Multiply: The Spirit of God

God_Forever

Here we are for another week.  This week we get to delve into the Spirit of God (a topic I am considering as the next series on Fellow Imitators).  Come join me as we continue in Part V: Session 3: The Spirit of God. Multiply!

How often do you think about our need for the Holy Spirit?  Do you think about Him much, or does He just kind of fade into the background, taken for granted?  The Holy Spirit is actually vital to our salvation.  Without Him, we cannot know God, we cannot understand God’s word and we cannot defeat the sin in us.  He is our true source of spiritual power.

In studying the Old Testament, we confirmed that humanity cannot succeed at the task of following God faithfully without help.  In Ezekiel 36, God declared that Israel had a heart of stone, a dead spirit.  What they need was a spiritual transfusion, a complete transformation.

“I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (Ez. 36:25-27)

God’s people weren’t going to receive just any old spirit, they needed the Spirit of God.  Transformed from the inside out by the power of God.

Jesus told His disciples of the Spirit’s coming, but this was not to imply that the Spirit did not yet exist or that He was  not already at work in the world.  Genesis tells us that the Spirit was active in the creation of the world and He had a hand in guiding those called by God.  In the New Testament, however the Spirit was to begin working through man in a new and powerful way.

Discussion Question #1: Take a minute to consider the significance of the promise of the Holy Spirit in Ezekiel 36:25–27. Explain why this promise is so important in the history of redemption.

Who Is the Holy Spirit?

Yes, the Holy Spirit is a “who” and He is fully God, just as Christ is fully God.  This concept, called the Trinity, is referred to when the Bible speaks of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Each a distinct person, yet each clearly God.

When we acknowledge the Holy Spirit as a “who”, we need to realize what this means in the way we interact with Him.  He is a person who can act, who can be grieved.

Discussion Question #2: How should seeing the Holy Spirit as a person and as God Himself change the way you relate to Him?

The Spirit in the New Testament

The New Testament is full of the Spirit’s work in the lives of God’s people.  We see that John the Baptist and Jesus, Himself, are filled with the Spirit as they carry out their ministries (Luke 1:15 and 4:1). Time and time again throughout the Gospels, we are reminded of the Spirit’s work through Jesus.

In Acts 2, the Spirit makes a very dramatic entrance.  Jesus had given the apostles an impossible (for man) mission and then told them to go to Jerusalem and wait.  The Spirit makes His grand entrance and suddenly the apostles are proclaiming the “mighty works of God” in many different languages.  Peter explains that this indwelling was prophesied in the Old Testament.  Israel had been waiting for the empowerment by God’s people and suddenly the day was here.  God’s Spirit was working in His people.

Discussion Question #3: Read Acts 2 carefully. As you read, pay attention to two things: (1) references to Old Testament truths and promises and (2) references to the Holy Spirit. What references do you see in Peter’s sermon to some of the key concepts you studied in the Old Testament sessions?

Discussion Question #4: What does this passage say about the Holy Spirit? How was the Holy Spirit working at this significant moment in redemption history?

The Spirit of God and the Word of God

Our Bible, the Scriptures are a direct result of the Spirit’s workings.

“For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21 ESV).

The Scriptures are not the work of man alone, but by the direct inspiration of God.

The Ministry of the Spirit

When Jesus rose from the grave, the disciples probably expected Jesus to carry on with His ministry and grow His kingdom, and yet He left.  In fact, He told His disciples that it was better that He was leaving.  How could it be better?  Well, Jesus explains that if He didn’t leave, the “Helper” would not be able to come and empower God’s people.

“Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7 ESV).

The Holy Spirit is the “Helper” Jesus promised.  The Spirit is God’s gift to all people to enable them to do the work that Jesus started during His ministry on earth, that is to establish His kingdom.  It is only through the power of the Spirit that we are able to walk faithfully with Christ.  “So great is our need for the Spirit that we are commanded to walk by the Spirit (Gal. 5:16), be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18), pray in the Spirit (Jude v. 20), and put sin to death by the Spirit (Rom. 8:13), among other things. The Spirit secures our faithfulness till the end” (286).

