Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Isaiah 37: The Lord Delivers!

Chapter 37 of Isaiah breaks down into the following narrative:


-          Hezekiah, upon hearing the challenge of the Assyrian invaders and realizing that this a critical moment for Israel, goes to Isaiah for his counsel because he is a prophet

-          Isaiah prophesies that the generals will depart on a rumor and that the king of Assyria will be murdered.

-          Rapshakeh, the Assyrian general, does indeed leave on the rumor of an Ethiopian invasion, and on his way out, he sends a parting letter to Hezekiah, saying essentially, “Don’t get your hopes up, because we’ve wiped out everyone in our path, and you are no different.”

-          Hezekiah takes the letter to the temple and makes a very firm and faithful plea to the Lord for deliverance.

-          Isaiah delivers the Lord’s reply.  The Lord says that Assyria is powerful only because he made it so, strengthening them and while weakening their enemies.  But their delusions of grandeur and blasphemy will be their undoing- The Lord will lead them like an animal back to the stable.  Finally, the Lord fortells that in three years, the remnant of Israel will be back in the land unhindered.

-          An angel destroys 185,000 of the Assyrians and they leave.  Back in Assyria Sennacherib is murdered by his own sons in his idolatrous temple. 


This story from Isaiah is especially interesting because there is some independent historical verification of Hezekiah and the siege of Jerusalem.    The Assyrian account says that Hezekiah was “shut up like a caged bird”.  It also mentions the huge tribute paid by Hezekiah, and yet interestingly makes no mention of why Jerusalem was never taken.  The Egyptian account says that the Assyrian army had been infested with mice that destroyed their leather armor and other perishable gear, making them easy prey for attacking forces.  All three accounts verify or suggest that Jerusalem was not taken and I think all three mention that Sennacherib was murdered.


In reference to this account, I read the correspondence between Moroni and Pahoran in Alma 61.  Pahoran  says that God does not require the Nephites to submit to bondage, so they resist.    I think Hezekiah was following this same principle with the remnant of Israel.  Hezekiah did something that seemed very shocking to me when I first read it.  He took of the treasures of the temple to pay a tribute to the Assyrians!  But as I thought about it more, I realized that Hezekiah, as a steward, was doing everything in his power to secure the liberty of his people, even sacrificing their worldly wealth.    Hezekiah seems to understand, as almost none other, the difference between material treasures and the worth of souls.   Remember, he was the one who destroyed the brazen serpent, a priceless artifact from the days of Moses, because people were worshipping it. 


When Hezekiah had done literally everything he could to save his people, he knew he had the right to approach the Lord for the blessing.  I’m going to quote his prayer here for reference and I want to point out the incredible faith in it.  He isn’t pleading for some imagined rescue, he is calling upon his God with confidence that he will deliver:


15 And Hezekiah prayed unto the LORD, saying,

  16 O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, that dwellest between the cherubims, thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth: thou hast made heaven and earth.

  17 Incline thine ear, O LORD, and hear; open thine eyes, O LORD, and see: and hear all the words of Sennacherib, which hath sent to reproach the living God.

  18 Of a truth, LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations, and their countries,

  19 And have cast their gods into the fire: for they were no gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone: therefore they have destroyed them.

  20 Now therefore, O LORD our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the LORD, even thou only.


This is a lesson to me that I can rely on the Lord’s blessings only when I have put out my best effort first, then I can in confidence approach Him for help.


I didn’t know much about Hezekiah before embarking on this study of Isaiah, but the more I learn about him, the more I am impressed with the man.  What a great example of leadership, faith, wisdom, and courage.  May we all be faithful like Hezekiah.

No comments: