“Foreign Nations Must Fall”
by Chuck Huffine
The first 24 chapters of the book of Ezekiel tell of the imminent fall of Jerusalem and the kingdom of Judah because of their continual rebellion and sin against God. This brings us to a very sobering thought: If judgment has come on the chosen people of God, how will the ungodly be saved? (1 Peter 4:17, 18). So Ezekiel 25-32 foretells the fall of seven nations that had troubled Israel: Ammon, Moab, Edom, Philistia, Tyre, Sidon and Egypt. The first three were relatives of Israel; the nations of Ammon and Moab were descendants of Lot and the nation of Edom was descended from Jacob’s brother, Esau.
Celebrating Judah’s Troubles
Ezekiel lists many reasons for the fall of these nations, and there is much that we can learn from them. The foreign nations openly celebrated the fall of Judah (25:2-8; 26:2). The Moabites said Judah had become like the other nations. For as long as these nations could remember, Judah had been under God’s special care and discipline. Finally, Judah seemed to be no longer protected by God. They did not understand that while the people were exiled for their sins, God was still sovereign over all things. Ezekiel 35:10 tells how Edom eyed the land of Judah even though the Lord was there. Perhaps they thought Jehovah God’s power and might had expired and there was nothing he could do for his people. Jim McGuiggan points out that one of the great lessons of this section of Ezekiel is that God wanted to show he was not just a local deity who was powerful only in the land of Israel. This is the way the other nations thought of their gods, limited to a specific locale, season or power. As the prophecies against each nation are pronounced, God also declares that they “will know that I am the Lord“ (25:7, 11, 14, 17; 26:6; 28:22; 29:6). (Note: In Ezekiel the names “Israel” and “Judah” are often used interchangeably to refer to the same people, the descendants of Jacob.)
Hatred and Covetousness
The Edomites and Philistines sought revenge on Judah (25:12, 15). The Philistines had an “ancient hostility” against Judah. Since Israel’s earliest days as a nation, Philistia had been an enemy of Israel. Perhaps the Edomites sought revenge because of Jacob’s deception of Esau so many years earlier. The tiny book of Obadiah tells a little more about Edom’s sins against Israel. Obadiah 11 says to Edom about his brother Jacob “On the day you stood aloof while strangers carried off his wealth . . . you were like one of them.” The most telling lesson we learn here is that we had better care about the things that God cares about. The things that grieve God should also grieve us. We cannot stand aloof when people are suffering or when sin is prevalent around us.
The nations, especially Tyre, were poised to take advantage of the fall of Judah. Tyre said, “Now that she lies in ruins I will prosper” (26:2). They thought they could plunder Judah; instead, their greed and apathy toward God’s people brought them down.
One of the main reasons for the fall of Tyre and Egypt was their terrible pride. In 28:2, God said of the prince of Tyre, “In the pride of your heart you say, ‘I am a god; I sit on the throne of a god.’” And in 29:3, God says of Pharaoh king of Egypt, “You say, ‘The Nile is mine; I made it for myself.’” Tyre and Egypt had indeed been great. Chapters 27 and 30 are given as laments for them, and Ezekiel poetically describes the grandeur of Tyre and Egypt and how shocked people would be to learn of their fall. Only the sovereign God could have made them so great. Their refusal to give the glory to God was their downfall.
A Worthless Ally
God also judged Egypt for being a useless ally. Ezekiel 29:6-7 says, “You have been a staff of reed for the house of Israel. 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.” Nobody would want to use a reed as a walking stick. When you put your weight on a reed, it breaks and hurts you. Egypt was just as useless as an ally when Israel had put their trust in Egypt.
Obadiah 15 pronounces judgment on those who opposed God’s people. “The day of the Lord is near for all nations. As you have done, it will be done to you; your deeds will return upon your own head.” Obadiah and Ezekiel both prophesied that these nations would reap what they had sown.
God Would Show His Power
In the middle of this judgment on the other nations, Ezekiel 28:24-26 offers comfort to Israel. Verse 24 says, “No longer will the people of Israel have malicious neighbors who are painful briers and sharp thorns. Then they will know that I am the Sovereign Lord.” The writings of Ezekiel must have been an assurance of God’s providence when Israel returned from Babylonian captivity. They would know that God alone had delivered them from their enemies. Not because they deserved it, but because “I am the Lord their God” (28:26).
God showed that he would not tolerate the sinfulness of the foreign nations. Their gloating, vengeance, aloofness and pride angered God to the point that he allowed them to be destroyed. God showed Israel and the other nations that he was no local deity. As God allowed Judah to be conquered, it was easy for their enemies to think that God had lost his power to protect his people. God was in control the whole time and he used other nations to carry out his purpose. Proverbs 21:1 says, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.” Even when the earthly kingdom that God had established was no longer in power, God was still in charge; “his kingdom is an eternal kingdom” (Daniel 4:3).
—Chuck Huffine is one of the song leaders in this congregation.