Summary: Ezekiel's prophecy reveals that we must allow God's holiness to drive our worship.
This morning we’ll finish our look at the prophecy contained in Ezekiel 38 and 39, so go ahead and turn into your Bibles to Ezekiel 39. As I mentioned last week, these two chapters contain one prophecy – one of the most difficult in the entire Bible to understand. There are just too many aspects of this attack on Israel that just aren’t revealed to us in enough detail to draw definite conclusions about these events. In particular, identifying the timing of these events with absolute certainty just isn’t possible. But those difficulties don’t mean that we can’t profit from a study of this passage.
If you read through both chapters, you will find that the overall structure of these events is outlined for us in chapter 38 and then chapter 39 expands upon some of the details of those events. For time’s sake I am not going to read all 29 verses in this chapter this morning, but rather I want to focus our attention on several key verses that will enable us to discern and apply principles that are relevant to us in our day-to-day lives.
Let’s begin by briefly reviewing what we learned in Chapter 38 last week:
• God is going to gather an alliance of Muslim nations for the purpose of attacking Israel.
• The attack will occur when at least some of the people of Israel are back in their land, living under a sense of false security and when the people have not yet recognized Jesus as Lord. We determined that the most likely timing was during the first half of Daniel’s 70th week.
• God will supernaturally rescue His people through the means of an earthquake, by causing infighting among the attackers, through pestilence and by raining down rain, hailstones, fire and sulfur on the attackers.
In chapter 39, we are given some additional details about the aftermath of these proceedings. There are two major events that will occur after God intervenes supernaturally that give us some idea of the magnitude of the death and destruction that will take place:
• The weapons of the attackers will be burned for seven years
9 “Then those who dwell in the cities of Israel will go out and make fires of the weapons and burn them, shields and bucklers, bow and arrows, clubs and spears; and they will make fires of them for seven years, 10 so that they will not need to take wood out of the field or cut down any out of the forests, for they will make their fires of the weapons. They will seize the spoil of those who despoiled them, and plunder those who plundered them, declares the Lord God. (vv.9, 10)
The weapons that are described here seem quite primitive compared to those generally used in war today. Instead of wood, we generally used hardened metals and space-age materials. So it’s hard for us to see how this part of the prophecy might be fulfilled. I’m sure that there are a number of ways this might come to pass, but two possibilities seem most likely.
The most likely explanation is that Ezekiel is describing what he saw in terms of what he knew about the weapons of war used in his time. In that case he would merely be describing what he saw in terms that his audience would understand. Also the Hebrew words can have meanings beyond how they are translated into English here. For instance, the word translated “bow” could be translated “launcher” and the word for “arrow” refers to any type of projectile, such as a missile. Although our modern weapons are not usually made of wood or other flammable materials, all we have to do is to look back at recent wars when the oil fields were set on fire for long periods of time to understand how this prophecy could be fulfilled in our day.
The second possibility is that conditions on earth will have deteriorated so much that armies will have literally reverted to using these more primitive weapons. We know from chapter 38 that this attack occurs after the land has recovered from previous wars and perhaps many of the more technologically advanced weapons have been destroyed during those wars.
But in any case, there will be so many weapons left on the battlefield that they will burn for seven years. If we are correct that this attack occurs during the first half of Daniel’s 70th week, that would mean this process will continue into the first part of the Millennium.
• The dead bodies will be buried for seven months
11 “On that day I will give to Gog a place for burial in Israel, the Valley of the Travelers, east of the sea. It will block the travelers, for there Gog and all his multitude will be buried. It will be called the Valley of Hamon-gog. 12 For seven months the house of Israel will be burying them, in order to cleanse the land. 13 All the people of the land will bury them, and it will bring them renown on the day that I show my glory, declares the Lord God. 14 They will set apart men to travel through the land regularly and bury those travelers remaining on the face of the land, so as to cleanse it. At the end of seven months they will make their search. 15 And when these travel through the land and anyone sees a human bone, then he shall set up a sign by it, till the buriers have buried it in the Valley of Hamon-gog. 16 (Hamonah is also the name of the city.) Thus shall they cleanse the land. (vv. 11-16)