Ezekiel 38
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
The occurrence in this place of this and the following chapters is somewhat perplexing. The events here prophetically described take place after the restoration of the Israelites from their Eastern captivity. Yet they are altogether too stupendous to be applicable to anything which happened in the time or soon after the time of Ezekiel. Thus many interpreters of prophecy refer them to a period still in the future, when a final struggle may take place between the Church of Christ and the powers of this world. The general moral and religious lessons of the passage are, however, independent of any special prophetical interpretation.

I. THE MANIFESTATION OF GOD'S FAVOR DOES NOT INVOLVE PERFECT TRANQUILITY. Israel had been restored from the East to the land of inheritance and promise. The hand of Divine retribution had been removed, and the hidden countenance of God had shone upon his people. But their troubles were not over; their land was not to remain in their undisturbed possession; Jerusalem was not to be the city of peace. This indicates a general principle of the Divine government. The Church of Christ is a ransomed Church, a chosen and beloved possession. But upon earth it is the Church militant; there is a warfare to be waged; this is not our rest. Even in the latest period of this dispensation repose may be disturbed, enemies may arise, a conflict may be passed through. All this would be consistent with the favor and loving-kindness of the God of salvation.

II. SINFUL RAPACITY IS NOT DETERRED BY THE SIGNS OF DIVINE PROTECTION. Not a few of the enemies of Israel had been defeated and put to shame, whilst Israel had been spared, favored, and exalted. He who questioned the power and kindness of Jehovah might well be pointed to the history of the Hebrew people. Yet, as a matter of fact, there were enemies of Israel and of God who, notwithstanding these apparent lessons, renewed their assaults upon the objects of Divine protection. Similarly, the Church of Christ is exposed to assaults open and insidious, physical and moral. The enemies of religion, if they have studied history, must be aware that Christ has built his Church upon a rock, and that the gates of Hades do not prevail against it. Yet they are not found to desist from their endeavors or to abate their hostility. Nor need the people of God expect to be exempt from "rude assaults of raging foes."

III. THE ENEMIES OF GOD'S PEOPLE, CONSCIOUS OF THEIR NUMBER AND THEIR POWER, REGARD THE APPARENTLY DEFENSELESS AS AN EASY PREY. The foe is described in these verses in a manner which depicts his formidable character. Cog and his auxiliaries and allies are represented as preparing for the attack, as mustering to make war upon those who are without the protection of walls, bars, or gates. The unwalled villages seem to invite the marauder, and he counts the cattle and goods, the silver and gold, as already a prey. In like manner, the foes of the Church, confident in their resources, relying upon the force of their arms, encourage one another in their hostile designs against the Church, by observing how defenseless she appears, and how open to the hostile attack and the crafty strategy of her foes. The weapons of her warfare are not carnal, and weapons of any other kind are beyond the comprehension of the foe.

IV. THE AGGRESSOR SHOULD REMEMBER THAT THE LORD OF ALL CAN CHECK AND DEFEAT THE ABLEST AND THE MIGHTIEST. If the Omnipotent do but say, "I am against thee," it matters not how formidable and vast are the hostile resources of the enemy. One word from his lips, one glance from his eye, is enough to put to confusion all the boasted power of the foe.

V. THE DEFENSELESS SHOULD REMEMBER THAT GOD IS ABLE IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES TO DEFEND AND TO DELIVER HIS OWN. The true security of Israel was in God's care; Jehovah was the Shield, the Stronghold of his people, and when they trusted in him they were safe. The Israel of God has a sure defense. "Fear not," says Jehovah; "I am with thee." The protection of the Church is not in the favor of kings or in the arm of the warrior; it is the eternal God who is our Refuge, and underneath us are the everlasting arms. - T.

