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High and Mighty

Growing in Grace / Doug Agnew
The Truth Network Radio
November 20, 2023 1:00 am

High and Mighty

Growing in Grace / Doug Agnew

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November 20, 2023 1:00 am

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If you would remain standing in honor of God's Word as we read it together tonight. And please turn with me to the book of Ezekiel. We'll be considering three chapters tonight, Ezekiel 26 through 28. Well, let's begin by just reading the first six verses of Ezekiel 26. Ezekiel 26, verses 1 through 6. Hear now the word of the Lord. In the eleventh year, on the first day of the month, the word of the Lord came to me, Son of man, because Tyre said concerning Jerusalem, Aha, the gate of the people is broken.

It has swung open to me. I shall be replenished now that she has laid waste. Therefore, thus says the Lord God, behold, I am against you, O Tyre, and will bring up many nations against you as the sea brings up its waves. They shall destroy the walls of Tyre and break down her towers, and I will scrape her soil from her and make her a bare rock. She shall be in the midst of the sea, a place for the spreading of nets, for I have spoken, declares the Lord God.

And she shall become plunder for the nations, and her daughters on the mainland shall be killed by the sword. Then they will know that I am the Lord. It's the word of God.

Let's pray. Lord, once again, we come to your word asking that you enable us to understand it and believe it and receive from it the full benefit that you intend for us. Without your illuminating grace, we're hopelessly destined to fall prey to temptation and sin wholeheartedly and without limit. But you, Lord, show us a better way. You enable us to embrace that better way by faith. You, Lord, are the only one who can save us from us, from our pride. You redeem us from the pit of hell, and so we thank you and we rest in you, the author and finisher of our faith. Amen.

Be seated. We're going to cover a lot of ground tonight as we consider three chapters almost in their entirety. Chapters 26 through 28 of Ezekiel belong together in that they share the common theme of judgment against the wicked city-state of ancient Tyre. Tyre was a coastal city-state in the Mediterranean, and it lay right in the middle of the trade routes of the entire ancient world.

Now, because of this ideal location, Tyre was a place of great opulence and influence. And along with that influential wealth came great wickedness, idolatry of the heart. As we will come to see. Now, we could take the time to read all three chapters. I'm not going to do that tonight, but I would certainly encourage you to go home if you haven't already and read Ezekiel 26 through 28.

Instead, though, tonight I'm going to just summarize the content of these chapters briefly, and then we'll spend some time reflecting on the purpose and the application of this text before us. In the previous chapter, several nations have been denounced one after another after another with prophetic words of judgment. But when the crosshairs of divine judgment come to rest here in chapter 26 on Tyre, she doesn't get just a couple of passing verses of judgment. She gets three chapters of judgment with punch after punch after punch of divine denunciation. Chapter 26, verse 21, for example, I will bring you to a dreadful end and you shall be no more. Chapter 27, verse 36, you have come to a dreadful end and shall be no more forever. Chapter 28, verse 19, you have come to a dreadful end and shall be no more forever. What had Tyre done to deserve this extended and repeated curse of judgment? Well, verse 1 of chapter 26 tells us that she, like the other nations in chapter 25, rejoiced in Israel's downfall.

She said, aha, like the other nations had. But in addition to this rejoicing over Israel's downfall, Tyre began to hope that she might replace Israel in prominence. 26, verse 2 says, the gate of the peoples is broken.

It has swung open to me, Tyre says. I shall be replenished now that she, Israel, is laid waste. So Israel was a sort of economic competitor to Tyre and Tyre wanted Israel's business. Now you may wonder, how could a people be so materialistic, so greedy as to actually wish for the downfall of another nation just so that the price of eggs and Tyre would be cheaper?

Actually, given our cultural context, it might not be that hard for us to imagine a people like this. Tyre had truly been blessed with incredible wealth, incredible opportunity, incredible economic success. In fact, chapter 27 is a litany, a catalog of all of Tyre's merchandise, the fruit of her business acumen. And it is absolutely staggering how successful they had been. It was as if they were the financiers of Wall Street and the oil tycoons of Saudi Arabia and the tech engineers of SpaceX and the chefs of Paris and the automakers of Italy and the fashion designers of California all rolled into one in the ancient world.

They were the Amazon of the ancient world. It's interesting to note that this catalog of wealth in chapter 27 includes primarily items of luxury, not of necessity. I think this emphasizes the exorbitant materialism and opulence of Tyre. They had it all, but they wanted just a little bit more.

And so they rejoiced at the prospect of Israel's demise, knowing that that would mean just a little more cargo in the already overloaded ships of Tyre. Now, perhaps we should just pause here for a moment and point out something that's, I hope, obvious, but maybe it still warrants saying, wealth is not evil. Wealth is not evil. Hard work that leads to profit is not wicked.

