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glimmer of hope at end of dark tunnel

A Glimmer of Hope, Ezekiel 33

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Idea for the Bible teacher or discussion leader: If it is possible, turn all lights out in the room, leaving it completely in the dark. Then flash a very small flashlight or match. Turn the lights back on and ask ,"when are there times when people need a glimmer of hope?" Discuss.

During this time in history the Jews need a glimmer of hope.

Review. During the two year siege of Babylon, Jerusalem has a chance to repent but does not. As she was besieged and destroyed, how did the surrounding nations react? In Ezekiel 25-32 there are judgments against Israel's neighbors. In Ezekiel 25 there are judgments against Israel's eastern and western neighbors, the Ammonites, Moabites, Edomites, and the Philistines. They would be judged by God for rejoicing over Israel's calamity. In Ezekiel 26-28 Tyre was judged because it rejoiced at Jerusalem's fall and sought to profit from it. Her ruler, Ethbaal III (The Bible Knowledge Commentary of the O.T., by Walvoord and Zuck, © 1985, p. 1282), thought he was a god, because of his acumen and success in trade, and he was likened to Satan. His pride also caused the destruction of his nation by Babylon.

In our last lesson we observed the judgment upon Egypt in chapters 29-32. Egypt was judged because she was proud and unreliable. She did not complete the job in coming to the aid of Israel; she went back home and let Jerusalem fall to Babylon. For this, she and the surrounding nations would be destroyed by Babylon.

Ezekiel 33-48 provides hope for Israel. In Ezekiel 33 the exiles receive word that their beloved city, Jerusalem, has fallen to the Babylonians. This was the lowest point in Jewish history so they needed hope. Read Ezekiel 33 and make some observations from the text.

Answer 1


In Ezekiel 33:1-6 God tells Ezekiel to speak to his countrymen (that is, the exiles in Babylon) about a hypothetical situation, concerning a watchman. What is the watchman supposed to do and how is he held responsible?

Answer 2


In Ezekiel 33:7-9 God assigns Ezekiel the duty of being a watchman for the house of Israel. Those of you who have been following our Ezekiel Bible studies from the beginning will recognize this is the second time God assigns him this duty, and there are striking similarities between chapter 3:16-21 and chapter 18 with chapter 33. Why did God repeat his instructions? There is a clue in 33:10-11

Answer 3


How does God decide what is just in his judgment? How do some of the people respond? (Ezekiel 33:10-20)

Answer 4


If you have been studying Ezekiel with us from the beginning, you may recall that the prophet was forbidden to speak to the exiles unless God gave him a message of judgment (Ezekiel 3:26-27). Ezekiel 33:21-22 fulfills the prophecy of Ezekiel 24:25-27. Why do you suppose that Ezekiel is now being allowed to speak?

Answer 5


Though Ezekiel could now speak healing words to the exiles, still there was a small remnant in the land of Israel after the Babylonians destroyed it. What were they saying and what response did God want Ezekiel to send to them? Ezekiel 33:23-29. How might this apply to us?

Answer 6


In Ezekiel 33:30-33 God addresses a different group than the ones in Ezekiel's homeland. Who are they and what are they saying? What are they not doing?

Answer 7


Lessons to Live by: (ask for members' input first)

Today's Bible memory verses: James 1:22-25

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it-- he will be blessed in what he does. (NIV)

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  • A hypothetical situation about a watchman and his responsibilities is given.
  • Ezekiel is once again appointed a watchman over the exiles (you may recall that he was initially appointed watchman at the beginning of his ministry, Ezekiel 3:17).
  • Situations for God's mercy are given.
  • Not everyone buys into God's judgment.
  • Some of the exiles are broken over their sin for the first time since Ezekiel's prophecies began.
  • Some of the exiles only gather to hear Ezekiel's message because he is a fine sounding speaker.

What is our response to God's Word? Do we take it to heart, deny God's judgment, or just gather in church because we like to hear a fine speaker?

