Judah After Israel’s Fall (background information)
With Assyria threatening conquest, Judah begins to look for help wherever it can be found. Alliance with Egypt was a possibility. At this time, Egypt was ruled by Cushites from Ethiopia. Isaiah is most displeased. Why should God’s people rely on the military strength of Egypt? In chapters 18, 19 and 20 he speaks out in judgment against Egypt and Cush.
In Isaiah chapter 20, the prophet goes even farther. At God’s direction, he protests by going naked for three years! (It may be that Isaiah is only stripped of his outer clothes. But still, to go about in only his underwear is certainly an affront to his dignity.) God chose the occasion of Sargon’s attack against Ashdod in 711 B. C. to explain further why Isaiah has seemingly disgraced himself. Ashdod (a Philistine city) has been allied with Egypt against Assyria.
Isaiah will be proved correct in his assessment of Egypt. Instead of saving Judah from Assyria, Egypt (under Pharaoh Neco II) will actually become one of Judah’s oppressors.
Remember, Isaiah was an educated and urbane prophet. He was at home in the corridors of power. So it should come to no surprise that he never balked at direct political involvement. He consistently lobbied against alliances with any foreign powers. Where we pick up today (beginning of chapter 18), he warns against the “ambassadors by the sea” coming from Cush. Jeremiah the prophet, like Isaiah, denounced Judah’s alliance with Egypt (Jeremiah 37:7 – 11).
Today’s Scripture Text:(click to open in a new window)
1. What would your life be like if you were a head taller? A head shorter?
2. On hot summer days, how do you beat the heat?
3. During 715 B. C. envoys of Cush (Ethiopia) tried to persuade Jerusalem to align with them against Assyria. How would you sum up God’s answer (verses 3 – 6), which they are to bring to the “aggressive nation” (likely Assyria)?
4. What do the images of the summer heat, the morning dew and the farmer pruning his garden show about the way God will work with Assyria? How do the events of Isaiah 37:36 – 38 illustrate the lesson of verses 5 and 6?
5. How does this message broadly apply to all the world (verse 3)? What banner will God raise (see chapter 5:26; chapter 11:10, 12)?
6. Beyond the Assyrian crisis, what ultimately will result from God’s work among the nations (verse 7; see also Isaiah 2:2 – 4; chapter 9:6, 7; chapter 11:10 – 12; chapter 14:1, 2; chapter 16:4, 5 and Psalms 68:31)?
7. If God’s purpose for the nations is unchanged, how does this affect the way you pray for countries that seem most fearsome to you?
8. How has the “banner” of the cross transformed someone feared far and wide into someone close to Christ? The Ethiopian eunuch in Acts chapter 8 is one example. Who else comes to mind?
9. In your life, who has been God’s “heat” and “dew”? How might you be like that to someone you know who is feared far and wide? What would it take for you to do so?