Through the destruction and restoration of the temple in Jerusalem, we discover God’s purposes and desires for Israel as they worship.
Building blocks, paper, pencils
Connecting with the Scripture Topic
- Imagine that you’re Ezekiel and the events of chapter 8 are happening to you today. God takes you in a vision to see the Adventist world church and its actions. What would you see? Write your thoughts in story form and share them with the group.
- Distribute one building block to each group member. Now show the group a picture of the structure they are going to build. But here’s the twist: Group members will ignore any instructions and put the pieces where they please. When the building collapses, discuss why it fell. Relate the experience to that of God’s temple falling apart when the people continually disobeyed.
Sharing and Receiving Scripture
- What was the purpose of the temple in Jerusalem? Illustrate your thoughts by drawing a simple building with pillars. On each pillar, write a purpose.
- Thought Questions
Nehemiah is grieved by the reports of the disrepair of Jerusalem. Read his thoughts in Nehemiah 1. How might his experience parallel our need for building up the church today?
- Nehemiah heard a sad report; we should face difficult facts about our church.
- Nehemiah sat down and wept; it’s all right to feel sad about the state of our church today.
- Nehemiah fasted for many days; we should be willing to make sacrifices for our congregation.
- Nehemiah confessed the sins of the people; we should take responsibility for our church problems.
- Nehemiah claimed God’s promises; the Lord promises to restore the body of Christ as well.
One of the most encouraging prophecies of Jeremiah is found in Jeremiah 29:10-14. Do you believe there is an application of this prophecy to God’s church in our generation?
- No. They are completely different events.
- Maybe in a very broad, spiritual way. We as individuals are brought back from worldly captivity.
- Yes. God’s people will be restored when we go to heaven someday.
- Sure. We failed in 1888, so add 70 years and that equals 1958. What happened in 1958?
- Yes, three times! Literally, God’s people are returning. Spiritually, we are restored. Soon we will be in heaven.
Daniel 3 tells an amazing story of worship and loyalty. Daniel’s three friends refused to worship Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image and were thrown into a fiery furnace. Read the story and answer this question: Shouldn’t we be culturally sensitive when it comes to worship?
- Absolutely. We can stick to our principles while being considerate of others.
- Wait a minute! Cultural sensitivity is just a big word for excusing our loyalty to God.
- “I have become all things to all [humanity] so that by all possible means I might save some” (1 Cor. 9:22).
- The commandments on lying and stealing don’t change if we are in different cultures.
- It is unjust to judge African, Hispanic, or Native American worship as wrong just because it’s not Anglo-centric.
The book of Zechariah begins with a call to repentance. God’s people were unfaithful and needed to return to the Lord. Read Zechariah 1:1-6. Which part of this call do you feel needs to be heard right now in your church? In your own personal life?
- “The Lord has been very angry with your fathers” (v. 2).
- “Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Return to Me… and I will return to you’” (v. 3).
- “Do not be like your fathers… They did not hear nor heed Me” (v. 4).
- “Your fathers, where are they? And the prophets, do they live forever?” (v. 5)
- “According to our ways and according to our deeds, so God has dealt with us” (v. 6).
Applying the Message of Scripture
Gather in groups of two or three. Choose one of the following options and work on a solution. Then report back to the larger group when your facilitator says time is up.
- Option 1: If there are three people in your group, pretend that you are Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. You’re headed to the fiery furnace unless you worship an idol. Brainstorm some ways to save your lives without dishonoring God. See if the larger group approves of your ideas.
- Option 2: One of your friends reads Jeremiah 29:13: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Knowing that you’re a Christian, he asks, “How do I do this? What does it mean to seek God with all my heart?” How will you answer?
- Option 3: Next week your pastor is preaching on Zechariah 1:1-6. The title of the sermon is “Return to Me,” and you get to write the sermon! Write a synopsis of what you want the pastor to say. What important points do you want to be made? What challenge will you give to the listeners?
Valuing Scripture in Your Life
- Read Ezekiel 8:12. Do you sometimes feel like the elders—that God does not see you and has forsaken you? Make a list of all God has done for you from your earliest memory until today. Can you see God’s hand? Keep the list in your Bible so you can recount God’s goodness when you feel discouraged.
- Considering Ezekiel 8, ask yourself some honest questions: Am I hindering my local church in any way? Am I professing to be a leader but not living like one? What can I do to make my church the kind of church God wants it to be?