October 6, 2009

Down to Egypt

Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, and trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but they do not look to the Holy One of Israel, nor seek the LORD! Isaiah 31.1

The Judeans were just doing what any geo-political entity would do when outnumbered, out-equipped, and running out of time against an approaching enemy army. They were doing what some in Europe did during the dark days of the Second World War … looking south and west, and hoping help would come. After all, Assyria was marching in, like the Nazi’s, from the north. They had already conquered nearly all of the significant nations of that day. And Judah and Jerusalem seemed to be next in the master plan. But they were no match against the fearsome Assyrians. Their little armies and meager fortifications couldn’t stand against the world super-power of their day. So who would blame them if they sent some ambassadors to the southwest – to Egypt – and sought to make a pact with Pharaoh and his much more powerful horses, chariots, and men?

Well, apparently, God could blame them! Why? Well, not least among the reasons must have been the fact that He had instructed them, long before, never to go back to Egypt again (Deut. 17.16). But it seems to me that God may have had a similar quarrel with His people even if it weren’t Egypt to whom they were running for help. I believe He may have said the same things had they been seeking help from Babylon, or Ethiopia, or whomever. Why? Because the issue in Isaiah 31.1 was trust. The Israelites sought reinforcements from Egypt because they trusted in the size and equipment of Egypt’s army … and did not trust the Lord. They sought help from man (which isn’t always a bad thing, e.g. WWII). But they, emphatically, did not seek help from their God. And that was the real problem.

Now I read Isaiah 31 a few days back … and verse 1 seemed to strike me like a well-aimed arrow. Because there are problems in my life – ministry, family, and personal – that I recognize; that I know need solving; that I want to get right. There are plenty of areas in my life in which I worry about doing the right thing; which I try, with all my human strength, to fix; which I talk to others about … and sometimes get their helpful input. But, regarding some of these very areas of concern, I am not always spending a great deal of time on my knees. Is it that I trust in my own brainstorming and hard work, sometimes, more than I trust the Lord? Apparently so. Is it that I have more faith in the counsel of trusted friends than I sometimes do in God? Must be. And the Bible says “woe” to someone like me.

What does the Bible say to you? Do you find yourself, sometimes, doing and fretting … but not praying? Do you find yourself asking everyone’s advice but God’s? Or maybe not asking any advice at all? In what areas of your life are you going “down to Egypt” … and trusting in human solutions, rather than in the Lord? Don’t just read those last few sentences and say: ‘Wow. Those are good questions.’ Sit there for a moment, in front of your computer screen, and really answer them! That’s right. Go back to the beginning of this paragraph and re-read it. Answer the questions. And then begin to seek the Lord! And remember that “He who did not spare His own Son” (Rom. 8.32) will surely provide everything else you need!

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