Today’s selected reading continues in the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah, and more specifically is found in the first twenty verses of the thirty-seventh chapter. This passage of Scripture is a continuation of the previous chapter, for it describes Hezekiah’s response to the words of Sennacherib king of Assyria which were spoken by Rabshekah. The thirty-sixth chapter of the prophetic book of Isaiah opens with Sennacherib king of Assyria coming up against all the defenced cities of Judah and taking them all. It was during the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah’s reign that Sennacherib entered into the land of Judah and captured all the fortified cities of Judah, thus bringing them under Assyrian authority. Sennacherib’s actions were more than simply entering into Judah and taking all the fortified cities, for Scripture also reveals how he purposed to enter into the city of Jerusalem and capture it as well. Isaiah recounts how Sennacherib sent Rabshekah from Lachish to Jerusalem with a great army—undoubtedly to produce within the city a great panic, distress and terror. As if it weren’t enough for Sennacherib to enter into the land of Judah and capture all the fortified cities he also sent a single emissary and ambassador backed by a great army to essentially threaten Hezekiah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Sennacherib sent this great host of warriors and fighters as a great and powerful way to add more weight and terror to the words which Rabshekah spoke. It wasn’t simply that Rabshekah came to the city of Jerusalem and spoke such words to the inhabitants of Judah, but that he was accompanied by a great army. The fortified cities of Judah had already been taken, and now a great army has descended and marched upon the city of Jerusalem threatening to capture it as well. In fact, one of the single greatest targets of Sennacherib king of Assyria was the confidence of Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Consider what is recorded in the fourth verse of this chapter and you will undoubtedly uncover one of the greatest targets of Sennacherib when sending an emissary backed by a great army to Jerusalem. “And Rabshekah said unto them, Say ye now to Hezekiah, Thus saith the great king, the king of Assyria, WHAT CONFIDENCE IS THIS WHEREIN THOU TRUSTEST?” In the very next verse Rabshekah continues the message of Sennacherib by proclaiming counsel and strength for war—a statement which was followed by an assault on the trust and confidence of Hezekiah. If there is one thing this passage of Scripture reveals, it’s that the words of Sennacherib actually did more than threaten Hezekiah and all Jerusalem, but also to expose the source of their confidence and trust. “Now on whom dost thou trust, that thou rebellest against me? Lo, thou truestest in the staff of this broken reed, on Egypt; whereon if a man lean, it will go into his hand and pierce it: so is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all that trust in him. But if thou say to me, We trust in the Lord our God: is it not He, whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah hath taken away, and said to Judah and to Jerusalem, Ye shall worship before this altar?” Sennacherib through Rabshekah actually exposed the sheer and utter futility of their trust and confidence in Pharaoh king of Egypt for strength to rebel against the great king of Assyria. The simple fact that Rabshekah spoke of their trust in Pharaoh king of Egypt, as well as the military might and strength of Egypt, reveals the incredible truth that neither their confidence nor their trust was in the Lord. Hezekiah and Jerusalem rebelled against Assyria based on their confidence and trust in the strength of Pharaoh and the Egyptian army behind him. It’s interesting to note that Judah went down to Egypt to establish their trust in confidence in a people who in ancient days enslaved their ancestors for four-hundred years. Centuries later we find Judah turning themselves toward Egypt and putting their trust and confidence in Pharaoh and the military might and strength of Egypt. This particular passage of Scripture brings us face to face with the incredibly powerful reality of who and what we are placing our trust and confidence in. I can’t help but wonder if Sennacherib’s invasion of the land of Judah wasn’t in fact a test sent by the Lord to reveal and expose the nature of their trust and confidence. In other words, is it possible the Lord of hosts raised up and sent a great army against Judah to expose their misguided trust and confidence in Pharaoh and the might of Egypt? Is it possible that the Lord permitted the fortified cities of Judah to be captured by an invading army, and the city of Jerusalem threatened in order to expose a trust and confidence that was placed in mere man, beasts and iron? There is not a doubt in my mind that the Lord may very well have allowed Sennacherib to enter into the land of Judah and capture its fortified cities to bring the king, the royal princes, the rulers in Jerusalem, and all the inhabitants of the city to a place of sheer and utter desperation. Hezekiah watched and witnessed Sennacherib and the Assyrian army enter into the northern kingdom of Israel, capture all the fortified cities, seize control of Samaria, and take its inhabitants captive. It would be during the days of Hezekiah that he would watch a great army invade the north and then turn their attention to the south—to Jerusalem and to the land of Judah.
