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bible reading may 19-20



Bible reading for May 19 -- 20

May 19 -- Isaiah 19-20 and 2 Peter 1

May 20 -- Isaiah 21 and 2 Peter 2

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"In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and Assyria will come into Egypt, and Egypt into Assyria, and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians." (Isaiah 19:23)

STRIKING AND HEALING (ch 19). The expansion of the Assyrian empire was impressive: the Assyrians would conquer both Egypt (lower Nile region) and Cush (or Nubia; upper Nile; which would encompass Sudan and/or Ethiopia). The distance from Nineveh (Assyrian capital) to Khartoum (upper Nile) was over two thousand miles. There was conflict between Egypt and Cush at that time (reflected in 19:2), but Cush was the ruling power. Be that as it may, both would fall to the Assyrians around 670 BC. This chapter shows the process of judgment against Egypt (vv 1-16), which included national division and infighting, confusion, poor counsel, drought, collapse of the economy, and widespread fear.

A HIGHWAY AND A BLESSING. The purpose of such judgment was (and is) to humble men in their pride, that they might seek the Lord (19:20; 20:6). This chapter includes the promise of healing and restoration of the nations. The beginning of this fulfillment is seen at Christ's first coming, and the gathering of the nations into the church (Acts 2:8-11).  But ultimately, it will be fulfilled at Christ's return (Rev 5:9-10), and during the Millennium (Rev 20). See Constable's notes on the details.

A STRANGE SERMON ILLUSTRATION (ch 20). To make his point regarding the humiliation that Egypt and Cush would experience in defeat and exile, Isaiah walks about unclothed, meaning with only a loin cloth or light tunic, and barefoot. It would be like a preacher standing before the congregation in his undergarments. This would symbolize the loss of all but the barest of worldly goods. Humiliation indeed, and point well taken.

THE FALL OF BABYLON (ch 21). In a similar oracle, though 180 years in the future from where he stood, Isaiah predicts the fall of Babylon to the Medes (v 2). In the succession of empires Babylon would conquer Assyria, but Babylon would in turn be defeated. Here's an interesting detail in this chapter: the Babylonians are told to get up from their lavish ease at a dinner party and get ready for war (v 5). The prophet Daniel later tells us that the Median conquest took place while the king of Babylon was holding a feast (Dan 5). God's word comes to pass precisely in the way he says! The fall of the great empire of Babylon itself prefigures the fall of the "mystery" Babylon, a world empire to come (Rev 17-18).

WHY SO MUCH JUDGMENT IN THE BIBLE? As we read through the Prophets, we may think that God is being very judgmental and that he's always condemning people. First, if we consider the great periods of time that passed in the OT (about a thousand years between Moses' day and the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon), it really seems God was far more patient and longsuffering than judgmental toward his people and the surrounding nations. Secondly, these chapters remind us that God's purpose in judgment is to humble people that they might seek him, know him, trust him, and receive blessing from him. It is not that God is unduly judgmental, but that mankind is in great denial about its own sin. We are chronically self-reliant and self-righteous. "No sin is so deeply rooted in our nature as pride. It cleaves to us like our skin." (J. C. Ryle)  In generation after generation, people turn to their own wisdom, technology, military strength, political leaders, and gods of comfort, in order to find peace and hope. National security and technology -- as necessary as they may be for the protection of a country -- will not avail when the judgment of God comes. The Lord strikes that he may heal (19:22). As the Apostle Peter taught, "'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.' Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you..." (1 Pet 5:5, 6).

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"His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire." (2 Peter 1:3-4)

SOUND TEACHING AND GODLY LIVING (ch 1). The Apostle Peter wrote this second epistle not long before he was martyred in Rome (c. AD 67). He had concern for sound teaching, and for the kind of teaching that leads to holy living. Teachers and leaders should exemplify godliness in themselves.  In chapter one we read that God's grace gives us all that we need to live godly lives for the Lord (1:3-4).  He says that God's word is inspired and trustworthy, and that we should pay attention to it "as to a lamp shining in a dark place."  This is a very clear statement regarding the nature of Scripture: "...knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (1:20-21).  That is, God's word is revealed to us by his own will and authority, and not by the dreams or opinions of prideful men.

FALSE TEACHING AND UNGODLY LIVING (ch 2). Chapter two is an extensive description of the depths of immorality into which religious influencers can descend. It's not a pretty picture, and God's judgment will not delay long, for  "...the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment..." (2:9).  Throughout the history of the visible church there have always been teachers and pastors, ministers, clerics, so-called prophets, priests, monks, and mystics, who have used their position of authority to gain money, power, and sex for their personal gratification, all the while maintaining an appearance of holiness. If they do not always lead people astray doctrinally, they certainly do morally. This problem presented itself early in the history of the church, as we see in Peter's second letter. He calls these people "waterless springs" (v 17). Peter's warning is very similar to Paul's in 2 Timothy 3:1-8, where he speaks of those who have "the appearance of godliness, but denying its power."

REFLECT. This is a most serious sin, to use a holy (or "spiritual") appearance as a cloak for self-gratification and immorality.  All of us may be tempted to be hypocritical at times, but this goes further, to use one's position to deceive others, promote licentiousness, and gain advantage. We must ask, does our life bear the marks of "the divine nature"?  That is, by trusting God's word, have we seen real change in what drives us?  Do we have a desire to grow in virtue? 

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Image credit. Statues of several Nubian (Kushite) rulers from the 7th century BC, on display at Kerma Museum, photo by Matthias Gehricke, Wikipedia. About this newsletter: I post three times a week on my Bible reading, following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule, as arranged by D. A. Carson. Subscribe for email at Buttondown.email/Sandy. Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. A very helpful resource is the NET Bible with its excellent notes at netbible.org.  


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