Sunday School Lesson

July 23

Lesson 8

Ezekiel

Devotional Reading: Ezekiel 17:22-24

Background Scripture: Ezekiel 1-3

Ezekiel 3:1-11

1 Moreover he said unto me, Son of man, eat that thou findest; eat this roll, and go speak unto the house of Israel.

2 So I opened my mouth, and he caused me to eat that roll.

3 And he said unto me, Son of man, cause thy belly to eat, and fill thy bowels with this roll that I give thee. Then did I eat it; and it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness.

4 And he said unto me, Son of man, go, get thee unto the house of Israel, and speak with my words unto them.

5 For thou art not sent to a people of a strange speech and of an hard language, but to the house of Israel;

6 Not to many people of a strange speech and of an hard language, whose words thou canst not understand. Surely, had I sent thee to them, they would have hearkened unto thee.

7 But the house of Israel will not hearken unto thee; for they will not hearken unto me: for all the house of Israel are impudent and hardhearted.

8 Behold, I have made thy face strong against their faces, and thy forehead strong against their foreheads.

9 As an adamant harder than flint have I made thy forehead: fear them not, neither be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house.

10 Moreover he said unto me, Son of man, all my words that I shall speak unto thee receive in thine heart, and hear with thine ears.

11 And go, get thee to them of the captivity, unto the children of thy people, and speak unto them, and tell them, Thus saith the Lord God; whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear.

Key Verses

Moreover he said unto me, Son of man, all my words that I shall speak unto thee receive in thine heart, and hear with thine ears. And go, get thee to them of the captivity, unto the children of thy people, and speak unto them, and tell them, Thus saith the Lord God; whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear. —Ezekiel 3:10, 11

Lesson Aims

After participating in this lesson, each learner will be able to:

1. Describe the context of Ezekiel’s call.

2. Contrast the difficulty of correcting those who don’t know better with the difficulty of correcting those who should and/or do know better.

3. Identify situations in modern churches about which one should be “hardheaded.”

Lesson Outline

Introduction

A. Gourmet or Garbage?

B. Lesson Background

I. Tasted Words (Ezekiel 3:1-4)

A. Command to Eat, Part 1 (vv. 1, 2)

B. Command to Eat, Part 2 (vv. 3, 4)

II. Tested People (Ezekiel 3:5-7)

A. Same Language (vv. 5, 6)

B. Same Result (v. 7)

Wavelength

III. Toughened Prophet (Ezekiel 3:8-11)

A. Unyielding Messenger (vv. 8, 9)

Stubbornness as a Go(o)d Thing

B. Unyielding Message (vv. 10, 11)

Conclusion

A. Balancing Act

B. Prayer

C. Thought to Remember

Introduction

 

A. Gourmet or Garbage?

Foods considered delicacies in some parts of the world may turn stomachs in others. For example, in Mexico City you may be offered a dish called escamoles. At first glance it may look like some sort of cooked grain. Don’t ask, or you will be told that escamoles are ant larvae!

Casa marzu is a traditional Sardinian cheese. You may balk when you learn that the Italian name for it is formaggio marcio, meaning “rotten cheese.” If it seems to you that it is moving, it is. This “delicacy” is a sheep-milk cheese filled with live maggots!

Coffee lovers may be tempted to try kopi luwak, the most expensive coffee money can buy. Some specialty coffee shops sell the brew for $80 per cup. The reason this Indonesian delicacy is rare is that the coffee beans are first eaten by a type of wild cat, then collected after the beans have made their way through the animal’s digestive system!

At one time or another, our reluctance to eat a certain food was met by someone saying, “Just try it!” The call of Ezekiel held forth a similar challenge. Ezekiel was commissioned to prophesy to people who found God’s Word unappetizing. Therefore God offered Ezekiel a taste test.

B. Lesson Background

The prophet Ezekiel was a contemporary of the prophet Jeremiah (see lesson 7). Both were living at the time Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians in 586 BC. Jeremiah was likely some years older than Ezekiel since (1) Jeremiah saw himself as “a child” when he received his call from the Lord (Jeremiah 1:6) in 626 BC and (2) Ezekiel was 30 years old (if that’s the correct reference of the text) in “the fifth year of king Jehoiachin’s captivity” (Ezekiel 1:1, 2), which was the year 592 BC. Thus Ezekiel would have been born in 622 BC. Perhaps there was some personal contact between Ezekiel and Jeremiah prior to Ezekiel’s captivity. But the Scriptures are silent on that.

