Isaiah 19:1, 16-25
As I write this, Egypt has been in the news a lot lately. The people have risen up against the dictator who’s ruled over them for almost three decades. I’m certainly not going to cry into my pillow over him, but I’m really concerned about what'll replace him.
Seeing this nation with roots stretching back for millennia has turned my thoughts towards what God’s word has to say about it. Please pardon my lack of precision in terminology, but when I say that Scripture has a somewhat schizophrenic view of Egypt, you know what I mean by the word. The first time we read of it, Abraham left the Promised Land because of a famine and sought refuge there. As I’ve discussed before, my distinct impression from Moses’ description is that this was not a shining moment in Abraham’s faith: There’s no indication that the Lord told him to go there, and he ended up lying about his wife and handing her over to a harem to save his own skin.
Then Joseph went there as a slave, and ended up being second-in-command to Pharaoh himself. Joseph brought the rest of his family there to ride out another famine. In that instance, Egypt provided (once again) a refuge. I don’t know who pointed this out to me several years ago, but it was very important that Jacob’s family moved to Egypt for a few years. They were a small group in constant danger of being assimilated while in Canaan, and Egypt provided a chance for them to grow into a group that was in less danger of that. In fact, the exact opposite was true: The Egyptians wouldn’t even eat with the Hebrews. So for many years, Egypt was a great place to be: They were protected, cared for, provided for, etc.
Of course you know it didn’t stay that way. A new Pharaoh arose who didn’t “remember” Joseph’s contributions, and their refuge became a prison and a slaughterhouse. An entire generation of boy babies were drowned, and everyone who wasn’t killed was sentenced to horrible oppressive slavery. Then the Lord sent Moses and they left that horrific place.
But the odd thing is, the Lord—even while Moses was alive—foresaw a different view of Egypt. He warned them through the prophet that they must never go back to Egypt for horses, the “atom bomb” of that age. In other words, the threat from Egypt in the future was not an outward one of physical violence (like in Moses’ day) but as a source of temptation to trust in man’s resources and not in God’s provision. And as we’ll discuss in a few days, that’s what happened in Isaiah’s day.
So Egypt has been a physical refuge, a source of persecution, and a source of temptation. But is there another role for Egypt in the future? One they’ve never taken on before?
As near as I can tell, yes. I know that there are those out there who take passages like this symbolically, and I can respect their viewpoint. I don’t think they’re being unfaithful to Scripture. But I do believe that one day Egypt will join Israel and others in true unity and peace.
Maybe I’m too cynical, but I’m pretty pessimistic about any efforts to bring about national unity or peace without Christ as the center. But when he is the center, when people are brought into the Lord’s kingdom, then we’ll see true and lasting peace and justice. When people unite in worshipping the one true God, then we’ll see what the dreamers have called for. That’s when Jew and Arab and Persian and Turk and Greek and Korean and Japanese and everyone else who has a grudge against someone else can truly put aside hate and injustice and be made into one. One Body.
I don’t think we’ll see the complete fulfillment of that until Christ returns. But in the meantime, we can pray and work towards bringing people under the Banner of the Prince of Peace. What part does the Father have for you in this?
Father, what do you want me to do? What tool do you want me to be? How can I be more useful?
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