Wednesday, February 25, 2015


For the week beginning Sunday February 22, 2015

(The end of Tyre’s glory)
Ezekiel 26-28

“Tyre”, which means “rock”, was a city on the central coast of Phoenicia that was noted for its commercial activity and success. It was located between Accho and Sidon, north of Palestine, and was the principal seaport of Phoenicia. Tyre actually consisted of two cities, one of which was a rocky coastal city on the mainland and the other, a smaller island city just off the shore. It was a city that was difficult to attack or invade, as it was strategically situated with its rear set against the mountains of Lebanon to the east, and the sea served as protection at its front on the west.
Tyre was a very ancient city that was founded circa 2750 B.C., however, it was not as old as her sister city, Sidon. In fact, for many years Sidon had ruled over Tyre after it successfully besieged the city in 1400 B.C. It was not until sea raiders left the city of Sidon in ruins, some 200 years later, that Tyre was able to regain her independence from Sidon.
Over the next 400 years, as Phoenicia gained more and more independence, so too, Tyre would become more powerful, particularly under the rule of King Hiram I (980-947 B.C.), who got along famously with both King David (1 Kings 5:1 & 1 Chronicles 14:1) and King Solomon (1 Kings 9:26-28). Hiram also fortified Tyre’s two harbors on the north and the south with walls. From that point on, Tyre began to dominate Mediterranean commerce. In fact, the prophet Isaiah says that “Tyre’s merchants were princes, the honorable of the earth” (Isaiah 23:8). 
Here in Ezekiel chapters 26-28 we find a rather extensive oracle against the city of Tyre that foretells and details her destruction by Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian forces. This already fabulously wealthy city had applauded the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C., and were enthusiastically looking forward to gaining even more dominance in the Mediterranean area by taking over land trade routes to the east, that had been controlled by Judah (Ezekiel 26:2) since the time of King David.
In verses 7-14 the prophet Ezekiel predicts that Babylon will begin a process that will ultimately result in the total destruction of Tyre down the line. The city was located only 100 miles from Jerusalem, and just 35 miles from the Sea of Galilee, and sure enough, after he destroyed Jerusalem, Nebuchadnezzar put a 13-year siege on Tyre’s mainland city, literally ruining its influence as a world trade leader. However, because he had no navy, Nebuchadnezzar could not destroy the island city of Tyre.
History now records, however, that some 150 years after Ezekiel utters this prophecy (322 B.C.), Alexander the Great and his Greek forces totally demolished mainland Tyre and threw all the stones, timber, and rubble out into the sea (v.12), using the debris, and timber from Lebanon, to build a causeway between the mainland and island sections of the city, and then crossed over to conquer and destroy it also. And thus no more music ever came out of the once bustling city of Tyre, and Ezekiel’s entire prophecy was fulfilled, just as the LORD had spoken (Vs13-14).
The effects of Tyre’s destruction are summed up in the “funeral song” composed in verses 17-18, and Tyre was made into an uninhabited place, sunken beneath the waves of the wrath of GOD, and deposited in the pits of Sheol, where the dead will never be allowed to leave and return to the land of the living (Vs.19-21).
In Ezekiel 27 another message from the LORD came to Ezekiel concerning Tyre, “the mighty gateway to the sea”, the trade center of the world. It is a “funeral song”, a lament that sings of the death of this beautiful and glorious seaport to the kings. Verses 4-24 are dedicated to giving us a vivid description of Tyre’s massive trading and bartering with nations around the world, including Judah and Israel.
This poetic description of the fall of a city is one of the most powerful to be found anywhere in world history, and it sums up just how the world, was and is, preoccupied with material wealth and prosperity that cannot help but breed pride that is out of control. Clearly GOD is seeking to show us how vulnerable all material wealth is, to destruction.
Here in this chapter Tyre is compared to a soundly constructed, beautiful world-class luxury ship (Vs.1-9) that is about to sink into Hades. She has had many trading partners over the years (vs.10-25), but now was about to experience a catastrophic shipwreck at sea that she will never be able to recover from (Vs.26-36). Ironically, her destruction would come in an atmosphere where she was most comfortable, that of the open sea.
In Ezekiel 28 we see yet a third message from the LORD to Ezekiel, this time, a message to the “ruler”, or “head prince” (in the Hebrew “Nagid”- “man at the top”). Here GOD is singling out the city of Tyre and Sidon’s leader, who at that time was Ethbaal III, the father of Jezebel (1 Kings 16:31). He ruled from 591-572 B.C., and because of his pride, he viewed himself as a god, and not as a man (v.2). In fact, many people also believed that he was “the idol god Baal” himself, and he regarded himself as being wiser than Daniel the prophet, whom GOD allowed to know secret things (v.3).
Even though Ethbaal’s worldly wisdom had made him very rich, his riches had made him very proud, and here in verses 6-10 GOD delivers this personal message to him, through Ezekiel:

