And They Shall Know!
“My greatest personal concern is what the Russians are doing under the table about all of this.” These words were spoken to me by a well-known Israeli government official shortly after Anwar Sadat’s historic visit to Jerusalem. The ensuing months have laid bare some of the Soviet Union’s “under the table” activities. Russia’s encouragement of P.L.O. terrorists, brutal incursion into Afghanistan, and use of Cuban surrogates to seize potential power bases in Africa and the Mid-East provide decisive documentation of their intentions. One need not go to official sources for confirming quotations. Ask any Israeli who the real enemy is in the region, and the response is almost reflexive — a finger toward the north and a firm “Why Russia, of course!“
What we are witnessing in 1980 is without question historical confirmation of words spoken prophetically centuries ago. The prophet Ezekiel peered intently across centuries yet unlived to reveal the motives and passions of people who would launch an invasion into the Middle East in the “latter years”. His Spirit-inspired delineation of the issues and events of the era provides a comprehensive foreview of human and divine tactics. The reader is at once afforded a view of affairs horizontally, that is, from the human perspective (Ezek. 38:1-14). Beyond this, he is bidden to look through the prism of divine revelation and scan pre written history vertically, that is, the up-to-down view, or God’s perspective (Ezek. 38:15 – 39:29). The revelation is a searching appraisal of human belligerence and divine determination. It is not, however, designed to provide material for distracting descents into prophetic spectacularism. Ezekiel’s words issue an eloquent appeal, an urgent appeal. They issue an appeal for biblically enlightened people to move with a renewed sense of urgency and understanding.
Who, When, Where?
A great deal of space could be used in identifying the active combatants in the confrontation described by the prophet. While this is a worthy undertaking, and one which we must forego, it becomes academic in the light of a statement made in verse 15 of chapter 38:, “And thou shall come from thy place out of the north parts. . . . “North parts” literally means uttermost parts of the north. Place your finger on a world map and move it north to the “uttermost” inhabited area. It is the Soviet Union.
The question of the time element is also answered. After many days thou shall be visited; in the latter years … (38:8). “Latter days” is a term used in 38:16. Thus the northern intrusion will come in the closing phase of the present period of time (dispensation). Opinions by worthy prophetic scholars vary as to the precise timing of the invasion. Three views predominate. It will come (1) before the Church is called out (raptured) and the seven year “Time of Jacob’s Trouble” (tribulation) begins, (2) just before the midpoint of the tribulation period with the defeat of the Red armies giving rise to the Antichrist’s assertion of personal deity, and (3) at the close of the tribulation period in concert with the campaign of Armageddon. All of these views fall within the “latter days” framework.
Russia and her confederates — It is foreboding to find Persia, present-day Iran, named among the invaders — will “come into the land that is brought back from the sword, and is gathered out of many peoples, against the mountains of Israel …” (38:8). While the entire Middle East is targeted, Israel is, without question, the bull’s-eye. The movement is against the people who have experienced the first phase of the return predicted throughout the Scriptures, It is, at this point, a nation of sinew without spirit. The nation is in the land physically, but unawakened spiritually; a situation which corresponds with Ezekiel’s description of the national condition in chapter 37.
To Take a Spoil
Communist leaders will “think an evil thought” (38:10) — a thought which eventuates in a movement toward the Middle East to “take a spoil, and to take a prey” (38:12). Many of us are at least casually acquainted with this aspect of the prophecy. If some of us are only casually enlIghtened, we are all acutely involved every time we stop at a gas station to fill our tanks. A global struggle is now in progress for control of the black lifeblood (oil) of the industrialized nations, deposited in such abundance beneath the sands of the Middle East. Of even greater eventual monument is the chemical and mineral wealth of Israel. Control of the vast quantities of fertilizer-producing chemicals stored in the Dead Sea and Negev is very much in the minds of international leaders faced with the problem of producing food for mushrooming populations. This taking of a spoil, however, is but one side of the issue. While it is dramatically obvious and much commented on today, it is not the central consideration. It is simply what we see from the horizontal perspective already mentioned.
To Turn a Hand
The Russian invasion is superficially an exploitive venture. Fundamentally, it is a vindictive obsession. This obsession is articulated in the twelfth verse of Ezekiel 38; “. . . to turn thine hand upon the desolate places that are now inhabited, and upon the people that are gathered out of the nations. …” Annexing Israel and decimating her people are the twin motivations which drive the Soviets and their cohorts into the land of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But why, one may ask, these people, that land? Why not Washington, London, Paris or Peking?
