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Texts: Ezekiel 8, Daniel 3, Jeremiah 29:10-14, Haggai 1, Zechariah 1:1-6, Nehemiah 1

All this quarter, we have been looking at worship, particularly as it has been played out in the history of the ancient people of Israel. This week, we will be looking at some instances recorded late in the history of that people, down at the point of the great exile to Babylon, both just before it and after it. This period of time comes at the conclusion of a long history of ebb and flow in their collective walk with God.

  • Ezekiel 8 – this is a difficult chapter to read and contemplate because it describes all kinds of misdoings that were going on within the confines of the temple. In this case, all kinds of worship rituals and practices were being indulged contrary to the express commands given earlier in their history by God.
    • Can you explain the process by which people so often fall into idolatry?
    • Why do you think leaders are so often the first to make progress toward wrong?
    • Where does the courage to do wrong come from?
    • Notice particularly v. 12 how it reflects the thoughts that God would not see them.
  • Daniel 3 – this chapter contains a very well-known story of Nebuchadnezzar rebelling against God by building an image that was expressly contrary to the one given earlier by God in vision. God had revealed a representational image that was made of various metals, indicating a passage from one kingdom to another. Nebuchadnezzar erected on of pure gold, indicative of a different trajectory.
    • Why do you think he required all his subjects to join in his rebellion?
    • Why do you think he was so angry when the Hebrew young men refused to bow down? Can you provide several reasons here, perhaps some that are not so obvious?
    • Do you have the kind of moral, internal fortitude that the three young Hebrew men had? How do you think they obtained it?
  • Haggai 1 – Haggai was a prophet who appeared after the great exile, after the exiles had been released and gone back to Jerusalem there to establish themselves once more in the land.
    • What do you learn in this chapter about their priorities?
    • Why would it have been important for them to build the temple first?
    • Do you think such priorities apply today?
    • Human freedom is something highly prized by God in the Bible. People have the liberty to choose whom they will worship. What they do with this freedom is indicative of their most deeply-held priorities.
  • Zechariah 1:1-6 – a highly critical assessment of the condition of post-exilic Israel. What a searching question, “Your father, where are they?”
    • How often do we really learn from the experiences of those gone before us?
  • Nehemiah 1 – in this opening chapter we find one of the great prayers of the Bible. Nehemiah was a servant of the King in Babylon, but he heard of the plight of the people gone back to Jerusalem. Out of his anguish, he prayed to God.
    • Why do you think Nehemiah included himself in his prayer, right alongside his people?
    • What kind of prayer is this?
    • On what basis does he make his appeal to God?
    • How do you handle this prayer in light of the conditions that so often attend the giving of prophecy?
    • What would make this prayer a worshipful one, likely to be heard?

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