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Smyth and Helwys Uniform Series Lesson Outline for November 2, 2014

God’s Divine Glory Returns       Ezekiel 43: 1-12

Focal Outline:           Ezekiel 43: 1-5                      The vision I saw

                                    Ezekiel 43: 6-9                      Seeking to understand

Ezekiel 43: 10-12                  God redeems and includes

 

Summary Statements: (To help you get a handle on the lesson truths.)

  1. The visions and images found in Ezekiel can help us to learn more about our loving, gracious God.
  2. Ezekiel sees firsthand and can share the hope of God’s plan for reconciliation with the exiles.
  3. God’s people defiled the temple, and do so now just as then. God works through the Cross to redeem.
  4. Just as Ezekiel said, we can also trust that God has a plan to restore and to help us draw nearer to God again.

 

Questions for Thought: (To help you think of some questions to challenge with a “So What?”)  

  1. How do the entertaining (and somewhat strange) word pictures of Ezekiel help us learn more about God?
  2. What does Ezekiel’s message of hope for the exiles then have to do with my world now?
  3. What more attention do I need to pay to the upkeep and purity of my temple? I
  4. If I tried to put into words what I understand God’s plan to be—how would I express that?

 

Points to Ponder

[NOTE: These suggestions are to help your class be more interactive and discussion oriented. Using 3-5 different ideas will enhance your preferred teaching style and involve class participants. Build excitement and intimacy in your learners!]

 

Who is the strange prophet Ezekiel? That might be a good starting place for this month’s unit of study. I hope you will chase that curiosity a little. See Brian Harbour’s commentary, along with resources you may have. But, don’t stop with the “who” question. For the word images and strange visions of Ezekiel hold mysteries. What will you make of them? And, why is it said that in Judaism there were some who would not bless others to even read Ezekiel until they had reached a certain level of maturity in their faith?

Truth is, there are several vehicles used by Ezekiel to get God’s message across. Harbour points out that the reader will see not only visions, but also symbolism, allegories, apocalyptic language and even poetry. (p44). Fight the temptation to chase literal interpretations. And, push back against the response that might suggest that there is really nothing in Ezekiel for you.

For instance, much will be made of Temples. Surely there was none in the ancient world any grander than Solomon’s temple. And, Ezekiel’s temple vision may have been grander. Trouble is, no real temple in antiquity seems to match Ezekiel’s description. So, what do we make of such a vision? Be sure to explore those kinds of issues each week. If the detail, or the word picture used, becomes the focus then we lose…focus. But if Ezekiel’s temple can symbolize something to come, then we can work with that promise or hope for our time. If promise of a future is a gift God wants to give to all, then we have something very valuable to take away. Redemption (or restoration) is another theme we should watch for this month. Ezekiel has good news!

 

Introductory Thoughts (5-15 minutes – These are for discussion to introduce this week’s Lesson Ideas.)

  1. One Christian response to texts like the Ezekiel vision is that now our bodies are temples of God. God lives within us. What are some of the ways in which we tend to neglect our temples?

 

  1. Discuss within your group—the people of Ezekiel’s day felt forgotten or abandoned by God. When have you—or a group you were a part of—felt like this? What brought this about? What did God do?

 

  1. The Psalm 11 Bible reading, in preparation for this week’s lesson, mentions “seeing” the face of God. When have you somehow seen the face of God? Enjoy the sharing within your group.

 

  1. Take a look at “Beginning the Lesson” on p64 of your Uniform Teaching Guide. What are some sources of hope that we can draw on in difficult seasons of exile or discouragement?

Studying & Discussing the Passage (20-25 minutes – See Brian Harbour’s Commentary for added insights and explanations.)

  1. Share an overview of the Lesson from “Locating the Text” (Teaching Guide ) and then examine the Focal Passage using a variety of teaching methods…

 

Ezekiel 43: 1-5                      The vision I saw

What has just happened as Ez 43 opens that causes the word “Then…” to be used? Why might the glory of God have sounded like “mighty waters?” What do v3-5 suggest about what God is doing in the world?

           

            Ezekiel 43: 6-9                      Seeking to understand

Who is speaking in v6? What evaluation of Israel comes in v7? Why so? In v8-9, a covenant of sorts seems to be made. How would you describe the terms of this offer?

 

            Ezekiel 43: 10-12                  God redeems and includes

How does the offer continue in v10-12? What meaning do you draw from God’s instructions? What do you believe came of this in history? If not a literal temple, then, what do Christians think Ezekiel was talking about?