The lengthened subjection of the Hebrews had sapped their courage and their hope. The promises of a return to Canaan fell upon hearts full of apathy and self-diffidence. A latent fear was growing up that, even should they regain their old possession, they would soon be exposed to fresh invasion from some grasping monarch. They felt their lack of organization, their lack of military prowess, and men devoid of energy felt that it was better to remain in exile than to be more completely crushed alter a temporary restoration. Hence Ezekiel was commissioned to deal with this form of indifference before it grew into active opposition. A vision respecting a great confederacy against Israel is granted to the prophet. God anticipates the gravest evil. He reveals to his people that this criminal conspiracy will end in complete disaster to its originators, and that Israel's triumph will be complete and perpetual. Ezekiel's face was set firmly against Gog, because God's face was against him.

I. GOD'S KINGDOM IS SECURE AGAINST THE GREATEST WORLDLY CONFEDERACY. The theory that is propounded in this prophetic picture is that possibly all peoples adverse to righteousness will combine against the righteous nation. The empires of the extreme North will, sooner or later, coalesce with the great empires of Asia and Africa in a common greed for the territory and possessions of Israel. The world-power is provoked into active opposition by the presence of a righteous and spiritual kingdom. As darkness is the foe of light, water the foe of fire, death the foe of life, so selfish wickedness is the foe of goodness. Sooner or later, these two great forces shall meet for final and mortal combat on the earth. But the mightiest forces are not those which are visible. Victory will not finally sit on the banners of largest battalions. These numbers count for nothing with God. Minor rivalries are often forgotten by reason of a mightier passion, viz. a common hatred of truth and God.

II. GOD'S KINGDOM IS SECURE AGAINST THE CLEVEREST MILITARY TACTICS. Men have enormous faith in swords and shields, in rifles, cannons, and dynamite. Against the empire of righteousness the most complete and prudent preparations will be made. No precaution foreseen by human sagacity will be omitted. Each nation will fight with such weapons as they can most skillfully wield. The most clever inventions in offensive artillery will be pressed into service. The hostility will be pressed on with all the arts and machinations possible to the human mind. Yet there is a force enlisted upon the side of the righteous kingdom that shall baffle all human combination, and make all human energy to appear as an embodiment of weakness. Man's strength and skill are only borrowed instruments.

III. GOD'S KINGDOM IS SECURE AMID UNFRIENDLY NEUTRALS. "Sheba, and Dedan, and the merchants of Tarshish... shall say to thee, Art thou come to take a spoil?" These peoples were neighbors to Israel, unwilling to join openly the ranks of Israel's foes, yet secretly desiring to see Israel humbled. They were heartless enough to cheer on the aggressive leaders of the foe, moved by a selfish hope that they might avoid the toil and the peril of war, and yet gain some advantage out of Israel's defeat. Neutrality at such a time and in such a manner was a crime scarcely minor to the crime of invasion, and such neutrality will be covered with disgrace. The most hidden motive of man, Israel's Ruler will detect, and in proportion to wrongdoing will be the award. Neutrals are usually despised by both sides. Nor can we forget how deeply God felt a selfish neutrality upon a former occasion, when the voice of the angel said, "Curse ye Meroz; curse ye bitterly the inhabitants of Meroz, because they came not to the help of the Lord against the mighty!"

IV. GOD'S KINGDOM IS SECURE BECAUSE EVERY FOE IS UNDER THE RESTRAINT OF JEHOVAH. Every selfish passion of man is under the control of God. A world of meaning is in that phrase, "I will put hooks into thy jaws." At any point in the development of the hostile project, God could have defeated it. He could have bridled the malicious impulse of Gog, the originator. He could have deprived him of reason or of life. He could have smitten with blindness all the leaders of the expedition. But God sees it to be best to allow large liberty to wicked men. The inner nature of wickedness is seen when it bears its full and proper fruit. Some plants look well in the shoot and in the leaf, but the fruit thereof is deadly. Men are seldom conscious of the action of God upon them. He "girded Cyrus" with strength and courage for his work, although Cyrus knew him not. And Gog would pursue his brilliant march, proud of himself and of his forces, least of all imagining that his Royal Foe had put already a hook in his jaw, and was simply leading him on to destruction. Utterly insane is the man who dares fight against God. The issue may be early foreseen. - D.

