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Sermon34 Ezek36 Guide

Ezek. 36:17-28, theme verse Ezek. 36:27-28

The praise and honor and glory be to our heavenly Father who seeks true worshipers who worship Him with the Spirit and truth.

Last week, we saw that after Solomon's death, the kingdom was divided into Northern Israel and Southern Judah due to Solomon's sin of idolatry and Rehoboam's foolishness and Northern Israel, led by King Jeroboam, had nine dynasties due to their inherent limitations and all 19 kings continued to worship the golden calves and offer sacrifices at high places, it was destroyed by the Assyrian Empire after 200 years. Southern Judah, which lasted for another 130 years, even though good kings such as Hezekiah and Josiah, among the 20 kings, tried to reform her by living according to God's will, that was not enough, and since King Manasseh committed the sins to sacrifice at high places and to bring idolatry even in the temple, Southern Judah was also destroyed by Babylonian empire. In the meantime, God raised up prophets Elijah and Elisha, Amos and Hosea in northern Israel, and prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah and Habakkuk in southern Judah, to rebuke their sins and to repent and return, but since they did not turn back, so both were destroyed. But, even in the exile to Babylon, God still proclaimed a message of hope through Ezekiel to the people of Southern Judah, saying that God would restore them again. So, by reviewing the period of exile and post-exile, we would like to learn why God will give us the Holy Spirit to learn a few lessons.

1) First of all, we would like to look at the powers of the Middle and near East region that God used as His instrument for the world management from BC 8c before the destruction of Northern Israel and to BC 6 – 5c after the destruction of Southern Judah. First, around 850 BC, Assyria occupied the Mesopotamian region. And before the destruction of Northern Israel, Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, was full of sins around 750 BC. So God sent the prophet Jonah to urge their repentance. Then, surprisingly, they repented so that God gave His grace to postpone His judgement. Afterwards, when Ashur-Banipal in the mid 7th century, after Tiglath-pileser III and his son Shalmaneser V, conquered all the middle and near East region, except Judah, after subjugating the surrounding countries including Northern Israel, as shown in gray color, forcing Southern Judah to pay tribute and exerting influence on politics, religion, and culture. However, about 100 years after the repentance movement by Jonah, they again betrayed God’s grace in the past, became arrogant to commit sins, incurring God’s wrath. So after Ashur-Banipal died in 617 BC, Assyria began to decline due to internal conflicts. At that time, God raised up King Napo-polassar of Babylon, who had been a vassal of Assyria in 627 BC, made it independent from Assyria in 623 BC and made him to attack Assyria. So Assyria united with Egypt to oppose Babylon, but, eventually the allied army of Assyria and Egypt were defeated by Babylon in the battle of Carchemish so that the city of Nineveh fell and Assyria was destructed by Babylon in 609BC. And then Nebuchadnezzar who succeeded Napo-Polazzar, fought the second battle at Carchemish with Egypt who came to attack Babylon again in 605 BC and after defeating Egypt and subjugating Egypt, he even destroyed Southern Judah in 586v BC, he completely dominated the ancient Middle and Near East region. But, after becoming the strongest and largest empire at that time, Babylon started to commit sins, being greedy and oppressing neighboring countries, so incurring the wrath of God. And after the death of King Nebuchadnezzar, Babylon started to decline gradually. So, in order to judge this Babylon, God appointed Cyrus II from the Achaemenid dynasty of Persia as king of Persia in 539 BC and had him attach Babylon. And even though the Persian army attacked and was besieging the city, King Belshazzar of Babylon and his. Army was enjoying a party with drinks in the palace with utensils taken from God’s temple and then the hand of God appeared and wrote his destruction on the wall. As such, that night, king Belshazzar was killed by Cyrus and Babylonian empire was also destructed. In this way, the Persian empire, which succeeded Babylon and took control of the Middle and Near East, formed a large empire that stretched from India in the east, to North Africa and Spain in the west, and to the Southern coast of Greece in the north. And after being used as God’s servants to handle the tasks of returning the people of Judah in Exile, and enjoying the glory for about 200 years until the reign of Darius III in 330 BC, it also conquered by Alexander the Great of the Greek Empire. As such, between the Egyptian empire centered on the Nile river, and the Mesopotamian empires centered on the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, namely the Assyrian, Babylonian, and Persian Empires, and the Greek empire in Southern Europe, the kings of Northern Israel and Southern Judah had the duty to protect the country, like a shrimp caught in the middle of big whales, by relying entirely on God.

