It is time for an exotic journey. With camels. And sand. So grab your waterbottle and here we go to Isaiah 18-20!
Egypt and Cush are the countries discussed in these chapters. When I think of Egypt, I think hot. Sandy. A few really green places, but mostly dry rock particles. Plus, this land is stuck in a time warp that contains both flat gold Pharaohs and the ten plagues and modern mobs in bad housing districts.
Cush is in the same general area, I guessed, but after googling it, I’m still not sure. It refers to a S. Asia or N. African area. Cushite languages are spoken by people in Somalia. And Ethiopia is another country that may have ties to this land. This land, according to Isaiah, was filled with formidable people, “feared near and far.” God just looks at them quietly, prunes them back, lets them be conquered. In future years they would bring tribute to the Lord of mighty armies. God is so much bigger than the biggest, baddest boys around! And He longs for them to recognize Him and join His team. It takes a lot for big men to be humble enough. And me, too.
Isaiah 19 moves to Egypt. God comes on a cloud, reminiscent of the one that left Egypt with the plagues. The idols never recovered from that humiliation. Egypt would be divided by civil war, and conquered. The land of sand and dust would lose its water, and no one could work, from the least to the greatest.
But the Lord’s purpose did not end with destruction. It carried much further. There would be an altar, a pillar, like Israel crossing the Red Sea and setting up memorials. It is a witness to the Lord’s work. They would cry to Him, and He would send a savior. To Egypt! This is ironic after all the trouble they caused to Israel. Striking and healing. God loves us fully, enough to love us in the long-term rather than moment-by-moment. He wants us to live unchained. And Israel, Assyria, and Cush would worship together. No, not delusional…this is God who uses a virgin to bear His Son and woos sinners.
But before this came about, there was the striking to complete. And Isaiah was instructed to walk around naked for 3 years. That’s 365 x 3 = 1095 days. A thousand days baked by the sun, shunned by society, nothing to hide. They had depended on Egypt and Cush, but would walk away ashamed when these hired bodyguards were stripped and shamed by Assyria. If the people who saved us are conquered, who will save us?
Was that a rhetorical question? Can’t you see? Don’t you know God is right there? And yet when I walk away from morning devotions, what do I look at all day long? My problems. Exotic people are just like us, living half-blind, with God never giving up on us, but lovingly steering us back towards Him. But the end He promises is beautiful:
“24 In that day Israel will be the third with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, 25 whom the Lord of hosts has blessed, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my inheritance.”
God, thank You for the striking and healing. Thank You for the beauty of nations around the world coming to You. I look forward to that day…please help me to see You and work toward world-healing. Amen.