One World, One People, One God (Isaiah 19-20)

Isaiah 19-20 (Converted, Saved, Healed and Whole)

Can the world be one
Isaiah's oracle on Egypt shows that the God of Israel has something glorious in mind for the whole earth. Egypt is the first enslaver of the Lord's people and their most memorable adversary. But through her, Isaiah opens up a truly magnificent view which includes thinking of Egypt as "my people" (Isa 19:25). [This follows the vision of a remnant of both Gentiles and Israel being drawn to the Lord in Zion (Isa 18:7).] At the climax of the oracle (Isa 19:23-25), Isaiah links Egypt with Assyria, the contemporary oppressor. If these two can be brought into co-equality with Israel then the world will be one indeed!
  1. Egypt's fall (19:1-15): Egypt smitten, collapsed, fallen and defeated.
  2. Egypt's restoration (19:16-25): Egypt saved, healed and converted.
  3. Egypt's unreliability (20:1-6): Egypt is untrustworthy; she will be taken captive (20:1-6).
I. Egypt's Fall (19:1-15)
  1. Social collapse (19:1-4).
  2. Economic collapse (19:5-10).
  3. Political collapse (19:11-15).
Relying on Egypt in a time of crisis was a constant temptation. With the disappearance of the northern states, Aram (732) and Israel (722), into the maw of Assyria, the political center of gravity in western Palestine moved south. At least from 715 onwards, Egypt was behind every anti-Assyrian movement. To Judah, an alliance with Egypt as a means of throwing off the Assyrian yoke and having national sovereignty was a constant temptation (ch. 28-31, 36-37). Isaiah resolutely opposed this, seeing Egypt as no help but only disaster (Isa 30:6-7). Thus, 19:1-15 is an attempt to dissuade them from trusting Egypt, based on the failure of her three prominent "strengths": her longstanding idols/religion (1-4), her reliable natural resources, the Nile (5-10) and her ancient wisdom and supposedly "wise counselors" (11-15).
II. Egypt's Restoration (19:16-25)
  1. Fear of God (19:16-17). Prov 1:7; 9:10.
  2. Allegiance to God (19:18). Speak the language of Canaan.
  3. True religion (19-22). Reconciliation.
  4. Unity in worship (23). No more alienation and separation.
  5. Co-equal with God (24-25). Israel, Egypt and Assyria are placed on par.
From judgment to redemption. 19:16-25 moves from judgment upon Egypt (19:1-15) to the most sweeping promises of redemption. It is marked by five repetitions of "in that day" (Isa 19:16, 18, 19, 23, 23) which makes it plain that these events will occur in the end times, or at the point where God takes decisive action in world events. These five segments seem to show a progression of thought from an Egypt terrorized by the very thought of Judah's God (Isa 19:16-17) to an Egypt joining with Assyria and Israel in glad worship of God (Isa 19:23-25). These five thoughts illustrate in an ascending order Egypt's coming allegiance to Yahweh.
Negative and positive reasons to not trust Egypt. 19:1-15 negates all the Egyptian attributes which might draw Judah to trust Egypt. 19:16-25 say that it is foolish for Judah to turn to Egypt when one day Egypt is going to turn to Judah's God. They present the positive side to the point being made negatively in 19:1-15. This brings the whole argument to a fitting climax in a vision of all nations living in harmony because of their common submission to God (Isa 2:2-4).
Five marks of true religion. Reciprocity of relationship is the keynote (19:19-22). Prayer finds a response (Ia 19:20). Revelation leads to acknowledgment, worship and fidelity (Isa 19:21). Divine disciple leads to repentance and plea is answered in healing (Isa 19:22).
  1. Meeting with God (19-20a). The altar is the place of reconciliation (19-20a).
  2. Talking with God (20b). In prayer, the Egyptians are to have a speaking relationship with God.
  3. Knowing God (21a). True religion is not people searching for God but people responding to revelation by God.
  4. Making sacrifices and vows (21b). They will have both public expression and personal commitment.
  5. Turning to God (22). God's purposeful discipline (hurt in order heal)--a part of life under God's care (Prov 3:12)--causes penitents to turn to God in faith and trust God by receiving his disciplinary "wounding" love.
God's purpose is to unite the world in his worship (Isa 19:23). True religion heals wounds between people. Spreading the kingdom of peace happens first with a few cities (Isa 19:18), then a whole country (Isa 19:19) and then the whole world (Isa 19:23). A highway--a favorite metaphor in Isaiah--is for the removal of alienation and separation (Isa 19:23; 11:16; 33:8; 35:8; 40:3; 49:11; 62:10).
Co-equality with one another (Isa 19:24-25). True acknowledgment of God begins with acknowledgment and submission to those who are already his people (Isa 19:16-17; 1 Cor 14:24-25). But the convert at once enjoys a co-equal membership. In a remarkable statement Isaiah applies terms previously restricted to Israel to both Egypt and Assyria. In Egypt the word once was "Let my people go" (Exo 5:1). But now Egypt is "my people" (Isa 19:25). Assyria is "my handiwork." The point made is that if Israel turns to the nations in trust she will be prostituting her ministry to them. Instead, she is to be the vehicle whereby those very nations can turn to her God and become partners with her in service to God and enjoy his blessings.
III. Egypt's Unreliability (20:1-6): The folly of trusting Egypt
This concludes Isaiah's oracle against Egypt. Egypt was under judgment, and reliance on her was useless. As an example, he takes the city of Ashdod, the northernmost of the five great Philistine cities, about 33 miles west of Jerusalem and about 2-3 miles inland. The general background is the same as for 14:28-31: the Egyptian-backed Philistine revolt against Assyria in 713-711 BC, with Assyria crushing the revolt. Similarly Sargon destroyed Ashdod in 711. With Ashdod in ruins the revolt was effectively ended. Yamani, king of Ashdod, fled to Egypt. But the Egyptians cravenly handed Yamani over to Sargon, out of fear of his military might.