TODAY’S READING: Isaiah 18–22
Concurrent to the fierce king Sargon’s rise in Babylon was that of Piankhy in Egypt. Sweeping up from Sudan, Piankhy instituted a dynasty known as “The Black Pharaohs” that overran Egypt and gave hope to smaller nations of the Fertile Crescent that they could rebel against Babylon. With the promise of Egyptian support, the smaller nations of Palestine (Philistia, Moab, and Edom) banded together and invited Judah to join them. Some in Judah looked to this coalition and the promise of Egyptian support as their answer—but Isaiah objected. Some of Isaiah’s harshest messages were aimed at either Egypt or those who looked to Egypt for deliverance rather than looking to Jehovah.
In light of this history, Isaiah 18:7 has been precious to all who have lived in Sudan: “In that time a present will be brought to the Lord of hosts from a people tall and smooth of skin, and from a people terrible from their beginning onward, a nation powerful and treading down, whose land the rivers divide—to the place of the name of the Lord of hosts, to Mount Zion.” We must look at geo-politics through a missionary lens. Shebna looked at the world around him with fear, and desiring political freedom from Babylon he suggested the nation turn to the powerful Sudanese Pharaoh (22:15–25). Isaiah looked at the same world, conscious of the same threats, through the lens of the glory and power of God. Rather than bowing to the powers of the day, Isaiah thundered out a missionary message. Isaiah said “go” for we are messengers to the nations (18:2). He said when God lifts up a banner, all the nations will see it (v. 3). Isaiah mentioned God’s view of harvest (v. 5) and that it all ends with the nations bowing before the King of glory.
The Sargons of history rotate, one after another, rising and falling; each terrible in their day, each with the same fate: every one of them ultimately bowing before the only true Potentate of time. We should look at the intimidating peoples and princes of our time neither as enemies to be feared nor allies to deliver us from our fears, but as potential worshipers. Before Jehovah all Sargons are very, very small.
Today, we pray for the five million Muslim Amhara of Ethiopia. The Bible will often translate “Cush” as Ethiopia, but historically Cush is present day Sudan. When Cush was at its zenith, it included some of present day Ethiopia, so I am sure the Lord doesn’t mind if the prophecies of Isaiah are applied to Ethiopia alongside Sudan, Egypt, and Assyria. Truly, may Sudanese, Ethiopians, Egyptians, Iraqis (Assyrians), and Israelis, the great peoples of history and of our time, bring the offerings of their lives and lay them at the feet of Jesus. For this we pray.
And we remind ourselves when under national distress, the answer is not in political or military alliances. The answer is in missionary messaging: Enemies shall become co-worshipers.