REFLECTIONS ON THE WRITING PROPHETS
‘Reflections’ on the Writing Prophets 39
E Z E K I E L
Very serious message to ‘reflect’ on this week. The war to end all wars, a future event. Ezekiel is instructed to prophesy against more enemies of Israel. The first mention of the name “Gog” appears in 1 Chronicles 5:4, the genealogy of Reuben. However, there are many who still argue about the identity and origins of the “Gog” (be it man or nationality), who (or which) is the main subject of this week’s ‘reflection’. What is abundantly clear is that Almighty God is against Gog! Identified as an enemy whom God will encourage to enter into battle with Israel, and then be defeated. The prophecy remains unfulfilled. Many believers look for the signs of that fulfilment because, importantly, it heralds the beginning of the end of this age, immediately preceding the return of Messiah Yeshua to rule and reign in Jerusalem for 1,000 years. And that is what the Scriptures are all about.
(Reference is made to Rosh, Meshech and Tubal. It is of little consequence to the events of this ‘reflection’, but “rosh” is a Hebrew adjective mentioned over 600 times in the Scriptures and always interpreted “chief”. It is not a description of territory, as Meshech and Tubal are identified as regional areas of present day Turkey. So, Gog is the ‘chief prince of Magog’. It is a matter of further interest that Gog and Magog rate an important mention again AFTER the millennial reign of Yeshua in Revelation 20, when Satan is released from the “prison” in which he will be chained. Gog and Magog are identified as ‘the four corners of the earth’. In that final battle, God uses fire to consume His enemies).
Then Ezekiel turned his attention to the battle plan God has devised. “Prepare yourself and be ready, you and all your companies that are gathered about you: and be a guard for them. After many days you will be visited (one might assume this to be by provocation of the Spirit of God). In the latter years you will come into the land of those brought back from the sword and gathered from the many people on the mountains of Israel, which had long been desolate; (remember the 1,800 years of drought which caused that desolation which we mentioned last week) they were brought out of the nations and now dwell safely.” To gain the timing perspective I carefully note that for at least 200 years Israel was occupied by the Greek and Roman invaders before Yeshua came to this earth. Then only in 1948 was Israel established again as a sovereign nation, and just in the last 70 years have we observed the enormous rates of immigration by Jews back to the land. So the invaders, when they appear as a great army of many nations, thinking it to be an easy task, complacent, ill prepared, contemplating a quick end to the battle, are in for a mighty shock. God said “Surely in that day there shall be a great earthquake in the land of Israel ….. and all the men who are on the face of the earth shall shake at My presence. Thus I will magnify Myself and sanctify Myself, and I will be known in the eyes of many nations. Then they shall know that I am the LORD." As this present age draws to a close, God is intent on revealing Himself to the world in a manner that leaves no doubt about Who He is. The days of optional opinions of Him will be behind us. His mighty arm exposed and demonstrated for all to see. No longer will “faith” be required to trust Him. Because they will ALL know Him, from the greatest to the least. This is the time generally known by believers as “the Ezekiel 38/39 war”. This is also consistent with the account of the breaking of the sixth seal described in Revelation 6:12-16.
Our “reflection" continues as Ezekiel speaks in prophecy to that great army. “You shall fall on the mountains of Israel, you and all your troops and the people who are with you; I will give you to birds of prey of every sort and to the beasts of the field to be devoured”. The description of the carnage which this battle produces is unprecedented. Read the description in Chapter 39 of our text. The invading armies are reduced, in death, to become a gigantic food lot for birds and wild animals. Horrific. “So I will make My holy name known in the midst of My people Israel, and I will not let them profane My holy name any more. Then the nations shall know that I am the LORD, the Holy One of Israel”. Then in emphatic terms He continued “Surely it is coming, and it shall be done,” says the Lord God, “This is the day of which I have spoken”. Now, as I write this “reflection”, I perceive that there are only TWO groups of people alive in this world today. There are those of us who trust and believe God, and there are others who do not. There is NO fence to sit on. But what I believe, and others may not, has NO bearing on the veracity of God’s plan. It is set out in plain and simple language. Make a choice. The future of every person is decided by the choice made.
