NEW PROVIDENCE BAPTIST CHURCH

WHERE GOD IS CALLING YOU OUT OF DARKNESS INTO HIS MARVELOUS LIGHT

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Sunday School Lesson

November 23

Lesson 12

Inheritance Marks a New Beginning

Devotional Reading: Psalm 51:1-13

Background Scripture: Ezekiel 47:13-23; Acts 2:37-47

Ezekiel 47:13-23

13 Thus saith the Lord God; This shall be the border, whereby ye shall inherit the land according to the twelve tribes of Israel: Joseph shall have two portions.

14 And ye shall inherit it, one as well as another: concerning the which I lifted up mine hand to give it unto your fathers: and this land shall fall unto you for inheritance.

15 And this shall be the border of the land toward the north side, from the great sea, the way of Hethlon, as men go to Zedad;

16 Hamath, Berothah, Sibraim, which is between the border of Damascus and the border of Hamath; Hazarhatticon, which is by the coast of Hauran.

17 And the border from the sea shall be Hazarenan, the border of Damascus, and the north northward, and the border of Hamath. And this is the north side.

18 And the east side ye shall measure from Hauran, and from Damascus, and from Gilead, and from the land of Israel by Jordan, from the border unto the east sea. And this is the east side.

19 And the south side southward, from Tamar even to the waters of strife in Kadesh, the river to the great sea. And this is the south side southward.

20 The west side also shall be the great sea from the border, till a man come over against Hamath. This is the west side.

21 So shall ye divide this land unto you according to the tribes of Israel.

22 And it shall come to pass, that ye shall divide it by lot for an inheritance unto you, and to the strangers that sojourn among you, which shall beget children among you: and they shall be unto you as born in the country among the children of Israel; they shall have inheritance with you among the tribes of Israel.

23 And it shall come to pass, that in what tribe the stranger sojourneth, there shall ye give him his inheritance, saith the Lord God.

Key Verse

Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. —Acts 2:38

Lesson Aims

After participating in this lesson, each learner will be able to:

1. Identify the recipients of the inheritance in Ezekiel’s vision.

2. Compare and contrast the tribal divisions of Ezekiel 47 with those of Joshua 13-21, and explain the differences.

3. List two “strangers” (v. 23) living in his or her midst who need help for a new beginning and make a plan to help them attain this.

Lesson Outline

Introduction

A. Inheritance Squabbles

B. Lesson Background

I. The Inheritance (Ezekiel 47:13, 14)

A. Two Portions for Joseph (v. 13)

B. Equal Divisions (v. 14)

II. The Boundaries (Ezekiel 47:15-20)

A. North Side (vv. 15-17)

An Immovable, Uncrossable Boundary

B. East Side (v. 18)

C. South Side (v. 19)

D. West Side (v. 20)

III. The Imperative (Ezekiel 47:21-23)

A. Regarding the Twelve Tribes (v. 21)

B. Regarding Outsiders (vv. 22, 23)

Aliens (Not the Kind from Outer Space)

Conclusion

A. New Beginnings

B. Prayer

C. Thought to Remember

Introduction
A. Inheritance Squabbles

No matter what family you belong to, serious issues always seem to present themselves when an estate is to be divided and distributed. Conflict arises as to who is to receive what and how much. Nothing seems fair, especially to a family member who is not in line to receive any inheritance whatsoever—even when the deceased has left a detailed will. Family members have been known to grab all there is to grab of the estate, whether it be money, land, or personal possessions. I am certain that at least 80 percent of the readers of this commentary can identify with this scenario.

The sharing of the unearned, inherited wealth that could follow is often the furthest thing from anyone’s mind. But if there is any instance where such sharing is to be considered, should it not be in a context of having received unearned assets (compare Matthew 10:8)? Ancient Judah was exiled from her land in the sixth century BC; God’s people had lost their inheritance due to national idolatry and other sins. Ezekiel offered hope to an exiled people through divine vision of an inheritance renewed and restored. It was an unearned inheritance, to be shared with the “strangers” (foreigners) who lived among the Judeans.

