Monday, April 28, 2014

Fury Rising

This is another message that came to me from the LORD:  “Son of man, turn and face Gog of the land of Magog, the prince who rules over the nations of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him.  Give him this message from the Sovereign LORD:  Gog, I am your enemy!  I will turn you around and put hooks in your jaws to lead you out with your whole army—your horses and charioteers in full armor and a great horde armed with shields and swords.  Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya will join you, too, with all their weapons.  Gomer and all its armies will also join you, along with the armies of Beth-togarmah from the distant north, and many others.  “Get ready; be prepared!  Keep all the armies around you mobilized, and take command of them.  A long time from now you will be called into action.  In the distant future you will swoop down on the land of Israel, which will be enjoying peace after recovering from war and after its people have returned from many lands to the mountains of Israel.  You and all your allies—a vast and awesome army—will roll down on them like a storm and cover the land like a cloud.  “This is what the Sovereign LORD says:  At that time evil thoughts will come to your mind, and you will devise a wicked scheme.  You will say, ‘Israel is an unprotected land filled with unwalled villages!  I will march against her and destroy these people who live in such confidence!  I will go to those formerly desolate cities that are now filled with people who have returned from exile in many nations.  I will capture vast amounts of plunder, for the people are rich with livestock and other possessions now.  They think the whole world revolves around them!’  But Sheba and Dedan and the merchants of Tarshish will ask, ‘Do you really think the armies you have gathered can rob them of silver and gold?  Do you think you can drive away their livestock and seize their goods and carry off plunder?’  “Therefore, son of man, prophesy against Gog.  Give him this message from the Sovereign LORD:  When my people are living in peace in their land, then you will rouse yourself.  You will come from your homeland in the distant north with your vast cavalry and your mighty army, and you will attack my people Israel, covering their land like a cloud.  At that time in the distant future, I will bring you against my land as everyone watches, and my holiness will be displayed by what happens to you, Gog.  Then all the nations will know that I am the LORD.  “This is what the Sovereign LORD asks:  Are you the one I was talking about long ago, when I announced through Israel’s prophets that in the future I would bring you against my people?  But this is what the Sovereign LORD says:  When Gog invades the land of Israel, my fury will boil over!  In my jealousy and blazing anger, I promise a mighty shaking in the land of Israel on that day.  All living things—the fish in the sea, the birds of the sky, the animals of the field, the small animals that scurry along the ground, and all the people on earth—will quake in terror at my presence.  Mountains will be thrown down; cliffs will crumble; walls will fall to the earth.  I will summon the sword against you on all the hills of Israel, says the Sovereign LORD.  Your men will turn their swords against each other.  I will punish you and your armies with disease and bloodshed; I will send torrential rain, hailstones, fire, and burning sulfur!  In this way, I will show my greatness and holiness, and I will make myself known to all the nations of the world.  Then they will know that I am the LORD.     Ezekiel 38:1 - 23 (NLT)
Who can know and understand the wrath of God?  Our text says that one day God’s Fury Rising will be plainly seen!
This sermon comes at the request of Randy Jones, one of our members at Mt Zion UMC.  His interest in Ezekiel 38 comes from much interest in current events and Biblical prophecy concerning the end times and whether we are walking in those last days. 
As a disclaimer, let me admit that I am not a scholar concerning Geo-political maneuvering in ancient and current days.  I have a nephew who wrote an excellent book on the Byzantine Empire, but I depend on others for much of the background on Gog and Magog.
With the disclaimer out of the way, here are the 3 directions we will take this morning: 
1.     I want to make several statements that will serve as parameters for understanding why Ezekiel 38 is important.
2.     We will then look at the sociological and religious landscape of the Middle East.
3.     Lastly we will talk about what God will do, and when it will happen.  (We will end with what to do about it all).

Middle East Socio-Religious Conditions

Biblical Understanding

In Genesis 21 we have the sons of Abraham, Isaac and Ishmael.  Isaac became the head of the promised lineage of Abraham’s seed (the Jews) who would produce Messiah, Jesus.  Ishmael is the father of the Arab nations.  They fought from day #1 and are still a boiling pot of unrest.  Any nightly news program can attest to the conflict in the Middle East.
Our text tells us (v.11) that the descendants of Ishmael will attack a less-than-watchful Israel.  Today Israel is a powerful nation (militarily) with powerful allies (US, etc).  But they are at the center of everything everybody else in the Middle East cares about.