The prophecy of Ezekiel declares that such will be the scale of the slaughter that it will take seven months for the whole land to be cleared of the remains of the dead, so that the land will be cleansed. A time which I presume will be part of the first year of the millennial reign of Yeshua, which immediately follows this “war to end all wars”. It is the time when the Apostle Paul declares that “All Israel shall be saved” (Romans 11:26). What God says is “When I have brought them back from the peoples and gathered them out of their enemies lands, and am hallowed in them in the sight of many nations, then they shall know that I am the LORD their God, who sent the into captivity among the nations, but also brought them back to their land, and left none of them captive any longer. And I will not hide My face from them anymore; for I shall have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel, says the Lord God”.
There could not possibly be a more clear declaration of the love of God for those who are preciously ‘called by His name’.
REFLECTIONS ON THE WRITING PROPHETS
‘Reflections’ on the Writing Prophets 38
E Z E K I E L
The nature of the prophetic message given to Ezekiel changes dramatically. We ended last week with exile from the land imminent, and future desolation prophesied. And so it was. In the event, approximately 1,800 years of debilitating drought, causing catastrophic desolation. And there remain serious issues with the “shepherds of Israel”. Those who should have been leading the people into safety, feeding them properly, spiritually, with the teachings given to Moses on the mountain centuries earlier. “Thus says the Lord GOD: ‘Behold, I am against the shepherds (of Israel), and I will require MY flock at their hand; I will cause them to cease feeding the sheep, and the shepherds shall feed themselves no more; for I will deliver My flock from their mouths, that they may no longer be food for them’.” Blunt, direct, unambiguous, final. Those appointed by God to be teachers and leaders are subject to a stricter judgment than those who are not (James 3:1). It was true in Ezekiel’s day, and it is true today. The penalty for leading people falsely, or selfishly, by seeking gain for oneself at the expense of the ‘flock’, is frightening. Yet, even today, hierarchical church structures, operating on the classic modern business model, are rife with it. In His letters to the “ekklesia” in Revelation, Yeshua described it as the “doctrine of the Nicolaitans”, which He hates.
The people had been scattered as a result of the neglect (for which God blamed the shepherds) of their covenant responsibilities. Firstly, they were exiled to Babylon, and from there, many returned about 70 years later. But this prophetic announcement of Ezekiel goes way beyond that exile. “Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out … and deliver them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day … and will bring them to their own land”. And that prophecy, my dear friends, we see being fulfilled before our own eyes in this generation. Consider this. No country can prosper without rain, and God controls the weather. After the exile by the Romans, Israel did not begin to have any meaningful rain again until about 1878. (In 1867, Mark Twain, in his book “Innocents Abroad” had described the country as “desolate and uninhabitable”). Then in 1897, Theodore Hertzl, at the age of 37 years, organised the first Zionist Council in Basel Switzerland. He died 7 years later, but the return of Jews to the Land had now began. In 1947, the United Nations agreed to grant Israel rights to the Land again. That very year, rainfall reached a new level. Another peak in 1967, when Jerusalem was restored to Israel. In 1973, when Israel successfully fought off the challenge of the “Yom Kippur” war, another rainfall peak occurred. In 2020, the ‘Sea of Galilee’ was a mere 21 cm below its ‘dangerous’ red line level, causing the authorities to contemplate opening the dam to release water from it!! AND, Jews “making Alyia” (going up) to Israel continued unabated. This friends, is what the LORD showed Ezekiel in our prophetic reading today. What a mighty God we serve. “I will establish one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them - My servant David. He shall feed them and be their shepherd”. Now clearly, king David had died about 400 years earlier. But his dynasty was established ‘for ever’ (2 Samuel 7: 12 -16). An unmistakable reference to Messiah Yeshua, and an event still future to us today. But there is MORE. “I will make a covenant of peace with them”. This is the NEW COVENANT, sealed with the ‘Blood of the Lamb’ which Jeremiah detailed, and which is to be made with ‘the house of Israel and the house of Judah’. (Jeremiah 31: 31-34) Gentiles may be included in that covenant by “grafting in” as Paul described in Romans 11. And that my dear friends, has privileges and responsibilities!! “Thus they shall know that I, the LORD their God, am with them, and they, the house of Israel, are My people”. It seems that God is focussed on ensuring that both by His own people, and by the world, that HE alone is known as God, and there is no other.