Discussion Question #5: Read Romans 7 and 8. What does Paul’s comparison of these two ways of living say about the role of the Holy Spirit and our need for Him?

The Spirit in God’s Mission

God’s plan of redemption marches on and His work is accomplished by the Spirit as He works in the lives of His people.  We cannot accomplish all God wishes to do through us with the power of the Holy Spirit.  We cannot fulfill the Great Commission without the Spirit.

In our pursuit of the Spirit, however, we need to be sure that we are not lead away from Christ.  “Like a spotlight, the Spirit focuses the attention on Christ and His salvation. Therefore, we should not separate the work of the Spirit from the work of Jesus (or God the Father, for that matter)” (286).  The Spirit can do amazing things, but we should not seek Him for a supernatural experience.  We have to trust that He will reveal His the power the way He wants to.  “More often than not, the Holy Spirit guides us by shaping who we are. He gives us new desires so that we gradually begin to live with the goal of glorifying God in all of our decisions. Though this doesn’t look as dramatic as healing the sick or foretelling the future, it is every bit as miraculous” (286).

Discussion Question #6: How have you seen the Spirit of God working in the life of your church? If you are having trouble identifying the work of the Spirit, why do you think the Spirit’s work isn’t being clearly seen in your church?

The Spirit of God in the Church

The Spirit not only dwells within us individually, but He dwells in us collectively as the church.  God wants us to function as a community united in purpose and the Spirit does His best work when we are just that, united.  Each of us has a gift that the Spirit bestows to us, teaching, leadership, encouragement, and others.  We are meant to share these gifts with each other so that the entirety of the church may be blessed.

Discussion Question #7: How are you partnering with other members of the body of Christ to be used by the Spirit in fulfilling God’s mission on earth?

Discussion Question #8: Spend some time in prayer. Thank God for the incredible gift of the Holy Spirit. Pray that you would be empowered to pursue and rely on the Spirit’s power in your life. Pray that God would work through the life of your church to bring healing, hope, and change to the world around you.

Thank you again for joining me this week. I hope you will spend some time getting to know the Spirit this week and start noticing His work in you. God bless!

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Multiply: The Great Commission

King of LoveWelcome once again to our weekly “Multiply” study.  After this week, we only have 4 weeks left until the conclusion of this study.  I’m am debating on what to follow next.  If any of you have any suggestions, I welcome them.  For now, we pick up again in Part V: Session 2: The Great Commission.  As always, follow along in your book or on the site: Multiply!

Jesus’s life, death and resurrection should affect every day of your life” (267).  It should, but does it?  “Jesus’s mission on earth was to see God’s power, love, and healing permeate every aspect of this broken world and our broken lives” (267). Every aspect.  And one day, He’ll come back and renew everything.  Until then, He left us with something.  He left us with a message and a mission.

The Mission of the Church

The disciples must have realized the importance of Jesus’s message and mission on earth as they began to accept Him as the Messiah of God.  Can you imagine what they must have felt when He died?  Imagine the shock, the devastation.  Disappointed doesn’t even cut it.  So imagine their joy and elation when He rose! Amazing!  Jesus’s mission to restore was back on the docket.  Now He can take the throne of Israel and rule the world forever.

Or so they thought… That’s not how the story goes, yet.  Instead, Jesus gave the disciples an all-important task, and then, He left!

“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age’” (Matt. 28:18-20 ESV).

Of course each individual church in different places and times the mission will have different nuances, but it is all part of one mission.  It is the same mission that Jesus began while He was on the earth and it was the same mission He left the church when He returned to heaven.  We are to spread Christ’s rule on earth through making disciples.

Discussion Question #1: Read Luke 24 and Acts 1:1–11. As you read, place yourself in the scene and try to feel the significance of these events. How do the circumstances surrounding the Great Commission add significance to Jesus’s words?

