RETURNING TO EGYPT IS THE PATHWAY TO SHAME AND FUTILITY
James warns his readers: “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (4:4) Nothing confusing about that warning. Do you really want God as your enemy? Do you want to declare war on God?
Likewise the Jews in Isaiah’s day certainly understood the dangers of forsaking their covenant marriage relationship with Yahweh and returning to trust in the land of Egypt from which they had been delivered. God’s Word could not have been clearer on this crucial point.
Deut. 17:16 “nor shall he cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, since the Lord has said to you, ‘You shall never again return that way.’” But what if the pressures mount to the point that they did in Isaiah’s day where the threat of Assyria was so great that they had nowhere to turn? Stand fast and see the salvation of the Lord – slaying 185,000 in one day and sending Sennacherib back to his home base without capturing Jerusalem.
Egypt represents the way of the world = everything that stands in opposition to God’s holiness and His righteous paths. Egypt represents the place of bondage under the yoke of sin; the place from which the precious grace of the Lord Jesus Christ has redeemed us forever. How can Christians forsake their spiritual liberty and return to the yoke of bondage of the world? It doesn’t make any sense, but it happens all of the time.
RETURNING TO EGYPT IS THE PATHWAY TO SHAME AND FUTILITY
[THE WORLD’S WAY IS THE WRONG WAY – BECAUSE IT LEADS TO SHAME AND FUTILITY]
Have you ever gotten on a highway headed the wrong way? Can be a terrifying experience. When we first moved to MD, I did that one night on Route 301 heading to Todd Beall’s house – one of those divided highways and I didn’t realize you had to cross over the median before turning left. Fortunately there was a place to turn around right away before disaster struck.
I. (:1-5) FALSE SECURITY LEADS ONLY TO SHAME
A. (:1-2) Human Sourced Game Plan = Reliance on the World
1. (:1a) Heading for Certain Disaster – Mindset of Rebellion
“’Woe to the rebellious children,’ declares the LORD,”
A 4th judgmental Woe – Watch Out Earthlings!
A problem with the authority of God – resisting His control; rejecting His will;
Parents can relate to the agony caused by rebellious children – look at the relationship between King David and his wayward son Absalom
What a spurned privilege to be rebellious children of God
We have the privilege of spending time this weekend with our grandson – it would break our hearts if Dean grows up to be a rebellious child – he is showered with all of the affection and privileges that one could imagine – think of all that the Lord invested in caring for His precious vine – the children of Israel
2. (:1b) Executing Faulty Strategy – Misplaced Loyalties
“Who execute a plan, but not Mine,
And make an alliance, but not of My Spirit,”
Forbidden alliances with Egypt
Plans entirely of human origin and execution
Their choice to return to Egypt for help was a clear violation of the Word of God – nothing debatable about this strategy
I spent time with my sister Joanne yesterday – she has been trying to find a good church home in Frederick – had to cross one off her list – the pastor was talking about ordaining women to the eldership and the ministry – But what about the clear teaching of the Apostle Paul in 1 Tim. 2:12 “But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.”
Seems clear to me.
“Oh,” explained the pastor, “the Scriptures keep evolving to meet the needs of our current day.” Talk about thumbing your nose at the Constitution! You can justify whatever man-made strategies you want on that basis.
Do you really want God’s plan for your life? When He says clearly that His will for you “is your sanctification, that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality” (1 Thess. 4:3) does that settle the matter for you? Or are you willing to go down that pathway of alluring pleasure and temptation?
3. (:1c) Shooting for the Wrong Goal – Mushrooming Culpability
“In order to add sin to sin;”
Compounding nature of sin; one sin leads to another; life becomes complicated; you end up with a mess; a disaster
Beall: In effect, the Lord states, they are adding sin to sin (the first sin being their reliance upon Assyria in Ahaz’s time; the second sin being their reliance upon Egypt against Assyria).
Oswalt: sin of concealment added to the sin of alliance. In any case, it is true that something about the human condition leads us not to confess sin but to compound it with more.
The cover-up in politics is always more serious than the initial offense; look at Gov. Christie in NJ; the scandal regarding closing down lanes on the prominent George Washington bridge to punish his political opponents; starts out denying that he knew anything about this misguided tactic; if it can be proven that he has been lying and covering up his involvement – the adding of sin to sin will be his undoing – bringing down his lofty political ambitions in the flames of shame and futility
– He reportedly just sent an email to supporters ripping David Wildstein, the former Port Authority official claiming Christie knew of the George Washington Bridge lane closures as they happened. We will see how this plays out.
How has it worked out for you when you have tried to cover up your sins instead of coming clean and repenting?
