Today’s reading tells of God’s judgment on the island city Tyre, a neighbor to Israel and a powerful center of trade. Speaking through Ezekiel, the Lord describes the vast array of valuable goods that were bought and sold there: gold, jewels, ivory, warhorses, linens, and every food imaginable. The people of Tyre were “filled and heavily laden in the heart of the seas” (Ezek. 27:25).
The Lord says to the prince of Tyre: “by your great wisdom in your trade you have increased your wealth, and your heart has become proud in your wealth” (Ezek. 28:5). It is a tragedy of mankind that the more wealth abounds, the more we are inclined to take the credit and crave more riches. Tyre could be any person or place; no one is immune. The power that comes with wealth leads to oppression for the laborers, who become threats to our security; then self-protection is needed and conflict and mistrust become a way of life. In God’s words, “In the abundance of your trade you were filled with violence in your midst, and you sinned” (Ezek. 28:16).
The sin of Tyre is pride, the oldest tale on earth. Starting with the Garden of Eden (and no wonder the prince of Tyre is compared to Adam), we have tried to take God’s power for ourselves. C. S. Lewis writes, “The essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind” (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity).
Tyre had the capability to protect Israel from Babylon, but instead the leaders have taken advantage of God’s people, descending upon Jerusalem in the wake of the Babylonians to take part in the plunder. Pride takes us very far from the care and mercy for one another that God desires, and in hurting each other we are indeed against God. The Lord is creator and ruler of all the earth, and he will not tolerate this abuse of his creation: “’Behold, I am against you, O Tyre, . . . you have come to a dreadful end and shall be no more forever’” (Ezek. 26:3, 28:19).
So Tyre was destroyed, yet human pride continued. Ezekiel concludes today’s reading with the Lord’s promise to manifest his holiness in the sight of the nations (Ezek. 28:25). God fulfilled that promise on Calvary. Jesus came to seek and save sinners, and that mission threatened the status quo of the leaders of Jerusalem. They preferred to kill the Son of God rather than accept his message of mercy.
Jesus literally bore our sin of pride when he suffered and died. Jesus on the cross is the result of our striving for power: the death of God’s own son, innocent and perfectly good. This is the holiness of God made manifest. The sight appalls, and breaks our hearts. We should have perished right then, like Tyre, but in bearing our sin unto death the Lord destroyed death, and rose to give us new life, freedom from the bondage of our miserable quest for power.