Friday, August 26, 2016

Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 59

Comfort My People:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah
Day 59

Isaiah moves on from his prophecy against Judah and Jerusalem and today we begin a section about the ancient Phoenician city of Tyre. In the Bible we often find Tyre and Sidon mentioned together, for from their area that a prestigious purple dye was obtained by extracting fluid from a mollusk. The Greeks named the region "Phoenicia" which means "purple". It is known that Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon ended up besieging the area for a period of about thirteen years, after which it is thought Tyre and Sidon may have surrendered to him because there is a record in the Babylonian archives of Nebuchadnezzar supplying rations to the people there. He did not destroy Tyre but Alexander the Great certainly did, devastating the city and putting many to death. The city regained much of its prominence during the Roman era and became a wealthy port city once again. Today it retains little of its former glory, having been greatly decimated during the Lebanese civil war. There is still a fishing industry and modern homes, shops, and government buildings, but a good deal of the region is taken up with squatters' shacks and has become a slum. Isaiah has some harsh words for Tyre and its coming destruction. From the time Nebuchadnezzar set out to claim the city as its own, Tyre has not really been free again. She bowed down under Babylonian, Greek, and Roman rule. She suffered destruction of her walls and seaport. She suffered the ravages of civil war and of time itself. And today Tyre is only a shadow of what it once was.

"A prophecy against Tyre: Wail, you ships of Tarshish! For Tyre is destroyed and left without house or harbor. From the land of Cyprus word has come to them." (Isaiah 23:1) Word comes to those nations who trade with the great maritime city of Tyre. It has been destroyed. Sailors bring this sad news back to their homelands and the news is met with wails of grief. Tyre was a city lifted up in pride and materialism, boastful of her wealth and fame. The citizens participated in Baal worship and it was from the region of Tyre and Sidon that the wicked King Ahab of Israel found his wife: the idolatrous Jezebel who had many prophets of God put to death.

Barry G. Webb, in his book The Message Of Isaiah, explains why the destruction of Tyre will be such a horrific loss to everyone who hears about it. "Verses 1-7 picture the stunning news of Tyre's fall reverberating around the Mediterranean world. Home-bound sailors first hear of it in Cyprus; a deathly hush falls over Sidon at the news; Egypt weeps because of the impact on her wheat exports and finally refugees carry the news right back to Tarshish. There is more involved here than the personal suffering of the inhabitants of the city. A lot of people had a great deal to lose in the collapse of Tyre. When it came it would hit the Mediterranean world like a Wall Street crash of devastating proportions." The fall of Tyre was to the ancient world what the stock market crash and the great depression were to the United States. 

"Be silent, you people of the island and you merchants of Sidon, whom the seafarers have enriched. On the great waters came the grain of the Shihor; the harvest of the Nile was the revenue of Tyre, and she became the marketplace of the nations." (Isaiah 23:2-3) Tyre in the Bible is symbolic with commercialism. It is an example of those who trust in wealth and material goods instead of trusting in the Lord. Because there is no spiritual foundation, no Rock of Ages upon which to stand, the collapse of the economy brings the people to a shattered silence. They are grieved to the point of being unable to speak. The rug has been swept out from under them and they have no footing because they have not made God their source of security and comfort in an ever-changing world.

"Be ashamed, Sidon, and you fortress of the sea, for the sea has spoken: 'I have neither been in labor nor given birth; I have neither reared sons nor brought up daughters.'" (Isaiah 23:4) Tyre was an offshoot of Sidon, in a sense Sidon's child, but at its fall Sidon wails at the loss of this child, this extension of itself. 

"When word comes to Egypt, they will be in anguish at the report from Tyre." (Isaiah 23:5) Egypt profited mightily from her grain exports and now a major trading route is cut off.

"Cross over to Tarshish; wail, you people of the island. Is this your city of revelry, the old, old city, whose feet have taken her to settle in far-off lands?" (Isaiah 23:7) When Nebuchadnezzar came to lay siege against Tyre, some of her inhabitants fled as refugees to Tarshish. Those who were once so proud of their merchant city had to flee it in haste, weeping in grief. The city once so full of revelry and celebration now sat in dust and ashes.

Any enterprise, endeavor, or work done without acknowledging or honoring the Lord is nothing but dust and ashes. We may accomplish some big things by worldly standards, just as the region of Tyre did, but wealth can come to nothing in an instant. Status and prestige and fame can vanish suddenly. If those things are what we were basing our security on, we will be like the man who build his house on the sand. "The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash." (Matthew 7:27) The Lord wants better things for us. If Jesus Christ and our relationship with Him are where we find our security and our identity, we have an unshakable foundation. If He chooses to bless us with material wealth, it's simply the icing on the cake. If He chooses to take away material wealth, we won't stumble around without sure footing like the people of Tyre because our house is built upon the rock. "The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock." (Matthew 7:25)

No comments:

Post a Comment