The answer is seen in the fact that contemporary Russia is unique in the history of national movements. She is atheistic, and militantly so. A central tenant of the Communist system is, not only to declare independence from God, but to liberate this planet from any acknowledgement of His existence. Ever before, nations have claimed allegiance to God or gods. Conversely, when the masses of the Soviet state raise clenched fists aloft, they are not indulging in picturesque political gesturing. It is an act of calculated defiance. Russia has declared war on Jehovah!
When men and nations resort to warfare they do so with three primary aims:
To subjugate — that is, to meet and defeat the adversary and destroy their foe’s ability to make war.
To humiliate – thus instilling in the conquered people a subject mentality; one which makes further resistance unacceptable.
To assimilate — causing those who have been defeated to identify with and finally experience union with their captors.
The repeated invasions of Israel recorded in biblical and secular history provide a prime illustration of the process. Invaders came to conquer Israel’s army. They then sacked the Temple, Israel’s national house of worship, and removed revered articles for placement in the temples of their gods. The victors were careful to point out that they had not only defeated
Israel’s soldiers, but had also humiliated Israel’ s God who was powerless, they proclaimed, to respond. Jews were then encouraged to assimilate with their captors and join them in the worship of their victorious gods. The ultimate effort to assimilate subject peoples was the deification of emperors and kings who were themselves fully aware of their humanity. But they were intelligent enough to know that if the people under their sway could be persuaded to worship them as gods and join hands before an altar, the armies could be brought home. Their victory would then be complete.
Keep this process in mind as we view Soviet intentions. If Russia is to successfully plant the atheistic banner on the totalitarian summit, it must flutter atop Mount Moriah in Jerusalem wet with the blood of vanquished Jewry. In the minds of the invaders, this must be done because God’s Word deeds the land of Israel to Abraham and his posterity, and predicts that one day David’s Greater Son, Jesus Christ, will occupy His kingly throne in Jerusalem. A second consideration is found in the fact that from Abraham and his sons and daughters have issued forth the world’s three great monotheistic faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Furthermore, these People of the Book are a central element in God’s program for eternity. Thus, in Russia’s view, to own the land and destroy the people is an essential step in their march to establish a global, Godless paradise; one in which the peoples of the earth will join in homage to Communism’s venerated ideal — the state supreme.
I Will Call for a Sword
We are all familiar with the complaint, “If God exists and cares at all, why doesn’t He do something?” He is, He does and He will. After Communist renegades have had their moment to strut upon the stage of history, God will respond. His response is recorded in Ezekiel 38:18 through 39:7. An awesome sequence begins to unfold in verse 21 of chapter 38 when a fusilade of “I wills” is hurled at the invaders: “I will call for a sword” (38:21); “I will enter into judgment” (38:22); “I will rain upon him” (38:22); “I will turn thee back” (39:2); “I will smite thy bow out of
thy left hand” (39:3); “I will give thee unto the ravenous birds” (39:4); and “I will send a fire on Magog” (39:6). His “sword is “overflowing rain, and great hailstones, fire, and brimstone” (38:22). Not with armies, angels or atomic holocaust, but with the elements God destroys His adversary. Jehovah mounts the wings of the storm, makes the lightning shaft His spear, hailstones His missiles and shatters the Red horde. Why the elements? Because Communism has declared that God is not only impotent but nonexistent. He never, according to their dogma, made a raindrop or put a cloud in the sky. Ironically, God employs the creation they asserted He did not make to bring about their destruction.
And They Shall Know
Carnivorous birds will wheel in great circles over a battlefield shrouded in the silence of death (39:4). To the north, a bewildered remnant is seen staggering home to tell the story (39:2). Above the dreadful scene a resounding declaration rises toward the heavens. As from some giant sounding bell a solemn refrain is tolled; “and they shall know that I am the Lord” (38:23) – “and they shall know that I am the Lord” (39:6) – “and the nations shall know that I am the Lord” (39:7). The message is compelling. Russia has scoffed at the existence of God the Father, spurned the message of redemption in God the Son, and scorned the reality of God the Holy Spirit. Now they, and the whole of humanity, are confronted by a triune affirmation. God the Father, Son and Spirit are sovereign, and man must know that He is Lord of all.
The biblical account of this coming conflict then is not just a fiery record of rebellion and retribution. It is essentially a revealing of God’s heart for humanity, that men might have yet another opportunity to know the Lord. This consummating revelation brings believers face to face with a stirring reminder of our abiding commission to proclaim His message of redeeming grace — That they may know that “I am the Lord.”