Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Isaiah 19: 23-25

23 In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, 
and the Assyrians will come into Egypt and the Egyptians into Assyria, 
and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians.
24 In that day Israel will be the third party with Egypt and Assyria, 
a blessing in the midst of the earth,  
25 whom the Lord of hosts has blessed, saying, 
“Blessed is Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, 
and Israel My inheritance.”

Hello! Happy New Year!

I think I have finally come to the full understanding that scheduling this blog to run through the Advent season is CRAZY! The opportunities I have for worship, service and fellowship are so numerous in December, because of the uniqueness of the season (and me, being a seasonal musician). It leaves very little time for quality study or writing. If you catch me scheduling blog posts for mid- to late-December in 2014, call me on it. It's not going to happen! Celebrating Jesus' coming (again and again) is always going to take precedence. Thanks for your patience as I get back to it....

It is too bad that I didn't finish off Isaiah Chapter 19 before Christmas, though. It would have made starting Chapter 20 in the New Year more appropriate. Alas to that, yet this is a wonderfully hope-filled passage with which to ring in 2014.

Take a look back on the posts from Chapter 19. Recall that we are talking about Egypt. God has outlined a period of great difficulty in His discipline of the nation. As we reach these last verses, we see the tremendously encouraging news that there is a new hope promised for Egypt--"in that day." (vs. 1) When Christ comes to reign, the world is going to be a very different place--the hope to carry all of us through this year ahead.

Isaiah 11:16 carries a similar promise for Egypt as Isaiah 19:23 carries for Assyria:

"And there will be a highway from Assyria
For the remnant of His people who will be left,
Just as there was for Israel
In the day that they came up out of the land of Egypt."

--Isaiah 11:16 

That highway from Assyria is going to provide passage all the way to Egypt, with Israel in the middle as "rest stop" of sorts, to play out the metaphor. Back in the day when Isaiah shared this, I'm sure the response would have been something like "Blasphemy!" Two powerhouse nations--nations, at various points in history, aligned with Israel--will now be joined together with Israel as "the third party." (vs. 24) Surely, that seemed a ludicrous proposition. It's times like this when you get a glimpse at the burden these prophets had to bear--both in the news itself and in being the messenger. "Don't be a hater," Isaiah might have said. (Though Isaiah had too much compassion in his heart to have given that a thought much less an utterance.)

In his commentary for this passage, Matthew Henry mentions one of my oft-quoted verses of Scripture: Ecclesiastes 4:13--"A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart." Thus will be the case in seeing these three nations standing together as one. The verse before this one is equally significant in looking at the history of these parties: "And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him." (Ecclesiastes 4:12) We have seen the wisdom of Israel's kings (not so much) in the alliances formed between the country and each of these nations. The alliances did not always last. They were alliances of convenience, formed out of a lack of complete trust in God. The wisdom of Solomon makes sense, but the choice of an unbelieving nation for an ally rather than God the Father Almighty suggests that the kings didn't really get what their predecessor was trying to say.

But all of history will truly be bygone in the time of the ultimate fulfillment of this prophecy. Israel will finally be the "blessing in the midst of the earth" (vs. 24) that God intended her to be:

"And I will bless those who bless you,
And the one who curses you I will curse.

And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”
--Genesis 12:3

In verse 25, Isaiah uses some incredible phrases to describe Egypt and Assyria-- "My people" and "the work of My hands." Phrases reserved for His "inheritance"--Israel--are now being applied to the enemies of Israel. Remember, too, that these were Pagan, Gentile nations. But what seems an impossibility is, of course, not such a thing in the face of Jesus. That's why He came! And we cannot look at those who are not yet Christians as those who will never be Christians. Christ was the promised Messiah--for the Jews and the Gentiles. All who believe in Him become part of His inheritance. When He comes to reign, Israel becomes the nation that draws all others to Him--even Egypt. Even Assyria. Even....

"I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd."
--John 10: 14-16 (Jesus speaking; emphasis mine)

"For nothing will be impossible with God." (Luke 1:37) As Israel has received opportunities for forgiveness in not following her God, out of that same grace, Egypt will also receive. The status quo is not the status quo forever, as God's plans are not our own.

As we enter a new year, do we wish the status quo to still be the status quo? Even if we do, do we consider that some of the things that we haven't been able to change in the past could be changed? Do we believe that God's impact in and through our lives could be, indeed, life-changing for us or others? If Egypt and Assyria will know these things, how much more might we, today, trust in the Lord to provide His grace in our relationships and in our doings?
"It becomes those who have communion with the same God, through the same Mediator, to keep up an amicable correspondence with one another. The consideration of our meeting at the same throne of grace, and our serving with each other in the same business of religion, should put an end to all heats and animosities, and knit our hearts to each other in holy love."
--Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible

Words for Egypt and Ethiopia, as we open (and close!) the short Chapter 20.  ...'Til next Wednesday!

* * *

Next week:  Isaiah 20
Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).