What is the real significance of this prophecy? Is it to receive a literal or a symbolical interpretation? If not fairly open to the one, in what direction shall we look for the other? Agreeing with the views advocated by Fairbairn, we give his exposition, reproducing his arguments as given in his work on this prophet. And thus guided, we look at -


1. The name given to the hostile leader points to an "ideal delineation;" while the name of the country is that of a "very indefinite territory," impossible to define.

2. The extraordinary character of the combination of forces, including those most remote and dissociated from one another, is "the reverse of the natural one," and points to "the clothing of an idea rather than to a literal reality."

3. The immensity of the numbers of the allied host makes it impossible that they would actually come up against Israel for plunder; they must necessarily lose rather than gain, even if they succeeded to the full extent of their expectations.

4. The details respecting the wood of the enemy's weapons (Ezekiel 39:9, 10) and the burial of the dead (Ezekiel 39:11, 12) are not such as would become historical

5. The particulars, especially as to the exact locality, do not correspond with those given in other prophecies (see Isaiah 34.; Joel 3.; Zechariah 14.).

6. The undoubted Messianic element in the prophecy demands a non-literal interpretation; for the kingdom of Christ was not to be established or secured by carnal, but by spiritual means.

II. THE TRUE SPIRITUAL INTERPRETATION. The prophet has already, in previous visions, brought us on to a period when Israel (the Church of Christ) has entered on a time of rest and triumph. The second David, the Divine Shepherd of Israel, presides over his people who dwell in security. But that is not the end; much has still to be done and to be experienced. For:

1. The peace and the prospects of the Christian Church stir up the enmity of the world, and "enlarge the field of conflict;" and "as the whole earth is Christ's heritage," there must be conflict until the victory is complete.

2. The war is to be on a gigantic scale, for the question now is "whether God's truth or man's sin is to have possession of the field;" in comparison with this great final conflict all previous contests seem small, and the largest numbers are applicable.

3. Great and preponderating as are the odds against the Church, reckoned by material resources, the presence of Divine power and grace on the side of Israel makes her completely victorious, and issues in the defeat of' the adversary.

4. The kingdom over all the earth becomes the Lord's. It becomes clear that it was his zeal on behalf of righteousness which led to previous chastisements, and that same zeal now causes them to triumph. Before the Church there stretches a "prospect of eternal peace and blessedness." The delineation may, or it may not, nave to do with some particular crisis or decisive moment when the "spiritual controversy rises to a gigantic magnitude, and ranges on either side all that is good and all that is evil in the world."


1. We need not be discouraged because a great and threatening battle has still to be fought out. We have intimations in Scripture that the Church will be called to face overwhelming hosts.

2. We may, by doing our best in the sphere in which we are placed, contribute something to the final triumph of the good.

3. We ought to have some better assurance than the presence of vast and apparently invincible numbers that we are on the winning side. The one decisive question is this - Is God with us or against us? - C.

The picture of Israel's foes is indeed one fitted to strike dismay into any heart depending upon human aid, defense, or deliverance. Gog and his armies, the hostile nations in league with him, are described with all the pomp and circumstance of war. Yet, when Jehovah declares, "I will turn thee about, and will put hooks into thy jaws," this declaration outweighs all the professions, all the threats, all the designs of the enemy. We are reminded - and the whole Church in every age needs, in time of danger especially, to learn the lesson - that above all the plans and purposes of men there reigns Divine control.

I. IT IS LITTLE EXPECTED. When plans are laid, and evil designs matured, nothing is further from the mind of the enemies of God's people than the unquestionable fact that the Lord of all is supreme. Some poor, faint human opposition may be anticipated; but it is not expected that a superior Power should intervene.