I must pause at this juncture and reveal the great reality that the Lord of hosts might very well send a great distress and trouble into our lives in order to test and prove us—to test and prove our trust and confidence in Him. Sennacherib’s words exposed the trust and confidence Hezekiah and Jerusalem placed in Pharaoh king of Egypt, the military might behind him, which is something worth mentioning and noting. WHEN ADVERSRIES EXPOSE OUR MISGUIDED TRUST! WHEN FOES EXPOSE OUR MISPLACED CONFIDENCE! I would dare say that the Lord can and will allow our adversaries and enemies to march against and invade our lives in order to expose and reveal our misguided and misplaced trust. The Lord can raise up those who will invade our inheritance and capture those fortified places within our lives in order to expose a trust and confidence that is placed not in Him and Him alone, but in mere man, beasts, and the inventions of man. Tell me—how many times has your own trust and confidence been misplaced and misguided? How many times have we allowed ourselves to direct our trust and confidence away from the Lord of hosts whose arm is not short and whose ear is not deaf to both save and deliver us? Sennacherib and the army of Assyria entered into the land of Judah and captured the fortified cities in the land, thus isolating Jerusalem from everything else around it. Is it possible that the Lord will not only allow an adversary or foe to march against us, but will also isolate and separate us from everything and everyone else around us? When Rabshekah came to Jerusalem with a great army Jerusalem was the only fortified city within the land of Judah that was still standing and remained untouched. With all the fortified cities of Judah taken by the Assyrian army Jerusalem was isolated and all alone in the midst of the land and therefore unable to get word to Pharaoh and all of Egypt. It’s actually quite interesting and astounding that Jerusalem was isolated from the rest of the fortified cities within the land, and all its confidence and trust completely stripped. With all the fortified cities of Judah taken and brought under the authority of Sennacherib and the Assyrian army, Jerusalem was in a completely vulnerable state, for they had nothing and no one to turn to for help, strength or support. With all the fortified cities of the land captured, Jerusalem stood all alone and isolated in the midst of the land surrounded by a great army which threatened its very existence. There stood Jerusalem with the throne of David and the Temple of the Lord exposed and vulnerable as a great army marched against with a defiant message which threatened their existence. It wasn’t simply a mere word or message which was sent against the city of Jerusalem, but a word that was backed and supported by a great army. In fact, I would dare say that the strength of the word lie in the army which stood behind it, and the word itself might not have carried as much meaning without the army which marched behind and in support of it.
