The Nations Will Know That I Am Yahweh
The Nations Will Know That I Am Yahweh
Main Idea: God is going to judge the nations who hurt or hoped to take advantage of His people, in order to show them that He is Yahweh and to pave the way for Israel’s restoration.
I. God Is Sovereign over Every Nation (25:1–32:32).
A. Ammon (25:1-7)
B. Moab (25:8-11)
C. Edom (25:12-14)
D. Philistia (25:15-17)
E. Tyre (26:1–28:19)
F. Sidon (28:20-23)
G. Egypt (29:1–32:32)
II. What Can We Learn About God?
A. God has no equal.
B. God has authority over everyone and everything everywhere.
C. God’s standards do not change based on one’s location.
D. God keeps His promises.
E. God often uses human kingdoms or governments as His means of divine justice.
F. God receives glory both in extending mercy and in withholding it.
G. God’s discipline of the nations is for the good of His people (28:24-26; 29:21).
III. What Can We Learn About Us?
A. The world will often rejoice when God’s people struggle.
B. Everything we look to for security besides God will ultimately fail us.
C. Not everything that seems important now, really is.
D. If God rewarded the pagan Nebuchadnezzar for his work, how much more will He reward those who love Him and walk in His ways?
E. We have work to do.
Leaving vengeance to God is not always easy. When I was a senior in college my father died from a massive heart attack. His death occurred in a dorm room my stepmother used when she took courses at a nearby university. The back of his hands had what I felt was unusual bruising. For a while I struggled whether something more had happened to my father. Then the Lord brought me to what Paul shared with the church at Rome: “Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for His wrath. For it is written: Vengeance belongs to Me; I will repay, says the Lord” (Rom 12:19). The Spirit used this verse to free me from my concern and to know that one day God will take care of all wrongs.
As we come to this portion of Scripture in Ezekiel, let me ask you, when is the last time you preached or heard a sermon preached from Ezekiel 25:1–32:32? Thought so. In these chapters we enter into what I believe are some of the least proclaimed passages in the entire book. This dearth is to our detriment because there is much to learn in these passages about God’s sovereignty, justice, mercy, and glory.
Perhaps now would be a good time to remind us where we are in the book. Ezekiel 1–3 consists of Ezekiel’s call and commissioning. God’s judgment on His people comprises Ezekiel 4–24. Our focus text, Ezekiel 25–32, is God’s judgment of seven nations that are around His people. Restoration and hope can be found in Ezekiel 33–39. And God’s new temple and future blessings are in Ezekiel 40–48.
Before jumping into our text, it would be helpful to remember that God reigns over every parliament, every congress, every president, every king, and every dictator. In Isaiah 40:22-24 we are told,
God is enthroned above the circle of the earth; its inhabitants are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like thin cloth and spreads them out like a tent to live in. He reduces princes to nothing and makes judges of the earth irrational. They are barely planted, barely sown, their stem hardly takes root in the ground when He blows on them and they wither, and a whirlwind carries them away like stubble.
There is no one to compare God to because He has no equal (Isa 40:25).
Misplaced trust in leadership has been the ruin of many people. The psalmist tells us, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in nobles” (Ps 118:9). We are warned again, “Do not trust in nobles, in man, who cannot save” (Ps 146:3). We are also told, “A king’s heart is like streams of water in the Lord’s hand: He directs it wherever He chooses” (Prov 21:1). Above every earthly ruler is the one King of all. He reigns over every country and requires not their permission, passport, or political vote. He does, however, call for their repentance (Acts 17:30).
What occurs in Ezekiel 25–32 is the Lord’s keeping His promise to Abraham. He told Abraham, “I will bless those who bless you, I will curse those who treat you with contempt, and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Gen 12:3). God will hold all others accountable for how they treat His people. In these chapters we are reminded once again that the Lord of all the earth will judge every nation. Speaking of those nations, Peter once asked, “For the time has come for judgment to begin with God’s household, and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who disobey the gospel of God?” (1 Pet 4:17). These chapters in Ezekiel will show that the outcome will be eternally awful.
God Is Sovereign over Every Nation
In the movie Braveheart (1995) William Wallace is charged with treason against the king of England. In his defense he admits he never swore allegiance to the king. The response from the judge was, “It matters not. He is your king.” In Ezekiel 25–32 we see that God is King over all nations and not just over those who acknowledge or swear allegiance to Him. Their not having anything to do with Him does not mean He has nothing to do with them.
