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Sunday School is a vital part of any ministry. In it, one is able to experience a deeper knowledge of God’s Word. Here at “Word For Life Says,” I want to help you help others. Below you will find resources to help you prepare for your upcoming lessons and my personal summary notes that I use when teaching. May God bless you!
“A Spirit-Filled Heart”
PDF Lesson Print Out is now Located at the Bottom of the Lesson. Please Scroll Down, Click and Enjoy! Blessings.
Please Note: All lesson verses and titles are based on International Sunday School Lesson/Uniform Series ©2013 by the Lesson Committee, but all content/commentary written within is original to wordforlifesays.com unless properly quoted/cited. I am glad you like to read my personal summary notes that I use when teaching, but as always you are encouraged to do your own studies as well. Blessings!)
Changed from the inside out – that’s the ultimate goal and message of the Bible. It is to have as many people as possible, before the close of all history, to be transformed by His renewing power.
For such a massive undertaking to occur the incapability of our humanness has to take a seat. We have tried in the weakness of our flesh to reach the mark of righteous perfection, but to no avail (“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:23). We have given into and have been overcome by sin at one point or another in our lives. But, God wants to implant in His people a new nature, a spiritual nature that gives testimony to the people as belonging to Him. One that brings glory and honor to His name as opposed to the profane way He has been misrepresented in this world.
There would come a time of restoration for God’s people, but it’s not going to be the result of any good the people themselves have done. It’s going to be because God chose to protect the sanctity of His own name, and sealed it with the covenant of a new spirit at work in a new heart.
Although these words were prophesied to a people in exile and looked forward to their return home again, the very change of one’s spiritual nature permanently, can only and ultimately, be filled in Jesus Christ, who has become the source of the new covenant.
Ezekiel 36:22-23 “Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the LORD GOD; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name’s sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went. And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the LORD, saith the LORD GOD, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes.”
“Therefore.” Before really jumping into the verses covering today’s text we really have to deal with this opening word. “Therefore” holds the story of what was going on or being said prior to this printed text before us.
Ezekiel the prophet, in Babylonian captivity, had the job through most of his self-named book of speaking against the rebellion and wickedness of the captive people there, the “house of Israel.” They were people who were often described as hard-hearted and unrepentant. Their past was littered with sin. Everything from idol worshipping, the shedding of innocent blood, not adhering to and perverting God’s laws, committing abominations, and even more sins which led to their fall, their city’s ruin, and their eventual captivity (Ezekiel 33:21-29).
Through all of this, it is not only the people who will suffer due to the consequences of their sin, but the name of the Lord has been disparaged among the peoples of other nations. The children of Israel were the chosen people who were supposed to magnify the name of the Lord (Exodus 19:5-6). They were the people who were put on display to represent Him in beautiful light for the rest of the world to see.
This was their mission in life and in the world. They were a called out people who would show the rest of the world what it is to live holy and to be in this wonderful relationship with God. Yet, time and again, through their sin and rebellion, they brought shame to the name of the Lord instead of glory.
For this, God was not pleased. It was bad enough to sin and go after the ways of the wicked, but when those actions starting ruining God’s name and reputation among the nations, something had to change. Although God would punish the people by sending them into captivity it was like the people of those lands shaking their heads at them in a tsk-tsk-tsk fashion, almost not believing that this is the same people who were supposed to be the children of the Most High God (see Ezekiel 36:20).
The house of Israel and their wicked ways “profaned” God’s name (see verses 16-21 prior to today’s text for more on this). There were many occasions prior to this when the people were taught the ins and outs of upholding His holy name and not profaning it. One of the commands given involved not letting “thy seed pass through the fire to Molech,” (Leviticus 18:21). One involved not to swear falsely by his name (Leviticus 19:12). Another way was to “defile my sanctuary” (Leviticus 20:3) by giving it over to false idols and gods, which Ezekiel previously dealt with (see Ezekiel 8-11; 23:39), and many more references especially present in Leviticus 21-22.
Unfortunately, these were the same reasons God sent the people into captivity because the detestable things they did involve these and more. The people brought shame to the name of the Lord and now the Lord had to protect His own name. He had concern for His name among the nations.
