Isaiah 30–31. Seeking Shelter in the Shadow of Egypt.
Key Notes: Assyria knows Egypt is powerless. Horses. Sit and wait. Listen for God.
King of the Day. Hezekiah was a godly man, the opposite of his father, Ahaz.
"He removed the high places and broke the pillars and cut down the Asherah." (IIK.18:4). "He trusted in the Lord the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him." (IIK18:4)
"He rebelled against the king of Assyria and would not serve him." (IIK18:7)
"In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and took them. And Hezekiah...sent to the king of Assyria at Lachish, saying, I have done wrong; withdraw from me; whatever you impose on me I will bear. And the king of Assyria required of Hezekiah...three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold." (IIK.18:14).
The Assyrian agreement was worthless, because the Assyrian army was soon at the gates of Jerusalem again. They have a spokesman, a gifted military commander, the Rabshekeh.
The Rabshekeh commander addressed Hezekiah at the time of the siege :
"On whom do you now rely, that you have rebelled against me? Behold, you are relying now on Egypt, that broken reed of a staff, which will pierce the hand of any man who leans on it." (IIK.18:20–21)
Egypt's reputation was well-known. The Assyrians knew that Egypt would rather duck than fight. So Isaiah, the prophet of God, and Assyria, Israel's mortal enemy, speak the same word: don't rely on Egypt. But Hezekiah evidently had not resisted the temptation, so Isaiah's word is to him as well as his people.
In these chapters, Judah is sternly warned against trying to pit Egypt against Assyria. It was a strategic policy to try to get Egypt's help against the terrorists of the north. Isaiah alone stands before the political tide and he seems quite unreasonable.
Isa.30:1–7 Going down to Egypt for help will turn out to be embarrassing: "shame, humiliation and disgrace." The envoys with their gifts for Egypt have to go through the miserable Negev desert because the Gaza corridor is already occupied by the Assyrians.
"Egypt's help is worthless and empty; there I have called her 'Rahab who sits still.'"
30:8–17 Hezekiah as king is seeking the Lord, but his reforms are from the top down and the people are still rebellious:
"Seers, see not."
"Prophet, prophesy not what is right; speak to us smooth things, prophesy illusion.”
“Let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel.”
The prophet pleads with them to return and be at rest, but Judah will take off on fast horses--and lose.
"In returning and rest you shall be saved;
in quietness and in trust shall be your strength"
Israel has a history with Egypt and its horses that goes back to the Exodus.
"The Egyptians pursued them, all Pharaoh's horses and chariots and his horsemen and his army and overtook them encamped at the sea...." (Ex.14:9). God saved them at the Red Sea when they stood still and waited until God destroyed the Egyptian cavalry.
"Only he (your future king) must not multiply horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt in order to multiply horses, since the Lord has said to you, 'You shall never return that way again.'" (Deut.17:16)
"And Solomon's import of horses was from Egypt and Kue....a chariot could be imported from Egypt for six hundred shekels of silver, and a horse for a hundred and fifty, and so through the king's traders they were exported to all the kings of the Hittites and the kings of Syria." (IK.10:28).
Solomon's lucrative trading made him and Israel rich, but unwittingly armed his future enemies, the Syrians! [Did we not ship scrap iron to the Japanese before WWII? ]
God does not see as man sees.
Isa.30:18–26 But God waits to be merciful. He will hear when they cry. They will see their Teacher, and hear His word of direction. They will say "Be-gone" to their idols! The land will again prosper.
Isa.30:27–33 The Lord is coming like a devouring fire to destroy the nations. But Israel will have songs in the night, as if in a holy festival. God will strike the Assyrians, and it will be like music to Judah's ears. A burning place kindled by the Lord has been prepared in Topheth, the Valley of Hinnom or “Gehenna”. This was the dump south of the wall of Jerusalem.
Isa.31:1–3 Israel looks to Egypt and not the Holy One of Israel.
31:4–5 But the Lord will be like a lion with a lamb against a band of shepherds: He will growl over Jerusalem and not let it go.
31:6–9 Judah must return to God from whom they have deeply revolted. They will cast away their idols because the Assyrians will fall, but not by the swords of the army of Judah.
The temptation to make whatever political alliance possible against Assyria was irresistible. What ruler would not do everything he could to save his people? The prophet's word is counter-intuitive: Do nothing except sit and wait for the Lord. Egypt is "Rahab who sits still." (30:7). Israel must sit still also?
There are times in our lives when doing nothing is the right thing to do. Desperate situations provoke desperate reactions. How are we to know whether to fly or fight or sit tight? Providentially, the answer comes to us in the passage:
"Your Teacher will not hide himself any more, but your eyes shall see your Teacher [in the flesh]. And your ears shall hear a word behind you (the Holy Spirit), saying, 'This is the way, walk in it,' when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left." (Isa.30:20–21)
Many of us have had the experience of God's direct guidance in unusual circumstances. The goal, however, is to be under His guidance at all times.
"I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you (or I will guide you with my eye). Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, else it will not keep with you." (Psa.32:9)
Guiding with the eye requires responding to small signals. Guiding with bit and bridle is responding to gross signals. (The whip is not mentioned). We should be attuned to God's direction as a way of life.
Each morning we lift our hands to the Lord and ask, "What do You want me to do today?"