After 21 chapters of hearing all the Lord was disciplining them for, I’m sure Ezekiel’s audience was somewhat relieved to see His judgment move on to others. In these chapters God informs seven countries they will face His judgment. The countries are Ammon (25:1-7), Moab (25:8-11), Edom (25:12-14), Philistia (25:15-17), Tyre (26:1–28:19), Sidon (28:20-23), and Egypt (29:1–32:32). Of the seven Tyre and Egypt receive the longest prophecies and have specific words for their rulers.
Each prophecy contains similar elements for all seven countries. First, the country is named. Second, we are told what they did or what they failed to with regard to God’s people. Third, we are informed what is going to happen to them as judgment. Finally, we are told why God is bringing about these judgments. For six countries the purpose is the same: that people “will know that I am Yahweh” (25:5,7,11,17; 26:6; 28:23; 32:15). Edom, however, would experience God’s judgment so that they would know His vengeance (25:14).
The first people, besides Israel, to receive God’s judgment in the book of Ezekiel were the Ammonites. In case you have forgotten who they were, these were the descendants of Lot’s son who was birthed by his younger daughter (Gen 19:38). Yes, you read that correctly. Talk about a jacked-up family tree. God, however, is not holding them accountable for their ancestry but for their actions. They delighted in Israel’s discipline.
God was judging the Ammonites, “Because you said, ‘Good!’ about My sanctuary when it was desecrated, about the land of Israel when it was laid waste, and about the house of Judah when they went into exile” (v. 3). He was also judging them because they clapped their hands, stamped their feet, and rejoiced over the land of Israel with wholehearted contempt (v. 6). As punishment the Ammonites would be handed over to Nebuchadnezzar as well. The people of the east would set up their encampments and pitch their tents among the Ammonites. They would also eat Ammon’s fruit and drink Ammon’s milk (v. 4). The land of Ammon would be turned into a pasture and a sheepfold (v. 5). The Ammonites would be cut off, eliminated, and destroyed (v. 7). They will also be forgotten (v. 10). When all this occurs, the Ammonites will know that God is Yahweh (vv. 5,7). How tragic it is for those who only come to know God is Yahweh through His judgment rather than His mercy.
The second group to receive a prophetic judgment from the Lord was the Moabites. These people were descendants of Lot’s son by his older daughter (Gen 19:37). Yes, you read that correctly as well. Seriously, can you imagine these family reunions? Their sin was to say, “Look, the house of Judah is like all the other nations.” In essence, the Moabites were saying there is nothing special about Judah or their God. Their punishment will be the same as their cousins. The cities they took such pride in will be given as a possession to the people of the east. As a result the Moabites will know God is Yahweh and that they misspoke about Him and His people. The God they once viewed as weak will reveal His strength, and they will know they were wrong.
Edom is next in the Lord’s prophecy against the nations. The Edomites are the descendants of Esau, who was Jacob’s brother (Gen 36:1). According to the Lord, the Edomites acted vengefully against the house of Judah and incurred grievous guilt by taking revenge on them. We also know through Obadiah that Edom “stood aloof” and did not help God’s people, they gloated over Judah and boastfully mocked them, they looted Jerusalem after it fell, they stood at the crossroads and cut off those fleeing from Jerusalem, and those of God’s people that Edom did not kill they handed over to Nebuchadnezzar (Obad 10-14).
Because of their actions against His people, God was going to destroy the Edomites. He told them, “I will stretch out My hand against Edom and cut off both man and animal from it. I will make it a wasteland; they will fall by the sword from Teman to Dedan” (25:13). Paul’s exhortation about God’s vengeance in Romans 12:19 is clearly illustrated in Ezekiel 25:14. The Lord said, “I will take My vengeance on Edom through My people Israel, and they will deal with Edom according to My anger and wrath. So they will know My vengeance.” If you think God failed to do this, then just look for Edom’s flag at the next Olympics.
The fourth country to be judged by God was Philistia. The Philistines occupied a sliver of land between Judah and the Mediterranean Sea and had been a constant thorn in Israel’s side. Just ask Samson and David. The current generation of Philistines, however, acted in vengeance and took revenge with deep contempt, destroying because of their ancient hatred. As they harmed God’s people, maybe they shouted, “This one’s for Goliath!” We do not know their battle cry, but we do know that what they were consumed with ultimately consumed them. The hatred passed to each Philistine descendant would ultimately lead to their destruction. The furious rebukes of God’s vengeance would lead to Philistia knowing God is Yahweh.
After four summary judgments for the previous nations, the Lord wants to say more to the people of Tyre. What He said in a paragraph with the others, He will spread over two and a half chapters to Tyre. These people dwelled northwest of Israel and along the Mediterranean Sea. They were the commercial capital of their day and full of wisdom and wealth. Of all the nations described, they most remind me of the United States.
