God’s Purpose for Lebanon
(This is a summary of a message preached at a meeting of the Sovereign
Grace Advent Testimony on 28th February, 2012. It was recorded and can be
downloaded from the SGAT website; also cassettes and CDs are available. We
would strongly recommend friends to listen to the recording of the whole
message, as, in this brief article, it has not been possible to include all
that was said).
series this year on the theme of Bible Lands in Bible Light, our subject is God’s
Purpose for Lebanon.
the words of a traveller. In prose:-
‘The sun was about to set, but it was half smothered with
clouds; and the quiet of the afternoon,
though very acceptable in itself, was rather ominous. It was strange to lie oppressed with heat in
this low sheltered nook, and yet to see above us the un-melted snows of the
mountain. Down here all summer is around
us, while winter sits up yonder!’
‘Now upon Syria’s
land of roses
Softly the light of Eve reposes,
And, like a glory, the broad sun
Hangs over sainted Lebanon;
Whose head in wintry grandeur towers,
And whitens with eternal sleet,
While summer, in a vale of flowers,
Is sleeping rosy at his feet.’
Bonar in the spring of 1857 while he was visiting Lebanon. While being used to the constantly changing
seasons of Scotland, he was captivated by the fact that summer in the valley in
Lebanon was in direct and constant contrast to coexistence of winter on the
mountains, evidenced by, not just pockets of snow as would be normal to him,
but by an unrelenting covering of the same.
people go to a country they return with photographs and enthusiasm concerning
things seen and experienced. I have
never visited Lebanon, and
until preparing for this message I have not considered Lebanon in any great depth.
day and age Lebanon
is constantly in the news. At present it
is receiving refugees from neighbouring Syria,
but there is no doubt that each of us could recount some story of unrest in Lebanon from
over the past 30 years.
Lebanon is a country on the east
coast of the Mediterranean. It is bordered by Syria
to the north and east, and by Israel
to the south. Its location at the
crossroads of the Mediterranean basin and the Arabian hinterland has dictated
its rich history and shaped a cultural identity of religious and ethnic
Lebanon has four main areas,
laid out like the fingers of a hand - (1) The Mediterranean coast, (2) The Lebanon mountains (West), (3)
The Beqaa Valley, and (4) The Anti-Lebanon mountains
(East). Both mountain ranges run
parallel to the sea, and the snow on both ranges can be seen from space, with
the most famous mountain being Mount
Herman at a height of
cities of Lebanon are both
modem and ancient; the modem - Beirut (the
capital and largest city) and Tripoli; and the ancient,
with which we are probably more familiar ‑ Tyre,
and Sarepta (or Zarephath).
Now officially known as the Republic of Lebanon, the country is divided into
five provinces along ethnic and religious lines. The name ‘Lebanon’ comes from the Semitic root
meaning ‘white,’ which is a likely reference to the snow-capped Mount Lebanon;
and in 47BC Julius Caesar proclaimed
it ‘Lub Naan’ meaning white
land. Its triple-striped flag (white
between red) features a green cedar tree in its centre - the biblical cedar of
Lebanon. It has three official languages:
a Lebanese dialect of Arabic, French and Armenian. In 2011 it had a population of 4.14 million
covering an area of 4036 square miles, with 87% of the population living in
urban areas. It gained independence from
France in 1943 and is rich
financially, having the highest gold reserve in the Middle
East. Until recently it has
had a strong Christian tradition and influence, with the two main religions
known as Maronite and Druze.
The Civil War, which ranged from
1975 till 1990, has left the country ravaged in many ways, including
physically, in its infrastructure; in its financial income – due to a lack of
tourists; and morally, as the religious balance has changed.
Today it is not a peaceful
country. It is strongly influenced by Iran; has many terrorist groups; and south of
the Litani river, it is
understood that it has over 50,000 missiles aimed at Israel. It is
not a land of peace.
Most of the references in the
Bible to Lebanon
have connections with King Solomon. He
had a life-long association with Lebanon. Take, for example, the Song of Solomon 4: 1-16 in which the Beloved describes his love, a
type of our Lord describing His bride. In
this portrayal a beautiful place is described to try to convey to us this
glorious picture - the place Solomon is describing is Lebanon. It is a place the Beloved desires to be (4:8). It is a place He
desires to share with His loved one (4:8). It is a place of lofty grandeur with high
mountains (4:8). It is a place of freedom where wild animals
roam (4:8). It is a place where there are beautiful, rich,
strong aromas (4:11). It is a place like a fruitful garden (4: 12-14). It is a place which
has cool refreshing streams (4:15).
