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Monday, December 5, 2016

What Happens at the End of the Road?

It seems like Jerusalem has been falling for weeks in these Bible studies--for years in reality as we read "the ninth year" "the tenth" "the eleventh." But this week's study sees a kingdom destroyed, while a different type of kingdom takes root in the heart. I hope you're enjoying the journey as much as I am.

(37) Jerusalem Falls at last

Ezekiel spends a lot of time (or a lot of writing) describing the fate of Jerusalem, but he’s not even in Jerusalem. Why is it such a big, time-and-page-consuming deal?

Can you list, from memory, the things that have been done wrong in Jerusalem? Can you list modern-day equivalents for each? Read Ezekiel 22:2-16

1.       Verse 3. How do we shed blood?

2.       Verse 4. How are we defiled with idols?

3.       Verse 5. Are we a reproach to the nations / an infamous place?

4.       Verse 7. Do we oppress strangers?

5.       Verse 7. Do we care for widows and orphans, and for anyone else in need?

6.       Verse 8. How do we mistreat sacred things?

7.       Verse 9. How does slander cause bloodshed? What modern actions cause bloodshed?

8.       Verse 9-10. What is lewdness? (Other translations use other words, but what is being condemned?)

9.       Verse 10-11. Is it just sexual immorality with neighbors and relatives that’s being condemned?

10.   Verse 12. Who profits from whom in the modern world? And who profits from war and bloodshed?

Read Ezekiel 22:17-22. What kind of melting pots come to mind? What is the message?
Next Ezekiel compares Judah and Samaria to two sisters, both of whom betray their spouse.

1.       Read Ezekiel 23:4-5. What happened when Israel made agreements with Assyria? Does this mean our nation shouldn’t make agreements? That faith shouldn’t mix with politics? That… what do you think?

2.       Read Ezekiel 23:11-12,14,16,19. Do you remember the history these verses refer to? Do you think the first listeners remembered?

3.       Is this really about lewdness and harlotry? Why is sexual sin such a good image of spiritual sin?

4.       Read Ezekiel 23:38-44. What sort of images does this bring to mind – old movies perhaps? What sort of images would it have brought to the minds of the first listeners? Is it literal or symbolic?

When Zedekiah made an alliance with Egypt, the Ammonites (East of the Jordan) jumped at the chance to join what they hoped would be the winning side. Ezekiel imagines the Babylonian armies halting and pondering who to plunder first. But the plunder of Jerusalem is only delayed to the ninth year of Jehoiachin’s exile – ninth year of Zedekiah’s reign.

1.       Read Ezekiel 21:18-20,28-29. News of Zedekiah’s alliance and the Ammonite agreement would have brought false hope to the exiles. How willing do you think they will be to hear that hope denied? How willing are we to hear messages contrary to our hopes?

2.       Read Ezekiel 24:1-2.  Why do you suppose Ezekiel listed the date so carefully?

3.       Read Ezekiel 24:3-5. Why cooking pots again? What might be just as familiar to a modern family as a cooking pot filled with choice cuts of meat was to them?

4.       Read Ezekiel 24:6. What is usually done to the scum (some translations say “deposit”)?

5.       Read Ezekiel 24:10-11. What happens if the pot is put back on the fire?

6.       As the women cook dinner, after hearing and seeing this, what thoughts might be in their minds? How can we become more mindful of God during our everyday actions, especially as we prepare for Christmas?

Ezekiel’s whole life becomes a parable, even the death of his wife, which must feel to him like the death of Jerusalem feels to God. Read Ezekiel 24:15-24. What do you lose if you cannot mourn properly?

Read Ezekiel 24:25-27. How would it have helped Ezekiel to know he would eventually be allowed to mourn?

Read Ezekiel 3:22-27. Ezekiel, who speaks God’s words, has been silenced and must prophesy without words. Many commentators believe these “silent” chapters represent what he taught while silently mourning his wife. (Traditional mourning involved lots of loud words.)

1.       Read Ezekiel 4:1-2. Ezekiel uses street theater to pantomime the siege of Jerusalem. How hard would it be not to respond to the comments of the crowds? Why is silence so difficult – silence of others, or of ourselves?

2.       Read Ezekiel 4:5-6. If Israel’s first sin is Jeroboam’s rejection of Davidic rule (930BC), what happens 390 years later (540BC)? And if Judah’s first sin is the rejection of Christ, what happens 40 years later? Does it matter that historians change the dates as new evidence comes to light – what if Jeroboam was once believed to take the northern throne in 970BC? What if the first sin is Solomon’s? And why/when will Judah suffer for 40 years?

3.       Read Ezekiel 4:9-13. Ezekiel must be speaking about Judah’s exiles. In what sense are they “eating defiled food”? In what sense do we eat defiled food?

4.       Read Ezekiel 4:15. Remember Abraham arguing with God? Can we argue with God?

5.       Read Ezekiel 5:1-4. What is Ezekiel being told to do at the end of his siege pantomime? Which hairs survive? How are we supposed to protect ourselves?

6.       Read Ezekiel 6:1-3. Ezekiel is allowed to speak again but the message is the same. Do you think he has more or fewer listeners after the year-long pantomime?

7.       Read Ezekiel 6:8-10. Are his listeners part of that remnant? Are we part of God’s remnant?

8.       Read Ezekiel 6:11. Can you imagine Ezekiel pounding his fists and stamping his feet? Is it okay to be emotional?

9.       Read Ezekiel 7. What is going to happen in Jerusalem?

Three years pass (from Ezekiel 24:1-2). The Jews hoped Egypt would save them, but it wouldn’t. Ezekiel prophecies against Egypt, much as Jeremiah did, and the end is drawing closer. Read Ezekiel 29:1-2, 30:20-21

1.       Read Ezekiel 31:1-2 How would we answer this question for our nation?

2.       Read Ezekiel 31:9 God describes Assyria with the words “I made it…” How might that change our view of our country’s history?

3.       Read Ezekiel 31:10-11,13-14. What is the punishment for exalting ourselves? This is Egypt’s punishment, and then it falls on Jerusalem too. Read 2 Kings 25:5-7, Jeremiah 39:2-7, 52:7-11. 

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