Salvation in Isaiah 19
There is an old story of a court jester in the Royal court of a great and mighty king, who sometimes said some very wise things, but occasionally said some very foolish things too. One day when the jester had said something particularly foolish the king handed him a staff – a long decorated stick and said to him, “Take this – and keep it until you find a bigger fool than yourself.”
Some years later the king was very ill and lay on his death bed. His courtiers were called to join his family and servants – they all stood around his bedside.
The king addressing them said, “I am about to leave you – I am going on a very long journey and I shall not return again to this place. And so I have called you all to my bedside to say ‘Goodbye!’”
Then the King’s court jester stood forward and addressing the king said, “Your Majesty – may I ask a question? When you have journeyed abroad visiting your people, staying with your nobles, or paying diplomatic visits to other courts and Kingdoms, your heralds and servants have always gone before you to make preparations for you. May I ask what preparations your majesty has made for this long journey that he is about to undertake?
“Alas!” replied the King, “I have made no preparations.”
“Then take this staff with you,” said the jester, “for now I have found a bigger fool than myself.”
The point of the story is that preparation for life after death is very important – in fact it is vital!
It used to be that there were men walking around our city centres with sandwich boards – with very pointed words written on them – THE DAY OF JUDGMENT IS AT HAND! PREPARE TO MEET THY GOD.
One such man had a sign on his front board I AM A FOOL FOR CHRIST. On the back, which was seen as you looked back at him having passed him was this WHOSE FOOL ARE YOU? The foolishness of not being prepared for disaster is in our passage from Isaiah this evening – from Isaiah 19 v 1 – 17.
It is about the country of Egypt. It is about a country, and Egypt is the example of such a country, which is subject to the judgement of Almighty God – and is not ready and prepared for it.
Several disastrous calamities come on the Kingdom of Egypt according to Isaiah the prophet.
Political and physical disaster; and a Leadership disaster.
1. POLITICAL DISASTER.
Ancient Egypt was a powerful political player in the Middle East – it was a super power along with Assyria at the time of Isaiah’s prophesying from the little land of Judah – in the middle of the two countries.
Verse 1 – the burden of Egypt. The Lord God comes to Egypt in great judgement power and there is nothing that the many gods of the Egyptians can do about it. There were 100’s of gods – but none could save them from the disaster to come – and it results in the demoralisation of the people.
Verse 2 – Civil wars are predicted in Egypt – factions rising against each other. The historians tell us that this did happen in the once united Egypt during the 7th Century BC. This led to a weakening of Egyptian society. As Verse 3 tells us – a failure of spirit which showed itself in a lack of mature leadership – it left the way open for cult leaders and idol worshippers – wizards – to take charge – but it will not help the nation!
And so verse 4 predicts that Jehovah God will sovereignly hand the Egyptians over to a cruel master and a fierce King, not just ONE of them – but a whole string, a series of oppressors. We have the advantage of historical hindsight and the historical records in our museums – here is the fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy –
* The Assyrians invaded Egypt in 663 BC starting with the sacking of Thebes – mentioned by Nahum who called Thebes ‘No’
Nahum 3 v 8 Art thou better than populous No, that was situate among the rivers, that had the waters round about it, whose rampart was the sea, and her wall was from the sea? 9 Ethiopia and Egypt were her strength, and it was infinite; Put and Lubim were thy helpers. 10 Yet was she carried away, she went into captivity:
* Nebuchadnezzar the Chaldean smote Egypt after this when Assyria finally failed.
Jeremiah 43 v 10 And say unto them, Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will send and take Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and will set his throne upon these stones that I have hid; and he shall spread his royal pavilion over them.
Jeremiah 46 v 13 The word that the LORD spake to Jeremiah the prophet, how Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon should come and smite the land Egypt
* The Persian army led by Cambyses brought Egypt under Persian rule followed by Xerxes who was charged with quelling an Egyptian rebellion.
* In 332 BC Alexander the Great invaded Egypt.
* And at the time of the Lord Jesus Christ Egypt was under Roman occupation.
These events of history are the fulfilment of Isaiah’s verse 4 of this chapter.
My friends these things are topical for us. This is what is happening in our land. Our leaders have abandoned faith in the living God. There is no confidence in national prayer. There is no seeking the advice of Christian godly men who would seek to know the mind of the Lord and steer the nation towards godliness.
Therefore we should be warned – to look for the same fate as Egypt – we should be prepared for God to do the same as he did to >Egypt who is our example tonight. Godlessness leads to political disaster and we get the leaders that we deserve. May God deliver us even now from what happened to Egypt!
2. PHYSICAL DISASTER.
Political disaster was one thing – but it is possible for the ordinary people to keep their heads down and let the politicians get on with their own thing. But not where God is concerned. Everyone felt the effects of economical and physical disaster –
Verse 5 – The River Nile watered the surrounding countryside by overflowing and the waters were channelled into tributaries, canals and other watercourses – irrigation channels. But under God’s judgement the head waters of the Nile failed and these side channels dried up. With the following results –
Verse 6 – the papyrus reeds withered – a major industry – paper making.