Good business sense is not the issue with Tyre or with any society. The Bible makes it very clear that God is the one who enables people to make wealth. God intends us to be profitable servants who use our talents wisely and even truly. We just read that in the Gospel reading tonight. We have many examples in Scripture of godly people who were also wealthy and who were praised for how they used their wealth in God-honoring and righteous ways. I think of Abraham.

I think of Joseph of Arimathea, Lydia, the seller of purple, and so on. So wealth is not the problem. The human heart's tendency to idolize and misuse wealth is the problem.

In fact, it's a perennial and persistent problem for Adam's fallen race, so much so that Paul makes the blanket statement in the New Testament that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. What kind of evil did Tyre's luxurious wealth lead them to? It was an ungodly, competitive spirit that said, we are superior to you morally because we have more materially. It was an elevating of wealth and ease to a level of the highest virtue, to the neglect and even despising of God's values and God's purposes in the world. In a word, it was pride.

That was the root of Tyre's problem. It was pride. Their God-given wisdom had led to wealth, and that wealth had led them to pride. That's a well-worn path in this fallen world, isn't it?

How quickly our sinful hearts turned success into pride. Well, chapter 27 describes Tyre metaphorically as a majestic, seafaring ship. It's decked out.

It's loaded down with lavish cargo. It's presented as being impenetrable, indestructible. Like they said of the Titanic, not even God could sink it.

You know, it would seem that the surest way to destroy something is to assert that God cannot destroy it. Look what happens to this unsinkable ship, chapter 27, verse 26. Your rowers have brought you out into the high seas. The east wind, I believe that's a reference to Babylon, the east wind has wrecked you in the heart of the seas. Your riches, your wares, your merchandise, your mariners and your pilots, your caulkers, your dealers and merchandise, and all your men of war who are in you with all your crew that is in your midst sink into the heart of the seas in the day of your fall.

It's the complete and utter destruction of this once great city full of people who had become proud and self-reliant. And all who stand by watching are amazed and shocked and scared and grieved. They're thinking, if this can happen to Tyre, it can happen to anyone. No one is safe before the Lord, the God of Israel. This brings us to chapter 28 where the pride of Tyre becomes particularly evident as it is personified in the thoughts and attitudes and words of the prince or the king, as he is called in verse 12, the prince of Tyre. As goes the prince, so goes the city.

So how goes the prince? Look at chapter 28, verse 1 and 2. The word of the Lord came to me, Son of man, say to the prince of Tyre, Thus says the Lord God, because your heart is proud and you have said, I am a god.

I sit in the seat of the gods, in the heart of the seas, yet you are but a man and no god, though you make your heart like the heart of a god. And Ezekiel goes on then to describe the excessive pride and hubris of the prince of Tyre, but he also describes the swift destruction that will come to this prince. Ruthless foreigners, verse 7, will cut him down with a sword and bring his beauty and splendor to an end. This brings us to a notoriously difficult passage in Ezekiel. It's verses 11 through 19 of chapter 28. There tends to be a whole lot of salacious speculating that goes on when people start interpreting these verses, and this tendency goes all the way back to the early church fathers.

The question is this. In chapter 28, are verses 11 through 19 of Ezekiel 28 describing merely the fall of the king of Tyre, or are they actually describing the fall of Satan? In other words, is the king of Tyre a sort of personification of the devil, in which case these verses are not describing historically the fall of Tyre per se, but of the spiritual powers and principalities behind Tyre's worldly success? I want to take just four or five minutes to walk through these verses and explain what I think is going on here, but I also want to use this passage as an opportunity to think through with you how we ought to go about dealing with difficult verses in the Bible. I want to sort of highlight some interpretive principles that we ought to keep in mind when wrestling with challenging and perhaps unclear passages of Scripture.

This is a great test case, this paragraph. Now, the question of who this king of Tyre is is a legitimate question. There are descriptions of him that simply don't coincide with descriptions of an actual human being who would have lived in the sixth century B.C. Let's read verses 11 through 19 and take note of some of these phrases. Verse 11 begins, Moreover, the word of the Lord came to me, Son of man, raise a lamentation over the king of Tyre, and say to him, Thus says the Lord God, You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God.

And there's the first questionable description. How could the sixth century king of Tyre be in Eden several centuries after the Garden of Eden was shut off from the human race? Ezekiel goes on, Every precious stone was your covering, Sardius, Topaz, and Diamond, Beryl, Onyx, and Jasper, Sapphire, Emerald, and Carbuncle, and crafted in gold were your settings and your engravings. On the day that you were created, they were prepared. Verse 14, You were an anointed guardian cherub. That's an angel and a very high-ranking angel at that.

