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!