Explore The Bible Study: Saves

10:30 AM

Do you believe many express a false hope because they feel safe and protected by living in the United States? While those of us who live in the United States do enjoy the blessing of usually feeling safe and secure, if we profess Christ, we know that hope for ultimate safety and security rests solely in Christ. Ezekiel 11, the focus of the Explore the Bible Study: Saves, reveals that placing hope in the wrong things to save us and keep us safe can be dangerous.

The Bible describes hope as a confident assurance based on God’s promises. However, hope doesn’t mean the absence of difficulties or the absence of God’s judgment. We live in a sin-broken world that is experiencing the judgment of God. We are all held accountable for our sin. But we also have the promise of God’s love for those who seek and respond to His salvation. 

Ezekiel had been living with the Israelite exiles for almost four years when God called him to deliver the truth regarding judgment and repentance. In chapter 8, Ezekiel was transported by the Spirit of God in a vision back to Jerusalem (Ezekiel 8:1-4). God showed Ezekiel a sampling of the terrible abominations the people were committing (Ezekiel 8:5-18). God showed Ezekiel that evil abounded, and He would pity His people no longer (Ezekiel 9:1-11). His glory would abandon the temple (10:1-5) and the Lord’s heavenly hosts would depart (Ezekiel 10:6-22). 

The sins committed by the people in Jerusalem were due to a false sense of security regarding their salvation.

God reminds Ezekiel that salvation is not found in a location – Ezekiel 11:2-4

Chapter 11 begins by describing where Ezekiel is taken and who he sees. Verse 1 states that, “The Spirit then lifted me up and brought me to the eastern gate of the Lord’s house, which faces east, and at the gate’s entrance were twenty-five men. Among them I saw Jaazaniah son of Azzur, and Pelatiah son of Benaiah, leaders of the people.” Here God showed Ezekiel more of the perversion of the nation’s leadership. These twenty-five leaders had given the people false and evil counsel (v.2).  Rather than encouraging the people to repent and seek God, they continued to give wicked advice; the general population followed them into folly because they felt safe inside the walls of Jerusalem like a pot protects the meat that it contains. They assumed their salvation was based upon their location; therefore, there was no need to live a holy life or trust in God.

How can we apply this to our own views regarding safety and security? How can we avoid the attitudes and actions described in these passages?

Another false hope centered on how those in Jerusalem viewed those in exile. 

God reminds Ezekiel that salvation is not found in tradition or history – Ezekiel 11:14-17

When Ezekiel and his fellow exiles were deported from Jerusalem in 597 BC, the ones left behind in Jerusalem falsely assumed that the only ones who were forsaken by God were the ones who had been deported from Jerusalem. They based this upon their understanding of God’s covenant and the past history where God had prevented the fall of Jerusalem. This attitude led the citizens of Judah to look upon the exiles as the unclean and sinful part of the nation. The Judeans encouraged the exiles to get as far away from the land of Israel as possible, because God had given it to those still in Judah, not to the sinful exiles (v.15). 

What attitudes might reveal that Christians view themselves as more important than other believers, because of their traditions or history? How can these attitudes impact our view of other believers around the world?

Ezekiel denounced Jerusalem’s population for its self-righteousness. Ezekiel knew God spoke the truth, but would God ever redeem the situation? Even Ezekiel did not understand that the exiles were the remnant God was saving. In this message, God encouraged Ezekiel  that he and a remnant, his kindred, were purposely being kept by God through the Captivity.  God explains in Ezekiel 11:16-17 that it was the remnant He had deported that He cared for, and He showed his care by promising to regather the exiles to the Promised Land (Ezekiel 11:16–20).

While many understand the promise to Israel as it relates to the Mosaic covenant, consider for a moment how this could apply to the church beginning in verse 16:

  • Can you imagine for a moment all the believers that have been scattered among the countries of the world? Why have they been scattered?
  • How long does God say this scattering will last? (For a little while)
  • We think of a sanctuary as a location, but in this passage, God says, “I have been a sanctuary for them in the countries where they have gone.” How is God a sanctuary for you? What does this mean regarding how we are to live?
  • How would you apply the promise in Ezekiel 11:17?

How do these verses give you hope when you feel as if you are living in exile and experiencing things that you thought you would never have experienced?

God still loved His people, His judgment against them notwithstanding. He affirmed, I have been a sanctuary for them in the countries where they have gone. They could no longer worship at the sanctuary in Jerusalem, but God Himself would become their sanctuary.  The Lord would continue to be an ever-present sanctuary (refuge) for his people, making provisions for them no matter where they were scattered. 

This is the same ever-present God who today meets the needs of those who trust Him, regardless of their circumstances. Believers today can find real hope in the promise of God’s salvation. The Bible assures us that God is our Father, heaven is our home, and every day is one day closer. In the meantime, God is our sanctuary wherever we are and through whatever we face.

Ezekiel is then reminded that salvation results in a transformed heart – Ezekiel 11:18-21

Notice how many times the word “I” is used in this passage. What does this communicate about God and salvation? Which verse describes an act of repentance? (See Ezekiel 11:18)

When God reveals sin, it must be removed. Ezekiel said the first thing God’s people would want to do when they returned home was to remove all traces of their evil past because it had no place in their redeemed lives. The words translated abhorrent acts and detestable practices can refer either to sins or idols. This is what one must do when God reveals one’s sinfulness. When one repents and turns to God, then God begins His transformational work as is described in Ezekiel 11:19-20.

How are the actions described in Ezekiel 11:19-20 demonstrated in your life? Does this list reveal areas in which you don’t have a repentant heart? Consider how you should respond?

The past focus of their lives had been sin and rebellion; going forward, they would serve God and obey His commands. One day, when Israel recognizes her Messiah, Ezekiel’s words will achieve their ultimate fulfillment. This is the Mosaic covenant that is yet to be fulfilled.

Through His death for sin, once for all, Christ, the Mediator of the new covenant (Hebrews 8:6), made it possible for all believers to be transformed by the work of the Holy Spirit. This is called Sanctification. It’s an ongoing process as we move closer to the time when we are gathered together as His people. This is available to all today who place their faith in the resurrected Messiah, Jesus Christ.

It's Not Always a Pleasant Ending

There is one “but” in verse 21 that can’t be ignored. It relates to a warning to those who don’t repent – "But as for those whose hearts pursue their desire for abhorrent acts and detestable practices, I will bring their conduct down on their own heads. This is the declaration of the Lord God."

Those who received God’s salvation would recognize sin’s ugliness; those who persisted in it would find only God’s judgment. Those who thought salvation was based upon their location, history, or tradition would finally realize that it is only God who can save, not because they experience God's salvation, but because they experienced His judgment.

Perhaps you have claimed to be a believer, but you realize from this passage that you haven’t truly repented and turned to Christ. Consider what you should do to correct what God has revealed. Talk with your pastor or a Christian friend who can help you.

The downloadable teaching helps provide more details for this study, along with some tools you can use in guiding a group Bible study. Be sure to use this as a supplement to your study of the Explore the Bible Study resources provided by LifeWay.

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