B. Lesson Background

Today’s lesson text picks up where last week’s left off. Therefore the background is the same, and that information need not be repeated here. Even so, more can be said about the literary context.

Our text belongs to the larger block of Ezekiel 40-48. The form is that of a divine vision in apocalyptic style. This block as a whole is a countervision to the disaster of Ezekiel 8-11, where God’s glory departed from the temple in Jerusalem: the Lord’s glory returned to a new “house,” or temple, in 43:1-5 (lesson 9). There God was again enthroned as king over His people (43:7; compare 34:23-31; 37:26-28). The promise of restoration to the land (20:42) was seen as being fulfilled in a divine vision by a detailed look at the new temple and in the division of the land among the 12 tribes of Israel (chap. 47 and 48).

The literary structure of Ezekiel 40-48 is important. References to a “city” bookend this segment (see 40:2 and 48:30-35), and the city is ultimately called “The Lord is there” (48:35). After a preamble in 40:1-4, the text falls into three parts: (1) 40:5-43:27, the Lord’s return to reside in the new temple; (2) 44:1-46:24, Israel’s proper response to the “holy portion of the land” in their midst; and (3) 47:1-48:29, apportionment of the newly healed land among the 12 tribes within idealized boundaries, with resident “strangers” sharing. This larger context will help us discern the proper interpretation and application of today’s text.

I. The Inheritance

                                                                                (Ezekiel 47:13, 14)

A. Two Portions for Joseph (v. 13)

13. Thus saith the Lord God; This shall be the border, whereby ye shall inherit the land according to the twelve tribes of Israel: Joseph shall have two portions.

The land is to be distributed according to the twelve tribes of Israel, with the particular notice that a double portion is to be given to Joseph. This reflects the fact that Joseph had two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh (Genesis 48:1-22), whose descendants formed two tribes of those names.

This peculiarity means that the listing of Israel’s (Jacob’s) 12 sons—whose names became tribal designations—adds up to 12, since the tribe of Levi does not inherit land. Compare a “normal” listing of the 12 tribes in Genesis 49:13-28 with variant listings in Deuteronomy 33:6-25 and Revelation 7.

By this time in Israel’s history (about 573 BC, per Ezekiel 40:1), a regathering of the 12 tribes seems impossible. But God has promised that a “remnant” will return (Isaiah 10:20-22), that He will indeed regather His people (Jeremiah 23:3; Ezekiel 34:11-16). The return of a remnant will be fulfilled literally, but it is also symbolic for a greater fulfillment as we shall see.

What Do You Think?

In what specific ways have you seen God restore people today? How has He done so for you?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

Spiritually

Relationally

Physically

Emotionally

B. Equal Divisions (v. 14)

14. And ye shall inherit it, one as well as another: concerning the which I lifted up mine hand to give it unto your fathers: and this land shall fall unto you for inheritance.

This text confronts the reader with a surprise: each tribe is to receive an equal share of land, which is the sense of one as well as another. Such an idea was unrealistic in the beginning because of the differing sizes of the tribes and their needs (compare Numbers 32:1-5; Joshua 14-19). Yet even taking tribal size and need into account, the land was apportioned originally by lot (Numbers 26:55, 56; 33:54; Joshua 14:2). Not so here.

Even today, an uplifted hand is the gesture accompanying an oath (compare Deuteronomy 32:40). God is said to have made such an oath, promising this land to the patriarchs (compare Exodus 6:8 with Genesis 12:7; 13:14-17; 15:7-20). The people who have lost everything are promised a new inheritance (see Ezekiel 45). They will experience a new temple (40:1-43:11), a new law (43:12), a new land (today’s lesson), along with a new city (48:30-35).

