Wednesday, September 20, 2023

2023.09.20 Hopewell @Home ▫ Isaiah 23

Read Isaiah 23

Questions from the Scripture text: Against whom is this burden (Isaiah 23:1a)? Who are weeping over Tyre in Isaiah 23:1-2Isaiah 23:5? How have Tyre and Sidon been filled with wealth (Isaiah 23:2-3)? What will be made unproductive for Sidon (Isaiah 23:4)? Of what had Tyre and her allies been proud (Isaiah 23:6-7)? Why would they wonder at who would conspire against them (Isaiah 23:8)? But Who has done it (Isaiah 23:9a)? Why (verse 9b–c)? Why is Tyre out of strength (Isaiah 23:10-11)? For whom had they been a stronghold? Where does He suggest they flee, though to no avail (Isaiah 23:12)? Whom else had Assyria devastated up to this point (Isaiah 23:13)? With what effect on even the best of ships (Isaiah 23:14)? What will the result of Tyre’s economic hardship be (Isaiah 23:15)? How is she pictured advertising herself at the end of this period (Isaiah 23:16)? How successful will she be (Isaiah 23:17)? But to whom will all of these riches ultimately belong (Isaiah 23:18)?

How does the Lord judge those who trust in riches? Isaiah 23 looks forward to the first serial reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these eighteen verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the Lord judges those who trust in riches by drying up their wealth, by bringing disaster that wealth cannot escape, and even by allowing them to stockpile wealth that will serve the Lord’s own people. 

Reversal of “fortune,” Isaiah 23:1-7. Tyre was an extremely wealthy merchant city. From as far as Tarshish (Spain, Isaiah 23:1), and as powerful and wealthy as Egypt (Isaiah 23:5), the wealth of the nations passed through Tyre, and much of that wealth stayed there. But now the bustle of business has come to an abrupt end. Cyprus is the last stop before Tyre, and there Tarshish hears the news that sets them wailing (Isaiah 23:1). Tyre’s partner port, Sidon, is suddenly silenced (Isaiah 23:2)—her revenue left out at a sea (Isaiah 23:3) that refuses to produce for it now (Isaiah 23:4). Egypt also suffers economically (Isaiah 23:5). The pride and joy of all of their prosperity has been silenced (Isaiah 23:6-7).

Retribution for pride, Isaiah 23:8-14. Tyre seemed to powerful to fall: able to crown kings, and whose businessmen were as highest royalty in every nation (Isaiah 23:8). So the big question is who could have conspired to bring her down? Isaiah 23:9 gives the answer. The LORD purposed this to bring down not the pride not only of Tyre but of the entire wealthy world that honored her (verse 9). There’s nothing Tarshish could do (Isaiah 23:10Isaiah 23:14), nowhere Sidon could go (Isaiah 23:12), to escape the judgment the LORD had commanded (Isaiah 23:11). He has given Assyria power even to destroy Babylon (“the Chaldeans,’ Isaiah 23:13). Tyre had flown high in pride, and the Lord would lay them low with devastation.

Recovery for the righteous, Isaiah 23:15-18. Tyre’s downfall is given a duration of 70 years (Isaiah 23:15), but when it’s over she gets right back to advertising herself (Isaiah 23:16) and is soon right back where she was (Isaiah 23:17). Why would the Lord permit this? Why do the wealthy and wicked seem to prosper and recover? Ultimately, for the sake of the LORD’s glory and His people’s good (Isaiah 23:18). The inheritance of the whole earth is for the Lord’s meek ones (cf. Matthew 5:5, Romans 4:13). 

Who are the people of great “fortune” in the eyes of the world? What sorts of things are they able to control? Who is powerful enough to be able to bring them down? In what ways are you in danger of delighting in riches and influence? What could you expect if that’s what you lived for? To whom do all the riches of creation ultimately belong? For whom is the Lord constantly acting in history?

Sample prayer: Lord, we praise You for Your justice to oppose the proud and give grace to the humble. But we are ashamed to confess that we are often proud ourselves—delighting in the wealth of the world and its influence, as Tyre did. Forgive us! And grant unto us humility and heavenly-mindedness by Your Spirit. We confess, also, that we are often anxious about what the wealthy may do. Forgive us for when we fail to remember that You are overruling all that they do for Your glory and our good. Grant unto us to trust comfortably in Your sovereign rule, we ask through Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP11 “My Trust Is in the LORD” or TPH244 “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”

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