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GOD'S ANSWER THROUGH ISAIAH
Hezekiah, when he heard the report, showed the same humble attitude as his three servants had. He tore his cloches and put on sackcloth, the symbol of repentance and self-judgment. This was negative, but he also cook the positive action of going into the house of the Lord. There he would find positive help. No doubt it was through the Lord's guidance that he sent Eliakim and Shebna and the elders of Israel to Isaiah the prophet.
The message they brought to Isaiah from Hezekiah was, "This day is a day of trouble and rebuke and blasphemy, for the children are come to the birth, but there is no strength to bring them forth" (v.3). Similar distress has been often repeated in the history of the Church. A climax arises that finds saints of God pathetically weak in meeting the attacks of the enemy. What is their resource? Only the grace of God. Thus Hezekiah asked Isaiah for his prayers that God would rebuke the words of the Rabshakeh and preserve the small remnant of Israel that was left in the land (v.4).
When the servants brought this message to Isaiah, the prophet needed no hesitation in telling them to report to Hezekiah the words of the Lord, telling him not to be afraid of the boasting words from Assyria, for God took account of those words which had blasphemed Him (v.6). God would work behind the scenes, causing the king of Assyria to hear a rumour to drive him back to his own land, where he would suffer death by the sword among his own people (v.7). His own sons killed him (v.37). Thus, respite was given to Hezekiah for a short time when the rumour caused Rabshakeh to leave Jerusalem because the king of Assyria had another front of battle with Libnah (v.8).
ANOTHER THREAT FROM SENNACHARIB
But Sennacherib, king of Assyria, was not finished with Jerusalem. Though he was told of the King of Ethiopia coming to make war against him, he was still determined to subdue Jerusalem, and sent messengers again to Hezekiah, haughtily telling him, "Do not let your God in whom you trust deceive you, saying, Jerusalem shall not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria" (v.10). Sennacherib considered there was proof enough that Jerusalem would fall in the fact that the gods of the nations had not been able to deliver them from the domination of Assyria (vv.11-13).
Since none of the nations had been able to resist Assyria, Sennacherib was fully confident that the God of heaven and earth could not deliver Jerusalem either.
He sent a message to Hezekiah in the form of a letter. When Hezekiah received the letter he spread it out before the Lord (v.14). Rather than answer the letter himself, he committed it entirely to the Lord. Could the Lord be trusted to answer? Yes, indeed! If we too commit such things to the Lord, rather than fighting or arguing, can we not trust the Lord to answer better than we might imagine?
Then Hezekiah prayed and in his prayer he did not first plead for help, but beautifully gives God His place of absolute pre-eminence and dignity, "O Lord God of Israel, the One who dwells between the cherubim, You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You made heaven and earth" (v.15). Does this not remind us of the instructions of the Lord Jesus as to how to pray? - "Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name." "Father" speaks of God's primacy, "in heaven" speaks of His supremacy, and "Hallowed be Your name" speaks of His dignity as apart from all others.
Thus, in giving God His place, we take the place of totally dependent creatures. In such dependence Hezekiah entreated the Lord to incline His ear to hear and observe the words of Sennacherib by which he was actually reproaching the living God Himself (v.16). He confesses the fact that other nations and lands had been subdued by the king of Assyria, burning their gods in the fire since they were only idols of wood and stone (vv.17-18), but Hezekiah was appealing to the only true God to save Jerusalem from this haughty king. He did not confine the reason for this to Jerusalem's need for deliverance. Rather, he desired that all the kingdoms of the earth should know that God is the Lord, and He alone. Is it possible that God could ignore a plea such as this? Certainly not!
THE ANSWER OF GOD
We do not read on this occasion that Hezekiah sent to Isaiah for help. But God immediately sent word by Isaiah to assure Hezekiah that his prayer was heard (v.20), and much more was added which would encourage and strengthen the faith of the godly king.