II. The Boundaries

                                                                                 (Ezekiel 47:15-20)

A. North Side (vv. 15-17)

15. And this shall be the border of the land toward the north side, from the great sea, the way of Hethlon, as men go to Zedad.

The vision describes Israel’s borders beginning with the northern side in a complex description across three verses. The descriptions will then move clockwise—east, south, and west. These descriptions are patterned after Numbers 34:1-12.

The northern boundary begins with the Mediterranean Sea (the great sea) near Hethlon, a place we cannot identify today. Comparison can be made with Numbers 34:7-9, but the difficulty remains as that text gives “mount Hor” instead of Ezekiel’s the way of Hethlon. The town or district of Zedad is probably to be identified with the modern name Sedad, or Sadad.

The Hebrew word for border is translated “coast” in Ezekiel 47:16 (next). It may signify “territory” in addition to the concept of a boundary separating one area from another. Thus the difficulty of determining the exact location of the border is increased. Our best guess is that Zedad is the northernmost point of the new tribal boundaries.

An Immovable, Uncrossable Boundary

The deed to the parcel of land I own lists the state, the county, the township, the fractional range, the section, and a definite point located in the subdivision. The property lines are measured in feet, and the directions are given in degrees and minutes. All this is depicted on a plat map. I don’t think the location and size of my property could be described with more precision!

It has not always been so. On the American frontier, it was common for properties to be recorded with reference to geographical features. “Beginning at the willow tree on the north bank of Cedar Creek, go west 239 feet to an oak tree, then north 356 feet to a large stone ...” Confusion resulted when unscrupulous people cut down trees or moved rocks! To help prevent this in the Northwest Territory, the U.S. Congress passed the Land Ordinance of 1785, which established official surveyors.

The Old Testament has been described as “a book of boundaries.” Many boundaries therein are physical (example: Psalm 104:9); others are spiritual in nature (examples: Leviticus 10:10; Ezekiel 44:23). The problem was that people had an evil tendency to try to move (or remove) both kinds of boundaries (examples: Job 24:2; Ezekiel 22:26). Today’s text shows us that God has the right to redraw boundaries. He also moved boundaries for the New Testament era (examples: Mark 7:19; Colossians 2:16, 17). But God also has established for eternity a boundary that is not only immovable but uncrossable (see Luke 16:26; Revelation 21:27; 22:14, 15). Make sure you’re on the desirable side of it—no fence straddling permitted!—J. B. N.

What Do You Think?

How do we respond to cultural attempts to move or remove boundaries set by God?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

Regarding moral boundaries

Regarding ethical boundaries

Regarding boundaries that separate truth from falsehood

Others

16. Hamath, Berothah, Sibraim, which is between the border of Damascus and the border of Hamath; Hazarhatticon, which is by the coast of Hauran.

Since there are no natural boundaries (river names, etc.) for the northern description, place names are used, and many are difficult to determine. Berothah (meaning “cypress grove”) is probably 30 miles north-northwest of Damascus. The other named towns are probably nearby. The coast of Hauran is an area located within modern Syria. See the next verse regarding Hamath.

17. And the border from the sea shall be Hazarenan, the border of Damascus, and the north northward, and the border of Hamath. And this is the north side.

Scholars locate Hazarenan (meaning “village of springs”) 70 miles northeast of Damascus (compare Numbers 34:9, 10). Hamath (“fortress”) is a major city-state about 100 miles north of Damascus. As vague as this description of the northern border is to us, we should note that this border is much farther north than the land actually controlled by the Israelites in history—“from Dan even to Beersheba” (2 Samuel 3:10).

God did promise to Abraham land “from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates” (Genesis 15:18). But because of unfaithfulness, Israel came close to controlling this territory only twice: once under David and Solomon (see 2 Samuel 8:1-12; 1 Kings 8:65; 1 Chronicles 13:5; 2 Chronicles 7:8) and once under Jeroboam II (see 2 Kings 14:25). In describing this idealized northern area as he does, Ezekiel is leaving room for the 12 tribes to receive roughly equal strips of land down to the southern border.

