Wednesday, August 30, 2023

2023.08.30 Hopewell @Home ▫ Isaiah 19–20

Read Isaiah 19–20

Questions from the Scripture text: Against whom is this burden (Isaiah 19:1a)? Who is coming (verse 1b–c)? What does this do to Egypt and their idols (verse 1d–e)? What will happen to their unity (Isaiah 19:2)? What will happen to their courage or wisdom (Isaiah 19:3)? What will happen to them as a nation (Isaiah 19:4)? What will happen to them agriculturally/economically (Isaiah 19:5-10)? What will happen to the combined wisdom of their cities (Isaiah 19:11-15)? What will happen to their combined courage (Isaiah 19:16a, Isaiah 19:17a)? Why (Isaiah 19:16b, Isaiah 19:17b)? What sorts of words will Egyptians come to speak in Hebrew (Isaiah 19:18)? Who will worship YHWH where (Isaiah 19:19)? To Whom will Egypt cry about what (Isaiah 19:20)? What will He do about the enemy? What will He do between Himself and them (Isaiah 19:21)? How does Isaiah 19:22 summarize this? What happens to the war (Isaiah 19:23-24)? How is this peace made (Isaiah 19:25)? What happened to the Philistines of Ashdod who had allied themselves with Egypt (Isaiah 20:1)? What had Isaiah been wearing (Isaiah 20:2)? What does the lord tell him to do now? How long does Isaiah do this (Isaiah 20:3)? With whom is Ethiopia allied now? But what will happen to Egyptians and Ethiopians who pass back through Israel (Isaiah 20:4)? What does this do to Israelites’ hopes that Egypt and Ethiopia could save them (Isaiah 20:5)? What does this lead them to conclude about all of their self-made plans (Isaiah 20:6)?

What happens to hope in any deliverance other than the Lord? Isaiah 19–20 looks forward to the first serial reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these thirty-one verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the Lord both makes other hopes for deliverance to fail, as well as surprising people from all nations by giving them hope and deliverance in Himself. 

The book of Isaiah as a whole begins with Israel’s failure to trust in the Lord and be a light to the nations and moves toward the Servant’s successful righteousness and reign, into which the nations come to be gathered. Israel’s own pride to trust in themselves has come from the same Satanic root as Babylon (Isaiah 13:1–14:27), Philistia (Isaiah 14:28–32), Moab (chapters 15–16), Syria (chapters 17–18), and now Egypt (chapters 19–20). In the burden against Egypt, we again see what comes to man’s pride.

Sudden judgment, Isaiah 19:1. Israel was actually hoping that the Egyptian and/or Ethiopian efforts would succeed against Assyria (Isaiah 20:5). But here in Isaiah 19:1, YHWH rides in on a swift cloud and lays Egypt and her idols low.

Powerless idolsIsaiah 19:2-15. Egypt had many “traditional” idols, an entire pantheon of animal gods, nature gods, etc. But these are not the idols that totter and fall in this chapter. Egyptian unity, thousands of years sturdy through many dynasties, crumbles (Isaiah 19:2). Egyptian wisdom, long the envy of much of the world (still the envy of much of the world!), fails (Isaiah 19:3Isaiah 19:11-15). Egyptian economy, enriched for more than a millennium by Nile-fed agriculture, fails (Isaiah 19:5-10). 

These may not be what people traditionally think of as idols, but they are indeed some of man’s longest standing idols! Do we not, today, worship our own united efforts, our learning/wisdom, and our economy/wealth?! How arrogant! The worshipers of these idols have repeatedly fallen throughout history.

All-powerful delivererIsaiah 19:16-21. Egypt’s frightened terror (Isaiah 19:16a, Isaiah 19:17a) comes at the mere waving of YHWH’s hand (Isaiah 19:16b). Whatever He determines against them (Isaiah 19:17b) comes to pass. The amazing thing is that He doesn’t destroy them all. In fact, He brings five cities-full of Egyptians to faith in Himself—even a city that was labeled for destruction (Isaiah 19:18). YHWH brings them to worship Him (Isaiah 19:19), to trust in Him and pray to Him for deliverance (Isaiah 19:20), to know them and be known by them as their covenant God (Isaiah 19:21). 

Worldwide salvationIsaiah 19:22-25Isaiah 19:22 summarizes how the Lord brings Egyptians to Himself: He reveals His wrath, He heals from His wrath, and He brings to faith. Indeed, this is the only true peace: when the Lord saves unto Himself people even from such prior enemies as Egypt, Assyria, and Israel (Isaiah 19:23-24). The world becomes one people with one Lord. He says of them, “My people… the work of My hands… My inheritance” (Isaiah 19:25). 

Historical sign, Isaiah 20:1–6. In Isaiah so far, we have seen several instances where what the Lord announces for human history as a whole, He confirms it by giving a short-term example within history. And here the Lord does so again. He names a time period with a definite start date (Isaiah 20:1-3). He gives his prophet a strikingly bizarre way to conduct himself during that time (Isaiah 20:3). And precisely three years later, Israel beholds a trail of Egyptian and Ethiopian exiles “dressed” like the prophet as they are marched off to Assyria (Isaiah 20:4). What is the point? To put their esteem of “world powers” to shame (Isaiah 20:5). He forces them to come to Himself for deliverance by cutting off every other avenue of escape (Isaiah 20:6).

What do you tend to trust in for safety, comfort, or happiness? Who ultimately gives all of these to you? What is it called when you trust in something else, or even in the means that He uses? What would it be merciful of Him to do to all other hopes? What means has He given us by which He may turn our hopes back to Him?

Sample prayer: Lord, thank You for giving men intelligence, diligence, and resources in Your common grace. Forgive us for when we are like Egypt. We do so often proudly think and feel as if our use of the means is what does us good. And so it is just and merciful of You to make us to fail. Grant that whenever we are ashamed of what we have thought and done, Your Spirit would drive us back to You. For You are the God Who saves even from Egypt and Assyria and Israel. And we look to You to save us, too, through Jesus Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP46 “God Is Our Refuge and Our Strength” or TPH244 “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”

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