How do we come to know the Lord? Most of us would like to say that the answer is positive. Our knowledge of God comes from the majesty of nature or the whisper of the Holy Spirit. Maybe we were introduced to Christ through the invitation of a relative or a caring friend. The Lord speaks to us through the grand design of His universe, from the great to the small. Most profoundly of course, God reveals Himself in the life of His Son and through the suffering of the Christ upon the cross.
But there is another way to know God, too, and that is through having everything else taken away. Suffering and pain and desperation are tools we would consider negative, but can bring us to our knees before Almighty God and make us realize our dependence upon Him, especially when such punishment comes a a penalty for having gone astray. When we sin and undergo judgment that can result in knowledge of God. Such experiences teach us that Someone mightier than ourselves is in charge.
Looking at Ezekiel 30 through this lens makes us realize that the Lord is motivated for people to come to know Him as God. Throughout the chapter, we see the various judgments that the prophet says will be poured out upon Egypt: "A sword shall come upon Egypt, and anguish shall be in Ethiopia" (vs. 4). What follows is about 20 verses of afflictions such as falling by the sword, fire, drying up the land, the destruction of idols, darkness and exile. Why? "Thus I will execute acts of judgment on Egypt. Then they shall know that I am the Lord" (vs. 19).
At the end of this chapter, Ezekiel continues to talk about the arms of Pharaoh (i.e. his power) being broken (vs. 20-24) Again, however, the conclusion is the same: "I will strengthen the arms of the king of Babylon, but the arms of Pharaoh shall fall. And they shall know that I am the Lord, when I put my sword into the hand of the king of Babylon. He shall stretch it out against the land of Egypt, and I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations and disperse them throughout the countries. Then they shall know that I am the Lord" (vs. 25 and 26).
God is concerned that people will know Him. Whether with our cooperation or not, God will be God. Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess. The ultimate answer to the question of why God is bringing such punishments upon the nations may be so that they may know Him as God. Let us endeavor to know God through the grace-filled avenues He has supplied, rather than the hard lessons suffered by the nation in the Old Testament.