August 25th, 2021 - Ezekiel 37-39
A message came to Ezekiel to take a piece of wood and carve words on it. This is another sign act for Ezekiel that demonstrated the future reunification of God’s people and the healing of the schism between the northern and southern tribes. The sovereign Lord would accomplish this by His own hand. Both the northern kingdom and the southern would be written on pieces of wood and then God would join them together. When the kingdoms were reunited the problems that had led to the schism would also be resolved. In place of divisive leadership that had split the nation in two, God would supply a single servant leader, a Shepherd king. Like David, this Shepherd would unite the tribes. This restored people would also be renewed and cleansed from their idols and vile images. Now the Lord would once again be their God, and because they were purified, they would keep the Lord’s decrees and live there forever.
Verses 26-28 speak of the covenant of peace, which is the blessing of covenant obedience. This covenant would be everlasting. The people’s earlier defiling of the temple led to its destruction and their punishment in exile. But now they would have a new purity that would be matched by a renewed sanctuary. This would be a temple in which God would dwell in their midst forever. This final temple would be the culmination of the success of God’s sanctifying power, and it would demonstrate that it is the Lord alone who makes Israel holy. There would be one kingdom and one king.
Chapters 38-39 speak of Gog and Magog. These chapters depict an enemy invasion of Israel which leads to a national conversion. From that time on the people will know that God is the Lord. This invasion consists of an alliance of nations that originate from the Black Sea area, Persia, and Northern Africa. The time is in the last days, when Israel will be gathered out of many peoples to her land where she will live securely. But the battle is described in terms of ancient warfare. The villages of Israel are unwalled, a reference to the peaceful conditions in the land. During the attack God will intervene, bringing judgement on the invaders, glorifying Himself, and making Himself known among the nations. Ezekiel describes the aftermath of God’s judgement. For seven years Israel will use their weapons for fuel. Gog’s graveyard east of the Dead Sea will be so massive it will cause traffic jams for those traveling through that region. According to the sages, the Valley of Hamon-Gog will be reserved for Gog, and it will take seven months to bury the dead and cleanse the land. Then the Gentle nations will finally understand why Israel experienced such a turbulent and violent history. Israel’s final state of joy and security will overshadow their shame. They will enjoy safety, a relationship with the Lord, and God’s Spirit. The identity of Gog is unknown though several identifications have been applied. It is possible that the name is left vague intentionally making God a mysterious undisclosed enemy of God’s people. Magog was one of the sons of Japheth, and thus the name of a people. The word may also just mean ‘land of Gog’. Israel had long experienced the hostility of the Hamites, descendants of Noah’s son Ham, and other Semitic people. The coalition of people here includes and is led by the descendants of another of Noah’s sons, Japheth. The descendants of Japheth occupied lands from Spain to Asia Minor, the islands of the Mediterranean to southern Russia. Meshech and Tubal are even more unknown though scholars believe they may be somewhere in the vicinity of Magog.
The idyllic scene in chapter 37 of the reunited nation living at peace in its own land gives way to gathering storm clouds. Ezekiel gives us a two chapter depiction of the assault, defeat, and disposal of the last enemy, Gog. The text is far less concerned with Gog’s identity than with the universal threat caused by the nations of the world. What we see is that even an overwhelming force would be no serious threat to the restored people of God because God was now dwelling in their midst. Some of the symbolism here is similar to the psalms of Zion’s security, like 2 and 46. If even a fearsome foe like Gog could not separate God’s people from His protection, then nothing in all of creation could do so. I am reminded of Paul’s letter to the Romans, 8:38-39, where he writes that there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Gog would lead a coalition of seven nations from the four corners of the world. Both numbers, four and seven symbolize completeness. Here they indicate an invincible alliance coming from far and near in all directions, from which there would be no escape. Magog, Meshech, Tubal, Gomer , and Beth-togarmah were located in the north…Anatolia and the region beyond the Black Sea. Persia was to the east, Ethiopia to the south and Libya to the west. Gog’s rebellion would be under God’s control. Though they would regard themselves as free willed aggressors, they would actually be prisoners with hooks in their jaws. One thing to remember here is that when biblical prophets speak of battles in the distant future, they use descriptions of weaponry and tactics they know, such as swords and bows and arrows. This battle is described as a climactic final battle that will preceded a final state of peace. There are a variety of views as to whether this final battle is a literal event at the end of history, or a literary depiction of the Lord’s protection of His permanently embattled people. Either way, the point remains that when the Lord’s favor rests upon His people, no one and nothing can separate them from that protection, even the most all out assault of evil. The imagery in verse 9 is reminiscent of the threatening imagery in chapter one when God was Israel’s enemy. At that time Israel looked to the surrounding rebellious nations for protection. This time Israel will look to God for protection from the nations. The Lord’s hook in Gog’s jaw would consist of Gog’s own wicked scheme to destroy the defenseless and unsuspecting Israelites and capture their plunder.
