Hey Israel friends, we are now wheeling into Week 3 of our journey together, and some will argue this is our most intriguing week as we look to the future and find that God has already acted faithfully, even before final fulfillment of Bible prophecy! Seatbelts on and let’s get going!
The Faithful God who has perfectly fulfilled every prophecy concerning Jesus’ first coming will also faithfully fulfill every Bible prophecy regarding His second coming! Need some evidence? Simple!
Respected Bible theologians agree there were roughly 500 prophecies foretelling Jesus’ first coming to earth. Of course, each was filled exactly as prophesied by the prophets and written down in Scripture. Here are a few examples:
|Come from the tribe of Judah||Genesis 49:10||Luke 3:23-33 (v 30)|
|Born of a virgin||Isaiah 7:14||Matthew 1:18|
|Born in Bethlehem of Judea (Judah)||Micah 5:2||Matthew 2:1|
|Enter Jerusalem on a donkey||Zechariah 9:9||John 12:13-14|
|Would be rejected||Isaiah 53: 3||John 1:11|
|Betrayed for 30 pieces of silver||Zechariah 11:12||Matthew 26:15|
|Pierced for our transgressions||Zechariah 12:10||John 19:34|
|Buried in a rich man’s tomb||Isaiah 53:9||Mathew 27:57-60|
|Resurrect from the dead||Psalm 16:10||Luke 24:4-6|
|Ascend to heaven||Psalm 68:18||Acts 1:9|
How does one control who his mother is, where he will be born, or into what tribe he will be born? Impossible! Moreover, the chances of fulfilling those 10 prophecies at the precise time and exactly as written are incalculable. Yet there were not only 10 prophecies fulfilled at Jesus’ first coming, but roughly 500! Only a Faithful God could pull it off! Our Mighty God has absolute sovereignty and power. Always has, always will! There are another 500 or so Bible prophecies regarding His second coming and, rest assured, He will be faithful to fulfill every single one at exactly the right time and as described in Scripture! We will consider a few!
Week 3, Lesson 1: Look to the North
Some ask, “Why study Bible prophecy?” “Is it really relevant?” “It seems scary and hard to understand, so why bother?”
Ah, but Bible prophecy gives us great hope and assurance that a faithful God will always be true to His promises. Prophecy also spurs us on to be watchful and ready for Christ’s return. (1 Thessalonians 5:4-8, 2 Timothy 4:1-5) This week, keep one eye on the news as you study God’s faithfulness in Israel’s future, because the future may not be that far away!
It is no secret that Israel lives in a dangerous neighborhood. The tiny Jewish nation, the size of New Jersey, is surrounded by dozens of Muslim-dominated countries. Altogether, those countries are 640X the size of Israel. Here is the lay of the land:
The areas in green are Muslim-dominate and the tiny red nation in the middle of it all is Israel. Muslims make up about 20% (~1.7 billion) of the global population while Jewish global population is about .2% (~14 million, roughly 10 million live in Israel). By the way, “Muslim” does not mean Arab. One can be Muslim and not be Arab, and one can be Arab yet not be Muslim. For example, Iranians are not Arab (they are Persian), though most are Muslims; and there are many Arab Christians in the Middle East, including in Israel.
Arab animosity toward Israel has always been intense both in ancient times (even before the birth of Islam) and in modern times. But consider these threats from various Muslim leaders since 1965:
We aim at the destruction of the State of Israel. The immediate aim: perfection of Arab military might. The national aim: the eradication of Israel. (Egyptian President Gamel Abdul Nasser, 1965)
The existence of Israel is an error which must be rectified. This is our opportunity to wipe out the ignominy, which has been with us since 1948. Our goal is clear – to wipe Israel off the map. (Iraqi President Abdur Rahman Aref, 1967)
That [destruction of Israel] is the principal objective of Hezbollah, and it is no less sacred than our [ultimate] goal. ...If they [Jews] all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide. (Hezbollah Leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, 2000, 2003)
It is the mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to erase Israel from the map of the region. (Iranian Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, 2001)
Despite the taunts and the overwhelming scope of threats, God has been faithful to protect His uniquely called people. Since 1948, the tactics have become more calculated and, at times, more aggressive, yet the tiny Jewish state still stands as a thriving, prosperous democracy in the cesspool of tyrannical dictators that make up the Middle East. Everyone seems to know there is something much bigger looming on the horizon, and that comes as no surprise to Bible-believers who know and understand the Ezekiel 38-39 prophecy. If you have not read those chapters in a while, why not take a few moments to do so.
It has become the prophecy many Bible teachers are talking about, and probably for very good reason. When we study the players in the game, we see that it is those people groups currently arraying themselves in a coalition, with Israel as the target. So, be good detectives and consider the who, what, when, where, why, and how of this great prophecy.
- To WHOM does the Lord speak (through the prophet Ezekiel) in Ezekiel 38: 3? Based on Ezekiel 38:8, 15-16, it seems that person will lead the charge. Yet WHO will drive the action, according to Ezekiel 38:4 and 39:2? Is that surprising? If so, why?
- WHAT will the invaders do? (Ezekiel38:10-12) WHAT is their mission?
- According to Ezekiel 38:15-16 and Ezekiel 39:2, from WHERE will the invasion begin, and WHERE will the action take place? Take note of WHO is “far north” of Israel.
