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Assyria was riding high. They were knocking off kingdoms left and right. The northern kingdom of Israel was a recent victim. The southern kingdom of Judah was rightfully worried. Assyria said they were coming after them next. What would Judah do? In their time of great need, to whom would they turn? In a word, Egypt; they were strong, and they didn’t like Assyrians. God wasn’t pleased with their decision: “Ah, stubborn children,” declares the Lord, “who carry out a plan, but not mine, and who make an alliance, but not of my Spirit, that they may add sin to sin; who set out to go down to Egypt, without asking for my direction, to take refuge in the protection of Pharaoh and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt!” (Isaiah 30:1-2)
Why would Judah run to Egypt when God was right there? God knows why: “For they [Judah] are a rebellious people, lying children, children unwilling to hear the instruction of the Lord; who say to the seers, ‘Do not see,’ and to the prophets, ‘Do not prophesy to us what is right; speak to us smooth things, prophesy illusions, leave the way, turn aside from the path, let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel’” (vv. 9-11).
In other words, “We are tired of hearing from a God who asks difficult things.” What were those difficult things? This is what God would have them do. “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength” (v. 15). What’s so difficult, you may ask, about what God wanted; returning, rest, quietness, and trust?
Returning is to admit going the wrong way; rest is to acknowledge God’s got this; quietness is to wait in faith and to trust is to have hope. These are spiritual disciplines difficult for us; saying instead: “No! We will flee upon horses” (v. 16)—choosing to head to Egypt instead.
The irony is that they thought freedom was found in a land that had actually enslaved them for centuries. Talk about returning to your vomit.
We are quite capable of the same. We have enemies; we have challenges; we get overwhelmed. The temptation is to return to the very things God has delivered us from. Perhaps confidence in self; or dependence upon others—maybe it’s a bottle, maybe some other vice. Whatever our Egypt is, it will fail us; in fact, it may enslave us anew.
Which leads us back to God; what is He doing when we are on our horse? The same thing He has done time and time again: “Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore He exalts Himself to show mercy to you” (v. 18). He’s waiting with grace and mercy. He simply waits for us to acknowledge we need those…again.
And if you need more encouragement to dismount, how about this: “He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as He hears it, He answers you. And though the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide Himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it…” (vv. 19-21).
It’s time to get off your horse, my friend; God’s grace and mercy waits. And don’t worry about the Assyrians. “[They] will be terror-stricken at the voice of the Lord, when He strikes with His rod” (v. 31).
Pastor Rich Hamlin
November 7, 2013