Pride Goes Before a Fall
Ezekiel 26 – 28
Pride Goes Before A Fall
Pride goes before a fall (Ezekiel 26 – 27)
Last week in Ezekiel 18, we started by thinking about the proverbs we hear quoted from time to time.
A sentence or two that is mostly true but tends not to capture the full picture of any given situation. And a few of you shared with me afterwards, your favourite proverbs, as well as the occasions when you’ve found them to be somewhat lacking!
One that we didn’t mention last week, but I’m sure we’re all familiar with, is “pride goes before a fall.” It comes out of the book of Proverbs in the Bible.
And like those others, it says something about what is generally true, but not necessarily the case every time. We don’t always see the proud fall, and, it’s not always pride that leads to a fall, or destruction as our NIV translates it.
But one situation in which that proverb is absolutely true, is in the life, of the city of Tyre. In fact, King Solomon, who wrote chapter 16 of Proverbs, could hardly have come up with a more accurate description of the rise and fall of Tyre, than in that phrase, pride goes before a fall.
Tyre was, still is, a city on the (LEFT) Eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. It’s located in what is now the Lebanese Republic, but in the time of Ezekiel, Tyre was a powerful and wealth city-state about 160 kilometres from Jerusalem, and it dominated international trade, giving her significant influence on major countries like Egypt and Greece.
Tyre was made up of a regular city, on the shore, but about a kilometre off-shore, was another city, really a fortress, with 2 huge harbours, and all connected to the mainland by a long causeway.
Thing Granite Island, but with all of Australia’s imports and exports passing through it!
And chapter 26 and 27 of Ezekiel, give us a very poetic account of the wealth, and significance, of Tyre.
The city is pictured, as a beautifully crafted ship, built from all the very best materials, and carrying, the finest goods from all around the world.
And yet, a fall is coming.
God’s message through Ezekiel, is that Tyre will be destroyed, because of her pride.
Chapter 26 opens with the people of Trye looking on at God’s judgment on the sin of Jerusalem, with glee!
Aha! The gate to the nations is broken, and its doors have swung open to me;, now that she lies in ruins I will prosper,’
It’s like Fremantle supporters having to watch endless reruns of their grand final loss on the TV, and put up with the gloating of the Hawthorn fans!
Of course this is a bit more serious, but the Israelites are distraught, and the Tyrians, the people of Tyre, are really pleased!
But those who rejoiced at God’s judgment on Israel, are about to face that judgment themselves.
King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon will re-enact the same role as he played in God’s judgement of Israel, the role of God’s chosen instrument of justice.
God, in his sovereignty, is even able to use pagan kings as his instruments, to bring about his purposes, in judging sin and rebellion.
God condemns the pride of Tyre 28:1 - 5
Well, this is where we come to chapter 28, and we find that it’s the sin of pride, for which Tyre is condemned.
The king is the representative of the kingdom, and responsible for the character of the kingdom, so it’s against the king that God speaks, even though this sin is not just limited to him.
Like our Prime Ministers have apologised for things, not that they’ve done personally, but things that our nation has done, for which they want to express remorse.
The pride of the nation of Tyre, was a reflection and extension of the pride in the heart of her king.
The word translated ruler is the word that was used to describe a charismatic leader, someone who influences people, or someone who heads a whole dynasty of people.
Today we might hear someone described as “a prince among men”,
An obvious leader,
He sets the tone of whatever group he’s in in,
That’s how God sees the king of Tyre, but his influence hasn’t been for good.
His character and behaviour have influenced the character and behaviour of the whole city, as chapter 27 made clear.
Pride today is, well, it’s one of the respectable sins, isn’t it?
Christians tend not to campaign against it,
We don’t hold marches to denounce it,
It’s something I rarely hear Christians talking about among themselves, in terms of how we might guard against it,
And yet listen to how serious God says this sin is.
28 verse 2, “ ‘In the pride of your heart you say, “I am a god;
I sit on the throne of a god in the heart of the seas.
But you are a mere mortal and not a god,
though you think you are as wise as a god
In their minds and their practice, they’ve pushed God off his throne, and installed themselves there instead.
That’s not to say that the king of Tyre actually thought he was a God, that he went round introducing himself, “Hi, I’m God, pleased to meet you!”
There were rulers who thought of themselves like that, the Pharaohs, the Roman emperors.
But God accuses the king of thinking that he has both the status and authority, of God.
We saw a couple of weeks ago, that the imagery of a throne, conveys authority.