Verse 21 uses strong words indeed, speaking of the virgin, the daughter of Zion despising and laughing to scorn the king of Assyria, shaking her head against him. This is not intended to be an example for us to follow in the way we deal now with enemies of the truth, but it is God's Word as regards what was a righteous response at that time to the man who was a wicked enemy of God. For God questions Sennacherib, "Whom have you reproached and blasphemed? Against whom have you raised your voice, and lifted up your eyes on high?" The answer is most solemn, - "Against the Holy One of Israel (v.22). By means of his messengers Sennacherib reproached the Lord, telling Him in effect that Assyria had enough chariots to reader God helpless against him. The proud boasting of Sennacherib continues through verse 24. He said he would cut down the tall cedars of Lebanon and its cypress trees, rendering the whole country defenceless against his power.
God's answer to him is seen in verses 25-28. How withering indeed if only the king of Assyria had paid attention to it! Had he not heard long ago that God had made the forests of Lebanon and the waters the king boasted of drying up? It was the God who made these things who had given power to Sennacherib to crush fortified cities into heaps of ruins. Because God was behind this, therefore the inhabitants of those cities were without power to defend themselves (v.26) and became totally confounded. They were as the grass of the field, green for a time, then withering. But this is true of all mankind by nature (Psalms 103:15-16). Though these nations gave way to Assyria, Assyria would yet give way and perish as the grass. How futile was her boasting then!
God knew Assyria's dwelling place and all her activities, including her rage against God Himself (v.27). If she had confined her animosity to the nations she conquered, she may not have fallen so soon, but since adding her blasphemy against the God who had exalted her, therefore God would put His hook in her nose and His bridle in her lips and turn her back by the way she had come (v.28). Thus, God may use one nation to punish another, but when that nation is then puffed up with pride, God knows how to reduce it to a humiliating level.
Verse 29 introduces a sign for Jerusalem, however. They would continue in the land to eat that year "such as grows of itself," a volunteer crop. They had evidently been unable to sow any crop, so could not depend on a harvest, but God would provide what was necessary for them. The same would be true for a second year, probably because of continued unstable conditions. But in the third year they were to sow and reap, to plant vineyards and eat of their fruit (v.29). Thus for three years Jerusalem was assured they would be safe from the depredations of the enemy.
Continuing His prophecy of blessing to Judah, God tells them that their small remnant who have escaped the offence of Assyria would "take root downward and bear fruit upward" (v.30). A stable character of being properly rooted would result in fruit "upward", that is, fruit for God. "For out of Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant, and out of Mount Zion they that escape (v.31- JND trans.). The remnant of Judah would not be so shut up in Jerusalem as to be prisoners there. It is not escaping from Mount Zion, but escaping from Sennacherib, "The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this." How good for Jerusalem to depend on Him!
Therefore the Lord declared that the king of Assyria would not come into Jerusalem, nor even shoot an arrow there. In fact, he would not come against it with a protecting shield nor build a siege mound against it (v.32). Before he was able to get that far, God would intercept his progress, and make him return by the same way he came. For God would defend the city to save it. Why? For His own name's sake and for the sake of David, God's servant (vv.33-34).
GOD'S JUDGMENT ON SENNACHERIB
Though God is wonderfully patient as regards the cruelty, and arrogance of His enemies, this does not mean He is indifferent, as many would like to think. He gives time for repentance, but when it is clear that men will not change, then sudden awesome judgment falls from a righteous God. Hezekiah had trusted God, and though the answer seemed slow in coming, it did come in God's time. In one night the angel of the Lord killed in the camp of Assyria 185,000 men! (v.35). What a shock to those who remained!
Perhaps Sennacherib realised that Hezekiah's God was greater than Sennacherib, and he left Jerusalem with his remaining army, returning to Nineveh. But there he did not turn to the true God, as his experience told him he ought to; but while he was worshipping in the temple of Nisroch. his idolatrous god, two of his own sons killed him and escaped to the land of Ararat (v.37). Nisroch was no protector of his deluded worshiper. But the living God was behind this judgment on Sennacherib. Though the wheels of God's government, grind slowly their results are absolutely certain.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on 2 Kings 19". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19