I Will Save This City for My Sake

and for the Sake of David My Servant

37: 21-35

   DIG: What is the intended impact of this woman taunting her attacker? How does this taunt song suit the occasion? What is Isaiah asserting about God’s relationship to Jerusalem by portraying Him as the woman’s defender. What insults have the Assyrians made against the LORD (see 36:18-20; 37:10-12)? How will they end up eating their own words? What sign does ADONAI give Hezekiah? Why give a sign that will be fulfilled only after the event it is meant to show? How does this sign relate to the promises of restoration (as in 10:20-23)? In what way is God saving Jerusalem for His sake? For David’s sake?

   REFLECT: When have you felt like Hezekiah – backed up against a wall with no recourse but to pray? What happened? How have you seen God’s affirmation of His love for you? What is the difference between spiritual pride and a rightful sense of accomplishment? What are the indications of each? Since all we have comes from the LORD, what is the place for human planning, preparing, and hard work? How have you taken credit for something that was, in reality, far more than you could possibly have pulled off by yourself? What did it take to wake you up to that fact?

     Responding to Hezekiah’s prayer (37:14-20), the LORD sent a message to him through Isaiah that Assyria would be defeated. That message included three parts. Even as he was praying, ADONAI had been revealing His word to Isaiah, so that the king barely had time to rise from his knees before he received an answer. God said: Because you have prayed to Me . . . this is the word the LORD has spoken against him (37:21). We must not miss this, because it is part of the Bible’s strong teaching about prayer. Because someone has prayed, God steps in and changes the course of history. It is a breathtaking truth, and at first slightly worrying because it appears to put humans, rather than ADONAI, in control. But this is an illusion. There is no conflict between the LORD’s absolute sovereignty and the power of prayer, because, quite simply, this is the way He has chosen to work. Through prayer God draws us up into His purposes and involves us in what He is doing. What a privilege! Even the desire to pray is a gift.134

    The LORD answered by means of Isaiah, son of Amoz. This is one more attempt by the prophet to let the reader know the authenticity of his statements (1:1, 13:1, and 20:2). Evidently, God the Holy Spirit wanted us to know the precise identity of the human author. Isaiah sent a message to Hezekiah, “This is what the LORD, the God of Isra'el says concerning Sennacherib king of Assyria” (37:21). The answer to Hezekiah’s prayer came at once, linking the response to the prayer. The king was very fortunate to have God’s messenger ministering to him at that time, a person who could convey His comforting words in a timely fashion. But it would not have happened if Hezekiah had not prayed to ADONAI.

    This is the word the LORD has spoken against him (37:22a). Sennacherib had spoken to Hezekiah concerning God. Hezekiah had spoken to God concerning Sennacherib; now God speaks to Hezekiah concerning Sennacherib. ADONAI always has the last word. We can say what we want about Him and others can say what they want about us; but it is what the LORD says about you and me that is what ultimately counts.135

    In the first of a three part message, the Assyrians would be driven back. Isaiah could look to a day when the virgin daughter of Zion, now prone and helpless before the Assyrian rapist, will mock her would-be assailant’s impotence. Sennacherib would fail to take Jerusalem and after he was gone, it was if she would shake her head in contempt (37:22b).

    The reason for the Assyrian failure was the blasphemy of God. Who is it you have insulted and blasphemed? Against whom have you raised your voice and lifted your eyes in pride? By your messengers you have heaped insults on the Lord. And you have said: With my many chariots I have ascended the heights of the mountains, the utmost heights of Lebanon (10:34), I have cut down its tallest cedars, the choicest of its pines. I have reached its remotest heights, the finest of forests. In a figurative way, he boasted that he had conquered mighty nations. I have dug wells in foreign lands and drunk the water there. With the soles of my feet I have dried up all the streams of Egypt (37:23-25). The Egyptian farmer ran water from the Nile through small irrigation channels into his fields. He could block the flow simply by making a little heap of soil with his foot. Sennacherib boasted that his foot could block the Nile. His confidence was based on his many chariots, and he even thought his easy conquest of the Nile would not prove to be much of a barrier. Although it is questionable that he ever entered Egypt, he claimed to have conquered it (he did, however, defeat the Egyptians in Philistia). This was not surprising because it was common for him to embellish his accomplishments (see Gq – In the Fourteenth Year of Hezekiah’s Reign).

