Isaiah 36-39 and Psalm 103

Hezekiah must have been very important for us to understand because he is written about in 2 Kings 18-20 and 2 Chronicles 29-32 plus Proverbs 25. Even though much of the content is the same, a total of 10 chapters dedicated to his legacy–there must be a lot to learn from Hezekiah. He is referred to by other prophets: Jeremiah, Hosea, Micah and Zephaniah; and even included in the lineage of Jesus in Matthew 1. I suppose a separate study is in order to dive deep into Hezekiah’s life (some other time).

These chapters capture Isaiah’s words for King Hezekiah, one of the last kings of the southern kingdom, as Sennacherib threatened to overtake them. Here we see insight into the faithfulness of a good king in extremely difficult times. He’s not perfect, of course, but there are many positive lessons to glean from this reading.

Before we start, let’s begin by singing a song of great praise:

Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
Psalm 103:1-5

Isaiah 36: Sennacherib Threatens Jerusalem

See also: Hezekiah and Sennacherib

The Lord used the Assyrians to punish the northern kingdom; now it seems they have expanded the idea to include the southern kingdom as well:

Furthermore, have I come to attack and destroy this land without the Lord? The Lord himself told me to march against this country and destroy it.’” Isaiah 36:10

Unlike the northern kingdom, Hezekiah placed his confidence in the Lord, he destroyed the places of idol worship and sought the Lord for guidance. The Assyrian commander taunted Hezekiah’s officials with words to provoke them, but they kept silent, though it caused them great pain.

Isaiah 37:1-13: Jerusalem’s Deliverance Foretold

Hezekiah’s officials went and reported the words of the field commander. Tearing his robes in distress, Hezekiah sent them to Isaiah for help, advice, to understand what the Lord commands:

Isaiah said to them, “Tell your master, ‘This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid of what you have heard—those words with which the underlings of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me. Isaiah 37:6

The very real threat of thousands of soldiers surrounding the few and Isaiah’s response is “Do not be afraid.”

Isaiah 37:14-20: Hezekiah’s Prayer

Hezekiah doesn’t even consider trying some cunning military maneuver, he immediately goes to the Lord in prayer:

Now, Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, Lord, are the only God.” Isaiah 37:20

There are many troubles surrounding us today, threats from all sides–my prayer list is long this morning, it’s overwhelming at times. Lord, may I learn from Hezekiah today; threatened by massive armies who would gladly capture and kill him in a great public spectacle just to humiliate your people, he prayed. Will you deliver us today? I guess we’re all hoping for the silver bullet that immediately grants relief when we read these stories of old. I hope for hope, for knowing we are walking in your will.

Isaiah 37:21-38: Sennacherib’s Fall

The Lord answered Hezekiah in a mighty way:

“Therefore this is what the Lord says concerning the king of Assyria:
“He will not enter this city
or shoot an arrow here.
He will not come before it with shield
or build a siege ramp against it.
By the way that he came he will return;
he will not enter this city,”
declares the Lord.
“I will defend this city and save it,
for my sake and for the sake of David my servant!”
Isaiah 37:33-35

Then the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies! Isaiah 37:36

The prayers of the humble were answered. Along with so many killed by the angel of the Lord, Sennacherib was killed by his sons when he went to worship his gods.

Isaiah 38: Hezekiah’s Illness

Hezekiah was about to die, even Isaiah told him to get his house in order to prepare for death, but once again Hezekiah prayed and the Lord responded by adding 15 years to his life. Here are some of Hezekiah’s words of praise:

Surely it was for my benefit
that I suffered such anguish.
In your love you kept me
from the pit of destruction;
you have put all my sins
behind your back.
For the grave cannot praise you,
death cannot sing your praise;
those who go down to the pit
cannot hope for your faithfulness.
The living, the living—they praise you,
as I am doing today;
parents tell their children
about your faithfulness.
Isaiah 38:17-19

“The grave cannot sing your praise,” we cannot do your work, Lord, if you do not save us from the current struggles that mean to destroy us. Show us your power, God. Do not let the evil one win this battle. We humbly bow before you.

Isaiah 39: Envoys From Babylon

Isaiah points out Hezekiah’s mistake in trying to build an alliance with Babylon. In time, his sons, the last few kings of the southern kingdom, will be carried away by the Babylonians. In time, but not in Hezekiah’s time.

Lord, send us a prophet today, words to comfort or confront, to exhort or support, admonish or encourage. Whatever you would say, please do not be silent as we walk in troubled waters. Speak and let us hear your words. May we have the confidence of Hezekiah and put our whole trust in you.

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Let the Word evoke words. May your life encourage lives.

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