Sunday 20th November 2022


Greed is a strange thing!  It is wrong, not because what it is aimed at, but because of the way in which that aim is obtained.  “God… richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” (1 Timothy 6:17), is a foundational biblical truth.  God is very generous and wants us, his beloved children, to have an abundance of the very best things in life.  “I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10) reinforces this. 

The main problem with us is that we want to take unwise ‘shortcuts.  Greed is an attempt to take good things ahead of – or instead of – other equally deserving people.  It is pushing to the front of the queue, serving ourselves more than our share.  It is failing to empathise or show consideration for others. 

It is interesting, when flying with a budget airline, to observe the behaviour of people who are about the board a flight: if there a no seats actually allocated, then it becomes a highly competitive ‘free for all’ to get a suitable seat ‘ahead of’ or ‘instead of’ our fellow passengers.  (And, yes, I have taken part in this too!) 

But if we already have a designated seat, then we take our time, relax, and even saunter onto the plane a little late, knowing that the seat will be waiting for us.  The difference is one of faith:  In the first case, we believe that seats are in short supply, and we could lose out; in the second case, we know that there are enough seats to go around and that we already have a good one set aside for us.  ‘Greed’ is in essence, a lack of faith and an expression of fear.  It produces the very worst in us, recreating the law of the jungle with its ‘fight or flight’ response.  (Or, in the case of some budget airlines: ‘fight and flight’!!!)

Faith relies on a God who cares for us, who has an abundance of good things to provide us with, and who knows our needs and when we will require them.  We can be confident that he will provide, so we can relax and wait our turn!  But, as James 4:2b tells us, we still need to ask: “You do not have because you do not ask God”.  Failure to do so can be laziness, presumption, or complacency.  Every father likes to be asked from time to time.

So how do we act when there is food on the community table, or something else that we perceive to be in short supply?  And what do we do when non-community members or ‘guests’ are also present?  This is a good time to search for, and root out, greed within our own hearts and lifestyles.   If the problem is food, for example, then the discipline of fasting helps to cure that.

The additional problem is that we focus on the abundance of pleasures – which James calls a false motive.  Pleasure is a consequence of faithful service and unselfish love; if we focus on these things, the pleasure will come along automatically, but if we focus on the pleasure itself, we miss the lot! 

The same applies with our relationship with God: He has created us and placed his breath within us, so we belong to him.  He regards us like a lover who deeply desires an intimate relationship with his beloved; if we give our time and attention to everything else but Him, then he is jealous, and rightly so!  “For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God… showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments” (Exodus 20:5-6).

Do you want to feel close to God?  Well, draw close to him, then!  (James 4:8).  Submit yourself to his will and humble yourself (agree with His view of you) and he will raise you up to greatness. 

Finally, we all instinctively assume that sinful behaviour – stuff that really displeases our Heavenly Father – is something we have thought, said, or done when we shouldn’t have.  But it is equally displeasing if we knew about a good thing that we should have done and didn’t.   (v17).

EZEKIEL 38 and 39

What kind of a name is ‘Gog’?  And who is he?  There are only two places in the bible where he is mentioned: here in Ezekiel 38 and 39, and once more in Revelation 20:8, where it clearly refers to the nations of the world banding together in an unholy alliance to oppose God and his people.  Comparing scripture with scripture, therefore, it is highly likely that the Ezekiel references are about the same event.  Perhaps ‘Gog’ is deliberately vague in scripture, so that we don’t associate him with any one country.  ‘Magog’, I understand, probably just means ‘The Land of Gog’. 

Many amateur theologians have speculated wildly that these terms refer to Russia, China, Iran, North Korea etc, but there is little evidence that the prophecy can be ‘nailed down’ so specifically; what, for example, would Augustin of Hippo or Martin Luther have interpreted the names as?  From the text, it is clear that there are hordes of nations converging on Israel (or a Christian equivalent of God’s people), to finish them off and to prove that God is not able to protect them at all.  Chapters 38 and 39 effectively tell the same story twice, but with different emphasis.  I will just use the phrase ‘The Lord’s People’ from now on, therefore.

In Chapter 38, the Lord starts by telling Gog that He is in charge and that victory will be his.  It will begin by Gog spying a land that is at peace, with a people resettled in it from exile and who have nothing to fear.  There is no need for security and a wonderful supernatural peace seems to exist in the land; its people are relying totally on the Lord for their safety.  In v16, the Lord entices Gog and his armies to attack this apparently defenceless people, who seem to be there for the taking.  It’s a trap!  The Lord moves like lightening to the defence of his people and pours out his wrath and judgment upon Gog and his army, totally exterminating them with supernatural power.  Earthquakes, hailstones, plague and burning sulphur are typical instruments of the Lord’s judgment. 

Then in Chapter 39, the focus is on the aftermath of that same battle.  God’s people, having been totally rescued from the invaders, take seven years to burn all the weapons as fuel, and seven months to bury all their dead enemies as hastily as possible to avoid blocking all the roads and river valleys.  Full-time burial squads will need to be employed to keep on top of the work!  As for the birds and wild animals, they will never before have known such a glut of blood and flesh as they will find in these days described here.

The reference in Revelation 20:7-9 also mentions the feast that the predators and carrion will enjoy.  It also mentions that the whole battle was joined in a climate where The Lord had given the Devil an extra degree of freedom to ‘do his worst’!  Satan has been permitted to deceive the nations in a concerted way that he has never been able to do before in history.  So, Gog is a kind of Antichrist figurehead who is the focus of this unholy unity and a ‘puppet’ of the Devil himself.  Presumably the gospel is no longer effective against any of these warring nations, and from a salvation point of view it is now too late for them: the fire of the Lord’s wrath comes down from heaven to punish and destroy them.  Have a careful read also of 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12, since Paul writes in plain English (well, plain Greek!) and sets out what must happen in the End Times.  This passage surely relates to the aforementioned Ezekiel and Revelation passages.

The key reason for all four chapters is one and the same: “And so I will show my greatness and my holiness, and I will make myself known in the sight of many nations.  Then they will know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 38:23).  Also: “Then they will know that I am the Lord their God, for though I sent them into exile among the nations, I will gather them to their own land, not leaving any behind.  I will no longer hide my face from them, for I will pour out my Spirit on the people of Israel, declares the Sovereign Lord” (Ezekiel 39:28-29).  The Lord is going to reveal his one glory, greatness, and holiness to the whole world, and he will rescue every one of his people without exception – don’t you worry!

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