" 'Then those who live in the towns of Israel will go out and use the weapons for fuel and burn them up---the small and large shields, the bows and arrows, the war clubs and spears. For seven years they will use them for fuel. Ezekiel 39:9, NIV
There are those who will never, ever read this passage. There are churches where such a subject is not even allowed to be taught. I belonged to a church like that. It had a membership of about 900 people. About 400 showed up regularly, the rest for special holidays.
But let us say a curious church member had read this verse and the one following. The member was curious. He was a curator of ancient weapons and wanted to know exactly what kind were used long ago. If pressed, a pastor might say, "Well, this passage is symbolic. You see these aren't actual weapons at all. Experts in making all such passages symbolic say..."
Has anyone ever been hit with a symbolic war club, and so hard that he dropped his symbolic shield, perhaps on his symbolic foot? Or if the sincere questioner insists on a literal interpretation, he will be told that Ezekiel 39 is about a battle fought long ago. And there are no records of the weapons used, except, of course, in the Bible. The pastor would prefer that the subject not come up at all.
"I was told, 'Never teach prophecy. It divides people.'" My pastor told me that in his office. Don't you wonder who told him that? It was not the Holy Spirit.
But our questioner really wants to know. So he goes to a little husband and wife type of Bible store and asks, "Do you have a book that helps to explain Ezekiel?" They do, and soon our person is avidly reading the truth about this wonderful book.
They wonder, "How could my big limestone church with a pipe organ and a big bell tower treat God's book so poorly?" For the book explains that chapter 39 is not about the past at all, but the not so distant future.
The pastor had been wrong, except in one point. Prophecy does divide people. It is sharper than a two-edged sword. It is very possible that this former member will separate from this lying, evading church.
Now when he reads about the burning weapons, he thinks of Israelite children on a picnic some day soon. Their father will say, "Let's make a big bonfire of these shields and clubs. We're going to roast marshmallows."