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Isaiah 37

This is a continuation of the "historical interlude" from the reign of Hezekiah, as found in II Kings and cross-referenced in II Chronicles.

In our Chapter 36 cliffhanger, the field commander for the King of Assyrian, whose title is Rabshakeh, had tried to broker a deal directly with the people of Jerusalem- bribing them to come out peacefully and avoid a siege. The envoy sent by Judah's King Hezekiah had returned with the taunting, threatening, and bribing messages from Rabshakeh. They had tore their clothes, probably in grief and hopelessness, but also for the blasphemy they'd heard regarding the Lord.

When King Hezekiah heard the report from the envoy, he also tore his clothes and covered himself in sackcloth. Then he did the only thing that could bring hope--he entered the house of the Lord.

He also sent some political and priestly leaders, covered in sackcloth, to the prophet Isaiah.

And they said to him, "Thus says Hezekiah, 'This day is a day of distress, rebuke, and rejection; for children have come to birth, and there is no strength to deliver...

Isaiah 37:3

That's quite an image. The image of potential life, hanging in the balance; but in crisis. If a mother cannot complete birth, both mother and baby are likely to die.




Life can be hard. And when things aren't going well, how we feel about it can make it better or worse.

Although, Hezekiah is not wrong here. Even though he, personally, has done some things to bring reform, Judah has been on a long decline and Isaiah has been warning them of this impending doom.

The leaders go on with Hezekiah's message to implore Isaiah to intercede.

They offer thinly veiled suggestions that make a case for why God would want to intervene- for His own Name. They point out that Rabshakeh, on behalf of the Assyrian king, reproached the living God. They kindly suggest that maybe the Lord has heard and will want to rebuke such reproach.

They close Hezekiah's message with a request for a prayer for the remnant.

Isaiah is ready with a response from the Lord. Do not be afraid because of the messenger's word from Assyria. Isaiah also notes that the Lord is well aware of the blasphemy.

Do not be afraid.

I've heard that's in every book of the bible.

Bad things will happen. The enemy will come to the gate...but do not be afraid.

It should give us comfort; but sometimes can feel a bit bewildering. When things are bleak or feel hopeless, or when we're blind to some way through...being told not to fear can almost feel like salt in the wound.

But that's the mistake humans have made since the serpent slithered up to Eve. Leaning on our own understanding. Relying on our own blindness. Demanding the outcome we want...

He is a way maker. He does turn rivers into highways. He does turn bones into armies. He is a miracle worker. The key to reconciling our blindness and wants with His salvation is that He leads us in paths of righteous FOR HIS NAME'S SAKE. Not our feelings. Not our name's sake. We have to die to us; and then submit to His will. Then what is there to be afraid of?

In verse 7 Isaiah communicates the Lord's plan- he'll put a spirit in Rabshakeh that will impress a rumor in him, causing him to return to his own land, where he will fall by a sword.

In verse 8 Rabshakeh returned to the king of Assyria who was fighting against another city about 25 miles away. Then he heard that the king of Cush wanted to come out and fight.

None of these things seem directly tied to Hezekiah in Jerusalem, but I get the impression that the king of Assyria preferred for Hezekiah to surrender to save one less fight. I'll be curious to see if that's how the commentaries interpret verses 8 and 9. (MacArthur seems to agree.)

But in verses 10-13 couldn't be clearer. He sends a message to Hezekiah and warns him not to let God deceive him by promising to prevent the king of Assyria from destroying Jerusalem. Then the Assyrian king goes on to remind Hezekiah of all the previous vanquishes people and their gods who could not stand against him, even historical victories won by his "fathers".

Then Hezekiah took the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it, and he went up to the house of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord.

Isaiah 37:14

Isn't that quite the image?

This arrogant little human man who was blessed to be considered for leadership of his nation by God. Isaiah makes it clear in earlier chapters that Assyria has arrived here by God's will. But because they were unnecessarily brutal and deceptive...they wouldn't get the full blessing of being used by the Lord. And now...that little human man is calling out the God of the universe. Accusing God of deceiving Hezekiah. Of being weak and unable to fulfill His promises.

Notice what Hezekiah does and does not do. He doesn't lash out and defend the Lord. I used to do that. Feel like I had to have an answer for the Lord for every doubter and skeptic. Then a non-believer, of all people, pointed out that God didn't need my legal counsel. He was capable of defending Himself. Also, I know now that not only do I not need to feel like I'm His protector, I have to stop myself from trying to be my protector. He is my Defender; and He doesn't need my back-up.

Hezekiah just walks the blasphemes message right to the house of God and lays it out for God to deal with.

And then he prays.

