Sermons

Summary: God saves the nations for the glory of his great name. For the LORD is the perfectly holy God, the God who is worthy of praise from all people. So He wants us to tell our neighbours about Christ, and He wants us to go to the nations with his gospel.

Before we get into this fascinating portion of God’s Word, we need to take a glance backwards. Since chapter 13, Isaiah has been bringing against the nations these grim messages of judgment. For instance, he prophesied in chapter 14 that the proud king of Babylon was going to be brought low, cast down like a flaming star from the heavens.

Since then, there’s been more of the same. And there will be, all the way to chapter 24, as God speaks against many nations: not just Babylon, but Assyria, and Philistia, Moab, Syria, Cush, Egypt, Edom, Tyre. Each of them will have their day in God’s court: accused, judged, sentenced, and punished.

In a way, this was good news for Judah. It must’ve been reassuring to know that each of their enemies would get their just desserts—God wasn’t asleep on the job, but He was going to protect his people and restore their fortunes.

But there was something else for Judah to ponder. The LORD is not driven solely by the happiness of his people. We probably like to think that sometimes—that God is obsessed with our well-being—but God has a higher purpose than that. He is always working for the glory of his great name! That becomes apparent in these chapters: God is doing this rebuking and judging for his own honour.

The LORD’s holiness and glory are so great that He demands of all nations that they submit to him—not just Judah, but Babylon and Philistia and Egypt and everyone. God is worthy of fear and reverence, and He requires it from everyone. Put it this way: God doesn’t just want worship from the church, but He seeks adoration from all peoples everywhere! He wants all people to be moved by his glory, for He is Lord of lords and God of gods.

And we get a startling picture of just how far God will push this. For in our text He tells of a time when the Gentile nations will be formed into his holy people. The nations will go from living in terror of God’s judgment, to living in a genuine reverence for his holy name. The Gentiles will join together with all who believe in his name. It’s an amazing glimpse of the future, one that’s being fulfilled today. This is our theme from Isaiah 19:18-25,

The LORD will make the nations into His holy people:

1) their dramatic change

2) their willing worship

3) their profound unity

1) their dramatic change: To appreciate just what a surprising thing is happening in our text, let’s see what Isaiah has been saying here in chapter 19. He’s been talking about Egypt. At the time, Egypt was a powerful country—really the only nation strong enough to stand against the onslaught of Assyria. The Assyrian armies continued to storm through the countries of the Middle East. And just recently, Judah’s traditional allies had fallen: her brothers to the north, the people of Israel, as well as Syria. Just Egypt was left, and she at least had a hope of winning against the aggressor.

When you read through Isaiah, you learn that Judah was often tempted to make alliances with Egypt. But Isaiah opposes this strongly—just look at chapter 30—and he warns that Egypt can give no lasting help. To trust in them (instead of God) will surely end in disaster, for the Egyptians are doomed to fall.

This has been Isaiah’s message in chapter 19. You could say that ‘the first point of his sermon’ simply continued the fire and brimstone that has filled this whole section of oracles. In verses 1-15, Isaiah is predicting the fall of Egypt. He says that none of Egypt’s advantages will save her from the coming wrath. Her many gods will fail, the life-giving Nile will dry up, and the legendary wisdom of Egypt will prove foolish. She’ll be left a quivering puddle of desperation.

Then comes the second point of Isaiah’s sermon, which is our text. In a most stunning turn of events, this Egypt—chastened, defeated, utterly hopeless—will come to worship God! And not just Egypt, but Assyria too. Together with Israel, they will be the LORD’s holy people.

And just to make the contrast complete, the third point of Isaiah’s sermon about Egypt (chapter 20), simply picks up the theme of God’s judgment. The Assyrians will come and lead the Egyptians away as captives, “naked and barefoot” (20:4). In the short term, it should’ve been brutally clear to Judah. Why would they put their trust in Egypt? She was not a reliable saviour.

That was the short-term message, but there’s a long-term forecast too. Like Isaiah often does, now he points beyond the most immediate horizon, to a distant day. He sees an age when Egypt’s outlook is going to change forever. And it’s remarkable, for God’s intent is not to destroy Egypt, but rather to restore them and cause them to know the LORD! It is a dramatic change, an unprecedented reversal through God’s grace.

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