Verse 7 – the rest of agriculture failed – crops in the meadows and all other plants withered and died – and there was no Joseph to organise them this time.
Verse 8 – Fishermen who depended on the Nile failed in their businesses – hooks, dragnets and throw nets were useless without water and without the fish that live in it.
Verse 9 – Another crop, flax, used for weaving cloth, also failed and the weavers went out of business.
So according to verse 10 the very foundations of the Egyptian economy and culture will be broken; the nation’s purposes and plans will be broken; the foundations of their state will be disastrously fractured. In the terms of human personalities this would have included the honesty, virtue, piety and decency in people seriously undermined and affected. What a calamity this was!
But more than this – there was
3. LEADERSHIP DISASTER.
Verse 11 describes the consternation amongst the rulers who in Moses’ time were known as wise leaders. Look what the New Testament says about Egypt at the time of Moses
Acts 7 v 22 And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds.
But now these leaders are called fools! They were like that King – unprepared for the future. Isaiah calls them fools because their reaction to the clouds of calamity are without reason, irrational and led them to make stupid decisions. So the prophet asks in verse 12 “Where are the wise men?” They can’t be found. Ask them where God is in all this – and they don’t know – because they are ignorant of Him.
Verse 13 speaks of a city mentioned already in verse 11 – Zoan which we know better as Memphis (not Tennessee) but the capital of the Pharaohs from 715 BC to 644 BC. It is about 13 miles South of Cairo. The ruling elite were somehow resting on the laurels of their former Imperial glory – but the leaders use human wisdom and fail – they lead Egypt astray into destruction.
And the Sovereign Lord is in control of all this. For He who is the mighty creator, GIVES WISDOM to men – but also he withdraws it – at His will. Verse 14 graphically describes this process of man being left to himself when God leaves Him.
Oh my friends – is this not the case with any human being who refuses and rejects the living God? God says, ‘Very well – you go your way – you follow your own path – but be aware that this is not the way to prepare for eternity.’ And millions of people are doing just this today and every day. They have chosen the world’s way, the devil’s way even though the living God has provided for them HIS WAY – the way of His perfect Son the Lord Jesus Christ who showed us how to live – before giving His life on the cross at Calvary.
Human wisdom alone cannot save individuals or nations from the inevitable calamity of judgement without mercy! Judgement is ahead of all men and women – but with trust in the living Lord God through His son the Lord Jesus Christ is the only way to be prepared for the judgement. This is what verse 15 says – man cannot obtain righteousness with God on his own.
Our country is like this today, fondly thinking that we can easily abandon our Christian roots and our Biblical morality and still be prepared for eternity. But it is as if the nation has a staff, a jester’s stick in the hand indicating just how foolish it is to live without the Lord God. Wise King Solomon said long before Isaiah, these words in Proverbs 1 v 24 – 33 – and they are as relevant today as they were in his day.
24 Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; 25 But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: 26 I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; 27 When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. 28 Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me: 29 For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the LORD: 30 They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof. 31 Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices. 32 For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them. 33 But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil.
Finally Isaiah points to little Judah who has God on her side – verses 16 – 17. Egypt has become so weak that even the tiny state of Judah frightens her!
What a picture this chapter is of what will one day be the state of the godless people of the world, when God moves in judgement. Which country in the world today is ready and prepared for God to judge them? Where is there a nation whose God is the Lord and who are trusting in Him alone, confident that they will pass unscathed through the judgement? I suggest to you that there is no nation today that is prepared – except one. It is called the people who know their God. It is called the Assembly of the Church of the Firstborn. In a word we speak of the church – not THIS church – or YOUR CHURCH – but the Church of Jesus Christ – all of those elect and precious believers in the Saviour who are yielded to the Lord and have absolute trust in Him. Together such believers constitute a nation
1 Peter 2:9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:
May I then ask you tonight my friend – are you a citizen of this nation? Have you come by faith and repentance to obtain membership of that nation with your allegiance given to the King of that nation Jesus Christ the perfect and glorious and holy King?
This, I tell you, is the only way to be prepared for the calamity to come – for the disaster that is looming to this world when God comes to judge and call us to account.
Are you a fool like that king in the illustration? What preparation have you made for your soul in eternity?
Only Jesus Christ can prepare a man or a woman, a boy or girl, for the judgement. And He can only be known when a sinner repents of sin – owns up – becomes honestly sorrowful – determines to leave sin behind – and trusts utterly in Christ’s work on the cross.
Are you fearful tonight my friend? Like these Egyptians became fearful of Judah – whose God was the mighty Jehovah? During revivals people become anxious and fearful for their souls. They see the power of God moving in the lives of His people – and they fear!
But the true believer only has the fear in his heart of displeasing His saviour. May we all know that though there is the calamity of judgement and death to come that there is One to whom we can go – to find pardon, forgiveness and peace – the Lord Jesus Christ the saviour of sinners.