So what did the people of Tyre do against God and His people? First of all, they saw Israel’s discipline as an opportunity for their own economic gain (26:2). Second, Tyre was full of pride, to the point of declaring, “I am perfect in beauty” (27:3; cf. 28:17). Third, their leader thought he was a god (28:2,6), which is always foolish unless you are God. Fourth, they were proud of their wealth (28:5) and felt secure in it. Lastly, they were filled with violence, sinned, profaned their sanctuaries, and had a magnitude of iniquities (28:16,18).
In judgment God was going to make the “beautiful” Tyre an object of horror (26:21; 27:36; 28:19). He would cause Tyre to cease to exist so they would never be found again by anyone who sought them (26:21). Those they traded with will mock them (27:36). Those who knew them will be appalled at Tyre (28:19).
God had a special judgment for Tyre’s ruler. The Lord said,
Because you regard your heart as that of a god, I am about to bring strangers against you, ruthless men from the nations. They will draw their swords against your magnificent wisdom and will defile your splendor. They will bring you down to the Pit, and you will die a violent death in the heart of the sea. Will you still say, “I am a god,” in the presence of those who kill you? Yet you will be only a man, not a god, in the hands of those who kill you. You will die the death of the uncircumcised at the hands of strangers. For I have spoken. This is the declaration of the Lord God. (28:6-10)
Because of the judgment both the people of Tyre and their ruler would know God is Yahweh (26:6). About Tyre’s fall Duguid notes,
The rapidity with which her demise can be described contrasts starkly with the lengthy description of her beauty. Her beauty and security count for nothing when the storm strikes. (Duguid, Ezekiel, 336)
There is only one safe refuge, and that is the Lord.
Squeezed between the lengthier treatises to Tyre and Egypt is a word for Sidon. Like Tyre the people of Sidon dwelled northwest of Israel and along the Mediterranean Sea. At a minimum we know they, like Israel’s other adversarial neighbors, treated God’s people with contempt (v. 24). What else Sidon was guilty of was not revealed to Ezekiel. In judgment God will display His glory within them and demonstrate His holiness through them. They will receive a plague, and bloodshed will be in their streets. The slain will fall in Sidon, and the sword be against her on every side. When the punishment is executed, they will know God is Yahweh.
The last country to receive a judgment prophecy from the Lord was one of the first who should have expected it. Egypt and Israel had an interesting relationship. At one point Egypt held God’s people in slavery making “their lives bitter with difficult labor in brick and mortar and in all kinds of fieldwork” (Exod 1:14). The Pharaoh even commanded all his people to “throw every son born to the Hebrews into the Nile” (Exod 1:22). The Lord would deliver His people from their slavery and destroy Pharaoh in the process (Exod 1:28). The one who was responsible for the drowning of so many Israelite children would himself be drowned.
Despite the brutal history, one of the first places Israel would flee for help in times of trouble was Egypt. Why we keep such short memories or repeatedly return to those who want nothing but our harm I’ll never know. In Ezekiel’s day Egypt had power and resources, and God’s people sought their help rather than His. God considered Israel’s solicitation of Egypt to be adultery and used the most graphic of terms to describe the relationship between the two nations (16:26).
God knew that Egypt was a staff made of reed to the house of Israel (29:6). They were not the crutch on which Israel should have leaned for help in the journey because they were a false support. God told Egypt, “When Israel grasped you by the hand, you splintered, tearing all their shoulders; when they leaned on you, you shattered and made all their hips unsteady” (29:7). Egypt’s lack of support wounded Israel, and God will hold them accountable.
Besides their lack of trustworthiness, God had other issues against Egypt. He could not stand their pride (31:10) or their pharaoh. Like Tyre, Egypt had a ruler who thought he was a god. He would say, “My Nile is my own; I made it for myself” (29:3). If “the fool says in his heart, ‘God does not exist’” (Ps 14:1), then what term should be used to describe the one who thinks he is a god?
God’s judgment of Egypt will be exhaustive (32:15). They and their leader will be given to the beasts of the earth and the birds of the sky as food (29:4-5). Egypt’s wealth and land will be given to Nebuchadnezzar as compensation (29:19-20). Their allies will be destroyed (30:5-6). There will be nowhere for the Egyptians to run for help when God enacts His judgment. Egypt will be a total wasteland (29:8-16; 30:13-19). They will be destroyed (32:12) and sent to Sheol (32:17-32). When all this occurs, they will know God is Yahweh (32:15) and Pharaoh was no god at all.
What Can We Learn About God?
