Sunday, December 28, 2014

Sending the Seventy, part 18: Sidon

"Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had been performed in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the judgment than for you. (Luke 10:13-14 NASB) 

We began looking at this passage a few days ago with a brief history of Chorazin and Bethsaida, both towns where Jesus preached and ministered. It was in Bethsaida that the miracle of the second touch healing of the blind man occurred. Despite their familiarity with Him and the miracles He performed there, neither of these towns embraced Jesus. Both towns lie in ruins today. 

In part 17, we looked at Tyre, a wealthy seaport that trusted in its beauty and its wealth, for which it received the condemnation of Jesus. In this post, we explore Sidon, the city mentioned along with Tyre in the passage above. 

Sidon was a famous Phonecian seaport city-state located in what is now Southern Lebanon and was famous for its glassmaking industry as well as its purple dye (from the Murex shellfish). It was the mother city for Tyre. It is still an important City in Lebanon today. 

The first Biblical mention of Sidon is in Genesis 10:15, 19. Canaan, the grandson of Noah, was the father of Sidon, for whom the city was named. It was a portion of Canaan's territory. It, like Tyre, was eventually part of the territory of the tribe of Asher, but was never conquered. Instead, it was a source of continuing conflict and oppression for Israel, as well as a source of idolatry. Solomon entered into a matrimonial covenant with Sidon and the marriage ushered in his own idol worship. According to 1 Kings 16:31, Ahab also had a matrimonial alliance with Sidon via his marriage to Jezebel, daughter of the King of Sidon. 

In Joel 3, the prophet says that Tyre and Sidon made slaves of the children of Israel, selling them to the Greeks to remove them as far as possible from their land, for which Sidon will receive the judgment of God. Joel 3:8 tells us that Sidon will reap what they have sown and their own children will be sold into slavery. 

There is a beautiful promise in Joel 3:7, however, that gives hope in the most seemingly hopeless situations imaginable. 

behold, I am going to arouse them from the place where you have sold them, and return your recompense on your head. (Joel 3:7 NASB)

The Sidonians had sold the children into slavery, sending them so far that they could never get home on their own, but God not only knew where they were, He would "arouse them" and bring them home, allowing them to be an instrument of vengeance in His hand. This verse tells us that sin can never take us so far from God that He cannot rescue us and avenge us. Even when it appears that all hope is gone, that we are beyond redemption, God knows exactly where we are and what we are doing, and He is not only willing but also able to rescue and restore. 

Take heart, then, that the loved one who seems so far away is still under the watchful care of God. Press on with your prayers, waiting and watching for the day when God both arouses and returns the captives from the place of slavery.