WHEN AN ARMY SUPPORTS A WORD! WHEN AN ARMY SUPPORTS A THREAT! WHEN AN ARMY SUPPORTS A TAUNT! It would have been one thing for Sennacherib to send Rabshekah to Jerusalem as an emissary with a word that threatened their existence and right to remain in the land. Sennacherib didn’t merely send Rabshekah to Jerusalem with a word, for he undoubtedly knew that his word would carry more weight and force with an army standing behind it. I would even dare say that there was a certain confidence and boldness that surrounded Rabshekah and those with him as a great army stood behind him. What we read in the thirty-sixth chapter is actually quite astounding, for we not only find the fortified cities of Judah taken by Sennacherib king of Assyria, but we also find Jerusalem completely isolated within the land. ISOLATED AND SURROUNDED AN ARMY! ISOLATED AND CUT OFF FROM THE PEOPLE AROUND YOU! Jerusalem was completely isolated as all the fortified cities around it within the land were taken, thus unable to provide any assistance or support. With all the fortified cities of Judah taken—which undoubtedly would have included Hebron—the inhabitants of Jerusalem would have been forced to remain behind their walls. I can’t help but wonder what it must have been like to dwell behind the walls of Jerusalem yet knowing that a great army is positioned just outside the walls. I can’t imagine how trapped, how isolated and how alone the inhabitants of Jerusalem must have felt behind their walls with a great army on the opposite side. I can’t help but wonder how trapped the inhabitants of Jerusalem must have felt as there was literally no way of escape, as they were forced to remain behind those walls. I am quite sure that there were those who may very well have grown mad because they felt they had absolutely no escape. I can’t help but think about how many men and women in this generation feel completely trapped, isolated and alone as they are surrounded by a great army with a word threatening their existence. How many men and women in this generation feel completely isolated, alone and surrounded as they are facing both the threat and danger of an impending force that seeks to take them captive? With all the fortified cities of Judah captured and a great army sent to Jerusalem—even their trust and confidence in Pharaoh king of Egypt and his army would matter little. What good is any trust and confidence in Pharaoh king of Egypt if you are completely surrounded by a great army and unable to move beyond the walls of the city? I can’t help but wonder what a completely desperate, and perhaps even a completely hopeless situation the inhabitants of Jerusalem faced as they were trapped and isolated behind those walls.
When I read the account of Sennacherib’s army taking the fortified cities of Judah, and his sending Rabshekah to Jerusalem with a great army, I can’t help but consider that not only did the words of Rabshekah expose their misplaced and misguided trust, but also how Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Judah were thrust into a place of complete and total desperation. What do you do when you are completely isolated and alone with a great army threatening your very existence? What do you do when you are surrounded by a great army and there is literally no one you can turn to for help? With Jerusalem surrounded by a great army—even that which they had placed their trust and confidence in was utterly and completely useless, for no one dared exit the city via the gates round about it. As I read the thirty-sixth and thirty-seventh chapters of the prophetic book of Isaiah I can’t help but see that what we read in the thirty-seventh chapter is a direct manifestation of what took place in the previous chapter. What I mean by this is that Hezekiah’s response came as a direct result of being positioned in that place of complete and total desperation and hopelessness. With all the fortified cities of Judah captured and access to Pharaoh king of Egypt now restricted, Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem were faced with whether or not they would continue to place their trust in Egypt, or whether they would turn to and trust in the Lord. In fact, I would dare say that the Lord of hosts allowed Hezekiah and Jerusalem to be positioned in that place where the only direction they could look was up. The Lord of hosts caused them to be completely isolated from the surrounding cities with a great army before them outside the walls to put them in the only place they should have ever been in—that place of complete abandonment in their trust of the Lord. WHEN ALL OPTIONS ARE EXHAUSTED! WHEN THERE IS NO WHERE ELSE TO TURN! WHEN THERE IS NO ONE ELSE TO TURN TO! Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem were being threatened by the king of Assyria who had just invaded the northern kingdom of Israel, captured the capital city of Samaria, and taken its inhabitants captive. Now, Sennacherib king of Assyria entered into Judah, captured all the fortified cities, and now directed his attention to the city of Jerusalem. What an incredibly desperate and vulnerable place Hezekiah and Jerusalem found themselves in with a great army positioned just outside the walls and gates of the city. What tremendous uncertainty surrounded this very encounter as they neither knew the heart, nor the mind, nor the timing of the enemy.
