Day 1 – Ezekiel 34: 11-16 & 20-24

**Two weeks ago we read in Amos about the Northern Kingdom of Israel turning away from God and going into captivity. Today we are reading about the Southern Kingdom of Israel, Judah, falling into much the same pattern. [View the Map]

Ezekiel, was one of God’s prophets to the citizens of the Southern Kingdom of Judah. His message came during the reign of the last king of Judah, King Zedekiah, through the early part of the Babylonian Captivity (593-580’s).

At this point in the reading Judah has fallen into Babylonian Captivity. Ezekiel, one of the exiles, is speaking to the other exiled Israelites in captivity. His general message was of God’s promise of restoration and hope. God reassures that He will seek out His sheep wherever they may be and will personally take care of them (referred to here as the mountain heights of Israel). Then God addresses those who have served themselves, identifying especially those who used their wealth and position to exploit and abuse others for their own advantage. He will separate sheep from sheep and judge them. God ends asserting His power, making it clear that He is able to carry out what He decrees.

 Read Ezekiel 34: 11-16 & 20-24

Have you ever had to search for something? Share stories of lost animals, toys,...How great is it that God says HE will come and search for us? How does that add to our understanding of Jesus coming into the world?

Ezekiel is speaking to people who have been forcefully removed from their homes. Consider refugees, what does it mean to be a refugee? Read Philippians 3: 20-21. If we are citizens of heaven, how are we, too, like refugees (exiles) in this world?   View this video to learn more about what it means to be a refugee.

Since Ezekiel is speaking to people who have been exiled from their homes, how encouraging are some of these words and ideas? Which would be most comforting to you if you were in a strange place.

Talk about a time you felt alone or lost. Have you ever felt that way spiritually? 

Who can you name that seems like they might feel lost or alone? What can you do to
comfort them?

Close with a time of prayer, praying for family, refugees,  those who are lost spiritually around you, even praying for those who exploit and abuse others-that they would see the error of their ways and trust in God.

Day 2 – Matthew 25: 31-46

As we look at this reading we find Jesus describing the proceedings that will take place on the last day. God has opened His court, and the deeds of all people who lived are earth are reviewed. The defendants divided into two categories: the sheep (those who lived out their faith in Jesus by deeds of compassion for others), and the goats (those who rejected God and man by serving only themselves). Jesus recognizes the the sheep’s good works of response, and they enter into the eternal joy of companionship with God Himself, while the goats enter into eternal punishment that was originally reserved for Satan and the angels who followed him. Our deeds of compassion reflect the hope and joy that we have in Christ and this story reminds us that our faith is like a tree that WILL produce fruits of faith.

Read Matthew 25: 31-46

Using the analogy of fruit and tree. How are good works better understood as fruit? When it comes to what Jesus has done for us, how is that better understood as ‘root’ of the tree?

Luther also used the analogy of a fire. When you start a fire you always get heat and light. How are good works like heat and light compared to our fire of salvation?

When has someone served you that was powerful or encouraging? What acts of service have you done that really helped someone? 

What is one way you can serve someone this week? How can you use this act of service to tell this person they are loved by Jesus?