“Therefore, this is what the Sovereign Lord says:
Because you think you are as wise as a god,
     I will now bring against you a foreign army,
    the terror of the nations.
They will draw their swords against your marvelous wisdom
    and defile your splendor!
 They will bring you down to the pit,
    and you will die in the heart of the sea,
    pierced with many wounds.
 Will you then boast, ‘I am a god!’
    to those who kill you?
To them you will be no god
    but merely a man!
You will die like an outcast
    at the hands of foreigners.
    I, the Sovereign Lord, have spoken!”

Beginning in verse 11 we see Ezekiel’s final prophecy against Tyre (Vs.11-19).

 Then this further message came to me from the Lord:  “Son of man, sing this funeral song for the king of Tyre. Give him this message from the Sovereign Lord:
“You were the model of perfection,
    full of wisdom and exquisite in beauty.
 You were in Eden,
    the garden of God.
Your clothing was adorned with every precious stone—
    red carnelian, pale-green peridot, white moonstone,
    blue-green beryl, onyx, green jasper,
    blue lapis lazuli, turquoise, and emerald—
all beautifully crafted for you
    and set in the finest gold.
They were given to you
    on the day you were created.
I ordained and anointed you
    as the mighty angelic guardian.
You had access to the holy mountain of God
    and walked among the stones of fire.
 “You were blameless in all you did
    from the day you were created
    until the day evil was found in you.
 Your rich commerce led you to violence,
    and you sinned.
So I banished you in disgrace
    from the mountain of God.
I expelled you, O mighty guardian,
    from your place among the stones of fire.
 Your heart was filled with pride
    because of all your beauty.
Your wisdom was corrupted
    by your love of splendor.
So I threw you to the ground
    and exposed you to the curious gaze of kings.
You defiled your sanctuaries
    with your many sins and your dishonest trade.
So I brought fire out from within you,
    and it consumed you.
I reduced you to ashes on the ground
    in the sight of all who were watching.
All who knew you are appalled at your fate.
    You have come to a terrible end,
    and you will exist no more.”

The use in verse 12 of the Hebrew word “melek” for “king”, instead of “nagid” for “ruler” is significant in light of the content of these final two prophecies. Whereas Ezekiel rebuked the “ruler”, Ethbaal III for falsely claiming to be a god in the previous prophecy, here Ezekiel describes a king in terms that cannot apply to a mere man. Here he describes a king who appeared in the Garden of Eden (v.13), and had been a “guardian cherub” (v.14a), and also had had, at one time in the past, free access to GOD’s Holy Mountain (v.14b). Ezekiel also says that this king had been sinless from the time he was created (v.15).
Here in this passage (Vs.11-19) we see a depiction that clearly fits “Lucifer”, the once glorious archangel who had been expelled from Heaven because of his pride and sin against GOD. It does not at all seem to depict the earthly mortal ruler Ethbaal III of Tyre mentioned in the previous verses, 1-10, nor does the language used here depict Adam in the Garden of Eden as some scholars have suggested. Here in verses 11-19 Ezekiel is describing satan who is the true king of Tyre, the demon who is influencing and motivating the human ruler, Ethbaal III.
Although there is, admittedly, strong metaphoric, and poetic interpretational references, to the human ruler of Tyre, Ethbaal III, in this passage, the message is clearly aimed at the spiritual ruler and prince of the demons of this world, who is satan.
In verses 20-24 we see a message of doom for Tyre’s older sister city, and former ruler, Sidon. Sidon was located just 20 miles north of Tyre, along the Mediterranean coast, and except for brief periods in history, had always been closely allied with Tyre, especially at that time, since both cities were ruled by the same man, Ethbaal III. GOD’s judgment against Sidon would be both, “a plague”, and “war” (v.23). This judgment would have two results. First, it would compel Sidon to acknowledge GOD’s “righteous character” (v.22), and secondly, GOD’s judgment would remove Sidon’s influence as an obstacle to Israel’s walk with HIM (v.24). Many of the Israelites had begun worshiping “Baal” since the time of King Ahab (Israel’s king), who’s wife was the infamous Jezebel.
Finally this chapter ends on an encouraging note, a message of “restoration for Israel (Vs.25-26 - NLT).

