Salvation in Isaiah 36
What a wonderful Book this Bible is! How awesome are the lessons to be learned from its pages. And how skilfully the Holy Spirit has placed in the sacred record historical passages that have much to teach us, the people of God, about God’s dealings with us, and even describes the nature of sinful man doing his best to resist God and His purposes!
This is what we have in the next 4 chapters of Isaiah’s prophecy. Isaiah reverts to prose – although we would not know this from our English version. His prophecy in the original Hebrew is recorded mostly in poetic form – but now he is writing about historical facts. Indeed these next chapters are almost identical to passages in the History books – 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles. Chapter 36 our chapter tonight is almost word for word the same as 2 Kings 18 v 13, and 17 – 37. Most conservative and evangelical scholars who have commented on Isaiah 36 – 37 believe that Isaiah was the author of 2 Kings 18 – 19 and included the same account into his prophecy with some editing later in his life – which may account for some of the differences.
Isaiah’s purpose seems to be the bringing before the people of God again and again God’s call to holiness. For 40 years the prophet had waged a war against idolatry and the idolatrous leaders of Judah. He tried hard to turn enough people to trust the Lord God so that destruction could be avoided. Isaiah was a realist. He knew that belief in and obedience to God brings blessing; but rejection and rebellion against God brings disaster! The climax of his war was reached when King Sennacherib of Assyria besieged Jerusalem in 701 BC. Allusions to this siege have already been referred to in earlier chapters of Isaiah – in poetic form. Now comes the recorded history of what went on.
History for some can seem stuffy and dry. But if we see beyond the details and observe the lessons being taught, they will benefit us greatly as we seek to understand man and his actions, and God and His dealings with sinful man.
We are probably familiar enough with the account of the siege and of King Hezekiah’s reaction at Jerusalem. But for those who have not read these historical passages, or who may have forgotten some of the details – here is a brief resume – of the events of Chapter 36.
The king of Assyria’s invasion of Judea was on the whole successful. He ransacked 41 cities and then prepared himself to attack Jerusalem the heavily fortified and defended prize! He sent from Lachish, Rabshakeh his general. Rabshakeh is a title not a name – an office like Ambassador or Consul. His intention was to discourage the leaders and subjects of Hezekiah the king of Judah and to persuade them to surrender with high words. Verse 1 identifies WHEN these things happened. Verse 2 the place that Rabshakeh stood with his fellow officers, to address Hezekiah and his cabinet. It is interesting at this point to notice that Isaiah records the EXACT spot. Why was it so important?
Because it was at this very location years earlier that Isaiah had spoken to Hezekiah’s father, King Ahaz, and told him not to fear the kings of Syria and Israel, in the North.
3 Then said the LORD unto Isaiah, Go forth now to meet Ahaz, thou, and Shearjashub thy son, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool in the highway of the fuller's field; 4 And say unto him, Take heed, and be quiet; fear not, neither be fainthearted for the two tails of these smoking firebrands, for the fierce anger of Rezin with Syria, and of the son of Remaliah.
Verse 4 – 10 record Rabshakeh’s speech which consists of two parts; the first part is directed to the ministers of Hezekiah, suggesting that it was a waste of time their trusting in their king, in his counsels and strength for war. Also it was a waste of time to trust in the king of Egypt, and in his chariots and horsemen. Worse than this he suggests that it was futile trusting in the Lord himself, pretending that he came by God’s orders to destroy the land. The other part is directed to the ordinary people on the wall. Verse 11 tells us that Rabshakeh was asked only to speak in the Syrian language so that panic and dismay would not be spread amongst the soldiers. Eliakim understood Syrian and could communicate with the Assyrians. But Rabshakeh refused continuing to speak in Hebrew - v12.
In verses 13 – 20 a speech in Hebrew from Rabshakeh seeks to coerce the people of Jerusalem, trying to dissuade them from listening to Hezekiah accusing him of deception; he was intent on persuading them to come into an agreement with him for their own safety and good; observing to them that none of the gods of the nations could deliver them out of his master’s hands, and therefore it was useless for them to expect deliverance from the Lord their God. Verses 21 – 22 record what response they gave to Rabshakeh – no answer! Neither ministers nor people replied because this had been Hezekiah’s instructions; instead Eliakim, Shebnah and Joah went with their clothes rent to Hezekiah, and reported what had been said.
