June 5, 2017 • Life for Leaders
The LORD Almighty will bless them, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance.”
Isaiah 19 is a prophecy concerning Egypt. It begins much as we might expect, with the Lord promising judgment on the Egyptians. But then, beginning with verse 18, the tide changes most unexpectedly. Isaiah looks forward to a day when even the Egyptians, Israel’s classic enemy, will turn to the Lord. After striking Egypt in judgment, God will heal Egypt in mercy.
The closing verse of Isaiah 19 is one of the most surprising in the whole Old Testament. One of Israel’s treasures is the knowledge that she is God’s special nation. As we read in Leviticus 26:12, “I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.” But in Isaiah 19:25, the Lord says, “Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance.” Israel is not demoted here. She is still special to the Lord. But in a shocking way, God identifies both Egypt and Assyria as his special people as well.
How does this passage speak to us today? For one thing, it reminds us that though we are special to the Lord, he is reaching out to other special people as well. Churches are indeed gatherings of God’s people, but he claims others in the communities where churches find themselves. In fact, God places churches where they are, not only that they might be blessed, but also so that they may reach out to draw others into the fellowship of God’s people. Every church has a missional calling: to proclaim in word and demonstrate in action the gospel of Jesus Christ, so that people might come to faith and join the people of God.
Similarly, as the church scatters into the world, as we engage in our daily work, we have the opportunity and calling to represent the Lord. We do this in a variety of ways: by excelling in our work, by being a person of integrity in the workplace, by seeking God’s guidance for our business decisions, by sharing the good news when it is appropriate, by seeking justice through our work, and so much more. As God’s people, we reach out to God’s “other” people so that God’s grace might bless them.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
How might you think differently of non-Christian people in your life if you thought of them as potentially God’s people?
How are you living so that people might be drawn to God through you?
In what ways do you bear witness to God through your daily work?
Do you have a passion to see non-Christian folk come to the Lord?
Gracious God, God of heaven and the whole earth, this is an astounding verse. So much of the Old Testament emphasizes your unique relationship with Israel. But here we are reminded that you seek other people as well. Your plan was to reach all nations, even the Egyptians and the Assyrians, through the Israelites. So you chose Israel to be your special people, and from Israel you raised up one who was the Savior of the World.
How I thank you, Lord, for including the gentiles in your plan . . . because this means you have included me! Though I am not part of Israel in the flesh, I am still one of your people by your grace in Christ.
Help me, Lord, to live in this world as a channel of your grace and truth to others. May people be drawn to you through me. And may this also be true of my church. May we speak and act in our community so that people might become your disciples. Whether we are gathered or scattered, may we serve you with our whole lives. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary: God’s Character Is to Have Mercy on Everyone (Romans 9–11)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.
In the seventh line of the third paragraph, “so that they my reach out” should be “so that they may [might?] reach out.”