Today’s Reading: Isaiah 18-20; 30-31
The theme in today’s reading is God’s response to Assyria, Egypt, and Israel as Israel charts a course through the political intrigues of the day. God speaks of himself as quietly “steering the ship” of current political events and, in this light, his word to Israel is, “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.” (Is. 15) Amazingly, Isaiah tells Israel that, “the Lord longs to be gracious to you” (Is. 30:18) and “How gracious he will be when you cry for help. As soon as he hears, he will answer you.” (Is. 30:19) Throughout this section we also see God’s ultimate concern for the good of the rest of the world. How encouraging to us today that God has not changed and, as the Bible’s story continues to be unfolded, such promises are meant for us too.
On Sunday we looked at the concept of “picturing” the accounts in our daily reading, whether it is a story or a graphic description. The idea is to imagine what it would be like to be a part of what we are reading and ask yourself some questions: How would you feel? How would you respond as each of the different characters? With whom do you identify most? What might God be saying to you through this passage? Then take a few minutes to write down your thoughts, observations, questions, and any action steps you need to take.
The suggested passage for today might have seemed somewhat odd:
In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth. The Lord Almighty will bless them, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance.” (Isaiah 19:23-25)
But can you imagine how this would have sounded to the people of that day? Put in today’s terms, it would be like saying, “There is a day coming when the borders between China, the US, and Iran will be completely open. These nations will join together to worship God with Israel and all will enjoy God’s blessing.” What a shocking statement Isaiah’s words would have been to Israel, considering the fear and hatred with which they viewed a nation like Assyria. Given that other nations were very aware of the things that Isaiah was saying, you can imagine how amused some might have been when they heard. Though this prophecy, like many others we are reading, has not yet been fulfilled, God’s track record of bringing about what he promised has proven to be reliable and alarmingly precise! Something to think about.