They will clothe themselves with trembling
by Glenn Pettit
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15 Thus says the Lord GOD to Tyre: "Will the coastlands not shake at the sound of your fall, when the wounded cry, when slaughter is made in the midst of you?
16 "Then all the princes of the sea will come down from their thrones, lay aside their robes, and take off their embroidered garments; they will clothe themselves with trembling; they will sit on the ground, tremble every moment, and be astonished at you.
17 "And they will take up a lamentation for you, and say to you:
'How you have perished,
O one inhabited by seafaring men,
O renowned city,
Who was strong at sea,
She and her inhabitants,
Who caused their terror to be on all her inhabitants!
18 "'Now the coastlands tremble on the day of your fall;
Yes, the coastlands by the sea are troubled at your departure.'"
We spend a lot of time focused on the promises of God, the blessings He has ordained for His faithful few. And well we should! Were it not for that hope, we should find our faith very small indeed. But just as God has proclaimed blessing and life for His adopted sons and daughters, so, too, has He proclaimed terror, destruction, and death for His enemies.
41 "The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness,
42 "and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth."
When Jesus returns in glory to judge the quick and the dead, He will separate the wheat from the tares, the righteous and faithful from the wicked and lawless, and just as the faithful children of God will shine forth in glory, so shall the unrighteous suffer in the fire of hell. Yes, I realize that there are a lot of churches who don't speak about hell. Hell has become the embarrassing uncle, the skeleton in the closet of many denominations. They are so committed to winning converts that they forget that just as Jesus promises us glory and new life, He also promises damnation and death for the unbelievers and the enemies of God.
Ezekiel was a prophet during the Babylonian captivity, when Judah was like dry bones that needed the new life that only God could give them. And just as Ezekiel prophesied about the restoration and revitalization of God's chosen people, he also spoke of the destruction of God's enemies--including the city of Tyre. The island city of Tyre remains today one of the greatest seaports of the eastern Mediterranean Sea, a crossroads of trade between Europe and Asia. Once protected by walls 150 feet high and still possessing one of the best harbors in the region, Tyre has outlasted kings and princes, changing rulers but never changing purpose: trade and commerce. By the time of Ezekiel, Tyre had existed for over a thousand years, but, as Ezekiel foretells, even Tyre must fall. And although even mighty King Nebuchadnezzar was unable to take Tyre, Ezekiel still prophesied its destruction.
Yes, chapter 26 of the book of Ezekiel is targeted at Tyre, but we must remember that this is a Jewish prophecy, spoken by a Hebrew prophet among Hebrew people and kept among the Hebrew writings that eventually became part of the Christian Bible. So why include such a prophecy for us to read today? The history of Tyre shows that it has not ever truly fallen, not even when Alexander the Great built a causeway to the island to lay siege to it. Even the Roman Empire left Tyre alone as a semi-independent free state. So when we read Ezekiel and other prophets predicting the fall of these great cities and kingdoms, we might wonder why they should matter to us at all.
They matter because they show how God will deal with His enemies. One day even mighty Tyre will fall, and on that day we will truly understand the awesome power of the Lord our God. When God decides to overthrow the princes of the earth, nothing will stand in His way, and we who remain, we who see His terrible might, we will, like the princes in today's verses, clothe ourselves in trembling and lament the destruction of worldly powers.
Why do we not clothe ourselves with trembling today--not to mourn others but to respect our Lord? Even Moses knew enough to stand in reverent fear of the Lord God.
18 "And I fell down before the LORD, as at the first, forty days and forty nights; I neither ate bread nor drank water, because of all your sin which you committed in doing wickedly in the sight of the LORD, to provoke Him to anger.
19 "For I was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure with which the LORD was angry with you, to destroy you. But the LORD listened to me at that time also."
When Moses fell before the Lord in humble fear, then the Lord listened! God spared the Israelites because one man stood in the gap, one man fasted and prayed, one man called for mercy, one man clothed himself in trembling to face the Lord God. Moses understood the true power of God, as all the Israelites should have but did not. And many generations later, Ezekiel had to remind them again that God deserves their praise for the way He will overthrow their enemies and cause Jerusalem to rise again. And Jesus came once more, a willing sacrifice to God, to tell us of the peace we can have with the Lord God of heaven and earth--and of the destruction that awaits God's enemies.
When will Tyre fall? Plainly, it will fall in the last days, a cohort of Babylon itself that will be destroyed by the armies of the Lord. But do we need to wait until then to heed the Word of God concerning our own salvation?
Today, if we will understand the power and majesty of our true and living God, we should clothe ourselves in trembling. We should lay aside all pretense of worldly honor, all share we may have in men's honor or praise, and we should fall before the Lord and seek His mercy. God is willing to save us, and just as He is mighty enough to overthrow Tyre, He is also mighty enough to overthrow death itself--all for our sake and for His glory. Let us, as Paul wrote, work out our own salvation with fear an trembling, knowing that our Father in heaven will destroy the powerful and proud and yet reward the humble and faithful. Let us fall before the Lord our God in prayer and fasting, clothed in trembling at His power and grace, and seek His face so that we will avoid the fate of Tyre and instead enjoy the eternal life He has promised through Christ Jesus, our Savior and Lord.
Holy Father God, I bow before You today, humbled by what Your Son has done for me. Such faith and humility, such obedience and love, I cannor fathom. Teach me, Lord God. Show me Your power so that I truly understand my weakness. Teach me Your mercy so that I understand my need for it. Father, strengthen my faith and guide me in Your righteousness forever. Amen.
© 2010 Glenn A. Pettit-Noel
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