The king imagines that he can just speak, and his word will be obeyed by everybody everywhere.
When you have achieved as much as Tyre had,
When you are as influential as Tyre,
When all the countries around about you, do as you say, for fear of losing access to the essential goods you provide,
It is easy to think that you have the status, and authority, of God.
But this king also thinks he’s as wise as a god, verse 2.
Are you wiser than Daniel?
Is no secret hidden from you?
There are ancient myths from Tyre, about a wise man from the city, who could solve riddles that the great and wise King Solomon had set, that nobody else could solve!
But not only could this wise man from Tyre solve those problems, he could also devise riddles, that even king Solomon couldn’t solve!
Clearly Tyre’s estimation of her own wisdom, ran very deep!
Except we already know the flaw in this thinking don’t we?
Did it strike you as we read it through?
Are you wiser than Daniel?
Is no secret hidden from you?
If you really are so wise,
If you can see all the secrets of God, then you’ll know the destruction that you’re about to face!
You’ll see it waiting, just around the corner!
The fact that Tyre continues on her merry way, business as usual, just goes to show how patently false these claims are.
It’s like the joke about the, “The psychic fair is closed due to unforeseen circumstances”
We’re supposed to see, just how foolish this claim is.
He cannot see, what we, the readers, know is about to happen.
Great blessing has led to great pride
See the problem for Tyre, was that, although, as a city, they’d been greatly blessed by God, they mistook those blessings for signs of their own greatness, and so became proud.
And it is an ageless problem, for people’s who lives are a reflection of these words, wisdom, great skill, wealth, to think begin to think they’re entirely self-sufficient.
They come to the conclusion that they have no need for God.
I remember once when I was working in another church, a lady who was a member there, asked me to meet up with her husband, who wasn’t a Christian, to talk to him about the Christian faith, because he had been fairly resistant to her efforts to talk about Jesus.
I asked her if, to her knowledge, there was any particular reason that he was disinterested in Jesus, and without missing a beat, she replied, “He is a very successful businessman.”
Now, being a successful businessman, doesn’t exclude you from becoming a Christian, by any stretch of the imagination. But that lady was exactly right that for her husband, his great skill had increased his wealth, and because of the wealth he had made for himself, his heart was hard, and he thought he had no need for God.
He thought everything he had was of his own achievement, so God was irrelevant.
He was, what they call, a self-made man. And you know that saying, “the problem with self-made men, is that they end up worshipping their creator.”
By your great skill in trading you have increased your wealth,
and because of your wealth, your heart has grown proud
Often when I’m reading the Bible, it reminds me of episodes from the TV show, The Simpsons! I’m sure most of you don’t have that experience, because you’re more refined than that!
I couldn’t help but think of Bart Simpson being asked to say grace at dinner one evening, and so sitting at the table laid with all the food, he prays, “Dear God, we paid for this stuff ourselves, so thanks for nothing, Amen.”
I am perfect in beauty, 27 verse 3,
Covered in fine linen,
Everyone from around the world came to trade, Tarshish, Greece, Damascus, Arabia,
I am famous,
I am prosperous,
Dear God, I earned all this stuff myself, so thanks for nothing!
You may have noticed that God doesn’t dispute the fact that the king is wealthy, and wise, and greatly skilled.
The problem is not that Tyre has those things,
Not even that they reap the benefit of those blessings,
Their problem is their proud hearts.
That point is highlighted by the comparison to Daniel in verse 3.
King Nebuchadnezzar, says of Daniel in Daniel 4 verse 9, no mystery is too difficult for you.
Daniel was given all kinds of wisdom and insight,
He really did know the secrets of God, but we’re told in chapter 5 of that book, that chose not to use his wisdom as a means of financial gain.
He recognises that his wisdom comes from God.
He acknowledges that everything he is able to do, uniquely gifted as he was, he humbly confesses that it all comes from God, and he has no reason to be puffed up by pride, or hardened in his heart, because of what he has, or what he can do.
Physicist Gerald Shroeder wrote a book a few years ago called The Science of God, and he talks about the things that God gives us, even through something as general, we might say, as the design of the universe:
The orbit of the earth,
Our distance from the sun,
The molecular properties of plants, seeds, grain,
The chemical reactions that occur,
Our intellect and thought processes,
The technology we’ve been able to develop.
All of that is essential, just to make, a loaf of bread!
And his kind of catchphrase, in that section of the book is, “To make a loaf of bread, takes a very special universe”!
