THE FOOLISHNESS OF TRUSTING IN EGYPT
Once upon a time there was a young boy who begged his father for a chemistry set for his birthday. The father went through all the stores and found just exactly the right one for his son. He wrapped it carefully and gave it to him on his birthday. After the ice cream and cake were consumed the boy tore the wrappings off his present and his eyes lit up with joy when he saw the chemistry set. He immediately set it up and without even looking at the manual, began mixing different chemicals together. His father, who was a professional chemist, offered to give the boy guidance and help. But the boy insisted he could do it himself and set about working his experiments as his father watched from a distance, disappointed that his son wasn’t following the directions carefully. Several hours later, after much frustration, the boy made a terrible mistake and everything he had been working on exploded and went up in smoke.
You and I can possibly relate to that story and recall our own stubbornness and rebelliousness refusing the help of someone who knew exactly how to guide us to get the most enjoyment and satisfaction out of life. But on a larger scale don’t God’s children often treat Him that way? We will find as we begin chapter 31 of Isaiah that such is the case with the people of Judah and their relationship with God. They were setting about planning how to protect their homeland from invasion, but were determined to do it their way, without any assistance from their heavenly Father.
Isaiah 31 continues right where we left off in Isaiah 30. We begin by seeing again that Israel was going to go right ahead and do things their own way, ignoring what God wanted them to do. The end result was that both Israel and Assyria, who God was using to punish Israel, would both suffer heavy casualties.
We find three themes in chapter 31: 1) God warns, then 2) God delivers, and finally 3) God calls His children back to Himself. Let’s look closer at each section.
Isaiah 31:1-3, NAS:
1 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!
2 Yet He also is wise and will bring disaster, and does not retract His words, but will arise against the house of evildoers, and against the help of the workers of iniquity.
3 Now the Egyptians are men, and not God, and their horses are flesh and not spirit; so the LORD will stretch out His hand, and he who helps will stumble and he who is helped will fall, and all of them will come to an end together.
Once again we hear God’s prohibition and warning against turning to Egypt for help in defeating the Assyrians. When we compare this verse to David’s words in Psalm 20:7(NIV), “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God . . .” we see that the Israelites did the exact opposite. They did not ask the Lord God Jehovah, their mighty Protector and Guide, for help. How tragic. And how tragic that today so many who think they are Christians also do not seek the Lord on a regular basis for daily guidance and assistance.
But the people of Judah were bound and determined to rely on Egyptian horses and chariots. They turned to Egypt rather than to God for help and by doing so they violated God’s specific command in Deuteronomy 17:16. Since God does not go back on His words, He would judge the nation for her disobedience. The Egyptians could not help Judah (Isaiah 30:3, 5, 7) for they were a weak nation. Only God could ultimately protect them from their enemies. After all that God had done for His people, they turned away from Him and sought the help from a weak nation like Egypt.[fn] If Judah persisted in seeking an alliance with Egypt, God told them through the prophet Isaiah that both countries would meet disaster.[fn]
God promises deliverance
Isaiah 31:4,5 NAS:
4 For thus says the LORD to me, "As the lion or the young lion growls over his prey, against which a band of shepherds is called out, will not be terrified at their voice, nor disturbed at their noise, so will the LORD of hosts come down to wage war on Mount Zion and on its hill."
5 Like flying birds [eagles][fn] so the LORD of hosts will protect Jerusalem. He will protect and deliver it; He will pass over and rescue it.
God likens Himself here to a mighty lion and then to an eagle. Why should the Lord fear the Assyrians? Does a lion fear a flock of sheep and their shepherds? Or do eagles fear as they hover over their young in the nest? God will pounce on Assyria like a lion and swoop down like an eagle, and that will be the end. As we will see later, in one night, the Assyrian army was wiped out by God’s supernatural intervention (Isaiah 37:36).
God calls His children
Isaiah 31:6-9 NAS:
6 Return to Him from whom you have deeply defected, O sons of Israel.
7 For in that day every man [woman] will cast away his [her] silver idols and his [her] gold idols, which your hands have made as a sin.
8 And the Assyrian will fall by a sword not of man, and a sword not of man will devour him. So he will not escape the sword, and his young men will become forced laborers.
9 "And his rock will pass away because of panic, and his princes will be terrified at the standard," declares the LORD, whose fire is in Zion and whose furnace is in Jerusalem.
We see in verse 6 that God calls His children to repent and put away their idolatry. God, through Isaiah, also assures them that at the last minute the Assyrians will be defeated, but not by any human means, not by sword of man. No human army will shatter this enemy but God Himself would take care of the downfall of the Assyrian army. In verse 9 the term his rock indicates the strength of Assyria hightailing it out of Palestine, running all the way back to Nineveh. The standard, also mentioned in verse 9, refers to the Jewish battle standard, which doubtless had the name of Jehovah on it. Both in Isaiah’s near future and in the distant future, Jerusalem would be God’s headquarters for bringing judgment on foreign nations. God Himself is the fire, waiting for all the enemies who attack Jerusalem.
Wiersbe, W. W. 1996, c1992. Be Comforted. An Old Testament Study.
Victor Books: Wheaton, Ill.
[fn] Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. 1983- c1985. The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures. Victor Books: Wheaton, Ill.