When we come to the thirty-seventh chapter we find Hezekiah responding the only way he could in the face of this imminent threat by the Assyrian army. “And it came to pass, when king Hezekiah heard it, that he rent his clothes, and covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of the Lord. And he sent Eliakim, who was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and the elders of the priests covered with sackcloth, unto Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz” (Isaiah 37:1-2). When the thirty-seventh chapter opens it does so with Hezekiah’s response to the words which Rabshekah had spoken. The words which Rabshekah spoke weren’t in the hearing of Hezekiah king of Judah, but were heard by Eliakim, the son of Hilkiah, that was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and Joah, the son of Asaph, the recorder. It was these three men who brought the report of the words which Rabshekah had spoken by the conduit of the upper pool in the highway of the fuller’s field. These men brought a threatening word to Hezekiah—a word that was intended to strike fear, dread and terror in the hearts of all the inhabitants of Jerusalem. It’s interesting to note Hezekiah’s response, for his response to the report he heard was not so much one of fear and terror, but rather one of complete and total desperation. The prophet Isaiah records how Hezekiah rent his clothes and covered himself with sackcloth when this report was brought to him—a sign not of fear and trepidation, but rather of humility and desperation. If there is one thing I can’t help but notice when reading this passage, it’s that humility and desperation are powerful responses and reactions when facing something that is greater than yourself. It’s worth noting that Hezekiah didn’t appear to be gripped with a sense of fear or terror when the report was brought to him—rather, he was gripped with a powerful sense of humility and desperation before the Lord his God. The prophet Isaiah records how Hezekiah immediately rent his clothes and covered himself with sackcloth, and then went into the house of the Lord. In addition to rending his garments, covering himself with sackcloth and entering the house of the Lord, Hezekiah also sent Eliakim, Shebna and the elders of priests to Isaiah being covered themselves with sackcloth. RENDING GARMENTS, ENTERING THE HOUSE OF THE LORD, AND INQUIRING OF THE PROPHET! Hezekiah’s response—the rending of his garments, the covering of sackcloth, and entering into the house of the Lord—was a tremendous posture of humility before the Lord, as He understood that the only One he could turn to was the Lord. Hezekiah’s response was actually two-fold in that he entered the house of the Lord, and he sent certain of his officials to the prophet to inquire of the Lord. There is not a doubt in my mind that Hezekiah positioned himself before the altar of the Lord as he cried out before the Lord in desperation. Hezekiah himself went into the house of the Lord, while he sent his officials to the prophet of the Lord to inquire what the Lord might say in this situation.
POSITIONED IN THE SANCTUARY AND INQUIRING OF THE PROPHET! WORSHIPPING IN THE HOUSE & INQUIRING OF THE LORD! What we read in the thirty-seventh chapter of the prophetic writing of Isaiah is of such a nature that must be carefully considered of every saint, disciple and follower of the Lord of hosts. Hezekiah heard how a great army had marched upon Jerusalem, how the king of Assyria threatened all Jerusalem, and instead of mounting army to defend the city with its walls, gates and inhabitants, he rends his clothes, covers himself in sackcloth, and enters the house of the Lord. Instead of immediately conferring with his captains, his generals, and his military officials, Hezekiah enters the house of the Lord and sends his officials to the prophet to inquire of the Lord. Hezekiah was concerned with two things—being found in the house of the Lord and hearing the word of the Lord concerning the situation before him. I believe that what we read in this passage of Scripture is a powerful description of what our response to distress, to calamity, to trouble, to chaos and such should be. How many times do we try and muster strength in and of ourselves rather than positioning ourselves before the Lord and inquiring His word concerning the situation? The very fact that Hezekiah sent his officials to the prophet Isaiah confirms the reality that he was interested in the heart and mind of the Lord concerning their present situation. Hezekiah knew the report which was brought to him by Eliakim, Shebna and the officials, but he was seeking a different report. Hezekiah knew and heard the report concerning the words which Rabhsekah spoke on behalf of the king of Assyria, yet he was seeking a different report—one that he could align himself with. The very fact that Hezekiah positioned himself in the house of the Lord and sent to inquire of the prophet Isaiah suggests that he wasn’t aligning himself with the report brought to him by his officials, but was seeking the report of the Lord. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the prophet Isaiah spoke in the fifty-third chapter of the same prophetic book which bears his name—“Who hath believed our report? And to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?” The question that I believe is fitting of this passage is quite simply—Whose report are you going to believe? Are you aligning yourself with the reports circulating around you, or are you aligning yourself with the report of the Lord? Are you positioning yourself in the house of the Lord as you inquire the word of the Lord, or are you utterly and completely consumed with the report you have received? What report have you been given that has caused you to be up in arms and in complete disarray?