Thus, God looked forward to a time of restoration; a time of renewal for His people. A time and a moving that will bring glory to His name and not the dishonor that has been promoted by His people’s unholy living.
Prior to today’s text, God said, “I had pity for mine holy name, which the house of Israel profaned among the heathen, whither they went,” (Ezekiel 36:21).
Please Note: How we live as Christians can positively or negatively impact those we come in contact with on a daily basis. If we say we are for God and live like the devil that negatively reflects a wrong light on God. But, when people view the characteristics of Christ coming alive and working properly through His people, that sheds a beautiful light on God’s name in a positive way and draws more men to Him (see Matthew 5:16). The Apostle Paul gave a description of hypocritical living which led to God’s name being blasphemed in the New Testament (see Romans 2:17-24). In other words, we have to be on guard to not only protect our own name through righteous living but also the name of God.
Israel’s choices didn’t shine a positive light on God. Now, what God has designed for their future was for “mine holy name’s sake” and not necessarily for the sake of the people.
Thus, God says, “I will sanctify my great name.” We have learned from previous lessons the significance of the word “sanctify.” It means to be “set apart.” God is parallel to no one and His name is not parallel to no one as well. The nations may view God has incapable of delivering His people because of their captivity, not knowing that it was He who sent them there. They may think their gods are better, superior in power and strength, and refuse to turn to Him and trust Him because apparently His own people didn’t and their actions brought dishonor to God rather than honor. But, God is going to show them all exactly who He is and what He can do. He is the one only God who holds true to His word and His covenants. He alone will protect the sanctity of His name by fulfilling His promises and restoring and renewing His people.
“The heathen shall know that I am the LORD, saith the LORD GOD, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes.” When God moves on behalf of His people it will leave no doubt in the “eyes” of the “heathen” who is the real God, with real power. They may continue to bow down to their images of stone, wood, or imaginations, but there is a real God in a real heaven that is going to deliver His people in a real way and when He does they will all recognize that “I am the LORD.”
Those four words speak of His sovereignty and power over all. “I am the LORD.” He is God, the Author and Creator of the universe, and beyond. He is as supreme as supreme can get and He deserves to be revered as such. Since His people didn’t do it, He will . . . He will let them know that He is Almighty God, the great “I AM THAT I AM,” (Exodus 3:14).
Ezekiel 36:24 “For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land.” From all the places where His people have been dispersed, God was going to “gather” them. God was going to bring His people back home again “into your own land.”
When the exiles do eventually start making their way back home, this is only the beginning. Cyrus gives the initial proclamation for the Jewish people to return home when he took over the area and Babylon fell (Ezra 1) and it is followed up with help for rebuilding by other kings. But, this would only be done in part and was not the final move that would bring God’s people from “all countries” of the world from where they have been scattered.
If we move closer to our modern timetable to 1948 when the State of Israel was proclaimed as a nation again, we see there has been an influx of Jews returning home to this region. Yet, some are still living elsewhere in other “countries.” Therefore, what is spoken in this verse is still incomplete and has not yet come to full fruition of what God has yet planned and it won’t until God gathers all His people during the end times.
Through each occurrence, they will know that He is God; the only God that can truly save and deliver His people. This will not only give His people hope of salvation to look forward, but all those who see His great works will know of the one true God and bring honor to His name.
Ezekiel 36:25 “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.”
For proper restoration to take place with His people, there has to more than a physical deliverance. There has to be a spiritual deliverance. Taking one out of one land and positioning in another land does no good if they are still carrying with them the same “filthiness” they left with. They needed to be spiritually washed.
This reminds me of the story of the Last Supper when Jesus bent low with a towel in hand and washed the feet of the disciples. Peter tried to resist such a washing but Jesus spoke, “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me,” (John 13:8).
Just as the sprinkling of “water” would signify spiritual cleansing above, so too did this. One cannot enjoy sweet fellowship with God while they are still carrying around the dirt that sin and idols produced in their life. It is a symbol of a new life and new relationship with God.
