TODAY’S READING: Ezekiel 28–30
Tyre (present-day Lebanon) was the center of Phoenician power and the founders of the city-state/empire of Carthage in North Africa. Borrowing from Egyptian thought, the rulers of Tyre set themselves up as mini-gods, which did not broker favor with Jehovah. Tyre had physical things to be proud of: They were “in Eden, in the garden of God,” beautiful and full of splendor (Eze. 28:13, 17). Problem was, they were also full of themselves, and there can be only One who fills all things. The missionary message of the Bible is so consistent. What does God do when He encounters pompous people and peoples? He comes against them for His ultimate goals (28:22).
I am convinced that we miss out on leveraging God’s crucial self-revelation to the nations during times of crisis and disaster. Sovereign God is completely in control of history and nature. When God judges the proud nations and peoples of earth who rebel and resist His glorious rule, we rush to console them without pointing out that the disaster that fell on their heads was directly from God, that God will be glorified in their midst, and that they will know He is the Lord through His terrible judgments so that He will be hallowed among them.
Yes, I know this sounds extreme, but it is the missionary message of Ezekiel. All nations, all peoples, all persons who arrogantly resist the lordship of Jesus Christ have one divine pronouncement against them, and it’s no different for the Khmer of Vietnam today than it was for Tyre and Sidon 2,500 years ago. Jehovah simply says, “I am against you. I will be glorified in your midst. You will know that I am the Lord. I will execute judgment on you. I will be hallowed in your midst” (see 28:22). Let us not make the classic and repeated missionary mistake of rushing to bind up the wounds of the nations that God struck in judgment while staying silent about the reason for the calamity. Is it really love if we do not explain why God’s terrifying judgments were unleashed and they are but precursors?
We don’t like the prophets, for they insist we talk about judgment, they insist we call all peoples to repentance, they insist indeed that love is the motive but looming wrath is the message. We read the Bible with revisionist eyes, taking out what we don’t like and putting in what we do. Yes, the motive for Jesus, Paul, and the Apostles was love—it drips from them—but love is not often mentioned in their messaging. Let us take the prophetic, missionary messaging of the Bible seriously and look carefully at what Jesus, Paul, and the Apostles actually preached. Then let us do likewise. There is a reason Jesus repeatedly warned us that His messengers will be hated. One of the great ironies of love is that it drives us to preach repentance and it makes the true lover hated. Woe to us if all men speak well of us. Blessings upon us if we are true and loving enough to warn about the wrath to come.