Ezekiel is introduced as “the priest” (Ezekiel 1:3). And that is what he would have been had it not been for the tragic turn of events in the southern kingdom of Judah. The first stage in these events came in 605 BC, when Daniel and his friends were taken captive to Babylon (2 Kings 24:1, 2; Daniel 1:1-6). Ezekiel’s relocation to Babylon was a part of the second stage of exile; he was among the 10,000 of the elite citizenry taken in 597 BC (2 Kings 24:12-14).

Daniel and other Jews were taken to serve “in the king’s palace” (Daniel 1:4), while Ezekiel found himself in a completely different setting: “among the captives by the river of Chebar” (Ezekiel 1:1). Even so, “the hand of the Lord was there upon him” (1:3). It was there that the Lord proceeded to call the priest to a task he undoubtedly did not anticipate.

The call began with an intense display of what Ezekiel describes as “the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord,” which caused Ezekiel to fall facedown (Ezekiel 1:28). Then followed this command: “Son of man, stand upon thy feet, and I will speak unto thee” (2:1). As with other call accounts in this unit, Ezekiel’s included both sounds and sights. The sound was the voice of the Lord. The sight was, first, the awe-inspiring glory of the Lord, then an outstretched hand that held “a roll of a book,” or a scroll (2:9). As we recall from lesson 6, taste was the one bodily sense of five that Isaiah did not experience in his call. The situation was different with Ezekiel, however!

I. Tasted Words

                                                                   (Ezekiel 3:1-4)

 

A. Command to Eat, Part 1 (vv. 1, 2)

1a. Moreover he said unto me, Son of man.

The designation Son of man occurs over 90 times in the book of Ezekiel, always when the Lord is addressing the prophet. We recognize this phrase as a self-designation of Jesus in the New Testament, a title of messianic significance as it reflects Daniel 7:13, 14. However, the phrase does not appear to have any messianic significance when applied to Ezekiel. Son of man simply draws attention to the humanity and mortality of Ezekiel in contrast with the eternal God who calls him.

1b. Eat that thou findest; eat this roll.

The roll (or scroll) that Ezekiel is commanded to eat is the one written “within and without” (that is, on both sides) with words of “lamentations, and mourning, and woe” in Ezekiel 2:10. Language such as this points to the visionary nature of Ezekiel’s call. It is similar to John’s dietary experience in Revelation 10:8-11, though the aftereffect in each case is quite different, as later noted.

Visual for Lesson 8. Point to this visual as you ask, “In what ways does resistance to the Word of God manifest itself today? How should we respond?”

1c. And go speak unto the house of Israel.

It is important that Ezekiel first receives the message within himself. Only then is he qualified to carry out the command we see here. God’s Word must become a part of the messenger before the messenger can impart it to others.

2. So I opened my mouth, and he caused me to eat that roll.

Ezekiel complies. Those who preach on the importance of obedience to the Lord must first be obedient to Him themselves.

B. Command to Eat, Part 2 (vv. 3, 4)

3a. And he said unto me, Son of man, cause thy belly to eat, and fill thy bowels with this roll that I give thee. Then did I eat it.

For Ezekiel to eat the roll signifies that God’s message is to become his source of spiritual nourishment. The comparison of God’s Word with food is found elsewhere in the Bible (see Psalm 119:103; Hebrews 5:12-14; 1 Peter 2:2, 3).

The mention of both belly and bowels points to the thoroughness with which Ezekiel is to receive God’s message that is written on the scroll. Both words are used figuratively in the Old Testament to describe an individual’s inner self, or the place of understanding. See the reference to belly in Proverbs 26:22 and bowels in Isaiah 16:11.

3b. And it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness.

The sweetness that accompanies Ezekiel’s eating of the scroll may seem odd since its contents consist only of “lamentations, and mourning, and woe” (Ezekiel 2:10). Most likely the sweetness is linked to Ezekiel’s faithfulness to his appointed task. Even though his message will not be pleasant to hear and the audience will be resistant and hostile (a point the Lord will make shortly), Ezekiel’s fulfillment will come from his faithful delivery of the words given by the one who has called him (compare Jeremiah 15:16).

We must grasp the significance of honey in this era to get the full impact. Today we tend to view honey as one sweetener among many that are readily available (cane sugar, corn syrup, etc.). But the people of Ezekiel’s time and place do not have all these options. Honey is a delicacy (compare Proverbs 25:16). Psalm 19:9-11 places it alongside gold in a comparison with “the judgments of the Lord” by which “is thy servant warned.” Even God’s warnings can be sweet, because “there is great reward” in keeping His decrees.

