Lesson 141: Ezekiel 33–36
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“Lesson 141: Ezekiel 33–36,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2014)

“Lesson 141,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual

Lesson 141

Ezekiel 33–36


Through Ezekiel, Jehovah warned the Jews in Babylon of the consequences of continuing in their sins. After He condemned some of the leaders of the Israelites for not caring for the people as they should, Jehovah compared Himself to a good shepherd who loves and protects His flock. The Lord promised His people that their enemies would be destroyed and, after returning to Him, His people would be restored to their land.

Suggestions for Teaching

Ezekiel 33

As a watchman, Ezekiel warns the people against continuing to live sinfully

Draw the following diagram on the board. Read aloud the following statement, and invite students to explain whether they believe it is true: “As long as you perform more righteous acts than sins during your life, you will certainly return to live with Heavenly Father forever.”

Invite students to look for truths as they study Ezekiel 33 that indicate how Jesus Christ will judge us and what we must do to qualify to live with Heavenly Father forever.

To help students understand who is speaking in this chapter, you may want to remind them that in both ancient times and today, Heavenly Father appointed Jesus Christ, or Jehovah, to speak for Him to the prophets. Jehovah, “usually identified in the Old Testament as LORD (in small capitals), is the Son, known as Jesus Christ, and … is also a God. Jesus works under the direction of the Father and is in complete harmony with Him” (Bible Dictionary, “God”).

Summarize Ezekiel 33:1–9 by explaining that Jesus Christ reiterated that the role of a prophet is similar to the role of a watchman. A watchman is responsible to warn people of unforeseen danger (see Ezekiel 3:17–21). Remind students that Ezekiel was called to preach to Israelites who had previously ignored the warnings of prophets and were now suffering the consequences of their sins while living as captives in Babylon.

Invite a student to read Ezekiel 33:10 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for a question that the Lord said the Israelites had asked. Explain that to “pine away” in their sins means the people felt they were wasting away in their sins. The word live in this verse can mean to enjoy peace and happiness in this life and eventually live in Heavenly Father’s presence.

  • According to verse 10, what was the people’s concern?

Ask a student to read Ezekiel 33:11 aloud. Invite the class to follow along, looking for Jehovah’s response to the Israelites’ concern.

  • What message about Himself did Jehovah instruct Ezekiel to communicate to the Israelites?

  • What did Jehovah instruct the Israelites to do?

Explain that as recorded in Ezekiel 33:12–16, the Lord gave two examples to help the Israelites understand the importance of turning from their sins and living righteously.

Invite a student to read Ezekiel 33:12–13 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Jehovah taught about our righteousness.

  • What does it mean that our righteous acts will “not be remembered” if we turn to iniquity (verse 13)?

Invite a student to read Ezekiel 33:14–16 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what happens to the wicked who turn from their sins.

  • What happens to the wicked who turn from their sins?

  • What does it mean in verse 16 that none of the sins of a wicked person who turns away from his sins “shall be mentioned unto him”? (The Lord will not take those sins into account at the Final Judgment [see D&C 58:42].)

Invite a student to read Ezekiel 33:17–20 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, with half of the class looking for what the people said about the way of the Lord, or the way He will judge us, and the other half of the class looking for the Lord’s response to the people. (You may want to explain that the word equal in these verses means just or fair [see verse 17, footnote b].)

  • What did the people say about the way of the Lord?

  • How did Jehovah respond to the claim that His judgment is not fair?

  • How would you explain why Jesus Christ’s method of judging us is fair?

To help students better understand how Jesus Christ will judge us, invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Oaks, Dallin H.

“The Final Judgment is not just an evaluation of a sum total of good and evil acts—what we have done. It is an acknowledgment of the final effect of our acts and thoughts—what we have become. It is not enough for anyone just to go through the motions. The commandments, ordinances, and covenants of the gospel are not a list of deposits required to be made in some heavenly account. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a plan that shows us how to become what our Heavenly Father desires us to become” (“The Challenge to Become,” Ensign, Nov. 2000, 32).

  • Based on what you have learned from Ezekiel 33 and the statement by Elder Oaks, how would you summarize the Lord’s manner of judging us? (Students may provide a variety of answers, but make sure it is clear that Jesus Christ will judge us by the person we have become as the result of our thoughts and actions.)

Reread the statement from the beginning of the lesson. Invite students to explain why the statement is untrue. You may want to point out that if someone performs many righteous acts but then sins and turns away from righteousness, that person has not truly become righteous. On the other hand, if someone who has committed many sins chooses to turn to the Lord and repent, that person is no longer wicked.

  • Why do you think it is important to understand that Jesus Christ will judge us by what we have become as the result of our thoughts and actions?

Summarize Ezekiel 33:21–33 by explaining that Ezekiel learned that Jerusalem had been destroyed. Ezekiel prophesied that those who remained in or moved into the land of Israel and rejoiced in the destruction of Jerusalem would also be destroyed. The Lord also told Ezekiel that the Israelites “hear thy words, but they do them not” (Ezekiel 33:32).

