Enemies Becoming One People

Scripture Focus: Isaiah 19.25
25 The Lord Almighty will bless them, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance.

Reflection: Enemies Becoming One People
By John Tillman

Isaiah’s prophecy says the mighty nation will become weak. The wise nation will become foolish. The powerful nation will become enslaved. The hopeful nation will sink into despair. But then, that same humiliated nation will turn its face to God and cry out against its oppressors. Then God will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, defend them, and send a savior to rescue them!

If this sounds familiar, the surprise is the identity of the nation. The nation that will be punished, forgiven, saved, and restored is not Israel or Judah. It’s Egypt.

In Exodus, Moses asked Pharaoh to let “his people,” the Israelites, go into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to God. But in Isaiah’s prophecy, the Egyptians will offer sacrifices and make and keep vows to the Lord. The Lord will make the Egyptians his people alongside Israel and Israel’s other great enemy, Assyria.

God makes former enemies one with his own people.

Some people talk loud and proud about Jesus’ commands to love “one another” or to love “others.” But when Jesus says, “Love your enemies” and “Do good to those that hate you,” they struggle to muster an “amen.”

Christ’s commands to love our enemies have always been controversial and difficult teachings, but in today’s no-holds-barred cultural conflicts, they seem impossible.

When you even talk about loving your enemies, you can be called a traitor. “Don’t you understand how dangerous they are? You are enabling them! Look what they’ve done!”

God knows all this. It’s hard to imagine enemies more dangerous or harder to love than Assyria and Egypt. And yet, loving enemies is God’s plan for the world and his will for our lives.

Level one is loving enemies at a distance. (Prayer and care) Level two is mourning enemies’ losses and sheltering them in their suffering. (Empathy and service) The final level is becoming “one people” with enemies under God. (Integration and unity)

Where are you on this scale? 

Do you struggle to love the outsider? The foreigner? The sinner? The idealogue? The liberal? The conservative? Can you imagine being “one people” with them? It’s hard. Everyone you struggle to love is someone God desires to bring into his family just like he brought in you.

You don’t have to violate scripture to show love. But not showing love would be a violation. Let God’s love stretch your imagination, your heart, and your witness. 

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are those who trust in him. — Psalm 34.8

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

​Today’s Readings
Isaiah 19-20 (Listen 4:49)
Acts 7 (Listen 8:49)

​This Weekend’s Readings
Isaiah 21 (Listen 2:32Acts 8 (Listen 5:10)
Isaiah 22 (Listen 3:53Acts 9 (Listen 6:05)

Read more about Mourning and Loving Enemies
God mourned the suffering of these enemies of Israel and commanded Jerusalem to be a sanctuary for Moabite refugees.

Read more about Grief for the Guilty
We proclaim God to be just, does compassion and mercy end there? Mercy and justice can burn equally in one’s heart.


Naked Humility, Unexpected Salvation

Scripture Focus: Isaiah 19.23-25
23 The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. 24 In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth. 25 The LORD Almighty will bless them, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance.”

Reflection: Naked Humility, Unexpected Salvation
By John Tillman

When disaster or invasion or pandemic threatened, the people of Israel and Judah expected God to restore them, his chosen people. It isn’t that they did not expect judgment for sin. Rather, they, like many modern Christians, never recognized that the way they were conducting worship and politics was despised by God.

Despite being in denial about it, in a hypothetical exile, they would readily have expected salvation from God. But they would not have expected him to rescue anyone else. Isaiah’s pattern of referring to present judgment while holding on to future hope takes this inconceivable, unexpected turn in the concluding verses of chapter 19. 

Isaiah predicts something that no one in the ancient world would think possible. Egypt and Assyria united in worship as brothers in Israel? Unthinkable. These nations were not just Israel and Judah’s enemies—they were enemies of each other. The image Isaiah paints of the three countries—united by a highway, speaking a common language (of Hebrew faith), and attending a common place of worship—was a ludicrous impossibility.

We don’t live in that time just yet. We live a time when enemies, left and right, will strip naked and humiliate their opponents—a time of angrily bared teeth and shamefully bared buttocks. (Isaiah 20.4, 3.24)

How do we remain faithful without resorting to the weapons of shame or the strongarm tactics of anything-goes politics?

Isaiah models acceptance of derision, embodied humility, and expectant hope. Before Judah’s allies, the Egyptians, were humiliated and marched naked into captivity, Isaiah gave up his own freedom and swallowed his pride by going naked for three years, predicting the coming time of violence and shame.

Isaiah also shows us the power of accepting suffering as a discipline, while at the same time setting our hope on the future. Isaiah spends little time celebrating the downfall of others but focuses on Judah’s own religious sins and wretched political ethics.

May we practice naked humility, humbling ourselves before we are humbled and stripping away pride before it is stripped away.

May we expect, anticipate, and celebrate the unexpected grace and mercy of our God poured out on unexpected worshipers.

What kind of God brings peace to those perpetually at war with one another? Our God does.
What kind of God restores the unexpected and the undeserving? Our God does.
What kind of God saves people who are not his people? Our God does.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
I love you, O Lord my strength, O Lord my stronghold, my crag, and my haven. — Psalm 18.1

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Isaiah 19-20 (Listen – 4:49)
2 Peter 1 (Listen – 3:06)

Read more about Different Kind of Exile
This repost from 2018 cannot be more applicable. Too many of us are ignorantly using our “freedom” to cover up our evil selfish desires in the midst of this COVID-19 response.

Read more about Hope Amidst Destruction
Even among the destruction of what is coming to Judah in Isaiah’s prophecies, there is hope. God promises to place his glory over the remnant, like a tent or shelter.