Every land has something that is the pride and glory of the people. The ancient Egyptians boasted in the River Nile. Her waters were necessary for the prosperity of the economy. Without the overflow of the Nile, the fields would have no water and would produce no grain.
Who had power over the Nile? If some enemy nation could dry up the river, Egypt would be brought to her knees. God Himself would bring this great trouble upon Egypt. What would be the result of this devastation? Many would eventually humble themselves before Him in the midst of their great suffering.
The Lord was stronger than any local divinities. All the Egyptian idols would be unable to keep the Nile flowing. The people of Egypt and her proudest leaders would also be brought low. God is above all kings and counselors. God can bring a nation into confusion in a moment if He turns the advice of wise men into foolishness. Though they may run to their idols or consult the dead, all of it will be for nothing if the Lord has decided to bring that nation down.
Trouble would come to Egypt from the hand of Israel’s God. This was not very surprising to anyone who knew the heritage of His dealings with Egypt. God’s people were slaves there for hundreds of years. They cried out to the Lord and He delivered them through the hand of Moses. He humbled the Egyptians and their king with miraculous signs and wonders displayed through His chosen mediator.
The surprise of Isaiah 19 was that God had a wonderful plan of grace which would reach even the Egyptians. In the book of Exodus God made a very definite distinction between Egypt and Israel. One group was drowned in the Red Sea, the other crossed on dry land. Yet now the Lord revealed His gracious intentions for Egypt (and also for Assyria).
These nations had no right to partake in the sacrifices, the offerings, and the vows of the Jews. Yet a day was coming when both the Egyptians and the Assyrians would know the Lord and would fear Him. There would be a surprising common bond between Egyptians, Assyrians, and Jews in that future day. All three nations would worship together.
What would that worship look like? Their practices would not be some compromise of three very different systems of religious customs. They would all worship the God of Jacob and would be blessed by Him. They would also be a blessing to the earth rather than a terror to the weak. This would be an amazing miracle, and it could only be fulfilled through Jesus Christ. Though Old Testament words were used in Isaiah 19, the reality of the prophecy would only be fulfilled through New Testament events. These warring enemies would become sincere friends in their common bond of a Jewish Messiah.
One day Egypt and Assyria would be called the people of God, the work of Yahweh’s hands, and the inheritance of the Lord. Many Egyptians and Assyrians would be counted among the people of the Lord. We have not yet seen the greatest fulfillment of this wonderful prophecy, but we do see indigenous church planting movements springing up in the Middle East today in the midst of great suffering.
Only God could have done this, and He is doing it now through the message of the Christian gospel. The time is long past for the nations of the world to lean on powerless idols or empty and false philosophies that only bring slavery. All the people groups of the earth have been set free, and nothing—not even the worst persecution from the enemies of the cross—can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Lord God, the idols of the nations are nothing. You are the God who preserves the world and all that is in it. Men could not live without You for even a moment. Yet we love idols that should be thrown away, and we ignore You who should be worshiped. Please forgive us. We long for the day when You will save many who live in the most unexpected places. May all nations worship You together. May we know our unity in Christ, and celebrate our communion with one another in Him.