 

  1. On p70 (lrg. print) our lesson writer says, “We do not have to respond to God with fear, but we should recognize and revere the holiness and magnificence of our God.” How does Ez 43 portray and reveal the “holiness” or the “magnificence” of God? Why did Ezekiel react in such weakness, and what does this mean?

 

  1. How does Ps 24 relate to this passage?   How about Ps 11?

 

  1. On p72 our lesson author says “Scripture tells us that because of Christ’s work on the cross, we are now the temples of God.” How might this be so? And, what are the implications for our living as a result? What should it mean to us to be careful that we do not defile the temple?

 

  1. In the Uniform Commentary, Brian Harbour talks a bit about who Ezekiel might have been. Soon, though, he works with key images like “the glory of the God of Israel…”, “mighty waters” and “the earth shone with his glory.” (p45) On p46, does this “glory” come in favor or in judgment? Why? On p46, what really does God say to Ezekiel? (2 promises!) On p47, what are the demands of God’s glory?

 

Applying the Lesson (10-20 minutes – Choose one or two questions to encourage action plans for the coming week!)

Discuss any of the questions…

  1. a. Read Psalm 24 this week, if you didn’t already.
  2. What does it mean to have clean hands and pure hearts? Pray that God will show you how!

 

  1. If read Psalm 5 this week, pray this psalm aloud during your devotional time. Take notes of any promises you hear. Trust that God is able to fulfill what God promises!

 

  1. See “Applying the Lesson” on p69 in the Uniform Teaching Guide. Do you know people who believe that their sin is so great that God could never forgive them? What might Ezekiel have to say to them?

 

People go where they know they’ve been prepared for and are cared for!

 

Bo Prosser, series editor, is the Coordinator for Missional Congregations at CBF in Atlanta.

Charles Qualls, session writer, is Associate Pastor at Second-Ponce de Leon Baptist Church in Atlanta.

 

Copyright SS Helps 2014            All references to Smyth and Helwys literature are used by permission of the Publisher.

All materials used are available through Smyth & Helwys Publishing,www.helwys.com, 800-747-3016.

 

Send Comments to:        Center for Christian Education ATTN: Gail Prosser e-mail – gail24@comcast.net

2511 Summeroak Dr. Tucker GA 30084 phone: (770)493-6648

Uniform 11-2-14

Smyth and Helwys Uniform Series Lesson Outline for November 9, 2014

The Altar, a Sign of Hope            Ezekiel 43: 13-21

Focal Outline:           Ezekiel 43: 13-17                  Build this rightly

                                    Ezekiel 43: 18-19                  Serve me justly

Ezekiel 43: 20-21                  Worship here faithfully

 

Summary Statements: (To help you get a handle on the lesson truths.)

  1. Although we believe God is everywhere, there are certain spaces that take on sacred meaning.
  2. God has always valued personal contact with people. The altar was a place for everyone.
  3. The way Zadok’s family was chosen teaches us the importance of obedience and faithfulness.
  4. Fortress. Hope. Rock. Refuge. These traits of God should invite us to draw nearer.

 

Questions for Thought: (To help you think of some questions to challenge with a “So What?”)  

  1. What are some of the sacred spaces where I am especially likely to encounter God?
  2. In any system, there can be barriers to God. What are the features of my worship that draw me closer?
  3. How might I pay more specific attention to “obedience” as an act of worship and faithfulness?
  4. If I tried to put into words what I understand God’s invitation to be—how would I express that?

 

Points to Ponder

[NOTE: These suggestions are to help your class be more interactive and discussion oriented. Using 3-5 different ideas will enhance your preferred teaching style and involve class participants. Build excitement and intimacy in your learners!]

 

Right from the get-go, we have a challenge. The lesson will suggest that, in ancient Hebrew practice, the Altar was actually a place of equal access and a symbol of a God who was also for all. I don’t want to cast doubt upon that. But, let me ask you: is that the way you have customarily viewed the Altar of the Old Testament temple. If the Altar is a symbol of hope, then we add a layer of meaning to these Old Testament texts. New life is breathed into our approach to the Old Testament worship texts.

The problem is we may have to compartmentalize a little. Because we can’t get rid of our images of a system in excess. Nor the images of separation especially at the Temple. Men could go places women couldn’t. And, priests had access that most did not. Ultimately, the high priest was the only individual that could approach the section called The Holy of Holies. A veil symbolized this separation.