In reciprocal fashion when the
Lover describes her beloved, she also refers to Lebanon. It is a place of beauty (5:15). It is a place which
is home to the excellent cedars (5:15). It is a place which had a famous tower (7:4).
The name of ‘Lebanon’ is mentioned 70 times in the Bible in
16 different books, but if places like Tyre and Sidon are included there
would be over 150 references in the Scriptures.
Lebanon was part of the land
promised to Israel
for their inheritance – Deuteronomy 1:7; 3:25; 11:24; Joshua 1: 4. It was described as ‘That goodly mountain, and Lebanon’
in a northern confederacy against Joshua and the people of Israel - Joshua 9: 1; 12: 7. As worshippers of
Baal, they were opposed to Jehovah and His people. The name of the ancient city, Baalbek suggests that the people were
worshippers of the god, Baal, and, in fact, we read in Joshua 12: 7 of ‘Baal gad in the valley of Lebanon.’ One of the defeated groups was that of the ‘Hivites’ who actually dwelt in Mount Lebanon living in ‘Baal-hermon unto the entering in of Hamath’ (Judges 13).
Lebanon was a
place concerning which God promised He would drive out the inhabitants (Joshua 13: 6).
mentioned in two parables of the Old Testament. In Judges 9:15 - ‘And the bramble said unto the trees, If in truth ye anoint me
king over you, then come and put your trust in my shadow: and if not, let fire
come out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon.’ Then in 2 Kings 14: 9, ‘And Jehoash the King of Israel sent to Amaziah
king of Judah, saying, The thistle that was in Lebanon sent to the cedar that
was in Lebanon, saying, Give thy daughter to my son to wife: and there passed a
wild beast that was in Lebanon, and trod down the thistle.’
As we have already seen, Solomon
had a strong tie with Lebanon.
He spoke of the cedars of Lebanon (1 Kings 4: 33). He removed the
cedars of Lebanon for his own use in his home and in the Temple (1 Kings 5: 6), even
using the wood for his chariot (Song of Solomon 19). He spoke of the skill of the Sidonians as workers of timber (1 Kings 5: 6). He used the coastal
route from Lebanon to float
the timber to Israel
(1 Kings 5: 9). Solomon had his own workers in Lebanon on
shift work; 10,000 men a month, working one month on, two months off (1 Kings 5: 14). He also built ‘The House of the Forest
of Lebanon’ (1 Kings 7: 2). He put 200 shields of gold in this house (1 Kings 10: 17). He also put in an
elaborate ivory throne, the like of which had not been seen in any kingdom, and
had all the vessels of this house made of pure gold (1 Kings 10: 18-21). He used fragrances of Lebanon (Song of Solomon 4:11; Hosea 14: 6-7). He spoke of the streams of Lebanon (Song of Solomon 4: 15) being cool because of melted snow (Jeremiah 18: 14). He had the masts of
ships made from the cedars of Lebanon
(Ezekiel 27: 5). He
drank wine from Lebanon (Hosea 14: 7) Solomon had a long association
with Hiram king of Tyre as a good part of inland Lebanon was in fact part of
David and Solomon’s kingdom.
There are some interesting
references to Lebanon
in the Psalms. ‘The voice of the LORD breaketh
the cedars; yea, the LORD breaketh
the cedars of Lebanon’ (29: 5). However strong these cedars are, we are
reminded that there is greater power in the Lord’s voice. ‘There shall be an handful of corn in the earth upon the top of the
mountains; the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon: and they of the city shall
flourish like grass of the earth’ (72: 16). This psalm is not
only about Solomon but it speaks of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a millennial psalm and reminds us of
God's power bringing blessing to the earth when the Saviour will manifestly
reign. ‘The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar
in Lebanon’ (92: 12). These cedars are tall and distinctive with branches going
out straight, so here is encouragement for every believer. ‘The trees of the LORD are full of sap; the cedars of
Lebanon, which He hath planted’ (104: 16).
This verse emphasises the fact of the
power of God bringing blessing to His people.
In the Prophetical Books, there
are many references, some of which we shall consider later.
When we turn to the New
Testament, we find, in Mark 7: 24-30, the story of the exorcism of the Syro-phoenician woman’s daughter in Tyre
and Sidon. She was of Syrian and Phoenician extraction,
but although she was not an Israelite, when she spoke to the Lord about the
crumbs falling from the master’s table, it brought forth this commendation, ‘0 woman, great is thy faith’ (Matthew 15: 21-28).
