Tuesday, May 13, 2014

What Does God’s Reference To The “Egyptians” Say To Us Today? -- Exodus 19:4


‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself.’”
 
God wants Moses to remind the people again of what He had done for them – what He did to their enemies, the Egyptians, and how He “bore them (the children of Israel) on eagles’ wings” and brought them to Himself.
I find it interesting that God keeps referring to what He did to the ‘Egyptians’ rather than to ‘Pharaoh’.  Why the people?  Why not the leader?  I wondered about that.  And it made me think of the push in our society today to distinguish between Islamic terrorists and Muslims.
The word “Egyptians” in the plural is used 98 times in 87 verses in the KJV of the Bible.  Of these less than 5% speak of the Egyptians in a positive way – when they mourned at the time of Joseph’s death and when the Israelites found favor in their sight (Exodus 11:3).  The remainder of the references deals with the Egyptians as enemies of God and of His people.  This is an interesting contrast to how Scripture dealt with other enemies of God – in many cases, the reference is to their leader, usually “the king of . . .” and in there you can put the various kings that attacked Israel over the years.
Using a feature of www.blueletterbible.org, I was able to read all the verses containing the word “Egyptians” in order from start to finish.  The last thing I want to do is to draw conclusions between Egypt and present day Islamic states where God may well have intended no such relationship.  A few thoughts that did come to my mind, however, were these:
1.     The Egyptians were clearly the people that God most focused on as His enemies in the early parts of the Old Testament.  [Other candidates throughout the Bible are Babylonia or Jezebel, and then of course, Satan himself.]
2.     The Islamic religion had not yet originated at the time of Scripture.  Although God knew about its arrival much later in history, it would make no sense that it be referred to in the Pentateuch or elsewhere in the text, by that name, at that time.
3.     As I went through the verses, I wondered what it would look like if one replaced the word “Egyptians” with “Islamists” or “Muslims” in those instances that clearly were “after the Exodus”.  Would the result be a reflection of what was going on in the world today?  Could what happened to Egypt and the Egyptians shed any light on what may happen to the Islamic world?
So I did just that.  Here is some of what came to mind:
a.     In Ezra 9:1 we read of the Israelites not separating themselves from the peoples of other lands, including the Egyptians.  [Have we separated ourselves sufficiently from other false religions today, including Islam?]
b.     Throughout Isaiah 19, the text speaks of the destruction of the Egyptians from within, one fighting another.  [Will Islam so wane?  There clearly is a great divide between the majority of Muslims today and those that are creating havoc around the world.]
c.      In Isaiah 19:4, they are submitted to the authority of a “cruel leader”.  [Will the Twelfth Iman they are expecting turn out to be the one that ultimately leads them to their own destruction?]
d.     In Isaiah 19:16, it was prophesized that the Egyptians would “tremble like women” because the Lord of Hosts waved His hand over them.  [Will we see that with the Muslim world?]
e.     In Isaiah 19:21, we read of the Egyptians coming to know the Lord and to worship and serve Him.  [Do we not anticipate this for many of today’s Muslims?]
f.      In Isaiah 31:3, we see the end of the Egyptians and what they represented, as we know of them.  [One day we will see the end of all that Islam stands for.]
The bottom line for me is that God delivers His people from their enemies.  He did it for the Israelites in the days of Moses, He kept on doing it throughout history, He does it for individuals and groups of people today, and He will do it again.  And what amazes me even more is how He does it.
God tells Moses to remind the people that He carried them on eagles’ wings.  Eagles differ from other birds, as they do not carry their young in their claws.  Instead, a young eaglet attaches itself to his mother’s back and is protected while being carried.  David Guzik says, “Any arrow from a hunter must pass through the mother eagle before it could touch the young eagle on her back.”  What a beautiful image that is of God’s love and care of His children.
The verse goes on to say, “and brought you to Myself.”  The Israelites were delivered from their enemy so that they may have fellowship with God Himself.  He did not free them to -- as one commentator wisely points out -- do their own thing, but rather so that they would be His People.  Sometimes we like the Israelites of old and perhaps of today, easily forget the purpose of our salvation.  It is not dear friends so that we can call the shots. 
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