When studying the Bible, we do not ask, “What does this passage mean to me?” but, “What does this passage mean?” We also do not first ask what a passage can teach us about ourselves but what it can teach us about God. After walking through eight chapters of God’s judgment on pagan nations, what can we learn about Him?
God Has No Equal
There is none like Him. He is neither impressed with nor afraid of man’s kingdoms. There is not currently, has never been, and will never be a real threat to His authority. He has been, is, and will forever be in control. He needs no counsel. He does not even need sleep (Ps 121:4). The rulers of Tyre and Egypt “thought” they were gods, but Yahweh knows He is and that He is alone.
God Has Authority over Everyone and Everything Everywhere
We have seen this truth previously in this book, but in Ezekiel 25–32 it is especially clear. He does not reign over just His people. He is not standing at the border of countries and waiting for them to validate His passport. His reign is not determined at the ballot box or in accordance with a congressional bill. Whatever He desired in these eight chapters is what would be done. In the discipline of these nations, He would even use other pagan countries. If that’s not sovereignty, then I do not know what is!
God’s Standards Do Not Change Based on One’s Location
He does not excuse sin based on geographical markers or the borders of countries. He is holy, and He expects all people to walk according to His ways. This is true even for peoples who do not have Scripture in their language. He will judge all peoples for both their attitudes and their actions. In these chapters God did not look past the sins of certain people just because they were not in Jerusalem or had never acknowledged His existence. He also did not punish them for general reasons but for specific causes. Somehow, without the FBI, CIA, KGB, or any other information gatherers, God had detailed knowledge of every nation and what they had done or not done in accordance to His will. He will judge all people based on His holiness. In one sense all religions do lead to God but just not in the way most people think.
God Keeps His Promises
As was already noted, what occurs in Ezekiel 25–32 is God keeping His promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:3. God has little tolerance for those who harm His people or lead them away from Him. Furthermore, no one had to remind God to keep His word. Neither Ezekiel nor his peers suggested that God offer retribution for what the other countries did to them. Without setting an alarm as a reminder, God knows when and how is the best way to honor His promises. He will bless all those who bless His people, and He will curse all those who curse them. We should be careful then in how we treat His other children in our faith families and our biological families.
God Often Uses Human Kingdoms or Governments as His Means of Divine Justice
The pagan nations may not even realize they are being used to accomplish His will. In these eight chapters God was going to use Nebuchadnezzar to be His agent of justice (26:7; 29:19-20; 30:24; 31:11). Scripture nowhere records God asking Nebuchadnezzar to partner with Him or asking his permission to use him. With Nebuchadnezzar and every ruler, God can exercise His sovereignty and “accomplish His will without destroying either their freedom or their accountability to Him” (Wiersbe, Be Reverent, 160).How does God do this without violating a person’s will? He guides them, He strengthens them, and He uses what is already in their heart. When Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, God did not put the evil in their heart. It was already there. He just had a plan that would turn to good what they intended as harm. Likewise, God did not have to put the desire to conquer other nations into Nebuchadnezzar’s heart. He just used what was already there.
The book of Habakkuk is a great illustration of God’s using pagan nations while simultaneously holding them accountable. Habakkuk is grieved because of the injustice and violence among God’s people (Hab 1:1-4). God tells him to sit tight because He has a plan. He’s going to raise a pagan nation to discipline His people (1:5-11). Any guess which nation God is talking about? You guessed it. Good ol’ Chaldea, or in other words, the home of the Babylonians. Habakkuk has a lot of questions about that plan but asks them humbly (1:12-17). God tells him not to worry because He will hold the pagan nation accountable for its actions as well (2:2-20). Habakkuk determines to trust God no matter what he sees around him (3:1-19).
God Receives Glory Both in Extending Mercy and in Withholding It
God is not obligated to extend mercy at all. God is not obligated to extend mercy to all. He told Moses, “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion” (Exod 33:19). In Ezekiel 25–32 Israel receives mercy. In these same chapters Ammon, Moab, Edom, Philistia, Tyre, Sidon, and Egypt receive judgment. In both cases God receives glory.
While some aspects of how God does things may be difficult for us to grasp, it does not make them less true. What we do not want to miss in these eight chapters is that every single nation including Israel deserved judgment and every single nation except one received it. The choice belongs to God, and He always does what He knows will bring Him the most glory. Israel’s discipline would be for restoration, but all the other nations experienced God’s judgment for ruin.