Even something as simple, and unremarkable, as baking a loaf of bread, would not be possible, if God had not provided everything necessary!
Tyre enjoys not just a loaf of bread,
But all the glory and benefit and prosperity that came from her geography,
And her history,
And her trade,
And her resources,
And the people of that city thought that all those blessings came from their own skill, and their own doing, and so they became proud.
And so God passes judgment on this sin of pride,
This sin that accepts every blessing, takes every good gift from God’s hand, but leaves God out of the picture entirely, and in fact, replaces God with self.
Pride is a rejection of God, And as has been the case since the beginning of time, Genesis chapter 2, the penalty for rejecting God, is for God to reject the person.
Sin leads to death, and separation from God, and verses 6 to 10 show that even though the king of Tyre considered himself as a god, he will die as an ordinary man.
Such grandiose claims, “I have the status and the authority of God himself”, will be patently disproved.
He’s proved to be very mortal after all!
The Spanish artist Salvador Dali, apparently, his last words before he died were “I do not believe in my death!”
You can imagine the king of Tyre would have echoed those words, wouldn’t he?, as those foreign armies surrounded him
“You can’t kill me, I’m a god”
Well, not, as it turns out.
And God has the final word. Verse 10 I have spoken, declares the Sovereign Lord.
In contrast to the very limited power and authority of the king whose words don’t always come to pass, God’s Word always does, and in 574 BC, Tyre is destroyed by the Babylonians.
I wonder if we were to think for a moment, about our situation.
No rocky fortress,
I’m not aware that any of us control trade routes!
But I wonder if the blessings of skill and wealth, might be a similar trap for us.
When we go to the shop, and buy food, with money that we have earned, by performing our jobs,
While we would never say it like he said it, are we more like the King of Tyre than we would care to admit?
Are we more like Bart Simpson, than we ought to be?
Dear God, we paid for this stuff ourselves, so thanks for nothing.
That is a little crass for us, I’m sure!
But how do we think about, the resources, the opportunities, the influence that we have?
Do we think that those things are solely the result of our effort, our skill?,
And if so, is there a risk of our hearts becoming hard?
When your pay, the dividends or interest on your investments, whatever it is, when that money lands in your bank account,
And when the Bible tells us, that that money is yours because God has provided it, he’s entrusted it to you, and therefore God wants it to be used for the things that are his priorities, how does that make you feel?
Do we think, “That money is mine. I earned it, I’ll spend it how I want”?
Have we forgotten, that it takes a very special kind of universe, even to make a loaf of bread!
Do we find it easy, to put ourselves in Gods’ place, and say in our hearts, if not out loud, I am a god.
A closer look at sin 11 - 19
Because the way that God describes the sin of Tyre in verses 11 to 19, is to picture it as what we might say is archetypical of sin. There is nothing remarkable about their sin,
It is just, what all sin is.
And God laments of Tyre’s sin, in terms Ezekiel’s readers would have been familiar with, borrowing heavily from the account of the Garden of Eden, in the opening chapters of Genesis.
You were in Eden,
the garden of God;
every precious stone adorned you:
repeated pictures of riches and wealth,
You were blameless in your ways
from the day you were created, verse 15
But, verse 16,
you were filled with violence, and you sinned.
so I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God,
and I expelled you, guardian cherub,
God isn’t saying, that the king of Tyre, was actually present, in the Garden of Eden, with Adam and Eve,
And it’s not that Satan is being addressed here, and God’s calling him the king of Tyre. Some people have suggested that, but of course that misses the fact that this whole section is about Tyre and the surrounding nations, and, truth be told, I think it’s mostly driven by some people’s desire to find a Scriptural justification for a particular view of Satan and his fall, that people already hold.
No, God is using the Eden imagery, to give a close-up view, of Tyre’s sin.
He is comparing the king of Tyre, to someone who enjoyed that unparalled blessing from God, had God’s favour poured out upon them, and yet, because of their pride, they lost it all.
How could you capture something of the sheer extent of Tyre’s fall, from having so much, to coming under God’s judgment,
Well the best comparison, is Adam and Eve’s experience of being cast out of the Garden of Eden.
You were in Eden,
the garden of God;
every precious stone adorned you:
And notice the passive language. It’s God who has done all these things, and given these things to the king.
You were created, verse 13, so not a god, but a man after all!
You were anointed, verse 14,
Even the description of the king as the seal, in verse 11, literally, the signet.
