Sunday, September 30, 2012

Chapter 19: "An Altar to the Lord in . . . Egypt"

Quick: How many democratic nations can you name in the Middle East?

You should be able to identify at least two: Israel and Iraq. Massive protests in Egypt recently led to the creation of a third. What, you ask, does this have to do with Isaiah? It might help to remember that Iraq is the political entity currently located in the land that Isaiah refers to as Assyria: "In that day [Isaiah-speak for the last days] shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land: whom the Lord of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance" (19:24-25). In other words, Isaiah prophesied that in the last days these three countries (Egypt, Israel, and Iraq) would share something in common that would identify them as "a blessing in the midst of the land"--democracy, perhaps?

This prophecy concerning Egypt, Iraq, and Israel as a trio will only be fulfilled after the Lord has "set the Egyptians against the Egyptians: and they shall fight every one against his brother, and every one against his neighbour; city against city, and kingdom against kingdom" (19:2). After this civil war, when "the Lord shall smite Egypt," he will then proceed to "heal it: and they shall return even to the Lord, and he shall be intreated of them, and shall heal them" (19:22). This last verse clearly suggests that Egypt--or at least a portion of Egypt's population--will embrace the gospel in the last days, something that might be possible in a democratic society but that probably won't happen until democracy paves the way for freedom of religion. 

The most exciting part of Isaiah's prophecy for Egypt, however, is yet to come; in verse nineteen he prophecies that a temple will be built in Egypt: "In that day shall there be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar at the border thereof to the Lord" (19:19). To be sure, some biblical scholars have suggested that this prophecy was fulfilled when Jewish communities in Egypt built small temples at Leontopolis and Elephantine in the fifth century BCE; but Isaiah is quite consistent in his usage of "that day"--it invariably refers to events immediately preceding the Second Coming. Given the history of Ukraine--another country relatively new to democracy that received a temple just 20 years after the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints officially established its presence there--we could see the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy in our lifetimes. Book me for a trip to the Cairo temple dedication in 2032.

Remember what the Lord told the Nephites about Isaiah: "all things that he spake have been and shall be" (3 Ne. 23:3). Who needs CNN? I've got Isaiah.

Truly, great are the words of Isaiah!

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