II. IT IS HAUGHTILY SPURNED. Shall hooks be put into the jaws of the dragon? Shall the wild horse of the desert be bridled? Shall the lion of the jungle be tamed? The very thought is repudiated and resented. The mighty of the earth are not wont to brook restraint or interference. Those who plan the ruin of the cause of God, of the religion of Christ, of the Church on earth and all its agencies - whether they so plan in the name of atheism and secularism, or in the name of worldly policy - spurn and contemn the restraint of Heaven. They see no power which they need to fear, and in their view it is superstition to fear the unseen.

III. IT IS VARIOUSLY EXERCISED. Sometimes God controls the foe by natural causes and instrumentalities. The destroying angel comes down upon the camp and smites the host; pestilence decimates the bands of the enemy; an earthquake opens the prison-doors; the storm scatters the invader's fleet. Sometimes God controls the foe by human agency. One enemy of God makes war upon another, and cripples the forces which were on the point of being employed against the Lord's people. Or a great deliverer is raised up, whose valor and heroism crush the enemy, and set the threatened free from fear and danger. In any case God is never at a loss for means by which he may bring his counsels to pass.

IV. IT IS ALWAYS EFFECTUAL. The control of God may be defied by God's enemies, and it may be ignored or distrusted by his friends. But it exists, and it is superior to all earthly powers and machinations. Revelation is full of instances of this control as manifested in the history of Israel and in the history of the infant Church of Christ. And the annals of Christianity, through long centuries, contain abundant confirmation of the great and blessed truth - " the Lord reigneth."

V. IT SHALL BE FINALLY ACKNOWLEDGED. Here and now men may withhold the confession. But sooner or later it shall be publicly admitted that all powers are subject to the King of kings. - T.

I will turn thee back. "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death" (Proverbs 14:12). There are paths that attract us, that we enter upon with keen expectancy, that we pursue with pleasure, but that, in time, we find to be wrong; then is it best to turn back, and to "return on our way" at once.

I. MISTAKEN PATHS. Such as those of:

1. Extravagance. A larger expenditure of our means than we can properly afford, pointing toward and leading to financial embarrassment and grave difficulty and distress.

2. Unregulated activity. Such mental or physical work as, either in measure or in method, draws too largely on our resources, and ends in nervous disorder or some serious illness.

3. Self-indulgence; either in unwholesome literature or in the grosser gratifications of the flesh.

4. A skeptical habit. The disposition, which in time becomes a habit, to regard everything with a cynical and distrustful eye, and would rather accept the uncharitable view than the generous one.

5. Worldliness. The way in which the multitudes are walking; the endeavor to find satisfaction and rest in the interests and engagements, in the treasures and the pleasures, of time and sense.

II. A CONVICTION WHICH COMES FROM GOD. The conviction that the way that has been chosen is the wrong one. This assurance may come through one of many channels; it may be the utterance of one of many voices; it may be the solemn warning of some providential occurrence; or it may be the faithful rebuke of a true and fearless friend; or it may be a deep and bitter sense of insufficiency, of failure, of heart-ache, of perversion of power and misuse of opportunity, a sense of wrong and sin; or it may be the direct enlightenment and appeal of the Spirit of God. But the conviction is written on the tablet of the soul that the way is wrong; a voice is heard in the inner chambers of the spirit. "Turn back, return on thy way, pursue a different course, start in an opposite direction, seek another and a better goal."


1. We can afford to return. It may cost us something; there may be some companions to forsake, but these are best at a distance; there may be some tender regrets, but these are temporary and will soon be left behind; there may be some humiliation to endure, but this is not of an unmanly kind, but, on the contrary, honorable and commendable; there may be some sacrifice of enjoyment or of treasure, but this can very well be borne with a moderate measure of fortitude, - we shall very soon reconcile ourselves to that. But:

2. We cannot afford to go on. If we do, we must prepare for the very worst that we can suffer; the wrong road leads not only to embarrassment, but also to saddest loss, to bitter disappointment, to helplessness, to ruin, to death. Moreover, God has met us with a Divine encouragement. He has taught us that:

3. There is a way upward, which we can all take. One has come to us to say, "I am the Way," Intimate association, living union, with him is the way of wisdom, the way of righteousness, the way of life. - C.