However, we note a certain contrast when the apostle John ingests “the little book” in his heavenly vision in Revelation. It is “sweet as honey” at first, but turns bitter in his stomach (Revelation 10:8-10). Perhaps that is because the judgments John bears witness to are the harshest in Scripture, eternal in their scope.

What Do You Think?

What can we expect to experience when we taste God’s Word? What is signified if we don’t experience such things?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

Regarding our state of mind (Psalm 34:8)

Regarding our commitment (Hebrews 6:4-6)

Regarding our maturity (1 Peter 2:1-3)

Other

4. And he said unto me, Son of man, go, get thee unto the house of Israel, and speak with my words unto them.

Here are the three essentials in conveying God’s message in any era. First, we must take the initiative and go. Second, we must have an audience. Third, we must have a message from God.

What Do You Think?

What does the prophet’s “go” mandate in Ezekiel 3:1, 4, 11 have to say, if anything, to Christians pondering how best to implement the “go” mandate in Matthew 28:19, 20?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

Regarding the mandates’ similarities

Regarding the mandates’ distinctives

II. Tested People

                                                                  (Ezekiel 3:5-7)

 

A. Same Language (vv. 5, 6)

5. For thou art not sent to a people of a strange speech and of an hard language, but to the house of Israel.

The prophet Daniel’s concurrent ministry is with a people of a strange speech, a language he and his friends are expected to learn (Daniel 1:4). Ezekiel, on the other hand, is to speak to people who share his identity and heritage: the house of Israel. One would think this would be a plus for communicating the Lord’s message. But such will not be the case, as the Lord proceeds to explain.

6. Not to many people of a strange speech and of an hard language, whose words thou canst not understand. Surely, had I sent thee to them, they would have hearkened unto thee.

Language barriers can be difficult to overcome. But here the Lord tells Ezekiel that people of other lands and of a strange speech and of an hard language would have welcomed the prophet’s message. Those in Nineveh, for example, heeded Jonah’s preaching and turned to God in a national expression of repentance (Jonah 3:4, 5). Jesus cites that incident in an indictment of those in His day who refuse to repent in response to His preaching (Matthew 12:41; compare 11:20-24).

B. Same Result (v. 7)

7. But the house of Israel will not hearken unto thee; for they will not hearken unto me: for all the house of Israel are impudent and hardhearted.

By contrast, the house of Israel (God’s covenant people) will not hearken unto Ezekiel. Of course, ultimately it is not Ezekiel-the-spokesman who is rejected, but God. The prediction reminds us of what God told Samuel when the elders of Israel demanded a king: “They have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me” (1 Samuel 8:7). Centuries later, Jesus will speak in similar terms to His disciples: “He that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me” (Luke 10:16).

God uses the highly unflattering terms impudent and hardhearted to describe his people. One would think that a people in captivity as a result of God’s judgment on them would be more sensitive to spiritual matters and willing to heed His prophet! Some will be willing to give the prophet a hearing and will encourage others to do so as well (Ezekiel 33:30). But Ezekiel’s audience ultimately sees him as an entertainer (33:32) and as one whose message is obscure (20:49). Any positive response ends up being nothing more than lip service (33:31, 32).

Wavelength

Living in Ukraine, another American and I were spending several weeks in intense language training. There were many chances for miscommunication. One problem stemmed from Russian words that sounded or looked like English words.

One day our teacher was drilling us with flash cards that featured Russian words for common objects. The drill required that we point to pictures of the objects, and the word krovat kept tripping us up. We thought it was a type of necktie, but there was no such picture. We tried to describe it to the instructor, but she could not understand. Finally she pointed to the correct picture: krovat meant “bed.”

We found that hilarious. Before long the teacher was laughing with us. Something that started as a communication gap ended as a bonding experience. Although we didn’t speak the same language, we did indeed end up on the same wavelength.

Ezekiel’s problem was the exact opposite. Sent to people who spoke his language, his message ended up being rejected because his fellow Israelites were not on God’s spiritual wavelength. It’s bad enough to face misunderstandings; it’s worse to be understood but rejected anyway. May we have the strength God gave Ezekiel to face such opposition when it comes. —L. M. W.

What Do You Think?

What are some ways for Christians to prepare themselves for negative reactions that may come when sin is confronted within a church?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

For reactions that hide behind Matthew 7:1

For reactions that hide behind John 8:7

For reactions that hide behind cultural concepts of “privacy”

Other

III. Toughened Prophet

                                                                 (Ezekiel 3:8-11)

 

A. Unyielding Messenger (vv. 8, 9)

8. Behold, I have made thy face strong against their faces, and thy forehead strong against their foreheads.

God will not change the prophet’s message to make it less offensive to the hostile crowd, but He will change His prophet. God makes Ezekiel’s face and his forehead strong enough to withstand the faces and foreheads of his opposition.

