November - Reading 13

Discussion in 'Bible Reading Plan 2016' started by Clint Kritzer, Nov 13, 2002.

  1. Clint Kritzer

    Clint Kritzer
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  2. Clint Kritzer

    Clint Kritzer
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    Good evening -

    If there is anyone who follows these comments that I add day to day, I apologize for missing this post yesterday.

    In Ezekiel on 11/13 in chapter 33 we see another passage that speaks of individual accountability on behalf of the believer. The Jews were very much in the habit of trying to blame the sins of their parents for their own problems. This issue is addressed not only by Ezekiel but also by Jeremiah. Verse 10 shows that the message was finally sinking in.

    In the Gospel of John, the reference to the Feast of Dedication has no parallel in the Scriptures. This festival came to be in the time between the Testaments. This event commemorated the dedication of the Temple by Judas Maccabeus in December, 165 BC.

    May God bless you

    - Clint
     
  3. Clint Kritzer

    Clint Kritzer
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    Sunday School lesson 7/10/05

    Ezekiel 33

    The thirty-third chapter of Ezekiel is quite significant as we study the ministry of the prophet. There is a marked change in the direction, tone and mood of the text from this point forward. The event that triggers this change is the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. This turning point in Jewish history snuffed out whatever hope of escape remained for the children of Abraham. Now Ezekiel becomes an affirming voice for Yahweh with the same vigor he had given to being a condemning one. God’s judgment and punishment of His chosen people had left them broken. This was the point in their history at which a pastor was needed and God once again called upon Ezekiel to fill that role.

    Also significant in this Passage and the ones that follow is a transition from the corporate guilt of the Hebrew nation to the individual guilt of the exile without a country. Just as Jeremiah began a move towards individual responsibility, so too that message comes to Ezekiel.

    Ezekiel 33:1-9 The Peril and Privilege of the Prophetic Office

    The first nine verses of the chapter deal with the core of the prophetic office: the responsibility of the prophet to faithfully proclaim the word of God to the people. Ezekiel had been told in his call that they would not listen (Ezekiel 3:7) but that is irrelevant to his mission. The prophet represented God’s desire to reach out to His people. Their refusal to listen was their prerogative. This was a matter of free will.

    Likewise, Ezekiel had free will in the matter and he could refuse to proclaim to the obstinate House of Israel. Such a decision would have dire consequences, however. The decision to withhold the oracles he received would result in judgment upon him as well as his audience. All prophets stand in jeopardy from two sides, according to Ezekiel. They have a dual responsibility to man and to God.

    The case is presented to him in the form of an analogy. Fortified cities had a watchman who would keep vigilance over the surrounding countryside looking for threats on the horizon and issuing an alarm when one was spotted. He would accomplish this duty by sounding a horn that would alert the residents of the city to take up arms. Once the alarm was sounded, the watchman’s obligation was fulfilled. If the people responded, all well and good. If they did not, it was their own fault and no fault of the watchmen.

    Should a watchman fail to sound the alarm, however, and even one person was killed by the invader, the watchman was guilty of the death.

    In verse 7, the Lord applies this same principle to the prophet. God had set Ezekiel as a watchmen over his people early in his ministry (Ezekiel 3:17). That call is now renewed under the new circumstances. His task was not to proclaim judgment but to give warning. He was to speak to the wicked, warn them of their ways and call them to repentance. If he failed to fulfilled this duty and the wicked perished, Ezekiel would be responsible for their lives. If, however, he warned them and they willfully refused to listen, he would save his own life.

    It should be noted here that “soul” in this Passage is not the same Greek term that Paul uses as meaning a ethereal part of a person’s essence but rather is equitable with “life.” That is to say, Ezekiel’s theology held that righteousness effects longevity whereas sin shortens life.

    Ezekiel 33:10-20 The Doctrine of Individual Responsibility

    It is at this point that we clearly see the transition from corporate guilt to individual guilt. The corporate guilt felt by the exiles is revealed in verse 10, “How then can we live?” For the modern believer who has the benefit of a saving knowledge of Christ, the answer is in God’s mercy and Grace attained by our faith. For Ezekiel’s audience the answer lay in doing what was right by means of following the Law.

    The exiles had finally accepted that the guilt was upon them, not just upon their fathers. Due to this recognition of their composite guilt, they now knew that in their state of moral depravity and evil acts that they could not hope for forgiveness. Restoration to God seemed hopeless and so they cried to the prophet for an answer.

    There is but one answer to their question that echoes throughout this Passage and all through the Bible – “repent.” The synonym used here is “to turn” but it means the same thing. True repentance is a turning away from acts and lifestyle decisions that lead one into disfavor with God. The exiles needed to depart from the ways they had lived prior to the exile and which had led to their downfall. It is not the death of the wicked that pleases God, it is their repentance. God takes no pleasure in punishing judgment, it is a necessary action that stems from a just and holy God.

    This proclamation is followed by God’s plan for justice towards individuals. If a righteous person sins thinking that he good he has done will outweigh the bad he is deluded. On the other hand, if a wicked man repents, he will live and his previous sins will not be held against him. Thus God condemns the righteous when they sin and forgives the wicked when they repent.

