Readings: Isaiah 18,19,20 and Isaiah 22:1-14
Well, our trip on the O&C trail has been canceled. The fate of covid wins in this household again My husband is still not vaccinated and has a legitimate fear of venturing out in public. The weather is supposed to lift and be beautiful this weekend, bringing large crowds to all outdoor excursions placing him at threat of exposure. We are so close to freedom and trail trekking, I can just taste it.
Our story in the OT stems also from fear. The protagonist in our story, King Hezekiah, begins to have fear of the Assyrians. He begins to contemplate making an alliance with Egypt/Ethiopia. I would like to spend a little time today in Ethiopia and Egypt. During this time period, the king of Ethiopia, Tirhakah, was creating his own empire and had taken over Egypt, combining the Ethiopian and Egyptian kingdoms. Tirhakah was trying to join forces with the nation of Judah against Assyria. (Isaiah 37:9) Hezekiah now has to make the decision in what to do. We will focus on his decision in future study, his fear, and misplaced trust.
Our readings today are in Isaiah 18, 19, 20. We spend time in Isaiah, because Isaiah, the prophet, and King Hezekiah were very close. Later we will learn that Hezekiah listened to the prophet and sought Isiah’s advice after making some poor decisions because of fear. So many of the prophecies that we find in Isaiah about Ethiopia and Egypt stem from the alliance that Hezekiah was contemplating. Spoiler alert, the Lord was not real keen on this alliance, and this is evident as you read the passages in these chapters.
Ethiopia also has an interesting history with Israel, a not-so-distant history, that many scholars ponder if Isaiah predicted the “They (the Ethiopians) will bring the gifts to Jerusalem, where the Lord of Heaven’s Armies dwells.” of verse 18:8. Thousands of Ethiopian Jews in the 1980s were taken to Israel. There is an ancient theory that King Solomon had a son with the queen of Ethiopia, Queen Sheba, leading to a line of Jewish heritage among this people group. The Jews that were brought to Israel, were said to be descendants of the tribe of Dan, one of the 10 tribes of the northern kingdom that were dispersed after the Assyrian invasion. A little history always shines a brighter light on any story. I have attached a link to an article written in the LA Times about this event in history. It is very fascinating. (1)
Today, I want you to think about the things that you fear. Do you fear getting the Covid vaccine? We have all lived in fear for an entire year now. Fear of invasion of a virus into our homes, into our lives. Imagine what fears the people of Judah were experiencing as their friends in the north were being dispersed all over the world. Would you make an alliance to save yourself? As I’m writing, I’m thinking….. maybe that’s what people that fear the vaccine are thinking. This factoid just hit close to home. My brother and sister in law who both suffer from COPD; they are not Christians, have decided to not get the vaccine. If they are invaded by this virus, they will die. Fear is the culprit they are experiencing, not the vaccine. Not the virus. We can’t make decisions based on fear. We can only make alliances with God. My husband tried to talk with them, but they are not listening. Their only thoughts are of the political climate. I’m sure the political climate during this time in history was not much different from today, the Assyrians versus the Judeans/Ethiopians/Egyptians. Today it’s the republicans versus the democrats; the far-right versus the left. And you know what, I bet God would write the same story. They are all wrong. Dead wrong. God said in Isaiah 22:11, “You never asked for help from the One who did all this. You never considered the One who planned this long ago.” I think He would say the same thing today.
If we are to take a lesson from our Ethiopian/ Egyptian friends, let’s look to what the Lord writes to them in Isaiah 19: 19 -22, an alliance with God that has already occurred or will in the future. ( remember when this was written the two territories were as one) Maybe we have seen the fruition of this prophecy in our lifetime. It’s a very interesting theory.
19 On that day there will be an altar to Adonai in the middle of the land of Egypt, as well as a standing-stone for Adonai at its border. 20 It will be a sign and witness to Adonai–Tzva’ot in the land of Egypt; so that when they cry out to Adonai for help because of the oppressors, he will send them a savior to defend and rescue them.
21 Adonai will make himself known to Egypt;
on that day, the Egyptians will know Adonai.
They will worship him with sacrifices and offerings,
they will make vows to Adonai and keep them.
22 Yet Adonai will strike Egypt, both striking and healing,
so they will return to Adonai.
He will listen to their prayers,
and he will heal them. – (from the Complete Jewish Bible Translation)
(1)www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1985-07-07-mn-9368-story.html , Saga of Secret Airlift : Ethiopian Jews: Exodus of a Tribe, 1985