The language pictures intense opposition toward the prophet, but also sufficient resources to counter it. Anyone who tries to “butt heads” with Ezekiel will meet his or her match and then some! The Lord’s promise to Ezekiel is similar to that which he gives to Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:17-19) and to Moses (Exodus 7:1-5). The name Ezekiel means “God strengthens” or “God hardens” in Hebrew. God is promising His messenger the power to live up to his name.

9. As an adamant harder than flint have I made thy forehead: fear them not, neither be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house.

Adamant is an adjective meaning “firm” or “unyielding.” But it can also describe any substance, such as flint, of extreme hardness. Because of such preparation, Ezekiel need not fear his opposition, even if their looks are threatening.

Fear seems to be a common initial reaction of those called by God, so God reassures those He calls with various promises of His sustaining power. Ezekiel must not give in to his fears, though the opposition he is to face is likened to “briers and thorns” and “scorpions” (Ezekiel 2:6).

Stubbornness as a Go(o)d Thing

My children love computers. So for the first week of summer break, we let them have unlimited time on the home computer.

After a week of bloodshot eyes and disengaged children, we initiated a strict time limit. The first few days we saw rebellion. They stubbornly insisted that they couldn’t do any of their summer projects without online video instructions. They extolled the merits of learning correct keyboarding and keeping up with their generation by participating in online games.

We stood firm, however, and took them on bike rides to the park. We had family game time or group reading time. We invited neighborhood children over to play. We baked cookies and made dinner together. Within a few days, the powerful habit of continuous computer usage was broken.

How to Say It

Babylon Bab-uh-lun.

Babylonians Bab-ih-low-nee-unz.

casa marzu caw-zoo marh-zoo.

Chebar Kee-bar.

escamoles ess-kuh-mow-less.

Ezekiel Ee-zeek-ee-ul or Ee-zeek-yul.

formaggio marcio fohr-mod-djoh mar-choh.

kopi luwak co-pea lu-wah.

krovat craw-vawht.

messianic mess-ee-an-ick.

Moab Mo-ab.

Nebuchadnezzar Neb-yuh-kud-nez-er.

Nineveh Nin-uh-vuh.

Solomon Sol-o-mun.

Children can be stubbornly persistent in using childish logic to persuade parents to give them their hearts’ desires! But when those desires threaten their development, parents must be more stubborn than their children. They must make rules and stick with them until the children themselves see the value of those rules.

Ezekiel faced what amounted to a nation of spiritual children. In that regard, they stubbornly insisted on following the ungodly way of their ancestors, “a stubborn and rebellious generation” (Psalm 78:8). Ezekiel had to match their stubborn hardheadedness with his own, since he was right and they were wrong.

We must cling to the truth. This does not give us license to hurt those who disagree, since our hardheadedness is based in the softheartedness of John 3:16. But the exercise of softhearted compassion must not result in our spiritual compass pointing anywhere but to God alone. —L. M. W.

What Do You Think?

What forms should stubbornness on our part take and not take in spreading the gospel? Why?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

To those of our own language and culture

To those of our own language but different culture

To those who differ in both language and culture

B. Unyielding Message (vv. 10, 11)

10. Moreover he said unto me, Son of man, all my words that I shall speak unto thee receive in thine heart, and hear with thine ears.

The Lord desires that Ezekiel take to heart what he is now hearing. The prophet has already taken to “belly” and “bowels” these words (Ezekiel 3:3, above), and the inclusion of heart stresses how complete Ezekiel’s reception of the Lord’s message must be.

The words of Psalm 119:11 are applicable: “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” Ezekiel may be in captivity on foreign soil, but God’s Word is in no way held captive (see 2 Timothy 2:9).

11. And go, get thee to them of the captivity, unto the children of thy people, and speak unto them, and tell them, Thus saith the Lord God; whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear.

The Lord has spoken of Ezekiel’s audience as “impudent,” “hardhearted,” and “rebellious” in today’s text. These add to their depiction as “briers and thorns” and “scorpions” in Ezekiel 2:6. Now, however, as the Lord’s commission to Ezekiel comes to its conclusion, He describes them in somewhat softer terms.

First, they are them of the captivity. They are fellow exiles with Ezekiel; they suffer with him the same discouraging circumstances. Second, the Lord refers to them as the children of thy people. Because of their stubborn disobedience and refusal to heed prophets like Ezekiel, they deserve to be where they are. But they are still Ezekiel’s kin; he shares with them a common identity as part of the covenant people. Ezekiel undoubtedly views them with the same compassion that moves the apostle Paul to say centuries later, “For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh” (Romans 9:3).

