We are in the Prophetic Stream. Isaiah encouraged King Hezekiah regarding the Assyrian army and then the King does a Big No-No. We are reading from the New English Translation this week.
The drama of the Assyrian army infiltrating the Southern Kingdom [and Jerusalem the headquarters] could not have been more frightening. The Assyrians had already sacked and conquered 49 cities across Israel. The Assyrian leader taunted and declared that he had Judah’s King Hezekiah trapped like a bird in a cage. The broader story is told also in 2 Ki. 18-19 & 2 Chr. 32. What was at hand was the greatest of rescues surpassed only by the Exodus in Ex. 14. Isaiah assured those in Jerusalem seven times in his book that he would demolish the Assyrian threat. But with Jerusalem now in range of the Assyrian Army it was getting harder to relax and be at peace while trusting God for deliverance. In 37 the final “dirty lowdown” has been read to Hezekiah. Another memo arrives of the same level – The Assyrians declaring that “time is up – surrender or else!” The panic is paralyzing. Hezekiah takes this threatening letter into the Temple and prays earnestly for God to deliver. Isaiah also sends a message – this one is from the Lord to encourage Hezekiah that God would arrive just in time. Not one Assyrian arrow or soldier will enter Jerusalem. Remember why God does this; Isa. 37:35 “I will shield this city and rescue it for the sake of my reputation and because of my promise to David my servant.” The people of Judah/Jerusalem were not being saved because they were paragon disciples. Nonetheless God’s Angel swoops over and 185,000 Assyrian soldiers breathe their last. Isaiah [31:8] said this would happen – “Assyria will fall by a sword this is not of man; a sword, not of mortals, will devour them.” King Sennacherib rises to find his army dead! This is desolation that is not to be overcome. America sent 175,000 soldiers across the English Channel Jun 6, 1944. The Nazis exclaimed that the boats were so thick it looked like one could walk across the English Channel. 160,000 made it across alive. Here 185,000 are killed in one night, in one canyon. Sennacherib departed and went home and was soon killed in the Temple of Nisroch. One of his sons took to power and Sennacherib was gone.
38 – Hezekiah had been a righteous King but pride took him to the edge of an early departure. His illness occupies chapter 38. 2 Chr. 32:24ff tells the reason, during this same incident, whereas Isaiah, here, just tells of the incident. It was certainly a crisis in Hezekiah’s life that God brought him through. His illness, his searching, the treatment – Isaiah’s involvement, the recovery and the prayer is all marvelous material of Hezekiah’s pilgrimage.
39 – The news of his illness had spread internationally, and the prince of Babylon arrives. And in a gesture that could be psychologically analyzed for centuries [for its foolishness], Hezekiah shows the Babylonians all the treasures of the Temple and of the Kingdom. Wisdom prevents anyone from showing all they have to anyone – whether even family can be trusted in this regard is open to debate. What was Hezekiah thinking? Why was he NOT thinking? Isaiah arrives very soon to recite the LORD’s opinion of what Hezekiah just did and it is not good. All that Israel had amassed since it’s inception would be carried off to Babylon, Hezekiah’s descendants would be part of those taken captive too. Hezekiah would not see this day but his thoughtless deed would end up being part of what brings an end to this period of Israel’s history. It could be asked for a thousand years, “why show your gems to an enemy?” The answer remains, “no good reason.”
in the 8th century B.C. Hezekiah oversaw one of the greatest victories on Jerusalem’s behalf and his prayer is no small part of it. If only he could have stayed regal! But then he gets arrogant, then he gets sick (is healed, yes), then he goes stupid. Too many of the biblical characters don’t finish well. Some researcher has found that 80% don’t finish well. Let’s have and do great
prayers like Hezekiah, but let’s not coast on how good we used to be and drivel off into unwise living.
“Lord God in Heaven, you do rescue those who call on you. Thank you for being the God who honors your own and honors your great name and loves us enough to see to it that we are included in your glory.”