Blessed of the Lord

“In that day Israel will be one of three with Egypt and Assyria – a blessing in the midst of the land, whom the Lord of hosts shall bless, saying, ‘Blessed is Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My inheritance’”

Isaiah 19:24-25

Who would dare to prophecy such a thing? Israel, Egypt and Iraq as one and blessed of the Lord! In our current world circumstances we might consider anyone suggesting such a thing as having a vacancy between the ears. The God who has told us that this will come to pass is the same God who (also through Isaiah) foretold Christ’s substitutionary death for our sin (Isaiah 53). That was fulfilled literally, and in detail. Nothing is impossible to Him (Matthew 19:26; Mark 10:27; Luke 1:37; 18:27). He is faithful to His word.

Isaiah records aspects of God’s judgment on these nations; yet when they call upon the name of Jesus at His return He will not utterly destroy them, but preserve those who receive Him. There will be a highway between Egypt and Iraq that passes through Israel (19:23) and He will bind these three nations in a form of unity.

There are those who reassign the promises and prophecies given to Israel as being to the church; by this, however, they are implying that God is not able keep His covenant promise to Abraham and David. If He can’t keep His promises to Israel why would anyone think He can keep His promises to the church?

Fortunately we have the many assertions by the Lord that He is quite able, and that He will fulfil His covenant promise to Israel. Consequently we are also confident that He is willing and able to keep His promises regarding His church.

“For the Lord of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?” (Isaiah 14:27).

Christ Jesus has redeemed this world for Himself and no one and nothing can stand against Him. Jesus said, “For assuredly I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled” (Matthew 5:18).

Surely we would rather take the words of Jesus over those of fallen men! Isaiah records, “For the Lord will have mercy on Jacob, and will still choose Israel, and settle them in their own land.” (Isaiah 14:1).  It appears that we are rapidly closing in on “the Day of the Lord” when He will bring all things to fulfilment.

It is God’s Battle

“You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem!”

2 Chronicles 20:17

This occasion is one of several where God gave Israel victory without them having to draw a sword. Three armies had combined and were making ready to attack Judah, including Jerusalem. King Jehoshaphat sought the Lord and his prayer is a model for us all. He acknowledged God as Creator and sovereign (v 6), and appealed to the covenant He made with Abraham (v 7). He then submitted himself and the people to the Lord’s word and command (v 12). In response, God reminded him that it was not his battle but God’s (v 15).

The king was told to set himself and the people of Judah as spectators. Before they did this, because they believed the word of the Lord (v 19, 20) and they worshipped the Lord in prayer, praise and singing (v 22). Then they went out to witness God’s victory.

They observed a dispute arise among the three armies. This resulted in two of the armies destroying the third and then the two remaining armies disputing further and destroying each other (v 23). No one escaped (v 24).

This is by no means the only time that Israel’s enemies had disputes among themselves such that they fought among themselves without touching Israel. We can observe this happening in part today. Remember that Iran is not Arabic, it is Persian. Iran is currently attempting to re-establish the Persian Empire to pre-eminence as it was centuries ago. This means subjugating all Arab states, Egypt, Israel and parts of Europe and Africa – as a start! That it uses religion to validate war to promote its ideology is nothing new to history. It concerns the Arabic states that Iran is gaining a stronghold in Syria and boasting of having infiltrated others.

At present, the nations that have been threatening Israel’s existence are disputing and fighting among themselves and therefore ineffective against Israel. As in the days of King Jehoshaphat, the battle is God’s and He will confuse His enemies. The key difference so far is that Israel is yet to seek the Lord and pray, as Jehoshaphat had done, appealing to the Lord’s covenant with Abraham. When they do, they will again be spectators as God destroys His, and their, enemies (Revelation 19:15).

Trembling at His Presence

“In that day Israel will be one of three with Egypt and Assyria – a blessing in the midst of the land, whom the Lord of hosts shall bless, saying, “Blessed is Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My inheritance” Isaiah 19:24-25

Considering the current Middle East environment it is quite a mental exercise to accept that these three nations will one day get along as one. The previous verse tells us that there will be a highway between Egypt and Assyria which, of geographic necessity, must pass through Israel. People who have not experienced the power of God in salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ might be inclined to say that such talk is but a dream. However, the Lord says He will perform it when He comes. Jesus is the solution to the problems in the Middle East. The question, “If there is a God, why doesn’t He do something?” will be answered forever.

This outcome will not come progressively over a long period of time. Verse two indicates a time of civil unrest or even civil war in Egypt from which a cruel and oppressive leader will arise (v 4). The river Nile will dry up most likely by drought inland. Without the Nile hunger and disease will afflict the nation. Out of this severe trial Egypt will turn to the Lord and He will deliver them (vv 20-21).

Leaders of the nations of the world carry on in futility trying to resolve the Middle East unrest, terrorism and wars but they reject the One who would show them the way. They refuse His counsel and wonder why things are getting worse. Paul describes them and their actions in Romans 1:18-32 summing up their words and actions in verse 22, “Professing to be wise they became fools.”

In the Proverbs we read, “The Lord gives wisdom” (2:6) and “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (9:10). As long as people reject God’s wisdom, knowledge and understanding they will fail at every turn. When the Lord returns He will resolve all the divisions but tragically people will suffer because they refuse the wisdom of God.

