Read Isaiah 31
Woe to Those Who Rely on Egypt
31 Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help,
who rely on horses,
who trust in the multitude of their chariots
and in the great strength of their horsemen,
but do not look to the Holy One of Israel,
or seek help from the Lord.
2 Yet he too is wise and can bring disaster;
he does not take back his words.
He will rise up against that wicked nation,
against those who help evildoers.
3 But the Egyptians are mere mortals and not God;
their horses are flesh and not spirit.
When the Lord stretches out his hand,
those who help will stumble,
those who are helped will fall;
all will perish together.
4 This is what the Lord says to me:
“As a lion growls,
a great lion over its prey—
and though a whole band of shepherds
is called together against it,
it is not frightened by their shouts
or disturbed by their clamor—
so the Lord Almighty will come down
to do battle on Mount Zion and on its heights.
5 Like birds hovering overhead,
the Lord Almighty will shield Jerusalem;
he will shield it and deliver it,
he will ‘pass over’ it and will rescue it.”
6 Return, you Israelites, to the One you have so greatly revolted against. 7 For in that day every one of you will reject the idols of silver and gold your sinful hands have made.
8 “Assyria will fall by no human sword;
a sword, not of mortals, will devour them.
They will flee before the sword
and their young men will be put to forced labor.
9 Their stronghold will fall because of terror;
at the sight of the battle standard their commanders will panic,”
declares the Lord,
whose fire is in Zion,
whose furnace is in Jerusalem.
This chapter echoes a similar message to the previous one. It was foolish for Judah to put their trust in the Egyptian army instead of the Lord for protection. They thought maybe if they could get some military alliances, they would have a chance to stand against the Assyrian army. The Assyrian empire was the world superpower of the time. Israel had already been overrun by the Assyrians and they were threatening to do the same thing to Judah.
Judah was looking to find security in anything other than the Lord. They thought this alliance with Egypt was wisdom, but it ended up being foolish. First Corinthians tells us that the “wisdom of the world is foolishness in God’s sight” (1 Corinthians 3:19). Judah was idolizing the Egyptians, who were “men, not God ” and their horses that were “flesh and not spirit” (v. 3). They were finding their confidence in the creation and not in the Creator. Creation is no match for God’s power.
Psalm 20:7 says that “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” Judah was putting their trust in chariots, relying on horses, and the strength of a military alliance. We too, can put our trust in the things of this world. We often tend to rely on our own strength in times of trouble instead of seeking the Lord who is our “refuge and our strength” (Psalm 46:1). God can be our last resort when we are facing trials instead of our first.
The chapter closes with a promise that Assyria will fall, but “not by human sword” (v. 8). This promise might have seemed unimaginable to the Jews, but it was fulfilled exactly. In Isaiah 37, God sent an angel of the Lord and killed 185,000 Assyrians overnight. This had nothing to do with the “sword of man” but only by the power and the strength of God. The people rose up in pride, and God quickly humbled them. He is not terrified by the shouts of His enemies or subdued by their nose (v. 4). God cannot be humbled by any man or by any army, but He willingly chose to humble himself through Christ by taking the form of a servant and dying on a cross. The Lord cannot be humbled, but His Kingdom is as humble as death.
- What is your first resort in times of trouble?
- Where do you most often go seek wisdom first: the world or God’s Word?
- When in your life have you seen God come through in unexpected ways?
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