by Barry Newton
What do you make of a cartoon where a dragon is playing chess against the president of a country with the dragon saying, “You make the first move”?Most of the time we will discover some interpretation for everything around us. But, just how accurate is our understanding?
Our interpretations tend to be based upon our experiences and knowledge. However, what if we lack sufficient resources to accurately understand? What happens then? We will still arrive at a conclusion, but it may have little to do with what someone intended to communicate.
As Isaiah wrote to Judah in the 8th century B.C., he communicated God’s message in their language and with images they would understand. Judah knew that other nations around her claimed Baal was the “Rider of the Clouds.” Baal was believed to be a storm god riding in his cloud chariot capable of unleashing lightning as he rushed into war as a divine warrior.
Isaiah 19:1 tells a different story. It is Yahweh who comes in judgment riding on a swift cloud against nations. In fact, he was coming against Egypt thereby causing her idols to tremble before him. Rightly so, do they tremble!
When the LORD comes in a cloud, he comes to judge. His sovereignty over all nations is expressed through the language of commanding even the cosmos, whether that be snuffing out celestial lights (Isaiah 13:9-10; Amos 5:18,20) or wrecking terrestrial devastation such as drying up all the water (Isaiah 15:6; 42:15; 44:27).
With this language, Isaiah foretold Egypt would be crushed under God’s judgment. Egypt’s source of strength would be dried up (Isaiah 19:5-6) and her economy ruined (Isaiah 19:7-10).
The phrase, “There is nothing Egypt can do” (Isaiah 19:15) sums up God’s absolute power over Egypt. This is not even a contest. The Creator God is mighty, not Egypt. Accordingly, Judah should not look to Egypt as the source of their help for assistance against Assyria (Isaiah 20:5-6).
Would Judah listen and respond appropriately? What about us? Do we and our children listen and respond to the Sovereign LORD, when we hear scripture telling us that our lives need to be built upon God? There is yet a day in which the Lord will come. The good news is that we can be ready.
By the way, regarding the cartoon about the dragon and the president, if you have lived in Brazil or been a business major you may have recognized this as personifying inflation’s challenge to a nation’s president. Understanding the background helps.