“ ‘The ships of Tarshish serve as carriers for your wares. You are filled with heavy cargo as you sail the sea. Your oarsmen take you out to the high seas. But the east wind will break you to pieces far out at sea. Your wealth, merchandise and wares, your mariners, sailors and shipwrights, your merchants and all your soldiers, and everyone else on board will sink into the heart of the sea on the day of your shipwreck. The shorelands will quake when your sailors cry out. All who handle the oars will abandon their ships; the mariners and all the sailors will stand on the shore. They will raise their voice and cry bitterly over you; they will sprinkle dust on their heads and roll in ashes. They will shave their heads because of you and will put on sackcloth. They will weep over you with anguish of soul and with bitter mourning. As they wail and mourn over you, they will take up a lament concerning you: “Who was ever silenced like Tyre, surrounded by the sea?” When your merchandise went out on the seas, you satisfied many nations; with your great wealth and your wares you enriched the kings of the earth. Now you are shattered by the sea in the depths of the waters; your wares and all your company have gone down with you. All who live in the coastlands are appalled at you; their kings shudder with horror and their faces are distorted with fear. The merchants among the nations scoff at you; you have come to a horrible end and will be no more.’ -Ezekiel 27:25-36
I have taken numerous trips to Haiti over the last 10 years or so and every time I fly into Port-au-Prince I am peering out the window to see if I can see a shipwreck that is visible just off the coast. I am not sure when this ship met it’s end, but it must have been heartbreaking to sink so close to land. The shipwreck described in this passage must have been equally disheartening.
As I have chewed on this passage I have been reflecting on what typically causes ships to wreck. Typically they either 1) encounter an immovable object that they were not aware of or could not avoid; or 2) they are overcome by wind or storms that are beyond the ships ability to stay afloat. It struck me that both of these ways to wreck a ship would apply metaphorically to God. He is certainly an immovable object which one would be wise to know about and avoid “running into”. God also sends storms into our lives like those He sent into Job’s life. I do not think He does this to “sink” us but rather to force our reliance on Him. We can choose to allow our boat to be piloted by Him or we can take the reigns and take our chances.
In many ways this seems like a retelling of the story in the previous passage. The added details here mainly relate to Tyre’s position and reputation as a trading port and to the “shipwreck”. The details described here remain reminiscent of a regional earthquake and rearranging of the shoreline. Especially the timing of shipwreck, “The shorelands will quake when your sailors cry out”. Now this may be totally metaphorical and have nothing to do with an actual earth event, but if there were an earthquake near the coast it would not be surprising for it to generate a tsunami which could certainly wreak havoc for a ship if it was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
There is also an almost ecclesiastical hopelessness and futility embedded in this passage. Like the passage immortalized by the Byrds in the sixties when they sang “Turn, turn, turn (To Everything There Is a Season)” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). All the running and sailing about with wares will end in a pile of debris on the bottom of the sea. It does not matter how much they know about trading or sailing the end result is the same.
I take this as a cautionary passage that we should not place our trust, or invest our time here on Earth, on ephemeral things. We should have our eyes fixed on the horizon, and on God, so we can successfully navigate from this land of Oblivion to the undiscovered country.
Prayer: God help us to place our trust in you and keep our eyes fixed on what is important to You.