Did you hear the news that China’s military has created full scale outlines of American Naval vessels in their deserts? Satellite images show that one of the models of US warship is on rails so that it can be moved. Why? To practice bombing them? Or maybe you heard that China has developed hyper-sonic missiles that travel five times the speed of sound. They actually launched one this past summer that circled the globe. Did you hear that President Biden had a video meeting with the President Xi of China, at least in part to talk about what appears to be a Chinese military build-up? There is talk of the United States boycotting the upcoming winter Olympics in China. There is also tension over China’s claim to Taiwan. Some believe that China is working on the capability to launch a surprise nuclear attack on the USA. Want me to keep going? I don’t want to. I hate this kind of news. It’s unsettling. It sounds scary, right?
That feeling of fear might be exactly what some people in Ezekiel’s day were feeling about a growing threat from a superpower nearby. What people were afraid? And what superpower were they afraid of? This week on the blog we return to our study through Ezekiel, looking at chapter 29-32, and we’ll not only answer those questions, but also how it matters to us Christians living in 2021. Let’s get started by opening a Bible to Ezekiel chapter 29.
In Ezekiel 29, verse 1, we read the date, “In the tenth year, in the tenth month, on the twelfth day.” That means the God gave Ezekiel this particular prophecy when he had been living in exile in Babylon for ten years, ten months and twelve days.
If you’ve been following the blog series since the beginning, does that date strike you as curious? We’ve had many dates in the book of Ezekiel so far, and they are always in this format, telling us how long it has been since Ezekiel and his fellow 10,000 Jews from Jerusalem have been exiled in Babylon. In that sense, this date is just like the rest. Why I am saying that this date in Ezekiel 29:1 is curious?
Let me give you a clue. Turn in your Bible to Ezekiel 26, verse 1, and there we read the previous instance that Ezekiel dated his prophecy. Notice what year it is? The eleventh year. Now do you understand why the date in Ezekiel 29 is curious?
In chapter 26, he writes about a prophecy that happened in the 11th year. Now in chapter 29 he goes back to the 10th year. Is he time-traveling? As we have seen throughout our study, God gives Ezekiel some very unique prophetic methods, but time-travel is not one of them. This date jumping, however, will continue. Scan ahead to Ezekiel 29, verse 17, and what do you read?
“In the twenty-seventh year, the first month, the first day.”
Now he is jumping way ahead into the future. Except, as I just said, there is no time-travel going on. What is happening, then? Either Ezekiel himself, and a later person or group who published his writings, first compiled them. They put some thought into their compilation, and they decided to forego a strictly chronological approach. Instead, they used a thematic approach. In this case, the four chapters, Ezekiel 29 through 32, that we are studying today, are all about the same topic, though the prophecies about that topic were from a variety of dates. What is topic?
Go back to Ezekiel 29, verse 2, and we read that God instructs Ezekiel to set his face against Pharaoh king of Egypt and all of Egypt. That’s the topic: Prophecy against Egypt and the King of Egypt, who was called the Pharaoh.
Throughout our study of Ezekiel, God has asked Ezekiel to set his face against many things. I have been calling this The Prophetic Stare. I imagine that Ezekiel would walk out of his house, right there in his village in Babylon, living with the 10,000 fellow Jews who were exiled from Jerusalem, and he would stare. That’s what he would do when he would set his face against something. The stare, in and of itself had no power, but in staring at something, Ezekiel was shining the light of God’s truth about whatever he was staring at. Usually, the stare accompanied a spoken prophetic word, so people would eventually find out what he was staring at and why. In this case, God had something to say about the king and people of Egypt. What does God say?
Join us for the next post, as we’ll talk about that.