July 20, 2014 Series: The Old Testament
Passage: Ezekiel 16:1-22, 59-63
Imagine yourself in the position of an exile. How would you describe your situation? What would be your emotions? Your fears? Your hopes?
Ezekiel was called to deliver God’s message to the first wave of exiles brought from Judah to Babylon in 597 B.C. These exiles were the prominent citizens of the land—the king and his family, the soldiers, the priests, and the skilled craftsmen—and so the exile would have been a particularly humiliating experience for them. But a humiliating experience does not necessarily lead to humility. God’s call to Ezekiel was to deliver His Word so that the people would truly humble themselves before Him for their sins. Why do you think God is concerned that we are truly sorrowful for our sins?
Read Ezekiel 16:1-22. Based on verses 1-2, how would you summarize the message that Ezekiel is sent to proclaim? The people of Judah, like us, had the tendency to downplay their true condition in sin—they boasted when they should have been ashamed. Therefore, the prophet is sent to reveal to them the true state of their hearts. In what ways is the allegory in these verses shocking? How does verse 15 help us understand what sin is really like?
At the end of all their wickedness, the people of Judah were brazenly arrogant, ignoring the humiliating beginnings from which God had raised and enriched them (see verse 22). Why are we so inclined to forget or downplay our sinfulness? How are you tempted to forget your true condition as a sinner in need of God’s grace?
God calls us to bear the shame and disgrace of our sin (see Ezekiel 16:52, 54). If we do not humble ourselves by sorrowing over sin, then we will never know the sweetness of His grace (see Matthew 5:2-6). Read Ezekiel 16:59-60. In these verses, God says that He is committed to dealing with us in ways that will lead us to feel the misery of our sins. What is surprising about these verses?
God is committed to remembering His covenant with His people even though they had despised it. This is the very definition of grace: God treating us far better than we deserve. Grace is always surprising, and, when we hear of it, it motivates us to turn from anything that keeps us from experiencing it. How can you daily keep your heart amazed by grace? How would this help you in your struggle against sin?
After He announces His faithful remembrance of the covenant, God describes what the experience of repentance will be like for His people. Read Ezekiel 16:61-63. Seeing our sinfulness and God’s surprising grace leads them to ongoing, deep humility. How does Ezekiel describe this humility in these verses? Although the people will be silent because of the shame of their sins (v. 63), God will provide a reason for them to boast again. Now they will boast in Him and not in themselves. God announces atonement—complete covering—of all their sins, a promise He fulfills at the cross of Christ. What’s the result of this rich gift? Instead of proudly trusting in my righteousness, possessions, status, position, etc., I can forever boast in His righteousness, wisdom, sanctification, and redemption—all of which are mine in Christ (read 1 Corinthians 1:28-31)! Can you see why it’s necessary for us to remain humble and appropriately grieved by our sin throughout our lives? Why is it equally important to boast in the cross of Christ (see Galatians 6:14)?
- Worship the LORD for His holiness, faithfulness, and mercy. Praise Him, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for consistently acting towards us in keeping with these marvelous attributes.
- How do you struggle with forgetting your need for God’s grace? Ask God to forgive you for your pride and restore in you a healthy grief over your sinfulness.
- Give thanks to Jesus that He died on the cross to atone for all your sins. Praise Him for His sinless life and willingness to identify Himself with your repulsive state—even when it meant bearing the full weight of God’s wrath that you deserved.
- Who do you know that doesn’t regard themselves as a sinner in need of grace? Ask God to open their eyes so that, seeing the shame of their tragic and irrational rebellion and self-exaltation, they would turn to God’s mercy in Christ.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to develop in you a godly sense of sorrow for your sin. Pray that He would help you feel your “poverty of Spirit,” “mourn” over your sin, and “hunger and thirst for righteousness” (see Matthew 5:2-12).