Readings: Psalm 126; Isaiah 19: 18-25; 2 Peter 1:2-15
On that day there will be five cities in the land of Egypt that speak the language of Canaan and swear allegiance to the Lord of hosts…
On that day there will be an altar to the Lord in the center of the land of Egypt, and a pillar to the Lord at its border. It will be a sign and a witness to the Lord of hosts in the land of Egypt; when they cry to the Lord because of oppressors, he will send them a savior, and will defend and deliver them…
On that day Israel will be the third with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the Lord of hosts has blessed, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my heritage.”
Isaiah 19:18, 19-20, 24-25 NRSV
Egypt was a powerful foreign nation in the history of God’s people. Joseph ended up a slave there, and through his rise to prominence was able to save his family from famine by sheltering them within its borders. Years passed, kings changed, and the descendants of Joseph became slaves. The story of their slavery in Egypt, and their journey to freedom is well known, retold every Passover as the central narrative of the Jewish faith. Freedom from the bondage of Egypt formed the people of Israel: Egypt was the nation God rescued them from, not a people of God. The same was true of Assyria. They were the lands of God’s enemies, not God’s devoted followers. How could Egypt ever be God’s people, or Assyria God’s handiwork? How could any other nation be God’s when Israel is and always was God’s chosen?
It’s amazingly difficult to acknowledge that God might love those who have caused us pain. The people we hate are the people we fear, and it’s almost impossible to see in them God’s grace and mercy. And we suspect that if God loves them, maybe there won’t be enough love left for us. It’s much easier and much more comfortable to assume that God’s love ends where ours does. But it doesn’t. It doesn’t end with us because it doesn’t end at all. God’s love isn’t finite and it cannot be lessened no matter how many people and nations receive it.
I love how this passage ends with God blessing Egypt and Assyria. It means that God’s love cannot be limited by my limitations, and it just might mean that my love might not be limited by them either.
Thank you, God, for your love that embraces me and the ones I cannot love yet. Amen.