We have been taught by the Divine Master, Christ, that it is from within that human conduct takes its origin. It is the heart which is the source alike of good and of evil The tree bears fruit, whether sound and wholesome and palatable, or harsh and useless; the living well, the fountain, sends forth streams, whether sweet and cheering, or bitter and polluted. So the thoughts, intents, and devices of the heart find their expression in the words which reach men's ears and in the deeds which draw men's eyes. God, who knew the inmost nature of men, as well as their individual and political acts, revealed the secret spring of the malicious efforts of the foes of Israel, saying, "It shall come to pass in that day, that things shall come into thy mind, and that thou shalt devise an evil device."

I. PASSIONS PROMPTS THE EVIL DEVICE. There is in all men's nature a principle assuming various forms - impulse, propensity, passion. If there were no such principle, we cannot see how human life could go forward. It is the spring, the motive power, of the machine. It is not implanted within us in order that it may be eradicated, but in order that it may be governed, directed, controlled. In itself it is not bad. But passions become bad when misdirected and uncontrolled by reason and conscience.

II. CHOICE ADOPTS IT. Anger, lust, or some other passion prompts to a certain course of action. The mischief is wrought when the man, in the exercise of choice, accepts as the motive of his action, and identifies himself with, a passion, the indulgence of which works evil, preferring such a principle of action to a higher and better one. The device thus adopted by the enemies of Israel was a device of selfish passion, only to be indulged at the expense of justice and good feeling.

III. SINFUL HABIT NOURISHES IT. It is not a single feeling, a single purpose, which usually accounts for a man's, a nation's, evil ways. The mischief, when isolated, might be checked. But it is too often fostered and thus encouraged, complicated, and multiplied, as the mind broods upon it. A mere fancy becomes, when encouraged, a desire; a desire, when encouraged, becomes a settled purpose.

IV. SINFUL ACTIVITY EXECUTES IT. The desire does not long remain such; it tends to its satisfaction. The device is a means to an end, and achieves itself. God's mercies are permitted, in some cases and to some extent, to "bring wicked devices to pass." For wise purposes, the Ruler of all suffers men not only to think evil thoughts, but to accomplish evil deeds.

V. GOD CAN AND OFTEN DOES FRUSTRATE IT. The oft-quoted proverb is a true one, "Man proposes, God disposes." The All-wise has his own plans, the Almighty has his own means; and the wisdom and the power of men, measured against the Divine resources, will surely be brought to nothing. "Hitherto shalt thou go, and no further; and here shall thy proud waves be stayed." There is no occasion for the people of Christ to be dismayed or overmuch distressed when evil devices enter into the minds of their adversaries. All is known to their Divine Friend and Protector, who is abundantly able to defend and to deliver his own. "He taketh the wise in their own craftiness," their wisdom is seen to be but folly. "In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength;" "The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace." The enemy may devise; but he will not be suffered to execute his devices. - T.

We may treat this subject in two ways, We may have regard to -

I. NATIONAL SECURITY. Unfortunately, it is only too typical of our race that a great power should say, "I will go up to the land of unwalled villages," etc. Taking men and nations as they are, we have to reckon upon:

1. National unscrupulousness. It has been enough that one country has been strong and another weak, one covetous and another wealthy, one well armed and another defenseless, for the military enterprise to be undertaken, the attack to be delivered, and the disaster to be sustained. Then there has to be:

2. Some means and method of national defense. And we may find a country:

(1) Pitiably helpless. Such is the case with Israel (in the text); it has not yet recovered from its past defeats and despoilments; it has not had the opportunity of strengthening itself against attack.

(2) Culpably negligent. It may be so intent on enrichment or enjoyment that it has not given the needful time and strength to make itself secure against assault from without.

(3) Secured by international covenant; as Switzerland.