Political Understanding

The countries surrounding Israel are a collection of Ishmael’s descendants, and, particularly today, they are churning-out rebellion and violence at unprecedented speed:
·        Tunisia, Egypt and Libya have either lynched or exiled leaders since 2009
·        Yemen and Syria are now in the middle of anarchy
·        Al Qaeda is spread from the Afghan/Pakistan borders clear to the Horn of Africa
·        The USA is losing its grip on keeping peace in Palestine
·        Russia’s alliances with Iran (nuclear weapons) and many other Ishmaelite nations are beginning to show Russia's true colors.
Pastor John MacArthur wrote this about Russia’s probability to lead the charge when it comes to the Gog/Magog attack on Israel and her allies:
Russia’s great military might, geography, atheism, and anti-Semitism make that nation a prime prospect for being that hostile power.[1]

Religious-Political Fanaticism

Most of the Mid-Eastern nations (see handout) that will take part in this attack are predominately Muslim-led regions, which are Islamist in ideology, and fervently anti-Israel.
 The Islamists are adherents of a broad ideological movement that wants Islam to govern the entirety of human interactions, from politics, economy, culture to communal relations and family.[2]
The sociological realities which exist in most of these countries form a fertile soil for the perfect storm of hatred and violence against God’s Israel.  Sunnis and Shiites don’t trust each other, and that tension keeps most of the countries in poverty and internal strife.  Religious fanaticism and ignorance are seedbeds for rebellion.
In the 1930’s Germany’s economy was in shambles; the national shame over losing World War 1 made that country an easy target for an evil Adolph Hitler to rise to power.  He was going to be their savior, leading them out of Jewish mongrelism into world domination.  Instead he became their Fuhrer, a madman dictator whose hatred cost the lives of millions.
But, why focus on Israel?  Why will the siege of Ezekiel 38 converge on Jerusalem?  Simple answer:  Dome of the Rock.  This is the ancient temple site, and Muslim extremists everywhere understand that if the temple is ever rebuilt on that holy ground, all claim to the ancient city is forever lost to them.  In short, it is jihad, holy war; and the infidels must die!

What will God do?

Ezekiel’s prophecy is quite clear:  God is going to put it in the mind of Gog to lead the charge against His people Israel.  The Lord said he’d put a “hook” in Gog’s jaw and lead him like a tamed mule to do his work.
God is going to be the initiator of this awful battle.  He is going to shake the land as never before so all his children know it is the Lord who is doing it.  This will be his fury rising; it is the wrath of God unleashed. 
One side note – if you compare the description of an earthquake in Revelation 6 with what you read here in Ezekiel, you get the idea that this is part of the sixth seal broken by the angel as God pours out his bowls of wrath to judge the earth.
But, in the midst of all, God promises to “turn back” Gog.  His attack will be defeated by God’s supernatural intervention.  Today Israel trusts in its nuclear warheads and the protection of America.  In that day America will be powerless to help – only God can save them.

Are we there yet?

When is this going to happen?  In our day? 
Some say it has already passed.  Some say it will be coincidental with the Tribulation[3], and others still hold it will be at the end of the Millennium. 
But I have the date – it’s going to happen when God says it must.

How shall we live?

A sermon that only describes a problem and possible outcomes, without   challenging us to live well and holy is not a sermon; it is simply a Bible study.  So let’s see how we should live in light of this.

Trust God

Scripture indicates this wrath is not aimed at followers of Christ. 
For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,  1 Thessalonians 5:9 (NRSV)
When you trust God by accepting Christ’s gift of loving grace, your share of the wrath of God is already satisfied.  That’s salvation from the penalty of sin.  But when you are saved, you then…

Serve God

We serve God to give Him glory.  In the United Methodist Church we measure our lives by five promises of how we live.
·        Prayers – we pray for all persons to come to know Christ
·        Presence – we gather to worship, learn and grow together
·        Gifts – we open our purses and hearts to be a blessing in God’s kingdom
·        Service – we open our hands to help
·        Witness – we do whatever it takes to help others know this Christ who has died and risen to bring us eternal life.
God said through Ezekiel that by His great and mighty acts all the nations will know He is the Lord. 
That is our standard; we are also known by the way we act.  By our deeds of mercy and acts of love all men see our God and give glory to Him.
That’s how we should live.
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, amen!

[1] MacArthur's New Testament Commentary: Matthew 16-23 © 1988 by The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago Electronic Edition STEP Files Copyright © 1997, Parsons Technology, Inc.
[3] See Revelation 20:7-10

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