To say we live in a polarized world is beyond obvious. We see divisions everywhere we turn: between Republicans and Democrats, between mask-wearers and mask-rejecters, between supporters of Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter; and between pineapple on or off pizza (my students tell me this is a divisive issue!) Churches have even split over disagreements about meeting in person versus worshipping online. In such a polarized world, it can be tempting to lose hope.
One of my favorite stories of hope from the Old Testament speaks into a similarly polarized world. During the prophet Isaiah’s ministry, in the eighth century BC, there were divisions between God’s people. They literally lived in a divided kingdom. Divisions also arose between false prophets and true prophets, and division dominated the major political powers of that day.
Yet, Isaiah gives us a message of hope even for such sworn enemies as Egypt and Assyria. Egypt was one of Israel’s most famous enemies. They had cruelly oppressed God’s people for centuries. Assyria was the current superpower in town, known for brutally destroying cities and exiling their inhabitants. Surely, those enemy nations could never be reconciled to each other, or to Israel, or to God, right?
Wrong. God spoke these words of hope in Isaiah 19:23-25 (NIV):
In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth. The LORD Almighty will bless them, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance.”
What a picture of reconciliation! All three nations came together to worship the one true God. God gave all three nations covenant titles typically reserved for Israel. This is the hope of a God who has made reconciliation his priority and method. This is the hope of a God who comes in the flesh in order to reconcile all things to himself (Colossians 1:19-20). And in this hope, He calls us to that same reconciling work (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).
Egypt, Assyria, and Israel were reconciled to each other through their worship and reconciliation to God. How much more hope, then, do we have of reconciliation in light of God’s reconciliation through Christ!