Thursday, April 9, 2015

God’s Answer

Isaiah 36:22-37:29

“Then came Eliakim, the son of Hilkiah, that was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and Joah, the son of Asaph, the recorder, to Hezekiah with their clothes rent, and told him the words of Rabshakeh.  And it came to pass, when king Hezekiah heard it, that he rent his clothes, and covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of the LORD.” Isaiah (36:22-37:1)

After hearing Rabshakeh’s threats and warnings to the people and his disparaging comments about both Judah and God, Hezekiah’s representatives reported everything that had been said to the king.  Troubled that the people might fall for it and that the Assyrians believed what had been said, Hezekiah went to the Lord in prayer. 

“And he sent Eliakim, who was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and the elders of the priests covered with sackcloth, unto Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz.  And they said unto him, Thus saith Hezekiah, This day is a day of trouble, and of rebuke, and of blasphemy: for the children are come to the birth, and there is not strength to bring forth.  It may be the LORD thy God will hear the words of Rabshakeh, whom the king of Assyria his master hath sent to reproach the living God, and will reprove the words which the LORD thy God hath heard: wherefore lift up thy prayer for the remnant that is left.  So the servants of king Hezekiah came to Isaiah.” (Isaiah 37:2-5)

Hezekiah also sent to the prophet Isaiah to get his input on what God wanted.  They came to Isaiah in a spirit of humility recognizing that Judah would not be able to gain victory by themselves and embarrassed at the blasphemy against God.  They asked him to pray that God would help them, knowing what Rabshakeh had said about him. 

“And Isaiah said unto them, Thus shall ye say unto your master, Thus saith the LORD, Be not afraid of the words that thou hast heard, wherewith the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me.  Behold, I will send a blast upon him, and he shall hear a rumour, and return to his own land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land.” (Isaiah 37:6-7)

Isaiah told them that God said for them not to worry about what the Assyrians had said.  He would distract them with rumors and threats from other places and they would be forced to withdraw to protect their own land.  The king would be killed in his own land. 

“So Rabshakeh returned, and found the king of Assyria warring against Libnah: for he had heard that he was departed from Lachish.  And he heard say concerning Tirhakah king of Ethiopia, He is come forth to make war with thee.” (Isaiah 37:8-9a)

The Assyrians had taken the major cities in Judah, but when the people of Libnah heard that the Assyrian force had split, sending the main body against Jerusalem, they attacked the Assyrian forces at Lachish.  Rabshakeh was forced to go to the rescue of the king at Lachish.  While there he heard that the Ethiopian king was preparing to invade the Assyrian holdings.  Since Ethiopia had at one time controlled most of northern Africa and had invaded the middle east with an army of over a million men during Asa’s day, two hundred years before, it was considered a serious threat. 

And when he heard it, he sent messengers to Hezekiah, saying, Thus shall ye speak to Hezekiah king of Judah, saying, Let not thy God, in whom thou trustest, deceive thee, saying, Jerusalem shall not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.  Behold, thou hast heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands by destroying them utterly; and shalt thou be delivered?
Have the gods of the nations delivered them which my fathers have destroyed, as Gozan, and Haran, and Rezeph, and the children of Eden which were in Telassar?  Where is the king of Hamath, and the king of Arphad, and the king of the city of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivah?” (Isaiah 37:9b-13)

Before he left, Rabshakeh warned Hezekiah not to think the withdrawal meant they had given up.  They didn’t need to think god could deliver them because none of the gods of the other nations had been able to defeat them.  He said they’d come back and finish what they had started. 

“And Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it: and Hezekiah went up unto the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD.  And Hezekiah prayed unto the LORD, saying, O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, that dwellest between the cherubims, thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth: thou hast made heaven and earth.
Incline thine ear, O LORD, and hear; open thine eyes, O LORD, and see: and hear all the words of Sennacherib, which hath sent to reproach the living God.  Of a truth, LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations, and their countries.  And have cast their gods into the fire: for they were no gods, but the work of men's hands, wood and stone: therefore they have destroyed them.  Now therefore, O LORD our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the LORD, even thou only.” (Isaiah 37:14-20)

When Hezekiah received Rabshakeh’s letter, he took into the temple and showed it to the Lord, acknowledging God as the only true God and creator of heaven and earth.  He reminds him that the claims are a reproach against god himself, and that the Assyrians have done just as Rabshakeh said to the other nations and the gods they worshipped which were in fact only manmade objects.  He asked the Lord to save them, demonstrating that he was truly God, and not just another idol.

“Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent unto Hezekiah, saying, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Whereas thou hast prayed to me against Sennacherib king of Assyria: This is the word which the LORD hath spoken concerning him; The virgin, the daughter of Zion, hath despised thee, and laughed thee to scorn; the daughter of Jerusalem hath shaken her head at thee.” (Isaiah 37:21-22)

God answered Hezekiah with a message through Isaiah.  He described it as being like a rich and powerful suitor trying to force a girl to go along, threatening her or her family if she doesn’t.  Instead of yielding to his demands, the girl spurns him even laughing at his threats, and not taking him seriously.    

“Whom hast thou reproached and blasphemed? and against whom hast thou exalted thy voice, and lifted up thine eyes on high? even against the Holy One of Israel.  By thy servants hast thou reproached the Lord, and hast said, By the multitude of my chariots am I come up to the height of the mountains, to the sides of Lebanon; and I will cut down the tall cedars thereof, and the choice fir trees thereof: and I will enter into the height of his border, and the forest of his Carmel.  I have digged, and drunk water; and with the sole of my feet have I dried up all the rivers of the besieged places.

Hast thou not heard long ago, how I have done it; and of ancient times, that I have formed it? now have I brought it to pass, that thou shouldest be to lay waste defenced cities into ruinous heaps.  Therefore their inhabitants were of small power, they were dismayed and confounded: they were as the grass of the field, and as the green herb, as the grass on the housetops, and as corn blasted before it be grown up.” (Isaiah 37:23-27)

In making the threats, it is not just Jerusalem than has been insulted by the threats, but God.   Rabshakeh was making the threats on behalf of his king, Sennacherib, convinced they had won all those victories in their own power, and can overcome God the same way.  If Sennacherib had paid attention to history, he would know that his victories had been the result of God punishing those who would not serve him by making them weak and taking away their defenses, not because of Assyria’s power.  As a result they had just shriveled up like grass on a house top dries up at the first sign of a drought because there is no  reserve moisture to draw from.

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