Powerful Prophecies, Pt. 2
Study Guide, February 5, 2017
Pastor Clay Olsen
On the northeast portico of the Jefferson Memorial are these words that where quoted this week by the President at the National Prayer Breakfast: “God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever.” Here was a clear reminder that God does indeed judge nations. In fact, one of the reasons that God had His prophets record the rise and fall and judgments of nations in the Old Testament was so that the world would clearly understand that governments and nations are accountable to the God of Creation and that He does indeed judge nations in this world. We know that much of the judgment of individual people will be in eternity, but as for nations…well nations are judged in time…in this world.
But not only did God have His prophets record the judgment of many nations in the pages of the Bible, but He even chose to use some of these judgments for a double purpose. And that second purpose was to once again prove to the world that His words were absolute truth, because no one but God could foretell a judgment that was going to fall on a particular nation and then have it occur exactly as foretold. And one nation, and especially its capitol city, is a fascinating example of this. The nation was Phoenicia and the city was Tyre. Let’s explore.
Phoenicia was a narrow coast-land stretching along the NE Mediterranean. It is bordered on the east by the Lebanon Mountains and on the southeast by the hills of Galilee. It is famous in history for the great commercial cities of Tyre and Sidon and was a part of Canaan. At present it consists of the Republic of Lebanon and Syria. At one time David and then Solomon did trade with King Hiram of Tyre for obtaining beautiful cedar for building the Temple in Jerusalem.
But the Phoenicians were also known for their idolatry and immorality and their unconcern about the sanctity of the life of a child. Hmmm…kind of rings a bell, doesn’t it? Sounds a bit close to home. Thankfully, God is extending a season of mercy to our own nation. Certainly, God knows what we will do with it, but we are about to find out. But for the Phoenicians and the King of Tyre, their cup of sin was already full, and therefore the judgment.
But now here is where it goes from being a general judgment against a nation to a specific prophecy that moved this into that territory of ‘only God can do this’. Just before the conquering of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C. Ezekiel is given this prophecy against Tyre. And not only does God have Ezekiel prophecy Tyre’s judgment, He even tells them what the conquering forces are going to do as they conquer it. Let’s take a look: Ezek 26:2-12- “Son of man, Tyre said this about Jerusalem: ‘The city that was the gateway for the nations is destroyed, and its doors are swung open to me. I’ll get rich now that it’s ruined.’ So this is what the Almighty Lord says: I am against you, Tyre. I will bring many nations against you as the waves on the sea rise. They will destroy the walls of Tyre and tear down its towers. Then I will sweep up the dust and turn Tyre into a bare rock. It will become a place by the sea where people spread their fishing nets. I have spoken, declares the Almighty Lord. It will become a prize for the nations. The people in the villages and on the mainland will die in battle. Then they will know that I am the Lord. “This is what the Almighty Lord says: From the north I’m going to bring King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon against you, Tyre. He is the greatest king. He will bring horses, chariots, war horses, many people, and many troops. He will destroy the villages on your mainland. He will set up blockades, put up dirt ramps, and raise his shields against you. He will direct his battering rams against your walls, and he will cut down your towers with his axes. He will have so many horses that their dust will cover you. The noise from the war horses, wagon wheels, and chariots will shake your walls when he enters your gates. He will enter as people enter a conquered city. With his horses’ hoofs he will trample all your streets. He will kill your people in battle, and your strong pillars will fall to the ground. His troops will loot your riches and take your goods as prizes. They will destroy your walls and tear down your delightful homes. They will throw your stones, wood, and soil into the water.” God’s Word Version
So what’s going on here? Another sin of Tyre was that as the attack by the Babylonians started against Jerusalem Tyre rejoiced over Judah’s destruction. Tyre dominated the trade by sea, but Jerusalem controlled the caravan routes. So Tyre greedily responded to Jerusalem’s fall believing more products would be shipped by sea and they would prosper even more. But Ezekiel used the image of a violent ocean -storm to picture God’s punishment. Like ocean waves, invading nations would pound against Tyre’s defenses, smashing her walls and towers. God added that He would scrape away her rubble and make her a bare rock.
The prophecy even used an interesting wordplay describing Tyre’s fate. “Tyre” means ‘rock’ or a ‘hard pebble.’ God would turn this ‘rock’ of Tyre into a ‘bare rock’. No longer being the central city of commerce, she would become ‘a place to spread fishnets’. Fishermen generally spread out their nets to dry on barren rocks, to keep them from becoming tangled in trees or bushes. Tyre would be so decimated that the once-majestic city would be barren enough to use as a drying place for nets.
The chapter went on to explain how this destruction had a ripple effect on the regions around it and to all of Tyre’s trading partners. It’s kind of like if some financial catastrophe happened at the New York Stock Exchange, it would have this ripple effect of chaos and turmoil around the world. And if you think about it, even these examples are a bit of a preview of what God says is going to happen again in the end times with the fall of the world government that God calls the revived ‘Babylon’. But that’s another prophecy for another time. But this destruction went on here for thirteen years as Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Tyre and destroyed it…and this part of the prophecy came true at that time.
