On January 14, 2006 the Daily Bread devotional began with the following illustration. “I was washing my car one evening as the sun was preparing to kiss the earth goodnight. Glancing up, I impulsively pointed the hose at it as if to extinguish its flames. The absurdity of my action hit me, and I laughed.
“Then I though of God’s laughter in Psalm 2. Wicked nations were plotting to overthrow God’s anointed, thus ultimately opposing the Almighty Himself. But He sits in the heavens, calm and unthreatened. Man’s boldest efforts to oppose such awesome power is ludicrous. The Almighty doesn’t even rise from His throne; He just laughs in derision.”
When we think of the nations of the world, we often think of them as very powerful and having the ability to impact our lives in a way that we have no control over. I am sure that is how my parents felt as they were pawns in the war between Germany and Russia. I wonder sometimes how Christians in countries ruled by a Muslim or Buddhist government feel when their freedoms are threatened? I think that many cattle farmers felt that powerlessness when the United States closed the border to Canadian beef a few years ago. I think we felt like that as we watched, almost helplessly, as the definition of marriage was being changed in our country.
But are nations all-powerful? Do they have the final word? What about Psalm 24:1 which says, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it…?”
In Ezekiel 24:1,2, God had let the exiled Jews in Babylon know that a siege had begun against Jerusalem. A few weeks ago, as we examined Ezekiel 33:21,22, we noted that that the siege had came to an end when the city of Jerusalem had fallen to the Babylonians. How vulnerable and weak God’s people must have felt! They might have asked, “Is God big enough to help us?” “Who is in control?”
It is in this context that Ezekiel writes God’s word to the nations. In Ezekiel 25-32 a number of nations are addressed. As God’s people at that time heard this message, they were reminded that God is in charge. As we hear the message in these chapters, we also hear that God is sovereign. How does that impact our life?
Please turn to Ezekiel 25 and let us examine the message to these nations. A look at the map will help us realize who these nations were and where they were placed. We notice that they are all nations which surrounded Israel.
In chapter 25, four nations are addressed. In 25:1-7 Ammon is addressed. In 25:8-11 Moab is confronted. In 25:12-14, God speaks to Edom and in 25:15-17, there is a word to Philistia.
From chapters 26-28, the message is about the city of Tyre. It includes a prophecy against Tyre and the king of Tyre and a lament for the fall of Tyre. In chapters 29-32, it is Egypt which is addressed. Once again, the message is a prophecy against Egypt and against Pharaoh and also a lament for Egypt.
What was the relationship of these nations to Israel? Some of the connections were economic. The text makes it clear that Tyre was a seafaring nation. They got goods from many other places because they had a large fleet of ships. However, their agricultural production was limited and so Israel became Tyre’s breadbasket. Similar relationships probably existed with the other nations.
Edom had a special relationship with Israel. The Edomites were the descendants of Esau. So Israel and Edom were actually relatives. Over the centuries, however, they had had a rather stormy relationship.
Of course Israel had a very significant relationship with Egypt. Abraham and Isaac had both gone down to Egypt at one time in their life. Then during the days of Jacob and his twelve sons, the whole nation went to Egypt and spent 400 years there. At the end of that, they came out of Egypt as a whole slave nation being released from their slavery. At that time, God told them that they should not return to Egypt.
So we realize that they were in a relationship with these nations much like Canada and the United States are in a relationship with each other.
What was God’s message to these nations?
Ezekiel 25:3 indicates the guilt of Ammon. God says to them, “Because you said ‘Aha!’ over my sanctuary when it was desecrated and over the land of Israel when it was laid waste…” They had mocked Israel because of the devastation and God promised that he would punish them. He said to them in vs. 4, “I am going to give you to the people of the East.”
Ezekiel confronted Moab with its guilt in 25:8 when He accusee them of saying, “Look, the house of Judah has become like all other nations.” They failed to realize the special relationship Israel had as God’s people and as a result, God promised to punish them.
According to 25:12, Edom had taken revenge on the house of Judah and as a consequence, God promised, “I will lay it waste…” in 25:13.
Philistia “sought to destroy Judah” as we read in 25:15 and as a result God promised in vs. 17, “I will carry out great vengeance on them.”
The guilt of Tyre was similar to that of Ammon because 26:2 also indicates that they said “Aha! The gate of the nation is broken, and its doors have swung open to me; now that she lies in ruins I will prosper.” The guilt of Tyre is also represented by the king of Tyre who says, according to 28:2, “I am a god.” Because of its guilt, God describes a significant scene of terrible destruction which leave will leave Tyre in utter ruins.
A similar word is given against Egypt in chapter 29. Egypt thought of itself as self made, but God was against them. In verse 6, the guilt of Egypt is mentioned as being a nation that Israel turned to, but that never properly supported it. God also gives a word of condemnation against Egypt. Although he does not threaten utter destruction, he does indicate that it will come under God’s judgement.
Each of these nations, who could have been a support to Israel when Babylon attacked, mocked them and took advantage of them. Therefore, God’s judgement was against them.
