Expository Sermon on Ezekiel 26 – 28
by Maylan Schurch
Bellevue Seventh-day Adventist Church 9/10/2022
©2022 by Maylan Schurch
Please open your Bibles to Ezekiel chapter 26.
To listen to this entire worship service, click this link:
As you probably know, the world news this week has been filled with stories about the death of Queen Elizabeth. Looking back over her life is like a history lesson. Many changes have taken place. Many former British colonies became republics.
But even though she ruled over an empire which by no means was perfect, and often got its way through brutal means, people agree that she herself was very faithful in fulfilling her responsibilities, and was an admirable person to fill the position she occupied. She did her duty, and did it to within a few days of her death.
Just out of curiosity, how many of you here were born in a country whose money had her picture on it?
This morning we’re going to be looking at a Bible prophecy about another powerful and influential kingdom. Since 2 Timothy 3:16 says that all Scripture is inspired by God, and is profitable for us, then we can definitely learn something from what we’ll look at today. Also, when Revelation 18 describes the destruction of Babylon in the end times, John the author reaches back into these Ezekiel chapters and paraphrases them to describe that event.
So this is important material. I’ve called this sermon “Tyre Trouble,” T-Y-R-E rather than a tire you’d put on a car. Tyre was a small but very rich and powerful kingdom which is located in what is now southern Lebanon. If you look at it on a map, or on a satellite image, you see that there is a spur of land that comes out from the shore.
It didn’t used to be this way. When Ezekiel was writing his prophecies, that little spur was an island which was separated from the shore by about 1500 feet of water. So back then, if you stood on the shore, you looked out to that island, which had a walled city on it, and you knew that no army could really get out there and capture that island, because of all that water. Except that about 250 years later, Alexander the Great got his soldiers to dump loads of rubble into the water, and they built a wide path up to that city, and eventually conquered it.
Anyway, that would come later. And it was probably a devastating fulfillment of the prophecies Ezekiel uttered against the nation.
So why do you and I need to know a few things about Tyre this morning? As I mentioned, all the Bible is profitable for us in some way. And Revelation very specifically echoes one of these chapters in talking about the end times.
Also, I can find at least three symptoms which got Tyre into such trouble with God. And I think you and I need to look for these, and see if there might be some of these symptoms lurking within us. Because all through the Bible, God has gone to war against these symptoms, the way a doctor would fight against a patient’s cancer.
So let’s go hunting for these “Tyre trouble” symptoms.
Ezekiel 26:1 – 2 [NKJV]: And it came to pass in the eleventh year, on the first day of the month, that the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Son of man, because Tyre has said against Jerusalem, ‘Aha! She is broken who was the gateway of the peoples; now she is turned over to me; I shall be filled; she is laid waste.’
You see, Tyre wasn’t all that far from Israel and Judah. They were right next door. And by this time, the nation of Judah had been taken captive by Babylon. In fact, Ezekiel had been taken captive there as well, and he was writing these prophecies from Babylon.
And this energetic, powerful little kingdom of Tyre said, “Hey, here’s our chance! Jerusalem is defeated! Let’s go down there and plunder some of her wealth!”
But God knows what’s going on. He knows the plots that Tyre is hatching, just the same way He knows the plots anybody is hatching against His people. And God has a message for this proud little kingdom.
But first we need to lay down what you could call Sermon Point One. What is the first symptom of “Tyre trouble”?
The first symptom of “Tyre trouble” is being ruthlessly greedy.
God doesn’t like it when people are greedy, and He certainly doesn’t like it when they are ruthlessly greedy, greedy without pity.
I think, quite a while back, I told the story about how my dad signed up for an insurance policy with one of the agents in our hometown. My brother remembers this as being a medical insurance policy, so dad started paying the premiums so he could make sure he’d be covered just in case.
Well, the time did come when Dad needed to have an expensive operation. So he called up the agent, and the agent drove out to our farm. He was pale and trembling, and tearfully confessed to dad that he had not been applying any of those premiums to dad’s insurance policy. He had simply not created a policy for dad, and had kept all the premium money for himself.