    The people then charge that God’s way is not just because under this system the wicked man’s sins and the righteous man’s goodness are equally negated. What they failed to grasp was that the new condition of the people required a new doctrine of responsibility. It was no longer viable to think of the nation in a corporate sense because there no longer was any nation. It was under the conditions of the exile that the individual became of prime importance.

    The people’s overall religious problem was their priority. They made the same mistake made by much of mankind. The emphasized their corporate guilt complex while de-emphasizing their need for individual repentance.

    Ezekiel 33:21-33 Prophetic Popularity

    It is reasoned by logic that the date of verse 21 is January 8, 585 BC, five months after the burning of the Temple. An unnamed refugee form Jerusalem had made his way east to Babylon where Ezekiel was exiled and vindicated the message Ezekiel had been proclaiming: the Temple had been destroyed. On the evening prior to this, Ezekiel had been released of a divine dumbness described in chapter 24. It would only be after the announcement of the destruction that the prophetic word would be restored to the exiles.

    The first oracle proclaimed was a denunciation of the remnant remaining in Judah. They were under the false impression that because they had been spared, they were the divinely ordained successors to the Promise made to Abraham. This attitude staggered Ezekiel as he recognized that the judgment they had witnessed first hand had had no effect on them. With false logic they proclaimed themselves the true elect of Yahweh! They continued in the same patterns as before the destruction while imputing to themselves a status of holy people.

    The prophet outlines the charges against them. They were guilty of eating the flesh with the blood, a dietary prohibition from the time of Noah, idolatry, and bloodshed. Since they did not respond to God’s judgment the first time, they would suffer the punishment a second time. They would suffer the same threefold calamities as those before them: sword, beasts, and pestilence.

    Next, Ezekiel focuses on a new problem that developed in his new ministry. Unlike many of his predecessors, Ezekiel lived to see his oracles become a historical event. The effect of this upon the exiles was very impacting. Ezekiel found himself having the status of a celebrity.

    The exiles flocked to him to hear his words. He became a “household word.” People spoke about him in public places. He became very well known and very sought after. Perhaps as a thwart to his pride, God issued him a strong warning.

    Popularity, large audiences, praise, and acceptance of the prophet did not mean that his audience understood or would heed his warnings. Though the people were seemingly listening to his message, they were motivated by gain. The Hebrew implies that this was gain through violence or dishonesty associated with greed. The people were continuing the same path they had followed before the exile (Ezekiel 22:13).

    To the exiles, Ezekiel was little more than an entertainer. He was good with his voice and he executed a great delivery, but in the end, he was but a curiosity to them. The exiles saw him as they wished him to be, not as he truly was – a prophet of a moral God. They loved to hear him talk about national restoration and a return to their homes but his message of following the Law and acts of righteousness were ignored. Though they heard the commandments of God they refused to keep them.

    God informs Ezekiel that an act of judgment will come that will convince them that a prophet was among them. Ezekiel’s words will once again be proven but at great cost to those who had heard but not listened. Matthew Henry expounded beatifully upon this Passage:

    Sunday School lesson 7/17/05

    Ezekiel 34

    Chapter 34 of Ezekiel is a basic lesson in ethics for those who would be leaders. While Ezekiel seems to be addressing the political leaders of Israel (Israel being both the Northern and Southern Kingdom), the religious leaders are also certainly worthy of the scolding as well. Remember that Israel had been a theocracy. Central to Hebrew thought was that royalty was an office commissioned by God. The same is true of modern, secular governments according to Romans 13:1-2.

    To make his point, Ezekiel employs a familiar simile: the shepherd and sheep motif. Central to this chapter is the hypothesis that for Israel to be restored, certain reforms would be necessary. First, there must come into being an ethical ruler who would be both just and righteous. Secondly, that ruler’s role must be clearly defined.

    This lesson also continues the concept of the individual coming to the forefront in salvation history. While the exile would be the condition under which corporate responsibility gave way to individual accountability, the failure of the old guard, the former political leaders of Israel, would still be judged.

    Ezekiel 34:1-10 The Evil Shepherds

    God spoke through Ezekiel directly to the Israeli leaders. They had been evil shepherds who rather that feeding the sheep, fed upon them. They had taken advantage of their positions to abuse and betray their own people. Rather than promoting the common good they used their power base to enrich themselves and to feed their own appetites. They thought not of how to care for the flock but rather how that flock could add to their own personal agendas.

    These leaders did not care about the plight nor the condition of the flock. To the contrary, they dealt cruelly with the indefensible. This was a of religious ethics and a betrayal of trust and responsibility. The weak and defenseless fall easily when not protected. The task of protecting them had been given to these leaders. When they failed to fulfill this obligation, there was none to champion the lowly.

