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. Yet he too is wise and can bring disaster; he does not take back his words. He will rise up against that wicked nation, against those who help evildoers. But the Egyptians are mere mortals and not God; their horses are flesh and not spirit. When the Lord stretches out his hand, those who help will stumble, those who are helped will fall; all will perish together. (NIV)
At first glance, this passage only seems to make sense to those reckon Egyptian military might is the answer to their problems. Not something you or I have reflected on lately! This passage was addressed to the people of Israel who were under threat from the great power of Assyria. To meet that threat, they tried to forge an alliance with Egypt, another great power. The problem is that Assyria wasn’t their real problem: godlessness was their real problem. And Egyptian alliances wouldn’t help that at all but only be a way of avoiding the basic issue. They needed to turn to the living God, not Egypt.
Egypt is not an option for us, but we very readily turn to all sorts of sources for help when our primary need is to turn to God. We think a bit more money will make us secure. A new relationship will be best for us. Better education, a better job, more expertise: all can be means by which we evade the real issue which is a fundamental and radical trust in God to meet whatever threats hover over us.
It is good to turn to others for help in times of trouble: others can be literally ‘godsends” to us. But ultimately our trust must be in God. Other human beings are only human. As a church we can be tempted to look to the latest technology, the latest conference or programme, the better building or the new staff member. Each of which can play a part in our life together, but not as a substitute for helpless dependence on the living God. The true character of a nation or a church is not to be defined by its material power and resources but by its fidelity to the God who rules all nations and all churches.
Many years ago as a small, timid child I was on holidays in a guest house at Terrigal. I was scared of the dark. I overheard another guest saying her husband was a policeman. I fervently hoped he would be staying there to help ensure the bogeymen of the night wouldn’t get to me! No such luck! He was on duty elsewhere. And even as a small child, I had to concede that my protection was best guaranteed by praying to God, not relying on some strange police officer. So I went to bed that night resorting to prayer rather than the police.
We have no need to “go down to Egypt” or “trust in chariots”. They have their own strength but are as nothing compared to the strength of our God. Our ultimate enemy is the evil one and his seductive appeal to us to live our own way. Our ultimate protection against this enemy is the invitation of God to live his way.