Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 49

Comfort My People:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah 
Day 49

Having dealt with Cush, a land of the upper Nile region, Isaiah now turns his attention to the prophecy against Egypt. In Isaiah's days, King Hezekiah of Judah decided the death of Sargon II of Assyria was an opportunity to join the anti-Assyrian coalition. Egypt was experiencing a reversal of fortunes following a long decline and it looked as if she might end up on top again. King Piye of Ethiopia, upon assuming the throne, took on all the customs of ancient Egypt, declaring himself Pharaoh, restoring the temples and altars and idols. It must have appeared that the glory days of the kingdom were about to return. But from Isaiah's words we will see that this revival is brief and Judah will be foolish to trust in Egypt for help. 

"A prophecy against Egypt: See, the Lord rides on a swift cloud and is coming to Egypt. The idols of Egypt tremble before Him, and the hearts of the Egyptians melt with fear." (Isaiah 19:1) This isn't the first time the Lord has proven His absolute sovereignty over the idols of Egypt. Before He brought the children of Israel out of slavery there, He called down specific plagues which demonstrated the inability of Egypt's gods to perform the duties ascribed to them. The plagues made it clear that Egypt's false gods could not protect the Nile River, the crops, the health of the citizens, or even the life of the firstborn. Once again God is going to show Egypt that trusting in any god but Him is foolishness.

Egypt eagerly sought an alliance with Judah and the surrounding nations in order to push back against Assyria under its new King Sennacherib. The plan was to divide and conquer. Sennacherib was going to be so busy squashing rebellions in so many portions of his kingdom that they believed Assyria would fall and Egypt would once again dominate the region. But later on in Isaiah we find the Lord pronouncing a woe upon Judah and her king for considering trusting in Egypt rather than in Him. "'Woe to the obstinate children,' declares the Lord, 'to those who carry out plans that are not Mine, forming an alliance, but not by My spirit, heaping sin upon sin; who go down to Egypt without consulting Me; who look for help to Pharaoh's protection, to Egypt's shade for refuge. But Pharaoh's protection will be to your shame, Egypt's shade will bring you disgrace. Though they have officials in Zoan and their envoys have arrived in Hanes, everyone will be put to shame because of a people useless to them, who bring neither help nor advantage, but only shame and disgrace.'" (Isaiah 30:1-5) "Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of their chariots and in the great strength of their horsemen, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, or seek help from the Lord." (Isaiah 31:1)

Over the coming years, the successive kings of Assyria will make a number of campaigns against Egypt and bring about the downfall of the twenty-fifth dynasty begun by the Ethiopian king Piye. He will have about three successors to the throne but the Assyrians will force the Ethiopians out and set up their own chosen men over the districts of Egypt. "'I will stir up Egyptian against Egyptian---brother will fight against brother, neighbor against neighbor, city against city, kingdom against kingdom. The Egyptians will lose heart, and I will bring their plans to nothing; they will consult the idols and the spirits of the dead, the mediums and the spiritists. I will hand the Egyptians over to the power of a cruel master, and a fierce king will rule over them,' declares the Lord, the Lord Almighty." (Isaiah 19:2-4) The people will be divided against each other just as the nation will be divided into regions by her conquerors. They will have to deal with the Assyrians, the Persians, and the Greeks over the next several centuries. It's not clear who the "cruel master" is in the passage above but several commentators suggest that the Lord is lumping all Egypt's enemy kings into one, for she ends up being conquered several times. Egypt has refused to bow to God as her Lord and Master, so she will bow to a cruel master instead.

It will take us several days to study the remainder of the prophecy against Egypt but there are words of hope for that nation amidst the words of woe. Egypt will become joined with Israel and they will serve the same God like brothers from the same household. The discipline of Egypt is not for the purpose of destroying her, just as the discipline of Israel and Judah are not for the purpose of destroying them. Instead, "The Lord will strike Egypt with a plague; He will strike them and heal them. They will turn to the Lord, and He will respond to their pleas and heal them." (Isaiah 19:22) 

Sometimes the Lord has to take us out to the woodshed to heal us. He has to apply the rod of correction when we stubbornly keep going in the wrong direction. I've been to the woodshed with Him a number of times and I would like to say I'll never have to go again, but given my failings and weaknesses I think that's probably unlikely. His loving discipline is painful at times but necessary. He cannot say He loves us and yet allow us to wander off into danger like a lost sheep that strays from the fold. During an especially difficult time of being refined in the fire of adversity, this verse was a great comfort to me, "For He wounds, but He also binds up; He injures, but His hands also heal." (Job 5:18) Like a doctor who has to set a bone or stitch a wound, the treatment by our Great Physician may be painful but it leads to healing. It's not pleasant to have a broken bone pulled back into place but left unset it's never going to heal properly. It's going to cause us trouble for the rest of our lives, and the doctor has to set the bone so it will heal. The Lord, our Great Physician, is compelled to step in when His children stray. If He doesn't, our brokenness will cause us trouble for the rest of our lives. And He loves us too much to see that happen.

Below is our worship song link for today.

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