Woe to the Obstinate Nation
“Woe to the obstinate children,”
declares the Lord,
“to those who carry out plans that are not mine,
forming an alliance, but not by my Spirit,
heaping sin upon sin;
who go down to Egypt
without consulting me;
who look for help to Pharaoh’s protection,
to Egypt’s shade for refuge.
But Pharaoh’s protection will be to your shame,
Egypt’s shade will bring you disgrace.
Though they have officials in Zoan
and their envoys have arrived in Hanes,
everyone will be put to shame
because of a people useless to them,
who bring neither help nor advantage,
but only shame and disgrace.”
An oracle concerning the animals of the Negev:
Through a land of hardship and distress,
of lions and lionesses,
of adders and darting snakes,
the envoys carry their riches on donkeys’ backs,
their treasures on the humps of camels,
to that unprofitable nation,
to Egypt, whose help is utterly useless.
Therefore I call her
Rahab the Do-Nothing.
An incredibly beautiful passage from the book of Isaiah, so let’s take our time with it to enjoy both its message and the imagery that it evokes:
Here we encounter a major theme of Isaiah – turning for protection to other sources than God. We have seen various forms of false protection in this book, building up riches and real estate, pursuing luxury and ease, but this passage begins by focusing on the political alliance Israel had made with one of the dominant powers of the time, Egypt.
But there is something specific I would like to point out about this alliance, that God brings woe to Israel not for the alliance in itself…but because the alliance was not done by his Spirit, and that it was not God’s plan. This suggests that God himself could have hypothetically sanctioned the alliance, and that the alliance in itself was not evil, but rather, their mistake was in that they completely bypassed God in the decision. After all, alliance were common in the Old Testament, and the Israelites were contractually obligated to fulfill them as with any other covenant.
I think this teaches a crucial lesson, that the process behind our decisions is as important as the decision in itself. We often forget this, focusing solely on a “correct” and “ideal” choice, and that all other choices are inherently wrong, or even evil. But in this passage, we learn that biggest mistake we can make is not making the wrong choice, but instead, making the choice in the wrong way.
Being the very results-oriented people we are, we have serious misgivings about this: “Wait, this can’t be right – surely there are things that are inherently wrong! It can’t be the process alone that God is concerned with?” A good question, but one with a very simple explanation: if we commit ourselves to the process of listening and obeying God, he will never lead us to an incorrect decision, or one of sin, right? So as we make decisions about our lives, let’s commit ourselves to being faithful in how we make the decision, and submit the actual decision unto God.
1. Are you making a decision right now about your life and future?
2. What does a Godly decision making process look like for you and your life?