The more I consider this concept of aligning ourselves with the report of the Lord—our positioning ourselves in the presence of the Lord and inquiring His heart and mind concerning our situation—I can’t help be reminded of the words of the psalmist in the seventy-third chapter of the book of Psalms. “When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me; until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood their end. Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction. How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! They are utterly consumed with terrors” (Psalm 73:17-19). The psalmist who wrote these words found themselves envying the wicked because of their seeming prosperity and apparent immunity from calamity and distress. The psalmist who wrote these words went so far as to even question why they kept their hands and heart clean before the Lord considering the seeming immunity of the wicked. This, however, was “UNTIL I WENT INTO THE SANCTUARY OF GOD.” It is utterly and completely amazing what happens when one chooses to enter into the sanctuary of God—when one chooses to shut themselves in the house of God and prostrate themselves before the Lord of hosts. There is not a doubt in my mind that Hezekiah’s posture in the house of God was one of either kneeling before the Lord or actually prostrating himself before Him. Hezekiah king of Judah heard the words which were spoken by this arrogant king—words which threatened Jerusalem with war and captivity—and instead of responding in fear, terror and dread, he rent his garments and girded himself with sackcloth. In essence, Hezekiah chose to respond to the threat of Sennacherib king of Assyria with his great army with humility and desperation before the Lord. Hezekiah refused to allow himself to be seized and gripped with fear and instead wanted to inquire of the word of the Lord. Hezekiah’s sending his officials to the prophet Isaiah to inquire of the Lord was essentially an Old Testament example of us opening the pages of Scripture and searching the Scriptures for the word of the Lord concerning our situation. Tell me dear brother, dear sister—when was the last time you faced a crisis or situation and searched the Scripture for a word from the Lord regarding that situation? When was the last time you refused to be governed by the report(s) around you and instead inquired of the Lord in and through His holy word? Hezekiah sent his officials to the prophet Isaiah because he was interested in the heart and mind of the Lord concerning this great threat which loomed before them.
When the officials reached the prophet Isaiah they wasted no time describing the situation that was before them—“This day is a day of trouble, and of rebuke, and of blasphemy: for the children are come to the birth, and there is not strength to bring them forth. It may be the Lord thy God will hear the words of Rabshakeh, whom the king of Assyria his master hath sent to reproach the living God, and will reprove the words which the Lord thy God hath heard: wherefore lift up thy prayer for the remnant that is left.” These were the words of Hezekiah which he sent them to the prophet Isaiah to inquire of the word of the Lord—words which powerfully demonstrate that not only were the words of Rabshakeh a reproach of the living God, but they were also heard by the Lord Himself. What’s so interesting is that the officials of Judah brought these words to Hezekiah, yet when those same words were brought before the prophet Isaiah, the prophet encouraged and instructed them, saying, “Be not afraid of the words that thou hast heard, wherewith the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me. Behold, I will send a blast upon him, and he shall hear a rumour, and return to his own land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land” (Isaiah 37:6-7). It’s interesting to note that this same king who sent a word and report to Jerusalem—to Hezekiah and all the inhabitants within the city—would himself hear a rumour and report and would return to his own land. The prophet Isaiah encouraged Hezekiah and all Jerusalem not to be afraid of the words which Rabshakeh had spoken in their hearing, for the king of Assyria would himself hear a report which would bring about the return to his own land. WHEN A RUMOR DRIVES THE ADVERSARY BACK TO HIS OWN TERRITORY! WHEN A REPORT DRIVES THE ADVERSARY BACK WHERE HE CAME FROM! This passage is absolutely incredible when you consider it, for it reveals the tremendous power of the Lord sending a report into the camp of the enemy which causes the enemy to turn and go back where he came from. How utterly amazing it is to think that the Lord of hosts Himself can cause a report to be heard in the enemy’s camp, thus causing the enemy to abandon his pursuit and return to where he came from. WHEN THE LORD SENDS A RUMOR INTO THE ENEMY’S CAMP! WHEN THE LORD SENDS A REPORT IN THE ENEMY’S CAMP! The prophet Isaiah makes it very clear that the source of their deliverance would come not as a result of engaging the enemy in battle, but rather a word—a rumor and report—which the enemy would hear. It would be the Lord of hosts who would bring the enemy forth out of the inheritance of the people of God through a report that was heard throughout it.