The Authority of Jesus

The foundation of the “Great Commission” is found in the beginning line that Jesus gives to His disciples: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matt. 28:18 ESV).  Our Ruler has absolute authority over all of creation, including me and you.  While this may be intimidating, it should give us confidence to carry out our mission, even in a world that seeks to stand against us.  And because of what we share with Christ, “we should want every person on earth to experience this great salvation” (270).

A Worldwide Mission

Even though Jesus was born Jewish, He was not just sent for the Jews.  His salvation is for all people, and because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God“, everyone needs that salvation (Rom. 2:23 ESV).  “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12 ESV).

Bringing the message of Christ to all the nations of the world may seem like a monumental task… because it is.  But thankfully, we aren’t alone in our task.  “Making disciples is ultimately God’s work, and He will accomplish it in His power” (271).  God is going to reach the entire world, and He’s going to do it through us.

Discussion Question #2: We can get so caught up in our own personal relationships with God that we forget to think about the global implications of the Great Commission. Why is it important to see the mission of the church as a global calling?

The Call to Make Disciples

So we have come full circle to where we began in Part One.  It’s all about disciple making. Hopefully, now, however, you have a better understanding of God’s plan for redemption and where we fit into that plan.  As a recap, we said that a disciple is simply a follower of Jesus.  So the process of disciple-making is really just telling others about Christ and inviting them to follow Him too. “Discipleship is a lifelong process where we are continuously made more and more like Jesus” (272).

According to the Great Commission, in making disciples, we are to “[baptize] them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” and then “[teach] them to observe all that [He has commanded us]” (Matt. 28:19-20).  The first step for anyone who chooses to follow Christ is to follow Him into His burial and then be raised again to new life.  Baptism is the way we symbolism this, the new Christian is buried in the water and then raised again to their new life in the body of Christ.  This step is commanded by Jesus and it is how we identify ourselves with Jesus.  Who wouldn’t want to be identified with Christ?

Once we make disciples, our teaching doesn’t stop there.  Training is on-going.  “Salvation is not like receiving a train ticket to heaven, where the ticket gets us aboard, but after that we can put it in our pocket and forget about it. Rather, it is like a marriage, where we enter into a relationship with Jesus Christ and become a part of His family, the church” (272).

Discussion Question #3: Why do you think Jesus would give us the strategy of disciple making as the means for accomplishing our mission on earth?

Discussion Question #4: Take a minute to consider the significance of baptism. Write down some thoughts below. If you have been baptized, include some reflections on your own experience with baptism.

Discussion Question #5: What role should teaching play in our Christian lives and in the life of the church?

The Continuing Presence of Jesus

As if reaching every human being on the earth wasn’t daunting enough, we have some serious opposition.  Satan, the world and our own sinful desires work against us fulfilling the mission Christ gave us.  We’re going to face some persecution.  “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12 ESV).  If you pay even slight attention to news, you know that even today, there are Christians being persecuted, beaten, and even killed for claiming Christ.  Our message will not always be a welcome one.

While the opposition is real, we can find courage in the last words of Jesus’s commission: “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20 ESV).  The Son of God is by our side.  That’s His promise.  He will never leave us.  Remember God’s promises throughout the ages and how He has never given up.

Discussion Question #6: Most likely, you already believe that God’s presence is with you as you seek to honor Him in this world. But take some time to meditate on that simple truth: “I am with you always.” How should this statement affect your daily life and the way you view your God-given mission?

The Power of the Holy Spirit

Jesus makes His final instructions sending the apostles out to the world and then He gives them one last command: “Wait”.  Wait? Isn’t there all of humanity that needs to be saved?  Don’t we have to get out there and rescue people?

