Isaiah 36

Isaiah 36 Devotional
by Pastor Lawrence

                Chs. 36-37 of Isaiah recount the same events that are recorded in 2 Kings 18 and 19 when the Assyrian king had sought to capture Jerusalem.  This is actually only the third time in the book of Isaiah where we are told the specific time in which one of Isaiah’s prophecies was given.  This prophecy was delivered in the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah which was in the year 701 BC.  That same year Sennacherib’s army had already taken forty-six smaller Judean cities, and when Hezekiah sought to pay him off with tribute to stop the bleeding, the Assyrian king received the gift gladly and made assurances to Hezekiah but then betrayed him and sent his army to attack Jerusalem anyway. 

                Isaiah had already foreseen the unfolding of these future events in the past.  In chapter fourteen, in verses 24-27 the Lord of hosts had sworn: “As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand, that I will break the Assyrian in my land, and on my mountains trample him underfoot; and his yoke shall depart from them, and his burden from their shoulder….For the Lord of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?”  So it appears that the Lord is purposefully wooing Sennacherib’s army toward Jerusalem in order to exalt his own name in victory over them.  But that’s not at all how it appeared to the Jews who were shaking in their boots. 

                When the Rabshakeh, the field commander of King Sennacherib sends him to Jerusalem to lay siege against the city with a vast army, God’s people are terrified.  Nevertheless, King Hezekiah sends out three emissaries to meet with him to discuss terms of peace, but the Rabshakeh will only accept an unconditional surrender in order to spare the city.  And in his proud speech he says to them that there is no other option for they cannot put their hope in Egypt, nor in Hezekiah their king, nor in the Lord himself, for the Lord had commissioned them by God to come and destroy the city of Jerusalem.  So far so good.  Even Isaiah himself had foretold that a speech such as this would take place.  In Isaiah 28.11 the Lord promised that men of strange speech would speak the words of the Lord to them not to put their trust in Egypt.  The problem is that the Rabshakeh said more than that, and what he said did not bring about the outcome he had desired. 

                At first, he tried to reason with them even bribing them with 2000 horses if they surrendered.  He also tried to pit them against King Hezekiah for shutting down all the high places of worship not allowing them to freely worship the Lord as they liked.  When he was making his loud appeal in Hebrew, the Jewish emissaries begged him to speak with them in Aramaic instead so that the people on the wall would not understand and be confused.  But the Rabshakeh spoke all the more loudly in the language of the people so that all of them could hear it telling them that they were doomed to eat their own dung and drink their own urine if they did not immediately surrender.  Again, he reiterated to them not to put their trust in Hezekiah.  But this time he went farther in his attack. He also told them not to put their trust in the Lord since no other gods had been able to stop him, surely the Lord would not be able to stop him either.  This was clearly blasphemy against the Lord and he would not let it go unpunished.  The Rabshakeh again tried to bribe God’s people telling them that they could enjoy wine from their own vines and figs from their own fig trees as long as they surrendered.  But he did not cover up the fact that this would be a temporary reprieve, for the King of Assyria would surely take them from their homes and transport them to another part of the world where they could enjoy a land full of grain and wine similar to their own.  But no matter what he said at that point, the three emissaries were no longer listening, for they had heard the blasphemy coming from his mouth.  They remained silent at the time, but then they came to King Hezekiah with torn clothes and a great sense of gravity in light of how the Lord’s name had been disparaged in that conversation.  They were clearly discouraged and afraid, but the Lord would defend his name in the sight of the Jews and the Assyrians and he would deliver them in such a marvelous way that none could doubt the great power and wisdom of the Lord in preserving his people from their enemies.  Indeed, the Lord was waiting to be gracious to his people, but when the time came, they all would stand in awe and wonder at the deliverance of the Lord.