 “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: The people of Israel will again live in their own land, the land I gave my servant Jacob. For I will gather them from the distant lands where I have scattered them. I will reveal to the nations of the world my holiness among my people.  They will live safely in Israel and build homes and plant vineyards. And when I punish the neighboring nations that treated them with contempt, they will know that I am the Lord their God.”  

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

                                           LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website

Friday, February 6, 2015


For the week beginning Sunday February 8, 2015

(Messages for Israel’s enemies)
Ezekiel 24-25

In mid-January of 588 B.C. (Gregorian calendar date) Nebuchadnezzar began a two-year siege on Jerusalem that would ultimately result in its final destruction in 586 B.C. It was a day that Ezekiel had been forecasting for four years, and the prophet Jeremiah had touted for more than forty years. The siege came during the ninth year of King Jehoiachin’s captivity in Babylon, and it signaled the end of Ezekiel’s “Prophesies of Doom” against Judah.
Here in Ezekiel 24, verses 1-14, the prophet tells the divine parable of “The Cooking Pot” that was given to him by GOD on the very day that the final Babylonian siege began. This parable is similar to the message in chapter 11, where the leaders used the symbol of the “cooking pot” to give Jerusalem a feeling of false hope and security. There the leaders had the people thinking that, by being in the cooking pot (Jerusalem), they would be automatically safe from any harm, including the famine, the war, the beasts, and, fatal diseases and sicknesses that had come on them because of GOD’s wrath. In verses 6-8 Ezekiel shouts;

“What sorrow awaits Jerusalem,
    the city of murderers!
She is a cooking pot
    whose corruption can’t be cleaned out.
Take the meat out in random order,
    for no piece is better than another, For the blood of her murders
    is splashed on the rocks.
It isn’t even spilled on the ground,
    where the dust could cover it!
 So I will splash her blood on a rock
    for all to see,
an expression of my anger
    and vengeance against her”.

