Elon, North Carolina
We have been studying the Book of Ezekiel. The first part of the book is very repetitive. It has one theme and it is the theme of judgment. The people of God sin and are judged by God. The first part of the book is all judgment. God judges Israel and God judges the Gentile nations. Today, we will finish the first part of the book. To do that, we will have to look at four chapters. They all go together. This will just be overview of these chapters.
After spending twenty chapters on the judgment of Israel, Ezekiel gives us seven chapters of judgment on the nations which surrounded Israel. They were all judged based on their treatment of the Jews. Today, we come to the final nation and that is Egypt, the last of the seven nations.
The Egyptians were the first anti-Semites in history. Antisemitism did not begin with Hitler. The Egyptians were the first people to persecute the Jews. They put them in bondage for over four hundred years. It was a cruel bondage. Satan used them to enslave God’s people. Now Ezekiel predicts judgment for the Egyptians.
More space is devoted to the judgment of this nation than any of the other six nations. In fact, this is longest single prophecy against in nation in the whole Bible (ninety-seven verses). Four chapters are given to the judgment of Egypt (Ezekiel 29-32). That is one-twelfth of the book, because there are forty-eight chapters. Within these four chapters are seven specific oracles directed against Egypt.
They all start with the words, “The word of the Lord came to me.” We see that phrase seven times in these chapters (cf. 29:1, 17; 30:1, 20; 31:1; 32:1, 17). Many would love to know if America is in bible prophecy? We do not even have one chapter in the Bible devoted to America. Far from having seven oracles, we do not even have one but Egypt has seven.
Ezekiel 29:1-3 says, “In the tenth year, in the tenth month on the twelfth day, the word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Son of man, set your face against Pharaoh king of Egypt and prophesy against him and against all Egypt. Speak to him and say: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: “‘I am AGAINST you, Pharaoh king of Egypt, you great monster lying among your streams.” (NIV).
You do not want God against you. You want God for you. You may have a lot of other people against you but you do not want God against you. If God is for us, who can be against us. If God is against us, who can be for us? God says that He is against the COUNTRY of Egypt and He is against the LEADER of the country (Pharaoh). What if this said, “God is against America?”
How are these chapters relevant today? We did not come to church to see what God says about another country. This might apply if we were Egyptians but we are all Americans. How does this apply to us? These chapters have an important message for us today.
We live in a day when many people say that God is not a judge. He accepts everyone. He accepts everyone the way they are. He is accepting. He is tolerant. If you want to live together before you are married, God is okay with that. If a man wants to marry another man, God understands. He is a loving father, not a cruel judge. Many see God just as a doting father. That is very popular in some circles, even in some churches.
There is only one problem with this view. It is unbiblical. It seems right but the way that seems right to man but, in the end, it leads to death (Proverbs 14:12 KJV). The Bible does teach that God is a loving father but it also teaches that He is a judge, not a wicked judge but a righteous judge. He judges individuals. He judges nations. He judges churches. He judges everyone. In fact, He judges His own people first.
What is clear from first part of the book is that He also judges nations. God did not just do this in the past, He still does it today. God hasn’t changed. If he judges nations for their sin, it raises the question: When will our nation be judged by God? How much time left do we have as a nation?
There is an old quote that is attributed to Billy Graham. It says, “If God does not judge America, He will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.” We have redefined marriage as a nation. God defines it one way. He was the one who created marriage. We definite it another way in deliberate defiance of God and His Word.
How does God Judge Nations?
What does it mean for God to judge a nation? What does that look like? Many nations are wiped off the map. They no longer exist as political entities. The nation of Ammon is gone. The nation of Moab is gone. The Philistines are gone. The Phoenicians are gone. Six of these seven nations no longer exist.
Some churches no longer exist either. Jesus said to one church that He would remove its lampstand (Revelation 2:5). Churches all over the country are closing their doors. They used to exist but no longer do. Four thousand churches close their doors every single year.
There is another way that God judges nations. He eliminates some nations. He weakens other nations. That is what happened to Egypt. God judged Egypt but Egypt is still around today. You can visit it but Egypt today is nothing like ancient Egypt.
Some have wondered why no great civilization came out of Africa. Some did. Egypt was in Africa and it was one of the greatest empires in the ancient world. It is one of the longest lasting civilizations in world history (thirty centuries). In Moses and Ezekiel’s day, it was a military superpower. Today, it is almost a third-world nation.
God said in Ezekiel 29:15 that Egypt “will be the lowliest of kingdoms and will never again exalt itself above the other nations. I will make it so weak that it will never again rule over the nations. 16 Egypt will no longer be a source of confidence for the people of Israel but will be a reminder of their sin in turning to her for help. Then they will know that I am the Sovereign Lord.’” (NIV).
