Guests: Alden Thompson and Schuan Carpenter
What is your ethnic heritage and how significant is that background in your daily life?
God’s plan and purpose for Israel was far-reaching. And without question, their ethnicity comes into the story. But it certainly isn’t the only feature. In fact, Israelites were a “mixed race” from the start. They had no reason for ethnic pride as far as their spiritual election was concerned. This has far-reaching consequences for Christians of all people-groups today. God’s covenant wasn’t dependent on Israel’s pedigree, but in His selection.
Read through this amazing passage. This chapter in Ezekiel is meant to show how God feels about His people. He found them like an abandoned child, newly born, still wriggling helplessly in blood. But God took pity on her, raised her, and she became a woman, full grown, beautiful. It says God fell in love with her. This woman was ready for love, so God made her His own bride. While our modern sensibilities my be a bit shocked at these mixed metaphors, they convey God’s role throughout Israel’s history. He was there when they became a people, loved them, and has been everything for them. They aren’t special because of their intelligence, beauty, wit, or any other characteristic in which people take pride. Instead, he loved her because she needed love. He was the parent she needed at just the right time. He became the spouse she needed at just the right time.
What human experience can be compared to God’s role toward Israel in this passage?
Further in this passage, verses 17-59, Israel’s apostasy and separation from God clearly bring the prophet (and God) to tears and heartbreak. Israel went after other lovers, violated the covenant which God made with her. She became more wicked than the nations around her. But God didn’t give up on her. In fact, he even desires to reinstate the covenant! Verses 60-63 promise God’s covenant again being established with Israel, and forgive them for their disobedience.
What led to Israel’s downfall? How did she become so adulterous?
How can the heart of humans become this soft and forgiving? How might a psychologist or psychiatrist view God’s persistence for relationship in spite of His lover’s rejection?
The covenant came with promised blessings to Israel. As you read through these chapters, it’s hard to miss the implied material blessings Israel would reap if they remembered the Lord their God. They would become the lenders, not the borrowers; they would be the head, not the foot. But the opposite was also true. Should they forget Him, however, the covenant curses would follow. Just judging the two sections—blessings vs. curses—leads to a difficult conclusion: there is far more said about the curses than the blessings.
Which covenant blessings would mean the most to you? What curses would be most impactful to experience?
Why would so much be written about the covenant curses and so much less about the blessings? What would God be communicating with this literary device?
The quarterly moves to the beautiful yet contentious topic of the remnant. At a recent scholarly meeting, one well-respected Adventist professor presented a paper on the Remnant, pointing out how Adventists commonly assume the word “remnant” always means a small group left over. While it does mean “the rest,” that remaining portion may be rather large. For instance if the text said “Peter and John went into town while the rest (remnant) stayed with Jesus,” then the remnant is the majority! The caution was simply not to assume we know the size of the remnant in comparison with the other portion. Point well taken! However, there are numerous examples found throughout scripture that when God saves His people from a great calamity that involves judgment for sin, the faithful are often smaller than hoped for. This was the case at the flood, at Sodom, and in the prediction by Amos of future exile. It describes the faithful disciples after Jesus proclaimed we must eat His body and drink His blood (John 6); many were scandalized and only a few remained. Jesus’ parable about the paths to destruction and life indicate few find the high-road.
What does the remnant concept tell us about God’s character and affection for His people? Remember, the remnant is usually that group of faithful people left after judgment for their sin…
This week’s lesson focused on the characteristics of Abraham’s seed. Much more could be said about the church (ecclesiology) and her relationship to Christ as fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant. A few other passages to read might include Ephesians 1-2, 5 and 1 Peter 2 for more about Israel’s identity as Abraham’s seed, God’s chosen people.