Psalm 119:57–64; Ezekiel 27:12–28:10; James 5:13–20

Psalm 119:57–64: In this section, God has answered the supplicant’s prayers: “I entreated You with a whole heart,/ grant me grace as befits Your utterance.” (58) In turn, this leads to repentance, the act of turning back: “I have reckoned my ways,/ and turned back my feet to Your precepts.” (59). Moreover, this repentance is tinged with enthusiasm and eagerness to resume his life following God: “I hastened, I did not linger,/ to observe Your commands.” (60)

But repentance and an eagerness to return to God did not prevent bad things from continuing to happen: “The cords of the wicked ensnared me–” (61a) Nevertheless, despite these obstacles and difficulties, “Your teaching I did not forget.” (61) In fact, his enthusiasm is even stronger: “At midnight I rose to acclaim You/ for your righteous laws. (62)

Repentance is almost always accompanied by a new-found enthusiasm for God. And in our joy we tend to think that “everything will be hunky-dory; my troubles are behind me now. I have found God.” But that’s not the way life operates. The same temptations, the same enemies, the same diseases continue to pursue us. The question is, will we become discouraged, feeling even more intensely than before that God has abandoned me? Or will I be like the psalmist? Will I look adversity in the faith and remember that God has not abandoned me? And in that remembrance will my love and enthusiasm for following Jesus be strengthened through adversity? That is a question I think each of us must ask ourselves daily.

Ezekiel 27:12–28:10: This long–and rather odd–lamentation for Tyre continues as Ezekiel abandons the poetic form and lapses in what can only be described as a review of the economics of Tyre, including slavery. We read a list of its trading partners: “Javan, Tubal, and Meshech traded with you; they exchanged human beings and vessels of bronze for your merchandise. Beth-togarmah exchanged for your wares horses, war horses, and mules. The Rhodians traded with you.” (27:13-15) We learn that “Judah and the land of Israel traded with you; they exchanged for your merchandise wheat from Minnith, millet, honey, oil, and balm.”–confirming Israel’s status as primarily an agrarian nation.

We encounter a catalog of the surprisingly wide range of goods that were available in the ancient world: “wrought iron, cassia, and sweet cane were bartered for your merchandise… saddlecloths for riding…. lambs, rams, and goats…all kinds of spices, and all precious stones, and gold…choice garments, in clothes of blue and embroidered work, and in carpets of colored material.” (27:18-24) And we learn that Tyre contracted out its shipping: “The ships of Tarshish traveled for you in your trade.” (27:25)

But its power and wealth come to naught.
   “Your riches, your wares, your merchandise,
       your mariners and your pilots,
     your caulkers, your dealers in merchandise,
       and all your warriors within you,
    with all the company
       that is with you,
    sink into the heart of the seas
       on the day of your ruin.” (27)

Tyre has fallen. Its “abundant wealth and merchandise/ [with which] you enriched the kings of the earth.” is no more. “You have come to a dreadful end/ and shall be no more forever.” (27:36) But why has Tyre fallen? Why all this detail and lamentation? Because I think these chapters are a warning to everyone who reads them, including those of us in the present day. This is prophecy in its pure state: forth-telling.

Tyre has fallen for the usual reason: human pride and a false belief in its invincibility, as Ezekiel now goes on to explain:
   “Because your heart is proud
       and you have said, “I am a god;
     I sit in the seat of the gods,
       in the heart of the seas,” (28:2)

But, as Ezekiel reminds us, “yet you are but a mortal, and no god,.” Tyre has become intellectually arrogant: “though you compare your mind/ with the mind of a god.” (28:2b)

What Ezekiel writes about Tyre applies precisely to our culture’s present state. It has created tremendous wealth as Ezekiel notes: “by your wisdom and your understanding/ you have amassed wealth for yourself.” (28:4) and has come to believe it no longer requires God and “your heart has become proud in your wealth.” (28:5) Ezekiel taunts the king of Tyre: “Will you still say, “I am a god,”/in the presence of those who kill you?” (28:9) This passage is frightening in its parallels–and in its ultimate judgement–on 21st century western culture. Why should we be exempt when one of the wealthiest kingdoms of the ancient world became filled with pride? A pride that is all too ubiquitous today.

 James 5:13–20: James ends his practical Treatise for Christian Living on the benefits of prayer. First, we should pray ourselves: “Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise.” (13). Then , we should pray for others, especially the ill: “Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord.” (14)

James reminds us of the very real benefits of prayer: “The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven.” (15) Then he commands us to go out and do it: “Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed.” (16a) James reminds us that “the prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.” (16b) as he cites Elijah’s ability to pray for drought and then rain as an example of prayer’s power. Of course we ask, really? Will prayer truly heal the sick 100% of the time? Well, I think that depends on your definition of what being “raised up” means. There’s no question that even those on their death beds can be “raised up” through prayer. I have seen this.

This intense and (for me anyway) occasionally annoying epistle ends with a simple but powerful promise: “you should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save the sinner’s soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” (20) The juxtaposition of this promise following James’s essay on prayer is no coincidence. For prayer is exactly where we start in bringing “a sinner’s soul” back from the brink.


Speak Your Mind