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God’s Word for You

Isaiah 19:1-4

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A Prophecy About Egypt

Chapter 18 talked about the land of Cush, which had become Egypt’s conqueror. Now Isaiah delivers a message to Egypt, the conquered land. In chapter 20, the prophet will speak to both kingdoms together.

19 An oracle concerning Egypt:
See, the LORD rides on a swift cloud
and is coming to Egypt.
The idols of Egypt tremble before him,
and the hearts of the Egyptians melt within them.
2 “I will stir up Egyptian against Egyptian—
brother will fight against brother,
neighbor against neighbor,
city against city,
kingdom against kingdom.
3 The Egyptians will lose heart,
and I will bring their plans to nothing;
they will consult the idols and the spirits of the dead,
the mediums and the spiritists.
4 I will hand the Egyptians over
to the power of a cruel master,
and a fierce king will rule over them,”
declares the Lord, the LORD Almighty. (NIV)

What nation on earth was more intertwined with God’s people throughout their long history than Egypt? Long before his grandson moved his entire family there, Abraham went to Egypt to get relief from a famine in the 2080’s BC (Genesis 12:10). His wife Sarah brought an Egyptian servant girl back to Canaan when they returned (Hagar, Genesis 16:1). Mentioned more that 700 times in the Bible, it is the only foreign nation named in every single part of the Bible: Moses (Exodus 1:1), the histories (Judges 2:1), the poetry books (Psalm 105:23), the prophets (Jeremiah 2:6; Lamentations 5:6; Hosea 7:11), the Gospels (Matthew 2:13), Acts (Acts 21:38), the epistles (Hebrews 3:16; Jude 5) and Revelation (Revelation 11:8).1

Egypt could certainly be called a spiritual, even a deeply religious, country. But they relied on a pantheon of idols that were powerless to help them against the might of God. If the brainless gods of Egypt could only remember, they would be terrified of the God who brought Moses and Aaron down upon them and pounded Egypt ten times—the number of God’s completeness—with ten plagues. In the end, the Pharaoh sent them away: “Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites!” (Exodus 12:31). And when he dared to change his mind, Moses’ sister could sing about the victory: “The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea!” (Exodus 15:21).

Up against the Lord, fearless Egypt had everything to fear. In Isaiah’s time, three different men in Egypt called themselves Pharaoh—an Egyptian, a Libyan and a Cushite. Each Pharaoh claimed power over the land. In such chaotic times, what message was being sent to Egypt? They should have remembered their great conqueror, who constantly reached out to them with the message of peace and forgiveness. The Lord’s gospel reaches even to Egypt.

The law of God batters away at our excuses and our defenses and forces us to see that there is nothing at all we can bring before God except our repentance. There is no spark of goodness sinful mankind has to offer to God, but God offers to us his complete blessing and forgiveness. The power of the cruel master, sin, is shattered by the Lamb of God on the cross. God’s gift to us is peace, the peace of God that befriends us, blesses us, and makes brothers and sisters of us under a single loving and forgiving Father.

1 There are no references to Egypt or the Egyptians at all in the epistles of Paul unless we count the allegory of Hagar in Galatians 4:24-25, but Paul himself mentions Egypt is his sermon at Pisidian Antioch recorded by Luke in Acts 13:17.


In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.