Sunday, August 28, 2016

Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 61

Comfort  My People:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah
Day 61

We conclude Chapter 23 and Isaiah's prophecy against Tyre today. The prophet predicts a downfall in the near future, then a rising to continue her wicked ways. But there is also a prophecy for the far future, for a time when the citizens of Tyre will worship the King of kings.

"Till your land as they do along the Nile, Daughter Tarshish, for you no longer have a harbor." (Isaiah 23:10) The fall of Tyre will set Tarshish free. She will no longer be under Tyre's control, forced to work at the industry of ship building, so she will need to learn how to till the soil. 

"The Lord has stretched out His hand over the sea and made its kingdoms tremble. He has given an order concerning Phoenicia that her fortresses be destroyed. He said, 'No more of your reveling, Virgin Daughter Sidon, now crushed!'" (Isaiah 23:11-12a) Sidon founded Tyre and will share in her loss.

"Up, cross over to Cyprus; even there you will find no rest." (Isaiah 11:12b) The refugees will not find a fresh start in Cyprus, for Cyprus was firmly in the hand of Assyria. Assyria would become a foe, not a friend, of Tyre.

"Look at the land of the Babylonians, this people that is now of no account! The Assyrians have made it a place for desert creatures; they raised up their siege towers, they stripped its fortresses bare and turned it into a ruin." (Isaiah 23:13) At one time it looked as if Assyria would dominate the world. When Isaiah gave this prophecy, Assyria was the nation Israel and Judah feared. She had laid Babylon waste and in Isaiah's day, when he foretold a coming overthrow of Judah by Babylon, it may have seemed impossible. The people of Judah likely doubted Babylon would grow into a nation strong enough to defeat Assyria and take over control of the region.

"Wail, you ships of Tarshish; your fortress is destroyed!" (Isaiah 23:14) Tarshish was free of Tyre but she suffered the loss of industry and trade. This is why the citizens of Tarshish will turn to the tilling of the land. (v 10) Tarshish will return to being an agricultural society rather than an industrial society.

"At that time Tyre will be forgotten for seventy years, the span of a king's life. But at the end of these seventy years, it will happen to Tyre as in the song of the prostitute: 'Take up a harp, walk through the city, you forgotten prostitute; play the harp well, sing many a song, so that you will be remembered.'" (Isaiah 23:15-16) J. Alec Motyer, in his book Isaiah, says, "The seventy years extended from the campaigns of Sennacherib (701) until the terminal decline of Assyria (say about 630) which allowed Tyre to spread its wings again." (pg. 161) Tyre would be unable to ply her trade for a span of about seventy years, after which her oppression by Assyria would lift, allowing her to once again be a "prostitute". I believe the term is used here in the same way it is used in Revelation 17, when the Apostle John refers to the greedy worldwide economic empire under the Antichrist as a prostitute. In contrast to the beautiful and pure wife of the Lamb (the church), the bride Satan has chosen for himself is an immoral woman, the one with whom "the kings of the earth committed adultery". (Revelation 17:2a) Commercialism and materialism will reach its zenith in the kingdom of the Antichrist. Ancient Tyre is being used as a symbol of greed and the willingness to do anything to accumulate wealth and so she is called a prostitute. Likewise, the economic empire of the end times will be one of unchecked greed, with mankind reveling in material comforts, with the citizens of the world serving themselves and not the Lord, and that is why the final economic empire is also called a prostitute. The immoral kingdoms of times past and of times to come are aptly referred to as prostitutes for they are willing to trade in their principles in exchange for money. Ancient Tyre gave herself away for material gain as will the future "Tyre", the economic system of the last days.

"At the end of seventy years, the Lord will deal with Tyre. She will return to her lucrative prostitution and will ply her trade with all the kingdoms on the face of the earth. Yet her profit and her earnings will be set apart for the Lord; they will not be stored up or hoarded. Her profits will go to those who live before the Lord, for abundant food and fine clothes." (Isaiah 23:17-18) Much of the background material I studied suggests that this is a twofold prophecy for a time that was far in the future in Isaiah's day. After seventy years Tyre would resume trade, but there would come a day when her wealth would not serve the carnal desires of her citizens but would serve those who belong to the Lord. This was partially fulfilled when many in the region became Christians in the early New Testament days. Luke makes mention of the disciples at Tyre in Acts 21:3a-6, "We landed at Tyre, where our ship was to unload its cargo. Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. When it was time to leave, we left and continued on our way. All of them, including wives and children, accompanied us out of the city, and there on the beach we knelt to pray. After saying goodbye to each other, we went aboard the ship, and they returned home." We know these disciples are true Christians because of the precious fellowship they engaged in with Paul and his companions, along with the fact that they possessed spiritual discernment. The people of Tyre knew through the Holy Spirit that Paul would be arrested and taken prisoner at Jerusalem. The region of Tyre retained a large percentage of Christians until about 1517 BC when it was taken over by the Turks.

Many Bible scholars believe the second part of the prophecy will occur when Christ reigns from Jerusalem. Psalm 45 is considered to be Messianic and it speaks of a time when the nations will flock to Jerusalem to bring honor and praise to the King of kings. "The city of Tyre will come with a gift, people of wealth will seek your favor." (Psalm 45:12) Psalm 87 also appears to be about the kingdom of Christ, when those faithful to the Lord from the nations will rejoice in their alliance with Zion, "I will record Rahab and Babylon among those who acknowledge Me---Phylistia too, and Tyre, along with Cush---and will say, 'This one was born in Zion.'" (Psalm 87:4) We find in this list good news for the people for whom Isaiah has been pronouncing great woes. Rahab (Egypt), Babylon, Phylistia, Tyre, and Cush (the upper Nile region), will find their hope in the Lord. They will be "born again" into the family of God. Jesus the Messiah was born to His own people Israel, but through Him the Gentiles too become children of the living God, "Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: 'All nations will be blessed through you.'...So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:8, 26-28) 

In Christ, the believers of all nations call one another "brother" and "sister". I am so thankful the Lord included the Gentiles in His plan of salvation, or else what hope would someone like me have? My ancestors originated somewhere in Europe, bowing down to false idols, serving other gods, not being a part of Abraham's descendants. But because God in His mercy extends a blessed invitation to all people of the earth, I too have a place at God's table. I too am called "child" by the Founder of the nation of Israel. I too can claim the glorious promises of the Scriptures. Israel's Messiah has become my King. In Christ our Savior, we all have equal standing in the house of our God. 

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