Isaiah 19-21 continues the prophecies against select nations: the ones highlighted here are Egypt, Cush, Babylon, Edom, Arabia.
As an American Christian, I have heard a lot about how preoccupied God is with our country. Many theologians and scholars are fascinated with God's growing interest in other parts of the world.
In the good old days, I'm sure Israel was confident that God was preoccupied with them. Maybe too preoccupied, since God seemed to get really miffed at them when they cheated the poor, idolized the rich, and worshipped sex. Maybe they wanted the blessings of God, but not God Himself.
But God, being the mysterious, creative, patient, abounding in loyalty Father that he is, brings judgment upon Israel because they are not preoccupied with him. God and Israel had a covenant, much like a marriage bond - God is the husband, Israel the wife. And Israel is continually referenced as a whore, their unfaithfulness is a disgrace - so blatant, so sad. And God would not tolerate that kind of behavior, and why should he. But God still wants the kind of covenant he originally envisioned, so he must rehabilitate the sinners, the wrongdoers, the unfaithful, the rebellious.
So God uses other nations to bring judgment. God uses people as his instruments of justice and mercy. In this case, God uses Egypt and Assyria to bring the discipline needed to end the horrendous infidelity. God has a particular kind of relationship with these nations. They are not just tools for him, they are people that he cares about deeply.
Chapter 19 ends with these beautiful words of God towards Egypt and Assyria (notoriously wicked peoples...)
vs21 "So the LORD will make himself known to the Egyptians, and in that day they will acknowledge the LORD.
vs22 "The LORD will strike Egypt with a plague; he will strike them and heal them. They will turn to the LORD and he will respond to their pleas and heal them.
vs23 "The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together.
vs24 "In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth.
vs 25 "The LORD Almighty will bless them saying, 'Blessed by Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance.'
God has great affection for the nations of the world. Even today. God is at work in all peoples...even the violent ones, the seemingly godless ones, the terrorist ones, the corrupt ones, the greedy ones, the belligerent ones, the dirty ones, the sex-crazed ones, the religious ones, the neglected ones...all of them bear the attention and affection of God. Even America.
I'm sure that Isaiah's prophecy did not set well with the people. Maybe that is because he was buck naked for three years as he preached this sermon.
God works in weird ways. Mysterious? Maybe. But definitely wierd. Yet it works...
What does that mean for what we characterize as God at work in our world? How should we as Christians in America view other nations? Who is and has been most blessed?