God’s Discipline of the Nations Is for the Good of His People (28:24-26; 29:21)
His children “will no longer be hurt by prickly briers or painful thorns from all their neighbors who treat them with contempt” (28:24). After God gathers the house of Israel and brings them to their own land, He wants them to live there securely, build houses, and plant vineyards (v. 26). His people will dwell securely after He executes judgments on all their neighbors who treat them with contempt (v. 26). All He does, He does for His glory and our good.
What Can We Learn About Us?
Ezekiel 25–32 contains points of application that we can take with us.
The World Will Often Rejoice When God’s People Struggle
Several of the countries in these chapters rejoiced and gloated over what happened to Israel. They even mocked them. In this world we will have trouble too (John 16:33). We should not be naïve and think everyone is going to love us just because we love Jesus. We should also do all we can to minimize bringing shame on God or causing people to doubt His power or goodness when they look at our lives.
Everything We Look To for Security besides God Will Ultimately Fail Us
Tyre had pride in all it had accumulated (28:5). Egypt took pride in what it had achieved (31:10). Philistia at one time had confidence in its giant. All refuges besides God will be found wanting. Our greatest need for security is from the wrath of God, and this refuge is found only in the cross of Christ. What are you placing your confidence in? Your seminary degree? Your mission trips? Your hours of service to the kingdom? Whatever else we look to for security besides Christ cannot even protect itself from God’s wrath, much less protect us.
Not Everything That Seems Important Now, Really Is
How many coins from Tyre do you think lie on the ocean floor? What lies buried in the sand of Egypt that seemed so precious in Ezekiel’s day? We do not even know the names of the rulers of Tyre and Egypt, though they considered themselves extremely important. What matters above all is knowing God’s will and doing it. We are a mist and a vapor in the timeline of earth’s history. How many plans of Egypt were drowned in one afternoon? It’s only God’s plan that will remain when all other kingdoms have passed away. Are we spending our time on what really matters?
If God Rewarded the Pagan Nebuchadnezzar for His Work, How Much More Will He Reward Those Who Love Him and Walk in His Ways?
God compensated Babylon’s king for his work as God’s agent of justice (29:17-21). I fear many of us rarely consider kingdom rewards. C. S. Lewis contended,
If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. (Lewis, Weight of Glory, 26)
At the same time, Jesus reminds us, “When you have done all that you were commanded, you should say, ‘We are good-for-nothing slaves; we’ve only done our duty’” (Luke 17:10).
We Have Work to Do
Jesus commissioned us to “go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:19). We have seen in these chapters that every nation and every person will be held accountable to God’s holy standards. Paul also tells us, “No condemnation exists for those in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1). After 29 chapters of judgment, let that truth wash over you for just a moment. Actually, strive to let that truth wash over you every moment of every day. Then notice the preposition “in.” Only those who are in Christ are free from condemnation because He was condemned in our place.
For those who are not in Christ, however, there is complete condemnation. How can they know and believe it is “Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath” (1 Thess 1:10)? “Faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ” (Rom 10:17). Indeed then, “How beautiful are the feet of those who announce the gospel of good things” (Rom 10:15).
May we consider these eight chapters and tremble before a holy God. May we consider His judgment on these nations and know we are just as deserving of such treatment. May we then look to the cross and shake our heads in wonder at the substitutionary atonement of Christ. May we in response not go past the gospel but deeper into it, and may the good news of Christ advance in us and through us for the glory of God and the good of others.
Reflect and Discuss
- If someone were to ask you, “How do you know God reigns over every nation and not just His people?” what would you tell them? Why do you think some believe He is just the King over those who believe in Him?
- In what ways is God’s sovereignty over every nation impacting your prayers?
- In what ways is God’s sovereignty over every person impacting your evangelism?
- In what ways is God’s future judgment of all peoples driving how your faith family seeks the global spread of the gospel? What are you doing specifically in this regard?
- Are there any ways we are like the people of Tyre and feel secure in what we have rather than in the One who has us? Why do we so easily feel secure in false refuges?
- Israel would often look to Egypt for help despite knowing Egypt never had Israel’s best interest at heart. How are we like this when we repeatedly run to our lovers: the world, the flesh, and the Devil? Why do we go to them so often even though they only want to wound and destroy us?
- Have you ever leaned on God for support and found him to be a “splintered staff” like Egypt was for Israel? Have you ever thanked Him for His steadfastness?
- How grateful are you that you have come to know that He is Yahweh through His mercy instead of through His judgment?
- How often do you consider kingdom rewards? Why can we so easily become distracted with matters that really are not that important from the eternal perspective? How can we stay focused on what matters most with each day the Lord gives us?
- After 29 chapters of seeing God’s judgment on full display, how grateful are you that there is no condemnation for those of us who are in Christ? How is this gratitude revealed in your daily life?