Ezekiel 39

Ezekiel 39
by Pastor Mark Hudson

As mentioned in the comments on the previous chapter, it is difficult to identify who Gog and Meshach and Tubal are meant to signify.  We know the Ezekiel’s prophecies are not meant to be taken literally as we can see in the early chapters of this book.  Yet, we also know that they do have meaning and had to have meaning for the original audience.  I remember trying to convince an elder in another church that he does not take all Scripture literally.  Jesus is not a door, bread or a road.  We are not sheep. What he meant, is that all the words of Scripture are true and breathed out from God.  Of course we can hold to the latter without making all expressions hold to the former definition of literal.

Christopher J. H. Wright, in his commentary on p. 326, give the “clues to the non-literal, symbolic nature of the narrative.  These include the vague menace of the ‘foe from the north’; the cosmic effects of God’s judgment (earthquake, mountains shaking, plague, fire, and brimstone, etc.); the repeated use of sevens, the expression ‘in that day’; and the personification of animals at God’s table.”

He continues to point to two levels of fulfillment.  The church will always face foes that are in opposition to God and his truth.  We can all identify a Babylon or a Gog in any age or in any country.  On another level, this points to the ultimate victory that our Lord Jesus will have in the future over Satan.  While it seems like Satan is defeating us, we know he is on a leash.  He cannot do everything.  God still is in ultimate control.

So what can we safely glean from this chapter?  One, the nations, even when they are in outright rebellion against God are doing His bidding.  If God refers to Gog or Babylon as a synonym for the ‘enemies of God,’ verse 2 teaches us that God uses wicked nations to do His will without them trying to obey Him or acting in a way that intentionally brings glory to God.  God is the one turning Gog around and driving him forward.  They are unwittingly doing what God wants as they curse God, make plans to harm God’s people,, and boast about themselves.

God is in control working out His redemptive purpose even when things look bleak and hopeless for God’s people. Gog is coming to Israel after they have returned to the land but not yet fortified (38:11ff) and yet they will be the ones who die.  In the Old Testament, the birds and the beast that are sacrificed and eaten by humans.  Here the humans are sacrificed and eaten by “birds of prey of every sort and to the beasts of the field” in v. 4.  If you are one of God’s people, you are beginning to see that God is now treating the nations like He treated Israel.  God’s people are thinking that God is now, finally now, protecting them.

The theme we have seen over and over again is found in v. 7, “And the nations shall know that I am the Lord, the Holy One in Israel.”  How this will happen is unknown but the defeat of God’s enemies is critical.  God wants people to know Him.  If not know Him in loving submission, then know Him by being defeated by His power.  Surprisingly, God is still associated with Israel.  He calls Himself, the Holy One in Israel.  One might imagine that God would be rid of Israel.

Verses 9-16 are a big challenge (at least for me) to understand.  This grand reversal of Gog and Israel’s fortunes result in Israel using the weapons, shields, bow and arrows, etc. for fuel for 7 years.  In verses 11-16, the people of Israel as burying the dead.

In 17-20, the sacrificial feast where birds and beasts shall “eat the flesh of the might, and drink the blood of the princes of the earth” is repeated.  The hordes of the enemies of God will not be given a proper burial but be eaten by wild animals a terrible and dishonorable thing for a person to imagine.

There is a double knowing.  First the nations should know that God is a holy God.  An aspect of that knowing is to know that God punished Israel because of their sin and therefore were sent into exile (v. 21-24).  Israel is the other nation that will know.  In vs. 25-29, Israel will receive mercy (v. 25) and “they shall forget their shame and all the treachery that have practiced against Me” (v. 26).  They will know that God brought them back and “assembled them into their own land.  And God will pour out “My Spirit upon the house of Israel.” In v. 29.

I honestly do not know when this did or will happen.  I don’t’ understand a lot of it but what I do understand is one of the many pictures of what God (the great Giver) promises to do for His people. I have not been exiled but I certainly have sinned in ways that dishonor the glorious Creator and Redeemer of my eternal soul.  Every believer is an exile in this world.  God could have exposed my sin.  Yet He promises Israel and the true Israel of God (Gal 6:16) such forgiveness, grace, and restoration that is out of this world.

Lord, You are so so good.  What You promise to sinners like us is beyond what we could think or imagine.  You must love to give to Your people over and over again because You keep giving.  To think You give us joy that will never end but only increase.  You provide us bodies that tire and age but we will be given bodies that will last forever.  You give us minds that slowly fail here but will comprehend, even in some degree, Your grace in the gospel when we come to the place You have prepared for us.  It is all You.  We lose ourselves in loving, exalting, worshipping, and obeying You.  Keep us from sin and clinging to our merciful Savior.  In Christ’s most holy name.  Amen.