“On that day there will be an altar to the LORD in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a memorial stone to the LORD beside its border. And it will become a sign and a witness to the LORD of armies in the land of Egypt; for they will cry out to the LORD because of oppressors, and He will send them a Savior and a Champion, and He will save them.” (Isaiah 19:19-20 NASB)
Hello church, you are more than conquerors!
A news article caught my eye recently, which described the burning of an Egyptian Coptic church. Back in August of 2022, the Christian church was burned killing 41 people including 18 children. The article described the continued harassment and persecution of Christians by Muslim extremist groups (here’s the link: https://providencemag.com/2022/08/the-suffering-of-the-saints/ ). When you hear the word Egypt, maybe you think of the great kings and dynasties of old with the Pharaohs, Pyramids, riches, and long-standing superpower that it was. When I think of Egypt, my mind goes back to Joseph, God’s servant who once ruled there, and of course to the Exodus – the freeing of God’s oppressed people led by Moses. Egypt remained strong until the Persian empire conquered it; followed by the Greek empire under Alexander the Great; followed by the Roman empire; and eventually Arab Muslim rule which remains prominent today. Although this is an over-simplification of its history, it suffices to say that Egypt, one of the greatest empires on planet Earth for over 3,000 years, is a mere shadow of the nation it used to be. Our passage today comes from a portion of Isaiah that describes the judgment that came to Egypt (Isa. 19:1-17) at the hands of the Assyrians (Isa. 20) in the early part of the seventh century B.C. Isaiah 19:18-25 is a complete reversal to the judgment of the first section of the chapter. Egypt is embracing the Lord of Hosts, swearing allegiance to Him, worshipping Him (vs. 18-19). We have jumped from the seventh century to a future time when the Lord will be known to Egypt (v.21); the Lord is healing them (vs. 22); and they are a blessed people along with the Assyrians and Israelites (vs. 23-25). One might ask why the sudden turn of events for the Egyptians. The answer lies in our verses for today: the judgment upon the Egyptians brought them to their knees resulting in a cry for mercy. God heard the cry and sent them a Savior and a Champion to deliver them (vs. 19). Some say this is Alexander the Great who was quite favorable to the Egyptians after he conquered them, but we all know that the only One who can change a people’s heart and a nation is Jesus Christ! Indeed, church history tells us that John Mark, the one who wrote the second Gospel, went to Alexandria in Egypt, and preached the gospel, founding the first church there. The Coptic Church was birthed and continued to grow, becoming the largest Christian group in the Middle East by the 20th century. Manuscripts of the New Testament have been found in Northern Egypt which date to the early 2nd century AD, even translated into the Coptic language. The Prophecy given by Isaiah some 750 years before the Gospel reached Egypt came true! God sent them a Savior and Champion – Jesus showed up in Egypt through the preaching of the gospel! You will also remember that Jesus remained in Egypt just after His birth to escape from the death threats of King Herod (Matt. 2:13). God sent His Savior into Egypt as Isaiah had prophesied, almost as a prophetic declaration that Egypt would know the Savior. This history lesson might bore some, but I find it fascinating – it’s not just history…it’s His story.
Our mission this year is to know Jesus more! Now most, hopefully all of us understand the title Savior – “He will save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). We are in desperate need of a deliverer who will free us from the oppression of sin (our old fallen nature under Adam), and the oppressor (satan) who tempts us to sin. Jesus took care of both at the cross by paying our wages for sin – death (Rom. 6:23); and giving us resurrection life, and new creation power to overcome temptation and have victory over our adversary (Rom. 6 & 8; James 4:7-8).
Have you ever thought of Jesus as Champion? This word jumped off the page at me! I grew up watching the “Heavyweight Champion of the World” in boxing – Muhammad Ali. To me a champion is someone who defeats an adversary or opponent. Jesus fits the bill (Col. 2:13-15; 1John 3:8). The actual Hebrew word Isaiah uses means “mighty one” who has the power and ability to deliver. The translators used the word champion, because the actual word champion comes from an old English word meaning to “fight on behalf of another”. Here’s what the Encyclopedia Brittanica says, “champion, one who fights in behalf of another. During the Middle Ages a feature of Anglo-Norman law was trial by battle, a procedure in which guilt or innocence was decided by a test of arms. Clergy, children, women, and persons disabled by age or infirmity had the right to nominate champions to fight by proxy.” This is so amazing! A champion is someone who fights for people who can’t fight for themselves. God sends His Champion to do for us what we could not do for ourselves – win the battle against sin, death, the flesh and the devil. Like the Egyptians in Isaiah, they would be utterly destroyed if it were not for God sending a Savior and Champion to deliver them from the wages of sin, from which they could not deliver themselves. Isaiah 19 is a picture of God’s grace and mercy towards sinners. We see today that although the church is there in Egypt, the sins of Egypt are still building as they continue to persecute God’s people. But five times “on that day” is repeated, pointing to an even greater time not yet here, when Egypt will be “a blessing in the midst of the earth” and “blessed is Egypt My people”. God in His patience and love will bring a remnant of His Egyptian people into the future kingdom because like us, they have a Champion who will fight for them. The victory belongs to Him – Jesus the Champion, but we share in it, as will the Egyptians who turn to Him. This song from Bethel Music might help you understand how to apply this truth to your life and start walking out the victory our Champion has won for us: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5X9Usr8Xucw
Have a great week!
"Advancing the Kingdom of God by releasing Spirit-filled followers to serve Jesus in freedom and joy."