I placed you. You were on the holy mountain of God. And that holy mountain of God could be referring to Mount Zion, which itself has reference to God's visible dwelling place on earth as well as in heaven.

There's a literal and a figurative sense there. Or it could be a reference to Tyre, the mountain of God, a city perched on an island, which is essentially an underwater mountain. Verse 15, You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till unrighteousness was found in you. In the abundance of your trade, you were filled with violence in your midst, and you sinned. So I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God, and I destroyed you, O guardian cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire.

Your heart was proud because of your beauty. You corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor. I cast you to the ground. I exposed you before kings to feast their eyes on you. By the multitude of your iniquities and the unrighteousness of your trade, you profaned your sanctuaries. So I brought fire out from your midst. It consumed you, and I turned you to ashes on the earth in the sight of all who saw you. All who know you among the peoples are appalled at you. You have come to a dreadful end and shall be no more forever. Now, whether we understand the king of Tyre to be just another historical human ruler or Satan himself, the fact is we have to read some of these descriptions metaphorically or hyperbolically or figuratively.

There's no way around that either way. This person, whoever he is, is explicitly described as an angel in verse 14, but as a man in verse 2. He's in the Garden of Eden in verse 13, but on the mountain of God in verse 14. He was at some point blameless, verse 15, which would seem to exclude a human descendant of Adam post-fall, and yet he is closely identified with the greedy and materialistic sins of Tyre in verse 16, which would suggest an association with this historical city-state that was about to be judged for its greed and materialism. When you look back at the history of interpretation of this passage, you find a very frustrating split of opinions between reputable, godly scholars. Among those who believe that these verses are primarily about Satan, as personified in the Prince of Tyre, include these. Tertullian, the early church father. In fact, he's probably the origin of this interpretation of it being Satan.

Also, St. Augustine and Jonathan Edwards. Among those who believe these verses are about the human king of Tyre, who simply is described in various metaphorical and perhaps hyperbolic ways, are John Calvin, Matthew Henry, Ian Duguid, and Sam Storms. I lean towards agreeing with this latter group primarily for one reason, and it's this, that when it comes to interpreting Scripture, context is king.

Context is king. And the context of Ezekiel 28 is undeniably one of judgment against the neighboring nations of Israel. The only reason one would assume that something larger or more sinister is being addressed here is the fact that there are some larger-than-life descriptions being employed.

But each of these descriptions has a viable explanation that keeps the immediate context intact. For example, proponents of the this-is-about-Satan view point to the fact that this king is referred to as an angel, a cherub. However, metaphor is often used in prophetic literature. In just a few short chapters here in Ezekiel, Egypt will be referred to as a dragon. That's a metaphor.

Assyria will be called a tree. Again, that's another metaphor. So to call the king of Tyre a cherub doesn't have to mean that he is a literal cherub.

It can mean that, but it doesn't have to mean that, and the context would suggest it doesn't mean that. Likewise, the reference to the king of Tyre's presence in the Garden of Eden does not have to refer to Adam and Eve's pre-fall garden. That's where our mind maybe goes, but it doesn't have to mean that. In fact, Eden is repeatedly used in the prophets in a symbolic way to describe a place of God's blessing, a symbol of God's blessing, a utopian realm of prosperity and joy, as one theologian put it. Ezekiel himself does this in chapter 31 and again in chapter 36. Isaiah is going to do this in Isaiah 51, refer to Eden in a symbolic sort of way as just a designation as the place of God's blessing. So again, context and Ezekiel's own style would suggest to us that the Eden he's referring to is not the Garden of Eden.

It certainly can mean that, but it doesn't have to mean that. What about the word blameless in verse 15? Surely this requires us to ascribe sinless perfection to whoever this king of Tyre is.

Well, no, it doesn't. The same word, blameless, is also used to describe Noah. And Abraham, neither of whom were sinlessly perfect. It's the word used to describe lambs that were offered as sacrifices to Yahweh in temple worship.

These lambs were blameless in the sense that they were without blemish. So this word is not always a moral description. It can refer to the aesthetic quality, the beauty of something or to completeness, perfection, the maturity of something. If Ezekiel 28 is referring to the human king of Tyre, then blamelessness would refer to his beauty, his perfection. It would be indicating that he had reached the peak, the pinnacle, the perfection of beauty and prestige and eminence, which, by the way, is supported again by the context, which is all about his beauty, his perfection. All of that to say this passage could be a sudden diversionary description of Satan's fall. And there are legitimate Bible scholars who believe that. Or it could be legitimately a hyperbolic description of a human king who had reached incredible heights of wealth and prestige only to have it all come crashing down because of his own pride and arrogance. The latter puts the emphasis on the immediate context as the key to interpretation.

