“So will I make my holy name known in the midst of my people Israel; and I will not let them pollute my holy name any more: and the heathen shall know that I am the Lord, the Holy One in Israel.” — Ezekiel 39:7
In many societies around the world, honoring the family name is of great importance and a required duty. The clans of Scotland, which date back to the twelfth century, are one example. Traditionally, clan members were expected to uphold the honor of the clan name by behavior that would win the approval of the clan chief.
Recently a conflict over use of a particular Scottish name made the news. The Chicago Tribune carried a story about a “call to arms” issued by Lord Godfrey James Macdonald, head of the Scottish clan that includes all spellings of that name.1 Lord Macdonald was seeking support for a fellow Scot who was being threatened with legal action by the hamburger chain McDonald’s because she had named her small sandwich shop outside of London McMunchies. Representatives of the burger chain asserted that “Mc” was a registered trademark of the company and that the shop owner’s use of those letters was illegal because it might cause the public to think the shop was a part of the McDonald’s corporation.
One of the supporters of the shop owner, also a MacDonald, wrote to the hamburger chain informing the company that its action was “an insult to millions of Scots.” He then met with Lord Macdonald, and they set up an association named “Guardians of the Clan Macdonald.” Its stated purpose was to uphold the honor and dignity of the clan name, as well as give moral support to the sandwich shop owner.
Though the fierce protectiveness of the Macdonald clan regarding their name might seem somewhat humorous to us, there is one Name that we must regard with utmost respect and honor: the name of God. While names are esteemed for many reasons, only His name is holy.
In Jewish tradition, a name is not merely an arbitrary designation or a random combination of sounds; it conveys the nature and essence of the one named. Thus, to honor the name of God is to reverence His character and indicate that He is regarded with absolute devotion and loving admiration.
Through the ages of time, God has defended His name to individuals, kings, and nations. Today’s text tells of a time when He will defend His name to the nations of the world that will gather to fight against Israel. God’s chosen people have polluted His name, but according to our focus verse, when He makes His holy name known in their midst, both Israel and all those who have opposed that nation will know He is the one true God.
Until that day comes, we too have a responsibility toward the name of God. It should have a position of honor and unique significance in our minds and hearts. We should never take His name lightly, but always uphold and reverence it in word and deed.
This portion of text from Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39 continues the prophecy against a confederacy of nations that will attack Israel in the end time, and reveals the manner in which God’s honor will be vindicated.
Verse 17 of chapter 38 begins with the phrase, “Thus saith the Lord God,” emphasizing that this message was from God rather than Ezekiel. Ezekiel himself likely did not understand fully the scope of what he was saying, nor how the words his fellow prophets had spoken “in old time” harmonized with his narrative. This verse indicates that he was not personally forecasting the future; he was merely relating what God said.
Verses 18-19 indicate that when the nations gather against Israel, it will draw God’s profound anger. The words “my fury shall come up in my face” are particularly emphatic in describing His ire when enemy armies set foot in Israel. As a result of His wrath, the Lord will personally intervene to defeat the armies of Gog and Magog. There is no mention of Israel fighting back, but only of God fighting for Israel through the elements He created — a mighty earthquake, hailstones, fire and brimstone, overflowing rain — and an enemy fighting against itself. These are all echoes of past events in the Bible, but will be greater in magnitude and scope than ever before as the Lord defeats the enemies of His people in this battle.
The first sixteen verses of chapter 39 continue the description of the utter destruction of Gog and Magog — an annihilation so terrible that only a small remnant of their army will survive. Verses 9-12 indicate that all their weaponry will be destroyed. The fact that it will take seven years to burn the weapons signifies the totality of the Lord’s victory and the completion of His plan to vindicate His name. The seven months needed to bury the dead reinforce the finality of the victory.
According to verse 11, Gog and the accompanying forces will be buried in Israel. Early Bible commentators translated “east of the sea” as “the east sea,” in reference to what we know as the Sea of Galilee. The Valley of Hamon-gog is thought to be slightly to its east. Commentator Adam Clarke agrees with this location.
Verses 13-16 pertain to the burial of the dead and reflect adherence to Levitical guidelines in the disposal of dead bodies, in keeping with Jewish cultural/religious norms. The phrase “cleanse the land” is further indication of the importance of purity, which will motivate Israel to treat even their worst enemies with respect in this disposing of the remains of the dead.
IV. The consolation of Israel
A. Prophecies of Israel’s restoration
6. The destruction of Gog
b. The destruction
(1) A great earthquake (38:17-20)
(2) God’s judgement (38:21-23)
(3) Gog’s army defeated (39:1-8)
(4) The removal of Gog (39:9-16)
(a) The weapons burned (39:9-10)
(b) The dead buried (39:11-16)
As we honor God’s name today, He will help us live so our lives glorify Him.
1. Ray Moseley and staff writer, “Brave Hearts Fight Big Mac Attack,” Chicago Tribune, February 2, 1997, accessed Dec 17, 2021, https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-1997-02-02-9702020275-story.html.