READ: Isaiah 18-20
BACKGROUND: Isaiah 18 & 19 contain God’s judgment prophecies against two of the most powerful nations in the world at that time, Ethiopia & Egypt. Chapter 20 stands as a very short and hilarious (in my opinion) side story about how Isaiah had to walk around naked & barefoot for 3 years to demonstrate the judgment that was coming to these nations.
18:1 – Cush/Nubia/Ethiopia (Northeast of modern day Ethiopia) was located South of Egypt and was so powerful that they conquered Egypt in 715 B.C. and set up a dynasty there. For nerds like me who’d like to read more about it (and get a little glimpse – at least – of some of the spiritual evils that were going on in both countries when the book of Isaiah was written which was during the Nubian reign of Egypt) check out this link.
7 – In the end times, the Ethiopians will worship God. This same prophecy is echoed in Zechariah 14:16.
19:1 – It is funny when Isaiah writes the Egypt’s idols will tremble. Obviously idols aren’t real and can’t tremble. But what he is doing is recalling the 10 plagues of the Exodus in which God systematically embarrassed, judged, & shattered Egypt’s idols. They want no part of him.
2 – Egyptian civil war, predicted here, happened frequently in the years that followed.
4 – The “cruel master” in question is Esarhaddon of Assyria, who conquered Egypt in 671 B.C.
5 – Drought pretty much crushed every single facet of the Egyptian economy
16 – Remember, in prophetic passages, the phrase “In that day” refers to the day of judgment.
18 – 5 probably isn’t literal. It just conveys “many.” The “City of Destruction” is likely a reference to Heliopolis, city of the sun-god, destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar – see Jeremiah 43:12-13.
23 – When Jesus returns and sets the world right, enemies will no longer fight but be united through the bond of brotherhood/sisterhood in Christ.
25 – This universal vision – that God loves everybody and wants to save everybody would have been pretty shocking to some of the Jews who read it as many had become convinced that they were the only people that mattered.
20:1-6 – This just cracks me up. God told Isaiah to go naked and barefoot for 3 years as a symbol of the slavery that awaited these wicked nations if they did not repent. Don’t you just really hope you never get that call? 🙂
THINK: Jenny and I got the most ridiculously comfortable recliners ever on clearance at HOM Furniture a couple years ago. I have no idea how they ever made it to the clearance section because they’re so plush, and I love to sit in them. I wanted to sit in one really bad on Tuesday. I was doing the Plyometrics workout in P90X – really thankful that I was all alone and nobody could see the pathetic, out-of-shape, fat guy trying to jump around – and I looked back and had an overwhelming desire to just sit down in the chair. Because the chair is comfortable. And working out is not.
I think a lot of times we’re “Recliner Christians.” Our faith and the way we live it out is really comfortable. We like to just sit back and relax because we know that we’re saved and we’re good to go when we die. So who really cares, right? Well, God does. He cares about lost people, and he is calling us to do something more that live out Recliner Christianity because it’s comfortable. He called the nation of Israel to do that in the Old Testament too. But they just kept going back to the recliner. They kept on relying on the fact that they were God’s chosen people and deciding that meant they didn’t have to reach outside their comfort zone and share with others. And they lived shallow lives with shallow faith.
What is crazy about this passage of Isaiah is that God very clearly demonstrates that the Messiah – the Savior – isn’t just for the Jews. He is for everybody! And he calls the Egyptians and the Ethiopians his people along with the Jews. His heart is to save everybody. He declares – despite the punishment that is coming as a consequence of their wickedness – that they are his people.
William Booth, the man who founded the Salvation Army, was once walking in London with his son, Bramwell, who was then 12 or 13 years old. The father surprised the son by taking him into a saloon! The place was crowded with men and women, many of them bearing on their faces the marks of vice and crime; some were drunk. The fumes of alcohol and tobacco were poisonous. “Son,” Booth said, “These are our people; these are the people I want you to live for and bring to Christ.”
It was crazy to the Israelites to think the Egyptians and Ethiopians were God’s people. It was crazy to a young Bramwell Booth to think that prostitutes, drunks, and gamblers were God’s people. It is crazy for us to think that every person around us is someone for whom Jesus Christ came and suffered on the cross. But they are! Look around you. At your neighbors, your classmates, your coworkers, your teammates. At the drunks, the pot-heads, the cutters, the depressed, the oppressed, the jocks, the band kids. These are our people! If they have been placed in the path of our lives then God wants to use us to draw them closer to himself someway, somehow. We cannot afford to sit back any longer. No matter how comfortable and tempting is seems, we cannot be Recliner Christians when action – bold, uncomfortable, radical action – is required.
PRAY: Ask God to give you to courage to step outside your comfort zone. Ask God to open doors for you to have conversations with people. Ask God to give you the wisdom and guidance to know what to say.