    But Sennacherib did not realize that in reality, ADONAI was in total control. Have you not heard? Long ago I ordained it, literally I did it, in Hebrew it is in the perfect tense, meaning a past action with assured, continuing future results. Now I have brought it to pass, you have turned fortified cities into piles of stone (37:26). Whatever Assyria accomplished was merely the carrying out of God’s own plan. Sennacherib could not do what he planned because he had mocked the One who is the maker of all plans (James 4:13-16).

    Isaiah then agreed with Sennacherib that the results of his conquests had been impressive. The people that he had conquered had been drained of all their power. They were dismayed and put to shame. To the Assyrian king people were like plants in the field, like tender green shoots, not people, but crops to be harvested for his own use. Like grass sprouting on the roof, scorched before it grows up (37:27). This phrase can easily be demonstrated on the roofs of Middle Eastern houses. The flat roofs of the houses in this region are constructed by laying, first, large beams at intervals of several feet; then, rude joist, on which, again, are arranged small poles close together, or brushwood, and upon this is spread earth or gravel rolled hard. This rolling is often repeated, especially after rain, for these roofs are apt to be weak. For this purpose a roller of stone is kept ready for use on the roof of every house. Grass is often seen growing on these roofs (Second Kings 19:26; Psalms 129:6).136

    But despite his many conquests, it was ADONAI who is in control of Sennacherib. And because of his boastings, God was going to punish him. The LORD would break him as a man breaks a wild horse, and lead him home humiliated and exhausted. But I know where you stay and when you come and go and how you rage against Me. Because you rage against me and because your insolence has reached my ears, I will put my hook in your nose and my bit in your mouth, and I will make you return by the way you came (37:28-29). This message is for Hezekiah and not for Sennacherib. It is not meant to bring Sennacherib to repentance. Like Pharaoh of the Exodus, he had gone too far and the LORD had already passed judgment on him. But it was important that Hezekiah understand that he had nothing more to fear from the king of Assyria.137

    An allusion is made here to the custom of inserting a ring in the nose of a headstrong animal for the purpose of subduing and leading him. The metaphor is a favorite one with the Arabian poets. The language used here, however, is not altogether metaphorical in its reference to human beings. In the sculptures taken from Khorsabad there are representations of prisoners brought before the king, each prisoner having an iron ring thrust through the lower lip. To these rings, cords are attached, which the king holds in his left hand, while in his right he holds a spear, which he thrusts into the eyes of the poor prisoners (Second Kings 25:7, 19:28; Ezekiel 29:4, 38:4).138 Because of Sennacherib’s blasphemies against the LORD, he will go back to Assyria a failure.

    The first part of Isaiah’s message from God concerned Sennacherib, but then the prophet addressed Hezekiah. The second of this three part message concerned Judah; a faithful remnant would remain and life would go on as usual. This will be the sign for you, O Hezekiah. God offered Judah a sign and it had to do with agricultural production: This year you will eat what grows by itself (because of the Assyrian army), and the second year what springs from that (because the land would still be unsettled). But the third year, sow and reap (37:30), plant vineyards and eat their fruit (because by the third year normal conditions will return to the land and it will again yield its abundant produce).

    One more time a remnant of the house of Judah will take root below and bear fruit above (37:31). These metaphors remind us that Isaiah prophesied of a returning faithful remnant. He said that he and his two sons would be a sign to the nation and that God would choose their divinely appointed names for their significance to the nation. And only by heeding the LORD’s word through Isaiah, reinforced by the signs and symbols that Isaiah and his sons represented, would the light dawn for Israel. In 7:3 he uses the name Shear-Jashub, a remnant will return, to illustrate that a remnant would indeed return (10:20-21; 11:11 and 16). For out of Jerusalem will come a remnant, and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors (37:32a). And here, once again, God demonstrates that He is The Promise Keeper, and can be trusted.

