Saturday, August 27, 2016

Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 60

Comfort My People:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah
Day 60

We will continue the prophecy against Tyre today as we begin our look at the second half of Chapter 23. Yesterday we learned how tragically the nations viewed the fall of Tyre because it meant economic hardship for all who traded with her. Today Isaiah begins with a question, "Who planned this against Tyre, the bestower of crowns, whose merchants are princes, whose traders are renowned on the earth?" (Isaiah 23:8) This question is rhetorical because he knows the answer. Isaiah is asking the people to think about just why such a calamity has fallen. What brought it about? Who brought it about?

Tyre established crown colonies, just as the British Empire would later do, setting up governors of her own choosing over her provinces, thus being a "bestower of crowns". Also, Tyre was so influential in the ancient world that she was able to meddle in the governmental appointments of other nations, in another sense being a "bestower of crowns". In addition, trade with Tyre made many men wealthy, men not of noble birth but who became "princes" because of their vast riches. These were men not necessarily of noble character either, but who became "renowned on the earth" because of their worldly success. It was a time of opportunity, when any man who could scrounge up a ship and a crew could potentially make his fortune, and many men had made fortunes. In the Bible, Tyre stands as a symbol for materialism and commercialism. It stands for reliance upon wealth and position rather than reliance upon Almighty God. But this "bestower of crowns" is about to come face to face with the King of kings, the One who is the true bestower of crowns, the One who is able to make kings and kingdoms rise or fall.

Isaiah now answers his own question, "The Lord Almighty planned it, to bring down her pride in all her splendor and to humble all who are renowned on the earth." (Isaiah 23:9) God will have the last word. It's easy for a wealthy nation to say, "I am a god! Look what I have accomplished! I have all I need and have made the fortunes of many! Who is like me?" Well, God is going to show the prideful nation who it is that rules over all. He will show them that He alone is God, that without His grace and mercy man can accomplish nothing, and that man owes all praise and glory to Him.

The prophet Ezekiel gives us an extra clue as to why the Lord was against Tyre, in addition to her pride and greed. Tyre evidently cast covetous eyes upon Jerusalem when the city fell, saying to herself, "Aha! The gate to the nations is broken, and its doors have swung open to me: now that she lies in ruins I will prosper." (Ezekiel 26:2) Tyre believed that those who formerly traded with Jerusalem would now bring their trade to her, but the Lord was displeased with this attitude. God brought discipline upon Jerusalem because of the sin of idolatry but woe to anyone who rejoiced over the city's fall. This matter was between God and His children; Tyre needed to stay out of it altogether and Tyre needed to take Jerusalem's downfall to heart, humbling herself before such a mighty God. For if God does not spare His own children from discipline, how will the godless nations fare? 

Have you ever had an enemy? Someone who gloated when trouble came into your life? Didn't it make your hardship more difficult to bear knowing that someone who hated you rejoiced over your circumstances? I want to tell you we can take heart in knowing that God is highly displeased when anyone gloats over the troubles of His children. Some of you may never have had a human enemy but all of us who belong to Christ have an enemy in Satan. When trouble comes, we can be certain he rejoices over our pain. Nothing pleases him more than circumstances that might cause a child of God to become discouraged. In a particularly tough time in my life, I underlined this verse by the prophet Micah in my Bible because it was a comfort to me, "Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light." (Micah 7:8) A child of God always has the presence of the Lord, even though we might have to endure discipline for a season. He is our light. He is our help and our hope of rising from the ashes. We may be down for a time but we are not out! This was the case with Jerusalem; she had fallen but would rise again. Tyre had no right to gloat over her downfall. God was still with His people. God was disciplining them for a season but He had not forsaken them. Even while sitting in exile in a foreign country, in "darkness", the Lord would be their light there.

No human or supernatural enemy has the right to laugh at the troubles of God's children. God will restore His children and stand us on our feet again and at that time we can say, "Then my enemy will see it and will be covered with shame." (Micah 7:10a) 

Isaiah is telling us that Tyre will also be covered with shame in the day of her downfall. The nation once so proud of itself, so disdainful of others, who rejoiced at the downfall of Jerusalem, will suffer the embarrassment of economic collapse. Over the next several centuries Tyre will be afflicted by Babylon, Greece, and Rome. She will rebuild but never fully regain her former glory. 

If you are going through a time right now when you feel like you sit in darkness, with your enemy gloating over you, take heart. God is your light. He will raise you back to your feet. The prophet Micah had full confidence in this and that is why he was able to say, "But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me." (Micah 7:7)

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