This prophecy has been literally fulfilled. Egypt has not been a superpower since these words were uttered. They never recovered from this attack from Babylon, even twenty-five hundred years later. Egypt is an independent nation today but it does not rule over other nations like it once did. They
Application for Today
1) Trusting in people is counter-productive
God called Egypt “a staff of reed for the people of Israel. 7 When they grasped you with their hands, you splintered and you tore open their shoulders; when they leaned on you, you broke and their backs were wrenched.” (29:6-7)
What is the historical background? When the Babylonian armies came to Jerusalem, Israel turned to Egypt and the Babylonians lifted their siege temporarily (Jeremiah 37:5). Then, the Egyptians withdrew and the Babylonians continued their siege.
After Babylon destroyed Jerusalem and burned the Temple, they went north and into Tyre and stayed there for thirteen years. Nebuchadnezzar put a thirteen year siege on Tyre but he was unsuccessful because the city fled to the island and took their wealth with them, so Nebuchadnezzar went south into Egypt and devastated the country. When we have problems, who do we turn to? Do we turn to people or to God? God called Egypt a weak reed.
Reeds that grew by the Nile River in Egypt. They look like a good kind of wood for a staff but they are brittle and shatter easily. God says that they leaned on this reed and fell and hurt their shoulders and back. God says, “If you lean on Egypt, you only hurt yourself in the process.” It is always dangerous to turn to people, rather than the Lord.
Jeremiah 17:5, 7 says, “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord. 7 “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.” (NIV).
Fast-forward to today. Israel does not turn to Egypt for help. Today, Israel does not turn to Egypt for help. They turn to the US. The US gives billions of dollars to Israel each year in aid. The two countries are close allies.
2) No one is too big to fall
We have a principle in economics called “too big to fail.” No matter how big a company is, no matter how strong and powerful a nation is, it is never too strong to fail.
Superpowers seem to be so strong and so powerful that they almost seemed invincible. They were like the Titanic. People at one time thought the ship was unsinkable. There was no way it could go down. It was made of seven thousand tons of steel but it did. Goliath looked like he was invincible. He was big. He was tall. He was strong. He was armed. He was undefeated. No one had ever beaten him. The bigger they are, the harder they fall.
Daniel 4:37 says, “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And THOSE WHO WALK IN PRIDE, HE IS ABLE TO HUMBLE.” (NIV). The Apostle Paul applies this principle in I Corinthians 10:12. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. (ESV)
Peter told Jesus that he would never deny him. In fact, he said, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you” (Matthew 26:35). After saying that he would never deny Jesus, he went and denied him, not once but three times in one night.
We have two illustrations of this in our passage. This section is full of figurative language (metaphors, similes, personification). The first illustration is Egypt. God describes Egypt as a great monster in the sea.
Speak to him and say: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: “‘I am against you, Pharaoh king of Egypt, you great monster lying among your streams. You say, “The Nile belongs to me; I made it for myself.” 4 But I will put hooks in your jaws and make the fish of your streams stick to your scales. I will pull you out from among your streams, with all the fish sticking to your scales. 5 I will leave you in the desert, you and all the fish of your streams. You will fall on the open field and not be gathered or picked up. I will give you as food to the beasts of the earth and the birds of the sky. 6 Then all who live in Egypt will know that I am the Lord. (29:3-6 NIV)
3 “‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: “‘With a great throng of people I will cast my net over you, and they will haul you up in my net. 4 I will throw you on the land and hurl you on the open field. I will let all the birds of the sky settle on you and all the animals of the wild gorge themselves on you. 5 I will spread your flesh on the mountains and fill the valleys with your remains. 6 I will drench the land with your flowing blood all the way to the mountains, and the ravines will be filled with your flesh. (32:3-6 NIV)
How is Egypt described here? It is described as a great monster in the Nile. This refers to a crocodile. The crocodile was big and heavy and strong. Some of them weighed a thousand pounds. They lived a hundred years and they ruled the Nile. They were the biggest and most dangerous predator in ancient Egypt. The Egyptians made them a god. They worshipped crocodiles.
God called Pharaoh a great crocodile and the power went to his head. He had some much power that he thought he was a god. The crocodile said, “The Nile belongs to me; I made it for myself.” That is a joke. The fish thinks that it made the water. God has a way of humbling the proud. In this chapter, God goes fishing, puts a hook in this crocodile’s jaws.
He uses a net and drags it out of the water and puts it on the desert where it dies and animals gorge themselves on the flesh of the crocodile. Pharaoh died a violent death. He was assassinated by his enemies (Jeremiah 44:30). Ezekiel gives us another illustration of this in Ezekiel 31.
In the eleventh year, in the third month on the first day, the word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Son of man, say to Pharaoh king of Egypt and to his hordes: “‘Who can be compared with you in majesty? 3 Consider Assyria, once a cedar in Lebanon, with beautiful branches overshadowing the forest; it towered on high, its top above the thick foliage. 4 The waters nourished it, deep springs made it grow tall; their streams flowed all around its base and sent their channels to all the trees of the field.