But here’s the thing, the Great Commission will never be accomplished by human effort alone.  We need the power of God in order to succeed.  Without Him, we are powerless.  This is why Jesus tells His disciples to wait, He didn’t want them to run off unequipped.  The disciples needed to be empowered, they needed to be empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Discussion Question #7: Have you ever tried to follow Jesus apart from the power of the Holy Spirit? Why is this approach bound to end in frustration?

Discussion Question #8: Given your specific setting, what would it look like to pursue the Great Commission through the power of the Spirit?

Finished and Unfinished

When Jesus left the earth, there were several things that were completed and things that were uncompleted.  “The New Testament is very clear that the work of salvation is complete” (276).  “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God” (Heb. 10:12 ESV).  Jesus reconciled humanity and then sat down because His work was finished.  “This means that our message is simple and straightforward: ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved'(Acts 16:31)“(276).

However, we still have work to do.  What remains uncompleted is the task of bringing the good news of what Christ has completed to the rest of the world.  “This is our calling in life” (276).  And remember we are not alone.  Christ will always be with us and we are empowered by the Holy Spirit.  The church will succeed.

Discussion Question #9: Read Revelation 7:9–12. This passage gives us a vision of the end of the story. This life will conclude with an enormous community of redeemed people from every nation, tribe, people, and language praising God together for His salvation. How should this vision of the end of the story affect the way we think about our mission now?

Discussion Question #10: Spend some time in prayer. Ask God to affect your heart with the urgency of the mission He has given you and the other Christians in your life. Ask Him for the strength, wisdom, and perseverance to pursue His mission in the strength of His Spirit.

I think this was a great session and I hope it leaves you all feeling empowered to go out and fulfill our mission! God bless!

Tempest Tossed

tempest tossed

“When the tempest passes, the wicked is no more, but the righteous is established forever” (Prov. 10:25 ESV)

Sometimes storms come into our lives, we lose a job or a loved one, we struggle with sin.  Most of these storms are pretty good at shaking us up, making us stumble.  We grieve and we hurt and we struggle.  But regardless of how big the storm is, no matter how the wind howls and the thunder roars, we have help.  Hope.  Faith.  Trust.

God rewards those who have faith in Him.  He will bring us through even the toughest storms and we will arrive to the light on the other side stronger than ever through our faith in Him.  However, if one does not trust God storm or otherwise, there is no hope.  They will know only darkness.  How great is that darkness…

Father, Thank You for Your guiding hand through all our storms, large and small.  Sometimes we may question why we must go through a particular storm, but You are eternally wise and will lead us safely through.  We praise You forever for Your unfailing love!

Multiply: Jesus the Messiah

Well, we made it.  We are finally into the New Testament.  Only 5 weeks left and we will be at the end of our study.  Whatever shall we do then? Hm… For now, we are going to pick up in Part V: Understanding the New Testament: Session 1: Jesus the Messiah.  Follow along with me: Multiply!

Between the Testaments

When do you suppose God began working on a plan for the redemption of mankind?  Was it after Noah and the flood?  Or perhaps when Israel failed?  No, God began working on a plan of redemption immediately after Adam and Eve sinned in the garden.  And He continued to work on that plan throughout the Old Testament.  In the last session, we talked about how God made 2 distinct promises to Israel: 1) God would send a Messiah; 2) God would establish a new covenant.

You can imagine what Israel must have thought while they were in exile.  Where was God? Has He forgotten about us?  Has He abandoned us entirely?  God had not forgotten Israel, but Israel must have had their doubts.  They were no longer in their land.  The temple and Jerusalem had been destroyed.  How were they to keep a relationship with God if they were not even allowed to give sacrifices to Him in the temple as He had commanded them?

Although many Jews still had hope God would restore them, they had differing ideas on how He was going to do it.  This lead to divisions, different groups were formed: the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Zealots, and the Essenes.  Each had a very different view of what God’s kingdom was going to look like, and the each missed the mark. No one was expecting how God planned to established His kingdom.