This then is the account from the text. It forms the beginning of the unfolding story of what God was about to do – to Jerusalem and to Assyria and her King.
Confining ourselves therefore to this chapter tonight let us see what else it tells us –beyond the historical data.
1. The enemies of God’s people are bold in their pride believing that they can defeat them and in doing so discredit God.
Rabshakeh’s actions and words show a marvellous insight into Jewish faith and life as well as a rude and arrogant contempt for both. He began by seeking to ridicule God and cast aspersions on the Jews faith in Him. As he does so he addresses King Hezekiah trying to intimidate and belittle him. He does this by referring to his own King, Sennacherib calling him the great king the King of Assyria.
V 4 What confidence is this wherein thou trustest? 5 I say, sayest thou, (but they are but vain words) I have counsel and strength for war: now on whom dost thou trust, that thou rebellest against me?
Similarly ungodly unbelieving people today have the same disregard for God and His ways. Blasphemy is commonplace designed to offend and intimidate God’s people. The gods of humanism, evolution and self-expression rise up to bring Jehovah Jesus down. “Belief in God is old fashioned outdated and not cool”, they say.
“Science has disproved the Bible and even removed God Himself from the reckoning. Only weak people need God, they say. Our system of thought is far greater, more sophisticated and mentally satisfying than all that stuff about sin and the need of forgiveness and pardon. There is only one life – there is nothing beyond the grave – so we might as well live to the full, get all we can – grab it while it’s available and enjoy it NOW. En route we will become as successful, important in our own eyes and rich as we can. When you are that busy then what time is there for God and religion. But more than this we believe our way is better than your Christian way and we have constructed our own better way of life. We do not want yours. Indeed we despise your little God – what power does he have?” So the voices go on. Rabshakeh spoke this way – this proud self-assertive way – which is hostile in unbelief, to God the creator Himself. As Satan’s agent Rabshakeh used ridicule. Ridicule is driven by pride – and Satan will fall again from his own pride.
2. The enemies of God even believe that they are doing God’s work for Him.
Verse 10 And am I now come up without the LORD against this land to destroy it? the LORD said unto me, Go up against this land, and destroy it.
Rabshakeh thrusts his way at Judah’s faith in God when he says that ‘Jehovah will not help you – indeed He has sent us Assyrians to attack you!’ This claim was partly true. Jehovah HAD brought the Assyrians against Judah. Isaiah 10 v 5 tells us
O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine indignation. 6 I will send him against an hypocritical nation, and against the people of my wrath will I give him a charge, to take the spoil, and to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets.
But we can be sure that Jehovah had not spoken to Sennacherib or Rabshakeh about it. Rather Rabshakeh’s words are a daring attempt based on his knowledge of the Jews and their history and their religion. How audacious he was! He claimed to be doing God’s work for him in destroying His people. How little he knew about Jehovah!
Today there are those in high places who believe that they are acting for God even though it is to the destruction of the church and its Biblical values. It is not merely the leaders of the false religions who believe that they are acting on God’s behalf – they are acting for their gods – Islam, Buddha, Krishna – but there are those who are so called Christians who claim to speak for God but who defy His laws and transgress His commandments. There is a long list of such people – sincere though they may be – they are sincerely wrong. They have agendas – and overlay their ungodly agendas with a veneer of religion and claim to speak for God.
In reality they are the church’s and God’s enemies even though they come with SOME truth.
3. The enemies of God seek to undermine the faith and confidence of God’s people.
They promise good and blessed things to believers if only they will surrender to them.
16 Hearken not to Hezekiah: for thus saith the king of Assyria, Make an agreement with me by a present, and come out to me: and eat ye every one of his vine, and every one of his fig tree, and drink ye every one the waters of his own cistern; 17 Until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of corn and wine, a land of bread and vineyards.
Rabshakeh urges the people of Jerusalem to make their peace with the King of Assyria. Make an agreement with me – share the blessing with me that will benefit us both. You can have the blessings of plenty instead of this awful siege. You can have your own fig tree and drink from your own well (figures of security peace and tranquillity) if only you will join me.