And it's my preferred approach. The former view puts the emphasis on allegory and big picture themes as the key to interpretation. But here's what we need to notice. Whether the king of Tyre is human or angelic, the message of the passage is crystal clear. Pride will be met with divine judgment. For human or for angels, pride will be met with divine judgment.

That's the message that's crystal clear. Great arrogance will lead to a great fall because God will share his glory with neither angel nor man. Therefore, Christians walk humbly before the Lord. We need to make sure that our speculating about unclear texts of Scripture does not distract us from the clear, poignant truths of Scripture, which in this case is pride comes before the fall.

Don't miss that point. Pride comes before the fall. So I'd like for us to close our time together tonight just considering what admonitions we need to glean from this account of the fall of a once great city.

Why did God have Ezekiel go on for almost three chapters recounting this event and the causes that led up to it and the consequences that stemmed from it? What is it that we are supposed to learn from the rise and fall of Tyre and its king? At the very least, we ought to learn to run from pride, right? That's the main point, run from pride. What then are some of the character traits that accompany pride so that we might identify this sinful vice in our own hearts?

Let me mention several of those character traits that are demonstrated in these chapters. First of all, pride delights in the misfortune of others. Pride delights in the misfortune of others.

The judgment against so many of Israel's enemies in these chapters begins with condemning them for saying aha over Israel's demise. They rejoiced over the misfortune of others, which was an indication of pride in their hearts. In addition to gloating over the suffering of others, pride is covetous, pride is covetous. Tyre relished the idea that Israel's misfortune would feed Tyre's fortune.

They said, we shall be replenished now that Israel is laid waste. It's a coveting of what others have and it's sin and it's rooted in pride. A third character trait of the proud heart is self-centeredness. Pride overestimates itself. Pride overestimates itself.

Throughout these chapters, we hear Tyre saying things like, I am perfect in beauty and I am a god. There's a proverb that says, essentially, it's better to undersell yourself and be promoted than to oversell yourself and be demoted. The proud person is the person who always feels wronged because he or she cannot see their own flaws. It boils down to an overestimation of self. It's rooted in pride. Next we see that pride possesses an inordinate love for material things, an inordinate love for material things. This was perhaps the most visible sign of Tyre's pride, her incredible lavish wealth, or more specifically her love of her incredible lavish wealth.

She was laden down with riches and the irony is that it was her wealth in the end that made her sink. Fifthly, pride misuses God's blessings. It misuses God's blessings and this is perhaps the saddest trait of all. The wealth and influence and power that Tyre enjoyed and the wisdom that acquired all of that wealth were blessings from God, but they squandered that blessing by loving the blessing more than the blesser, more than the giver. So we see that pride misuses the gifts and blessings of God. Well, these are just some of the character traits of pride that were exhibited by Tyre.

What then of the fruit or the consequence, the result that these traits produced? We see in these chapters that pride produces fruit, not only in the proud person, but also in those who are associated with the proud person, the onlooker, the one who witnesses the demise of the proud person. First of all, pride leads to the destruction of the proud and this is a destruction that is both public and complete.

Ezekiel 28, 17 through 19 says, I, God, exposed you, Tyre, before kings, to feast their eyes on you. This is a very public display of their destruction. I turned you to ashes on the earth in the sight of all who saw you. All who know you are appalled at you. So it's a very public destruction, but it's also a very complete destruction.

That recurring phrase that we pointed out earlier makes it clear. I will bring you to a dreadful end and you shall be no more. Though you be sought for, you will never be found again, declares the Lord. So this destruction of the proud person, an unrepentant proud person is public and it's very thorough. God does not share his glory with any other. But there's also a fruit of pride, a consequence of pride that's produced in those watching the proud get what they deserve. Destruction of the proud person leads to either humility or disappointment in the hearts of the onlookers. The emphasis in chapter 27, in fact, as it describes the destruction of Tyre is really not on Tyre, but on the people watching this happen. And they are appalled.

They're either terrified that the same thing might happen to them, or they're immensely disappointed that their cash cow is no longer able to produce cash. Divine judgment against pride then produces, sometimes humility, sometimes disappointment in the hearts of those associated with the proud person. Ezekiel 26, 16 describes the response of humility in the hearts of the onlookers.

