessary to reinforce to Ezekiel and to the remnant of Jews in Babylon, the glory of God. From their vantage point, God seemed to have lost His luster and even His mystic, and the fact is they only had doubts fears and maybe even disbelief.

In Ezekiel's vision there is new hope, because the glory of God does not flow from the temple itself but from the throne of God. The water comes under the threshold, not over it. Ezekiel had seen in a prior vision in chapter 43:7, wherever this water was coming from, it was the dwelling place of God, “The place of my throne and the place where the soles of My feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel forever”.

If we go back to the instructions given to Moses and Aaron on building the Tabernacle in the wilderness, we know it was to be replica of God's throne, the same happened when Solomon built the permanent temple in Jerusalem; it was a replica of God's heavenly throne, where God dwells. If we go forward to the Revelation of John in chapter 22:1-2, we will see an almost identical vision record by John as the one recorded by Ezekiel. Both of these visions can also be compared to the original scene from Genesis 2:9-10, of the Garden of Eden.

I feel the significances of the way the river starts almost as a trickle but grows into a river that could not be crossed, is speaking of God's presence growing from one man Abraham, to a nation of twelve tribes, to a regional power, and eventually to a gigantic movement that can not be stopped. The river flows from Genesis to Revelation, I am not sure you could find this interpretation in any commentary, but it is what God has revealed to me today. The Glory of God is the essence of all creation; in fact you could say that His creation is His glory. Remember after God had finished with His creation, He announces it to be “good” and it is God's goodness that draws all of us to Him (see Genesis 1:18, 25).

It is the glory of God that generates all of the goodness in this world, from the tree of life to the leaves of healing, to eternal life with Him in His dwelling place. He went to great lengths to enable us, His creation, to be able to live with Him forever. He sent His only Son to be our redeemer, and He gave us a creation to use until we no longer need this creation and we can claim the original, not the replica, the eternal throne room of God.

It should give all of us a new hope, that out of barren wastelands, our lives can blossom and bloom, into the fruits of the spirit, it is God's love flowing through each of us. How are you using the power of God's glory flowing through you? Are you making the barren, blossom and bloom? What do you think Ezekiel's vision means? When you compare Genesis, Ezekiel, and Revelation, do you get a sense of the thread or river that runs through these three different books?

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