Destruction Before Construction

 Isaiah 23:1-18

First published in 1958, “I, Pencil” is an essay written in the first person from the point of view of a pencil. The pencil details the complexity of its own creation, listing its components (cedar, lacquer, graphite, ferrule, factice, pumice, wax, glue) and the numerous people involved, down to the sweeper in the factory and the lighthouse keeper guiding the shipment into port. Wikipedia

Not hard to understand even on small scale of a #2 Mongol pencil concept of economic inter-connectedness – global economy – how things that happen in one part of the world have ripple effect reaching hundreds or thousands of miles. Idea isn’t new, we just feel it quicker today thanks to CNN and electronic trading and greater dependence on things that come from far away.

Tyre the economic powerhouse of Isaiah’s day, involved in financial transactions and movement of goods that influenced much of Middle Eastern world. Nearby: Sidon, more distant: Egypt. Functioned a lot like Chicago Mercantile Exchange, trading in all sorts of commodities as well as providing maritime transport. A symbol of naval and economic leadership/power – cp., Twin Towers, Wall Street.

had supplied craftsmen and materials for construction of King David’s palace; supplies for King Solomon’s temple; a wife for King Ahab (Jezebel)

A. advance warning v.1-6

calamity coming to the “trade center of the nations” v.3 Extent of commercial interests and influence described in Eze. 27:12-25 – nations surrounding the Mediterranean, fertile crescent, Mesopotamia, and beyond.

report would spread throughout the world: “An old, established, international institution which no one thought would ever disappear, will fail. It will cause consternation throughout the world.”

economic disaster that would rock financial dealings throughout Mediterranean and surrounding world, change way of life for people in all areas of society. Example given: grain exports from Egypt to supply other nations no longer carried by Phoenecian shipping, handled by commodities traders in Tyre.

disaster in every respect for residents of Tyre: no house, no harbor, no protection; God promised (Eze. 26:4) to scrape dirt off the island and make bare rock.

demonstration of God’s abundant mercy: repeated warnings over more than a century to a people who had no claim to mercy like God’s people Israel. Every warning an opportunity to repent, just like series of questions asked of Adam and Eve. Hint, hint, repent–confess–seek forgiveness. Hint not taken, sadly. Tyre, same as most everyone, needed more than repeated reminders; needed painful lesson before responding properly. Example: Rudy Rogers, bull calf, electric fence.

B. humiliating end v.7-14

who planned it

various prophecies against Tyre: Isaiah, Ezekiel, Amos, Zechariah. Repeatedly it is the Lord, the Lord God who declares what He will do in his dealings with Tyre. From “secular” vantage point found in most ancient history texts, appears to be maneuverings of nations seeking economic and political advantage. Bible gives fuller explanation: unseen but invincible hand of God is present directing movement of kings and armies to bring about his sovereign purpose.

Eze. 26:3 “Therefore thus says the Lord God: ‘Behold, I am against you, O Tyre, and will cause many nations to come up against you, as the sea causes its waves to come up.

why it would be done

Tyre was viewed by the world as a big deal: passing out honors to others, powerful merchants, having firm grasp on top three – power, position, possessions (verse 8). And God was gonna crush ’em. Yeah! The fat cats, the big guys (big oil, big business) would lose it all. Yes, there is justice, even for the little guy, the poor and weak and exploited. But wait, there’s more. That’s not why God says he will humble Tyre – he intends to humble their pride (verse 9).

Wasn’t 3 P’s by themselves that were the problem; was the fourth P, pride. Pride in their mastery of the seas, acquisition of wealth, accomplishments.

“Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind. A rich man’s striving for greater wealth is not greed but pride.” C. S. Lewis

Gave themselves full credit for all they had done, gave no credit where it was truly due: God (see Eze. 28:1-5). Even worse, used wealth and influence to spread their false religion – worship of self. But, you say, thought it was Baal they worshiped. Yes, but, who invented Baal? The ultimate display of foolish arrogant pride: I am skilled to design a god to worship.

what means he would use

Assyrians, their final success before God uses Babylon against Assyria; God is finished using them as his correcting rod of discipline. Job will be completed by Babylon and Nebuchadnezzar: Eze. 26:3, 7 “I will bring up many nations against you.” “I am about to bring King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, king of kings, against Tyre.”

C. new beginning v.15-18

devastation would be severe but not absolute. Would have no place at the world table for 70-year period. Long enough time to make point that devastation/humiliation was of God’s doing (not Assyrians or Babylonians); not so long that everone would forget “old Tyre” and the lesson that went along with it.

revived after period of desolation – didn’t revive themselves, the Lord who would deal with Tyre after 70 year period. He was one who would bring back to life, restore to former place of significance and influence.

once again selling her services to nations; unfortunate use of interpretive language with overtones of immorality. Service-oriented economy not widely known or practiced then, few if any other words available to describe.

restored to prior condition but with new motives: pleasing God. Would once again be world-recognized force in economic markets. Just as was God’s doing to humble Tyre, so his doing to restore/revive Tyre. Different this time: major portion of city would include God and his principles in their business dealings.

see Ezra 3:7

The profit of prostitution cannot be given to the Lord, (Deuteronomy 23:18). Since her profits will be set apart for the Lord according to v. 18, this prophecy must have in mind a wonderful change. Tyre’s selfish motivation as a hoarder and profiteer has changed. Lindsey

Common trait of fallen humanity: trust in what we have made, what we can see, refuse to let go of it at any cost, for any reason. We’re OK with adding other things alongside our favorites, trust them too. God is jealous, requires all our devotion, is not interested in sharing it with other objects of faith. Solution: everything people trust in other than God must be destroyed, torn down, before right faith can be built up.

Hear much today about building bridges between groups of differing views; bridges are good so long as they’re built on solid foundation. Million Dollar Bridge – looked solid, felt solid, until draw went down. Obvious from “feel” it wasn’t built on solid ground. South Portland side resting on overhanging ledge “shelf”, nothing but mud underneath. To use different analogy, from missionary to native people in southern Brazil:

We need to prepare “soil” in the minds of the listeners so the “weeds” of doubt, the “stumps” of confusion, the “rocks” of false ideas, and the “trees and brushes” of a wrong world view will not hinder the seed of the Gospel, God’s Word, to grow and bring forth much fruit. Let us not rush the Holy Spirit’s work or try to bring forth premature spiritual babies.

We must pull out the weeds, dig out the stumps, pick out the rocks, burn up the brush so the true Gospel can take root and grow vigorously. Saving faith, faith pleasing to God is firmly founded on a Gospel that has not been cross-pollinated with man’s attempts to save himself. Like Sarah of old, we easily fall into trap of trying to help God. That’s at least in part because we don’t want to admit how sinful we are, how absolutely unable we are to help ourselves, much less help God.

God works directly in minds and lives of people, also works through means to tear down and take away all that gets in way of Gospel. We must be careful not to go around behind him putting those hindrances back up – putting confidence in things and people rather than God either for ourselves or for others. Whether whole idea of needing salvation from sin is new, or facing temptation, or experiencing hardship, or facing death – our question must be: Where could I go but to the Lord? Our answer: nowhere else, he is the only one to whom we dare trust our eternal souls.


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