4. (:2) Repeating the Mistakes of the Past – Mirage of Worldly Assistance
“Who proceed down to Egypt, Without consulting Me,
To take refuge in the safety of Pharaoh,
And to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt!”
Motyer: Egypt is the place of death (Ex. 1:22) – Pharaoh ordering the death of all the Jewish male infants
“Without consulting Me” – Josh. 9:14 [guile of the Gibeonites – pretending to come from a far off country; making an alliance with Joshua – “did not ask for the counsel of the Lord”] – good reason not to consult God is because you suspect that God will not give you the answer you are looking for; common practice of people looking for counselors that will tell them what they want to hear
Constable: How ironic that God’s people thought they could find life in Egypt, which had historically been a place of death for them and from which they had fled formerly (cf. Exod. 1:22). Furthermore, they had done this without even consulting the Lord, a failure that had resulted in the Gibeonite compromise generations earlier (cf. Josh. 9:14). However, it seems that failure to consult God’s Word was their mistake here more than failure to pray. Rather than seeking safety under the shadow of the Almighty (Ps. 91:1), they had sought it under the shadow of Pharaoh.
Thompson: Think of how spiritually rebellious and insane this is. Israel was willing to abandon her dependency and relationship with God who freed her, for a dependency and relationship with Egypt who enslaved her.
Van Parunak: Re vv. 2-7 Three times, the Lord describes Israel’s attempt to seek help from Egypt, and three times predicts its failure.
B. (:3-5) Humiliating Outcome
1. (:3) False Security Ends In Shame
“Therefore the safety of Pharaoh will be your shame,
And the shelter in the shadow of Egypt, your humiliation.”
Constable: The safety they had sought would prove to be a delusion. The supposed protection that Pharaoh offered would result in the disappointment of hope, and the shelter that Egypt promised would turn to disgrace. The Pharaoh at this time was Shabako, a Nubian. The Egyptians were not even strong enough to provide a native Egyptian to rule them. This was a weak period in Egyptian history. I am assuming that the historical context of this prophecy was shortly before Sennacherib’s invasion of Jerusalem in 701 B.C.
Oswalt: Thus the nature of Judah’s rebellion is further underlined. It is not merely the making of a defensive alliance with a neighboring country which is so odious. It is the repudiation of a personal relationship of dependence upon and affection for their God. . . . They had in fact exchanged the shadow of the Almighty (Ps 91:1) for the shadow of one very small human being, the Pharaoh.
Thompson: The word “humiliation” is a different Hebrew word. The particular flare of this word is that God’s people would end up being shamefully wounded, insulted, disgraced, hurt and injured. Moving away from trusting God and His Word will not leave you happy. You will be bruised, pierced, and cut. You will be wounded, insulted and disgraced.
2. (:4) Irony in Trusting in Past Cities of Shame
“For their princes are at Zoan,
And their ambassadors arrive at Hanes.”
Is. 19:11, 13
MacArthur: Zoan – This major city of northern Egypt E of the Nile delta region was the first large city a Semite would encounter in traveling toward the Nile.
Beall: There is, of course, some irony that Zoan is mentioned, since Zoan was one of the places the Israelites had, years ago, served the Egyptians.
Young: Apparently Zoan and Hanes are considered as small seats of dynasties, and their mention shows that the ambassadors of Judah have penetrated the land.
Thompson: What we see here is that Israel’s ambassadors had traveled deep into the Egyptian infrastructure for help. They had selected key places which housed key leadership.
3. (:5) Impotent Help Ends In Shame
“Everyone will be ashamed because of a people who cannot profit them,
Who are not for help or profit, but for shame and also for reproach.”
Thompson: The first word for “ashamed” used here in verse 5 is a different word than the one used in verse 3 and at the end of verse 5. This particular word has to do with having a bad smell and to stink. Isaiah’s point is that instead of God’s people ending up beautiful, they end up putrid. Instead of them smelling sweet, as it were, they are a stench to the nostrils of God.
Motyer: From the feared killer (Assyria) they seek help in the proved killer (Egypt)! It is ever so when alternatives to the Lord’s salvation are chosen.
II. (:6-7) FUTILITY IS THE NAME OF THE GAME
“The oracle concerning the beasts of the Negev.”
You are opening yourself up to serious troubles when you get off God’s track of holiness and righteousness
Thompson: The Negev was the land located to the south of the Promised Land. In order for the leaders of Judah to get into Egypt, they had to pass through this land known as the Negev. . .
Rebellious people will do bizarre things to avoid turning to God and His Word, including risking their own lives and testimonies as they crawl back into a dangerous world.
