Hezekiah Sent Eliakim and Shebna

to the Prophet Isaiah

37: 1-13

   DIG: What is the significance of Hezekiah tearing his clothes and wearing sackcloth? How would you react if a leader you admired did something like that? How does his response to this threat differ from that of his father Ahaz (see 7:2-13)? What changed Sennacherib’s plans? How would his withdrawal affect the people of Jerusalem? In terms of mocking God, how does Sennacherib even outdo his field commander? What’s the point of Sennacherib reminding King Hezekiah of all his conquests?

   REFLECT: How must the faith of Hezekiah have appeared to the Assyrians? In what situation has your faith in God’s promises appeared equally foolish? Given your level of faith now, would you have clung to Isaiah’s prophecies at this point, or would you have caved in to “reality?” Why? What “Assyrian threat” faces you now? To what promises of God are you clinging? Isaiah’s promises must have been the anchor to which Hezekiah held. What promises of the LORD serve as an anchor for you in times of crisis?

    Hezekiah and the nation had disobeyed Isaiah, which brought about the Assyrian invasion to begin with. When Hezekiah heard the Assyrian demands from Sennacherib’s field commander, he himself joined in the mourning. His reaction to the report of his messengers revealed a man of faith. He tore his clothes and put on sackcloth, a biblical sign of mourning, but also repentance and humiliation, and went to the Temple of the LORD (37:1). In addition, he sent Eliakim, the palace administrator, Shebna, the secretary, and the leading priests, all wearing sackcloth, to the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz (37:2). So shyly, and with much difficulty I am sure, the king and his delegation requested Isaiah to intercede. The irony of this situation could not be missed by anyone.

    The message they sent to Isaiah was a message of distress because the Assyrians had taken the Land. This is the message that Hezekiah sent to Isaiah the prophet: This is a day of rebuke because they finally realized it was the result of their Egyptian alliance. This was a day of disgrace because the Assyrians had disgraced the God of Jerusalem. And it was a time of birth pangs and like a woman so exhausted from her labor there was no strength left to deliver (37:3). This is a metaphor for a critical moment, which finds one utterly helpless or unprepared. A woman in this situation would die. And Judah was in the same situation, facing imminent death. Forty-six cities were already gone (Second Kings 18:13), and only Jerusalem was left. They requested divine help.

    The delegation said to Isaiah very humbly: It may be that ADONAI your God will hear the words of the field commander, whom his master, the king of Assyria, has sent to ridicule the living God, and that He will rebuke him for the words ADONAI your God has heard. Therefore, pray for the remnant that still survives (37:4). When speaking to Isaiah they refer to ADONAI as your God because they recognized that they had been in disobedience. They admitted that the field commander had defied the living God. Perhaps ADONAI would rebuke the words of Sennacherib and let a remain of Israel survive.

    It is important to take note that Hezekiah’s words: This is a day of distress and rebuke and disgrace (37:3a) are an admission of utter failure. Not only had his policies brought Judah into Assyria’s crosshairs, but more importantly they had also brought about Judah’s rebuke from God. When the delegation was sent to Isaiah, it signaled the end of the pro-Egyptian policy. At long last they had discovered the error of disobeying ADONAI and His prophet. But even more seriously, God Himself had been brought into contempt. This is a lesson of life: the believer who lives a life of sin and debauchery will, at some point, bring reproach upon the LORD in the eyes of the world. The world will associate the sinful activity on the believer’s part, with inability on God’s part. And ultimately, they bring God into contempt. Should we continue in such a lifestyle merely because we know we are saved? Paul answers that question in Romans Chapter 6: By no means, repentance is needed.

    This kind of admission of helplessness is frequently necessary before God can help us. So long as we believe that we can handle any given situation, still claiming to be the lord of our own life, we are without hope. Only when we admit that we are completely spiritually bankrupt, are we able to receive what the LORD has for us. That was what Hezekiah did. But what will happen? Hezekiah and his officials had repudiated Isaiah for his words (30:8-11). What would Isaiah do? Would he reject them and leave them to wallow in the consequences of their own blindness?132

    When King Hezekiah’s officials came to Isaiah, he took no satisfaction that his predictions had come true, or that the leaders of Judah, including Hezekiah, had to admit their foolishness by coming meekly to him (37:5). On the other hand, he made no promises of Judah’s deliverance. First, he spoke to the king: Tell your master, This is what ADONAI says, “Do not be afraid”. These were the same exact words he had spoken to Hezekiah’s father Ahaz (7:4). God was greater than any obstacle; that being so, he did not need to live in fear. So, although Hezekiah was concerned as to whether the LORD had heard the blasphemy of the field commander and Sennacherib, God was concerned that Hezekiah had heard it and had become frightened. Do not be afraid of what you have heard – those words which the underlings of the king of Assyria have blasphemed Me (37:6). God’s contempt for the Assyrian blasphemy is seen by the way He sees the underlings, like the field commander and the other officers. Their power and authority might frighten others, but ADONAI was not particularly impressed.

