What You Wish For

By Walter Diepeveen

The closer I walk with God the more I long to understand His character and His thoughts. Of course, I can only see through a glass dimly in this lifetime. And as a created human being, I could never come close to fully understanding the Creator of all things. But the more I study Scripture and the more time I spend with Him, the better I am able to know Him and appreciate Him. Though I do spend a great deal of time studying the Bible (basically looking back), and I am eagerly expecting Christ’s imminent return (looking forward), the real purpose for my life is to have a dynamic relationship with God: to know Him and to love Him, HERE and NOW.

Matthew 22:34-37

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.”

I have found that the older I get, the more sentimental I get about family and old friends… Not that it’s such a bad thing. So I got to wondering if the Lord God could be considered sentimental, so to speak. Well, I think I found an interesting answer as I recently focused on Isaiah 19 and the Oracle concerning Egypt. With Egypt being in the news so much lately (as 2012 closes), this portion of Scripture reads more and more like the daily news. The opening verses of chapter 19 figuratively poked me in the eye. Probably a lot of us have been drawn to the first verses of this chapter. In particular:

Isaiah 19:2

“I will stir up Egyptian against Egyptian - brother will fight against brother, neighbor against neighbor, city against city, kingdom against kingdom.”

But I kept reading to the end of the chapter…

Isaiah 19:23-25

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 verses 23 to 25 are a fascinating revelation of God’s sentimental nature. It speaks of 3 people groups, and their place in His heart and their position in His coming Kingdom. These people groups are the ones He was most acquainted with during the early history of His chosen people Israel, and during the early years of His very own Son’s walk on this Earth.

So the Lord calls 1) Egypt “My people”, 2) Assyria “My handiwork”, and 3) Israel “My inheritance”.

The latter 2 ‘nicknames’ are fairly straight forward and I personally find they don’t hold nearly as deep a meaning for me as a gentile believer. We know from Biblical history that the Israel’s genetic roots trace back to Abraham.

Genesis 15:4-7

Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

He also said to him, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.”

Abraham was Assyrian, from Ur of the Chaldeans. This is the ancient city of Sumer in Mesopotamia (ancient Assyria/modern day Iran). Thus His original 'handiwork', if you will.

Again from Scripture, we also know that the land of Canaan (present day Israel) is the land promised to Abraham and his descendants as an inheritance - forever. So the 'inheritance' reference is also straight forward. Though we could also delve into the topic of just where the boundaries are really supposed to spread out to…

Numbers 34:1-2

And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, “Command the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye come into the land of Canaan; (this is the land that shall fall unto you for an inheritance, even the land of Canaan with the coasts thereof.”

Now keep in mind that Israel are the ‘chosen people’ and Jesus is a Jew (from the lineage of Judah). There are many other reference in our English Bibles that call Israel "My people". “Let My people go” from Exodus 5, for example. But this Isaiah reference has another flavor to it.

Out of the three nations named in Isaiah 19:25, the reference to Egypt speaks the most loudly to me personally. It tells of a relationship through fellowship rather than by inheritance and bloodline, and thus the sentimental nature of the "My people" reference. You can’t be sentimental unless you have spent time with someone or been at some place for a good while. It is similar to the way I feel about those I grew up with and most fondly remember from my childhood. I can pick up a conversation with many of them still some 40 years later and recall shared memories. I can also be sentimental when I look back at my old neighborhood with all of its memories, good and bad.

Over centuries, we can see that Egypt has attained some sort of sentimental place in God’s heart. There is a lot of Hebrew history there. Jesus lived there in his early childhood. That alone might be enough to explain Isaiah 19 and the odd mention of Egypt as being “My people.” I’m sure Jesus has many great childhood memories from there. Did He see the pyramids? Did He enjoy camel rides?

Matthew 2:12-14

And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way. And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt.

But long before Jesus walked the Earth, Egypt's story starts to intertwine with Israel's. Abraham had his actual firstborn son Ishmael through his Egyptian concubine Hagar. This of course greatly affected the whole course of history; we’re still dealing with the consequences to this day. Abraham’s oldest son Ishmael is the father of the Arab nations. And as is obvious from the daily headlines, the Arab people (in general) are insanely jealous of the Jewish descendants of Abraham. They’re never at peace with them (or with each other - as was prophesied). So with Hagar we have the introduction of Egypt into the history of God’s chosen people.

Genesis 16:1-12

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.”Abram agreed to what Sarai said. So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress.

Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the Lord judge between you and me.”

 “Your slave is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her.

 The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?”

“I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered.

Then the angel of the Lord told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” The angel added, “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.”

The angel of the Lord also said to her: “You are now pregnant and you will give birth to a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard of your misery. He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.”

Not very long after Abraham’s involvement with Hagar, we have the entire family of his grandson Jacob/Israel moving to Egypt. This was after one of Jacob’s 12 sons, Joseph, was sold there by his brothers and ended up rising to be Pharaoh's 2nd in command. The Hebrews ended up spending over 400 years there... That is about 8 generations that then fruitfully multiplied from the original 12 sons into 12 tribes numbering perhaps into the millions. It’s understandable that Egypt is ‘in their bones’ so to speak with so many Israelites having grown up there. And there are many Hebrew bones still there. We mostly think of the very bad ending, when God delivered Israel from Egypt through Moses. That coupled with the current animosity tends to make us think there was always bad blood. But I am certain that there was much good history and fellowship for at least a couple of generations with the original Egyptians. God was present in Egypt with the Israelites all of that time too. So Israel basically had her childhood there. Just as it was for Jesus, it’s also their old neighborhood. It’s where they grew up.

Exodus 12:40-41

Now the length of time the Israelite people lived in Egypt was 430 years. At the end of the 430 years, to the very day, all the Lord’s divisions left Egypt.

So, as a gentile believer, the relationship God has (and will have) with Egypt strikes a chord with me. Isaiah 19:25 resonates within me. I was not born into the Hebrew bloodline, so I’m not a natural-born recipient of His affection or interest. This is also true for the majority of Christians in fact. In this Age of Grace, we only come into our share of His inheritance (and forgiveness) through salvation in Jesus Christ. But as I have come to better understand His ‘Commandment’ to love Him, I am more aware of His desire to fellowship and to walk with me. He wants to do more than ‘just’ save me. There is an intimacy we all need to aspire to in this short lifetime. I personally want the Lord God to be sentimental about my history with Him. I want Him to look back fondly at my walk with Him and the time we spent together.

The Lord God is keenly aware and touched by the events we are witnessing in Egypt in these last days by the way. And He points out in Isaiah 19 that He’s looking forward to the time when Israel is reconciled with her old acquaintances/family in Egypt and Assyria, and the bitterness and separation ends.

The intertwined histories of Israel (His family/chosen people) and Egypt (what I would call His 'familiar' people) are to me only one of the many profound examples of God’s love for all of us and His accepting, inclusive, and very sentimental nature. He is a loving Father. He desires for each of us to walk with Him and make good memories together.

Hidden in Christ,

Walter Diepeveen