Many times we separate the Old Testament and the New Testament as if they have nothing to do with each other, but if you look closely the connections are there.  The last two verses of the Old Testament say this: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction” (Mal. 4:5-6 ESV).  And then in the New Testament they are echoed in the voice of the angel to the priest Zechariah who was going to have a son who would: “turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared” (Luke 1:16-17 ESV).

Getting to the Point

The prophet who came in the spirit of Elijah was John the Immerser.  His purpose was to prepare the world for the Messiah.  That Messiah was Jesus, and He was nothing like anyone expected.

Discussion Question #1: Read Mark 1 slowly and thoughtfully. As you read, consider what it must have been like to have seen Jesus say and do these things. What stands out to you from reading this description of Jesus?

Jesus the Messiah

Israel was waiting for the Messiah, the King from the line of David.  Messiah means “chosen one”.  Jesus was the person through whom God planned to enact His plan of redemption.  “So important is the New Testament claim that Jesus is the Messiah that John wrote his gospel to prove this one point: ‘These are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name’ (John 20:31)” (254).

Discussion Question #2: What are some of the answers people in our culture give to Jesus’s question “Who do you say that I am?” Why are these answers inadequate?

A Man, but More Than a Man

Even though Jesus did some amazing things, it is important to realize that He was a real man.  He got hungry (Matt. 4:2), he got tired (John 4:6), and He cried (John 11:35).  Jesus’s humanity was never more apparent then in His sufferings surrounding His death on the cross.

However, He was also more than a man.  Jesus was fully God.  He did not being His existence with His birth on earth.  The first chapter of John makes it clear that Jesus is eternal, He has always been.  He was the only person who ever lived a sinless life, obedient to death to the Father.

Discussion Question #3: Why is it important to understand that Jesus was fully human? How should this reality shape the way you think and speak about Him?

Discussion Question #4: Why is it important to understand that Jesus was more than a man—that He was, in fact, divine? How should this reality shape the way you think and speak about Him?

The Fulfillment of God’s Plan

While it was pretty obvious to some that Jesus was indeed sent by God, others did not believe in Him and actually opposed Him.  Most of these were of the religious groups in Israel.  They did not want to see who He really was because the more popular Jesus was, the less popular they were with the people.

Jesus makes it clear Himself that He was the Messiah.  In Luke 24:44, Jesus says, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled”.  He is pointing out that when the Old Testament writers were describing God’s plan of redemption, they were actually talking about Him.

The Old Testament is full of references to Jesus.  When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden and God was delivering His curses, He tell the serpent that he would bruise Eve’s offspring on the heel and her offspring would bruise him on the head.  He was talking about Jesus.  God was also talking about Jesus when He promised Abraham that all the nations of the world would be blessed through him.  Everything God promised Israel was fulfilled in Jesus (Matt. 5:17).

Discussion Question #5: Why is it important to recognize that Jesus was fulfilling the promises and prophecies made in the Old Testament?

The Kingdom of God

John the Immerser and Jesus both agreed on one point: the Kingdom of God was here.  All of Israel was hoping that God would establish His kingdom once again.  Jesus claimed that the time for God’s kingdom to be established was here and the power He held in His life proved His authority to be the One who established it.  Jesus didn’t just come to bring peace, He came to restore God’s rule over the world.

Discussion Question #6: Based on what you studied in the session on the kingdom of God in the Old Testament, why is Jesus’s proclamation of the kingdom of God important?

Discussion Question #7: How should the concept of the kingdom of God and the reality of Jesus as the King affect your daily life now?

Life through Death

Jesus did many wondrous deeds, but for many people He was hard to believe in for one very important point: He was crucified as a criminal.  They were used to standing behind kings and leaders who lead them in victory.  They were not used to their leaders being put to death.  They reasoned that He must not have been who they were waiting for.

And yet, the sacrifice had to be made.  Jesus had to die so that we could live.  Jesus established the new covenant, a second “covenant of blood”.  At His last Passover before His death, He uttered these words: “And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood'” (Luke 22:20 ESV).