Back to the Altar, though. For here sacrifices could be made by anyone who mustered the money or will to produce an approved animal. Again, a barrier or difficulty is noted. But, this lesson opens us to a reminder that the Altar practices did give all who would a place to be in touch with God’s presence. The specifications that were spelled out in Ez 43: 13-17 also suggest to us an intentionality that is healthy at its core. When we approach God, what should be our stance? Full attention and obedient hearts are good starting places. God is Holy. God is not like us, or else God wouldn’t be much of a God. Yes? So, don’t let your notion be to tune out on these ancient texts. Instead, breathe in the reminders and assess your own church’s altar practices!

 

Introductory Thoughts (5-15 minutes – These are for discussion to introduce this week’s Lesson Ideas.)

  1. What places help you draw near to God? What is it about the place(s) that give you signs of God’s nearness and hope? What is the value of having a holy, dedicated space that draws you toward God?

 

  1. Discuss within your group—what are some of the basic dimensions of who we are which should reflect that we are children of God? (the words we use, whom we include, what we do, treatment of others, etc.)

 

  1. “Obedience” isn’t one of the warmer, more popular words people like to use these days when speaking of their faith. Why, though, might obedience still be one of the most crucial ways we can honor God?

 

  1. Take a look at “Beginning the Lesson” on p71 of your Uniform Teaching Guide. Are there—or should there be—special instructions about how we use the sacred spaces we have for worship?

Studying & Discussing the Passage (20-25 minutes – See Brian Harbour’s Commentary for added insights and explanations.)

  1. Share an overview of the Lesson from “Locating the Text” (Teaching Guide ) and then examine the Focal Passage using a variety of teaching methods…

 

Ezekiel 43: 13-17                  Build this rightly

Why did Ezekiel preserve and communicate these specifications in v13-17? Why did this matter so much? What can the intentional efforts of this Altar practice teach us today?

           

            Ezekiel 43: 18-19                  Serve me justly

How would you describe the instruction that comes in v18-19? What do we learn about God from this instruction? Why was the family of Zadok chosen, and why should that matter to us?

 

Ezekiel 43: 20-21                  Worship here faithfully

What is symbolized with the practice found in v20-21? (purity, humility, giving) How does Hebrews 10: 11-12 interpret and modify this practice for Christians today?

 

  1. On p77 (lrg. print) our lesson writer says, “Depending on your gender and background, there was a system detailing how close you could get to God’s dwelling. This is difficult for Christians to imagine.” Why is this difficult for Christians to imagine? (be as specific as you can) How was the Altar at least an open place?

 

  1. How does Jn 14: 1 relate to this passage?   How about 1 Cor 15: 54-55?

 

  1. On p79 our lesson author says “God chose the family of Zadok to be priests because they didn’t go astray when others did. They honored God with their obedience.” What are probably some ways in which the family of Zadok were faithful? What are some real ways in which you could practice obedience in your living?

 

  1. In the Uniform Commentary, Brian Harbour leads with an illustration from Harry Emerson Fosdick’s Riverside Church. Then, he poses a key question: why was the Altar so important?” (p49-50) On p50, what kind of “cubit” was used in Ezekiel? Why is this important? See 2 problems with the Altar specifications in Ezekiel’s vision. (p51) Learn more about Zadok’s family on p52. 2 key terms are found on bottom of p52!

 

Applying the Lesson (10-20 minutes – Choose one or two questions to encourage action plans for the coming week!)

Discuss any of the questions…

  1. a. Read Psalm 71: 1-8 this week, if you didn’t already.
  2. What does it mean that God is our rock? Our refuge? Our fortress? Our hope?

 

  1. How do the different traits of God (mentioned in exercise #1 just above) allow us to approach and be protected by God like the Jews approached and were protected by the Altar?

 

  1. See “Applying the Lesson” on p76 in the Uniform Teaching Guide. How can we make ordinary places holy? What can we do to created holy spaces in our everyday lives?

 

People go where they know they’ve been prepared for and are cared for!

 

Bo Prosser, series editor, is the Coordinator for Missional Congregations at CBF in Atlanta.

Charles Qualls, session writer, is Associate Pastor at Second-Ponce de Leon Baptist Church in Atlanta.

 

Copyright SS Helps 2014            All references to Smyth and Helwys literature are used by permission of the Publisher.

All materials used are available through Smyth & Helwys Publishing,www.helwys.com, 800-747-3016.

 

Send Comments to:        Center for Christian Education ATTN: Gail Prosser e-mail – gail24@comcast.net

2511 Summeroak Dr. Tucker GA 30084 phone: (770)493-6648

 Uniform 11-9-14