Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq; also Egypt - Allies of Israel, worship the true God
That 90 year old Sarah should bear a child. That was unbelievable too. That the Egyptians should beg their enslaved Jews to leave their country, and even gave them silver and gold: unbelievable! That a heathen king, Cyrus should send Israel back to his homeland to rebuild the temple: that too is hard to believe. That a virgin should give birth to a child: impossible! That the child be crucified, but risen to life on the third day: preposterous! That the largest contemporary expression of the Christian faith is in China: who would have thought it?
Isaiah 19:24,25 reads as follows. "In 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 by Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my inheritance.'"
Isaiah wrote this 700 years before Christ. At that time Assyria comprised a vast piece of real estate including parts of modern day Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran. It was a stretch to believe Isaiah's words in his time. Now, 2700 years later? Unbelievable! But no more so than those other events listed above, now regarded by most as settled historical fact.
When the Babylonians took Judah captive a group of Jews fled to Egypt to seek asylum there. Some have suggested that Isaiah's prophecy was fulfilled then. Hardly, they fled in disobedience to the Lord and had little if any influence on the Egyptians. There is really no historical event that satisfies Isaiah's prediction. It must be something still to come.
What to do with it? We could blow it off as another implausible biblical prophecy. Cynics, no doubt, already have. We could classify it as a mystery and ignore it for all practical purposes. That's not worthy of serious followers of God. Mount a political campaign to bring it about? Give me a break!
Dare to be a Daniel
One day while Daniel was having his devotions he came across a statement in Jeremiah 25 that set him to praying as never before. "Then after seventy years are completed, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity, declares the Lord, making the land an everlasting waste." (Jeremiah 25:12)
Unbelievable! See, Daniel was among the captives in Babylon when he read this. From his point of view his people were destined to live on as miserable slaves for the foreseeable future. But when he read this text and began to calculate the timetable he realized that the seventy years was about up. He instinctively turned to God. "Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes." (Daniel 9:3)
An interesting prayer it is. Not, "OK, God it's about time you show up and deliver us from this misery!" It's a prayer of humble confession of sin in which Daniel includes himself as a penitent. He acknowledges God's righteousness and justice and pleads for his mercy. Daniel 9 provides a model prayer of response to God's promises. I've used if often in public worship. Read it for yourself.
Might this be the response called for by Isaiah's prophecy? Maybe it's time we pray God-sized prayers. Yes, he knows the hairs of our head (read parking places, sick pets, common colds, and front row seats). Methinks God is capable of greater things. Let's humbly confess our own unbelief, gratefully declare God's wisdom and righteousness and plead his early intervention in Mideast affairs. No, not a political arrangement brokered by the UN, but a gospel powered conversion and transformation of the masses.
Unbelievable! God forgive us.