Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Isaiah 23: 11-14

11 He has stretched His hand out over the sea,
He has made the kingdoms tremble;
The Lord has given a command concerning Canaan to demolish its strongholds.

12 He has said, “You shall exult no more, O crushed virgin daughter of Sidon.
Arise, pass over to Cyprus; even there you will find no rest.”
13 Behold, the land of the Chaldeans—this is the people which was not; 
Assyria appointed it for desert creatures—they erected their siege towers, 
they stripped its palaces, they made it a ruin.

14 Wail, O ships of Tarshish,
For your stronghold is destroyed.

As far as prophecies go, this one that we've been reading about in Isaiah 23 is fairly complete. The beginning set the scene for whom the word was about (Tyre), as well as the response to that word (by the surrounding trade nations). We learned last time why the city was poised for demise (pride) as well as who originated that call (God, of course). Today, we learn more about who would handle the actual devastation. Next week, the chapter concludes.

Verse 11 picks up from last week's passage in which God is established as the one "who has planned this against Tyre." (vs. 8) "He has stretched His hand out...made the kingdoms tremble." One of the cross-reference passages for this verse is Exodus 14, in which Moses stretches out his hand over the Red Sea, and God creates the path that would lead the Israelites to safety. Where God's hand makes a way, it also disciplines others (meaning, Pharaoh and the Egyptians, or, in Isaiah's prophecy, Tyre). The Hebrew for 'stretch' beyond the literal definition means "to bend away (including moral deflection)." [Strong's] I see this as God bending this city away from Himself, because He cannot be in the midst of the pride He has witnessed.

"For Tyre built herself a fortress
And piled up silver like dust,
And gold like the mire of the streets.

Behold, the Lord will dispossess her
And cast her wealth into the sea;
And she will be consumed with fire."

--Zechariah 9: 3 and 4

At the end of verse 11, we read that God has issued a command against Canaan. No confusion here. Tyre and its motherly city of Sidon were both a part of the territory of Canaan. You see the command in verse 12. There will be no more jubilance in Tyre. To whomever remains in the city, the order is given to evacuate. "...Pass over to Cyprus...." Even though Tyre will become, largely, unpopulated, it does not mean that the burden brought upon the city will leave the hearts of those who leave it, and this is an interesting take-away point. "...Even there you will find no rest."

"Note, We deceive ourselves if we promise ourselves rest any where in this world. Those that are uneasy in one place will be so in another; and, when God’s judgments pursue sinners, they will overtake them."
--Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible

Try to outrun or outfox or just plain ditch your troubles? Doesn't work, does it? You will find yourself as did one of my favorite movie characters--Maria from The Sound of Music. She tries to flee a big life decision by seeking refuge back in the abbey from whence she came. She learns with some Reverend Mother-ly guidance that you can't "escape your troubles. You have to face them." Tyre was absorbed in its own pride--a state of the heart that was not left behind, even as its inhabitants fled to supposedly safe havens.

"And man, being a part of Thy creation, desires to praise Thee, man, who bears about with him his mortality, the witness of his sin, even the witness that Thou 'resistest the proud,'--yet man, this part of Thy creation, desires to praise Thee. Thou movest us to delight in praising Thee; for Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee...."
--from The Confessions of St. Augustine

We have an alternative to being on the lam, having our hearts constantly condemn us. Why does God discipline? To turn His creation back to Him! He is full of mercy and patience, but, there is a time of divine intervention at His will, which can take the form of discipline. Discipline--out of love, out of grace.

"Have you been walking on a surface that's uncertain?
Have you helped yourself to everything that's empty?
You can't live this way too long.
There's more than this, more than this....You can rest, you will find rest.
Let this old life crumble, let it fade.
Let this new life offered be your saving grace...."

--Lyrics from "Let it Fade" by Jeremy Camp

With verse 13, we are given a picture of the depth of the earthly force Tyre will be facing. God says, "Behold, the land of the Chaldeans—this is the people which was not...." The Chaldeans are also known as the Babylonians. At this time, Assyria was the nation of highest dread. Per my study Bible, Assyria "ravaged" Babylon in 689 B.C. We already know from Isaiah's earlier prophecies of Assyria's conquest of Israel and its take-down of most of Judah (God sparing Jerusalem, under Hezekiah).

"Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger
And the staff in whose hands is My indignation....

Yet it does not so intend,
Nor does it plan so in its heart,
But rather it is its purpose to destroy
And to cut off many nations."

--Isaiah 10:5 and 7

As with the Assyrian conquest of Babylon, the plan for Tyre was to turn the bustling harborfront into a place "for desert creatures." (vs. 13)

"...And their houses will be full of owls;
Ostriches also will live there, and shaggy goats will frolic there."

--Isaiah 13:21
As if to end with a poetic finish, Isaiah returns to his opening call upon the merchant cities of the world, to grieve and mourn over the loss of Tyre. "Wail, O ships of Tarshish...."

"The ships of Tarshish were the carriers for your merchandise. 
And you were filled and were very glorious
In the heart of the seas."
--Ezekiel 27:25

But, Isaiah is not quite finished. We will look at a sort of epilog next week. Had the Tyrians only been able to accept the picture--like that featured above--that the prophet was offering. Had they only been able to see beyond their pride to the sole means of, not escape but, true freedom....

"Look up on the ruins of Tyre, and see all this glory stained, and sullied, and buried in the dust. The honourable ones of heaven will be for ever such; but see the grandees of Tyre, some fled into banishment, others forced into captivity, and all impoverished, and you will conclude that the honourable of the earth, even the most honourable, know not how soon they may be brought into contempt."
--Matthew Henry

The end of Tyre? For certain, the end of Chapter 23. ....'Til next time!

*     *     *

Next time:  Isaiah 23: 15-18
Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).