A new worldview emerges out of the collapse of an old world. Isaiah predicted the crash of the prosperous Phoenician Empire but looked forward to a new kind of Tyre emerging as the hub of an entirely different kind of economic system (Is 23:18). We saw that Antioch became the new Tyre. And in the new city there was a new man who handled his personal finances in line with the new economy.
The model in the new economy of the new city of Antioch was Paul, formerly Saul of Tarsus. Tarsus was just up the coast and round to the east at the top corner of the Mediterranean – the region that was the powerhouse of the old Phoenician Empire. Isaiah had started his song with a cry: “Wail O ships of Tarshish!” We cannot be quite sure exactly where Tarshish was, but two things are at least clear. Firstly, it was a key port for the merchant navy on which the Empire’s wealth was built. And secondly, the Jewish historian Josephus refers to Tarsus as the Tarshish mentioned in Isaiah 23. Her most famous son was Saul, who became the apostle Paul.
Paul was a man who exemplified the new economy. His transformed worldview concerning wealth characterised the power of a new world order emerging in the region in the growth of the gospel of the Kingdom that was to displace the old economy whose collapse Isaiah had predicted. He had a new heart which led to a new kind of treasure, and we may note how closely it corresponded to Isaiah’s prophecy.
Paul, too, was a merchant, well able to provide himself with an income stream as steady as the flow of the Phoenician ships into ports like Tyre and Tarshish. That’s why he visited Acquila and Priscilla: “because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and worked” (Acts 18:3). But having made a profit at his trade, what did he do with his income? He did what the prophet had said – turned his wealth into a source of supply. See 2 Thessalonians 3:7-9: “We were not idle when we were with you. Nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, labouring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow.” A new model of personal finances: trading so as to be able to give rather than receive!
Similarly we read in 2Corinthians 12:14-16: “Now I am ready to visit you for the third time [on those old familiar sea-routes], and I will not be a burden to you, because what I want is not your possessions but you. After all, children should not have to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. So I will very gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well... I have not been a burden to you.”
Isaiah would have been thrilled to see a new economy emerging in the very region and following the very trade routes that he had recognized as the life-blood of a system of wealth and prosperity that epitomized the kingdom of darkness. The wailing of Tarshish is replaced by the joy of Tarsus as a new way of viewing personal finances emerges. The prophet had predicted an economy no longer driven by profits to be hoarded but by profits to be shared. These are the treasures you can take with you.