B. East Side (v. 18)

18. And the east side ye shall measure from Hauran, and from Damascus, and from Gilead, and from the land of Israel by Jordan, from the border unto the east sea. And this is the east side.

There is less uncertainty for the modern reader regarding the description of the east side. But still the border is described in regional terms: Hauran, Damascus, and Gilead. We should think in terms of the northernmost point of the eastern boundary extending from Hauran south until it reaches the latitude of the Jordan River, where it then extends westward to touch that river. The river then becomes, along with the Dead Sea (the east sea), the majority of the eastern border. The eastern border terminates at Tamar (see the next verse; also known as “Tadmor” in 1 Kings 9:18), located near the southern extremity of the Dead Sea.

This description cuts out the Transjordan tribal settlements of Numbers 34:1-12. The Transjordan was not part of the original promise of land; the two and a half tribes that originally settled there are described in Ezekiel’s vision as located elsewhere (see Ezekiel 48:4, 6, 27).

Visual for Lesson 12. Have this visual on display as you introduce the question below regarding today’s key verse, Acts 2:38.

C. South Side (v. 19)

19. And the south side southward, from Tamar even to the waters of strife in Kadesh, the river to the great sea. And this is the south side southward.

The southern boundary begins at Tamar and moves southwest through the ancient site of Kadesh (Numbers 20:13, 14, 24; 27:14). It then follows the river (also known as “the river of Egypt” in Numbers 34:5 and Joshua 15:4) to the Mediterranean Sea (the great sea). The river noted (today known as Wadi el-Arish) serves as a natural boundary between Egypt and Canaan.

D. West Side (v. 20)

20. The west side also shall be the great sea from the border, till a man come over against Hamath. This is the west side.

The Mediterranean Sea (the great sea) clearly marks the entire western boundary from Egypt (v. 19) all the way to the northern border, which is located over against Hamath (see v. 16, above; compare Numbers 34:6). So we have moved in this vision from the most uncertain (to us) of the border descriptions to the most certain.

III. The Imperative

                                                                               (Ezekiel 47:21-23)

A. Regarding the Twelve Tribes (v. 21)

21. So shall ye divide this land unto you according to the tribes of Israel.

The verse before us reiterates the preamble in Ezekiel 47:13, 14. The book goes on to assign equal strips of land, with seven tribes north of the strip reserved for the holy city and sanctuary (48:1-7) and five tribes south of it (48:23-29; compare 45:1-8). The tribal arrangements seem to place the more favored tribes, the ones descending from Jacob’s wives Leah and Rachel, closest to the sanctuary; the less favored tribes, descending from Jacob’s concubines Bilhah and Zilpah, are farther away (compare Genesis 35:23-26).

What Do You Think?

How does today’s key verse of Acts 2:38 and its context speak to our inheritance from God in the New Testament era?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

Regarding what is inherited

Regarding who can inherit

Regarding when the inheritance happens

Regarding the basis of the inheritance

Other

B. Regarding Outsiders (vv. 22, 23)

22. And it shall come to pass, that ye shall divide it by lot for an inheritance unto you, and to the strangers that sojourn among you, which shall beget children among you: and they shall be unto you as born in the country among the children of Israel; they shall have inheritance with you among the tribes of Israel.

We come to a key point of this lesson: inheritance ... to the strangers that sojourn among the Israelites. These strangers are the resident aliens living among the children of Israel. Such a person is listed alongside “the fatherless and the widow” in Ezekiel 22:7 and “the poor and needy” in 22:29—people vulnerable to abuse and oppression. Israel is to protect such people because the Israelites know what it is like to be strangers in a foreign land (see Leviticus 19:33, 34; Deuteronomy 10:19; 26:5; Isaiah 52:4; Psalm 105:23).

