Pride Goes Before Destruction

A Haughty Spirit before a Fall

Ezekiel turned his attention from Jerusalem to the surrounding nations, pointing out the ways in which the God of all nations, the triune God of the Bible, would judge these nations for their idolatry, their evil policies, their pride, and their cruelty. Ammon, Moab, Seir, Edom, and Philistia–these are dealt with briefly before an extended prophecy of judgment on Tyre. Chapters 26, 27, 28 are given to this prophecy: they give a statement of the thoroughness of judgment, a description of the prominence and prosperity and the sudden destruction of Tyre. God promised to bring up “many nations” against Tyre “as the sea brings up its waves” [26:3]. Chapter 28 turns to a prophecy against the prince of Tyre and brings it to a conclusion with a lament over the sorrowful fall from magnificence and beauty to its “dreadful end” [28:19]. God is the ruler of all time and the precise moral governor of all nations. He uses them as he sees fit and judges them according to his absolute righteousness and holiness. Even as against Jerusalem, God will use Babylon to crush the pride of Tyre [26:7-14] as one of the “many nations” that seek to control it and lay siege to it, which Nebuchadnezzar did for 13 years.  After Babylon declined, Persia mounted its war against Tyre and controlled it as a vassal state. Alexander the Great of the Greeks conquered the city after a great struggle. He killed 8000 men with their weapons in their hands and sold 30,000 men, women, children, and slaves on the open market. Several other sieges, blockades, periods of independence and subjugation occurred in Tyre until New Testament times.

I. The King of Tyre brings judgment on himself. 28:1-10

A. Just as surely as Ezekiel was given messages about the chosen people Israel, so is he given a message to this heathen gentile ruler.

Ezekiel received this prophecy with as much confidence of its divine origin as he had received the visions of God’s glory in chapter one.

God commanded his prophet to speak. God does not relinquish ownership of any people any where. An atheistic or idolatrous people or nation are no less under the immediate scrutiny as well as authority of God than a nation in which gospel truth is widely and generously proclaimed.

God identifies himself as “The Lord God.” He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and David. No matter what the religious allegiance of a country might be, there is only one God and to him all must give account.

B. The gravamen of the charge appears immediately: “Because your heart is proud, and you have said, ‘I am a god.’” Verse 6 repeated the charge and verse 17 again points to it. The Lord God told the prince of Tyre, “You are but a man, and no god.”

He had conceived of himself in terms of invincibility, and omniscience. The limited sphere, comparatively speaking, of his responsibilities were handled so easily in the context of his extraordinary gifts, that he extrapolated success into a sense of personal perfection. He could see no area of weakness and no place for improvement. He made his heart like the heart of a god.

Like Daniel, a Hebrew of the exile who had been given great gifts of wisdom and a knowledge of secrets in the interpretation of dreams and visions by God and always recognized God as their source (Daniel 2:27-30; 6:3-5), the king of Tyre considered himself wiser than Daniel. From the astuteness of his own penetration, so he had come to believe, “no secret is hidden from you.” It is also ironic that Daniel’s task consisted largely of showing haughty and proud rulers God’s intention to chasten or judge them for their pride.

Verses 4, 5 – This heathen king had been granted great gifts of discernment in trade enterprise. He was a virtual Midas in his dealings with nations, but all of his success he attributed to himself. God is jealous of the gifts that he sovereignly bestows on the sons of men and will require at our hands gratitude for his blessings and an accounting for their use. One of the steps of decline in perversity Paul described; “Although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks . . . Claiming to be wise, they became fools” (Romans 1:21, 22)

C. Verses 7-10 – God reveals the creatureliness, the wickedness, and the uncovenanted status of the prince of Tyre (“die the death of the uncircumcised.”).

Continual waves of difficulty, decades, centuries, of vassalage, paying tribute, loss of independence, all will show that, not only this prince, but the entire city will continually be pressed and often overwhelmed by merely human forces—hardly the traits of a god. What will the prince say about his deity when he falls into the hands of the man that will slay him? God repeats, “You are a man and no god.”

So great is his sin that God will employ the “most ruthless of the nations” as his instrument in defiling the pride of the prince of Tyre. So it was with Judah in the prophecy of Habakkuk (Hab 1:5-11)

In inflicting the “death of the uncircumcised” on this proud man, God showed him that his great gifts were doubly gratuitous, for he was not only a sinner standing in the need of grace, but was outside any of the promises that had been given to the descendants of Abraham for earthly blessing.

II. This lament over the king of Tyre has a transcendent and symbolic air to it. It is certainly directed at the king of Tyre, but invokes a parallel both to the tragic fall that occurred in Eden and perhaps even the fall of Satan prior to the fall in Eden.

