Easy to become cynical – believing the worst of human nature and motives. Little “angel” keeps getting time-outs for same thing at school, doesn’t seem to learn. Bigger “angel” runs out of time-outs, gets expelled 2 months before graduation. Elected representatives sent to capitol to do a job, instead spend hours or days or weeks arguing and posturing. National leader gets voted out of office but refuses to leave, even though no other leader takes his side. Often our response to such actions: “Well, yaah, what do you expect?”
And right along with that the question, “How many more chances do you think they need, anyway?” When someone has history of not doing right thing, we tend to write them off, give up on them, expect them to keep on doing wrong thing. We especially feel confident giving up on those whom God has chastised but to no apparent good.
Take Egypt, for example. Had enslaved and persecuted God’s people until they cried to him for help. He sent Moses, “Let my people go”. Not once or twice, but over course of 10 fearsome plagues. Even after last plague, was through clenched teeth Pharaoh commanded Israelites to leave. Soon after they left Pharaoh’s anger built to point he chased them across Red Sea with his army, attempting to use military force against civilians. You might think God would be done with Egypt after all their persistent rejection of him. But, no,…
A. God visits Egypt v.1a
again – see Ex. 12:12; had visited Egypt before bringing judgment on not only people and beasts but also gods of Egypt. This time God’s visit had surprising result.
all that follows describing Egypt’s trouble verses 1b-17: God’s doing
Isaiah’s prophecy is as much about who will bring these things about as what they are and where they occur. Important to recognize God, the one riding in on a cloud, as Mover behind means: social unrest, economic hardship, natural disasters, military action, political maneuvering – all would be result of God’s direct involvement in Egypt’s affairs. When we observe similar things happening in our day, it’s good to think about what God’s purpose might be – righteous judgment on evildoers, strong encouragement for people to “seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near”. (Isa. 55:6)
B. Egypt experiences trouble v.1b-17
gods are humiliated v.1b – shown to be what they truly are, worthless objects of worship; being shown in dramatic way God’s greatness removes all courage from Egyptians
internal conflict v.2 – conflict a way of life at all levels; God stirs up natural selfish desires at the root of all disagreements to such a level it provokes civil war
desperately seek guidance v.3 – not yet prepared to seek God; instead still want only the goodies, want answers and direction but not the true God
oppressive government v.4 – God who coordinates overthrow by foreign power, one who turns up heat of oppression and hardship
no water fit for drinking v.5-6a – both short supply and what there is will be polluted
no water for irrigation v.6b-7 – source of water for canals will dry up, crops drastically reduced by drought
natural resources depleted v.8-9 – insufficient supplies of fish, raw materials for manufacturing
massive unemployment – management to laborers v.9-10 – all levels of business world experiencing hardship
social, political, ecological, economic areas of culture: all afflicted by God’s hand of judgment
God mocks worldly wisdom of Egypt v.11-13 – looking for anwers in all the wrong places, confident they’ve found the right ones only to be proven wrong
God takes credit for Egypt’s troubles v.14-17 – not simply that Egyptians have found wrong answers, God actively confuses leaders’ thinking and frustrates their plans. Egypt, once confident world leader and threat to many reduced to trembling and fear, total lack of direction.
C. Egypt surprises the world v.18-25
Egypt learns a new language v.18-19
finally the day comes – God’s hand of affliction has achieved it’s purpose: Egyptians turn from centuries of idolatry to worship of true God. Learn language of true praise, how to call on the one who can truly help them. In place of altars to false gods, they build places of worship to Yahweh. We have sign at state line – “Welcome to Vacationland”; Egypt would have pillar at border – “Welcome to land of Jehovah”, identifying themselves as people devoted to true God.
God doesn’t hold a grudge v.20
He sends a Savior 1 John 4:14 – He had sent the oppressors (v.4), now when they cry out to HIM, he sends a strong one to deliver them. Hebrew children had cried out to God in previous generation (Ex. 2:23); God heard them and sent Moses to lead them out of slavery in Egypt to Promised Land. Once again, God hears cry for help directed to him from Egypt; he sends his Son to lead the people out of slavery in sin to eternal rest in heaven.
God makes himself known v.21
most fully in the Savior Heb. 1:1-3 – made himself known by prophets in ancient days; when he makes himself fully known to Egypt and the world it is in person of Lord Jesus. It is Jesus who is “the exact expression of his nature” HCSB Jesus who responded to Philip, “Show us the Father” by saying “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:8-9)
God treats them as true children v.22
healed by the Savior – Isa. 53:5 – being delivered by God doesn’t mean an end to suffering and affliction. God is a good father, chastises/correctes the children he loves. Does mean God promises to heal those who are afflicted, most importantly healing from affliction of sin. Through stripes laid on Lord Jesus that the Egyptians could be healed; same true for us also.
Worship of God allows no rivalry v.23-24a
at God’s level Luk. 4:8 – God will not share his glory (Isa. 48:11); we are to “worship the Lord our God, and Him only we shall serve”. Just as rivalry between nations ends when God is honored as king, following true God requries total rejection of all other objects of our worship.
between brothers and sisters – healing from God mends relationships, takes away need to compete for affection, reward, to excel at expense of someone else. Worship of true God requires us to love neighbor as ourself (Matt. 22:39), includes giving preference to one another (Rom. 12:10).
Blessing accompanies worship v.24b-25
goal – worshippers, not simply believers; disciples, not merely converts. God’s purpose in dealing with Egypt, as with other nations and people, not just poeple who claim to be Christian and go on living like nothing changed. His purpose is that he would be worshiped, loved and obeyed by people the world over.
Egyptians of prophecy and today “need” social justice; earthquake victims in Haiti need clean water, medical attention; tsunami survivors in Japan need food and shelter. Refugees in Portland need jobs and vehicles and homes. List of places and needs is overwhelming, seemingly impossible to meet. Humanitarian help is vital – Jesus said “And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.” (Matt. 10:42) It’s easy to get overwhelmed by great needs of people around us; good friend once said “you must have blinders on if you can’t see people in need”.
But we must remember Jesus offered the Samaritan woman something far more important than a cup of cold water: he offered living water. Social justice, clean water, medical attention, food, all these things are only temporary – important but temporary. Living water is inexhaustible, satisfies the soul, has its source in God as he is revealed in Christ.
Egyptians cried for help, God sent his Son, revealed himself; hurting people in our world cry for help, we must, along with food and water, take them Christ who will lead them to Calvary. There they will find forgiveness of sin, reconciliation with God, living water supplied by the grace of God. At Calvary they will be changed by God’s Spirit, becoming obedient followers of the Lord Jesus and our brothers and sisters.