Earlier this week, an Egyptian army chief and Minister of Defense warned that the political crisis in Egypt could lead to the collapse of the state. Today more protests are planned after Friday prayers.
Events resulting from mass protests to the policies of President Morsi (Mursi) is putting the spotlight on an ancient nation mentioned more than 600 times in the Bible.
With its fertile Nile delta, and ancient irrigation technology, Egypt didn’t have to rely on seasonal rains to the extent that other areas of the Middle East did. As a result both Abraham and Jacob went to Egypt looking for food during times of famine.
Yet when an especially severe seven-year drought threatened Egypt as well, a once abandoned son of Jacob by the name of Joseph was used by the God of gods to show himself to the people of Egypt as the real Provider of the world. Later, when a Pharaoh that did not know Joseph turned the descendants of Jacob/Israel into slaves, the God of Abraham used Moses to lead his people out of Egypt in a manner that once again lifted up the Name of the King of kings.
In the years that followed two main themes are repeated over and over in its unfolding storyline of Israel:
Another is expressed in repeated warning “don’t go back to Egypt” in a way that breaks faith in God who showed his superiority to the gods of the Nile: “Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of their chariots and in the great strength of their horsemen, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, or seek help from the Lord” (Isaiah 31:1).
Just as importantly, the Bible uses Egypt to show that God has a heart not only for Israel but for her enemies as well. In a vision of the future Isaiah writes, “Then the Lord will be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians will know the Lord in that day, and will make sacrifice and offering; yes, they will make a vow to the Lord and perform it. And the Lord will strike Egypt, He will strike and heal it; they will return to the Lord, and He will be entreated by them and heal them. In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian will come into Egypt and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians will serve with the Assyrians (Isa 19:21-23).
In the middle of history between Moses and our own breaking news, there is Jesus. Matthew’s Gospel tells us “An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son” (Matt 2:13-15).
What at first seems like such a mystery is that when Matthew quotes the prophet as saying “Out of Egypt I called my son” he is saying that Jesus’ brief stay in Egypt brings fullness of meaning to what Hosea refers to as a historical reference to Israel’s Exodus (Hosea 11:1).
On closer look it becomes apparent that Matthew, along with other New Testament writers, and, most importantly, Jesus himself, give us a way of seeing Israel’s whole Exodus born history, worship, and purpose as being fulfilled in Jesus, the Son of God.
So today, when we see Egypt in the news we are hearing of a nation that once provided the geographical staging for one of the greatest evidences of the God of gods the world has ever seen. The deeply rooted and intertwined histories of Egypt, Israel’s Messiah and the world he died to save are still helping us understand who each of us are– and where history is going.
Seems so significant that with all of the technology and progress that fills our lives and minds, the ancient backstory of the people of the Bible (i.e. Egypt, Israel, Babylon/Assyria, Iran/Persia, Syria, Lebanon, Arabia) is still helping us remember that where we came from is like a beast of burden carrying us into our own future.