A. Verses 11-15 – The immediate historical referent in these exalted statements concerns the king of Tyre and the unusual talent and intelligence and economic shrewdness that God had given him. He was a creature, a reality hard for him to swallow. He had not made himself, another reality that escaped him. The intelligence and gifts that set him apart were all bestowed by the mysterious sovereignty of God. We have all seen persons that far exceed others in talent, intellect, creativity, and worldly usefulness but that at the same time have little or no recognition that their superior gifts are purely granted from above. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”

B. The splendor of the king’s court and the beauty of his attire rise so far above the common ordinary scenes of life that the atmosphere of his life seems to move in pre-fall conditions.

C. Behind this description of the divine favor to the king of Tyre, there could very well be a parallel case of far greater consequence. Some of the language indicates an individually created being that had perfection at the instant of his coming into being. Perhaps superimposed over the lament for the king of Tyre is a picture of the splendor and designated authority of the great angel we now know as Satan. Jesus said, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” Luke 10:18. He said this in warning his disciples not to allow their designated authority to become a source of pride but recognize their dependence on grace for every good thing.

The language that indicates something beyond the king of Tyre.

Signet of perfection

You were in Eden, the garden of God

On the day that you were created, they were prepared.

You were anointed guardian cherub, etc.

You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, till unrighteousness was found in you.

In addition, the indicators of judgment could be seen as aboriginal and as occurring at the beginning, before the world was corrupted by sin. Jesus mentioned in Luke 10:18 that he saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. This would indicate both the brilliance and the speed of the fall.

I destroyed you, O guardian cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire (16)

D. Because of the exalted status of the king, the sins are great and the consequent judgment is great. – 15b-19.  The same idea of reminiscence could be in mind in some of the language employed, speaking directly of the king of Tyre with a more remote, yet profound, reference to the original appearance of evil in God’s gloriously beautiful creation through pride in the most beautiful and powerful of his creatures.

The identification of the unrighteousness found in him is pride in his own beauty, and the attempt to use his superior intelligence to gain independence as a sovereign, rather than a servant. (17b, 16) Compare with Hebrews 1:13, 14. Because of his superiority of gifts, he did not want to be consigned to the position of a ministering spirit.

In the king of Tyre this was manifest in his trading practices (16) which led to a spirit of dominance and entitlement making him justify the use of violence to gain his advantage over other cities (18a). He should have used his gifts and power to be a servant to his people and to the partners in trade, but he sought his own ascendancy through repression of others. As mentioned, God is not unmindful of the moral conduct of all the people in the world and he will bring more severe judgment on leaders who use their positions in a spirit of tyranny and self-aggrandizement (“By the multitude of your iniquities”). God’s judgment on world leaders that have used their power for destruction and brutal treatment of others will be particularly severe and made a matter of public display (“in the sight of all who saw you.”[18])

As the great original angel of beauty before him had been cast down, so the king of Tyre was cast down as “a profane thing.” He was cast to the ground and exposed before kings, so that they could see the reality of divine judgment on one that perverts the gifts given by God.

How great the wrath of God is and with what zeal he lays claim to all his prerogatives will not be lost in the refinement with which judgment comes on the Tyrian prince. “You have come to a dreadful end and shall be no more forever.”

III. Some final points of summary

A. God is the maker and sustainer of everything and has made all of it for his own glory. He will not share his glory with another and when we claim any thing as our own as if it were not a gift from God and as if our strength to enjoy it were not given and sustained by God we are open to the same severity of judgment that came on the king of Tyre.

B. Pride is the fountain from which flow all the sins of men. It was the first entrance of evil into the creation and constituted the source of the fall of the prince of Tyre. It fueled his cruelty, his repression, and all his iniquities.

C. Pride is the unsoftened manifestation of pure satanic rebellion against God. Pride consists of self-deification for it claims to be the creator and sustainer of things, or traits, or talents that are gifts of common grace from the triune God. We have no power to create a fly, or a piece of dirt, and to claim our talents and earthly privileges as the work of our own power and worth is an attempt to dethrone God. We must avoid being puffed up by asking ourselves constantly, as Paul asked the Corinthians. “What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7

Tom has most recently served as the Professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He previously taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he was Professor of Church History and Chair of the Department of Church History. Prior to that, he taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. Along with numerous journal articles and scholarly papers, Dr. Nettles is the author and editor of fifteen books. Among his books are By His Grace and For His Glory; Baptists and the Bible, James Petigru Boyce: A Southern Baptist Statesman, and Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles H. Spurgeon.
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