    The zeal of the LORD of heaven’s angelic armies (CJB) will accomplish this (37:32b). The concept of the zeal of the LORD of heaven’s angelic armies appeared earlier where the establishment of the messianic Kingdom was promised (9:6-7). So this temporary restoration promised here in Chapter 37 is just a foretaste of what will happen in the final restoration made possible through the Messiah. If it were not for the unconditional love for His people, both Jew and Gentile, none of this would be possible. He would have long ago abandoned us to wallow in our sins (1:9).

    Like spilled grain, the remnant will bear fruit again, like an old root below the ground, the remnant will send up its shoots again, like a field plowed and sown, the remnant will spread over the land once more. God loves his people and whenever there is the slightest spark of faith, trust, and belief, He is there to fan it into flame. When the believing remnant of Jews realize that everything is back to normal, they will grasp the truthfulness of Isaiah’s prophecy. Once again Isaiah will confirm that he is indeed a prophet of the Most High God.

    In the third part of this three-part message, the king of Assyria would not set foot inside Jerusalem and would have to return home. He will not enter this City or shoot an arrow here (37:33a). If one of the one hundred and eighty-five thousand Assyrian soldiers had shot an arrow over the walls of Jerusalem, the LORD’s word would have been inaccurate! How wonderful are the promises of ADONAI! This is the logical conclusion of the two previous parts of Isaiah’s message. If Sennacherib’s arrogant blasphemy against God was to be punished, and if a remnant were to once again fill the land, then only one outcome would be possible. Sennacherib would not be allowed to enter the City, and Jerusalem would survive. Not surprisingly, God did exactly what He said He was going to do.

    Not only would the City be delivered, it would not even be physically threatened. God told Isaiah that Sennacherib would not come before it with shield, would not set foot inside Jerusalem or even build a siege ramp against it (37:33b). A siege ramp was an inclined plane, which the soldiers of a walled town built up to the walls so that they could bring their engines of war closer, and work them to greater advantage. It was made of all sorts of materials: earth, timber, boughs, and stones, the sides being walled up with brick or stone, and the incline top made of layers of brick or stone, forming a paved road up which the war engines could be drawn. (See Uzziah king of Judah, Second Chronicles 26:11-15).138

    By the way that he came he will return; he will not enter this City, declares the LORD (37:34). Sennacherib would return to Assyria and never see Jerusalem. God would defend His City and save it. For what reason? For His sake and the sake of His servant David (37:35), meaning also for the sake of the Davidic Covenant (Second Samuel 7:16). For all of Hezekiah’s faithfulness, the plans of ADONAI did not revolve around him, but around God Himself, and His Servant Yeshua Messiah. Hezekiah was saved, not for his own sake, but for the sake of Another. As the book moves on, of course, David will be dwarfed by a far greater Servant of God (42:1-4), and the question of how, or on what basis, the LORD saves His people will be explored in far greater detail later in the book.139

    How happy is the nation, city, or person who has God as a shield? How many times has He protected us against that which we could not bear, but provided a way out so that we can stand up under it (First Corinthians 10:13b)? When tragedy comes, how often do we ask why we have been singled out? Do we blame ADONAI or Satan? Rather, we ought to be thankful for all the tragedies that might have come our way, but did not because God was our shield (Genesis 15:1; Psalms 13:3, 28:7 and 84:11).

    Isra'el has continued to be assaulted by Satan and the world until this very day. There are times when one could get very discouraged. But these verses should be an encouragement to us all. Would ADONAI defend His City then and allow it to be destroyed today. Heaven forbid! He is The Promise Keeper.

 

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