Could things have turned out different for Judah? Well, a major turning point seems to hinge on the life of one king, Hezekiah. He was in the main, godly, seeking the Lord, wise and successful. However, the events in chapters 36-39 sum up his life, what he got right and where pride and complacency became his sad downfall. The result was that Judah did have to go through judgement and exile.
Read Isaiah 36-39
There are now x chapters of straight narrative focusing in on specific events in the life of king Hezekiah. First, we are told about what happens when Sennacherib’s Assyrian forces invade Judah. They reach Jerusalem and lay siege to the city. (36:1-3).
Sennacherib’s army surrounds the city of Jerusalem, cutting off supplies and then to try and reduce moral, his commanding officer taunts the inhabitants, seeking to sow fear and division. They can’t depend on Egypt for rescue, the Pharoah is an unreliable ally. They can’t rely on their god, he’s weak and hasn’t their king actually sought to diminish his worship. This latter assumption is based on a misapprehension, Hezekiah’s removal of high places to false gods is confused with an assault on YHWH. In fact, he claims that YHWH has commissioned him to carry out this attack. To resist Assyria is to resist the LORD (36:4-10).
So, Assyria offers terms for Jerusalem’s surrender, calling on the people to turn against Hezekiah. They offer peace and prosperity and promise that they can enjoy a similar life in Assyria to what they know at home (36:11-21). Yet Jerusalem does not fall. There is external evidence of this failure available in the British Museum. The Assyrians liked to teel the story of their victories on giant wall carvings. The one in the British Museum shows the successful siege of Lachis, a more minor stronghold. If the siege of Jerusalem had been successful, then that would be the story they would have retold in their carvings. Chapter 37 shows that there are political mechanisms and work, Sennacherib is unable to bring his full army down upon Jerusalem and has to turn back to face other threats. However, Isaiah makes it clear that the primary cause of his failure is that Hezekiah turns to God in prayer and that God acts in judgement against Assyria.
Hezekiah then falls sick and it looks like his life is in danger. He again turns to God and is healed (ch38). Instead of using the time given to him well, though, he becomes proud. He shows off the glory of Jerusalem to visiting envoys from Babylon, no doubt also seeking to build a political alliance with them to bolster his defences against Assyria, forgetting that it was God who protected him. God rebukes him through Isaiah and says that judgement will come from Babylon. Sadly instead of being convicted by this, Hezekiah shrugs it off, forgetting his responsibility to the kingdom, he thinks short term and is relieved that he will not personally be affected by judgement (ch 39).
Prayer, circumstances and wisdom
There’s much to learn from these passages. First, we are reminded of the power of prayer. When faced with trying circumstances we should be quick to turn back to God for help and mercy. We see how God is at work through the normal and ordinary circumstances of life. Finally, there’s a warning. What will we do with the grace of answered prayers. It’s sometimes assumed that if someone experiences an answer to prayer such as a healing, they’ll be more likely to come to faith and persit with it but this isn’t always the case. So, what we do with the answers matters. Do they prompt greater faith and obedience or do we pocket those answers to prayer whilst continuing to pursue our own course?
Meditate on these words:
“I will deliver you” (38:6)
- Ultimately, God’s salvation and deliverance is about our salvation from sin and judgement, but can you think of other examples where God has delivered you?
- How do you respond to God’s grace and deliverance?
- Are you making wise use of the days that God has given you?
Lord God, thank you that you are my deliverer. Please help me not to take your grace for granted. Help me to number my days correctly and to use them wisely for your glory.