(4) Wisely regardful of its chief source of safety. This is found, not in regiments and in ships, not in fortresses and in magazines - though these may not be disregarded - but in the manliness and temperance of its citizens, and in the favor of Almighty God.

II. INDIVIDUAL SECURITY. Every man has to guard the sanctity of his own heart and character, the honor of his own name; his most sacred and bounden duty is to see that it is not invaded and defiled. That it may be preserved in its purity and integrity it becomes him:

1. To recognize the strength of the enemy. To remember and to realize that the adversaries of his soul are many, subtle, and strong; they are such as these - covetousness, passion, pride, intemperance, worldliness, unbelief.

2. To raise the strongest defenses he can secure. And these are

(1) good principles, - the love of that which is true and pure and sound, the hatred of that which is base and shameful and degrading;

(2) good habits, - the habits, well cultivated and constantly sustained, of self-command, of temperance, of purity, of through investigation before acceptance and utterance, of devotion. There are "the walls, the bars, and the gates" of the soul, which the adversary must take before he succeeds in his attack, within which the soul should be safely entrenched.

3. To secure the guardianship of God. By simplicity and uprightness of heart, by prayerfulness of attitude and engagement, to secure that gracious and mighty power against which all the devices and all the assaults of evil will not be able to succeed. - C.

Although it would be presumptuous to apply the language of this prophetic passage to any particular political event in the history of Israel, there were many occasions upon which invasion was permitted and the soil of Palestine was trodden by hostile armies; many occasions upon which the invader retreated, overwhelmed with disaster and ignominy. It is therefore allowable to interpret great political incidences and occurrences in the light of the principles here propounded upon the highest authority. At the same time, it is just to observe that there is truth here which has a wider range, and that the final confusion and destruction of the enemies of the Lord and of his Church are intimated in terms which cannot be mistaken.

I. INVASION WAS PERMITTED BY THE GOD OF NATIONS. The language which Jehovah is here represented as using, "I will bring thee against my land," is very remarkable, and must be interpreted, in conformity with the common usage of Hebrew literature, as implying that all events happened by Divine permission, and may in a sense in this universe, which is under Divine control, be attributed to the Supreme. But this not in such a sense as to charge God with men's iniquity, or to relieve men of their proper responsibility.

II. THE INVADER WAS YET THE OBJECT OF DIVINE DISPLEASURE. The lust of aggrandizement and of political power was the usual motive of the invader; and a knowledge of the Divine character assures us that action prompted by such motives cannot be other than disapproved and condemned.

III. THE INTERPOSITION OF THE MIGHTIEST CONFOUNDED THE MIGHTY. The terms employed to give expression to the judicial and retributive action of the Lord of all are most emphatic and unqualified: "My fury shall come up in my nostrils; for in my jealousy and in the fire of my wrath have I spoken I will call for a sword against him," etc. The means by which the invader is put to flight, and the people whom he has attacked are delivered, are described: "Every man's sword shall be against his brother; and I will plead against him with pestilence and with blood," etc.

IV. GREAT AS WAS THE CONFIDENCE OF THE AGGRESSOR, GREATER STILL WAS HIS HUMILIATION. The defeat and consternation of the invader are forcibly depicted. He came in pride; he departed in dishonor and disgrace. He came in numbers; he departed a mere remnant. He came amidst the terror of all beholders; he departed amidst hatred and contempt.

V. GOD GLORIFIED HIMSELF IN THE DESTRUCTION OF HIS FOES AND IN THE DELIVERANCE OF HIS FRIENDS. God magnified and sanctified himself before many nations; and this he did by openly fulfilling his own predictions, by saving his own people, and by confounding all the selfish and rapacious plans of his enemies.

APPLICATION. The principle contained in the prediction is one which is always applicable to all God's people, and which has an especial reference to those awful crises through which, it may be, the Church of Christ has yet to pass. Mysterious as it seems to us, it is yet a fact that the Omnipotent suffers the powers of error and of sin to gather themselves together against his people. But this should not strike dismay into the breasts of Christians, however they may feel themselves powerless and defense less. When they gaze upon the hosts of their adversaries, let them remember that "he that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall have them in derision." - T.

