Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 50

Comfort My People:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah
Day 50

We continue this morning with Isaiah's prophecy against Egypt. In this prophecy we can see why it would be foolish for Judah, or any other nation, to trust in Egypt for help, because she is going to suffer calamities of her own.

Yesterday Isaiah said that the idols of Egypt would tremble before God and that the citizens would turn on each other. The religious system and the social system would both be affected. Next we see disaster foretold on Egypt's agricultural system. "The waters of the river will dry up, and the riverbed will be parched and dry. The canals will stink; the streams of Egypt will dwindle and dry up. The reeds and rushes will wither, also the plants along the Nile, at the mouth of the river. Every sown field along the Nile will become parched, will blow away and be no more. The fishermen will groan and lament, all who cast hooks into the Nile; those who throw nets on the water will pine away. Those who work with combed flax will despair, the weavers of fine linen will lose hope. The workers in cloth will be dejected, and all the wage earners will be sick at heart." (Isaiah 19:5-10)

The government will be affected as well. "The officials of Zoan are nothing but fools; the wise counselors of Pharaoh give senseless advice. How can you say to Pharaoh, 'I am one of the wise men, a disciple of the ancient kings?' Where are your wise men now? Let them show you and make known what the Lord Almighty has planned against Egypt. The officials of Zoan have become fools, the leaders of Memphis are deceived; the cornerstones of her peoples have led Egypt astray. The Lord has poured into them a spirit of dizziness; they make Egypt stagger in all that she does, as a drunkard staggers around in his vomit. There is nothing Egypt can do---head or tail, palm branch or reed." (Isaiah 19:11-15) The Lord compares the nation of Egypt to a sloppy drunk, staggering around senselessly without any clear direction. 

I am reminded of when King David's son Absalom conspired against him. David once had a close and trusted adviser named Ahithophel who was considered to be a wise man, but then he betrayed David to support Absalom's bid for the throne. So David prayed, "Lord, turn Ahithophel's counsel to foolishness." (2 Samuel 15:31b) Following this prayer of David, Ahithophel encouraged Absalom to make several unwise choices. The Lord turned Ahithophel's advice to foolishness, just as in today's passage He has turned the advice of Pharaoh's counselors to foolishness. This is because ancient Egypt committed a sin like this, "For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles." (Romans 1:21-23) The Apostle Paul was speaking of idolatry in general, but when we think of a land full of idols, we can't help but picture the images of Egypt's numerous gods. Because the people of ancient Egypt did not acknowledge the one true God, the Creator of all there is, the thinking of her citizens became futile and her wisdom became foolishness.

The Lord says when destruction comes, nobody in Egypt will be able to do anything about it, not "head or tail, palm branch or reed". (v 15) As we saw earlier in our study of Isaiah, the palm branch is associated with royalty while the reed is associated with the average citizens who made their agricultural living by channeling water from the Nile. From the king's palace at Zoan (which was the capitol during the Ethiopian dynasty) down to the one-room hut of the poorest fisherman, knees are going to shake with fear. 

There is no foolishness that compares with the foolishness of denying Almighty God. David pointed out, "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.'" (Psalm 14:1) The Apostle Paul said that those who deny God are "without excuse" because "since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities---His eternal power and divine nature---have been clearly seen". (Romans 1:20) There is more than one way to deny God. We can deny that He exists at all or, knowing deep in our hearts that the word of God is true, choosing to serve our carnal natures instead. This is the same as bowing to an idol in an ancient Egyptian temple. Anything we put in place of God is an idol and it is foolishness. King Solomon had much to say about fools in the book of Proverbs and it's important to note the meaning of the word "fool" in the Scriptures. This word wasn't used in the way we hear it used today. In our times we might think of a fool as somebody who acts silly all the time and is never serious. Or we might think of a fool as someone who keeps getting themselves in one crazy situation after another. But in the Bible a fool is a person who is basically a spiritual train wreck. It is a person who has no heart for God or for the things of God, lacking in spiritual discernment, without a road map for how to live their lives. It is a person with these sad qualities, "lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God". (2 Timothy 3:2-4) Without God and His principles, we would stagger around aimlessly in the foolishness of our hearts, unwise and with our understanding darkened, just as Isaiah says the idolatrous ancient Egyptians were staggering around like a drunken man.

The Bible has a lot to say about wisdom, the kind of wisdom that matters. "Your commands are always with me and make me wiser than my enemies." (Psalm 119:98) Knowing the Lord gives us victory over those who are against us and especially over our mortal enemy, Satan. "The wise inherit honor." (Proverbs 3:35a) Knowing the Lord enables us to live lives we won't be ashamed of when we stand before Him. "If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you." (Proverbs 9:12a) Knowing the Lord will help us escape many foolish predicaments in life and it will gain us eternal rewards in the judgment. "The one who is wise saves lives." (Proverbs 12:15b) "The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, turning a person from the snares of death." (Proverbs 13:14) Knowing the Lord endows us with a ministry to tell the good news of the gospel to our fellow man, leading them to the One who can redeem their souls.

Because godly wisdom means life or death for the soul, we must obey this teaching, "Be very careful, then, how you live---not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil." (Ephesians 5:15-16) The wisdom that comes from being a part of the body of Christ, knowing the infallible word of God, living in a way that honors Christ, will light others down the path to redemption. The days are evil. We live in perilous times. Satan is working overtime because he knows his time is short. The Lord is sending us out "like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves." (Matthew 10:16) We are to speak loving words of wisdom to a lost world, living lives that testify to our allegiance to Christ, and in so doing we can lead others to the wisdom and light we have found in Him.

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