This is the word of the Lord that came to Jeremiah the prophet concerning the nations: Concerning Egypt: This is the message against the army of Pharaoh Necho king of Egypt, which was defeated at Carchemish on the Euphrates River by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon in the fourth year of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah…
This takes us back to the year 605 B.C., when Nebuchadnezzar first came up against Judah. He was met by the armies of Egypt at the city of Carchemish on the Euphrates River, and there one of the great strategic battles of all history was fought. Until then, Egypt had been the most powerful nation of the day, but Babylon broke the power of Egypt at that place. In chapter 46, Jeremiah is describing that battle in advance — how long in advance we do not know. He describes in very vivid terms the advance of the Babylonian army, the clash of these conflicting forces, the terrible battle that ensued, and the final defeat of Egypt. We will not take time to cover these verses, but you can read them for yourself. The language is very beautiful.
However, in the midst of this a characterization is made of Egypt. In the Scriptures Egypt is a picture of the world and its influence upon us. Egypt was a place of tyranny and bondage for the people of Israel. They were under the yoke of a wicked and severe king who enslaved them and treated them cruelly. Yet strangely enough, after they escaped, it was the place they always fondly remembered and wanted to return to. They remembered the food, the comfort, and the ease of life in Egypt. So this has always stood as a picture of the lure of the world to the believer — to think as it thinks, to react as it reacts, to seek from the world your own satisfaction and pleasure and enjoyment instead of living for the glory of God.
Now, when I refer to “the world” I am not talking about people, nor about doing any specific so-called “worldly” thing. That is not what worldliness is. Worldliness is an attitude of life that causes you to think of living only for your own pleasures and enjoyment. That is what Egypt symbolizes in Scripture. The character of Egypt is described for us in Verses 7-8: “Who is this, rising like the Nile, like rivers whose waters surge? Egypt rises like the Nile, like rivers whose waters surge” (Jeremiah 46:7-8a RSV). Every spring the Nile River rises and overflows its banks, and this restores Egypt. The prophet uses this as a picture of the way the world comes at us — in surges and waves. We think we have it licked, but pretty soon it will come at us again. Repeatedly, throughout our lifetime as believers on our spiritual pilgrimage, the world rises to afflict us and to lure us, and seeks to betray us and get us back into bondage again.
But there is another message here about Egypt, Verses 13-24, delivered by Jeremiah after he had gone into exile in Egypt. Here he describes the forthcoming invasion of Egypt by Nebuchadnezzar, which took place after Jeremiah’s death. In accord with this prophesy, Nebuchadnezzar came down into Egypt and took over the land. In the midst of this prophesy is another characterization of Egypt, “Call the name of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, “Noisy one who lets the hour go by.”” (Jeremiah 46:17 RSV)
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Isn’t that a strange name to give somebody? That is the characterization of Egypt — and the world. It is one of the ways we can recognize the world: it loves noise, because it does not want to stop and think. It loves to kill time. The world comes at us constantly, trying to get us to think only in terms of immediate pleasure and indulgence, and forgetting that it leads to slavery and bondage. So God punishes Egypt — that is the message here.
Thank you, Father, for the faithfulness of your word. Teach me to stand against the world and stay faithful to you in this day of moral dissolution.
Are we learning to identify and compare worldly attitudes by comparing them with God’s Word of Truth? Have we succumbed to the worldly distraction of noise?