One of the amazing aspects of the bible is that it is timeless in its central themes. Though the cultures of the human authors in scripture were different from our own, though science and technology were basically nonexistent then, though information came forth at that time in a slow trickle, and in our day in an uncontrollable torrent, we find that God’s word still speaks powerfully and practically to us in the 21st century. How is this so? Two very simple reasons: the nature of mankind has not changed, nor has the nature of God. Everything on the outside of us has changed innumerable times over the millennia, but nothing in the core of human nature has changed a bit. The character of God has neither dissolved nor evolved over time, and the bible constantly brings these two things into contact: you and God.
“Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and 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
Here’s an example of how we can go back in time 2,600 years and find ourselves standing right in the middle of God’s activity. Israel had experienced so much good from God, but they displayed a constant unwillingness to trust Him completely. He had made them multitudes of promises, but they were repeatedly skeptical of His goodness. He warned them of consequences as often as He reminded them of rewards – Israel struggled to trust God about both. Ultimately, when severe trouble hit them, and when their enemies loomed large, they found themselves turning somewhere other than to their Maker for protection. They were impatient and needed something quick, they were faithless and looked for something quantifiable and they were thirsty for rescue and desperate for something to quench them. It was here where they diverted from God and sought out the immediate help of Egypt. It would prove soon enough to be a dismal decision. Certainly God’s grace would find them in the end but only after much pain and unnecessary difficulty.
Why was Israel so quick to turn from God and turn toward the quickest, most available, most attainable offer of help? The same reason that you and I do so.
It’s a good thing for us to ponder the object of our assurance. Where, really, is your hope aimed? You likely went to bed last night or woke up today thinking, “If only ______, then I could ________ .” Some of you are in a rush and you are being tempted to seek out your own personal Egyptian escape plan. Trusting God is wearing you out, waiting seems impractical, time is slipping away, the deadline is looming, God is not connecting with what you need Him to do, nobody understands, and you are certainly not willing to risk it much longer. We begin to rehearse that famous biblical quotation that is not actually in the bible as we preach to ourselves, “God helps those who help themselves!” Egypt is right there in front of us offering aid and security while we feel foolish standing still in God’s appointed place for us awaiting His next move.
So we travel southward. We pack our bags. We experience the satisfaction of taking initiative. We… make…something…happen.
Go back and read the big verse from Isaiah 31 above. God never denies that your Egyptian horses and chariots and strong horsemen aren’t available. He knows that there are alternatives to trusting Him in the face of danger. He recognizes the existence of these options for us, and He simply tells us that what we need cannot be provided by these human avenues of help. Look at the words He uses to describe what’s going on in our hearts when we commit to shortcuts in the journey of faith: we go down…we rely…we trust…we do not look to God…we do not trust Him. I must now insert the troubling words that God shares with His straying children a few verses later in Isaiah 31 as they seek help from unworthy sources: “The Egyptians are man, and not God, and their horses are flesh, and not spirit. When the Lord stretches out His hand, the helper will stumble, and he who is helped will fall, and they will all perish together.” Isaiah 31:3.
Yet note this immediate word of promise for anyone who will remain still and remember that their God is trustworthy: “The Lord of hosts will protect Jerusalem; He will protect and deliver it; He will spare and rescue it.” Isaiah 31:5. You see, Israel had to learn this (yet again) the hard way. You don’t have to. God speaks to us today before we give in to the temptation to seek our security in lesser things like money, new locations, people, human promises, government programs or self-effort. God whispers to us to stay put and trust Him unto the 11th hour if necessary. Your Egyptian seductress will prove to be poison if you drink her up. Your God will prove (yet again) to be One who loves you too much to jeopardize His holy name by failing to come through on His promise. You are taking the test. You are learning where your faith rests, where your trust resides. Egypt offers immediate relief from impending danger. Egypt never comes through because different dangers await you in Egypt. But God’s place for you is not there. He tells you to wait. He tells you to stop panicking. He tells you that He has plans for you that have nothing to do with the temptress in Egypt. He’s letting you find out if you believe in Him.
So be still and remember that He is your God.
Believe that for another day and refuse to listen to the voices in Egypt.
There’s nothing for you there.