Woe to Those Who Rely on Egypt
1 Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help,
who rely on horses,
who trust in the multitude of their chariots
and in the great strength of their horsemen,
but do not look to the Holy One of Israel,
or seek help from the LORD.
2 Yet he too is wise and can bring disaster;
he does not take back his words.
He will rise up against the house of the wicked,
against those who help evildoers.
3 But the Egyptians are men and not God;
their horses are flesh and not spirit.
When the LORD stretches out his hand,
he who helps will stumble,
he who is helped will fall;
both will perish together.
The Best Foolishness Available
Some context is helpful in this passage, as it is in every passage! Here Isaiah talks about the chariots of Egypt, which strikes us today as a prosaic bit of imagery. But in that time period, the chariots of Egypt were the most advanced war machines of the time: fast, inventive, complete with built-in quivers for arrows – they were the best war technology that was available. If we put it today’s terms, it’s like Isaiah references the F-22 Raptor, the most advanced and dominant jet fighter in the US Air Force.
And perhaps this context helps us more clearly understand this teaching. It’s not as if the Israelites were making alliances with some neighbors with pointy sticks – they were looking for help from one of the most powerful and advanced cultures in the world. And for the leaders of Israel, this must have seemed like a sure bet, a wise and prudent decision. After all, who could be more powerful than Egypt? Who could better protect us?
I think we all know the answer to that…
This applies very much to our own lives, because we have our own “sure bets”, wise investments that are supposed to be failsafe in their ability to protect us. Ivy League education. Great wealth. Investments. But there is no such thing as failsafe, no such thing as bulletproof, nothing that cannot fail. This is not to say that these things are evil in themselves – there is no indication in this passage that God hates the Egyptians. Rather, it is important to recognize that the very best that humankind has to offer is nothing compared the best that God has for us.
1. What is your “sure bet”, something that is supposed to absolutely protect or provide for you?
2. Has anything that was a sure bet ever failed you? A job, a girlfriend, anything?
3. What are some of the sure bets that God provides us instead?