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News for Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Sunday School Lesson — Explore the Bible
July 6: Hope of New Freedom
By Shawn Allred
pastor, FBC, Bruceton

Focal Passage: Ezekiel 34:2b-6, 11-16, 22-24

By the time you read this we will be celebrating our nation’s 238th birthday. We celebrate amazing freedoms in our great U.S.A. and it is always exciting to celebrate our nation’s independence. Because of these freedoms we are able to exercise and display our faith in our Savior Jesus Christ. This could certainly be considered one of the greatest freedoms we enjoy in our great nation. Freedom should never be taken for granted, a lesson that can be learned by looking at the condition of the nation of Israel in Ezekiel’s day.

The first 32 chapters of Ezekiel reveal a nation that has undergone great loss of freedom because of their great disobedience to Holy God. To this point in time, Ezekiel has been the prophet of God, calling people to repentance, and declaring God’s judgment if they refused to repent of their disobedience. In Ezekiel 33, Ezekiel has the opportunity to begin proclaiming messages of hope and freedom to an exiled and embattled people.

The people of Israel were exiled, the temple had been destroyed, and Nebuchadnezzar’s army had laid waste to much of Jerusalem and sent most of the remaining inhabitants to join the others already in Babylonian exile. II Kings 25:9-12 narrates the national condition like this, “He burned the Lord’s temple, the king’s palace, and all the houses of Jerusalem; he burned down all the great houses. The whole Chaldean army with the commander of the guards tore down the walls surrounding Jerusalem. Nebuzaradan, the commander of the guards, deported the rest of the people who were left in the city, the deserters who had defected to the king of Babylon, and the rest of the population. But the commander of the guards left some of the poorest of the land to be vinedressers and farmers” (HCSB). This passage reveals that the nation of Israel was at one of its lowest places in national history. The freedoms they had once enjoyed, the land that God had given them, and their national pride was all in shambles.

God places much responsibility for the condition of His chosen nation on the “Shepherds of Israel” those political and spiritual leaders who had a responsibility to lead the nation to spiritual and moral excellence. These shepherds had failed miserably in their responsibility and God speaks candidly concerning their sin through Ezekiel. The people were at a hopeless place, in need of rescue and in need of hope for a new freedom.

Although the nation of Israel was in what seemed like a hopeless situation, Ezekiel had wonderful news to bring from God concerning the future of God’s chosen people. God had not forgotten his people and God had plans to restore His people to their land and to give them an eternal good shepherd who would “… seek the lost, bring back the strays, bandage the injured, and strengthen the weak” (33:16). We know that God provided the Good Shepherd in the person of Jesus Christ. In John 10:11 Christ refers to himself as the good shepherd who would give his life for His sheep and in Luke 19:10 Christ reveals his mission to seek and to save the lost. Christ would rescue the people from their sin, from their captivity, and restore them to the land of promise.

Ezekiel understood, through God’s revelation, that the greatest need of the people was not political or geographical in nature but rather spiritual. God desired more than anything to be the God of Israel. He desired for them to acknowledge Him as such, knowing that he could provide true freedom from the sin that held them captive in disobedience.

And so it is today, God still longs to be acknowledged as our God. On a personal level He wants to be our Savior and Lord, and on a national level His desire is that we acknowledge Him as sovereign God.

Let us make this acknowledgement so that freedom may continue to ring across our great nation of America.

— Allred is pastor of First Baptist Church, Bruceton.

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