And the LORD will strike Egypt, striking and healing, and they will return to the LORD, and he will listen to their pleas for mercy and heal them.
– Isaiah 19:22
This is an intriguing verse, especially this statement that God will strike Egypt and bring healing. Both words are infinitives joined together by a coordinating conjunction, the word “and”. The point may catch us off guard thinking that God will “strike” (lit. to hit or strike) AND, to “heal” (lit. to cure; to heal, make whole). God was working to strike Egypt for the purpose that He would bring complete healing. The text tells us there is a process involved.
In order to understand this directive, we need to have the perspective and conviction that regardless of human posturing, political movements, and economic and social upheavals in any given nation, God is invisibly directing, influencing and guiding His purpose in and through any given nation (Isaiah 19:14, 16-17). God sets up leaders and removes them according to His own purpose (Isa. 40:23-24; John 19:10-11) and He works to direct leaders for His purpose (Pro. 21:1; Rom. 9:16-17). God often used other nations to oppress those whom abandoned Him, Israel as the prime example, but God worked in and through pagan nations to accomplish His purposes too (Isaiah 45:1-4).
God will strike Egypt, He will wound them for the purpose that Egypt, as a nation, will return to the Lord, He will listen to their pleas for mercy and He will heal them. There are numerous factors in this narrative which are far too extensive to deal with here but the key point is that God is constantly working out His purpose, even in and through individuals and in the most powerful nations of the world.
The picture that I want to borrow here is that of a surgeon. I had surgery back in August that required the surgeon to cut open my body, fix some torn muscles and sow me back up. Over the next month and a half I was instructed to not do certain things so that everything would heal fully. Once that original healing process was completed I was given permission to start working out again but to engage that slowly so that I don’t overstress the surgery too quickly. Over time (hopefully a short time) I will be back to normal and doing everything I want to do. This is a viable picture of what God was doing with Egypt. He would have to bring a blow to Egypt, to strike them in such a way that they would come to Him so that He could bring about a complete healing. They were spiritually unhealthy and God was concerned enough to cut them open so that He could bring about a complete healing.
Sometimes God strikes us. He uses circumstances, situations, people, hardships, trials and a variety of other instruments to surgically deal with spiritual sickness in us so that we will seek Him out and allow Him to bring complete healing in our lives. This can become confusing to us because we are usually very unaware of God’s strategic purposes and we do not see life the way He does. This was not punishment but discipline. If God wanted to punish them He could have brought complete destruction, like when He delivered Israel out of Egypt. We often cannot figure out what exactly God is up to and we don’t like it when He “strikes us” or performs spiritual surgery on us. It can be painful, it often takes us complete off our plans and we may not understand what the purpose is but God is working to direct, influence and guide our lives so that we are walking in a manner worthy of the Lord.
Sometimes the difficulties and challenges have a purpose if we trust the God behind them.