Israel was in trouble. Outside pressures were mounting. While a few years earlier had offered a time of great prosperity and advancement for the nation, the current climate was not as positive. Assyria was pressuring from the north. The economy was going into a recession. Israel as a nation was not as strong as they once had been. As things were falling apart internally the question became, who or what could provide support and strength to withstand the impending tide of destruction.
Thinking through the situation politically, the government decided an alliance with a strong ally would help to stop the impending doom. The ally would be Egypt. Egypt was strong enough to stand up to the king of Assyria and posed a lesser threat of wanting to rule the country of Israel internally. It was thought that Egypt was the answer to all that troubled Israel. Egypt could save the day.
However, Isaiah knows that Egypt was never the answer. No outside power or alliance was ever the reason for Israel’s success. Israel did not survive because they were shrewd politically, they survived because God declared it. Isaiah reminds them of this and the futility in trusting in some foreign power for their peace and security.
“Alas for those who go down to Egypt for help and who rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the Lord!” – Isaiah 31:1
God was all they needed for security. God was all they needed to be safe. Had they placed their trust in God and followed God wholeheartedly they would have had nothing to fear. However, if you know the story you realize that Israel failed to trust in God. They failed to follow God with all their hearts, and so they eventually were defeated and went into exile.
It’s easy to look back on ancient Israel and recognize their mistakes. Why would they ever trust in Egypt to save them? Egypt, of all places, had been the nation they had needed rescued from. Egypt had oppressed them, had enslaved them, had even hunted them down trying to destroy them. God was clearly more powerful than Egypt, it had already been proven on multiple occasions. Was Israel so quick to forget its own history?
An even bigger question though is why would Israel think any nation would save them? Why would Israel waste its time putting their trust in some nation or thing. Had God not proven time and time again that Yahweh alone was all powerful? Had God not made it clear that Israel had nothing to fear as long as they remained faithful to Jehovah?
It’s always easier to see the mistakes of others and lament the situation. What is harder is honestly looking at our own lives and trying to decipher in what things have we placed our hope and trust instead of God almighty? When we get sick where is the first place we turn? When a financial crisis emerges, how do we respond? When our personal safety, or the safety of our family is threatened, who do we hope will come to our rescue? I am thankful for medical professionals who have dedicated their lives to helping heal the sick. I am grateful for financial advisers who have studied market analysis and know how to give wise financial advice. I’m in debt to the men and women who work in law enforcement and daily put themselves in harms way in order to keep the rest of us safe. Yet I need to ask myself, when difficult situations arise, is God my first response, or is prayer something that happens later? Is my trust in the professionals, or in the one who created all things? It sadly is too easy to trust our knowledge and experience of what we think should be right instead of trusting in God.
May our hope and trust always be in the Lord, even when it doesn’t make sense.