I remember that, as Dad told me that story, he was truly shaken. Of course, he had to completely foot the bill for that operation, but what staggered him far more was that anybody could do such a thing. This was not just greed — it was ruthless greed. This agent was so money-hungry that he took no pity on my dad. He ignored the possibility that dad might eventually have to cash in that policy. To Dad, this was a horrific sin against God.
And that’s exactly the attitude that Tyre was taking toward the defeated nation of Judah. Not only did Tyre have no pity, but it didn’t care in the least that God might have had an opinion about the situation.
Well, through Ezekiel, God goes ahead and shares his opinion.
Verses 3 – 5: “Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: ‘Behold, I am against you, O Tyre, and will cause many nations to come up against you, as the sea causes its waves to come up. And they shall destroy the walls of Tyre and break down her towers; I will also scrape her dust from her, and make her like the top of a rock. It shall be a place for spreading nets in the midst of the sea, for I have spoken,’ says the Lord GOD; ‘it shall become plunder for the nations.
Tyre wanted to plunder Jerusalem, so God said to them, “You yourselves are going to be plundered.”
The bottom line: God does not like ruthless greed. Throughout the Bible, one of the things which got God the most frighteningly angry was when people – like my dad’s insurance agent – took advantage of folks who didn’t have a lot of money, and were at their mercy. These days, if I were an online scammer, or were involved in anything else which defrauds people of their money, I should be very, very afraid.
So what about you and me? How can we check ourselves to see if there’s some way in which we are being ruthlessly greedy? It seems shocking to think that anybody who claims to be a Christian could behave this way. But is there anyone I am taking advantage of in some way, financially or otherwise? Someone I’m not being absolutely fair to?
And going even deeper, even if I might not be acting in a ruthlessly greedy way, I need to ask myself this: does making money mean more to me than people? Am I giving time and energy to my job which I should be reserving for my spouse and family?
I used to think, when I read Bible stories like this, that we couldn’t really hold heathen nations like Tyre responsible for what they did. After all, they didn’t know God.
However, that was dead wrong. They DID know about God. All of those nations knew how God was leading and preserving and protecting the nation of Israel. Remember how, when Joshua sent the spies across the Jordan River into Jericho, and how Rahab told them that the whole city of Jericho was terrified, because they knew how God had rescued the Israelites from Egypt? And that had been 40 years earlier.
So we don’t let nations like Tyre off the hook that easily. When Jerusalem was taken captive, the people of Tyre should have thoughtfully observed what was happening. They should have said, “Wait a minute. Here is the nation the Hebrew God has led so powerfully. What has happened that has caused Him to let them to go into captivity?”
In Mark 7, starting with verse 24, it mentions that Jesus Himself once traveled up to the region of Tyre and Sidon (a town a little further north than Tyre). The only thing He did up there was to heal the daughter of a woman from that area.
Even though she lived a long way from Jerusalem, this woman knew about Jesus, and she had the incredible faith to believe that, even though He was a Jew and she was a Gentile, but He could – and would – do something miraculous for her daughter. And He did.
Now let’s find another symptom of “Tyre trouble,” another attitude which is going to call down judgment upon this nation. As chapter 26 goes along, God gets really specific about what will happen to Tyre.
Now watch what happens. You see, Tyre was a major sea-trader. They bought and sold and transported very expensive items for the nations all around there, even Judah and Israel. You might remember that when Solomon was building the temple, King Hiram of Tyre sold Solomon building materials, and even sent down workers to help construct it.
So here the Lord predicts that when Tyre begins to feel the judgment of God, everybody else notices.
Verses 15 – 17: “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? 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. 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!
Do you see what was happening there? Tyre was a rich nation, and nation of merchants, buyers and sellers. But the nation’s leaders evidently weren’t jolly Rotary or Kiwanis members, people of goodwill.
Here comes Sermon Point Two, a second symptom of “Tyre trouble.”
The first symptom of “Tyre trouble” is being ruthlessly greedy, and the second symptom is being cruelly intimidating.
Apparently, if – as verse 17 says – the government of Tyre “caused their terror to be on all her inhabitants,” this was really a dysfunctional society. These leaders ruled by fear. And we don’t have to look far around today’s world to see other national leaders treating their people the same way.