Ezekiel 34

The Lord will take care of His flock like a good shepherd

Display or draw a picture of a shepherd on the board.

  • What are characteristics of a good shepherd?

Explain that Ezekiel 34:1–8 records that the Lord compared the leaders of Israel to shepherds and the people to sheep. Invite several students to take turns reading aloud from Ezekiel 34:1–8. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord said about the leaders of Israel and their treatment of the people.

  • What did the Lord say about the shepherds of Israel?

Write the following incomplete statement on the board: Jesus Christ is like a shepherd to His people because He …

Invite students to read Ezekiel 34:11–16 silently, looking for what Jesus Christ will do as a shepherd for His people. You may want to suggest that students mark what they find.

Invite students to identify ways that Jesus Christ is like a shepherd to His people. Record their answers on the board. (Students may identify a variety of ways, including that Jesus Christ gathers His people and gives them security, their own land, nourishment, rest, and healing.)

  • What are examples of how the Savior provides for the spiritual needs of His sheep?

  • What do we need to do to receive these blessings from Him?

  • How would you summarize as a principle what Jesus Christ will do for us if we follow Him? (Students may use different words, but make sure they identify the following principle: If we follow Jesus Christ, then He will bless us temporally and spiritually.)

  • When has the Savior been like a good shepherd to you by providing one of the blessings listed on the board?

Summarize Ezekiel 34:17–31 by explaining that Ezekiel prophesied that the Lord would deliver His people from their oppressors. This prophecy also refers to the time when the Lord will come to the earth in the latter days and gather the lost sheep of Israel through covenants. They will live with Him in safety, never to be scattered again.

Ezekiel 35–36

The Lord pronounces judgments and promises on Edom and Israel

Summarize Ezekiel 35:1–36:7 by explaining that after Jerusalem was destroyed and many of the Jews were taken captive to Babylon, the people of Edom, a neighboring nation of Israel and Judah, planned to take over the land that was now left desolate. Jehovah promised that because the people of Edom rejoiced in the destruction of Israel, they would also be destroyed and their land would be left desolate. As recorded in Ezekiel 36:8–38, the Lord then promised that He would bless the land to be fruitful and would gather all of Israel to rejoice in it. This prophecy, like the prophecy in Ezekiel 34:17–31, refers to Ezekiel’s day as well as to the last days.

Invite several students to take turns reading aloud from Ezekiel 36:24–28. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what God promised to do for those who choose to follow Him in the last days.

  • What does it mean to have a “stony heart” (verse 26)? How might having a stony heart affect someone?

  • According to verse 26, what did the Lord promise to do for those who follow Him? (Students may use different words, but they should identify the following principle: If we follow Jesus Christ, He can change our hearts.)

To help students understand what it means to have a new heart, or a change of heart, consider asking them to read Mosiah 5:2 silently. You may want to invite them to write this reference in the margin next to Ezekiel 36:26.

  • What does it mean to have a change of heart?

You may want to share your testimony that each of us can receive a change of heart if we seek it by following Jesus Christ. Write the following questions on the board:

1. In what ways do I need a change of heart?

2. What will I do in the coming week to invite the Holy Ghost to help me receive a change of heart?

Invite students to write their responses to these questions in their class notebooks or scripture study journals. Explain that you will not ask them to share what they wrote with the class.

After sufficient time, encourage students to seek a change of heart in the ways they have identified.

Commentary and Background Information

Ezekiel 33:12, 14–16. Turning from sin

One may erroneously assume from these verses that repentance is easy and that we can indulge in sin and then quickly turn from our sin through repentance and all will be forgotten. Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught:

“All of our personal experience confirms the fact that we must endure personal suffering in the process of repentance—and for serious transgressions, that suffering can be severe and prolonged. …

“Why is it necessary for us to suffer on the way to repentance for serious transgressions? We tend to think of the results of repentance as simply cleansing us from sin. But that is an incomplete view of the matter. …

“When a person has gone through the process that results in what the scriptures call a broken heart and a contrite spirit, the Savior does more than cleanse that person from sin. He also gives him or her new strength. That strengthening is essential for us to realize the purpose of the cleansing, which is to return to our Heavenly Father. To be admitted to his presence, we must be more than clean. We must also be changed from a morally weak person who has sinned into a strong person with the spiritual stature to dwell in the presence of God” (“Sin and Suffering,” Ensign, July 1992, 73).

Ezekiel 36:26. “A new heart”

Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained that the Savior’s Atonement allows us to receive a new heart:

“To have our hearts changed by the Holy Spirit such that ‘we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually’ (Mosiah 5:2), as did King Benjamin’s people, is the covenant responsibility we have accepted. This mighty change is not simply the result of working harder or developing greater individual discipline. Rather, it is the consequence of a fundamental change in our desires, our motives, and our natures made possible through the Atonement of Christ the Lord. Our spiritual purpose is to overcome both sin and the desire to sin, both the taint and the tyranny of sin” (“Clean Hands and a Pure Heart,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2007, 82).