Thursday, August 18, 2016

Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 51

Comfort My People:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah
Day 51

We've been studying troubles that were going to come upon ancient Egypt, but today Isaiah looks forward to a better time for that nation.

The Lord has pronounced some woes upon Egypt but her troubles and her fear are instruments in His hand to bring her people into fellowship with Him. As the old song Amazing Grace says, "t'was grace that taught my heart to fear". Fear can be a healthy thing, especially when it's the fear and reverence and awe of Almighty God. "In that day the Egyptians will become weaklings. They will shudder with fear at the uplifted hand that the Lord Almighty raises against them. And the land of Judah will bring terror to the Egyptians; everyone to whom Judah is mentioned will be terrified, because of what the Lord Almighty is planning against them." (Isaiah 19:16) It is probably the God of Judah whom they will fear most, rather than the people of Judah. When the Lord brought the children of Israel into the promised land, the mention of their name struck fear in the hearts of the tribes of Canaan. They knew Israel's God was with her. They feared Israel because they feared Israel's God.

This prophecy is for a future time, when the chosen people of God will achieve dominance over Egypt, when they will be joined together in one faith. It will be grace that teaches Egypt to fear the God of Judah and, as the song also says, "and grace my fears relieved". God mercifully brings the fear of His righteousness judgment into our hearts to bring us unto Himself, so that our fears can be relieved by the knowledge we are now the forgiven children of God. "In that day five cities in Egypt will speak the language of Canaan and swear allegiance to the Lord Almighty. One of them will be called the City of the Sun." (Isaiah 19:18) The City of The Sun may refer to Heliopolis, a major city in ancient Egypt that was the capitol of the cult of Amon-Ra, Egypt's sun god. The word Heliopolis is Greek and it means something like Sun City. It is known as the city of On in the Bible and Pharaoh gave Joseph, the son of Jacob, a wife from the city of On in Genesis 41:45. Isaiah doesn't name for us the other four cities that will swear allegiance to the Lord but I would be willing to bet they were also large centers of idolatrous religion in ancient times. These cities whose citizens once bowed to false gods will someday bow to the one true God.

"In that day there will be an altar to the Lord in the heart of Egypt, and a monument to the Lord at its border. It will be a sign and witness to the Lord Almighty in the land of Egypt." (Isaiah 19:19-20a) There is in Heliopolis an obelisk still standing where the temple of Amon-Ra once stood. I don't know if the altar to the Lord will be in Heliopolis, but when Isaiah said at the beginning of Chapter 19 that the idols of Egypt would tremble before the Lord, he meant it both figuratively and literally. It could be that the obelisk will be removed and an altar to the Lord set in its place. Some commentators feel the reference to the altar was fulfilled during the time of the Maccabees when a priest fled to Egypt and built a temple to the Lord there. Although this may have been a partial fulfillment, I believe this section of Isaiah deals with events yet to come. Normally when the Bible says "in that day", it speaks of either the day of the Lord (the times of the Great Tribulation) or the kingdom of Christ on earth. I feel that the reason cities of Egypt will band together to swear allegiance to the Lord is because by that time they will have come to know Christ. Grace will have taught their hearts to fear and grace will have relieved that fear through salvation. The City of the Sun will no more remember its allegiance to the false god Amon-Ra but will think of itself as the City of the Son.

"When they cry out to the Lord because of their oppressors, He will send them a savior and defender, and he will rescue them." (Isaiah 19:20b) This has historical application and future application. Egypt fell under Persian domination for about two hundred years and they despised Persian rule in the way Israel despised Roman rule. When Alexander the Great approached Egypt, the Persian garrison there quickly surrendered to him out of fear, for his fame was widespread, and the Egyptians welcomed him with open arms. Under Greek rule, Egypt enjoyed peace and trade with her neighbors. This allowed much more contact with the people of God and with the Scriptures. The Scriptures were for the first time translated into Greek which became a common literary language by the time of Christ. It is thought when He read from the Scriptures in the synagogues, He was reading them in Greek, which is likely why the people marveled that the "son of Joseph", a mere carpenter, was so well educated. But this verse has a future application as well, for someday there will be those in Egypt who call on the name of the God of Israel and He will send them a Savior and Defender who will rescue them from the oppressor who has been the enemy of us all: Satan. There is no oppression like the oppression of living in bondage to sin and someday Egypt will cry out to the Lord for rescue.

"So the Lord will make Himself known to the Egyptians, and in that day they will acknowledge the Lord. They will worship with sacrifices and grain offerings; they will make vows to the Lord and keep them. 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 19:21-22) Early church tradition holds that Mark, the Mark of the New Testament, made missionary journeys into Egypt and made Christian converts there. By the second century AD there was a school of Christian philosophy at Alexandria where Egyptians studied and were converted. Believers were later driven underground due to persecution by the Romans but when Constantine came to power he outlawed the persecution of Christians and was a believer himself. Today it is thought that about ten percent of the religious citizens of Egypt are Christians. But someday, because Egypt will develop a healthy fear of Judah's God and will seek His face, she will become a part of the body of Christ.

"In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. In that day, Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth. The Lord Almighty will bless them, saying, 'Blessed be Egypt My people, Assyria My handiwork, and Israel My inheritance.'" (Isaiah 19:23-24) What was the ancient Assyria of the Bible involves the modern-day areas of northern Iraq, southeastern Turkey, northwest Iran and northeastern Syria. Their religion in our times is Christian, though they have suffered persecution under the Islamic extremists. We can well understand why Assyrians will want to join in fellowship with their Christian brothers and sisters of Israel and Egypt. These nations were at one time all enemies of each other but, in Christ, they will be the children of God. 

I don't know when this alliance of nations will occur but I believe I know how it will occur: because of their allegiance to the one true God and to His precious Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no other peace like the peace He brings: peace between man and his fellow man, peace between man and God. The key to how all this will be accomplished is in what the Lord said in verse 24: Egypt My people...Assyria My handiwork...Israel My inheritance. The family of God will continue to grow and band together because it is His work, and He alone can do it.

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