The signet was the stamp of authority, that belonged to someone else, the ruler, and being given the signet, enabled the officers, the underlings, if you like, to act with the ruler’s authority. And often the signet, as we might be familiar with, was worn as a ring.
The person who wore that ring, was entrusted with the power and authority of the ruler under whom they served.
See Ezekiel reminds us, that behind the king of Tyre stands God. The king is only king, because God has enabled him, and allowed him to be.
The king of Tyre was God’s signet bearer, with a delegated authority.
The king of Tyre was God’s gardener, entrusted with a little patch of creation to steward, just as Adam and Eve were.
Blessed by God,
And, undone by pride. So that the fall of the city was like being expelled from Paradise.
The sin was the same, Just like Adam and Eve, Tyre had succumbed to pride.
If you know the Genesis account, what were the serpent’s words to Eve?
If you eat the fruit that God had forbidden, you will be like God
And this is where Tyre’s sin, is typical of all sin, and where Adam and Eve’s sin serves as the model for everyone who would come after them.
The king of Tyre wasn’t content to carry somebody else’s signet.
He wasn’t satisfied with bearing someone else’s authority,
He didn’t want to be the gardener, in someone else’s garden.
He wanted to be the one who sat on the throne.
He wanted to be, like God.
And is that not, the essence of sin?
To seek to push God off his throne, and install ourselves there instead.
We want to decide for ourselves what’s right and wrong,
We don’t recognise Jesus as God’s chosen king.
We rebel against our position as signet-bearers, gardeners, and act as if the only authority that matters, is our own.
We will not depend on God,
We want to provide for ourselves.
We resist, to the nth degree, the call to depend on him and his provision, despite the fact that everything we have, has come from him,
Even our skill, and our work, and our wisdom.
We blind ourselves to the inordinate blessings we’ve received, and give ourselves the status, and authority, and decision-making prerogative that God deserves.
This is a long section. God has a lot to say about Tyre. And I wondered, as I was reading through, in a message to Israelite exiles in Babylon, why does God go into so much detail, about the rise and fall of Tyre?
And it seems to be, because God wants to say to his people in exile,
Don’t go there!
Look where pride gets you!
Make no mistake, this is where living as if you are God, leads.
“Don’t mistake the blessings that come from my hand”, God says, “for a sign that you don’t need me!
The things you have achieved,
The things you are able to do,
Whatever it is that you’re known for, and which serves as a blessing to others,
Those things ought to be a cause to cling firmly to God, not to turn away from him, and seek to insert yourself into his place!
Tyre was the happening place!
Tyre was the New York, the London, the Paris,
Tyre looked like the model of success.
But God’s warning for Israel was don’t go there.
Do not be sucked into that pattern of life.
Look where it leads.
But what about for us?
What does the prophecy and lament against Tyre, against Sidon, in very similar language at the end of the chapter, what does it say to us?
Well, imagine a city driven, motivated, by money, wealth, trade,
Or a country, that laps up good gifts from God’s hand;, material resources, geography, weather, and yet despite reaping enormous benefit from those gifts, refuses to acknowledge God, tries desperately to keep God at the fringes of its existence, or even tries to put something else in God’s place.
It’s not that hard to imagine, is it?!
It’s our country,
It’s our cities,
It is the modern secular worldview, isn’t it?
It’s the worldview that famously had former British PM Tony Blair’s press advisor, interrupting the Prime Minister in a press conference, saying “we don’t do God.”
It’s the worldview behind the current High Court challenge to the Commonwealth funding for chaplains in schools.
Now the legal arguments are about Executive Powers and Consolidated Revenue Funds, but the philosophy behind it is that we don’t want God to interfere in our lives!
A Queensland father of 6 launched the court case, because he didn’t want his children confronted with the claims of Christ at school.
We’ve done away with God. We don’t need him in our schools.
Our society is wealthy and prosperous without God we’re told.
By your wisdom and understanding you have gained wealth for yourself,
and amassed gold and silver in your treasuries.
5 By your great skill in trading you have increased your wealth,
and because of your wealth your heart has grown proud.
We don’t do God,
We have no need for God in our schools.
Well, similarly, God says to us “Don’t go there”!
Hear the warning of where this proud, independent, worldview will get you.
Are you tempted to take gifts from God’s hand, but ignore the God who gives them?
Are you tempted to look at your bank balance, and think how much you deserve what’s sitting there,
Do you reflect on the life that you have established for yourself, and think how well you’ve managed to provide for you and your family?
Does the Bible’s teaching, that as a follower of Jesus, you need to work to submit your will, to his, does that grate on you?
