What does Tyrian destruction tell us about God?

Main colonnaded street at Al Mina excavation site

In the eleventh month of the twelfth year, on the first day of the month, the word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, because Tyre has said of Jerusalem, ‘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,’ therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against you, Tyre, and I will bring many nations against you, like the sea casting up its waves.  They will destroy the walls of Tyre and pull down her towers; I will scrape away her rubble and make her a bare rock.  Out in the sea she will become a place to spread fishnets, for I have spoken, declares the Sovereign Lord. She will become plunder for the nations,  and her settlements on the mainland will be ravaged by the sword. Then they will know that I am the Lord. Ezekiel 26:1-6

This passage is a prophecy against Tyre for their actions and attitude toward the Jews. And while it may be tempting to focus on Tyre, I want to ask the question: What do these verses say about God? All of scripture is theocentric and we should always begin by asking what it tells us about the Lord Almighty.

What does it say about God?

There are 3 main ideas that I believe these few verses tell us about God.

1)      God knows everything – omniscience

2)      God cares about his people

3)      God is just

God’s omniscience

If we have spent any time in the Bible, we are aware that it teaches us that God is omniscient, that is, he has absolute and perfect knowledge. Martyn Lloyd-Jones tells us that God has a perfect knowledge of all human history, past and future. Lloyd-Jones cites Daniel 2 with the foretelling of the kingdoms to come. Yet the idea of God having foreknowledge is not exactly correct, because to God it is just knowledge. He is not trapped in time as we are, and there is no past, present or future in his mind – it is all one to him because he is eternally present.

The fact that the Tyrians were singing for joy at the ruin of Jerusalem did not escape God. He was well aware, nothing is beyond his knowledge. Hebrew 4:13 tells us, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” This verse shows us that there is an implication to God’s knowledge as well. As everything is laid bare, we must give an account. Now God through the prophet Ezekiel was saying that nothing had escaped his notice, and that there was coming to bear an account for their deeds against his people.

God cares about his people

God is passing judgment on Tyre for their attitude toward his people. The Tyrians were exuberant at the suffering of the Jews. Some of this was greed and some of it was religious animosity. As an example of how God cares for his people, the Exodus paints a crystal clear picture. Exodus 3 shows that God knew (his perfect knowledge) of the affliction of his people and that he heard their cry. Verse 8 states, “ So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey”. God knew of their oppression and sent a deliverer to their rescue. Through this exodus process, God also sent 10 plagues upon the Jewish oppressors. He does punish those who abuse his people. The Egyptian exodus shows God’s justice and righteousness, but it also demonstrates his great love for his people. The Tyre prophecy is no different in Ezekiel. God is forecasting the destruction of Tyre because of their treatment of his people and their attitude toward Israel’s suffering. God cares deeply for his people. And just as a father or mother will stop the abuse of their child by another, God will stop oppression against his people. The Old Testament theologian Merrill Unger comments on this prophecy: “Tyre’s downfall  was especially significant since she had gloated over Jerusalem’s fall . . . Tyre’s pride, avarice, vindictive jealousy, and hated toward Israel crowned her sin. She, like other nations, surrounding Israel, had refused to heed the Abrahamic Covenant (Gen. 12:1-3, 7) and its warning of divine wrath upon those who misused Israel.”

God is just

“I am against you, Tyre” (Ezekiel 26:3) What would happen if God never intervened? What if he never judged Tyre? Would he be just? We forget that God is just because of his great love. Remember the story of Jacob. He deceived and lied to his father (Gen. 27). When Isaac asked Jacob how he had found the animal so quickly, Jacob responds, ““The Lord your God gave me success”. He deceives his father, lies about who he is, steals his brother’s blessing, and uses God’s name in spite of it all! But remember, God is just! As we keep reading Jacob’s story, this becomes clear. As a consequence of his sin, his brother vows to kill him and he is forced to flee his home. When Jacob works for Laban, he agrees to serve him 7 years in exchange for Laban’s youngest daughter, Rachel. And yes, we know what happens. I find it quite ironic. “When morning came, there was Leah! So Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn’t I? Why have you deceived me?” (Genesis 29:25) So the deceiver was deceived himself in a grievous way. And that is not the end of the story, we read late in Jocob’s life, he is deceived by sons about his most beloved Joseph. Jacob sons lie to him for years, again a most painful deception. Is this fair? Was God just to Jacob? While we cannot ascribe every detail to a person’s life as God justice, it is no mistake that Jacob’s life was filled with deception and lies. God is just and always requires justice. God condemns Tyre because he is just and executes judgments on those who oppress his people.

If this was all I knew about God, it would be enough. If all I knew was that God had perfect knowledge, that he cared deeply for me, and that he is just, it would be enough. Because a “person” with this kind of character is someone you can trust. You can be comforted in his goodness because he acts against evil. You know his great love will protect you and that no enemy ever escapes his notice. This brings extraordinary comfort in the harsh realities of life. God’s infinite love, knowledge, and justice cover me. And by these immeasurable characteristics, I know he is the absolute, sovereign, almighty God.  “Then they will know that I am the Lord.” Ezekiel 26:6

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