It’s worth mentioning that when Rabshakeh returned to Lachish, he found a sight which he himself did not expect—the king of Assyria warring against Libnah. Moreover, Rabshakeh returned to the king of Assyria and found that Tirhakah king of Ethiopia hade come forth to make war with the king. What was the report which the king of Assyria heard? It was a report of an army that had gone out to make war with him. When Rabshakeh returned to the king of Assyria he not only found him engaging Libnah in battle, but he also found that a report had reached the camp concerning Ethiopia marching forth to war against him. I find it absolutely incredible that the Lord of hosts delivered the city of Jerusalem—not by sword, or spear or shield, but by a report which the king of Assyria heard. This reminds me of the report which was circulating through the earth from the days the children of Israel emerged from their Egyptian bondage and oppression. When the time came for the children of Israel to enter into the land of Canaan, the two spies which Joshua sent into Jericho discovered that report of their journey through the wilderness had reached the land of Canaan. Consider the words which Rahab the harlot recounted to the two spies—“I know that the Lord hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you. FOR WE HAVE HEARD how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed. And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the Lord your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath” (Joshua 2:9-11). This passage reveals how a report reached and began circulating within the land of Canaan, and how it struck fear, terror and dread in the hearts of all the inhabitants. Even before the children of Israel stepped foot into the land of Canaan a report concerning them had already moved within the entire land. Consider that even before a single sole of a single foot marched in the land of Canaan, a report concerning them went forth. PRECEDED BY A REPORT! This brings great meaning to the words of the Lord when He declared that He would send His terror and dread before them—a terror and dread which would paralyze the inhabitants of the land. How absolutely amazing it is that before the children of Israel marched through the land of Canaan a word concerning them marched and moved throughout the land. It is utterly and completely astounding that a single report can strike fear in the hearts of our adversaries, and can paralyze them beyond measure. The Lord sent a word and report ahead of the children of Israel, and by the time the priests entered the waters of the Jordan River that report had already moved throughout the land.
THE LORD WHO SENDS A WORD! THE LORD WHO SENDS A REPORT! THE LORD WHO SENDS A RUMOR! If there is one thing this passage of Scripture reveals it’s that the Lord can send a report ahead of His people—a report that precedes their march and advance into the heart of the enemy’s territory. The Lord of hosts can send a rumor and a report into the territory of the enemy as the people of God prepare to cross over into it, and march within and throughout it. The Lord of hosts can send a report in the midst of the enemy’s camp that causes them to return to where they came from rather than continuing their pursuit. The Lord of hosts can send confusion and chaos in the midst of the enemy as He did the horses and chariots of Pharaoh’s army which dared pursue the children of Israel through the waters of the Red Sea. The prophet Isaiah encouraged those who were sent to him not to be afraid, for the Lord would cause a rumor and word to be heard in the midst of the enemy’s camp—a word which would turn them in the opposite direction they intended on going. It was the Lord of hosts Himself—through a single word—that caused the king of Assyria to return to his own land. This only after the angel of the Lord would proceed to slaughter one-hundred and eighty-five thousand Assyrians in a single night. It’s absolutely amazing that even after Rabshakeh returned to find the king of Assyria warring against Libnah, the king of Assyria dared continue to threaten Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. The adversary dared persist in their taunting and threatening of Jerusalem—even after the Lord caused a report to be heard in their midst which would turn them in the opposite direction. It is absolutely remarkable that Sennacherib would never return to the land of Judah to threaten the city, for not only did the angel of the Lord slaughter one-hundred and eighty-five thousand Assyrians in a single night, but Sennacherib himself was assassinated by his own sons. This passage provides us with a great deal of confidence and encouragement as the Lord of hosts can send a report into the camp and territory of the enemy which not only causes terror and dread to consume them, but can also drive them back from where they came from. Oh that we would read this passage with great interest as the Lord of hosts is a God of rumors and reports—rumors and reports which can strike sheer terror and dread in the hearts and spirits of the adversary and his forces.