5 So it towered higher than all the trees of the field; its boughs increased and its branches grew long, spreading because of abundant waters. 6 All the birds of the sky nested in its boughs, all the animals of the wild gave birth under its branches; all the great nations lived in its shade. 7 It was majestic in beauty, with its spreading boughs, for its roots went down to abundant waters. 8 The cedars in the garden of God could not rival it, nor could the junipers equal its boughs, nor could the plane trees compare with its branches—no tree in the garden of God could match its beauty. 9 I made it beautiful with abundant branches, the envy of all the trees of Eden in the garden of God.
10 “‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: Because the great cedar towered over the thick foliage, and because it was proud of its height, 11 I gave it into the hands of the ruler of the nations, for him to deal with according to its wickedness. I cast it aside, 12 and the most ruthless of foreign nations cut it down and left it. Its boughs fell on the mountains and in all the valleys; its branches lay broken in all the ravines of the land. All the nations of the earth came out from under its shade and left it. 13 All the birds settled on the fallen tree, and all the wild animals lived among its branches. 14 Therefore no other trees by the waters are ever to tower proudly on high, lifting their tops above the thick foliage. No other trees so well-watered are ever to reach such a height; they are all destined for death, for the earth below, among mortals who go down to the realm of the dead. (31:1-14 NIV)
Egypt will be like ancient Assyria. Assyria as the most powerful empire in the world for three hundred years. It conquered and ruled the Middle East from 900-600 BC. Assyria was like a huge cedar tree. This tree was beautiful. It was majestic. It was tall. It was higher than all of the other trees. It has all kinds of animals living in it and this tree falls. When it hits the ground, it makes a loud sound and the nations would tremble (31:16).
3) Some acts of nature are acts of God
“‘Wail and say, “Alas for that day!” 3 For the day is near, the day of the Lord is near—a day of clouds, a time of doom for the nations. 4 A sword will come against Egypt, and anguish will come upon Cush. When the slain fall in Egypt, her wealth will be carried away and her foundations torn down. (30:2-4 NIV).
What happened to Egypt was terrible. It was a national tragedy. It was a day of gloom and a day of doom. It was a day of despair. It will be a day of complete fear. On that day, people will tremble for their own life (32:10) but this was not just a tragedy. It was not just an accident. It was not just a coincidence. It was not just bad luck. It was an act of God. God was behind it. Ezekiel calls it “the day of the Lord,” not “the day of Nebuchadnezzar.”
“‘I am against you, Pharaoh king of Egypt, you great monster lying among your streams. (29:3 NIV)
Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am going to give Egypt to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and he will carry off its wealth. (29:19 NIV)
I will set fire to Egypt (30:8,16 NIV)
So I will inflict punishment on Egypt, and they will know that I am the Lord. (30:19 NIV)
I will disperse the Egyptians among the nations and scatter them through the countries. (30:23 NIV)
I will trouble the hearts of many peoples when I bring about your destruction among the nations, among lands you have not known. (32:9 NIV)
Then I will let her waters settle and make her streams flow like oil, declares the Sovereign Lord. 15 When I make Egypt desolate and strip the land of everything in it, when I strike down all who live there, then they will know that I am the Lord (32:14-15 NIV)
What are the implications of this? God has authority over everyone. He does not just rule over churches, He rules over nations. He rules over the world. He is sovereign. He gets involved in politics and international affairs. Some natural disasters are actually divine judgments. Many do not like this doctrine but it is a biblical doctrine.
The LORD does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths. (Psalm 135:6 NIV)
34 At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever. His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation. 35 All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?” (Daniel 4:34-35 NIV)
4) God can use anyone to accomplish his will
We often wonder if God could ever use us? What this passage shows is that God uses anyone to do His will and He rewards every act of obedience. He can use anybody. He can use people nations. He can use believers or unbelievers. He can use animals. He used Balaam’s donkey.
There are several unlikely people God used to accomplish His will. He used Noah the drunkard. He used Abraham the old man. He used Moses the stutterer. He used Rahab the prostitute. He used David, the murderer and adulterer. He used Paul, a former persecutor turned preacher. He used a little boy with five loaves and two fish.
What unlikely instrument does God use in this section? He uses Babylon, wicked Babylon, to do His will. God called Babylon an “evil nation” (30:12). God called them “the most ruthless of all nations” three times (30:11; 31:12; 32:12) but God used this evil nation to judge Egypt.
God said that “the sword of the king of Babylon will come against you” (32:11) by the also called this “my sword” (32:10). God used Babylon as his instrument of judgment without them even knowing it. God even rewarded this pagan nation for doing the will of God.
God used Babylon as His instrument of judgment without them even knowing it. God even rewarded this pagan nation for doing the will of God. If He rewarded them, He will reward us.
17 In the twenty-seventh year, in the first month on the first day, the word of the Lord came to me: 18 “Son of man, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon drove his army in a hard campaign against Tyre; every head was rubbed bare and every shoulder made raw. Yet he and his army got no reward from the campaign he led against Tyre. 19 Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am going to give Egypt to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and he will carry off its wealth. He will loot and plunder the land as pay for his army. 20 I have given him Egypt as a reward for his efforts because he and his army did it for me, declares the Sovereign Lord. (29:17-20 NIV)