The people in the Old Testament had several rituals and instances of cleansing oneself with water to remove all the impurities from the outer man (see Exodus 19:10-11; Exodus 30:17-21; Numbers 8:5-7, just to name a few), but what about the inner man? It does no good to go to the basin and throw water in one’s face (in the literal sense or not) while their heart is still corrupt and full of evil desires.
God wanted more.
Ezekiel 36:26-27 “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.”
God wants an inner transformation. What has to happen for a full and true, unhindered relationship with God to occur, goes beyond the symbol of outward cleansing. An inward change has to take place. A great exchange, if you will.
“A new heart . . . and a new spirit.” This is part of the new covenant which was also spoken by Jeremiah. He says:
“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:
Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord:
But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (Jeremiah 31:31-33; see also Jeremiah 32:38-40)
This covenant was fulfilled in the finished work of Jesus Christ. In John chapter 3, Jesus spoke to Nicodemus about a new life in Him. He said, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God,” (John 3:3). What Nicodemus needed and what every person needs is a new birth infused with the power of His Spirit (see John 3:5-6).
God’s relationship with His people was going to have an inward focus. Previously, everything was predicated on the keeping of the laws, and rituals, and the like. Those things were rules and regulations to follow but never in themselves had the power to change an individual from the inside out. So, God was going to take a hold of the inside and change it that it might manifest His glory on the outside.
God was going to do some work on the heart of man. The “heart” of man holds the essence of all he or she is. It’s the seat of our will, emotions, desires – all those inner goings-on. Whatever or however the heart is affected, it affects the whole of that individual – mind, body, and spirit.
For God to do a new work in a person the old has to be taken out. The old ways, the old thinking, the old inclinations of man that dwelt in him/her have to be removed. God says He will take out that “stony heart;” the heart that was not softened to Him or His word; that heart that didn’t want to obey His commandments; that heart that wanted to do what it wanted, where it wanted, and how it wanted.
God then seeks to replace it with a “heart of flesh.” This heart is sensitive to His leading. This heart warmed to His will. This heart that seeks after Him and His ways, and will turn away from those things and sin that acted as a barrier in our relationship with God; that acted as a hard wall preventing us from drawing closer to Him. He gives us a heart for Him and it is new.
No wonder when David sinned, he prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me,” (Psalm 51:10). He wanted a right relationship with God that was only going to be fostered through having a right heart toward God. Sin separates that relationship. David felt that through his own personal experience and he didn’t like it. A “clean heart” or “new heart” gives the opportunity for restoration to occur and that renewal or transformation process can only happen through a “right spirit.” Only God can do this kind of inner working in an individual’s life.
Backing up this truth, our lesson verifies this is done through the working of a “new spirit . . . my spirit,” says God. Without His true Spirit living on the inside of a man, man (humanity) has been incapable of staying faithful to God and His commandments. Occasionally, and for specific reasons, God’s Spirit would come upon an individual to accomplish a particular task for a particular time. But, it wasn’t a permanent indwelling and there was no true inner transformation.
So, God has the promise that “I will put my spirit within you.” His “spirit” will lead His people to “walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.” The work of the Spirit living on the inside is the driving force for God’s people to follow, love, and obey Him.
Previously, I wrote:
“With the Holy Spirit at the helm, we can do this. We can successfully live and work in everything He has called us to do and be when we give it all over to Him.
The Holy Spirit not only acts as a seal for those that belong to God (Ephesians 1:13), but He is there to guide us in all truth (John 16:13) and to reveal to us the things of God (1 Corinthians 2:9-11). And, anything we do in this life revolves around God and His will for us. Thus, we need the power of the Holy Spirit to continue to be our leading force to enable us to walk and work in the life He has planned for us.” (I Can’t Do this Alone| The Spirit’s Leading in my Life).
His “spirit” will become an enduring fixture of this new covenant with His people empowering them to finally live fully and completely for Him.
Ezekiel 36:28-30 “And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God. I will also save you from all your uncleannesses: and I will call for the corn, and will increase it, and lay no famine upon you. And I will multiply the fruit of the tree, and the increase of the field, that ye shall receive no more reproach of famine among the heathen.”
