Friday in the First Week of Advent

Isaiah 19:16-25

The Future Conversion of Egypt and Assyria

Today we have another passage that contains a wonderful prophecy, the fulfillment of which is hard to clarify.  Isaiah and virtually all the prophets speak of coming judgment only to turn around and declare a promised future in which a remnant will turn to the Lord.  In this case, however, it’s not a remnant of Israel or Judah but the conversion of outright pagan nations that is prophesied.

Egypt and Assyria were constant enemies and aggressors of God’s people Israel.  In a way, Egypt was the archenemy.  It was from Egypt that Israel was delivered in the great exodus of the fifteenth century, B.C.  There they were slaves for roughly four hundred years; there they had endured cruel oppression, even the genocidal policies of Pharaoh; and there the Lord parted the Red Sea for them while He drowned the pursuing Egyptians in those same waters (Exodus 1-15).  Their deliverance from Egypt would always be commemorated in the annual celebration of the Passover, and looked upon as THE event in their history that made them who they were.  It was just after that event that the Lord gave them His Law on Mount Sinai through His servant, Moses.  By God’s command, they were never to return to Egypt.  (Many indeed broke that command after being conquered by the Babylonians in 586 B.C., Jeremiah 42 & 43.)  They were a perennial threat over the centuries.

If the Egyptians were the major threat to the south, the Assyrians were the worse threat to the north.  The Assyrians were fierce warriors who controlled much of Mesopotamia in the eighth century, B.C.  They eventually carried off the ten northern tribes of Israel in 721 B.C., and reduced the southern kingdom of Judah to a vassal state for several years after that.

And warfare continues between these three countries even today.  But this passage speaks of an entirely new day, when the Lord will make Himself known to both Egypt and Assyria.  Isaiah even speaks of a highway between the future converted nations, that highway obviously being the nation of Israel as it so conveniently lies between the two.  It could be that this prophecy experienced a partial fulfillment in the first few centuries, A.D., when Christians inhabited all three countries, the major locations being Alexandria, Jerusalem, and Antioch.  But surely it awaits a greater fulfillment when “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea,” and all three nations shall embrace the gospel (Isaiah 11:9).

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