Discussion Question #8: Carefully read Ephesians 2:1–10 and Colossians 2:13–15. If you are familiar with these passages, force yourself to read them slowly, as though you’ve never read them before. What do these passages say about the significance of Jesus’s death and resurrection?

Discussion Question #9: According to these passages, how should we relate to Jesus?

“Follow Me”

Knowing Jesus’s story is important, but it is not the most important thing, responding to Jesus’s story is.  We must respond to Jesus’s call, the call to follow.  Listen carefully to the message proclaimed by Jesus’s earliest followers: “What God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago” (Acts 3:18–21) (264).

Discussion Question #10: Spend some time in prayer. Pray that God would take the truths you have been thinking through and use them to affect your heart. Ask God to help you respond to Jesus appropriately—whether you have never considered Jesus’s call to follow Him or you have been walking with Jesus for many years.

Thank you for joining me for one more week.  I hope you have a blessed week!

Multiply: Exile and the Promise of Restoration

pablo (1)Welcome back, Fellow Imitators! Back for another week.  This session is the last one in the Old Testament, then we are moving on to the New Testament.  Today we are discussing the time period between the Old and the New Testaments.  We are in Part IV: Session 9: Exile and the Promise of Restoration. Multiply!

God’s Faithfulness and Israel’s Disobedience

God has always been faithful.  He was faithful in fulfilling His promises to Abraham’s descendants.  He gave them land and sustained David’s kingly line.  While God was faithful in fulfilling His blessings, He also made promises to curse if Israel was not faithful.  They would be pulled from their land and taken into exile.  God is eternally patient and gave Israel many chances to turn and repent, but eventually, the consequences for disobedience had to come into practice.

The Curse for Disobedience

When God gave the Law to Moses, God let His people know exactly what He expected of them.  Obedience would be rewarded with blessing, but disobedience would bring curse.  One of those curses in Israel being pulled into exile.

Discussion Question #1: Read Deuteronomy 28. Based on what you have studied in the previous sessions, how did the blessings offered in verses 1–14 become a reality in the life of Israel?

Discussion Question #2: Summarize the judgments in verses 15–68 that God said would come upon Israel if they disobeyed.

The Promise of Exile

All of the judgments listed in Deuteronomy sound pretty scary.  Especially to a nation who are defined by the favor of their God.  They were God’s people, if God was against them, they were nothing.  Of all the judgements, exile would have been the most harsh because it meant that Israel would be completely abandoned by their God:

“The Lord will bring you and your king whom you set over you to a nation that neither you nor your fathers have known. And there you shall serve other gods of wood and stone…Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, because of the abundance of all things, therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the Lord will send against you, in hunger and thirst, in nakedness, and lacking everything. And He will put a yoke of iron on your neck until He has destroyed you” (Deut. 28:36, 47-48 ESV).

God gave Israel this warning before they even entered the Promise Land.

A Divided and Defeated Kingdom

After Israel was established in the Promise Land and after David died, the nation of Israel became so tumultuous that they split into two nations: Israel and Judah.  While Judah remained faithful more often than Israel, both developed a pattern of ungodliness and idolatry.  Assyria conquered Israel and about 100 years later, Babylon conquered Judah.  The once strong, God-led nation of Israel was now divided and all were living in captivity.

Discussion Question #3: Read 2 Kings 17:1–23. This passage describes Israel’s being taken into exile. The author did not simply describe the event; he included a theological explanation for what happened. According to this passage, why was Israel sent into exile?

Even though Israel deserved it’s punishment, it is important to keep in mind that God never intended for this to happen.  He was not pleased with the exile.  He sent many prophets to warn Israel of the consequences of it’s disobedience.  Israel ignored them.  Just as a parent is faithful in disciplining an unruly child, God was faithful in discipling Israel, an unpleasant but necessary business.

