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Lesson 10: Worship: From Exile to Restoration *

Introduction: Does it sometimes seem that God is not real? Or, if He is real, He is not very concerned about us? Or, if He is concerned, that He is falling down on the job for reasons we do not understand? When this happens, who do we blame? All the questions I just asked put the blame on God. Pinning blame is a complex issue that generally turns on the facts. But, we should always question our attitude if we blame God. Let's dive into the our study of the Bible to learn more about the exile of God's people, their attitude, and the attitude we should have towards God!

  1. Background

    1. Recall that we studied how King David was dancing with delight as he brought the Ark of God into Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6:12-15). David's son, King Solomon, built the Temple of God in Jerusalem and had the Ark placed in it (1 Kings 8). Let's read a part of King Solomon's prayer of dedication for the Temple and the Ark. Read 1 Kings 8:46-49. What does Solomon pray about sin and punishment? (He connects the two.)

      1. What is the way out of the punishment? (Turning to God "with all their heart.")

    2. Read 1 Kings 8:59-61. What does Solomon say is the purpose of his prayer? (That God and His people would have such a relationship that everyone who lives on the earth would know that "the Lord is God and that there is no other.")

      1. Is that the goal of your life?

  2. Secret Worship

    1. Read Ezekiel 8:1 Ezekiel says that he is in his house with the Elder of Judah. What does that suggest? (He must have been in some sort of administrative or religious meeting.)

      1. What does it mean to have "the hand of the ... Lord [come] upon me?" (The Holy Spirit is reaching out to Ezekiel.)

    2. Read Ezekiel 8:2-4. Ezekiel is taken by the Holy Spirit into a vision. Where does his vision take him? (To the capital city, Jerusalem, and to the north gate of the Temple - the same Temple dedicated by Solomon to the glory of God.)

    3. Read Ezekiel 8:5-6. Are the people worshiping jealousy? (No. Exodus 20:5 tells the people not to worship false gods, for Jehovah is "a jealous God.")

      1. Are we only taking about one person worshiping one idol? (No. God says "the House of Israel" is doing detestable things.)

      2. The Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament tells us that sacrificial animals were taken through this gate to be offered as sacrifices. What does this suggest about the nature of this sin? (That instead of relying on God in their worship, the people were now relying on false gods.)

    4. Read Ezekiel 8:7-11. Ezekiel sees what is going on by enlarging a hole in the wall of the temple. What do you think this symbolism means? (This is not public worship. Ezekiel was looking through a peep hole, which he enlarged to a door. This worship was being done behind closed doors.)

      1. Read Numbers 11:16. Do you think that Ezekiel was watching seventy men? Or, do you think the term "seventy elders" is symbolic? (This number seems to refer back to the seventy men who were the leaders of Israel during the Exodus. Thus, I think this is symbolic of all the leadership of the nation.)

    5. Think back over these texts. What are we to conclude about the worship of Judah during this time? (Ezekiel is having a big meeting with the leadership, and God shows him that they are secretly worshiping other gods. The whole purpose of the Temple is being corrupted.)

      1. How can we apply this warning today? I'm rather sure that no "secret" practices are taking place in my church, but what about our homes? Are we worshiping other gods through the television, Internet, magazines or books?

      2. Are we corrupting the message that the true God is the One to whom all glory is due?

    6. Read Ezekiel 8:12. Why are the people secretly turning away from God? (They either think God doesn't care ("The Lord has forsaken the land") or God doesn't know ("The Lord does not see us."))

      1. Would people worship other gods through the television, Internet, magazines or books because they thought God did not care or does not know? Or, is this just a bad fit - the lesson does not really apply very well to us today?

    7. Let's explore the nature of the problem a bit more. Read Ezekiel 8:16-18. What do you think it means to turn your back to the Temple and bow down to the sun? (They were worshiping nature. They turned their back on the true God and worshiped what He had made instead. This turns the whole purpose for the Temple on its head.)

      1. "Putting the branch to their nose" is not a phrase with which I am familiar, but I have heard of "turning up your nose." What else are these people doing? (They are hurting their neighbors and worshiping nature. The original goal was to bring glory to God through the good works of the people.)

      2. How does God respond? (God is going to execute justice.)

  3. The Mark

    1. Read Ezekiel 9:1-2. What a group! Who are these men? (Armed temple guards and a scribe.)

    2. Read Ezekiel 9:3-4. What is the basis for getting the mark?

    3. Read Ezekiel 9:5-6. We decided that the worship problem was widespread because the "seventy" elders were symbolic of the entire leadership. Why does the judgment begin at the temple in Jerusalem? (Those would be the people who were in leadership. Those closest to the worship system.)

      1. Notice the standard for judgment in Ezekiel 9:4. Who survives the judgment of God? (Those who "grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done.")

        1. Is this consistent with righteousness by faith?(Last week we decided that righteousness by faith is linked to the right attitude. Those who survived the judgment did so because of their attitude. They were troubled by sin.)

          1. Is this a lesson that applies to us today? (Yes. We see that the people were involved in active evil, but when it came to executing judgment, the decision turned on their attitude.)

    4. The Bible records in 2 Kings 25 the Babylonian destruction of the Temple built by King Solomon. The Temple no longer brought glory to God. The judgment foretold by Ezekiel and others took place. Recall the people said that God does not know or does not care? We see here that in fact God knew and cared because He warned the people of judgment, and then executed it. Let's turn next to God's attitude about this.

  4. God's View

    1. Read Jeremiah 29:10-11. What we just read in Ezekiel seems pretty harsh. What is God's main plan for us? (God wants to bless us, not harm us. Even with the Babylonian destruction of the Temple of God, and the killing and captivity of God's people, God tells them that He will rescue them in seventy years.)

    2. Read Jeremiah 29:12-14. What kind of attitude is God looking for here? (He wants His people to seek Him with all of their heart.)

      1. Read again Ezekiel 8:18. What makes the difference in God's willingness to listen?

    3. What relationship is there between the "grieve and lament" attitude of Ezekiel 9:4, and the "seek and find Me" attitude of Jeremiah 29:13? (If your goal in life is to give glory to God through your relationship with Him, then the sin problem in the Temple would be very disturbing.)

  5. The Righteous Reaction

    1. Read Nehemiah 1:4-7. When Nehemiah hears of God's judgment on Jerusalem, he makes this prayer. What do you think are the important elements of this part of Nehemiah's prayer? (He acknowledges the true God, who is a God of love. He confesses sin.)

      1. Can you imagine a prayer in which Nehemiah would accuse God of being lax or uncaring because of the destruction of the temple and God's people?

    2. Let's continue on with Nehemiah's prayer. Read Nehemiah 1:8-9. What important element of prayer do we find here? (Nehemiah recalls God's instructions and His promises. Notice the goal: "a dwelling for My Name." God's glory is the goal.)

    3. Read Nehemiah 1:10-11. Where does Nehemiah place the part of the prayer about himself? (At the end!)

    4. Can you see in Nehemiah's prayer the "grieve and lament" attitude and "seek and find Me" element? (Yes. This is the fusion of those two attitudes that God desires for us.)

    5. Friend, do you have the attitude of Nehemiah? Are you unhappy about the sin problem? Are you seeking God with all of your heart for the purpose of giving glory to Him? If not, why not repent today and ask the Holy Spirit to change your attitude?

  6. Next week: In Spirit and in Truth.
* Copr. 2011, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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