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Not Wise to Defy the Lord

Proverbs 21:30 (ESV) … “No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel can avail against the Lord.”

Nobody—be it a man or a nation—who sets out to defy the Lord can ever win. History is strewn with the corpses of men and the wreckage of nations that flaunted their puny might in the face of the almighty God.

Consider the case of Tyre, the ancient Phoenician city on the coast of Canaan. Tyre grew in importance until it ruled the sea as powerfully as Babylon ruled the land. The great commercial center of the ancient world, Tyre was beautiful, rich, and learned. Carthage, Rome’s rival, was a mere colony of Tyre. Ships from around the world dropped anchor in Tyre’s harbor. Merchants from east and west met to do business in its streets.

When Tyre was at the height of its glory and power, the rising sun would shine on the city until its streets seemed to gleam with gold. But that sun also shone on graven images, altars, and temples dedicated to Baal, Ashtoreth, and Moloch. These gods insulted the Majesty of Heaven.

Moloch, for instance, was a huge, hideous brass idol. His hands, discolored by fire, held a curved tray, one edge of which rested on an opening in his belly. Inside the idol was a cavity where wood and fuel for a fire were placed.

From time to time Tyre staged sacrifices to propitiate this demon god. Thousands of people would throng the courtyard of Moloch, and priests would ignite the fuel inside him. Soon the image would be wreathed in smoke and its brazen belly would glow with fierce heat. White-robed priests would offer prayers, go through rituals, bow before the red-hot image, gash themselves with knives, then catch their blood and cast it into the fire. Wild-eyed seers would utter prophecies and bands of nearly naked women would dance with sensual abandon.

Then silence would fall. A mother would lead a three- or four-year-old child dressed in white and garlanded with flowers toward the grotesque image. The child, suddenly frightened, would cling to his mother’s robes, but a priest would snatch him away and drag the struggling youngster to the foot of a little iron ladder, the top of which rested against the outstretched hands of the image. The priest (shielded by protective armor) would hold the terrified child aloft, climb the ladder, and with a yell of triumph throw the screaming child onto Moloch’s glowing tray. From there the tortured child would slowly roll down into the red abyss as instruments played, priests sang, and the savage multitude shrieked with delight.

Such was Moloch. Such was Tyre. All its wealth and wisdom were “against the Lord.” No wonder Ezekiel proclaimed Tyre’s doom (Ezekiel 26).

In time Nebuchadnezzar’s armies appeared and after thirteen years of effort took the city and destroyed it. They wreaked vengeance on buildings and people alike, but many of Tyre’s citizens escaped to a small island a mile and a half off the coast. There they built a new city, one that soon rivaled the old one. Determined not to be caught again, the people of the new Tyre developed a powerful fleet of warships to patrol their territorial waters. They had a large commercial fleet as well, so they were able to continue to live in luxury, “against the Lord.”

When Alexander the Great came to power, Tyre defied him as it had defied all other conquerors. The efficient Tyrian navy and a clever system of underwater obstacles prevented a successful Greek attack by sea. But God had not forgotten His prophecy, and the time had come to fulfill His Word. Tyre’s date with doom had arrived. Alexander took what remained of the ruined walls, towers, timbers, and houses of ancient Tyre and used this salvaged material to build a solid causeway to the island city. By the time the causeway was completed, he had actually scraped up the dust from the ruins and thrown it into the sea—just as Ezekiel had prophesied. Then the all-conquering Alexander captured the new city and killed or enslaved its people.

No matter how astute the advisers of a nation’s rulers are, if they set themselves against God and insult Him by their lifestyle, in time God will avenge Himself upon that nation and its people. [1]

[1] Phillips, J. (2009). Exploring Proverbs 19–31: An Expository Commentary (Vol. 2, Pr 21:30–31). Kregel Publications; WORDsearch Corp.

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