2) But, Northern Israel was subjugated by Assyria and was paying tribute to Assyria who was only a small country in the latter half of Solomon’s reign, yet gradually began to grow stronger by taking the advantage of the confusion between Northern Israel and Southern Judah in the early days of the divided kingdoms, and emerged as an empire under Taglath-pileser in the 8th century BC. Meanwhile, Hosea, the last king of Northern Israel, taking advantage of the chaos caused by the death of king Tiglath-pileser, refused to pay tribute and seek independence, but instead of relying on God, he asked for Egypt for help, so the prophet Hosea of the same name, who observed this, criticized it, saying as in Hosea 7:11, “Ephraim is like a dove, silly and without sense, calling to Egypt, going to Assyria.” And Northern Israel who did not receive no help from Egypt, was destroyed by Shalmaneser of Assyria, who succeeded Tilgrath-pileser and attacked Northern Israel who did not pay tribute, after Samaria was conquered in 722 BC to disappear from the history. This history is recorded in the Book of Kings.

3) And while northern Israel was destroyed and all surrounding countries were conquered by Assyria, Hezekiah’s Southern Judah, who relied fully on God, survived. But while being isolated and devastated politically and economically, Manasseh who succeeded Hezekiah, instead of relying on God, paid tribute to Assyria to be her servant, restored the national economy through the foreign trade, and restored again the high places to bow down there and even worshipped idols inside the temple of the LORD, incurring the wrath of God, to lay the foundation for the destruction of Southern Judah near future. And Josiah who became king after Manasseh and Amon, discovering the Book of the Law while repairing the temple, repented and tried to reform the Israel by removing the high places and also maintained political independence by pursuing anti-Assyrian policies, between the declining Assyria and the emerging Babylon. At that time, when Egypt, allied with Assyria, was trying to pass through Palestine to fight at Carchemish in Haran, to prevent Babylon’s expansion, King Josiah who was pursuing an anti-Assyrian polies, blocked the Egypt at Megiddo. So even though king Neco sent a messenger requesting peace and made it clear that this was God’s command and the target was not Josiah, yet Babylon, but Josiah did not listen to him and went war with Egypt. But, during the battle, he was seriously wounded by an arrow by Egyptian soldier and returned to Jerusalem but died. So, his reformation came to an end and his son Jehoahaz became king to implement an anti-Egyptian policy. So when the allied forces of Assyria and Egypt were defeated by Babylon, Assyria was eventually destroyed in 609 BC. And in his way to return to Egypt after being defeated, Neco dragged Jehoahaz who had pursued an anti-Egyptian policy, and appointed Jehoiakim, the second son of Josiah, as king and made him pay tribute as his servant. But, in 605 BC, after Egypt was defeated buy the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar came to Jerusalem, left Jehoiakim on the throne to pay tribute to Babylon, instead took the royal family and nobles including Daniel, captive to Babylon and we call it the first captive. At this time, Jeremiah who was active as a prophet, urged Southern Judah to repent and warned them not to oppose Babylon, whom God was using as His instrument of judgement. However in 602 BC, Jehoiakim again allied with Egypt and implement an anti-Babylon policy. So, 598 BC, Babylon invaded and installed Jehoiachin as king and took Jehoiakim to Babylon after bounding with chains and also plundered the utensils of the temple. But Jehoiachin, ignoring Jeremiah’s warning and believing only the word of false prophets, pursued again anti-Babylon policy so that after 3 month and 10 days of power, he was dethroned by Babyon in 597 BC and was taken to Babylon. And more than 11 thousand people who had potential to rebel were taken captive, including authorities, princes, and even blacksmiths and the Bible records that there was no one left in the land except the poor. During this second captivity, Ezekiel and ancestors of Mordecai, Esther’s cousin in the Book of Esther were taken captive to Babylon and all the treasures of the temple and royal palace were taken by Babylon. After Jehoiachin, Babylon appointed Zedekiah as king, but in 587 BC, Zedekiah, not listening Jeremiah’s warning, rebelled to Babylon, so that Nebuchadnezzar attacked Jerusalem and destroyed Southern Judah in 586 BC and took Zedekiah to Babylon where he died, having his eyes gouged out, bounding with chains. At this time Babylon burned the temple, the royal palace, and all the houses of Jerusalem and even demolished the walls around it and took two bronze pillars of the temple and the laver and all the vessels used for sacrificial offerings and even the gold and silver that remained. And also around 5000 people were taken captive to Babylon. Jeremiah who was active before and after the fall of Southern Judah, remaining in Jerusalem, urged Southern Judah to repent, warning that if they did not repent, they would be destroyed by Babylon and would live captive for 70 years and also he warned that they would not oppose to Babylon whom God was using as His instrument to judge the world. And also in Jeremiah chapter 33, Jeremiah prophesied that God will make a new covenant with Israel and Judah. Since they did not keep the covenant even though God became to be their husbands, so God will put His law in them and write it in their hearts. And also there’s another prophet Daniel who was first taken captive to Babylon where he made prophesied about the empires that would rise after Assyria, namely Babylonian, Persian, Greek and the Roman empires and also about the end era of human history and the completion of God’s kingdom in the end. There’s also another prophet, Ezekiel, who was taken into captivity second time and lived in captivity with the people and prophesied that the LORD would forgive their sins and purified them, after removing their hardened hearts and giving them new hearts, he would bring them back to Jerusalem and also would restore the land. And also he prophesied that the LORD will give them a new Spirit, the Spirit of God, so that they would keep God’s statutes so that they would become God’s people and the LORD would become their God. This is Today’s Bible verses which we read in the beginning. As such, the promise to pour His Spirit in the last days, we can find in Isaiah 32:15, and Joel 2:28 and in New Testament, in Actcs 2:17-18 Peter testimonies that the prophesy of Joel was fulfilled in the Pentecost day when the Holy Spirit came down to His church.

