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Monday, November 28, 2016

How bad can it get and still be good?

We're continuing in Ezekiel this week, living among the exiles as they wait for the other shoe to fall. The story kind of begs the question, how bad can it get and still be in God's hands. Ezekiel had a faith we might all need to share, and message we might all need to heed.

(36) Prophet to the Exiles - Ezekiel

We’ll look at Ezekiel 12 later, as it describes a visual parable of a captive people’s escape. For now, we continue looking at why the people are captive in the first place. Ezekiel has 4 years (Read Ezekiel 20:1, 591 BC) in which to explain to the people why they can’t go home and won’t have a home to go back to.

Jerusalem is under attack. How do we defend ourselves when we feel attacked?

1.       Read Ezekiel 13:1-7 How might someone recognize if prophecy comes from their own heart rather than from God? By the time it’s fulfilled might be too late.

2.       What do the false prophets tell people to do or not do? Are these real or metaphorical walls? How do we choose between trusting God and taking action to help ourselves?

3.       Read Ezekiel 13:10-12. What might be modern parables for this?

4.       Read Ezekiel 13:17-19. So women are prophets too, and women are false prophets too. What are they doing, and why? (And how does this fit with women wearing veils on their heads out of modesty?)

5.       Are there any modern parallels to magic charms?

6.       Read Ezekiel 13:20-21. Does this mean magic works?

The exiled leaders come to Ezekiel for advice. Who would we turn to?

1.       Read Ezekiel 14:1-3. What idols do we set up in our hearts?

2.       Read Ezekiel 14:7-8. How do our idols separate us from God?

3.       Read Ezekiel 14:9-11. Why should the prophet be punished?

4.       Read Ezekiel 14:12-14. What do Noah, Daniel and Job have in common?

5.       Read Ezekiel 14:13,15,17,19,21. Why four beasts? Is an increase in trials really a prequel to the end-times?

6.       Read Ezekiel 14:22. Can you think of other situations in the Bible where a remnant brought hope? Read 1 Kings 19:18,2 Kings 17:18, Jeremiah 39:10, Nehemiah 1:2, Romans 9:27,Romans 11:5 Is it always a good thing to be part of the remnant?

7.       Read Ezekiel 15:2-5. What was Israel “made” for? What were we made for? (Read verses 6-8)

Ezekiel tells a parable of Israel’s relationship with God. How would we describe our church’s/our nation’s relationship, from birth to the present day?

1.       Read Ezekiel 16:2-5. Babies were washed, named, rubbed with salt, and loved in Palestinian tradition. Why would a baby be abandoned like this? What does it tell us about what we might deserve from God?

2.       Read Ezekiel 16:6-7. God names the baby, “Live.” What kind of love does he show it? How does he show us this kind of love?

3.       Read Ezekiel 16:8,13. God changes the name to “Mine.” What kind of love does he show now? How does he show us this kind of love?

4.       Read Ezekiel 16:15-19. How do these images relate to images of worship? How do we play the harlot with what God has given us?

5.       Read Ezekiel 16:20-21. Why did they give their children to the flames? Remembering those metaphorical walls, has this got anything to do with abortion and child sacrifice, or is something else going on?

6.       Read Ezekiel 16:24. How did Israel “build itself a shrine”? And how do we?

7.       Read Ezekiel 16:26-29. Do you remember what parts of Jewish history are being referred to here? Do you think they remembered?

8.       Read Ezekiel 16:44-47. Remembering back to the beginning of the chapter (and the parable), who might be Israel’s “mother”? If there is a battle between our father’s and mother’s spiritual genes in our lives, who is our “mother”?

9.       Read Ezekiel 16:60-61. So there is hope. But what does this hope mean for Israel’s neighbors? For us?

Ezekiel tells the parable of the Eagle and the Vine in chapter 17. Read Ezekiel 17:1-10,22-24. Remembering that eagles represent Babylon and Israel is God’s vine, how does this fit what is happening back in Jerusalem? What does it promise for the future?

Ezekiel then goes on to set rules for God’s people, starting from another popular proverb. Read Jeremiah 31:29, Ezekiel 18:-3-4. What do you think the proverb was being used to imply?

1.       Can you paraphrase Ezekiel 18:4-18 in modern terms?

2.       Read Ezekiel 18:21-23. How does remind us of New Testament promises?

3.       Read Ezekiel 18:24. What does this mean? Can we really say once saved, always saved?

4.       Read Ezekiel 18:25. Even in Old Testament times, people still said “Not fair!” Do we want God to be fair?

5.       Read Ezekiel 18:32. How might we do this today?

Four years before the fall of Jerusalem, the elders come to Ezekiel to hear God’s word. Read Ezekiel 20:2-4. How does Ezekiel feel about these people? How does God feel about them?

1.       God recites a history of his relationship with his people. In the New Testament, various sermons are based on the history of God’s relationship with his people. How important is it to know our spiritual history?

2.       Read Ezekiel 20:33. Why is God furious? What makes us furious?

3.       Read Ezekiel 20:34-36. What does God do in his fury? What do we do in ours?

4.       Read Ezekiel 20:45-49. Who else spoke in parables?

5.       Read Ezekiel 21:3-5. God says his sword will not return – does this remind you of royal edicts at the time? What image does it convey of God?

6.       Read Ezekiel 21:13. Why can’t Jerusalem be spared? Should we expect to be spared?

7.       Read Ezekiel 21:14-17. What do you think Ezekiel is doing while he speaks these words? Why might God use actions, parables, etc to convey his meaning?

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