Discussion Question #4: In light of Israel’s persistent rebellion, why do you think it still grieved God to sent them into exile?

Israel in Exile

Even though Israel was in exile and no longer receiving God’s blessings, God did not abandon them completely.  He still spoke to them through prophets, He continued to work towards the fulfillment of the promises He made.  It is amazing that although it was clear that Israel did not love God, He still loved them and continued to pursue them.  God had claimed this people and marked them out for His own.  Because they held His name, God was going to restore them and by doing so, restore His name to glory.

Discussion Question #5: Read Ezekiel 36:16–38. Why was God promising to restore Israel? Why is this significant?

Discussion Question #6: Look closely at verses 25–27. God promised to cleanse His people, to give them a new heart, and to empower them by His Spirit. What is the significance of these promises?

The New Covenant

While Israel was in exile, God made new promises through the prophets.  He promised to restore Israel to their land.  Israel would once again be God’s people and He would be their God.  He promised that the exile would not last forever.  Eventually, reading in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, Israel was allowed to return to Jerusalem and begin to rebuild the temple and the walls of the city.  However, nothing was a grand as it once had been.  There seemed to be something missing.  God was planning something.

God made huge promises to Israel in Ezekiel 36:25–27 and restored hope to a desperate nation. Israel had become defiled through their idolatry, but God promised to cleanse them. Israel had a heart of stone that was incapable of loving God, but God promised to remove that heart of stone and give them a living heart made of flesh. Israel had proven that they were incapable of obeying God’s commands, but God promised to place His Spirit within them and enable them to follow His commands. These promises show that God’s plan for His people would involve a lot more than simply bringing them back from exile. God was going to recreate His people. They were going to be changed from the inside out” (244).

Remember that God had promised David that his kingdom would be sustained?  The people were expecting a good king, one who would reign over God’s people and would restore and recreate them. God promised through Ezekiel that this king would establish a new covenant:

My servant David shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd. They shall walk in my rules and be careful to obey My statutes.  They shall dwell in the land that I gave to My servant Jacob, where your fathers lived. They and their children and their children’s children shall dwell there forever, and David My servant shall be their prince forever.  I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will set them in their land and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in their midst forevermore.  My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  Then the nations will know that I am the Lord who sanctifies Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forevermore” (Eze. 37:24-28 ESV).

Eventually, you have to ask the question: “What was wrong with the old covenant?”. Essentially, the answer is sin.  Sin made Israel incapable of fulfilling their part of the covenant.  Jeremiah also talks about the new covenant as well:

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put My law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jer. 31:31-34 ESV).

God’s law would be written on hearts, not stone.  All would know Him, not just a few prophets declaring His word.  And God would forgive and no longer hold sin against Israel.

Discussion Question #7: Take some time to meditate on Ezekiel 36:25–27 and Jeremiah 31:31–34. What makes this new covenant so unique and important?

The New Covenant in Jesus’s Blood

At the end of the Old Testament, we are left with the hope of two promises: 1) God was going to send a Messiah, and 2) God was going to make a new covenant with His people that would recreate them and enable them to follow His rule.

From the moment of Jesus’s birth, He proved He was Israel’s Messiah.  With Him, God establishes His new covenant.  When Jesus took Passover just before He was crucified, He spoke these words: “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20).  The new covenant had arrived.

Discussion Question #8: As the Old Testament comes to a close, we see that God promised to send a King in the line of David and to make a new covenant with His people. How should these promises affect our lives today?

Discussion Question #9: Spend some time in prayer. Ask God to address the sin in your heart and to give you a heart that loves Him and submits to His rule. Thank Him for His promises of redemption and for the amazing reality of the new covenant established in the blood of Jesus.

Thank you for joining me this week.  I hope you enjoyed our brief walk through the Old Testament and are excited to begin the New Testament.  Hopefully, our study will have peaked your interest enough that you will go back and read the Old Testament for yourselves.  It’s an awesome journey that shouldn’t be missed. See you next week!