“Now what have you against me, Tyre and Sidon and all you regions of Philistia? Are you repaying me for something I have done? If you are paying me back, I will swiftly and speedily return on your own heads what you have done. Joel 3:4
Consider that, like several other writers from the Old Testament, Joel called out Tyre and Sidon. These cities, now part of modern Lebanon, were never conquered when the Israelites entered Canaan. Instead, Israel grew to deal with Tyre and Sidon, pagan cities, as neighbors. Indeed, according to https://www.gotquestions.org/Tyre-and-Sidon.html, Tyre and Sidon provided materials for the first Temple, and Tyre helped to rebuild it after it was destroyed the first time.
Many years later, in Joel 3:4, the prophet records God’s words that He would bring judgment on the two cities for wrongs they did to the Lord. When Israel was overrun by Assyria, Tyre and Sidon forgot their former reverence for God and the friendliness of neighbors. They sold Israelites into slavery, and they assisted their Philistine allies in plundering Israel when it was vulnerable. God repaid them for their unkindness, eventually allowing future invaders from Babylon, then Greece, to overrun and destroy both cities.
Now, consider that Jesus also mentioned Tyre and Sidon, this time in speaking woes about other, more ‘devout’ places in Israel. By Jesus’ time, the rebuilt cities were centers of Gentile life under Roman rule (like the rest of the Levant). Jesus said that, at the judgment, it would be more bearable to be from Tyre or Sidon that Korazin or Bethsaida. He was telling His listeners (and us) that a believing pagan would be more preferably treated by the Lord than a non-believing devout Jew.
What does all of this mean for us? It’s like Jesus said: it would be better to be one of God’s traditional enemies on the day of judgment than it would be to be a hypocrite (like the Pharisees) or one who flatly rejects Christ. The homelands of Israel’s traditional invaders and hostile neighbors would receive better treatment than the people who rejected Jesus in His day, or those who reject Him now.
Is that really what you want?
This isn’t to try to convince you to believe by compelling you in fear. Jesus Christ doesn’t want you to be afraid of Him (even as He does merit the kind of fear that is awe and respect). He wants you and I to give ourselves to Him willingly, humbly, being poor and humble in spirit so that He might make us wealthy in Himself. Those same choices were available to Tyre and Sidon; they are still today. And they’re available to us.
For more reading: Genesis 10:15, Psalm 87:4, Isaiah 14:29-31, Jeremiah 47:1-7, Ezekiel 25:15-17, Zechariah 9:5-7, Matthew 11:21, Luke 10:13-14, Joel 3:5
Lord, let me never be found to be Your enemy. Have mercy on us all, and fill us with Your holy love