This whole theme of restoration of the scattered people of Israel to the land of God’s promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and His reason for so doing, is continued in Chapter 36. “Thus says the Lord GOD; ‘I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for My holy name’s sake, which you have profaned among the nations wherever you went …. And the nations shall know that I am the LORD … when I am hallowed in you before their eyes’.” It is a work in progress. A population of about 800,000 in 1948 has become 9,250,000 in 2020. Can anyone deny that God is fulfilling the prophecy of Ezekiel? ALL of it in my lifetime. And it is not finished. There are still about 6 million Jews not living in Israel. And a very small proportion of Jews have faith in Yeshua as Messiah. And so we come to the amazing prophetic message of Ezekiel 37. DRY BONES. “Can these bones live?” Ezekiel answered “O Lord GOD, You know”. Please read the prophetic words of Chapter 37 again, understanding that the process has already begun.
The nations of Israel and Judah, separate at the time when Ezekiel lived, are to “become one stick” again (v 19), as they were under the rule of king David. They will be ONE nation again, never to be divided (v 22). They will be ruled by the dynasty of David (Messiah Yeshua) (v 24). They will be united in Torah observance (v 24). And they will have a “New Covenant”. “The nations will know that I, the LORD, sanctify Israel, when My sanctuaries in their midst forevermore”.
The question that remains in my mind is .. why are believers in Yeshua today so ignorant of God’s eternal plan for His people, Israel? It is unfolding before our eyes.
REFLECTIONS ON THE WRITING PROPHETS
‘Reflections’ on the Writing Prophets 37
E Z E K I E L
The prophecy against Egypt (587 BCE by the date given to us by Ezekiel). Ezekiel had been taken captive into Babylon about 15 years earlier. Nebuchadnezzar’s army was just beginning their siege of Jerusalem. Egypt had been a world power for centuries and had prospered under the stewardship of Joseph when he was Prime Minister. Several years later, following his death, the prosperity continued for Egypt with the availability of an abundance of Israelite ‘slave labour’. Now Ezekiel was shown events which would soon follow for Egypt, and God would use first the Greeks (570 BCE), and then the same armies which were besieging Jerusalem (567 BCE) to bring judgement on the Egyptians. The Pharaoh was described as a ‘crocodile’, a mean cruel monster, which was once revered by Egyptians, but living in the rivers where Egyptians fished for food. Additionally, Israel had unwisely relied on Egypt in a military alliance, and been let down. “Then all the inhabitants of Egypt shall know that I am the LORD, because they have been a staff of reed (very weak) to the house of Israel (Isaiah 36:6). When they took hold of you with the hand, you broke and tore all their shoulders (turned on them), when they leaned on you, you broke and made all their backs quiver”. For that, God said He would make Egypt “desolate and waste”. And He did. But as a God of mercy and compassion, that was not the end for the people. “At the end of forty years .. I will bring back the captives of Egypt and cause them to return to the land of their origin, and there they shall be the lowliest of kingdoms .. so they will not rule over the nations anymore”. And they never have. The lesson for us? What God says, God will do!
In a very interesting twist, it seems to me, God had determined to reward the army of Nebuchadnezzar, for their help in bringing judgement upon Judah!! They had toiled for about 13 years in siege of Tyre as their reward, but were unsuccessful. The people of Tyre escaped to an Island and survived. “Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: ‘Surely I will give the land of Egypt to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; he shall take away her wealth, carry off her spoil and remove her pillage; and that will be the wages for his army. I have given him the land of Egypt for his labour, because he worked for Me.’ Says the Lord GOD”. God is no-one’s debtor.
