The Lust, the flesh, the eyes, and the pride of life
drain the life right out of me.
— 77s (“The Lust, the Flesh, the Eyes and the Pride of Life”)
If you have any interest in vintage alternative Christian music (Okay, I’ll admit that it’s an almost infinitesimal subculture), the quote at the top of this entry will have you singing for the rest of the day. The line is the chorus from one of the 77s’ most gripping songs. It’s based on 1 John 2:15-17 (NRSV):
Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world; for all that is in the world—the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches—comes not from the Father but from the world. And the world and its desire are passing away, but those who do the will of God live forever.
Tyre was a case study in the love of the world. We have already read about the silencing of her song, her quasi-benevolent oppression, and her ultimate descent into the pit. Now we will look at some of the rationale God used in her judgment.
. . .
This passage is a lengthy poem about Tyre’s beauty. It is interesting for a couple of reasons. First, in an extended metaphor, Ezekiel described the seafaring nation of Tyre in terms of a ship. That’s sort of like describing the Tim Horton’s enterprise in terms of a giant double-double. Second, the descriptive terms here give us a glimpse at what was cherished in that culture:
- She was well made, with planks of fir, masts of cedar, oars of oak, decks of pine inlaid with ivory, sails of Egyptian linen, and a blue and purple ensign.
- She had the best rowers: the people of Sidon and Arvad.
- She had the best pilots: men from Zemer.
- She had the best maintenance workers to caulk her seams: elders from Gebal.
- She commanded the respect of and engaged in trade with the other ships of the sea.
- Her army consisted of mighty warriors from Paras, Lud, Put, Arvad, Helech, and Gamad.
All of these things: the magnificent materials used to build the ship, the beautiful decorations, the expert crew, and armed men led to the ultimate boast: Tyre was “perfect in beauty” (v. 3, NRSV).
. . .
This boast—”perfect in beauty”—is made even more clear when we look at some of the details in the poem:
- In the list of strong building materials used, ivory inlay is described: a pure luxury that would serve no structural purpose.
- When the people from various nations are described, they come from the upper classes of their respective countries.
- When the warriors are described, they are not lauded for their bravery in battle, but for how their shields and quivers would look when they decorate her ship.
Clearly, Ezekiel is describing the ultimate fall into self-centred vanity.
. . .
How do people talk about us? How do they describe the North American church? Do we have the finest carpets, the newest video projectors, and the upper-crust from every social subgroup? I guess the question needs to be asked—are we like Tyre? Do we consider ourselves perfect in beauty?
One of the prophesies about Jesus that I always found interesting is in Isaiah 53:2, NRSV:
He had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
Nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
In simple terms: Jesus was not a good looking guy. In our minds, we like to picture a beautiful Jesus—but according to Isaiah, there was nothing about him physically that would make us want to stick around.
Let’s take that thought one step further: who did Jesus spend his time with? The best and brightest from every nation—or low-income laborours and prostitutes.
Are we like Tyre or Jesus?
. . .
Lord God, help us to avoid the traps of vanity. When our minds get polluted by the standards of Tyre, cleanse us with the image of your Son. In Jesus’ name, Amen.