In Isaiah, like many other prophetic books (Jeremiah 46-51, Ezekiel 25-32, Joel 3, Amos 1-2,Obadiah 1-14, Zephaniah 2, and Zechariah 2 and 9), there is a lengthy section, which scholars often call the Oracles Against the Nations (Isaiah 13-23). In many ways, this section is redundant, each nation receiving comparable words of doom and gloom, wrath and judgment. What emerges is a very clear three-fold message: (1) The LORD is sovereign over all nations; (2) All nations will be humbled; and (3) Therefore, put your trust in God, not the nations.
The problem for the modern reader is that the nations listed (Babylon, Assyria, Philistia, Moab, Syria, Cush, Egypt, Jerusalem, and Tyre & Sidon) don’t resonate with us the way they would have resonated with the original audience. Moreover, we are ignorant of much of the geography alluded to within these broader oracles of judgment. The result is a glazing over of our eyes, a numbing of our brains, and an all too easy drift as we tune out and read without comprehending.
But, what if we could read about Canada or the United States? What if the oracles addressed people and places that we were familiar with rather than ancient societies that are, for the most part, long gone? Fortunately, as Isaiah 14:26 and Isaiah 34:1-3 make explicit, these oracles agains the nations are intended for every nation. Isaiah 14:26 reads:
This is the purpose that is purposed concerning the whole earth, and this is the hand that is stretched out over all the nations.
Of course, not every detail is intended for every nation. However, the broader point of each oracle, which is that the LORD is God of all nations and that He will humble each nation in judgment, is a message that stands for all nations, including Canada. With this in mind, let us look at the Oracle concerning Egypt (Isaiah 19:1-15) in light of our context today. We may be surprised to see how appropriate it is.
To summarize, this oracle promises that God will condemn Egypt for idol worship (Isaiah 19:1) and, this judgment will have a number of consequences, which are relational (Isaiah 19:2), religious (Isaiah 19:3), political (Isaiah 19:4), ecological (Isaiah 19:5-7), economic (Isaiah 19:8-10), and social-moral (Isaiah 19:11-15).
It is remarkable to recognize how many of these consequences are evident in Canadian society today. Might this be the result of our idol worship and faithlessness as a nation?
Relational strife is rampant in Canada (Isaiah 19:2). Canadian rises up against Canadian. We see this in our divorce rate and the number of broken families that are suffering. We see this in the violent crime that is reported every day on the nightly news. City rises against city, and kingdom against kingdom. War is now a constant reality, even in so-called peaceful Canada. CSIS works around the clock to try to keep Canada safe from attack. Millions of refugees are roaming all over the Middle East, Europe, and Asia. Canada is rightly responding to this need by inviting some refugees into our country. Nevertheless, in so doing Canada is part of relational strife that covers the globe.
Religious plurality and deviancy is a hallmark of Canadian multiculturalism (Isaiah 19:3). We live in a society that laughs at the supernatural claims of the Bible. And yet, many Canadians consider themselves to be spiritual people. Though Christianity and the Bible are increasingly scoffed at, Canadians inquire of idols and sorcerers, mediums and necromancers. It seems that all religions are accepted in Canada except for Christianity, which is increasinly mocked by the mainstream.
Perhaps the one exception to our sharing in the Oracle Against Egypt is with regards to political oppression (Isaiah 19:4). For all the faults of our political system (think Senate scandal) and politial players (which politicians are sincerely mining the wisdom of Scripture in decision making?), we still enjoy remarkable political freedoms in this country. Because of God’s great patience and grace, we do not yet have a fierce king ruling over us and for this we ought to be abundantly grateful.
Ecological destruction, however, is a reality in Canada (Isaiah 19:5-7). It is common for evangelical Christians to ignore or deny the reality that though we are rich in natural resources, it is likely true that we are seeing a slow and steady decline in our natural world.
For example, fishing and hunting is not nearly as plentiful as it once was, air quality in cities is measured daily, climate change is supported by many of our top scientists, and natural disasters are a constant threat.
Nor can we deny that we are not immune from economic collapse in Canada (Isaiah 19:8-10).Since we are integrated into the world economy, we are dependant on foreign markets and will always thus be relatively fragile economically. We have seen evidence of this recently. Some examples include the Great Recession of 2008, ever inflating housing prices, especially in our Big Cities, and, with the election of the Liberal Governement, a near absolute commitment to raise our Debt to GDP ratio over the next four years.
Finally, we come to moral confusion (Isaiah 19: 11-15). In Egypt it was said that the Princes of Zoan have become fools and the princes of Memphis are deluded. That is, moral confusion trickled down in society from the top. We see this very same thing in Canada. Abortion, the legalization of marijuana, the legalization of prostitution, same sex marriage, the Ontario sex curriculum, gender blindness, doctor assisted suicide, and our entertainment bloated culture are but the beginning of a long list of examples in this regard. In Canada we call darkness light and light darkness. We celebrate the very things that the Bible calls sin and we revel in our apostasy.
In Isaiah 19:1-15 the very things we see happening in Canada today are characterized as aspects of God’s wrath against an idol-worshipping Egypt. In Romans 1:18-32 Paul describes the wrath of God as an ever receding presence of God that would inhibit the full expression of our depravity. When God gives us over to our depravity we are recipients of His wrath. It seems clear, therefore, that Canada is beginning to feel the wrath of God. As we continue to keep Him out of our life as a nation we can expect Him to continue to respond in kind, by stepping back from us. This means that for all our self-congratulatory sense of enlightenment, we will sink deeper into the blindness of our depravity and the consequences outlined to Egypt so many centuries ago will become our increasing reality.
As the Church, therefore, we must continue to confess the truth and walk in the light. For the days are about to get much darker in this country.