Ezekiel 38:17-23: Great Shaking

Since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken,
let us give thanks,
by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe;
for indeed our God is a consuming fire.
— Hebrews 12:28-29, NRSV

God and earthquakes seem to go hand in hand. They do have a lot in common. They’re both immensely powerful, they both act impartially, and their entry into human history is often unexpected.

In the Old Testament, earthquakes often find their spiritual meaning as a sign of God’s judgment.

This is hard for my post-Enlightenment mind to understand. I immediately try to think of causality: did God start an earthquake to judge people? Was the earthquake going to happen anyway, and God maneuvered the right people into place at the right time? Are God’s fingers so entwined in the fabric of history that causality is too complex for my finite cranium to contain?

I do know that prophets often find spiritual significance in natural events, and that is the case here. Leaving questions of cause and effect behind, Ezekiel understood that the earthquake he saw should be spiritually interpreted as a sign of God’s judgment.

. . .

It is a pretty serious quake. Listen to the catalog of things that will be shaken:

  • fish of the sea
  • birds of the air
  • animals of the field
  • creeping things that creep on the ground
  • human beings that are on the face of the earth

I’m no specialist in the subject of earthquakes, but I tend to think that fish wouldn’t be effected too much—especially if the epicenter was Israel. The same goes for birds. They can fly!

This description is obviously crossing into hyperbole. Mountains, cliffs, and walls will crash down on Gog as they try to harm Israel. This is unlike the other wars that Israel has fought. This is purely God’s war. It is reminiscent of Gideon’s war in Judges 7: God will be involved to the extent that the rest of Israel will not have to struggle.

. . .

It’s clear from this passage that God is not planning on bringing Gog against his people at the end of days to judge his own people. That was the state the exiles were already in. The future battle will be purely a judgment against evil—not Israel. Revelation picks up on this prophecy and understands it as part of Armageddon: the final war on evil.

It’s important to note that when I say the phrase, “war on evil,” I’m not endorsing any “war on terror” type talk. This is a grand metaphor for the conquering of evil, not the politics of a some modern nation.

It’s interesting to write this on the eve of Good Friday. In a real sense, this final defeat of evil that Ezekiel prophesied was accomplished on the cross. Jesus absorbed the sin of human history and conquered it, dying victorious. Still, in this overlapping time when new creation is taking root in the old, we are still harassed and tormented by evil. The final judgment against evil awaits.

. . .

Lord God, help me to work to spread your kingdom in anticipation of the day you will finally defeat what you conquered on the cross. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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One Response to Ezekiel 38:17-23: Great Shaking

  1. Robin October 24, 2014 at 7:51 am #

    As far as causality of natural (or otherwise) disasters is concerned, I’ve come to believe that the answer is “all of the above.” For years, I struggled with this concept, but, as I study the Word of God and learn more about sin, its wages, and the sovereignty and grace of God, I think I’m beginning to understand the greatness of God a little better.

    Man sinned (and continues to sin…). All of creation suffers the wages of sin, which is death. Knowing a bit about plate tectonics, etc., I understand that earthquakes are a result of weak spots and movement of the plates of the earth’s crust. Were there always broken plates? I’m inclined to believe that this brokenness is a result of the global flood and that our planet probably wasn’t so “volatile” before that event, although it had already been suffering the consequences of sin. In studying God’s Word, I see many, many accounts of God using “nature” to bring about recognition of his glory.

    God is not the author of disaster. We brought it upon ourselves from our very first sin. However, before time began, God knew all the intimate details of the progression of events within this thing called time and he also knew how every moment of time would bow its knee to him. There is sin, there is destruction, there is death, but NOTHING is greater than God and EVERYTHING must submit to his authority. And, he has a plan and never deviates from it: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

    Bad stuff happens as a result of sin. That’s what’s expected. What is glorious, exciting and fills me with confidence and hope is the absolute GRACE and CONTROL God demonstrates in determinedly directing it all (CHAOS must bow its knee! How awesome is that?) for the good of those who love him. “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

    “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:55-57).

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