Here GOD is saying that Jerusalem is so corrupt that it doesn’t matter who HE takes out first. She had become a city of bloodthirsty murderers who openly sacrificed their children in the fire (Kings 16:3, Acts 7:43, Amos 5:26, 2 Chronicles 28:3 & 33:6) to the idol god Mollech, splashing their blood on the rocks in the valley of Ben-Hinnom (Jeremiah 19), They also caused the death of many innocent people through many injustices and oppression. They were also leading people away from GOD, by way of their false teaching. Now GOD says that HE will splash their blood on the rocks of Jerusalem. In verses 9-13 the Sovereign LORD says;
“What sorrow awaits Jerusalem,
    the city of murderers!
    I myself will pile up the fuel beneath her.
 Yes, heap on the wood!
    Let the fire roar to make the pot boil.
Cook the meat with many spices,
    and afterward burn the bones.
 Now set the empty pot on the coals.
    Heat it red hot!
    Burn away the filth and corruption.
 But it’s hopeless;
    the corruption can’t be cleaned out.
    So throw it into the fire.
 Your impurity is your lewdness
    and the corruption of your idolatry.
I tried to cleanse you,
    but you refused.
So now you will remain in your filth
    until my fury against you has been satisfied.
This, the LORD’s second statement through Ezekiel in this chapter, deals specifically with the corrupted filthy cooking pot (Jerusalem), and how the meat (the Israelites) had allowed the pot to become corrupted and defiled by the demonic forces that inhabited the whole land through the idols, and the shrines, that the people worshiped in.
When we worship anything other than GOD, the object of that worship can become inhabited by demons who then receives our worship through that object, be it a house, a car, another person etc. That is why GOD instructed Ezekiel on several occasions to prophesy against the land, and other inanimate objects (Ezekiel 6, & 20:45-21:4). It is because the demons that we can’t see are controlling us through certain objects, animals, and people that we worship.
When everything is defiled, including in the church that calls itself by GOD’s name, GOD destroys it all, and then starts over afresh, because the filth can’t be totally purged. Because of our mixing of the holy with the profane, even in the church, then and now, GOD will also tear down the whole defiled religious system (Ezekiel 21:1-4), and start all over again (CHRIST’s Millennial Kingdom). And GOD will do it because, then and now, we will refuse to let those demons that control us, go. We will remain filthy until GOD’s fury against us has been totally satisfied (v.13).
Taking up at verse 15 of this chapter we see a rather grim message to the exiles at Babylon. Here Ezekiel presents the image of a stern and unyielding person, very much the opposite of, say, Jeremiah, who often wept for the people he prophesied to. Here GOD informs HIS faithful prophet Ezekiel, that, HE is about to take his dearest treasure, his wife, away from him. And if that isn’t bad news enough, GOD tells him that he must not even cry for her (except for quiet sighing), or show any sorrow, even at her gravesite. He was not to take off his sandals, or accept any food from consoling friends. Nor was he to perform any of the other traditional rituals of mourning that he was accustomed to performing for close relatives whom he adored (Vs15-17).
Here in this passage we learn that, though we may be a believer, we are not immune to pain and suffering. We are also reminded here, that, pain and suffering doesn’t qualify as an excuse for not obeying GOD. Remember, I’ve told you on several occasions that a true prophet demonstrates GOD’s message with his whole life and body. Well, here in this passage, we see Ezekiel’s personal life with his wife being sacrificed to convey a solemn message to a hopelessly rebellious people, who, had refused to heed all prior warnings from GOD. In verses 21-24, following the death of his wife Ezekiel proclaims this message from the LORD;

“I was told to give this message to the people of Israel. This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will defile my Temple, the source of your security and pride, the place your heart delights in. Your sons and daughters whom you left behind in Judah will be slaughtered by the sword.  Then you will do as Ezekiel has done. You will not mourn in public or console yourselves by eating the food brought by friends.  Your heads will remain covered, and your sandals will not be taken off. You will not mourn or weep, but you will waste away because of your sins. You will groan among yourselves for all the evil you have done.  Ezekiel is an example for you; you will do just as he has done. And when that time comes, you will know that I am the Sovereign Lord.”