Is this not the language of compromise that leads to captivity? Have not many Christian people and churches fallen for this enticing hype proclaimed by those who have fallen for the world and her ways? Who have fallen for the modern idiom in worship? For the spurious means of evangelism, of gimmicks and world friendly activities. Why have they done it? Because they felt that they were under siege. Their members had been captivated by modernism and carried off. So they decide that if you can’t beat them then join them!
On the individual level there are some who are brought up in conservative churches but are not converted. They hear what is going on in the world’s camp – in Assyria – sensual worship and feel good activities – and they are attracted – and enjoy what there is on offer – and look back at the siege in Jerusalem – their roots – and faith is gone. Confidence in the true God of the Bible is snuffed out.
How Rabshakeh and his message describes Satan’s strategies.
4. The enemies ultimately believe that their gods are greater than the Lord God Jehovah.
18 Beware lest Hezekiah persuade you, saying, The LORD will deliver us. Hath any of the gods of the nations delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? 19 Where are the gods of Hamath and Arphad? where are the gods of Sepharvaim? and have they delivered Samaria out of my hand? 20 Who are they among all the gods of these lands, that have delivered their land out of my hand, that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?
Satan is ever ready to use perversion of the truth. He compares God the great God with false gods. Don’t listen to Hezekiah, who believes in Jehovah and has confidence in Him. Don’t think that your God can save you. We have a track record. We have defeated scores of nations who each have their gods – where did that get them? Have any of their gods delivered them from the might of Assyria?
Does this not sound familiar my friends? Do we not hear over and over again people in our society hopelessly saying that God cannot help them? They say, “I wish I had your faith” when they listen to our testimony. Satan has undermined their confidence so that they do not know the Lord and what mighty things He can do for them – saving them from the judgement to come!
Others prefer their tarot cards, their séances and their preoccupations with the occult and paranormal. And then there is Satan’s subliminal messages in the mass of entertainment in music, films, TV and DVDs. Do not trust Jehovah he suggests – he is weak – I am strong. It is in your interest to belong to me.
And this is designed to frighten the people of God and take away their confidence in the Lord. The enemies are fortified by their successes. Rabshakeh is drunk with success – which is why he is so bold in his words. Pride comes before a fall.
King Hezekiah gave instructions not to answer Rabshakeh – wise counsel indeed.
Instead the palace administrator, the secretary and the recorder, tore their clothes as a sign of grief and went to report to Hezekiah with the day’s experience weighing heavily upon them.
Who is the principle character in this chapter besides the Lord God Jehovah Himself? Surely it is King Hezekiah. His faith in God stands out most clearly. His faith was quite evident to the people sitting on the city wall listening to the eloquent challenges of the Assyrian. They were shocked, shaken and grieved. But the faith of their King was an example which sustained them.
My friends there is a king in whom we can trust in the face of this most hostile assault from Satan and the world. We too are under siege. The pressures on us are huge. We have seen friends and even relatives buckle under the strain of constant attack from worldly and secular pressures. They are no longer with us. We can feel grieved and cast down
We have seen the children of our nation attacked and subverted by the evil one through the media and education. We see young people gripped by substance abuse and widespread immorality and yet all the time desperate for some meaning in life.
My friends we need to look to the King! The King of kings – even the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the One on whom we can depend. He is the one who will answer the enemies with the blast of His word and the power of His arm.
Jesus Christ is greater than Satan. The Lord Jesus Christ has overcome the enemy already. The cross at Calvary was a decisive showdown – and Jesus came out as victor.
Whose side are you on tonight? Satan’s or Jesus’ side?
He has died for sinners. Are you a sinner? Have you come short of God’s standards? Have you realised that unless you repent you will perish in hell, which lasts for all eternity?
So we close with a question – found in verse 5 of our passage
now on whom dost thou trust?
What a searching question. Is your trust in yourself? I am alright – I’ll get by – I’ll be good enough! My friend no one is good enough – only Jesus was good enough – therefore you need Him in your soul.
now on whom dost thou trust?
Is your trust in modern philosophy – new beliefs – new theories of life and death? My friend there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. It is the Name of Jesus of Nazareth – the Christ – the crucified One.
now on whom dost thou trust?
Trust Him tonight – leave your sins and trust the Lord.