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Sabbath School Lessons on The Role of the Church in the Community
About the Author
Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 40 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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Lesson 4: Justice and Mercy in the Old Testament: Part 2 *
Introduction: When you think about the work of the Holy Spirit in the
Bible, do you focus mostly on the New Testament? Can you refine that
even more, by saying that an emphasis on the Holy Spirit starts with
the book of Acts? This week we discover a spotlight on the work of
the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament! Imagine that. Let's dive into
an Old Testament examination of what the Holy Spirit has to do with
justice and mercy in our lives!
- Read Ezekiel 37:1. Let's picture this in our mind. God
takes Ezekiel on a virtual flight through the air and
lands him in a valley that is full of bones. What would
you say to God if He did that to you? (Could we have
landed somewhere else? This looks like a killing place.)
- Read Ezekiel 37:2-3. What do you think about Ezekiel's
answer to God? (Great answer!)
- Read Ezekiel 37:4-6. Is this a trick question? Is God
teasing Ezekiel? (No. God is teaching Ezekiel something.)
- Let's see if we can figure out God's lesson. What are
the bones? (People who are not alive.)
- What begins the revival of these bones? (First
Ezekiel speaks prophetic words from God. This is
followed by the bones hearing the word of God.)
- What causes the bones to actually come alive again?
(God breathing in them.)
- Read Ezekiel 37:7-10. All of the steps are necessary, but
what does God focus on as the most important step? (God's
breath entering the bones.)
- How would you apply this today? What lessons do you learn
from this for church members (perhaps whole churches) who
are "dried bones?" (First, there has to be an intentional
effort (prophesy) to present the word of God so that they
can hear. Second, God breathes into our efforts to bring
- What do you think is "God's breath?" (The Holy
Spirit. Although the Holy Spirit is most often
represented as fire, in Acts 2:2-3 the Holy Spirit is
represented as fire and wind. This is consistent with
the idea of God breathing His Spirit into these
- If we are going to have an exact parallel for today,
what is most important to bring dried up church
members and dried up churches to life? (The Holy
- Read Ezekiel 37:11-14. What was the lesson for the people
of Ezekiel's time? (That God would revive His people. This
specifically says "I will put my Spirit in you and you
will live." Notice that something tangible is then
accomplished - the people settle in their own land.)
- How is your life? How is the life of your church? Do you
have that "dried bones" feeling? Or, do you feel the Holy
Spirit in your life and in your church?
- What does any of this have to do with justice and
mercy? (Ezekiel's bones came to life and settled in
their land; meaning they did something. When the Holy
Spirit fills us we, too, can do the things God has
- Salt Water
- Read Ezekiel 47:1-6. How is this picture different than
the bones picture? (This is a problem with moisture and
water, not dryness.)
- From where does all of this water originate? (The
temple of God.)
- Read Ezekiel 47:7-9 and Ezekiel 47:12. What does this
water bring? (Life. Salt water kills some things, fresh
water brings life.)
- Consider the vision of the dry bones and this vision of
the water. Is God telling His people the same thing in
two different ways? Or, do you see a practical difference
in the two visions? (The goal of the Holy Spirit is to
make the dry bones "wet." What we got at the end of the
bones vision was "a vast army." This makes it appear that
the "wet" coming from the temple is God's people. They are
fresh water and they push back the salt water that kills
the plants and animals. The "wet" sounds like the Spirit-inspired church in action.)
- Why do you think the water in Ezekiel's vision
started out as a small leak and ended as a vast
river? (God wants us to know that He work is
progressive. We might start small, but with the power
of the Holy Spirit, God's people will become a mighty
- Holy Spirit Practical Action
- Read Isaiah 61:1. With the background of the bones and the
water, how do you understand this text? (The Holy Spirit
empowers us to bring the gospel to those who are not doing
well because they do not know about God. These are the
"brokenhearted," "captives" and "prisoners" of the
darkness of Satan. We "dry bones" become empowered by the
Spirit to do the "wet" work of sharing the gospel and
changing lives of these people!)
- Read Isaiah 61:2. Do we have a mixed message? (Favor and
vengeance are opposites.)
- How do favor and vengeance bring comfort to those who
- Let's consider this for a few moments. Recall that the
brokenhearted, the captives and prisoners are being
helped. How were they originally injured? (The implication
is that they were harmed by Satan and those who follow
- How will vengeance bring comfort? (God's good news is
that He brings justice to wrong-doers and freedom and
comfort to those wronged. The wronged believe that
justice is being done.)
- Read Isaiah 61:5-6. What is the goal for God's people?
(Aliens and foreigners will do the low-class work
(shepherding) and the hard manual work (farming). God's
people, in contrast, will be involved in religious
leadership and getting rich from the work of other
- Wow! Did you know the Bible said that?
- Re-read Isaiah 61:1. How do you make any sense of this? We
start out with good news to the "poor," and that news is
that they will be freed, healed, and established so that
aliens and foreigners can work for them! Does that make
sense? Remember we are discussing how the Holy Spirit will
enliven us to engage in acts of justice and mercy.
- Are acts of justice and mercy for the poor not a
- What did you learn in last week's lesson about God's
provision for the poor? (In almost all cases they had
to work for their food. The church widows given
regular help had to have a track record of doing good
things. You might consider that the thread of logic
running through all of this is that God is not
looking to help all the poor, He is looking to help
the righteous poor. That would explain Isaiah 61:1
which singles out certain poor to help.)
- Read Luke 10:27-29. What question is the expert in the law
asking Jesus? (The same question we are discussing - who
is my poor neighbor that I should help? Is this just good
- Read Luke 10:30-37. Did the Samaritan test the merit or
righteousness of the beaten fellow? (No.)
- Is Jesus' counsel to the expert in the law at odds
with the counsel of the Old Testament when it comes
to acts of mercy and justice? (No. I see a
significant difference in the Good Samaritan story.
This is an emergency situation. We should help all
when it comes to emergencies and temporary
difficulties. But, when it comes to long-term
situations, we are directed to use our money and time
to advance the Kingdom of God in the life of the
person needing help.)
- Read Luke 15:17-20. This is the story of the Prodigal Son.
When he was suffering, what did a lack of help do for this
young man? (It caused him to come to his senses. This
illustrates the kind of judgment God wants from us. We
should help the righteous poor. With regard to the
unrighteous poor, our aid needs to promote the dignity and
blessings of work. We need to consider the best use of our
funds. We need to help the unrighteous come to their
- Friend, if you are a "dried bone," when it comes to
justice and mercy, will you ask the Holy Spirit to enliven
you to help others in a way consistent with Biblical
wisdom, and not merely random acts of kindness?
- Next week: Jesus on Community Outreach.
* Copr. 2016, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.