  • Ezekiel's mouth is opened the day before word comes that Jerusalem has fallen. That day is the twelfth year, the tenth month and the fifth day of their exile (counting from the time of King Jehoiachin's exile, the last rightful king of Judah)
  • The small remnant in Jerusalem are cocky and self-deluded, because God will make it a desolate land.
A2: Watchmen stood on the walls of the city to watch for invaders. If one of them saw a threat and blew a trumpet to warn the people, but individuals did not heed the warning and lost their lives, the individuals would be responsible. However, if the watchman failed to warn the people, he would be responsible for any that died.

A3: There is a striking similarity between Ezekiel 33 and earlier passages, however, it appears the purposes may have been different. Ezekiel's first assignment was to warn them of judgment, while the second assignment was to warn them of judgment for their own benefit, i.e., the saving of their lives and restoration. Except for prophecies of judgment Ezekiel had been silent, but now, after the destruction of Jerusalem, for his second assignment he is allowed to speak (Ezekiel 33:22).

A4: If a man (or woman) is truly repentant it will be shown by his actions, but if he says he is righteous and acts otherwise, he is false and will die for his sins. In this context as in Ezekiel 18 this probably referred to physical death.

Are we truly righteous or do we just say that we are? Our actions are usually a demonstration of our hearts (James 2:17-18). If we know that we are wicked, do we also know that God is merciful to those who turn to him away from their sins? God does not desire that any should spiritually perish but that all should come to repentance (2Peter 3:9). God offers forgiveness, peace, and spiritual life (more...). Have you repented of your sins or did you return to them?

The message, unfortunately, was not well received because most of the exiles called God unjust. Apparently, they wanted to keep pretending that they were righteous by keeping religious rituals in their synagogues, but God knows their hearts and sees their corresponding actions. It is God's judgment which is right, not man's estimation of his own merits.

A5: The time of God's judgment is for the most part complete. When we are angry with someone we do not want to speak and have normal relations, except perhaps to accuse him of doing something wrong. However, when we now wish to show mercy and grace and be forgiving, we do speak with kinder words. This appears to be the reason why Ezekiel's mouth is now opened - to speak other words than that of judgment. He can now speak healing words to his people. They needed that because almost all of their relatives in their homeland and their beloved city were destroyed. They need some glimmer of hope.

A6: The small remnant were saying that, though they were small in number, like Abraham God had given them the land to possess. God's response was, in effect, that they were deluded; they still ate meat with blood in it, worshipped idols, and were murderers and adulterers (all of which were forbidden in their laws and for which their nation was destroyed). They, too, would be destroyed and the land left desolate.

Are we deluded in our thinking? Do any of us think that we can act like the devil all week long and then go to church on Sunday and be ok? And, if our whole church is like that, will it survive and thrive? It will be like the church of Sardis, which Jesus threatens to destroy (Revelation 3:1-3). If we are like this we need to humble ourselves and repent!

A7: God addresses his countrymen, i.e., his fellow exiles in Babylon. They liked to listen to Ezekiel. Perhaps he had a musical voice to which they liked to listen. They professed their devotion to him but did not put his words into practice; they were greedy for unjust gain. Perhaps some of them had gotten wealthy in Babylon and were not interested in repentance. However, when God's words became true in their own lives they would have to pay attention. If they were righteous then they would continue to be so, but if they were false they would be destroyed.

Do we listen to the word of God or as we said earlier, do we like the preacher because he speaks well? James 1:22-25 gives us this admonition

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror
and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it-- he will be blessed in what he does. (NIV)


Lessons to Live by:

  • Has God given us an assignment to be a watchman over others? We need to do that faithfully.
  • When we are at our lowest point God is there.
  • God is merciful to those who are repentant.
  • Listen to God's Word and do what it says. Don't delude yourself into believing that you can do what you want, attend church and be ok. God blesses those who see what God says and do it.

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