If we are correct in seeing Ezekiel 40-48 as being a divine vision set in apocalyptic style, then we must see it fulfilled in Christ. As Ezekiel saw a wholly new temple with God’s glorious presence returned, so Jesus is that “new temple” (John 2:18-22) and Christians make up a “new temple” on earth (Ephesians 2:19-22). The living water that flows from the temple in Ezekiel 47:1-12 (last week’s lesson) is understood as fulfilled in the new covenant era, when people of every ethnic group can call on the Lord for forgiveness of sin and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).

What Do You Think?

How do we determine what and when to share and not share with others? How can we improve our discernment in this area?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

Regarding what and when to share:
1 Samuel 30:21-25; Matthew 25:34-40; Mark 7:9-13; 2 Corinthians 8:13, 14; Hebrews 13:2; 1 Timothy 5:3-8; 1 John 3:18

Regarding what and when not to share:
Matthew 7:6; 25:1-13; 2 Thessalonians 3:10; 1 Timothy 5:9-13

Aliens (Not the Kind from Outer Space)

A major problem facing America today is that of undocumented immigrants, also referred to as illegal aliens. The U.S. spends huge amounts of money to control its southern border against the arrival of such persons. The ongoing debate as to how to handle this problem is quite heated at times!

The U.S. is not alone in this challenge. Brazil and Chile face this problem, and even Mexico has to deal with unauthorized immigration from various South American countries, the Caribbean, and even Asia. The list goes on and on. One organization reports that there may be between 25 and 30 million illegal aliens throughout the world.

In Ezekiel’s vision, illegal aliens is a contradiction in terms when seen from the vantage point of spiritual fulfillment in the New Testament era. God welcomes everyone to join His people! How welcoming is your church in this regard? See Acts 10:34, 35 and Revelation 7:9.—J. B. N.

23. And it shall come to pass, that in what tribe the stranger sojourneth, there shall ye give him his inheritance, saith the Lord God.

The stranger is not to be oppressed or exploited in any way for any reason. The injunction to grant strangers an inheritance within the tribes where they are living is pure compassion.

The apostle Paul in his day spends much time and effort to bring Jews and Gentiles together into one family. He argues that faith or faithfulness is the mark of the new people of God; because of that, Abraham is the father of all who believe (see Romans 4:11, 16). How we treat those among us who are different in various ways speaks volumes as to the quality of our Christian faith. How can any of us elevate ourselves above another in light of the fact that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (3:23)? Therefore we are to “receive ... one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God” (15:7).

What Do You Think?

How should recognition of differences between us and “strangers” affect, if at all, how we share with them?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

Differences of socioeconomic status

Racial differences

Differences in cultural values

Other

Conclusion
A. New Beginnings

The Old Testament gives us many examples of new beginnings. In Exodus 32, God’s newly freed people worshipped a golden idol (bull image), even while Moses was receiving the Ten Commandments, the second of which forbade that very act. God came close to destroying the people and starting over with Moses (Exodus 32:10), but Moses intervened and God relented (32:11-14). After this incident God would forever be known as “merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin” (34:6, 7).

Jonah was told to proclaim judgment against the Ninevites, who were considered the greatest of sinners in his day. After God’s “persuasion,” Jonah did preach to them, but to his consternation they repented. Jonah became angry because he knew that God was compassionate (Jonah 4:2). Not only did God allow new beginnings for His own people, He also offered new beginnings for the Gentile pagans, the “strangers.”

Sometimes people did not accept God’s offer of a new beginning. Such was the case for the northern kingdom of Israel as told through the prophet Hosea. God instructed him to marry “a wife of whoredoms” (Hosea 1:2). After three children were born, each given symbolic names, Hosea’s wife left him for a life of prostitution slavery. Hosea bought her back at the Lord’s insistence and waited to see if she would be faithful (3:1-3). The implication is that Hosea’s wife never truly returned to faithfulness, a sad imitation of Israel. The northern kingdom of Israel was destroyed in 722 BC.