He starts by acknowledging WHO God is. (verse 16)

  • O Lord of hosts (Jehovah Saba-the supreme God of war and armies)
  • the God of Israel
  • Who art enthroned above the cherubim
  • Thou art God, Thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth
  • Thou has made heaven and earth

Once Hezekiah has acknowledged who God is, then he brings his plea. (verse 17)

  • Incline thine ear, O Lord and hear
  • Open Thine eyes, O Lord and see
  • listen to the words of Sennacherib- reproaching the living God

Then Hezekiah acknowledges the part of Sennacherib's message that is true. In verse 18 he acknowledges that the kings of Assyria have devastated all the countries they've encountered. He also points out that it's true that the gods of these nations were also defeated and cast into the fire; but he points out that it is because these weren't real gods, but man-made idols of wood and stone.

And then, and only then, does Hezekiah ask for what he wants- deliver us so everyone will know that You alone are God.

Isaiah sends God's response to Hezekiah: Because you have prayed to Me about Sennacherib, I have spoken against him. Assyria despised and mocked you, O daughter of Jerusalem. (emphasis mine)

Make note of God's caveat. Hezekiah received from the Lord BECAUSE he asked. He had faith that God was the greatest source of help. Not himself. Not Egypt or horses or chariots. No Assyria. Not idols.

But God.

God alone is the only real source of salvation in our time of need.

And then God has some questions for Assyria.

  • Whom have you reproached and blasphemed?
  • Against whom are you raising your voice?
  • And haughtily lifted up your eyes?

And then God provides the answer to His own questions:

Against the Holy One of Israel!

Isaiah 37:23b

I pray that I never place myself in the position to hear that answer (although I am sure I have...). I guess I should say...Thank you Jesus that I bear Your righteousness and am spared by Your grace and mercy from hearing that answer.

God continues catalogue Assyria's arrogance.

  • Through your servants you have reproached the Lord.
  • you have bragged about your chariots achieving great heights in remote places
  • bragged about what you have destroyed in your path
  • bragged about digging wells and drying up the rivers of Egypt

And then God explains some things to Sennacherib.

  • This success you brag about, was planned by Me long ago, from ancient times
  • your success over these fortified cities came from Me
  • I used you to humble them
  • I know everything about you and your rage against Me

Because of your raging against Me, and because your arrogance has come up to my ears, therefore I will put My hook in your nose, and my bridle into your lips, and I will turn you back by the way which you came.

Isaiah 37:29

And then, in verses 30-33, God graciously gives Israel a sign so that they will know it was from Him.

  • The first two years, they'll have to make due with what's going to grow itself; but the third year, they can resume cultivating.
  • Judah will then be able to dig roots and bear fruit upwards
  • The zeal of the Lord will use the remnant in Jerusalem to restore Judah
  • The Lord promises that Sennacherib won't show up and make war against Jerusalem. No arrow, no shield, no mound.

God promised that Sennacherib would return the way he came.

For I will defend this city to save it for My own sake and My servant David's sake.

Isaiah 37:35

I love that. What a good, good Father.

And then something happened. Something awful, awe-inspiring, and awesome!

Then the angel of the Lord went out, and struck 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians; and when men arose early in the morning, behold, all of these were dead.

Isaiah 37:36

The Ryrie footnote adds that historian Herodotus records that the army camp was infected with mice or rats and cross-references II Kings 19:35.

The fear (awe) of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, indeed!

Verse 37 tells us that Sennacherib got a does of that wisdom. He departed, returned home, and lived in Nineveh.

But Sennacherib's story doesn't end with a happily-ever-after. Once home, he was worshiping his "god" and his sons murdered him and fled. Another son became king in his place. Sennacherib's "god" couldn't protect him, even in its temple.

Whew! That is a lot of ground covered in one chapter...

  • we started with grief and fear, covered in sackcloth
  • we wisely reached out to the prophet Isaiah to hear from God
  • Isaiah assures us to not be afraid
  • God has a plan
  • the king of Assyria tries to intimidate us
  • Hezekiah takes it to the real king of Kings, physically to the house of the Lord and spiritually in a beautiful, humble prayer
  • God answers with promises of assurance to Hezekiah and destruction to Sennacherib
  • Then God lays out His promises to Judah via Jerusalem for after the siege
  • And finally, God defends His city for His name sake-leaving 185,000 enemies dead, Sennacherib retreating and eventually being murdered by his own.

There is so much to take from these events. But at the heart of it, God alone is God. God alone is our help in times of need. God is sovereign even over our enemies.

What struck you? Leave a comment and tell me what this amazing story brought to mind for you.

The Wiersbe commentary notes that it's commonly accepted that Psalm 126 is in reference to these events, so I'll paste that here for your consideration.

When the Lord brought back the captivity of Zion,
We were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
And our tongue with singing.
Then they said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us,
And we are glad.

Bring back our captivity, O Lord,
As the streams in the South.

Those who sow in tears
Shall reap in joy.
He who continually goes forth weeping,
Bearing seed for sowing,
Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing,
Bringing his sheaves with him.

Psalm 126, NKJV,

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