God loves the people of Egypt, and Israel’s destiny has been linked with Egypt right from the calling of Abraham. He promises that in the future, he will build a “highway”, in Hebrew a “Messilah” (מסילה) between Egypt, Israel and Assyria, which is a very interesting word and concept: “In that day there will be a highway [messilah] from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth. The Lord Almighty will bless them, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance” (Isaiah 19:23-25). As we hear about the churning and upheaval in Egypt, it’s worth bearing the whole of chapter 19 in mind, and praying in accordance with God’s stated intentions revealed in that prophecy.
It is hard to find another gentile nation in the Bible that God so frequently interacts with, and reveals himself to. Assyria (which includes the cities of Babylon and Nineveh) also gets a lot of attention from God, which is perhaps why Assyria is also included in this “messilah” business.
But Egypt is in there right from the beginning of the story of Israel. The first woman that God appears to (after Eve) is an Egyptian – a slave woman called Hagar. He interacts with her in a very personal and compassionate way, saving her from her distress and delivering her and her son from danger. Later, it is Joseph’s involuntary detour to Egypt that saved the people of Israel from obliteration, and God spoke personally to Pharoah in dreams, which Joseph interpreted. God had saved the budding twelve tribes through Egypt’s resources, and brought witness to the people of Egypt of his sovereignty through the family of Israel. Skipping 400 years further ahead, as brutal as the slavery was, and as cruel as Rameses II became, God mercifully gave ample proof of his omnipotence and Lordship over every “god” of theirs through the ten plagues. By now, Egypt knew a thing or two about the God of Israel, which is more than most pagan countries had received at that time. The Bible shows the winding and intertwined road of Israel’s relationship with Egypt, often one of wrong dependence upon Egypt on Israel’s part, but one way or another, God had made himself known to that nation. And he has not finished with them yet!
Today, the largest church in the Middle East is situated in Egypt, although the Christian minority are persecuted and often in danger. However, there are many who love and pray for Israel from there. Isaiah 19 promises that hard times are coming to Egypt. The whole chapter makes very interesting and enlightening reading in the light of current events – it’s worth reading the whole thing for yourself. According to the prophecy, a very harsh ruler will be over the people, and tragedy and suffering will be extreme – it seems due both to political reasons and natural disasters. God says he will wound them and then heal them and bring revival – a revival which will be intimately connected with Israel.
Now back to that highway that God will build in Egypt. The word “messilah” in modern Hebrew means “railway”. Of course, this is a new take on an old concept. What today means railway once meant a set path for a vehicle to travel down. It also has overtones of destiny, just as a train cannot veer off its railway track and go where it pleases – its route is pre-planned and fixed. The word “messilah” denotes a fixed path. We see this idea in Devorah’s victory song, where she declares: “From the heavens the stars fought, from their courses [messilot – plural of messilah] they fought against Sisera.” (Judges 5:20). In the same way that the stars and planets go about their set orbits and paths, so God has set a pathway in place, ready to be traveled along.
We see this highway concept in other places, although mostly in Isaiah –
“…A voice of one calling in the wilderness, prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” (Isaiah 40:3)
“And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness; it will be for those who walk on that Way. The unclean will not journey on it; wicked fools will not go about on it.” (Isaiah 35:8)
“Happy is the man whose strength is in Thee; in whose heart are the highways [messilot].” (Psalm 84:6)
“Pass through, pass through the gates! Prepare the way for the people. Build up, build up the highway! Remove the stones. Raise a banner for the nations.” Isaiah 62:10
Isaiah 11:10-16 has another fascinating passage, which explains what (or who) this banner is: “In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples“. It goes on to promise this same highway and blessing to Egypt, Israel and Assyria. If you are feeling concerned about where it is all headed, read this as an encouraging antedote!
When we read these prophecies it’s hard to imagine them coming to pass, but the Bible has had a pretty good track record of accuracy to date. Watching the news need not bring us to despair when we believe in the promises of God. He will strike, it is true. But he will heal. Things in Egypt are going to get extremely tough. With the same mercy and compassion with which God met Hagar, let us intercede for Israel’s Egyptian neighbours at this time, both believers and non-believers. Praise God that there are many righteous ones who love the Lord, and pray for their protection and strengthening. Pray that as their heart and prayers for Israel will increase, so will their blessing. Pray also for all those who are far away, that the Lord will call them and bring them under his banner, Yeshua, the Messiah of Israel.