A restored relationship, filled with Him, bring with it restored blessings. Now, with a new heart and a new spirit, the people can really enjoy the blessings of all God originally intended for them.
The “land” of their “fathers” has always and will always belong to the people of Israel. It was allotted to them through a covenant promise with Abraham (Genesis 12:7; 13:15; 15:18), and it has not changed. Although currently in the lesson the people are in captivity, the possession of the land is still theirs. When their 70 years of punishment/exile is up, God is going to bring His people back home again (but, remember our discussion a little earlier in this lesson about the exiles returning partially when their captivity is up compared to the full gathering of His people during the end times – see verse 24 above).
Then, God speaks of a totally restored relationship with His people. “Ye shall be my people, and I will be your God” and He reiterates that He is the one that will “save you from all your uncleannesses.”
“Increase” will occur and the people will not know lack or “famine.” So much so, that later in this chapter, this land of theirs that was considered desolate and in ruins, would become like “the garden of Eden,” (Ezekiel 36:35; not in today’s text).
“Ye shall receive no more reproach of famine among the heathen.” The people were stigmatized because of their captive situation and the famine it brought. They bore the disgrace of all the wrong living they committed that got them to this point in history. They have been talked about, humiliated, and made fun of by the enemy (see Psalm 137:3-4). But, with their restoration; with the blessings the Lord gives them, all of that will be lifted. They will “receive no more reproach.” God is going to “multiply the fruit of the tree, and the increase of the field.” The famine will be over both spiritually and physically!
Ezekiel 36:31-32 “Then shall ye remember your own evil ways, and your doings that were not good, and shall lothe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and for your abominations. Not for your sakes do I this, saith the LORD GOD, be it known unto you: be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O House of Israel.”
When God blesses and restores in such a fashion it’s easy to see how the mind can travel back and realize just how unworthy one is; to realize “your doings that were not good,” and yet, still receive such kindness and goodness from Him. It’s eye-opening. But, that’s the whole message of grace in the Bible. It is receiving that unmerited favor of God. We were wrong. He is right. Yet, God, He chose to love us, forgive us, heal us, and restore us.
God reiterates to the “house of Israel” that it wasn’t for their sakes that God was doing this. Describing this feeling, previously I wrote:
“‘I don’t deserve it, but Lord I thank You! I didn’t do anything to earn it, but again, Lord I thank You!’ That’s the feeling the word grace evokes in me. It’s like walking on the clouds of heaven while here on earth; experiencing release and freedom in all that Christ has secured for me.” (Word For Life Says/Walk in Grace!)
They, like us, know they don’t deserve it. Their ways were something to be “ashamed and confounded” by, but it’s His grace and goodness that will overshadow and outshine all their wrongs. All glory will be brought to His name when the nations see the restoration and renewal of God’s people.
True and total restoration begins with a new and transformed, Spirit-filled heart.
Standard Print PDF: A Spirit-Filled Heart Sunday School Lesson Summary Standard Print
Large Print PDF: A Spirit-Filled Heart Sunday School Lesson Summary Large Print
Below are activities to support this week’s lesson. Enjoy!
Draw the Scene: A Spirit-Filled Heart Draw the Scene
Memory Verse: A Spirit-Filled Heart Memory Verse
Below are Activities/Resources/Links to support this week’s lesson. Enjoy!
“A Renewed Heart” (Heart activities for the students in your class that go with vss. 26-27 of today’s lesson and even a game called the “Stoney Heart Race.” Click to check it out. Enjoy!)
“A Hardened Heart” (With a super soaker object lesson. Enjoy!)
“The Soft Heart” (With great teaching ideas and printables to help get the idea of this lesson across a little more easily for young students. Enjoy!)
“Ezekiel” (A new heart craft option on page 9. Enjoy!)
“A Renewed Heart” (Coloring and activity sheets. Enjoy!)
Our lesson discusses God cleaning His people and giving them a new heart. These activities below, although they are from other portions of Scripture, would go nicely with this week’s lesson. Enjoy!
Click on over to “Faith Sprouts” for a unique activity/object lesson for this week’s lesson using a mirror. Enjoy!
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