A Tale of Two Hopes
“…the King of Assyria [shall] lead away the Egyptian captives and the Cushite exiles, both young and old, naked and barefoot…And the inhabitants of this coastland will say in that day, ‘Behold, this is what has happened to those in whom we hoped and to whom we fled for help to be delivered from the king of Assyria! And we, how shall we escape?'”
– Isaiah 20:6
Egypt as the Archetype of False hopes
In the ancient world, Egypt was regularly one of the power players, and this power meant that other nations would look to it for protection and support. Egypt was the strong one, the one that wouldn’t fail, the one to whom you could anchor your hope and be secure…and that was the problem. God’s people would often be tempted to trust in Egypt rather than YHWH, and in this passage, YHWH gives His people (and us) a glimpse of what invariably happens when we hope in anything that is not God.
Just as God made “almighty Egypt” into a nation of slaves – and so put to shame any who had trusted in them for support – so too He will ultimately expose ALL things that are not Himself as worthless and powerless pseudo-saviors.
Failure of the False Hopes
Place yourself, for a moment, in that position of final and complete hopelessness…imagine that last day as you stand before the living Jesus Christ…and then envision there, standing at His left side, is the thing in which you have hoped all your life….your “savior.”
It may be a dream, an achievement, a person, an accolade, perhaps a mirrored image of yourself. Now allow yourself to see what God foreshadows for us in Isaiah 20….allow yourself to see all the splendor, all the beauty, all the strength, all the glitter and appeal of that savior being stripped away. Like a candle held up to the sun, layer by layer its glory is dissolved into nothing by the inferno of supremacy that is Jesus Christ….and even though your savior may not have been “evil” (perhaps it was someone or something very good), it was not God, and so to trust in it was folly…..you know that now. And now you, like the coastlands in Isaiah are filled with that haunted realization:
“Behold….this is what has happened to those in whom [I] hoped and to whom [I] fled for help…..how shall [I] escape!?”
It is a horrifying thing to see your great hope, your rock, your savior melt to nothing before your eyes, leaving you in a free fall over eternity’s edge …and every one of us will experience that final hopelessness if we walk through this life with something other than Jesus Christ as our deep treasure and heart’s hope….
But, praise God, this is not all that Isaiah has to say. There is a hope that doesn’t fail. There is an anchor that cannot be moved. There is a final joy that will dawn over all things with greater certainty than tomorrow’s sunrise – and those who wait for HIM will NEVER be put to shame.
Victory of the True Hope
” It will be said in that day, ‘Behold, this is our God; we have waited for Him, that He might save us. This is YHWH; we have waited for Him; let us be glad and rejoice in His salvation!'”
– Isaiah 25:9
Just as Isaiah 20:6 gives us a picture of the failure of every false hope, so Isaiah 25:9 lets us see the victory of True Hope, and those who have clung to Him. Whether it comes the second after our death, or whether we live to see His glory splinter the skies, everyone who clings with white-knuckled faith to Jesus Christ will inhabit the joy of Isaiah 25:9…..the clouds of this fallen world will melt away, the gnawing whispers of residual doubt will be exposed as lies, every argument we’ve ever heard against the reliability of the Lord and His Word will have as much logical force as the burbling of an infant, and there before our eyes will be the One in whom ALL of our hopes are bound up. We will know with a certainty beyond any in this life, that this is our God, and we will be glad and rejoice in Him.
What joy, what final joy when we see our God face to face; when we see the one who swallowed up death forever (Is.25:8) in His own death on the cross and who secured invincible hope through His resurrection. Only the one who has swallowed death and extinguished the hell of God’s wrath by His own blood can safely ferry us through death and wrath into the joy of the Triune God….
And so, as I have said before I will say again: unless our savior has wounds on His hands where He died in our place, we have no savior. Unless our God has scars on His feet where He walked through damnation in our place, we have no God. Unless our hope was dead, but behold is alive forevermore (Rev.1:18), we have no hope. But if He bears those wounds….if He died and rose…if He is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, then joy unspeakable stands invincibly on the horizon of our lives – let us endure a bit longer by faith until we see His face.
And lastly, let me say this….the best time to realize you are trusting in a false hope is while there is still time to cling to True Hope…if you are reading these words, there is time to anchor your heart to Christ and so to be eternally saved.