Photo credit to Dave Montreuil.
“Behold, I am against you, Pharaoh King of Egypt, the great dragon that lies in the midst of his rivers, that has said: ‘My river is mine own, and I have made it for myself.’” Ezekiel 29:3
Does that sound familiar. “My body is my own.” “My life is my own.” “My choices are my own.” “My future is my own.” It’s a lot of my, my, my and me, me, me, don’t you think? Do you think it’s hard to get caught up in thinking like this? I don’t. I think it’s hard to keep ourselves from getting caught up in this thinking. I think that we can’t, unless we have someone stronger with us working with us. And I’m so glad that God has given us Jesus and the power of His Holy Spirit to do just that. But before He can do that, I have to realize that I need Him to do that in me.
Pharaoh, or the Kingdom of Egypt, has already been privy to the knowledge of God. Moses was a witness long ago to all of Egypt. They saw the first-hand intervention of God already. But they chose to trust in something of their own making. They chose to trust in their own way, their own power, their own gods.
As a matter of fact, one of their main gods, Sobek, was the crocodile god, who is probably that “great dragon” that God is referencing. Sobek was very popular. So were crocodiles. Sobek was beloved. The people treated crocodiles well in an attempt to appease him so their crops and people would be fertile. They also believed that Sobek controlled the waters, of which the Nile was very necessary for survival. It was kind of common sense seeming to worship the leader of the crocodiles who filled the Nile. Sobek was also a fourfold deity with Ra of fire, Shu of air, Geb of earth, and Osiris of water being part of him. He had ferocity and quickness. Sobek even participated in the birth of one god, Horus. It’s also believed that Sobek created the world. At one point he was incorporated into the worship of Amun in which he became the “manifestation of Amun-Re.”
It’s true. A crocodile is formidable, ferocious, and quick and he’s definitely worth fearing. But no crocodile, not even one who poses as a god, is greater to be feared than God. After all, he was already overthrown once during the exodus from Egypt. How many more times would the Egyptians need to go through the same lesson before they learned?
But if we are too busy shouting, “My river is my own, and I have made if for myself,” we won’t ever stop to realize that the river was there before me or that crocodiles can be killed and die or that there are places where crocodiles can’t even survive. But a true God doesn’t die, and existed before all, and there is no place where He is not or where He cannot survive. Oh, and a real God doesn’t need to be appeased because He loves and desires to be loved in return.
It’s funny, well not so funny really, how fake gods mirror what we have in the Real God, only dimly. Sobek was needed for protection and he was the manifestation of Amun-Re. Sounds a little like a copy cat of the Son of God only he can’t do the job, and Jesus can. I mean, where was Sobek when God held back the waters? Where was Sobek when God showed He was able to give life and take it from the other “so-called gods”? Where was Sobek to protect his people? And where would he be now?
But Egypt wasn’t only guilty of puffing themselves up in pride. They were guilty of leading Israel to trust is something less than their God. They were guilty of posing like a strong great dragon when they were really a “staff of reed” and a broken one at that. See, we can choose to trust in others instead of God. We can choose to trust in false ideas with them. And we can still call ourselves believers when we live more like a follower of Sobek. It’s like grabbing a reed from the river bank of Egypt to use as a walking staff, only it’s broken. It’s not going to fight off our attackers. It’s not even going to support us as we walk. It’s just a staff of reed. A staff is supposed to be strong. It represents spiritual strength. But a staff of reed is spiritual weakness. It might pose as strength and call itself a great dragon, but actually it’s just a baby chameleon compared to the God who deserves our trust.
Here’s the thing. God’s heart is not set on wiping us out. His heart is set on reminding us and bringing us back to Him. That’s why You didn’t destroy Egypt forever. That’s why You keep giving Israel other chances. That’s why I’ve not been destroyed. That’s why You gave Egypt 40 years of desolation. It’s a time to think and remember, just like with Israel. Only sometimes people use that time to stop and think and sometimes they don’t.
Was there really 40 years of desolation for Egypt? Yes. Around 590 BCE Ezekiel probably made this prophecy. Nebuchadnezzar’s time to attack during his 37th year was in 588 BCE. There was actually something called the Nebuchadnezzar Inscription found describing this event. Forty years later, Egypt resorted to allying with King Nabonidus of Babylonia, becoming that lesser power under his opponent.
Isaiah warns Israel of what they are doing. “Behold, you are trusting in Egypt, that broken reed of a staff, which will pierce the hand of any man who leans on it. Such is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who trust in him.” (Isaiah 36:6) Why is that a problem? Is that a problem because Egypt is inherently weak? No. It’s a problem because only God is strong and the rest of us are all inherently weak. We are all broken reeds in comparison. Not a single one of us is truly a great dragon like we think. We are all needy. God is never needy. If our strength is in each other or ourselves, we will constantly be splintering our own hands, because our reeds will keep falling apart and decaying. But not God.
Ferrel’s Travel Blog shared, “There is a great lesson in this for each of us to avoid leaning on promises and systems of thought that will not hold us up in time of need. ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.(Proverbs 3:5-6)’” Our lives and eternity are dependent upon us learning that God is God and we are not. Our lives and eternity are dependent upon us learning that trusting in God even when we don’t understand is the greatest wisdom and highest understanding available. Not only do our lives and our eternity depend upon us understanding that You are God, but the lives and eternities of all those who follow us depend upon us letting You be God in our lives and theirs. Otherwise, we are just being broken reeds, ready to inflict splinters of pain in the hands and lives of those we love. In Ezekiel 29, God gets more graphic with that staff of reed. When Israel grasped it with their hand, it didn’t just prick them with splinters. The reed broke and then tore all their shoulders and as it broke it made their loins to shake. What kind of staff will I be to those around me? Where does my trust lie? Who’s river do I abide in?