Isaiah 19
Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
The burden of Egypt. Behold, the LORD rideth upon a swift cloud, and shall come into Egypt: and the idols of Egypt shall be moved at his presence, and the heart of Egypt shall melt in the midst of it.
The Burden of Egypt

Isaiah 19:1

In the preface to a volume of travel-letters by Dr. Liddon, his sister says: 'Dr. Liddon's interests were always the same. This was nowhere more evident than in Egypt, which had for him extraordinary fascinations, because, as he would frequently explain, the life of the ancient Egyptians all pointed one way; their monuments and their literature alike show that they held the real business of this life to be preparation for death. It was neither on their palaces nor on their public buildings that they lavished their art and their wealth, but on their temples and their tombs. "What an example for us," he would often say; "one that can only fill us with humiliation and shame."'

I. That the true business of life is to prepare for death has ever been the belief of all serious, of all catholic, Christians, from Dr. Liddon to Thomas Carlyle's peasant father 'impressively pronouncing the words, "Prepare us for these solemn events, death, judgment, and eternity"'. It may have receded in the thin and washy versions of Christianity current in our day, but it must return. For life is a judgment as well as a discipline, and unless the moral nerve has been cauterized to death, the soul must seek the way by which alone the offended justice of God can be met in peace. And desire as well as fear, the desire of the soul created for God and restless till it finds Him, can be contented only with the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. The faith that joins us to Christ and restores us to God must be maintained by steady preparation—the preparation of prayer, labour, and self-scrutiny—for the supreme hour when, in presence of the Lord of Truth, the spirit makes its answer.

But we are told 'other worldliness' has gone out of fashion, that our business is with the rectification of life on earth. Yes; but that can only be accomplished by souls detached from time, though detained within it. Nothing, said St. Paul, could separate him from the love of Christ; neither life nor death, things present nor things to come. Neque instantia. And neither did Christ's love separate him from things present Rather it made him and it makes all in the same case the true servants and rulers of the present.

To depreciate or stand aloof from the great tasks of social reform is a real denial of Christ. These questions will never be settled by war. They cannot be settled so long as personal passion and pique—envy, jealousy, and malice—are in the ascendant. They will yield only to those who are content to live and die humble servants of God, yet brave and free citizens.

II. This readiness will give us the transfigured courage of love. We shall not flinch at the slings and arrows of our foes; these cannot touch the immortal part. We shall not pander to the vain hopes of those we serve, but tell them plainly that stern limits are set to the efficacy of earthly good; and that all possessions will but leave them poorer if they miss salvation. We shall not be dismayed when foes and friends alike turn upon us. The best cause may come to such a pass that all men will seem to forsake it and flee; the rain will descend, the floods come, the winds blow and beat upon the house. But what is built on the rock will stand. The disciple is not greater than his Lord, and it may be, as Heine says, that wherever a lofty soul utters its thoughts there is Golgotha. Even so in the bold and free acceptance of death there is given perfect courage and perfect self-command. Jesus died among legions of peace-breathing angels, and His peace passes to the prepared soul in death. When the cruellest blow falls, when the few human faces that made our inner world are fading, the hope rooted in Christ remains, for we know they depart to shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of the Father. The affections are no more nerves to suffer with when in Christ, bereavement and death are met with the fullness of willing love.

—W. Robertson Nicoll, Ten Minute Sermons, p. 153.

References.—XIX. 23, 24.—J. Wordsworth, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lvi. 1899, p. 346. XIX. 23-25.—W. L. Watkinson, ibid. vol. lii. 1897, p. 236; see also The Blind Spot, p. 21. XIX. 24.—J. H. Shakespeare, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lii. 1897, p. 228. XIX. 24, 25.—Hugh Price Hughes, Essential Christianity, p. 249. J. Scott Lidgett, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxxi. 1907, p. 156.

And I will set the Egyptians against the Egyptians: and they shall fight every one against his brother, and every one against his neighbour; city against city, and kingdom against kingdom.
And the spirit of Egypt shall fail in the midst thereof; and I will destroy the counsel thereof: and they shall seek to the idols, and to the charmers, and to them that have familiar spirits, and to the wizards.
And the Egyptians will I give over into the hand of a cruel lord; and a fierce king shall rule over them, saith the Lord, the LORD of hosts.
And the waters shall fail from the sea, and the river shall be wasted and dried up.
And they shall turn the rivers far away; and the brooks of defence shall be emptied and dried up: the reeds and flags shall wither.
The paper reeds by the brooks, by the mouth of the brooks, and every thing sown by the brooks, shall wither, be driven away, and be no more.
The fishers also shall mourn, and all they that cast angle into the brooks shall lament, and they that spread nets upon the waters shall languish.
Moreover they that work in fine flax, and they that weave networks, shall be confounded.
And they shall be broken in the purposes thereof, all that make sluices and ponds for fish.
Surely the princes of Zoan are fools, the counsel of the wise counsellers of Pharaoh is become brutish: how say ye unto Pharaoh, I am the son of the wise, the son of ancient kings?
Where are they? where are thy wise men? and let them tell thee now, and let them know what the LORD of hosts hath purposed upon Egypt.
The princes of Zoan are become fools, the princes of Noph are deceived; they have also seduced Egypt, even they that are the stay of the tribes thereof.
The LORD hath mingled a perverse spirit in the midst thereof: and they have caused Egypt to err in every work thereof, as a drunken man staggereth in his vomit.
Neither shall there be any work for Egypt, which the head or tail, branch or rush, may do.
In that day shall Egypt be like unto women: and it shall be afraid and fear because of the shaking of the hand of the LORD of hosts, which he shaketh over it.
And the land of Judah shall be a terror unto Egypt, every one that maketh mention thereof shall be afraid in himself, because of the counsel of the LORD of hosts, which he hath determined against it.
In that day shall five cities in the land of Egypt speak the language of Canaan, and swear to the LORD of hosts; one shall be called, The city of destruction.
In that day shall there be an altar to the LORD in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar at the border thereof to the LORD.
And it shall be for a sign and for a witness unto the LORD of hosts in the land of Egypt: for they shall cry unto the LORD because of the oppressors, and he shall send them a saviour, and a great one, and he shall deliver them.
And the LORD shall be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians shall know the LORD in that day, and shall do sacrifice and oblation; yea, they shall vow a vow unto the LORD, and perform it.
And the LORD shall smite Egypt: he shall smite and heal it: and they shall return even to the LORD, and he shall be intreated of them, and shall heal them.
In that day shall there be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians shall serve with the Assyrians.
In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land:
Whom the LORD of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance.
Nicoll - Expositor's Dictionary of Texts

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