- HOW will the invaders come? (Ezekiel 38:9, 15-16)
- Based on Ezekiel 38:18-19, WHAT are God’s feelings about this?
- HOW does it all end? (Ezekiel 38:21-22)
- Ezekiel 39:23-24 helps us understand WHY God deals with Israel in seemingly harsh ways at times.
- According to Ezekiel 38:23, 39:7, 13, 21-24, WHAT is the result and WHO gets the glory?
- WHAT promise does God reiterate in Ezekiel 39:25-29?
Great job on your detective work! Perhaps you noticed one question that went without mention: WHEN. That is because Scripture does not tell us when, but we certainly see the stage being set today. In fact, Ezekiel 38:1-6, 13 introduces the actors in this horrid play, and many are already on stage. So, get your bearings as to who those actors are and where they come from.
- Gog = “head” or “czar.” Gog of Magog is a title, not a name.
- Rosh, Meshech and Tubal are generally thought to be part of modern-day Russia
- Without doubt, Persia is modern-day Iran, and likely includes part or all of Iraq (a modern-day servant-state of Iran). (This map seems to push as far east as Afghanistan and Pakistan, which is new to me. Etymology, the study of origins, may or may not support that.)
- Ethiopia (also known as Cush in some Bible translations) is the area of modern-day Sudan, Ethiopia, and perhaps Eritrea. (Those areas are heavy-laden with terrorist training camps and munition production and storage facilities.)
- Libya (also known as Put or Phut in some Bible translations) likely includes much of north Africa, not only Libya. (Again, this map seems to push all the way west. I am unsure of that.)
- Gomer and Togarmah are more difficult to pinpoint, but likely include modern-day Turkey, perhaps parts of Syria and perhaps a bit further westward into parts of Bulgaria and Romania.
- Sheba and Dedan make up most of the Saudi peninsula and Tarshish is likely considerably west, perhaps Spain or England. Ezekiel 38:13 indicates Sheba, Dedan, Tarshish and her young lions will sit on the sidelines during the invasion asking questions rather than joining the attack. Interesting that Saudi Arabia seems close to a peace deal with Israel, and Egypt and Jordan, who already have peace deals with Israel, are not named among the attacking coalition!
By the way, Israel is so tiny on that map that there is no room to write the name “Israel!” All the arrows point to it, though! Doesn’t seem like much of a fight…unless a Faithful God is on your side!
Now that we know the players, what could possibly be their motive for attacking the tiny nation of Israel? The answer might surprise you (or maybe not)! We know the animosity and venomous words spewed by Muslim leaders quoted above, but is that all? Not according to Ezekiel 38:12.
According to that key verse, are they coming only to wipe Israel off the map, or is there something more? What do you think they are after?
Now is a great time to stop and consider God’s faithfulness to Israel in times past. Recall Mark Twain’s comment about nothing growing in the land. Remember the barrenness of the 1920’s photo showing Israel as nothing but a wasteland. But we have seen God’s faithfulness in studying Ezekiel 36 (restoration of the land) and 37 (return of the Jewish people to their land).
Indeed, by God’s grace and favor, Israel is prosperous today, but it was not always that way! In fact, until only a few years ago, Israel had nothing to “plunder” and no “booty” to take (as Ezekiel 38:12 says)! Israel was poor and desolate and had no natural resources. Then, oil and gas were discovered off the Mediterranean Coast, in Israeli territorial waters. First one enormous natural gas field, then another and another; then oil reserves were found on the Golan Heights (still virtually untapped).
Suddenly, during a time in world history when Russia is seeing their oil and gas fortunes disappear, Vladimir Putin begins to appear very “gog-like” and is now in a fighting mood! Suddenly, Israel’s oil and gas provide motive!
Iran also has motive because they still want to wipe Israel from the map. Turkey has motive, as current President Erdogan wants to restore the glory of the Ottoman Empire and become caliph (leader) of the entire Muslim world. Israel, of course, stands in the way of each!
If you read Ezekiel 38-39, you know how it ends! When Israel’s enemies come like a storm from the north, through Syria and over the Golan Heights to the mountains of Israel, will God remain faithful? Will He fulfill His promises as He always has?
When we stand on the Golan Heights overlooking Syria to the north, I pray you will contemplate God’s faithfulness to protect Israel. Here is a passage to consider:
35 Thus says the Lord,
Who gives the sun for a light by day,
The ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night,
Who disturbs the sea,
And its waves roar
(The Lord of hosts is His name):
36 “If those ordinances depart
From before Me, says the Lord,
Then the seed of Israel shall also cease
From being a nation before Me forever.”
37 Thus says the Lord:
“If heaven above can be measured,
And the foundations of the earth searched out beneath,
I will also cast off all the seed of Israel
For all that they have done, says the Lord.
Would it be a stretch to say that if Iran and others wish to destroy Israel, they would be better off aiming their weapons at the sun, moon, stars, and the foundations of the earth? Of course, that is a facetious question, but it illustrates just how faithful God will be in Israel’s future! God will never forsake His promises. Israel will stand…you can count on that!
Great work today, Bible lovers! Stick with it the rest of this week because we are working up to something fantastic! See you tomorrow.