Monday, June 27, 2016

forget Gog, what about God?

(by Pastor Joe)
The word for today: Ezekiel 38
You want me to talk about what!?!
The End Times!?!
Define Gog and Magog and give two examples?!?
I remember generating some concern in my first few months at this current church when I began a Sunday School class in a rather unorthodox matter. We began a series on the book of Revelation and in order to illustrate my desire that we rely on the Bible rather than external sources, I found all the books & movies I could about the end times (e.g. Left Behind, the Late Great Planet Earth, Apocalypse, etc.) and promptly had them tossed in the garbage bin in order that we might focus on the Bible alone. I did return the books to their rightful place later on, but the very next week, we had a concerned parent sit in and make sure everything was kosher.
I realize that the authors of these above titles have blessed many and brought people into the Kingdom of God. I realize that they may be right in some of their conclusions. What concerns me are some of the consequences when our interpretations and understanding of God's word are limited to the latest interpretation of the author en vogue. What concerns me is when we leave the so called "experts" to read the hard parts of the Bible for us. What concerns me is that we have a generation of believers who are on the lookout for a Romanian Anti-Christ named Nicolae Carpathia.
Oh boy. Here come the end times squad, out to set me straight.
I am sorry to say that I would rather discuss about 1,000 other Bible topics than get dragged into speculation on how to interpret various obscure passages (i.e. Ezekiel 38 & 39) and how they correspond to today's geopolitical climate. Gog & Magog have been interpreted as the Assyrians, or the Scythians (in ancient times) as the Goths or the Khazars (during the dark ages) and as the Russians or Chinese in more recent times.
What a waste of time. There are about 8 billion things I can and should do for Jesus Christ before I try to figure out if all the letters in Vladimir Putin's name add up to 666.
So what about today's passage? What do we know that's not just speculation?
1. This is in the future, for both Ezekiel and us.
Actually, from this chapter on, the remainder of Ezekiel speaks of a time ahead of us. This prophecy speaks concerning the "latter years" (v. 8)
2. A lot of bad people have a lot of bad ideas about what they are going to do to Israel.
All these known and unknown nations gather their weapons (v. 1-6), and share their evil plans (v.10-13) with each other- how to best victimize Israel.
3. God is well aware of the situation & He's got plans of His own.
Remember that God is the one leading these so called powers around by a "hook" in their mouth (v.4). All their might is a joke compared to His jealous anger and blazing wrath. Even the mountains bow according to His set purpose. (v. 17-22)
4. God does all this to make His holiness known in the sight of all nations. (v. 16 & 23)
His mission has never wavered once from day one. Before Adam fell, during the time of the patriarchs, the Exodus, the judges, the monarchy, the captivity. During the days of the prophets, the advent of His Son, Jesus Christ, the time of the church and in all history since, God does all things to "show my greatness and my holiness, and I will make myself known in the sight of many nations. Then they will know that I am the LORD."
Never forget that the above mission statement is much more fundamental to who we are, and what we focus on. Speculation may be fun, but never let it distract you from what is clearly revealed.

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