by Rev Hilda Warwick
We come to explore Isaiah chapter 23. What does it have to say to us, in this time and place? To the North of Israel, Tyre was the leading city of Phoenicia, the great maritime power of the ancient world. Because it was such an important harbour and centre for shipping, Tyre was synonymous with commerce and materialism. Tyre was the “Babylon of the Sea.” Because of their excellent harbour and seamanship, they established a commercial empiare far greater than one would expect given their size and military power. The city would have been the admiration of the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern World.
It was this very impressiveness that made its downfall necessary. The prophet’s invitation is to bewail its downfall, which came through a series defeat, resulting in a sense of bewilderment and fear which replaced a previously held sense of pride that Tyre had held as a result of its international connections.
The significance would be that its impressiveness sought to overshadow the majesty of God Himself and encourage people to false trust. God Himself was behind such a downfall and had planned it strategically to affect His own purpose in history, not just in Tyre but also in the nations of the world.
The oracle consists of two parts, the first a long poetic lament over its downfall and then a shorter poem that speaks of its recovery and restoration to its former prosperity, but this also spans over a period of seventy years.
In that day marks the end of the lament and the beginning of prophecy that after the 70-year period Tyre’s fortunes will be restored. But what happens here, also affects the rest of the world and this final detail recalls the golden age of Solomon. However, it also becomes a prophecy that speaks of the salvation of Israel, and the gifts brought will be added together, and eventually heralding the dawning of the messianic era.
But too there is a message here to the world. What they thought would never happen, has indeed happened. Why is this important? In our world systems there is no thought given to the influence of God and this was the same here. However, God has turned things around and through His intervention has clearly challenged the world’s economy, turning around patterns of trade, creating mass confusion, and breaking up settled patterns of trade and self – assurance. The loss is deep and costly. The entire world of self- sufficiency is brought to deep grief. From that day Tyre will be forgotten for 70 years, the measure of a lifetime. It also speaks of a redirection of its profits, so that when recovery takes place Tyre’s wealth will be for the benefit of returning exiles.
What does this tell us? Even in events that often seem vaguely connected God is working out His purposes, not just in our lives, but across the cities of the world, the nations will hear and respond to the wonderful news of Christ. There is a bigger story that we are always being invited to connect with.
Father help us when we don’t see the bigger picture, to know that You are working things out for our good. Help us always to keep You in mind and in view as we make decisions that often affect others. Lead us in the ways of Your kingdom. In Jesus name. Amen