But what about us, here in this room? How can we check ourselves for “cruelly intimidating” tendencies?
As you know, this can happen in families. It can happen in workplaces, or school playgrounds.
I think it would be a good idea to pause a moment and ask, “Whom do I intimidate?” Or ask yourself, “Am I someone people have to walk on eggshells around? Do people have to treat me very carefully so that I won’t blow up, or get angry, or intimidate them?”
Notice God’s judgment on Tyre for being this way:
Verses 18 – 21: Now the coastlands tremble on the day of your fall; Yes, the coastlands by the sea are troubled at your departure.” ’ “For thus says the Lord GOD: ‘When I make you a desolate city, like cities that are not inhabited, when I bring the deep upon you, and great waters cover you, then I will bring you down with those who descend into the Pit, to the people of old, and I will make you dwell in the lowest part of the earth, in places desolate from antiquity, with those who go down to the Pit, so that you may never be inhabited; and I shall establish glory in the land of the living. I will make you a terror, and you shall be no more; though you are sought for, you will never be found again,’ says the Lord GOD.”
Isn’t that devastating, poetic justice? The rulers of Tyre were cruelly intimidating to the people, causing terror to be on all her inhabitants, as verse 17 says. But in verse 21, God says, “I will make you a terror, and you shall be no more.” In other words, what God will do to that nation would strike terror in the hearts of everyone who is watching.
By the way, when the Lord says the Tyre “would never be inhabited,” He was probably talking about the nation of Tyre which was ruthlessly greedy and cruelly intimidating. Nowadays the people living on that little land-spur are Lebanese citizens, and as far as I know it’s just a residential area. They’re not a threat to anyone. There is none of the power which Tyre was famous for.
Now let’s flip over to chapter 28 to discover one final symptom of “Tyre trouble.” I noticed that this time, God isn’t speaking to the nation or its leaders as a whole, but he is specifically addressing the “Prince of Tyre.”
Ezekiel 28:1 – 2: The word of the LORD came to me again, saying, “Son of man, say to the prince of Tyre, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Because your heart is lifted up, And you say, ‘I am a god, I sit in the seat of gods, In the midst of the seas,’ Yet you are a man, and not a god, Though you set your heart as the heart of a god . . .
Here comes Sermon Point Three. What’s another symptom of “Tyre trouble”?
The first symptom is being ruthlessly greedy, and the second symptom is being cruelly intimidating. And the third symptom of “Tyre trouble” is having delusions of divinity.
In other words, deluding yourself into thinking that you are a god.
But is that really a problem? I don’t know about you, but I have never really ever thought I was a god, or wanted to be a god.
But you know, a lot of people apparently like to toy with that fantasy these days. Have you ever heard of something called the Marvel Universe? A lot of very creative people have used their imagination over the years to construct an immense and detailed mythology about superhuman beings, and gods and goddesses, and human beings with superpowers. And the movies they create about these characters make an immense amount of money.
There’s something about us which wistfully longs to have greater power than we do. When I was a five-year-old, I got one of our bathroom towels and pinned it around my neck like a Superman cape. My last name starts with an “S,” so I drew a large “S” on a T-shirt, and somehow worked the “M” into the design.
Now, as a farm kid, I knew very well that I did not have these powers. I knew that if I jumped off of the barn in my towel-cape I would probably break my ankles. But it was a fascinating daydream to have.
Okay. Bringing this down to earth – where I fortunately stayed with my Superman cape – what might delusions of divinity have to do with me?
Earlier this week I bought a used book on the subject of writing. When I got home and flipped through it, I discovered that someone had used this little white card as a bookmark. It’s about 2 ½ inches wide, and maybe 3 ½ inches long. The back of it is shiny black, and the front of it is a photograph. There are lines and lines of tiny hand-printing, and if you hold it up to a strong light, or look at it through a magnifying glass, you can see one phrase printed over and over. Here’s what it says. “I am enough. I am enough. I am enough.” There are 25 lines of print, and the only thing it says on this paper is “I am enough.”
I thought to myself, “What is going on here?” First of all, somebody had to write this phrase maybe 100 or more times on a piece of paper. And then somebody else – or maybe the same person – wanted a picture of that, so they took a miniature little Polaroid-style photo, and used it as a bookmark.