God has a variety of methods for dealing with rebellious men. Sometimes he allows them to have their willful way up to the margin of success, when suddenly the tables are turned, and apparent success becomes conspicuous defeat. With vain confidence they press on their daring measures, and are led, as it were, into an ambush and completely destroyed. Thus God dealt with Pharaoh at the Red Sea, and thus he purposes to deal with the unscrupulous monarch of the north. Their disastrous fortunes should leave on air surviving minds the vital lesson that Jehovah is the Supreme King, and that he is worthy of universal homage.

I. WICKED MEN ARE THE DUPES OF SLENDEREST TEMPTATION. This ideal monarch-type of worldly kings-was seduced into battle by the appearance of Israel's conscious security. Here was a nation without an army, without fortresses, without military generals; a nation having no visible means of protection. To evil men this was an irresistible bait. Now men with better dispositions would have argued, "Here is a peaceful nation, bent on the innocent arts of industry, devoid of ambitious aims. They deserve our respect, and (if needful) our protection." But impiety is as injurious to society as it is offensive to God. The slenderest hope of plunder and of territorial aggrandizement incites them to sharpen their weapons for human destruction. To get an empty bubble of fame, or gain rule over a few square miles, ten thousand precious lives will be sacrificed. Worse still, God's favor will be forfeited. In this respect man has sunk to a lower level than the beasts of the forest.

II. SEEMING SUCCESS OFTEN A SNARE TO COMPLETE OVERTHROW. "Thou shalt come up against my people Israel, as a cloud to cover the land." It seemed as if success were certain. What other result was possible? Their multitudinous horde seemed omnipotent by reason of its very numbers. They could compass every town and village so as to prevent a single escape. This over-confidence was weakness; it seemed to underrate the opposing force; it served to relax discipline; it blinded them to the fact that invisible forces might be silently at work against them. Thus it happened to the first Napoleon- His brilliant successes flushed him with vain confidence, led him on to destruction. "Cursed is the man who trusteth in man; ' "He that trusteth his own heart is a fool."

III. HOSTILE INVASION AGAINST ISRAEL IS CLEARLY FORESEEN BY GOD. The knowledge of an enemy's designs and tactics is half-way towards defeating him. Many military commanders succeed by the secrecy of their projects. If one knows where and when the foe will strike, one can be well prepared. To be forewarned is to be forearmed. In this respect, the servants of God enjoy a great advantage. No design nor project of our foes can escape the eye of our God. The first formation of the evil thought is clearly detected by him, and he keeps us well informed of our adversaries' schemes. In the case of Gog, the prophets of Jehovah had repeatedly foretold the formidable invasion; and, although Israel seemed unprepared for the assault, Israel's Defender was well equipped for the occasion. The issue was secured for Israel's glory.

IV. GOD'S ENEMIES ARE OFTEN DEFEATED BY INTERNECINE STRIFE. A confederacy cemented by wickedness is never durable. It will not bear any strain of trial Men who fight for spoil soon discover that their interests and their leaders' interests are distinct and separate things. Sin has no principle of cohesion. In many cases an army has defeated itself by internal discord. Each man's sword has been turned upon his comrade. So God here announces that he will dissolve their base alliance. "Every man's sword shall be against his brother."

V. GOD'S ARMY IS COMPOSED OF UNEXPECTED FORCES. In ancient times God has employed winds, storms, hail, fire, to defeat the enemies of Israel. The sea was God's triumphant army against Pharaoh. He sent the hornet to drive out the Canaanite. Locusts have been once and again employed as his invading regiment. Flakes of snow have done his destructive work. Pestilence has often served as his light brigade. Hailstones have been his irresistible artillery. He has turned back an army by the specter of its own superstitious fears. Fire overthrew the cities of the plain. The eruption of Vesuvius did a deadly work. Every force in nature is a servant of the living God, and in a moment can be made a soldier, armed to the teeth. Men am slowly discovering that God's forces stored in nature are mightier than the brawn of the human arm, and are depending more upon dynamite and gun-cotton than upon human strength and courage. So says God, "I will rain upon him, and upon his bands... an overflowing rain, and great hailstones, fire, and brimstone."