4) And then God’s words of restoration by Jeremiah and Ezekiel were fulfilled as Ezra 1:1. First, God raised up and anointed king Cyrus of Persia and made him His servant to destroy the corrupt Babylon in 539 BC. Through this, the promise of God in Jeremiah 25:9-13 that Judah and the neighboring countries who committed sins even with God’s warning would serve king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon for 70 years, and after 70 years, God would destroy the king of Babylon and his kingdom because of their sins. And God also commanded Cyrus to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem” so Cyrus issued a decree ordering the Israel captives to go up to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. Following Cyrus’ edict, in 537 BC, about 50,000 Israelites returned to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel’s leadership and began to rebuild the temple. But, due to persistent interference and political maneuvering by the Samaritans, the temple construction was halted for about 16 years. Afterwards, at the request of Tatnai, the governer of Palestine at that time, king Darius reaffirmed the legality of the temple construction through an edict from Cyrus so that the temple construction could be approved again and also with the encouragement of the prophets, Haggai and Zechariah in 520 BC, the temple construction could start again and after 4 years and 5 months in 516 BC, the temple was completed after 70 years after the temple was destroyed in 586 BC. However after the temple was completed in Jerusalem, an incident occurred in Persia in 478 BC in which Harman, who was the prime minister, plotted to kill all the Jews in Persia. At that time, God appointed Esther, a Jewish woman as the queen of king Ahasuerus of Persia and rescued them from danger. So this incident is recorded in the Book of Esther. And after 60 years later, in 458 BC, God gave the scribe Ezra the mind to examine the situation in Judah and Jerusalem and restore the proper worship in the temple and normalize the collapsed administration, judiciary, and education and also moved the heart of Artaxerxes, the king of Persia, so that Ezra returned with about 5000 Jewish captives, reformed religion and restored the faith of the Israelites. And also Ezra wrote the Book of Chronicles, reminding the people after the captivity, that if they followed the kings of Southern Judah, especially David’s righteous path, they would be blessed again and revive. And another 15 years later, in 444 BC, Nehemiah, after hearing from those who remained in Jerusalem that the wall of Jerusalem had been torn down and its gate were burned, was moved to rebuild the wall, after receiving the protection of king Artaxerses, returned to Jerusalem, repaired the walls of Jerusalem and then returned again. Then in 430 BC, God raised up the prophet, Malachi, reminding them of God’s love for Israel and saying that those who repent and return and completely keep God’s statutes and regulations, will be blessed, prophesied that before God will judge the world with intense fire, He will send again the prophet Elijah and Jesus taught in Mt 17 that the prophet Elijah was not other than John the Baptist.

5) In this way, over the centuries during the period of the divided kingdoms and the period of captivity and also the period of the post-exile, God established kings, leaders and raised prophets to lead and protect his people. We can summarize it as follows;

- To the 19 kings of Northern Israel in the Book of Kings, God sent the prophets Elijah, Elisha, Amos and Hosea.