In verses 25-27 the LORD tells Ezekiel that HE will take away Israel’s stronghold (Jerusalem), and HE will strip them of their joy and glory, their heart’s desire, and their dearest treasure (the Temple). HE would also take away their sons and daughters, and on that day, a refugee from Jerusalem will come to them in Babylon to tell them everything that has happened to their beloved city. At that time, a once silent Ezekiel will regain his voice so as to talk to the refugee, and he (Ezekiel) will become a symbol for the exiles, and they will know that the GOD of their ancestors is truly the one and only GOD.
In Ezekiel 25, Ezekiel turns his attention from an already doomed Jerusalem, to the task of prophesying against the Gentile nations that surrounded Judah. It only stands to reason that if GOD would not spare HIS own people, certainly HE was not going to allow the pagan nations that so influenced them, mocked them, and blasphemed HIM, to go unpunished. History now records that both Ammon and Moab fell to the Babylonians only five years after Judah’s destruction in 586 B.C.
Here in this chapter we see several Gentile nations, Ammon, Moab, Edom, and Philistia all being handed a message regarding impending judgment from the LORD, because of their sins and mockery against Judah. Ammon, Moab, and Edom all formed the eastern border of Judah, while Philistia is located to the west. GOD’s judgment here is based on the “Abrahamic Covenant” which states that “those who bless the descendants of Abraham will be blessed, and those who curse the descendants of Abraham will be cursed” (Genesis 12:1-3, 15).
They would all be handed down indictments and verdicts from GOD, through Ezekiel, beginning with Ammon, who had scoffed and mocked Judah when Nebuchadnezzar decided to attack Judah first, instead of them (Ezekiel 21:18-27). Ammon, who had earlier sided with Judah against Babylon, was relieved by Nebuchadnezzar’s choice, and instead of helping Judah in her plight, Ammon chose to rejoice over Judah’s demise. They celebrated as the temple at Jerusalem was desecrated and destroyed.
Now, for their punishment, GOD would start with them first, and allow the Babylonians to set up camp and pitch tents in their land, harvest their crops, and steal their livestock. And because they celebrated Israel’s demise, their capital city, Rabbah, would be turned into pastureland for camels, and the remainder of their land would be an enclosure for keeping sheep. As a civilization, they would be utterly destroyed (Vs.1-7).
In verses 8-11, we see a message for Moab, who, in contempt for GOD’s chosen nation, said that “Judah was nothing special, and were just like any other nation”. This attitude is seen by GOD as being blasphemous toward HIM. However, in truth, the relationship between Israel and Moab had deteriorated since the time of King Saul’s regime, when he conquered and made Moab a “vassal state” to Israel, and Moab remained that way throughout King Solomon’s reign. And so, when Judah was destroyed by Babylon, as far as the pagan world was concerned, it gave credence to the contemptuous words and saying of Moab. And now GOD was bent on restoring HIS reputation as a GOD WHO is sovereign and in control of all things holy and secular.
Here GOD says that HE will open up Moab’s eastern flank and wipe out their glorious frontier cities, Beth-jeshimoth, Baal-meon, and Kiriathaim (v.9), and then HE would hand Moab over to the Babylonians. And so GOD promises to, first, take away Moab’s defense and protection, and then, HE would take away their freedom.
In verses 12-14, Ezekiel turns his prophesying to the nation of Edom. Edom’s conflict with Israel dates all the way back to the time when Edom refused to allow Israel to cross its border when they were wandering in the desert following their exodus from Egypt (Numbers 20:14-21). Ezekiel says here that Edom’s sin was that she “took revenge on the house of Judah”.
Edom saw Judah’s conflict with Babylon as a grand opportunity to strengthen her own position of power in the region. Edom believed that, if Judah were destroyed, she would be able to gain a foothold in the area south of the Dead Sea. And so they aided Babylon in her efforts to destroy Jerusalem. Now, GOD was saying that HE would aid in Edom’s destruction. Here GOD says that, “I will raise my fist of judgment against Edom. I will wipe out its people and animals with the sword. I will make a wasteland of everything from Teman to Dedan.  I will accomplish this by the hand of my people of Israel. They will carry out my vengeance with anger, and Edom will know that this vengeance is from me. I, the Sovereign Lord, have spoken!” (Vs.13-14 – NLT).
In verses 15-17, the people of Philistia are given their warning from the LORD by Ezekiel.

“This is what the Sovereign Lord says: The people of Philistia have acted against Judah out of bitter revenge and long-standing contempt. Therefore, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will raise my fist of judgment against the land of the Philistines. I will wipe out the Kerethites and utterly destroy the people who live by the sea.  I will execute terrible vengeance against them to punish them for what they have done. And when I have inflicted my revenge, they will know that I am the Lord.” (NLT)

The Philistines had been in conflict with the Israelites since the Israeli conquest of the “Promised Land”. Israel had failed in their attempt to conquer the Philistines, in part, because of the Philistines superior military. However, because of the Israelites disobedience to GOD at that time, it was really GOD’s will that allowed the Philistines to be successful against HIS chosen people.
King David finally subdued the Philistines early on in his reign over the “United Kingdom” of Israel, and Philistia remained Israel’s vassal state all the way through the reign of King Solomon. However, following the break-up of Israel’s northern kingdom and Judah after Solomon’s death, the feud between the two was renewed. Philistia was able to win her freedom from Israel during the reign of King Jehoram, King Jehoshaphat’s son and heir, and over the years, power between the two countries shifted back and forward. Time and time again the Philistines tried to usurp GOD’s authority, and time and time again GOD would put her down. In fact, it was not until Nebuchadnezzar conquered both countries, Judah and Philistia, that their feuding came to a screeching halt.   

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website