At the same time, Ezekiel’s compassion must not be allowed to alter the Lord’s message. Ezekiel still must declare, Thus saith the Lord God. Resistance to the message must not influence the prophet’s delivery of it. Whether they will hear, or ... forbear makes no difference in that regard. Ezekiel’s primary duty is to remain faithful to the Lord’s message. His listeners must decide for themselves whether they will do the same.

The Lord will expand on this point in Ezekiel 3:16-27, where the prophet’s work is compared with that of a watchman. The watchman can only sound the alarm when an enemy approaches; it is up to the residents of a city or town to take appropriate action. If Ezekiel is faithful to his duties as a watchman yet his listeners scorn his warnings, then they will have no one to blame but themselves when disaster strikes.

What Do You Think?

How do we know whether or not to move on when the gospel is stubbornly resisted?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

Considering examples of staying put (Acts 5:17-21; 8:1b—regarding the apostles; etc.)

Considering examples of moving on (Luke 9:5; Acts 9:23-25; 17:32, 33; etc.)

Considering examples where both occur in different senses (Acts 18:1-11; 19:1-10; etc.)

Conclusion

 

A. Balancing Act

God called Ezekiel to walk a prophetic tightrope. On one hand, he was given a message that was filled with mourning and woe. On the other hand, he noted that the message was nourishing and sweet. God’s harshest rebukes are given for the eternal good of the hearer.

Christians today are faced with a similar balancing act. Some complain that Christianity is a religion of no and that we are defined only by what we are against. On the other hand, some look at positive, affirming messages and then grumble that the church does not take sin seriously anymore! How do we preach the sweetness of the gospel without compromising what the Bible says about the seriousness of sin?

The prophecies of Ezekiel contain some of the bleakest words in Scripture regarding the fate of those who resist the truth of God’s Word. But the same prophecies contain great words of hope and conclude with the promise, “The Lord is there” (Ezekiel 48:35). May we seek to offer that same balanced message today.

B. Prayer

Father, harden us against whatever opposition we may encounter; but keep our hearts soft with Your compassion for a lost world. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

C. Thought to Remember

A message of judgment without grace is no gospel at all.


July 30

Lesson 9

Amos

Devotional Reading: Psalm 119:1-8

Background Scripture: Amos 7

Amos 7:10-17

10 Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, Amos hath conspired against thee in the midst of the house of Israel: the land is not able to bear all his words.

11 For thus Amos saith, Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel shall surely be led away captive out of their own land.

12 Also Amaziah said unto Amos, O thou seer, go, flee thee away into the land of Judah, and there eat bread, and prophesy there:

13 But prophesy not again any more at Bethel: for it is the king’s chapel, and it is the king’s court.

14 Then answered Amos, and said to Amaziah, I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet’s son; but I was an herdman, and a gatherer of sycomore fruit:

15 And the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and the Lord said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel.

16 Now therefore hear thou the word of the Lord: Thou sayest, Prophesy not against Israel, and drop not thy word against the house of Isaac.

17 Therefore thus saith the Lord; Thy wife shall be an harlot in the city, and thy sons and thy daughters shall fall by the sword, and thy land shall be divided by line; and thou shalt die in a polluted land: and Israel shall surely go into captivity forth of his land.

Key Verses

Then answered Amos, and said to Amaziah, I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet’s son; but I was an herdman, and a gatherer of sycomore fruit: and the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and the Lord said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel. —Amos 7:14, 15

Lesson Aims

After participating in this lesson, each learner will be able to:

1. Summarize the nature of the resistance to Amos’s message and his response to that resistance.

2. Compare and contrast that resistance with modern resistance to the gospel.

3. Write a short “letter to the editor” that contrasts a biblical view of a current controversy with the prevailing secular view.

Lesson Outline

Introduction

A. What’s My Profession?

B. Lesson Background: Israel in General

C. Lesson Background: Bethel in Particular

I. Professional Priest (Amos 7:10-13)

A. Report to the King (vv. 10, 11)

B. Rebuke for the Prophet (vv. 12, 13)

Outsiders

II. Professing Prophet (Amos 7:14-17)

A. Source of Authority (vv. 14-16)

Credentials

B. Essence of the Message (v. 17)

Conclusion

A. True to the Call

B. Prayer

C. Thought to Remember


Standard Lesson Commentary 2016-2017 (KJV): StandardLessonCmy2016KJV.

"Suggestions for families are taken from Standardlesson.com,

Standard Publishing Group, LLC. Used with permission. More resources for families are available at Standardpub.com.


God Bless