    For lack of leadership, the people had wandered aimlessly (v. 6), literally, they went to and fro like one in a drunken stupor. With no protection from their shepherds, they fell prey to predators, the worst of which were there own leaders. As further evidence of the leaders’ broken trust, they showed no concern over the lost. They did not search out the dispersed people. The entire situation as described in Ezekiel 34 shows the Jewish leaders as voracious and depraved. So bad had the condition become that God Himself would now step in and snatch the exiles from the leaders just as a shepherd would snatch a sheep from the jaws of a lion.

    Just as the watchman described in chapter 33 could betray his trust and be held accountable, so too could the shepherd of the flock. All those in leadership positions are accountable to God. There is no authority on earth that is not based upon God’s sovereignty. What God has sanctioned He can also undo. Such would be the case for the evil shepherds of Israel.

    Ezekiel 34:11-16 The Role of the Good Shepherd

    The personal intervention of God is quite remarkable. Characteristically in the Scriptures, God acts through an intermediary force or individual. There is the parting of the Red Sea by the wind in Exodus 14: The three men in Genesis who came to Abraham; The use of angels in Daniel and the announcement of the birth of Christ, the Judges, the kings, and even the prophets themselves.

    Yet here we see the Lord speaking through Ezekiel using the personal pronoun “I” a total of fifteen times and “my” or “myself” three. Since the evil shepherds had failed as intermediaries, God would take on the role of Shepherd Himself. He will gather the people together, reestablish them in their own land, and initiate an age marked by peace and prosperity. This strong, Messianic imagery, however, is based on the reestablishment of a theocracy. Unlike the former theocracy there would now be an ethical dimension in the leadership. The ideal leader would be the exact opposite of the former theocratic leaders.

    Ezekiel 34:17-24 The Good Shepherd as Judge

    It is at this point that we see the concept of individual accountability once again resurface in Ezekiel’s message. Not only would god intervene in order to displace the evil shepherds, He would also deal with the evil sheep among the flock. Ezekiel continues using the familiar imagery of a flock of sheep.

    Sheep graze hungrily at the choicest grasses in a meadow but in doing so they also trample much of the remaining pastureland. Likewise, the first sheep to a watering pool will get the freshest water but in the process of wading into the pond they muddy the water for those who come after them. The remaining herd is forced to drink the fouled water when they arrive or face thirst.

    This Passage exposes one of the grossest facets of human nature. There are those who will despoil what they do not need just so that others can not enjoy it. This is an act of a truly evil individual. The person who commits such a cruel deed knows full well that that there is a degree in the human condition when need and desperation will force one to accept that which has been spoiled. The condition of God’s true people among the exiles was that they had been forced into a position in which they must accept the inhumanity of those who were not God’s true people. This is like a well-fed man spitting on his unfinished sandwich in order to keep the starving man from eating it. Unfortunately there would come a point when the poor man would be forced to eat the remainder or face starvation. There was no ethical justice for this behavior.

    God’s intervention would also occur because the fat sheep were taking advantage of the lean sheep. This may apply to the upper strata of society, the economically advantaged who oppressed the poor or the stronger aggressor nations that overpowered lesser nations. Among grazing sheep, the stronger rams will often shoulder aside the weaker starting a chain reaction until the weakest sheep, who most need the nourishment, have inadequate nutrition. The use of brute force for the means of gain was unacceptable in God’s new order of ethics for His people.

    This image of the weaker being pushed aside by the stronger is certainly not alien to the modern believer. We live in a world of those who would exploit others for ethnic reasons or gender bases. There are corporate takeovers as large companies force out smaller businesses. There is child labor, loan sharking, insider trading, political maneuvering, and blackmail. Though these may be viewed as “the way of the world,” among God’s believers, might does not make right. Such ethical depravity dehumanizes man, God’s noblest of creations.

    Correction of these conditions for Ezekiel’s audience would come in the form of new leadership. The One Shepherd concept insinuates that the Israelites had had multiple shepherds, probably the kings, but now would have but One through whom God would directly rule. This new prince would be of the lineage of David and ultimately would be the Person of Jesus Christ.

    Ezekiel 34:25-31 The Good Shepherd and the Covenant of Peace

    With coming of the Davidic prince would also come a New Covenant. This Covenant of Peace while employing ancient words in expression is pregnant with new meaning. This is not like the covenants from the days of the Patriarchs. This Covenant would be associated with peace.

    Not only would there be peace among men, but between men and animals (v. 25). The rain would not fail them and the farming of the land would be abundantly successful. As a result, hunger would be alleviated. Most remarkably, however, was that God’s people would recognize who they were and whose they were. (Hosea 2:18; Jeremiah 31:31; Isaiah 55:12-13).

    Ezekiel’s message in chapter 34 is infused with strong nationalism. For the prophet as a man he could only see the Jews as God’s chosen. His immediate audience was the exiled nation of Israel and the age he saw was for them alone. We see here once again the oracle of God reaching much further than the prophet could see. The New Covenant of Peace would come first to the Jews, yes, but through the Grace of God would come to all the world in the coming of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ (1Peter 1:12; 2Peter 1:21).
     
  4. Clint Kritzer

    Clint Kritzer
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