Isaiah would cry out for the Lord to tear apart the heavens and come down “to make Your name known to Your adversaries, that the nations may tremble at Your presence” (Isaiah 64:1-5) and the Lord will do so but there was still the need of the cross first. In mercy God gives time for people to repent and in this He shows His patient love. “God demonstrates His own [kind of] love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8; cf. 1 John 3:1).

The “rich man” in Luke 16:19-31 begged the Lord to send someone back from the dead to warn his brothers of their great error but Jesus responded, “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets [the Bible], neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead” (v 31). In great power Jesus rose from the dead and there are hundreds of recorded witnesses but the exhibit of God’s power by itself is ineffective to save. Salvation only comes when a person chooses to believe God’s Word and trust Jesus Christ.

For This Purpose

“For this purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.” (Exodus 9:16)

If we read this verse in isolation we might be inclined to wish that it spoke of us but the context reveals an entirely different circumstance than what we would desire. The Bible reveals that it is God who raised up nations and kings and brought them down and that He is still doing so even in our day to accomplish His purpose. In addressing Egypt’s Pharaoh on this occasion the Lord gives us the primary reason for the plagues on Egypt. It is “that you may know that there is none like Me in all the earth” (v 14) and, “that I may show my power in you and that My name may be declared in all the earth” (v 16; cf. 11:7).

The Egyptians had many gods who arose out of the imaginations of men and were, therefore, imaginary. The God of Israel, on the other hand, was truly God who created all that is and sustains it. The judgments against Pharaoh and Egypt showed the power of God so that they would know that He really is the Creator. None of the gods created in the imagination of men could do such things. The extraordinary nature of the plagues would forever be a testimony of declaration of the name of the Lord. History tells us that the account of the plagues in Egypt has been retold many times in every generation all round the world. God accomplished His purpose in a manner that cannot be explained in naturalistic terms. The attempts of men to do so fall flat in light of the biblical historical record.

The Lord had made a distinction between Israel and Egypt after the third plague. This was so that Israel and Egypt and all who hear of the plagues will know that the plagues have their origin in the Lord God of Israel and not in any other god or naturalistic cause (Exodus 8:22; 9:26; 11:7). The Lord also made a distinction among the Egyptians (9:19-21). Those who took God at His word literally and acted upon it were not destroyed and their animals saved in accordance to the degree that they acted upon the literal word of the Lord.

This is the basis of God’s revelation to people throughout history and, in particular, the salvation that is offered to all people in Jesus Christ. Anyone who will take God at His word, interpreting it literally and act upon that word will not suffer God’s wrath and judgment. The Bible reveals that many did not regard the word of the Lord as faithful and true and they lost everything that they treasured (v 21).

Pharaoh must have been under cover to avoid the hail but he still hardened his heart further against the Lord. This is an eternal principle, seen many times in the Bible, that when a person says “No” to the Lord it becomes harder in the future to say, “Yes” until eventually the heart is so hardened it cannot change.

God could have destroyed Egypt at the beginning and set Israel free (v 15) but He chose to set His people free this way for the purpose stated. This would benefit Israel, the Egyptians and us.

Are you as soft clay in the Potter’s hand, or hard and brittle resisting His attempts to mould you in the way He wants? Pharaoh is an example of one who resists the Lord’s hand.

Egyptians Against Egyptians

“I will set Egyptians against Egyptians.” Isaiah 19:2

Written well over two thousand years ago this chapter in Isaiah reads partly like current day news. The parts not yet being fulfilled seem entirely possible in the near future. What was a long time in the future for Isaiah appears to be at our door. Almost every day the media reports unrest in Egypt as well as in other Middle East countries.

Another key event mentioned in this chapter is the fact of the river Nile drying up from its mouth (v 5). Rivers usually dry up from their source under natural conditions but that can change when a river is dammed. In Australia we have seen the effects of that with the River Murray and in Egypt the Nile is suffering the same consequences from being dammed.

Isaiah foretells other events in Egypt in this passage that have not yet begun to be fulfilled. That is because what we are seeing today is not the actual fulfilment of his prophecy. However, it is quite possible that we are seeing the final preparations for that fulfilment.

In isolation it may appear that we could be making too much of the prophecy in regard to current events but the events in Egypt are not the only ones that have a strong resemblance to prophecies concerning the days leading up to the Lord’s return. The Old Testament prophets refer to it as “The Day of the Lord.” The troubles in other Middle East countries, especially in their relation to Israel, also bear a strong resemblance to Biblical prophecy. Add to this the other troubles in and between many nations of the world that appear to conform to what the Bible describes in the last days and it doesn’t seem at all far fetched to believe the Lord’s coming may not be too far off.

As with His first advent, Jesus will return at God’s appointed time. Of necessity we need to be flexible in our plans and programs but not so with the Lord. Paul wrote, “When the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son …” (Galatians 4:4). The context makes it clear that this is a reference to the birth of Christ but just as Christ’s first advent was on God’s appointed day, and in His appointed way, so shall His second advent.

He will return on the God appointed day and will not be hurried or impeded. Not men or Satan and all his hoards could prevent His coming then (they all tried) and neither will they even slightly impede His coming again.

The farmer knows the signs of the coming season change because he has gained certain knowledge relating to seasons. People who know and believe what God has written in the Bible will also recognise the “signs” or “seasons” that reveal that we may well be in the preparation period leading up to the events prophesied for Israel, Egypt, the Middle East and the whole world as revealed in the Bible.

“‘Surely I am coming quickly [suddenly].’ Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20)