- To the 20 kings of Southern Judah mentioned in the Book of Kings and Chronicles, God sent Isaiah, Zephaniah, Jeremiah and Babakkuk.

- During the time of captivity, God raised up Esther, and sent Daniel and Ezekiel in Babylon.

- And in the post-exile, God guide His people through the leaders such as Zerubbabel, Ezra and Nehemiah, and the prophets Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi.

As such, God led His people in the period of the divided kingdoms and in the period of captivity and also in the post-exile with His word.

6) Through today's passage, we would like to learn few things. First, in His providence, the God’s word played a very unique role. In particular, looking at Chronicles written during the period of post-exile, we can know it is very different from the Book of kings before the fall. I mean, even though both dealt with the same history of the divided kingdoms, the book of Kings which deals with all the kings of northern Israel and southern Judah said that all the kings were evil except few so that both kingdoms were destroyed, while the book of chronicles says to those of the post-exile that if they follow and keep God’s words as David followed and lived according to God’s law, then they would be blessed and revive. Therefore through these facts, we can see that even the same history can be used for the different moods and purposes, depending on who the recipients are and what the purpose is. So the understanding of the historical context is very important to understand God’s will in the Bible book clearly. And secondly when you read todays’ Bible verses of Ezekiel’s prophesy, we can find another very unique point. We can find two prophesies in Ezekiel’s prophesy, I mean. The first prophesy is that after the Israelites did not hear God’s warning, they perished and scattered across the nations and suffered tribulations. But, the LORD said He would forgive them, bring them back to the land of Judah, remove their hardened hearts and give them new hearts which means a heart as soft as new flesh that sprouts again after a wound, in other words, a gentle heart to obey God’s word. And the second prophesy is that God will put His Spirit, that is, the Holy Spirit, within them and will make them to keep God’s laws and inhabit the land God has given them and the LORD will become their God. The first prophesy was fulfilled by returning them to Jerusalem after 70 years of captivity. And the second prophesy is the same as the new covenant by Jeremiah in Jeremiah 31:31-13 and was fulfilled when Jesus sent the promised Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost after completing His atonement work on the cross and ascending to the heaven. So, we can know that the Holy Spirit sent on the day of Pentecost not only provides Christians with the ability to spread the gospel as recorded in Acts 1:8, but also provides Christians with the power to live according to God’s will as todays’ text says so that as Bavinck emphasized at the beginning, since salvation not only means the forgiveness of sins, redemption from death, and eternal life, but also the restoration of original blessings after the liberation from the curse and also that salvation is the restoration of God’s image to be whole and healthy human being. Therefore God send His Spirit to make us to obey to His word so that we could be whole and healthy human beings, as the Israelites failed to live accrding to God’s will by themselves even they received God’s words. That’s why John 8:32 says that God’s word of truth sets us free and also John 17:17 says that the word of trugh has the power to make us holy and whole. Therefore, I pray that all of us here may use our intellect and will to read and meditate on His word and rely on the strength given by the Holy Spirit to obey the Lord’s leading and guidance, and also may pray that God will fulfill His word of promise as Ezekiel 36:37 said.

Key Questions as Small Group Activity

Q1 According to Today’s text, we knew that the reason why God gave us the Holy Spirit is first as the Acts 1:8 says through the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we can proclaim the gospel of grace, and also secondly as today’s Bible verses say, through the help of the Holy Spirit, we can live in His pleasing will. So, when we read and meditate His word, to apply it to our life, we can know that the Holy Spirit may help us. So, after reviewing our life, we may share what moved us through today’s word for mutual growth.

Q2 Second, after today’s bible verses, in Ezek. 36:37 says that we have to ask for God to do it. So that we can know that we have to pray for God’s help to give us the power to live in His pleasing will. Therefore after reviewing our prayer life, we can share how God moved us for mutual growth.

Love you. Thank you. God bless you.

Prayer Note

Dear ( God’s attribute which you found Today ) God!

Thanks for ( something you received through the sermon or even during the week )

Praise, gratitude and glory be to You, Lord!

Today, I realized my sin (pains) that ( the sin God reminded through the sermon ),

please forgive (or heal) me and help me not to repeat ( the sins you recognized ).

I learned that ( something you learned through the sermon )

Please help me to live in that ( learned way of life )

I pray in ( Jesus’ attribute you find ) Jesus’ name. Amen.

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