Posted by: gillianbarratt | 29 November, 2009

The God of Hope

The session on Tuesday 24th November marked a turning point in the message of Ezekiel. Finally, we learn that God can give us a fresh start. Who hasn’t wished that they could go back and try again – in a relationship that began on the wrong foot, for example? Chapters 33 to 36 are full of tantalizing glimpses of God’s plan for humankind, pointing us to the New Testament and to Christ.

Back in Jerusalem, in Chapter 33 ( read here), the Jews had begun to hope, although the city had fallen, but for the wrong reasons. They expected him to save them because they were descended from Abraham, but they were still behaving in a way that was “an abomination” to Him. God saves us not because of who we are, but because of who He is – fortunately. During the evening we remembered the representation of God in C.S. Lewis’ Narnia stories as Aslan, the lion. “He’s not safe” – he can roar (watch), but he is just and merciful.

Verses 30-33 give an interesting insight into the way that God’s word should be delivered and received. The inhabitants of Jerusalem listened to Ezekiel for entertainment. This led us to discuss present-day preachers and teachers. While it is important to engage the listeners with anecdotes etc, what makes a talk or study worthwhile is that God’s Word is taught, and learned.

Chapter 34 (here) brings the image of the Good Shepherd, with obvious connections to Chapter 10 of John’s Gospel (here). Since the religious leaders in Jerusalem have misused their position and thought only of their own interests (Mary Lisa had a pithy way of saying this that can’t be printed in a family blog), God is going to take His sheep to Himself, in the person of Jesus, who will lay down His life for the sheep. The description of life with the Good Shepherd, echoed in Psalm 23 (here), sounds idyllic, but we spent some time discussing what this really means for us today. These passages and the Lord’s Prayer (remember the hexagon?) teach that we should be relying on God for our every need. James and Rachel were able to testify to God’s care for them while James was looking for work. On the other hand, we know that there are many people whose material needs are not met, and this seems to depend more on where they live than on whether they pray or not. We managed to reconcile this with some rather general concepts: while there is sin in the world God’s plan for us cannot be completely fulfilled, and prayers are not always answered in the way we expect. Maybe there is a pointer in Psalm 23, verse 4: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…”; Christ is with us in the most difficult times. As to our response, everyone came up with the same couplet: “Trust and Obey” (listen here).

Chapter 36 gives us to a wonderful promise (here): God will save His people, and, what’s more, change their hearts and put His Spirit within them (cue another song….). He does this to glorify His Name. In the Old Testament world, God’s care for his chosen people glorified His Name throughout the nations. Today, God will be glorified if we present Him as He really is: just and merciful, but not compromising (and definitely not safe). He shows His grace to us as Christians, and we are blessed so we can bless others. Praise God – and pass the ammunition.

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Responses

  1. What a multimedia experience! Thanks Gill…

  2. Well done Gill for leading the session despite the heated debate at times! It was indeed a thought provoking discussion – it’s great that although some of us have differing views on things at times, that we all feel able to voice our opinions, and value each others experiences 🙂 I love that!

    I have a story to share which James’ step dad shared with us last time we visited them, which I thought was quite relevant: this Bulgarian pastor, who was imprisoned for his faith, said ‘under such circumstances, the only thing no one can do is take away the opportunity to pray. I realised that when I needed prayer most, God deprived me of the chance to do anything else. In my loneliness I could be in constant fellowship with God – the only source of power in my life… In prison I came to know that God can satisfy our needs in two different ways – by giving us what we pray for and by delivering us from the need for which we pray… I was hungry for most of the time. Then I prayed, “Lord, you fed five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish. Here there is only one of me, so even crumbs will be enough.”God did not give me bread, but he did free me from the feelings of hunger… In prison I realised that we have the mightiest weapon given to us by God – prayer.

    My personal thoughts on how God responds to the much discussed verse of the Lord’s Prayer: “Give us today our daily bread” is that God will in fact satisfy and sustain us in which ever way He sees best for us in accordance to our need, be in physically, emotionally or spiritually etc. I think that sums it up pretty well!

  3. Yes, I think that verse means that we should come to God for satisfaction/provision and not run after idols. It doesn’t mean he guarantees us a minimum standard of health or wealth in this life…


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