Do you find it hard to accept that the authority you have, the influence you wield, is yours only because God allows you to have it, and has entrusted it to you, that you might serve his purposes?
If we answer “Yes” to any of that, then we especially need to hear the warning of God’s prophecy against Tyre.
We see here, all too clearly, where that desire to be like God, leads.
Now, as we read, you will have noticed the fairly significant change of tone in the last 3 verses of the chapter. Here’s the turning point from hopelessness to hope.
Here is God’s promise of restoration for Israel;, After God has rightly judged sin, and poured out his anger against it, the people can enjoy his presence again in the land that he promised to their ancestors.
Notice there in verse 25, how God addresses them, my servant Jacob. That’s the language God uses repeatedly in the Old Testament, when he re-establishes his covenant relationship with Israel. This one phrase tells us that God has reconciliation, and restoration and relationship on his mind.
Israel will have the opportunity to do what Tyre refused to do, to be God’s servants, to serve God in the land he had allocated to them.
And notice that God acts this way, for his own glory. Each one of those last 3 verses includes a statement about God’s identity being seen.
Israel’s behaviour in the time before the exile, and even during, had led to God’s holiness being questioned! If that’s what God’s people are like, what kind of God is he?
But God had entered into the covenant relationship with Israel, not especially for their own benefit, but in order that the whole world would see that it was like to live as a recipient of God’s blessings.
Israel was to be a light to the nations, a demonstration of God’s character expressed in relationship.
And the gathering and blessing promised here assumes Israel submitting once more to the purpose God had established for them;, to make his name, and character, and holiness known on the earth.
But there’s a problem isn’t there?
Israel are still sinful!
Something has to be done about sin once and for all.
And standing where we do, in Salvation History, we know the solution. God sent a king, who could not have been more different, to the king of Tyre.
Not a proud king, clinging to his achievements, but a king, who, the Apostle Paul tells us in his letter to the Philippians, willingly gave up everything he could have clung to for his own advantage, and made himself nothing for the sake of his people.
God sent Jesus, his chosen king, Israel’s Messiah, to make it possible for sin to be dealt with once and for all,
And not just Israel’s sin, but the sin of the whole world.
And here we see that God’s judgement of the sin of Jerusalem, that brought the Tryians so much delight, it was really just a foretaste of God’s ultimate judging of sin at the cross.
When Jerusalem felt God’s wrath for the sins of her people, she was stricken, punished. The scholars describe God’s judgement on the city as his purging Jerusalem of her sins, and making it possible for his presence to dwell there in the temple once again.
That process, the opening up of the way to God’s presence and relationship, it’s called atonement. And you may well know, that that’s the very word used to describe God judging sin, in the cross of Christ.
As Jesus stands, hangs, in the place of sinful people, sin is punished, justice is done.
And for those who trust in that sacrifice, for those who willingly embrace Jesus as God’s king, the one who does deserve to sit on the throne, there is no longer any sin requiring us to be banished from God’s holy presence.
God is still seen to be holy. The right and just penalty for sin is paid, and yet also, the whole earth can see just what it is, to live under the gracious, generous, sovereign hand of God.
And just as Jerusalem’s slate was wiped clean, when God punished her sin, so the same new beginning can be ours through Christ.
The difference is, the atonement God achieved for us in Christ, the removal of sin and separation, is permanent. He offers lasting reconciliation.
But still, the holy people are the means through which this holy God makes himself known.
That lady’s husband, that successful businessman. In God’s kindness, he did eventually hear the warning,
He learnt the lesson of Tyre,
That pride goes before a fall.
God showed him that he wasn’t in fact a self-made man, and that the blessings given to him, the opportunities to make money, and exert influence, weren’t simply of his own making, but were created and put before him by God.
And in the years since, God has used that man, and God’s own resources, that he placed at that man’s disposal, to bring many many people, especially children and young people, under the sound of the gospel of Jesus.
God’s goal, the motivation behind all his actions, is that he will be known in all the world, for who he is;, the righteous, holy, sovereign, saving God.
Ezekiel aligned himself with that purpose.
That businessman aligned himself with that purpose,
Is that our goal, in all we do? Individually, or as a church?
In planting new churches and gatherings?
In taking on new staff,
In running programs, and training people for ministry,
Is our goal and purpose that the nations, our nation, and others, will know this God, as the God who saves?
Is our goal and purpose that God will be known, and that his saving grace will be experienced by all people?