Study Notes for Sunday 25th October and  1 Nov 2020

Our church is open from 10.30 am to 12.30 pm on Sundays with a ‘mini’ service starting at 11.00 am. We are grateful to David who has provided this series of study notes to give us an insight to the Prophets of the Old Testament.

 

These notes can be used by everyone but might particularly be of interest to those who aren’t able to come to church at the present time. The notes will not usually form the basis for the mini services.

 

Study Notes for Sunday 25th October 2020

The Prophet Ezekiel (622-580 BCE) Reading: Ezekiel 37v1-14 and Ezekiel 33 v1-9.

 

Introduction Ezekiel, like Jeremiah, is a complex and a challenging book to read. Both lived during the end of the kingdom of Judah, the destruction of Jerusalem and the shame of the Exile in Babylon.

Ezekiel, whose name means ‘God is strong’, came from within a priestly family. As a relatively young man he is carried away into Exile. He lived in captivity in Telabib on the river Chebar.

He was married but his wife died on the same day as the siege of Jerusalem started which lasted 2½ years. Whilst in Babylon Ezekiel wrote addressing the Jews in Jerusalem. I suspect that Ezekiel will not be anyone’s favourite book in the Bible.

The first 24 chapters are basically doom and gloom! It features God’s severe judgement on a sinful, errant people. Yet its theme of punishment of wrongdoing is one that we should take seriously today.

The language and actions of Ezekiel are what is known as ‘apocalyptic’, rather like Daniel in the OT and Revelation in the NT. His message is often visual and symbolic. For example, when Jerusalem is besieged Ezekiel’s wife died. Ezekiel is instructed not to ‘weep’.

The numbness Ezekiel showed is similar for those in Jerusalem in its last days. Sometimes the visual symbolism seems very extreme. For example, Ezekiel knocks down a wall instead of using the door! – this is what will happen to Jerusalem says Ezekiel.

 

Despite all of this, his vision of the Valley of Dry Bones is optimistic and hopeful for the future (chapters 33-39). Chapters 40-48 envisage a time when the temple in Jerusalem will be restored and the people settled. A few general thoughts to consider:

 

1. The phrase, or equivalent, ‘then you will know that I am the Lord’ is used 74 times in Ezekiel. The events in history, for Ezekiel, show that God is not absent but in control. How do we feel about that? Do we sometimes despair because events appear to be so bad? Is God trying to speak to us in the difficult situations that we find ourselves? Are we listening at all? This phrase tells us that the people had uncertainty over the future and God’s involvement in their lives. On what basis is our belief and in what we do? Can we draw any parallels during this period of virus?

 

2. Ezekiel has a vision of the Valley of Dry Bones. (Most of us will know the melody and spiritual song associated with the vision. The melody was composed by James Weldon Johnson (1871-1935) and is much enjoyed by children, both small and big!). This is quite an extraordinary vision as it denotes – life after death. The vision reveals masses of dry bones scattered around the valley. Some writers would claim this coming together of scattered bones relates to Israel and Judah in the future as the Jewish people. However, it could also be applied to us as Christians. We were dead in our sins with no hope of life. In the vision it is God who knows whether the bones can live again. That also applies to us, of ourselves we are helpless, but God can act on our behalf. God sent His Son Jesus to die for us so our sins could be removed. In that sense we are re-born; remember Nicodemus in John 3 ‘How can a man be born again when he is old?’ Our sins are forgiven and we are raised to new and eternal life through Jesus’ resurrection and defeat of evil.

 

3. Watchmen This transformation (born again) brings us new responsibilities and challenge. Re-read Ezekiel 33 v1-9. One of the final instructions from Jesus (Matthew 28 v19-20) was for us to take the good news of Jesus and share it with others. It is God’s work to save them, it is our work to share the news.

 

The Watchman was really a nightwatchman at the entrance to a city. After the gates were shut at night, a small gate in the entrance would allow individuals to enter or exit without the main gate being opened. The duty of the watchman was to tell others if there was a problem eg an enemy. In a similar way we have a responsibility to tell others about Jesus. Prayer Father God Thank you for sending Jesus to take away my sin.

 

Please help me to share that with others who do not know your love. Amen.

Study Notes for Sunday 1st November 2020

The Prophet Joel (550 BCE) Reading: Joel 2 v12-17.

Introduction The name Joel means ‘Yahweh is God’, a fairly common name in the Old Testament.

As the book is situated between Amos and Hosea, some would argue it was written before 800BCE. Others argue for a later date in the C6BCE.

The book itself in literary style is of a very high-quality showing Joel is closely linked with Jerusalem and the tribe of Judah. The main part of the book deals with a plague of locusts which God will send as a judgement and a warning sign of future disaster.

The book of Joel is very significant in describing the coming Day of the Lord, making a call for repentance and showing that after God’s judgement falls there will be an era of God’s blessing in the last days. The Book itself has two main sections

 

1. Joel describes this plague of locusts calling the people to repentance. The message itself is simple – see… mourn… fast. Then later it is expanded into – tremble… repent… fast… and pray.

2. Chapter 2 v28 – chapter 3 v21: The Judgement of God and His Blessing in the last days. Joel sees God’s mercy in driving away the locusts and sending an abundant harvest. God pours out His Spirit upon all flesh. He blesses His people and punishes their enemies. Can any lessons be learnt from Joel? God is present in the world today. Some people believe that God created the world and then left it to its own devices. In today’s urban race, there are those who never stop and consider whether God is with us. For some of us during the lockdown, we have had to ‘slow-down’ and in doing so have seen the natural order of life in a way we have not before. We will have seen the clouds, and the stars at night. We have noticed the flowers and their colours. We have seen birds and listened to their songs. Without planes in the sky and the relentless sound of vehicles on the road, many of us have perceived and experienced God’s hand in the natural order of life. What a blessing. The plague of locusts was probably in a local area in Judah where he lived. Joel saw this as punishment from God for the sins of the people and therefore they needed to repent. How do you and I see these natural disasters? Yet despite the disaster Joel retains hope for the future which God will provide. Out of calamity will emerge a time of blessing. – ‘The Day of the Lord’ will come. It will be a time for being accountable to God for our actions. But as Peter, (in Acts 2 v16, quoting from Joel), claims it will be a time when God’s Spirt will be very active amongst people. Peter is talking about the end times that precede the Day of the Lord. For those of us who love the Lord and believe He has paid the penalty that our sin deserves it will be a wonderful ‘Day’. (Acts 2 v21). We call this salvation and today we can offer our thanks to God the Father because He sent His Son to die on our behalf.

Hallelujah what a Saviour!

               

               'Man of sorrows', wondrous Name

                    for the Son of God, who came

                     ruined sinners to reclaim!

                       Alleluia! what a Saviour!

               Bearing shame and scoffing rude,

              in my place condemned He stood;

               sealed my pardon with His blood:

                      Alleluia! what a Saviour!

                  Guilty, lost and helpless we:

               spotless Lamb of God was He:

               ‘Full atonement!’ – can it be?

                      Alleluia! what a Saviour!

‘                       Lifted up’ was He to die, ‘

                     It is finished!’ was His cry;

                   now in heaven exalted high:

                       Alleluia! what a Saviour!

 

                    When He comes, our glorious King,

                     all His ransomed home to bring,  

                       then anew this song we’ll sing:

                         Alleluia! what a Saviour!

                       

                         Philipp Bliss (1838-76)

                          based on Isaiah 53:3

Prayer:

Father God, We find life quite difficult at times trying to make sense of everything going on. Yet we thank you for the certainty we have that you have loved each of us with an everlasting love.

Thank you.

Amen

avis