Isaiah cried out for a new beginning for an exiled people (Isaiah 40-66). This was fulfilled in the ultimate sense by the suffering servant, Jesus (53:11, 12). He delivered us from slavery to sin by His atonement on the cross (Romans 3:25).

Jeremiah’s prophecies are mostly judgmental in nature. But in the section called “Book of Consolation” (chap. 30-33), the prophet noted God’s offer of a radical new beginning: a new covenant whereby everyone could know the Lord intimately and know that their sins have been forgiven (Jeremiah 31:31-34). A new beginning indeed!

King David, a man after God’s own heart, sinned greatly by committing adultery and murder. But he confessed his sin, and Nathan assured him that “the Lord also hath put away thy sin” (2 Samuel 12:13). Even though David suffered the consequences for those sins the rest of his life, he did indeed experience a new beginning. He could write, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). With this accomplished, David wanted to share his new beginning (see Psalm 51:13). So should we!

B. Prayer

Heavenly Father, teach us to share Your blessings with the “strangers” among us, to help them have a new beginning just as You have given us a new beginning in Christ. In Jesus’ name; amen.

C. Thought to Remember

Your inheritance in Christ can be everyone else’s as well.

How to Say It

apocalyptic uh-paw-kuh-lip-tik.

Beersheba Beer-she-buh.

Berothah Bee-row-thah.

Damascus Duh-mass-kus.

Ephraim Ee-fray-im.

Euphrates You-fray-teez.

Hamath Hay-muth.

Hauran Hah-you-rawn.

Hazarenan Hay-zawr-ee-nan.

Hazarhatticon Hay-zer-hat-ih-kahn.

Hethlon Heth-lawn.

Jeroboam Jair-uh-boe-um.

Manasseh Muh-nass-uh.

Sibraim Sib-ruh-im.


November 30

Lesson 13

Good News Brings Rejoicing

Devotional Reading: Psalm 42:5-11

Background Scripture: Isaiah 52:1, 2, 7-12; Psalm 33

Isaiah 52:1, 2, 7-12

1 Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city: for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean.

2 Shake thyself from the dust; arise, and sit down, O Jerusalem: loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion.

 

7 How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!

8 Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the Lord shall bring again Zion.

9 Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem: for the Lord hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem.

10 The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.

11 Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch no unclean thing; go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord.

12 For ye shall not go out with haste, nor go by flight: for the Lord will go before you; and the God of Israel will be your rereward.

Key Verse

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth! —Isaiah 52:7

Lesson Aims

After participating in this lesson, each learner will be able to:

1. Summarize the content of Isaiah’s “good news.”

2. Explain how today’s passage is fulfilled by Christ and the preaching of the gospel.

3. List seven songs and/or hymns that reflect themes in today’s text; sing one each day in a time of devotion in the week ahead.

Lesson Outline

Introduction

A. Rejoicing in Part

B. Lesson Background

I. New Reality (Isaiah 52:1, 2)

A. Garments (v. 1a)

Dressing Up for God

B. Holiness (v. 1b)

C. Position (v. 2)

II. New Message (Isaiah 52:7-10)

A. Messenger Proclaims (v. 7)

B. Watchmen Shout (v. 8)

C. Jerusalem Rejoices (v. 9)

D. Nations See (v. 10)

III. New Exodus (Isaiah 52:11, 12)

A. Bearing the Vessels (v. 11)

B. Protected by God (v. 12)

Better Than a Testudo!

Conclusion

A. Rejoicing in Full

B. Prayer

C. Thought to Remember


Standard Lesson Commentary 2014-2015 (KJV).

"Suggestions for families are taken from Standardlesson.com,

Standard Publishing Group, LLC. Used with permission. More resources for families are available at Standardpub.com.


God Bless