Isaiah 31:1-3: Woe to those who go down to Egypt for helpAnd rely on horses
New American Standard Bible 1995
Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help
And rely on horses,
And trust in chariots because they are many
And in horsemen because they are very strong,
But they do not look to the Holy One of Israel, nor seek the Lord!
Yet He also is wise and will bring disaster
And does not retract His words,
But will arise against the house of evildoers
And against the help of the workers of iniquity.
Now the Egyptians are men and not God,
And their horses are flesh and not spirit;
So the Lord will stretch out His hand,
And he who helps will stumble
And he who is helped will fall,
And all of them will come to an end together.
Israel’s greatest mistake was not trusting in the Lord when faced with the threat of the Assyrian empire and instead looking to Egypt for help and support. On the surface it seemed that Egypt had a great army. They had many horses, chariots, and charioteers. But they would be of no help. The Lord speaks a woe against Israel because by seeking the help of Egypt they have acted in unbelief. The fault is laid upon the leadership of Israel and ultimately its king. Isaiah is the voice of the Lord to the nation and its leadership. True victory and rescue can only be found when we respond rightly to the word of God.
Isaiah says “yet He is also wise”. The counselors in Israel claimed to speak with wisdom and give the king wise counsel. But this was not the case. They instead were giving foolish wisdom; they rejected the Lord and His ways and instead looked to man for comfort and strength. The Lord does not retract His word or change His mind. The Lord says He will rise against the wicked and their helpers. The wicked in this case are the nation of Israel because they have rejected relying upon the Lord and His help and instead have looked to Egypt for help. When we think of the greatness and majesty of God and the decision to reject His hand and His help, it truly reveals the foolishness of many in this day.
God brings forth the comparison between Himself and the armies of Egypt. The Lord points out that the Egyptians are mere men and not God. Their horses are flesh and not spirit. When Israel relied fully on God and His help they had all the power of God’s kingdom at their disposal. They had the angelic armies of Heaven upon their side. They had the power of God that is without limit.
But because they have rejected God and His help, the hand of the Lord has not turned against them. The Lord says “He will stretch out His hand”. This means the very hand of God that was meant to protect Israel and bring them victory would now be turned against them. For the Lord says His hand will move against those who are helping Israel and those who are being helped. There will be no escape from the hand of Almighty God.
This is why it is foolish not to trust the Lord. When we fail to trust the Lord as His word calls us we act in unbelief and we walk in sin. At times in our lives we may be faced with circumstances which on the surface seem like an army trying to overwhelm us. The deck may be stacked against us. But with God all things are possible. The Lord has demonstrated throughout His word and the history of Israel His faithfulness time and time again. But the choice is always ours. Will we trust God at His word, or will we lean on our own understanding.