At first glance, it looks like whoever wrote this believed themselves to be totally self-sufficient, or at least wanted to believe that. But I looked online, and the phrase “I am enough” is actually the title of a children’s picture book by actress Grace Byers. Grace had been bullied as a child, and she wrote the book “to empower children to love and accept themselves.” So to her, “I am enough” means “Just because I am different than you, that doesn’t mean I have to become like you, or become something you happen to be familiar with. I am enough.” And of course, that’s a good message.
But you can use that same phrase in a way that Grace Byers was not using it. “I am enough” might also mean that I don’t need to wonder about what God would like me to do.
And it seems as though when the prince of Tyre began to believe he was a god, he was saying to himself “I am enough.”
And back in those days it wasn’t such an unusual thing for people to begin to imagine that they were gods. Over in Acts 14, Paul and Barnabas were in the town of Lystra (just across the Mediterranean Sea from Tyre), and God worked a healing miracle through them, and the people immediately decided that Paul was the god Mercury and Barnabas was the god Jupiter, and they tried to worship them.
What would it look like if you are I had delusions of divinity? I don’t suppose we would want people to kneel down and worship us or anything like that. But when you think of it, anybody who takes macro-evolution to its ultimate conclusion is saying, “I am the only one in charge of my fortune and my future. It’s up to me. No supernatural force exists. So I need to be my own god. I need to be enough.”
And I’m sure that, even though someone might believe that there is a God, and that God is the creator, what matters is how we put this knowledge to work every day of the week.
The seventh day Sabbath, the weekly memorial of creation which God Himself set up, gives us a helpful boost into the week ahead. No, we do not have to be enough. Jesus didn’t want us to have to be enough. Jesus urged us to join with Him and His Father, so that we could all be one.
We can’t leave these fascinating chapters without watching what else happens to the prince of Tyre. Because as we read about him, you will recognize him. He is alive today, and he knows you very well.
Watch carefully, because it’s clear that from this point we’re not talking about a human being, the human prince of Tyre. We’re actually talking about an evil superhero.
Ezekiel 28:11 – 14: Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Son of man, take up a lamentation for the king of Tyre, and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “You were 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 sardius, topaz, and diamond, Beryl, onyx, and jasper, Sapphire, turquoise, and emerald with gold. The workmanship of your timbrels and pipes Was prepared for you on the day you were created. “You were the anointed cherub who covers; I established you; You were on the holy mountain of God; You walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones.
Nope, we’re not talking about a human being here. We’re talking about someone God created as perfect, and who was with God in Eden (probably the heavenly Eden, not the earthly one—that came later), someone who was in the very presence of God.
Notice all the advantages this being had, and how he squandered them:
Verses 15 – 19: You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, Till iniquity was found in you. “By the abundance of your trading You became filled with violence within, And you sinned; Therefore I cast you as a profane thing Out of the mountain of God; And I destroyed you, O covering cherub, From the midst of the fiery stones. “Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; You corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor; I cast you to the ground, I laid you before kings, That they might gaze at you. “You defiled your sanctuaries By the multitude of your iniquities, By the iniquity of your trading; Therefore I brought fire from your midst; It devoured you, And I turned you to ashes upon the earth In the sight of all who saw you. All who knew you among the peoples are astonished at you; You have become a horror, And shall be no more forever.” ’ ”
Of course, this could be nobody else but the devil, Lucifer who became Satan. Isaiah 14 gives a similar description of this fallen angel.
This is a superhero story, but it’s true. Satan is powerful, but God is more powerful. And what’s so encouraging to me is that however Satan might harass me, whatever damage his death-spasms might cause, he will be destroyed. He will turn to ashes, and never will he be any more.
And the one who defeats him is the one who became human to live among us, and then died for our sins. And He is the one who deserves our worship, not the Prince of Tyre, but the Prince of Peace.
In just a few days, England will have a new monarch. Charles the Third will be crowned with pomp and circumstance and singing. But you and I don’t have to wait to sing about our own King. In fact, right now let’s sing about His coronation in our closing song, “Crown Him With Many Crowns.”