The prophecy against Egypt continued, and as our reading progresses we see that other nations are drawn into the net of God’s wrath. Ethiopia, Libya, Lydia, Chub. Nations who supported, and had citizens working with, Egypt are all drawn into the net. “Those who uphold Egypt shall fall”, we are told. And here is perhaps another lesson for us today. We need to take great care to whom, and what, we support and provide aid. Because when God looks upon those who are His, He expects that we will not give our support to those who oppose Him. Certainly not those who are false teachers. Our God is a jealous God. Double standards will not be tolerated in any circumstance. One cannot support what God condemns. To do so is to be subject to the same condemnation. Then Ezekiel is told the reason for all this wrath AGAIN. “That they shall know that I am the LORD”. It is a recurring theme of God. When He instructed Moses to proclaim the curses which befell the Pharaoh of Egypt in his day, it was so that “they shall know that I am the LORD”. And because we are already blessed with the knowledge of Him. We are without excuse.
In Chapter 33 of our text, God returns to the message He first gave Ezekiel in Chapter 3. It is a message we should all learn. It is the role of “watchman”. It doesn’t sound too arduous, but it is viewed with great importance by God. In Chapter 3, God appointed Ezekiel as “watchman” for the house of Israel. Here in Chapter 33, God instructed Ezekiel to appoint other “watchmen”, with identical responsibility and consequence. It is a simple task. When danger appears, blow the trumpet to warn the people. It is what Ezekiel is doing in writing this prophetic book. Those who heed the warning will be saved from the danger. They take action themselves to be protected. But if the warning is deliberately ignored, then they take the consequential responsibility themselves. However, if the “watchman” does NOT sound the warning, he bears the consequential responsibility for his lack of action. I note that there is NO middle ground. It is concisely set out for us as God told Ezekiel “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?” Good question eh? Selah!
Our ‘reflection’ ends this week with a sad reminder that the Israelites did not heed the warning of the “watchmen”, and were taken, as a nation, into captivity in Babylon. But we know they were restored, in part, about 70 years later, when first Ezra, then Nehemiah, returned to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. So it comes as a surprise to see the prophecy in Ezekiel 33: 28 about the “desolation of the land”. This is a reference to another exile which took place when the Romans, in 135 CE expelled the Jews after the Bar Kochba uprising, and the siege at Masada. It is noteworthy that the land of Israel endured about 1,800 years of drought after that event. In 1867, the American author, Mark Twain, in his book “Innocents Abroad” wrote that the land, then known as Palestine, was a land “desolate and uninhabitable”. There was no meaningful rain there until about 1880! And today, Israel has an annual rainfall of approx. 600 mm. As we anticipate our “reflection” of next week, we will see how that is so important in God’s plan for those who are called by His name.
REFLECTIONS ON THE WRITING PROPHETS
‘Reflections’ on the Writing Prophets 36
E Z E K I E L
In a graphical, picturesque way, God spoke to Ezekiel about the abominations with which the Israelites had defiled themselves. Going back to their time in Egypt, as slaves, God identified the roots of their defilement. He used the example of two sisters to describe the downfall of both Israel and Judah (for which He uses the name of their capital city, Jerusalem). He might have expected that the sister “Oholibah” (Jerusalem) would have learned from the calamity which befell “Oholah” (Samaria). But the malady was deep seated, and had to be removed. Chapter 23 is quite descriptive, and requires no further comment to gain the impression of the disgust with which God viewed their behaviour, and for which He could no longer withhold judgment.
