“In that day the people who live on this coast will say, ‘See what has happened to those we relied on, those we fled to for help and deliverance from the king of Assyria! How then can we escape?’” –Isaiah 20:6, NIV
Isaiah 20, a mere six verses, carries a strong warning for God’s people and for those they might be tempted to depend on. In this chapter, God leads Isaiah to demonstrate the suffering and humiliation that Egypt and Cush are going to experience. (You can read the gory details at BibleGateway.com by clicking here.) The reason for this humiliation: God’s people turned to those nations for help instead of relying on God.
The message for us is two-fold. First, if ever we, as God’s children, choose to place someone or something in God’s place (especially if that someone encourages or allows this like Egypt and Cush did), God will bring that idol down. There is only one God. If His people forget this, He will reveal the truth. He will demonstrate His power and show the idol’s lack thereof. Need I say that we’re not doing any person we care about any favors if we attempt to put them in the place of God. No one wants to end up like Egypt and Cush.
Does this mean that God is self-centered and power hungry? Absolutely not! God loves His people. He also knows that He is the only One with the power to care for them, protect them, guide them, and, ultimately, lead them into His glory. All others will only lead them astray.
God puts idols in their place for our good, though we may suffer with them for a time when He does. Verse 5 of Isaiah 20 says, “Those who trusted in Cush and boasted in Egypt will be put to shame.” God’s people turned to these nations for help instead of trusting in God. When God put these nations to shame, His people were humiliated, too. Everyone involved learned a painful lesson about their place before the only Almighty God of the Universe.
Second, if ever someone else turns to us before calling on God, it’s our responsibility to point them to God. Otherwise, we’re guilty of the sin of Egypt and Cush. No nation can take the place of God in its people’s lives or any other people’s lives. No parent can take the place of God in his or her child’s life. No pastor can take the place of God in the lives of a congregation. Those who try or who accept such a position will be brought low by God.
Does this mean we shouldn’t help people when we can? That no one should be able to depend on us? Absolutely not! Children depend on parents. Congregations depend on their pastors. Citizens depend on their governments. The Bible even endorses this. God places people in leadership positions to serve and care for others. But those who accept this God-given responsibility must point those others to God, giving Him the glory, not taking credit for themselves.
Two Bible characters come to mind as perfect examples. In the Old Testament, both Joseph and Daniel served rulers in countries not their own. God placed them in positions of authority where they could honor His name. Both men were asked for assistance by the rulers they served. Both did what God enabled them to do, giving all the credit to God.
When Pharaoh asked Joseph to interpret his dream, Joseph said, “I cannot do it, but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires” (Genesis 41:16).
Likewise, when Nebuchadnezzar asked Daniel to interpret his dream, Daniel replied, “No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. He has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come” (Daniel 2:27-28).
When God blesses us with the opportunity to care for, protect, or lead someone else, it’s our privilege to be able to give the credit for our abilities to Him. Doing so blesses everyone, builds God’s kingdom, and honors His name.
Father, thank You for this graphic reminder, not only of Your power, but also of Your desire to be our God and to care for us. Remind us to turn to You first whenever we need help. And help us to see each opportunity for service that You provide as a beautiful chance to tell other people about You. We know that You love us and are so thankful You’ve drawn us into relationship with You. Help us to live to honor that in everything we do. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.