Mark 3:8 tells
us that, after the Pharisees and Herodians had a counsel to destroy our Lord (verse 6), Jesus withdrew Himself with His disciples and great
multitudes followed them, of whom were they from Tyre and Sidon. Then Luke 6:13-17 states
that after the Lord chose the twelve apostles great multitudes again followed
Him, of whom were those ‘from the sea coast of Tyre and Sidon’ who ‘came to hear Him and to be healed of their diseases.’ So there were obviously
believing people in this country.
Acts 12: 20-22 says, ‘And Herod was highly displeased with them of Tyre and Sidon.’ His displeasure brought his demise.
It was not a land of peace but had a season of peaceful
visits during the ministry of our Lord.
There is clear evidence of a
very early civilisation in Lebanon
dating back 6000 years.
The city of Byblos on the
northern coast is considered to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited
cities in the world.
Due to its mountainous
was not suitable for agricultural use. This
being the case, the indigenous peoples became a seafaring nation. The Phoenicians were the most successful of
these maritime cultures and, as a civilisation, they
flourished for 2500 years between 3000 and 539 BC. They became renowned throughout the Mediterranean as ship builders, seamen and, more
specifically, merchants. They
established trade centres all across Northern Africa,
each of these being approximately 30 miles apart, the distance of a comfortable
day’s sailing, as they preferred to disembark and spend the night on land. The most famous of their centres was at Carthage, where one of their most famous sons was Hannibal
Barka, the scourge of Rome.
One of the most prominent
settlements in Lebanon was
the island state of Tyre,
which successfully held out against Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian army for
thirteen years. Some time later they
succumbed to Alexander the Great after his eight month siege, and he then made
the island into part of the mainland by building a causeway.
The location and size of Lebanon meant that, throughout history, it was
continuously being attacked by and absorbed into all of the empires of the
world, such as Egypt, Persia, Assyria, Greece, Rome, Arabia, Seljuk, Mamluk,
Crusader and Ottoman. It was not a land
This brings us to the ultimate
purpose of the Lord. The Scriptures at which we now look are
prophecies yet to be fulfilled.
A Sinister Aim: Satan,
whose aims have always been directly opposed to the Lord’s will, is seen in Isaiah 10:34. The antichrist will
seek to destroy Lebanon
‘in that day’ - and previous verses in the chapter (3, 12, 17, 20, 27) make clear which day
that will be. Verse 5 refers to the antichrist, described as the ‘Assyrian, the rod of Mine anger.’ This chapter has rightly been called ‘history in advance.’
A Time of Judgment:-
After the Second Advent of the
Lord there will be a judgment, in which certain cities which did not repent at
the mighty works of the Lord, will be judged with greater judgment than the two
named cities of Lebanon (Tyre and Sidon) in Matthew 11: 20-22. Surely a timely warning for all today to take
Millennial Glories of the Land:-
As in the days of Joshua the
land was divided amongst the twelve tribes of Israel,
so our Greater Joshua will give the land
of Lebanon to His redeemed and
restored people Israel.
We read in Hosea 14: 4-7, that Israel
will enjoy the glories of Lebanon
and the rest of the people within Israel shall enjoy their
inheritance in a similar manner. Then
from Zechariah 10:10, we learn that Israel will be restored to her own land, the
northern part of which will be Lebanon.
The land will be divided at this
northern extreme as stated in Ezekiel 48. During
the Millennium Lebanon will rightly take her place as part of the inheritance
and will be home to, at least, the tribes of Dan, Asher and Naphtali.
When the King comes to receive
His Kingdom and to reign in righteousness (Psalm 72) then ‘The righteous shall grow like Lebanon,’ (Psalm 92:12). This psalm has been
called the Righteous One’s Sabbath of Song, anticipating final rest and
prosperity. In the Talmud, this psalm is
entitled ‘For the Future Age, all of which shall be a
Sabbath.’ Also for the land
itself, The LORD shall turn Lebanon into a
fruitful field and the deaf, the blind and the meek shall increase their joy (Isaiah 29: 17-19).
The earth with all of its
unproductive areas will then produce her increase as the glory of Lebanon
will be given to all the desert places and above all they shall see the glory
of the Lord and the excellency of our God. ‘The wilderness
and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice,
and blossom as the rose. It shall
blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing: the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon, they shall see
the glory of the LORD, and the
excellency of our God’ (Isaiah 35: 1-2; see also Isaiah 60: 12-13).
The whole earth is at rest and
is quiet. They break forth into singing,
yea the fir trees rejoice at thee and the cedars of Lebanon (Isaiah 14:7-8).
Then, Lebanon will be a land of peace enjoying
the ultimate purpose of the Lord.