A. (:6b) Forlorn Terrain of Wilderness Wanderings
“Through a land of distress and anguish,
From where come lioness and lion, viper and flying serpent,”
What’s the journey like when you get off track and are not walking with the Lord in faith and obedience? Times of distress and anguish; danger and unexpected snares and attacks; opposite of peace and rest; reversing the exodus covering the same route
Van Parunak: The doublet appears only three times: here, 8:22, and Prov 1:27 (which may be where Isaiah got it). In all three cases, it is associated with the consequences of neglecting counsel. . . Perhaps the words are also meant to recall the bondage in Egypt (Ps. 81:8).
Message of Wisdom:
Prov. 1:27-33 “When your dread comes like a storm and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you. Then they will call on me, but will not answer; they will seek me diligently but they will not find me, because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord. They would not accept my counsel, they spurned all my reproof. So they shall eat of the fruit of their own way and be satiated with their own devices. For the waywardness of the naïve will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them. But he who listens to me shall live securely and will be at ease from the dread of evil.”
Oswalt: A caravan loaded with treasures struggles through wild terrain infested with lions and snakes, all to buy the help of an old dragon who is in fact helpless. All the cost in effort and wealth will come to nothing, says the prophet.
Young: Here is one of the saddest pictures in all Scripture. Once God had led the ancestors of the nation through this very desert when He brought them from the country of their bondage (Deut. 8:15; cf. Jer. 2:6). Now, utterly unmindful of what God had once done for the nation, the people traverse this same wilderness for the purpose of seeking protection from the nation that in ancient times had been the home of their bondage.
B. (:6c) Fortunes Wasted In Soliciting the World’s Favor
“They carry their riches on the backs of young donkeys
And their treasures on camels’ humps,”
Constable: Rather than going directly to Egypt through Philistia, the Judean ambassadors had taken the circuitous and dangerous route through the Negev, probably to avoid Assyrian detection. They had taken roughly the same route as their ancestors who left Egypt in the Exodus, only traveling in the opposite direction (cf. Num. 21:6; Deut. 8:15). This irony highlights the folly of returning to Egypt for help. The Lord expressed more concern for the animals that carried the ambassadors, than for the ambassadors themselves, since the ambassadors were rebelling against Him.
Look at how the Lord had blessed the Israelites at the time of the Exodus (Ex. 12:35-36) – plundering the wealth of the Egyptians as they departed …now they are coming back and returning that wealth to the dominion of the world; to the kingdom of darkness; to the forces of Satan
C. (:6d-7a) Futility of Seeking Help From the World
“To a people who cannot profit them;
Even Egypt, whose help is vain and empty.”
Beall: Egypt will try to help, but it will be only vanity and emptiness as a result.
D. (:7b) Final Impotence of the World as a Political and Military Ally
“Therefore, I have called her ‘Rahab who has been exterminated.’”
Constable: Egypt, of all nations, would not be a help to God’s people. She would live up to the nickname that the Lord had given her (cf. Ps. 87:4). “Rahab” means pride, turbulence, arrogance, boastfulness. There is no intended connection with Rahab the harlot (Josh. 2). In popular Ugaritic legend, Rahab was a sea monster, or a dragon. Her promises of help would be worth nothing. Rahab was a “do nothing” ally. This dragon would prove to be toothless (unable to ward off Assyria).
Van Parunak: “Strength” is רהב , the name of the legendary sea monster, applied to Egypt in Ps 87:4; 89:10. Egypt would like to think of itself as a powerful monster. But in fact God calls her, “Sit-still,” “Do-nothing.”
Young: In the eyes of the Egyptians and possibly of men generally, they were regarded as a Rahab, a powerful monster that could devour and destroy. In reality, however, they were but a resting. This latter word designates a ceasing of activity, a period of resting . . . so as a power that can be of no help to God’s people.
Johnson: This is what Isaiah is saying about Egypt. They are a big mouth but they won’t do you any good. They are arrogants, but they sit still. . . Now Egypt remember was an old country at this time. It had a great history and the ancient world respected Egypt for its past and they knew it, and consequently Egypt made a lot of promises based on the dignity in which they were held in the ancient world, but they did not live up to them and that’s what Isaiah is referring to. They are just a big mouth do nothing. There is a lot of blustering inactivity as far as Egypt is concerned.
Shame and Futility – not the desired outcome for any of us – yet the Lord assures us this will be our outcome if we forsake His counsel and devise man-made strategies and form alliances with the world.
RETURNING TO EGYPT IS THE PATHWAY TO SHAME AND FUTILITY