God is a resurrecting God. He takes what is dead or dry and brings it back to life. Are you feeling spiritually dry or dead? Maybe your marriage is desperately struggling, a financial situation you have looks very bleak right now, or you are feeling disappointed with God because of a prayer that seems to be unanswered. It may be that you, like the Israelites, are hopeless and heartless. The book of Ezekiel has a message for us: God can bring what was once dead back to life and give us new hearts.
What was your very first job?
1. God appointed the prophet Ezekiel to call Israel out for their sin and asked him to do some very strange things (eat a scroll, cut his hair off with a sword and then scatter his hair, etc.). Despite the difficulty of this assignment, Ezekiel was faithful. What is the hardest thing God has called you to do? How did you respond?
2. Read Ezekiel 14:1-8. We may not have idols or shrines that we are bowing down to like the Israelites did, but we have other idols. An idol is anything that takes our focus off of God. What are idols that people worship in our world today? What idols in your own life are taking your focus off of the Lord?
Then some of the leaders of Israel visited me, and while they were sitting with me, this message came to me from the Lord: “Son of man, these leaders have set up idols in their hearts. They have embraced things that will make them fall into sin. Why should I listen to their requests? Tell them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: The people of Israel have set up idols in their hearts and fallen into sin, and then they go to a prophet asking for a message. So I, the Lord, will give them the kind of answer their great idolatry deserves. I will do this to capture the minds and hearts of all my people who have turned from me to worship their detestable idols.’
“Therefore, tell the people of Israel, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Repent and turn away from your idols, and stop all your detestable sins. I, the Lord, will answer all those, both Israelites and foreigners, who reject me and set up idols in their hearts and so fall into sin, and who then come to a prophet asking for my advice. I will turn against such people and make a terrible example of them, eliminating them from among my people. Then you will know that I am the Lord.
3. According to Ezekiel 33:31, the people of Israel were guilty of "playing the part." They were pretending like they wanted to serve God, but they had no intention of actually obeying Him. Why do you think people even today are tempted to "play the part," honoring God with their words but not with their actions?
4. Why do people struggle with the idea of repenting? What are some ways that they fake a repentant heart?
5. Despite their sin and rebellion, God promised to give the Israelites a new heart (Ezekiel 36:25-26), and He will do the same for us today if we turn to Him. Why do we need a new heart and not just a repaired heart?
Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.
6. Read Ezekiel 37:1-14. What areas of your life need the resurrection that God promised Israel?
The Lord took hold of me, and I was carried away by the Spirit of the Lord to a valley filled with bones. He led me all around among the bones that covered the valley floor. They were scattered everywhere across the ground and were completely dried out. Then he asked me, “Son of man, can these bones become living people again?”
“O Sovereign Lord,” I replied, “you alone know the answer to that.”
Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to these bones and say, ‘Dry bones, listen to the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again! I will put flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”
So I spoke this message, just as he told me. Suddenly as I spoke, there was a rattling noise all across the valley. The bones of each body came together and attached themselves as complete skeletons. Then as I watched, muscles and flesh formed over the bones. Then skin formed to cover their bodies, but they still had no breath in them.
Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to the winds, son of man. Speak a prophetic message and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, O breath, from the four winds! Breathe into these dead bodies so they may live again.’”
So I spoke the message as he commanded me, and breath came into their bodies. They all came to life and stood up on their feet—a great army.
Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones represent the people of Israel. They are saying, ‘We have become old, dry bones—all hope is gone. Our nation is finished.’ Therefore, prophesy to them and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: O my people, I will open your graves of exile and cause you to rise again. Then I will bring you back to the land of Israel. When this happens, O my people, you will know that I am the Lord. I will put my Spirit in you, and you will live again and return home to your own land. Then you will know that I, the Lord, have spoken, and I have done what I said. Yes, the Lord has spoken!’”
7. Sometimes when our hearts feel distant from God or an area of our lives needs resurrection, we need to re-focus our minds and hearts back on Him. What is your favorite way to reset your attention back on the Lord (listening to a sermon or Christian podcast, worshiping to your favorite worship song, reading a Christian book, taking a hike, etc.)?
The hope of the book of Ezekiel is that God can redeem and restore anything. On an index card, have each group member write out an area (or areas) in their life where they need resurrection (marriage, a crippling addiction, finances, anxiety, etc.). When everyone has written on their index card, put them in the center of the room and pray over them as a group. Ask God to resurrect these areas just like He promised to resurrect Israel in the book of Ezekiel. Before everyone leaves, have each of them take one of the index cards (not their own) to pray over throughout the rest of the week.
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For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.