    The prophet declared that he would put a spirit in Sennacherib. He said: Listen! I am going to put a spirit in him so that when he hears a certain report, he will return to his own country, and there I will have him cut down with the sword (37:7). The word spirit here denotes a sense of compulsion. He would put a compulsive spirit in Sennacherib that would influence his thoughts, attitude, and conduct. God was going to predispose Sennacherib to leave Judah. He said that the king of Assyria was going to hear a rumor of rebellion back home which will force him to return to Nineveh, and there the LORD will have Sennacherib cut down by the sword. Not surprisingly, this was exactly what happened, although there was a slight delay. Isaiah tells us that Sennacherib, king of Assyria, broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there. Twenty years later when Sennacherib was praying in the temple to his own god, his own two sons killed him by the sword.

    In the meantime, the field commander returned to Sennacherib empty-handed because he was unsuccessful in getting Jerusalem to surrender. By that time Lachish had fallen and another city of the countryside, Libnah, was besieged. When the field commander heard that the king of Assyria had left Lachish, he withdrew and found the king fighting against Libnah (37:8). Also, the news reached him that a Cushite invasion under Tirhakah was under way. Now Sennacherib received a report that Tirhakah, the Cushite king of Egypt, was marching out to fight against him (37:9).

    Feeling very confident, Sennacherib wrote a letter to Hezekiah before leaving to meet the threat from Tirhakah. He wrote to the king of Judah, saying: Do not let the god you depend on deceive you when he says: Jerusalem will not be handed over to the king of Assyria. Surely you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all the countries, destroying them completely. And will you be delivered? Did the gods of Gozan, Haran, Rezeph and the people of Eden who were in Tel Assar? Where is the King of Hamath, the king of Arpad, the king of the city of Sepharvaim, or of Hena or Ivvah (37:10-13). But in writing his letter, Sennacherib made the mistake that the field commander had made. Sennacherib accused ADONAI of being deceptive. Basically, he was saying to Hezekiah, “Don’t trust your God if He says Jerusalem will not fall. Indeed it will.” He said other nations had fallen and the gods of those nations had proven to be defenseless. He listed the various nations that he had conquered and made the same point that the field commander made. The gods of those other nations failed to deliver them from the hand of Assyria. The implication was this: “What do you think your God is going to be able to do?”

    Pride is the worst of all sins. It is the purest form of rebellion possible because we kick the LORD off the throne of our lives and put ourselves in His place (14:12-15). It is the sin of Adam and Eve, and before them Satan himself. It is the original sin, from which all others grow. And it was especially true of Sennacherib. There is only room for one person to sit on the throne of your heart. Who sits on yours? God or you?

    At that time Hezekiah wrote Psalm 46 just after the Assyrian army besieged Jerusalem. But he trusted in ADONAI when all seemed lost. He was a different man. Inspired by the Ruach HaKodesh, he wrote:

    God is our refuge and strength,

    an ever-present help in trouble.

  Therefore we are unafraid,

    even if the earth gives way,

    even if the mountains tumble

    into the depths of the sea,

  Even if its waters rage and foam,

    and mountains shake at its turbulence. Selah

 

   There is a river whose streams

    gladden the city of God,

    the holy habitation of 'Elyon -

   God is in the city.

    It will not be moved -

    when daybreak comes, God will help it.

  Nations were in turmoil, kingdoms were moved;

    His voice thundered forth, and the earth melted away.

 

   The LORD of heaven's angelic armies is with us,

    our fortress, the God of Jacob. Selah

    Come and see the works of ADONAI,

    the astounding deeds He has done on the earth.

   To the ends of the earth He makes wars cease -

    He breaks the bow, snaps the spear,

    He burns the shields with fire,

  Be still and know that I Am God,

    supreme over the nations,

    supreme over the earth.

 

   The LORD of heaven's angelic armies is with us,

    our fortress, the God of Jacob (Psalm 46 CJB). Selah

 

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