It says, all the princes of the sea will step down from their thrones and remove their robes and strip off their embroidered garments. It's a grieving humility. On the other hand, it may not produce humility at all. Instead, it may simply produce disappointment and bitterness of soul in those watching the demise of the proud. Chapter 27, verse 35 describes these onlookers as being appalled at Tyre.

And so, verse 36, they hiss at Tyre with bitter rage. And so the fruit, the consequence of pride is destruction that is both public and thorough and bitter disappointment and terrifying humiliation in the hearts of those who have been left behind in the wake of the destruction of the proud. We've seen the character traits of the proud. We've seen the consequences or fruits of the proud.

How then do we avoid this fate? What principles for avoiding pride might we glean from Tyre's demise? First, we learn this, that pride comes before the fall, so don't be proud. Pride comes before the fall, so don't be guilty of that sin.

It will lead to a fall. In studying ancient Tyre, I couldn't help but notice how much our nation today resembles ancient Tyre. Tyre was in many ways the USA of the ancient world, the capitalists, the go-getter, the economically successful.

Let me read what a theologian named Daniel Block said about this. He said, In the crassly materialistic world of commerce, the glory of Tyre is presented as the legitimate and desirable reward for enterprise, diligence, and business acumen. Indeed, the reader is tempted to join the nations in mourning the tragic demise of this model of free enterprise and this benefactor of humankind's. In the arena of human history, however, neither the magnificence of a civilization nor its contributions to the material well-being of others serves as an accurate measure of quality. For all her fiscal accomplishments, Tyre had dared to oppose God and his inexorable purposes for the nations. In her apparent invincibility, Tyre represented the glory of human achievement, but because her successes were driven by avarice and pursued in defiance of God, she could not stand. The Lord of history always has the last word.

The second principle to be learned is this. Material abundance is no indication of God's favor, so don't trust in riches. Just because you're wealthy doesn't mean you're right or wise or just or godly or pleasing to God.

Wealth is not a good barometer of righteousness, and yet it is often this barometer that people use, and it leads them down a deceptive path of presuming upon the favor of God. The third principle to be learned, God is greater than the proudest, strongest people, so don't overly admire the proud on the one hand or fear them on the other. Fear God, not man.

Admire and worship God, not man. And fourthly and sweetest of all, God will defend his own, so trust him. God will defend his own, so trust him. Let's go back to the larger context of all this. The larger context really has nothing to do with Tyre at all. It has to do with the chastened, exiled, covenant community who had been tucked away and seemingly forgotten in Babylon. Remember, Ezekiel's primary audience are Jewish exiles in Babylon. Why did they need to know that Tyre would fall at the hand of God? Well, because it meant that God had not forgotten them.

If Tyre could fall, so could Babylon. And if Babylon could fall at the hands of Israel's God, then there was a chance, a hope of restoration for Israel. You see, these chapters aren't only about giving us warning against the dangers of pride. These chapters are also about giving us hope that God's purposes are not thwarted by proud people.

God's purposes are not thwarted by proud people. These chapters give us assurance that our enemies are God's enemies because he loves his people. We're soon going to get to the best part of Ezekiel in terms of all the hope and favor that's going to be promised to Israel.

But as we conclude tonight, I think a good stopping place is to point out that sentence that has been repeated again and again and again throughout the book of Ezekiel, only this time, at the end of chapter 28, which has been modified, notably modified. Chapter 28, verse 26 ends by saying, not to the surrounding nations, but to Israel, then they will know that I am the Lord, and then it adds these two words, their God. Then they will know that I am the Lord, their God. Not just God, but their God. He belongs to them in a unique covenantal relationship that is shared with no other people on earth. Church God loves his people, and because of that love, he will chasten them, he will rebuke his people, he will allow them to experience grief and suffering and persecution and even exile for a time, but he will always preserve his people and protect his people and restore his people.

Why? Because he is their God. Successful businessman, is God your God? Or are you too busy worshiping the God of success? Straight A student, is God your God? Or are you too enamored with your own intelligence to need him? Attractive lady, is God your God? Or is your soul satisfied with mere outward beauty?

Gifted athlete, gregarious personality, sympathizing sweetheart, generous giver, hardworking servant, behind the scenes doormat. There are a thousand things we pride ourselves in. Are you puffing yourself up in pride over any of these things? Or is God your God? Is God your delight?

Is he your treasure and your safety and your joy? Church God resists the proud, but he gives grace to the humble. Humble yourself, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you. Let's pray. Father, we are a proud people, but you are a glorious God. Would you captivate our minds and hearts with your glory in such a way as to render us totally enamored with your greatness and your excellencies? Humble us that we might find lasting joy in you. I pray in Jesus' name, amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-20 10:29:13 / 2023-11-20 10:41:55 / 13

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