Ezekiel is specific about dating his revelations from the LORD. The dates commence (Ezekiel 1:2) from the reign of Judah’s king Jehoiachin. So the Ezekiel 24 encounter is set in 588 BCE, when the 18 month siege of Jerusalem began. The parable of the boiling pot is another graphic picture of a time of misery for the Judeans as they suffer the siege of Nebuchadnezzar. After the people are dealt with, the “pot” (Jerusalem) itself, is ruined in the fire. “It shall come to pass, and I will do it; I will not hold back, nor will I spare, nor will I relent; and according to your deeds they will judge you”. God told Ezekiel that he was not to mourn or weep over His judgement. Then in an almost unbelievable manner, Ezekiel says he told the people the message of God in the morning, and that very evening his own wife died! Did the LORD take away his natural sorrow supernaturally? We will never know. But what we do know is that Ezekiel was faithful to his allotted task, and became an example to the people. “Thus Ezekiel is a sign to you; according to all that he has done you shall do; and when this comes, you shall know that I am the Lord GOD”.
The “lamentations” continue. Ezekiel 25 records the words of the LORD against those who dealt spitefully with Israel. Turn your mind back to the promise God made to Abraham in Genesis 12:3. “I will (bitterly) curse (Heb. a’rar) those who (treat with contempt) curse (Heb. qalal) you”. So it is that we find Ezekiel instructed to prophesy the events which are to be visited on the Ammonites, and the inhabitants of Moab and Seir. They would scoff and ridicule the Judeans. Edom is mentioned again. The Philistines and the Cherethites, Tyre, Sidon. All the nations and groups who ‘treated Israel with contempt’ come under the judgement of the LORD for their actions. Because God described the Israelites as “My special treasure”, and “the apple of My eye”, those who ignore that relationship do so at their peril. And Ezekiel is chosen by God to reinforce that message. “Hear the word of the Lord GOD! Thus says the Lord GOD: ‘Because you said “Aha!’ Against My sanctuary when it was profaned, and against the land of Israel when it was desolate, and against the house of Judah when it went into captivity, indeed therefore I will deliver you as a possession to the men of the East etc. etc”. The Philistines too because “they dealt vengefully and took vengeance with a spiteful heart, to destroy because of the old hatred”. And don’t we see that in evidence today in many nations of the world. Curiously, to me, whereas God was bringing judgement on the Israelites because of their neglect of Torah, in many places, especially among some Christians, the ‘hatred’ seems to be because the Jews overtly uphold the Torah!! Work that out if you can.
We sometimes forget that whilst God is certainly concerned with the land of Israel because of His special relationship to the Jews, He actually commands the destiny of ALL nations. “For all the earth is Mine” (Exodus 19:5). It was His then, and it is His now, albeit temporarily the disobedient are under the influence of the “prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2). But that does not provide an acceptable excuse, before God, for behaviours which are detrimental to His beloved nation. Ezekiel is given a list of the detractors. Babylon heads the list, Ammonites, cities of Moab and Seir, Edom, the Philistines, citizens of Tyre, Sidon, Persia, Lydia, Libya, Syria all get a mention. And dear friends, I suspect that if Ezekiel were delivering that prophetic message today, there would be many more. To our great shame, well known names of countries and people groups joining that list. The word of the LORD still applies. “Because you have set your heart as the heart of a god, behold, therefore, I will bring strangers against you, the most terrible of nations; and they shall draw their swords against the beauty of your wisdom, and defile your splendour. They shall throw you down into the Pit, and you shall die the death of the slain in the midst of the seas”. I speculate here as I see in my mind, the cruel destructive hand of Islam as a possible agent of the LORD is bringing judgement on nations which have been, for many centuries, enemies and detractors of the dispersed of Israel!
Well the last word, as always, must go to the LORD Himself. “When I have gathered the house of Israel from the peoples among whom they are scattered, and am hallowed in them in the sight of the Gentiles, then they will dwell in their own land which I gave to My servant Jacob. And they will dwell safely there, build houses, and plant vineyards; yes, they will dwell securely, when I execute judgements on all those around them who despise them. Then they shall know that I am the LORD their God”.
That re-gathering is taking place in our generation. It is a sign that we are at the beginning of the end. I pray that those who claim to be “on the LORD’s side”, will join Him in being on Israel’s side too.