Now why do we say this part? Because Tyre was like a dual city. One section was on the mainland, which the Babylonians destroyed. But the other section was a nearby island, which was like an island fortress. This place had 150 foot walls and was kind of like the ancient Jericho, which held off attackers by its great protection. And since it was also surrounded by the sea, well, they felt pretty invincible. But you remember something about God’s Word…God’s Word always comes to pass. For the next 250 years those who lived in this walled fortress city, who did their commerce by the sea, thought they had withstood Nebuchadnezzar’s siege and also Ezekiel’s prophecy against them. But they were about to find out that ‘Yes, God’s word does indeed always comes to pass’. In 332 B.C. Alexander the Great called for this fortress city to submit to his rule. They refused, and their resistance and their arrogance over believing that no one could reach them to defeat them so angered Alexander that he had his armies tear up the land and dump stones, timber, and debris into the sea until they had build a causeway out to the island. He then came out and destroyed them.
God’s word may tarry, but it always comes to pass. It’s a lesson the world has had a hard time learning, being slow to hear and hard of heart. But it’s another reason God, in His mercy, has given the world thousands of prophecies throughout the Scriptures to prove to the world that God’s Word always comes to pass, so each person needs to realize this and come to repentance, before God’s judgment comes to pass on them just like it did with these kings and nations of the ancient world.
Speaking of kings, Ezekiel’s prophecy to the king of Tyre was especially powerful because God also used this prophecy to speak to the king behind this king. What do we mean? This whole prophecy against the king of Tyre is pretty lengthy in that it covers three entire chapters of Ezekiel. And the reason for that is because the pride and rebellious nature of the king of Tyre was particularly reflective of another ruler, actually the ruler who is behind all of the rulers of the earth who take their stand against God; and that ruler is Satan. Look at how God speaks to the king behind the king: Ezek 28:11-19- “Again the word of the Lord came to me saying, “Son of man, take up a lamentation over the king of Tyre and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “You had the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; Every precious stone was your covering: The ruby, the topaz and the diamond; the beryl, the onyx and the jasper; the lapis lazuli, the turquoise and the emerald; And the gold, the workmanship of your settings and sockets was in you. On the day that you were created they were prepared. You were the anointed cherub who covers, and I placed you there. You were on the holy mountain of God; you walked in the midst of the stones of fire. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created until unrighteousness was found in you. By the abundance of your trade you were internally filled with violence, and you sinned; therefore I have cast you as profane from the mountain of God. And I have destroyed you, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor. I cast you to the ground; I put you before kings, That they may see you. By the multitude of your iniquities, in the unrighteousness of your trade you profaned your sanctuaries. Therefore I have brought fire from the midst of you; it has consumed you, And I have turned you to ashes on the earth in the eyes of all who see you. All who know you among the peoples are appalled at you; you have become terrified and you will cease to be forever.”” NASU
So here we have a prophecy within a prophecy…and a condemnation of a king behind a king, or again, the king behind all kings who have ever lived who have been proud and rebellious against the Lord God. And how fascinating that as Ezekiel rebukes the King of Tyre of thinking of himself like he was a god when he was only a created human being, God rebukes Satan for thinking of himself like a god when he was only a created spirit being. Although I can imagine that when this earthly king of Tyre got this message he may have thought: “I don’t remember being in the garden of Eden. Are you talking to me or to someone else?” To which Ezekiel could have replied; “Yes. You see, I’m talking to you and to the ruler behind you. You don’t see him, but believe me, there is another king behind you and he’s been part of the reason you have been and are doing the evil that you do. So, yes, I am talking to him through you.”
This is what we are to understand about the ungodly rulers of the nations around the world. Whoever is ruling or whoever is their king, know this: Another king stands behind each ungodly king or ruler. Satan and his agents have been a strong and wicked influence on the rulers of this world ever since the fall of mankind. Now, of course, proud and unconverted rulers and kings are rebellious enough on their own, but we are to realize that the king behind these kings is pushing them into even further resistance against God and even into further wickedness as hard as he can. Remember, Satan is not called the ‘god’, little ‘g’, of this world for nothing!
But what a rebellion. Satan was in Eden, the garden of God. God had anointed him as a guardian cherub. The assembly of the Cherubs were angels who were the ‘inner circle’ with the closest access to God. And God had given him nine of the twelve gemstones that later on would make up the breastplate worn by Israel’s high priest. But his worship turned inward and his self-generated pride corrupted him and turned into full rebellion against his Creator. And so he was expelled from Heaven, or from his governing position in Heaven. Actually, Satan’s fall is happening in stages. He was cast out of the government of Heaven, but he still has access there, as we see from his accusation of Job and even now in his continual accusing of the brethren, which continues on into the Tribulation, as we see in Rev 12:10-” Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night.” NASU
But in the Tribulation Satan will be cast from Heaven and then restricted to earth. And in the Millennium he is confined in the bottomless pit until a short release at the end of the Millennium. And of course then his final demise is that he will be cast into Gehenna Hell forever.
But again, how amazing is the way that God makes it so clear that both people and nations are accountable to the one Creator and Sovereign Lord of all. And one of the powerful ways He has revealed this to mankind is through His powerful prophecies that are spread throughout over a fourth of the Scriptures that He has given to mankind. God did this so that each person on earth may know that He is God and there is no other, declaring the end from the beginning.
(Some information gleaned from Bible Knowledge Commentary/Old Testament Copyright © 1983, 2000 Cook Communications Ministries; All rights reserved.)