VI. THE TRIUMPH IS WITH GOD, Mere overthrow of the enemy is not the triumph that satisfies God. His aim is to bring light and conviction to men's minds - to renew and elevate men's best nature. "I will plead against him." By means of this defensive contest God will address himself to the minds and hearts of the people. "I will magnify myself." Impossible! God cannot, magnify himself. He cannot be greater than he is. But he will make his greatness known. By such mighty deeds he will reveal to men his invisible power, his matchless skill, his various excellences, his ineffable goodness. Men shall discover more of his compassion, his patience, his fatherly desire for men's good; and, instead of hating him, they shall admire and honor him. To a large extent men fight against God because they do not know him. They misconceive his government and his dispositions. Real knowledge of God is the road to life and bliss. As the outcome of the final struggle, even the "heathen shall know" and serve the righteous King. "I will sanctify myself." - D.

I magnify myself, and sanctify myself.


1. Why God magnifies himself; and the answer will be - Not for the mere purpose of self-glorification. We cannot think that of him "whose nature and whose name is Love" (see homily on Ezekiel 36:16-21). We conclude that he desires and determines to make His Name to be had in reverence, and to cause himself to be honored as the Great and Holy One, because

(1) it is inherently right that it should be so; and because

(2) it is altogether and immeasurably advantageous and elevating to his children that it should be so; it is indeed the only way by which they can attain a true and worthy manhood; for it is reverence toward God which is the very root of human excellence and nobility.

2. How he magnifies himself. This is by

(1) all that he has said of himself in his Word;

(2) all that he makes known of his disposition and his character by his Divine providence;

(3) by the revelation of himself in the Person of his Son. In these three ways especially God makes us know how great he is, how great his majesty, his power, his goodness, his righteousness; and how holy he is, how utterly he hates sin, how determined he is to rebuke it, and not only to rebuke it, but to conquer and to expel it. Most especially does he "magnify and sanctify himself" in Jesus Christ; for in his Person and in his work we see the greatness of his love, and the intensity of his hatred of sin and the fixedness of his purpose to subdue and to extirpate it.


1. Why we should do so. Because:

(1) It is the one right thing for us to do. The Great One should be exalted; the Holy One should be honored, because he is great and holy, especially because his greatness is the greatness of goodness as well as of power, and because his holiness is crowned with patience and mercy.

(2) To revere God and magnify him in our heart is the one way to our own moral and spiritual elevation, to nobility of character, to excellency of life.

(3) It is distinctly the way to promote the happiness and well-being of the world.

2. How we can do so.

(1) In our spirit; by cherishing in our hearts the reverence that is "due to his Name;" i.e. due to himself for all that he is and has done for us.

(2) In our life. (See Philippians 1:20.) By bringing all our actions into harmony with the known will of God; by living in such a way that we show ourselves to be loyal subjects of Jesus Christ, consulting his mind and obedient to his Word in everything; by making it clear that we are willing to put forth any effort or submit to any sacrifice in order that Christ may be great in the esteem and in the affections of men; thus we "magnify and sanctify" him.

(3) By our speech. We need not always be introducing the distinctive language of religion into our conversation; yet we may take opportunity in the home, as well as at the desk or in the pulpit, to commend Jesus Christ to the hearts of young and old, as that Divine Savior in whom to trust, as that Divine Lord in whose service they will find freedom, rest, and eternal life. - C.

The Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database.
Copyright © 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2010 by Biblesoft, Inc.
All rights reserved. Used by permission. BibleSoft.com

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Ezekiel 37
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