The merchant nations of the world, from Sheba and Dedan in the east to Tarshish in the west, would line up to market the booty from the apparently sure victory of Gog and his allies. But Israel would be rich, living in peace, and experiencing the fruit of obedient trust in the Lord. We have to remember that even when we live in obedient trust that does not eliminate the possibility of threatening circumstances. The odds were certainly stacked against Israel but Gog had failed to take into account the fact that God would fight on Israel’s side. God would use Gog and all his allies as a tool for Displaying His holiness in the sight of all the nations. Gog here was not the same enemy from the north that Jeremiah prophesied about. Those prophecies were fulfilled when Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon wreaked havoc in Judah and Jerusalem. Nebuchadnezzar was an agent of God’s divine wrath then. But here, Gog would be the recipient of God’s wrath. The Lord would vent on Gog the jealousy and blazing anger he had earlier visited on Israel. The scene would be so frightening that even innocent bystanders would quake in terror. The earth would tremble, destroying mountains, cliffs and walls. When you read of God’s wrath here remember that Jesus stood in our place, taking this wrath so we don’t have to. Israel had experienced God’s terror, devastation and destruction before. Now Israel’s enemies would experience the same thing. We see the divine warrior once again defending His people. The use of fire and brimstone was reserved only for the greatest catastrophes. Destroying Gog was a BIG deal.
The prophesy against Gog indicated that God would be bringing Gog against Israel in order to break him. Fearsome as he was, Gog would be left helpless. His corpse and those of all his allies would become food for wild animals and carrion birds. Fearsome foe Gog, would be left helpless. His homeland would be devastated and the destruction his hordes had planned for the people of Israel would return on their own heads. God’s judgement on Gog would make known His holy name. The same zeal God has judged His own people with He would now use to defend His people. And in that same zeal God would judge their enemies. Once God had completely defeated Gog and his allies, then God’s people would be called upon to act. Their task was to bury the enemies, and cleanse the land. It is ironic that the only items to survive the fire from heaven would be the wooden weaponry. And there would be enough wood to fuel Israel’s fires for seven years! Seven represents completeness in the Old Testament. Those who came to plunder would be plundered, their weapons no longer necessary. After the battle God’s people would gather the plunder and bury the bodies of the slain soldiers. These corpses would otherwise defile the holy land because contact with a corpse would render a person unclean. There were so many corpses that a huge graveyard would be needed, one large enough that eventually an entire valley would be used and it would be known as the Valley of Gog’s hordes. There would be so many bodies that every person in Israel would be involved in the clean up for seven months. And after that there would still be a need for people to go about the land, tagging remains so that they could be properly disposed of. God would also provide His own disposal team, gathering wild animals and birds for His great sacrificial feast. Typically a sacrificial feast featured slaughtered animals and the people ate. This feast would allow the animals to dine on slaughtered humans as though they were rams, lambs, goats, and bulls. This is the reversal of the great messianic banquet, featuring the enemies of God as the menu rather than as the invited guests.
The Lord will demonstrate His glory in all of history. He did this through the punishment of Israel during their exile because of their defilement and their sins. God would also demonstrate His glory through His people’s return home from exile in the land of their enemies. Once God had exhausted His wrath upon them for their sins, He would bring them home again and leave none of them behind. He would pour out His Spirit upon the people of Israel, transforming them in order to prevent a recurrence of their former situation. And He would never again turn His farce from them. His future favor on His people was assured.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W
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