The word of warning to these nations is a message of comfort to Israel, especially because of the theme which permeates this whole section. The underlying message is that the God of Israel is the sovereign Lord of all the earth.
The book Evidence That Demands A Verdict written by Josh McDowell presents some interesting information about how these prophecies were fulfilled. (p. 285ff.)
In the book McDowell first of all looks at chapter 26 and identifies some specific predictions made against Tyre.
Verse 7 - Nebuchadnezzar will destroy the mainland city of Tyre
Verse 3 - Many nations against Tyre
Verse 14 - Make her a bare rock.
Verse 14 - Fishermen will spread nets over the site
Verse 12 - Throw the debris into the water
Verse 14 - Never be rebuilt
Verse 21 - Never to be found again.
Please keep these verses in mind as I share with you what McDowell says about how these prophecies were fulfilled.
Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Tyre three years after this prophecy was made.
Tyre made terms and acknowledged Babylonian control
Mainland city was destroyed in 573 BC
City on the island remained powerful for several hundred years
Alexander the Great 333 BC
Demolished the city on the mainland
Built a causeway to the island 200 ft wide.
Reduced it to ruins in 332 BC
It became a bare rock, fishermen dry their nets there.
After a siege of 15 months Tyre was reduced by Antigonus 314 BC
City was rebuilt, but never wealthy
City was conquered by the Muslims in 690. laid in ruins to the present day.
“There is a city of Tyre today, but it is not the original city, but is built down the coast from the original site of Tyre.”
See how the specific predictions were fulfilled! The fulfillment of the prophecy tells us that God is in charge. He knows the beginning from the end. He is the one who rules over history. He is sovereign.
Of course that perspective is one that we can see from the understanding of what has happened since then. For Israel, they did not have that knowledge. But the message of God’s sovereignty still is present in the text.
The words “Lord Jehovah” are used 44 times in this section of Ezekiel. Different translations say it differently. It is either “Lord God or Master God or in the NIV, Sovereign Lord.
Because it is used so often in such a few chapters, there is no question that there is a message in that phrase. God is communicating to His people and to us that He is in charge. Not the nations, not the gods of the nations but the Sovereign God is in charge.
The other phrase that is used repeatedly in this passage is the phrase, “Then they will know that I am the Lord.” This phrase appears 25 times in the Bible. Of those 25 times, one is in Exodus and all the others are in Ezekiel. Of all the times this phrase is used in Ezekiel’s 48 chapters, more than half of the occurrences, 13 times, the phrase appears in these eight chapters.
Once again that is something that is worthy of note. God’s message is “I am the Lord.” One commentator, speaking about the Egypt section says, “God is in complete control of the community of nations.”
We could find many other ways of looking at this theme in these chapters, but suffice it to say that the message God has for the nations surrounding Israel and the message He has for Israel and for us is that He is the sovereign God who rules not only over His people, but over all people, indeed, over all creation.
Colossians 1:16 reinforces that message when it says about Christ, “For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.”
Think about how Israel would have felt at this time in their history. They were devastated, mocked by other nations and feeling like God had no power. This feeling may have been especially powerful for them. The common understanding of nations at that time was that if you won a war, it was obvious that your god was stronger than that of the other nation. The king of Tyre thought “I am a god(28:2).” Pharaoh thought “The Nile is mine; I made it for myself(29:3).” Because it was destroyed, every nation around would have had the thought that the God of Israel was weak and powerless.
How do we feel in the presence of the world of nations? We don’t think of nations and heads of nations as if they are gods, but we do acknowledge that nations have great power over our lives.
The United States and we by close association, are under attack by terrorists who think nothing of blowing themselves up in order to kill others. Does that mean that we are unsafe in our own home towns?
Many Christians in the world are experiencing severe persecution. Does that mean that the evil world powers will win over God’s kingdom?
We even have reason to fear our government. When the definition of marriage was changed just a few months ago, did we not sometimes wonder whether righteousness had any influence?
Our government spends billions to curb gun violence with a gun registry, but gun violence increases any way. Does that mean that our country will deteriorate to the point where it will be unliveable?
There are movies, like The Matrix or even the Star Wars movies, which depict a society in anarchy. Is that going to be the future of our world?
What do these chapters of Ezekiel have to say to this situation in which we live? Is the God who demonstrated His sovereignty over the nations surrounding Israel still the sovereign God?
I believe that the message of Ezekiel 25-32 is a powerful encouragement to us. God is on His throne. The arrogance and violence of the nations Ezekiel addressed was not unnoticed by God. All the nations which exist without reference to God, will have to answer to Him. God is sovereign still.
Let this be an encouragement to us.
The world system seems so powerful now but don’t let that apparent power fool you or sway you into following it. May these words in Ezekiel encourage us regarding world history and regarding our relationship to governing powers. May these words take away our fear of the nations. May they encourage us to stay on God’s side. May they encourage us to live in God’s way and not be swayed by the powers and values of the world.