Peace and settledness occur
when the creature finds rest in the Creator.
— J. Wesley Adams (“Hebrews,” in Full Life Bible Commentary to the New Testament)
Out of the eater came something to eat.
Out of the strong came something sweet.
— Sampson (Judges 14:14, NRSV)
The Mozambique civil war lasted from 1976-1992. During that time, the country was flooded with munitions. In an effort to rid the country of these tools of war, the “Transforming Arms into Tools” project was introduced. Citizens were encouraged to trade in guns for practical items like sewing machines and bicycles.
A number of the decommissioned weapons were torn apart and used to create a sculpture entitled “Tree of Life” that you can find in the British Museum. It is a powerful example of an Old Testament principle in action.
Perhaps Micah said it the clearest:
He shall judge between many peoples,
and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away;
they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more;
but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees,
and no one shall make them afraid;
for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken.
(vv. 3-4, NRSV)
We have the same idea here in Ezekiel.
. . .
The content of Ezekiel 39:9-10 is simple and ironic. God will so thoroughly defeat Gog, that Israel will be able to use their weapons for firewood for seven years!
The list of seven weapons is fearsome: “make fires of the weapons [a rare word for armor] and burn them—bucklers and shields, bows and arrows, handpikes and spears” (v. 9, NRSV). The fact that there are seven items on the list points to how thoroughly the strength of Gog was defeated.
I love the ecological note attached to the bonfire. There will be so many weapons, they will not have to cut down any trees from the forest for seven years. Again, this is a symbolic number. The enemy will be destroyed completely, and consequently, Israel will reap the benefits of that defeat completely.
. . .
The irony is strong: The plunderers have become the plundered. The most fearsome enemy had the most to fear.
This reminds me of another irony in Revelation 5. John hears the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, and turns to see a slaughtered-yet-standing Lamb. Instead of a ravaging animal, you have a ravaged Lamb.
That is the absurd message of the gospel: The powerful have been defeated by the weak. The proud have been made low, and the humble exalted. God used the foolishness of the cross . . .
. . .
Lord God, the vision of swords being beaten into plowshares is a powerful symbol of peace. Remind us to work towards your goal daily. In Jesus’ name, Amen.