Today’s selected passage continues in the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah, and more specifically, is found in verses twenty-one through thirty-eight of the thirty-seventh chapter. This final set of verses concludes the prophet Isaiah’s account of the invasion and threat of Sennacherib king of Assyria. This particular chapter within the prophetic book of Isaiah is actually quite unique in that we find two distinct forms of communication given to Hezekiah king of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. In the thirty-sixth chapter we read how Sennacherich king of Assyria entered into the land of Judah and took all the fortified cities. We read how after these cities were captured, the king of Assyria sent Rabshakeh with a great army to the city of Jerusalem. It was there at Jerusalem where the first threat of the king of Assyria was voiced through his emissary—Rabshakeh. This first threat against Hezekiah and the city of Jerusalem was a single word which was accompanied by a great army. In the thirty-sixth chapter we read how a single man was sent by the king of Assyria accompanied by a great army, which was used to further strike fear and terror into the hearts and souls of all Jerusalem. When the words of Rabshakeh were recounted to Hezekiah he immediately rent his garments, put on sackcloth, and entered into the house of the Lord. In addition to these very specific actions, Hezekiah also sent those who had heard the words which Rabshakeh had spoken to inquire of the prophet Isaiah. Hezekiah sought to not only position himself before the Lord in the Temple within Jerusalem, but he also sought to inquire of the Lord through His holy servant—the prophet Isaiah. By sending his officials to inquire of the prophet Isaiah, Hezekiah was doing more than just seeking to find Isaiah—he was actively seeking and inquiring of the heart and mind of the Lord concerning the words of Rabshakeh. What I absolutely love about Hezekiah’s posture and actions in this chapter is that they reveal an unwillingness to accept the words which were spoken by Rabshakeh in the hearing of his officials. By inquiring of the prophet Isaiah, Hezekiah was seeking to understand the heart and mind of the Lord concerning the words which were spoken in the hearing. Hezekiah was made aware of the report brought to him by his officials, yet he was unwilling to accept that report. Instead, Hezekiah sought a completely different report—the report of the Lord.
The city of Jerusalem was being threatened by an invading force that had entered into the land of Judah and taken the fortified cities. The inhabitants of Jerusalem were threatened by this king who made arrogant boasts concerning his tremendous conquests upon the face of the earth. Jerusalem was staring down a vast horde of adversaries and foes which were positioned just outside the walls and gates of the city. Completely isolated within the land from the rest of the fortified cities, Jerusalem was the only fortified city that remained untouched by the king of Assyria. Despite the fact that Jerusalem had not been taken by the king of Assyria, the thirty-sixth chapter reveals how Jerusalem was the ultimate and final target of the Assyrians. The king of Assyria sent Rabshakeh to the city of Jerusalem to bring them to a place of compromise—a place of servitude before them in the earth. This coming on the heels of their rebellion against the king of Assyria based on their trust and confidence in the strength and might of Egypt. Undoubtedly moved by their perceived treachery and rebellion the king of Assyria entered into and invaded the land of Judah, thus taking possession of and conquering each and every fortified city which existed within the land. It is important that we understand this concept of capturing and taking the fortified cities of Judah, for it reveals something concerning the tactic and strategy of the adversary within our lives. When the adversary perceives that we are no longer willing to serve him, he sends a tremendous force to invade the inheritance given us by the Lord. The adversary sends a great force to target and capture those fortified places within our hearts and lives, thus isolating us from everything and everyone around us. The adversary will target those fortified places that exist within our relationships, those fortified places that exist within our finances, those fortified places that exist within our worshipping at the house of the Lord, those fortified places that exist within our personal and private devotion to the Lord our God. The goal and objective of the adversary is to completely cut us off from those within our lives who can stand beside us and support us in the midst of battle. The king of Assyria didn’t just enter into the land of Judah and march straight toward Jerusalem—he entered into the land of Judah and captured each and every fortified city within the land. By doing so, the ultimate target of his envy and fury is left completely alone, isolated, cut off, and separated from everything else within the land. When the adversary enters into and invades our lives and our homes, he first targets and cuts off those fortified places which exist among us in our midst.
When the king of Assyria sent Rabshakeh to the city of Jerusalem, he not only sought to destroy their trust and confidence in Pharaoh king of Egypt and the military might and strength they possessed, but also to destroy their trust and confidence in the Lord of hosts. The king of Assyria sought to bring Jerusalem into a place of submission and compromise, thus bringing an end to their rebellion against them. Through Rabshakeh the king of Assyria called all of Jerusalem to “make an agreement with him by a present,” and to come out unto him. The king of Assyria sought to bring them into a place of completely and total submission and compromise, while being so brazen and bold to declare unto them his intention of taking them away to a land like their own. The ultimate goal and objective was to dispossess the inhabitants of Jerusalem and Judah from their land, and to bring them to the land of Assyria. The king of Assyria sought to take complete possession and control of the southern kingdom of Judah—much like he had done to her northern neighbor, Israel. One of the most tremendous realities within the Old Testament is the tremendous opposition, threats, taunts and attacks Jerusalem was able to withstand. Of course the city of Jerusalem would eventually fall to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon as a result of their disobedience and rebellion, but the Lord delivered them out of the hand of the king of Assyria when he had already entered into and invaded their land, and captured all their fortified cities. One of the most powerful realities that surrounds this passage of Scripture is that the Lord delivered His people from the hand of the adversary with the adversary already present within their borders. The enemy and adversary was present within the land of Judah, and yet the Lord of hosts was able to deliver them—even after all the fortified cities were taken. The Lord was able to deliver the city of Jerusalem from the hand of the adversary even after the adversary was outside the walls and gates of the city with a great army. The adversary not only came against the city of Jerusalem with a word, but the adversary also came against the city with a great army. A word by itself was not enough to bring the city of Jerusalem to its knees, for the king of Assyria sent a great army to accompany and support that word.
When Hezekiah first sent his officials to the prophet Isaiah, the word of the Lord came to the prophet, and he declared how the king of Assyria would hear a rumor and a report which would turn him back in the direction in which he came. What’s more, is that the Lord didn’t just declare to Hezekiah that He would cause the king of Assyria to return to his own land, but He also declared that He would cause the king of Assyria to fall by the sword in his own land. When Rabshakeh returned to the king of Assyria, he was undoubtedly shocked to find the king warring against Libnah. What’s more, is that a report reached the camp of the Assyrians that the king of Ethiopia had come out to march against him in battle. Within the thirty-seventh chapter we find a second threat issued to Hezekiah and all of Jerusalem—this time the threat came in the form of a letter. Contained within this letter was a powerful declaration that the Lord of hosts would not be able to deliver the city of Jerusalem out of the hands of the Assyrians. Contained within this letter was a recounting of all the battles and victories which the king of Assyria had won upon the earth, and how he utterly destroyed all the lands which he marched upon. The king of Assyria was both brazen and bold enough to declare in this letter that no gods were able to deliver the lands which they had conquered, and the city of Jerusalem would not be the exception. In essence, the king of Assyria was asking Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem what made them so special that they would somehow be exempt from their conquest upon the face of the earth. The king of Assyria came first by entering into and invading the land of Judah and capturing all the fortified cities. The king of Assyria then sent Rabshakeh to the city of Jerusalem accompanied by a great army with a brazen message intended to threaten and strike fear upon them. The word of the Lord came to the prophet Isaiah after Hezekiah had humbled himself before the Lord and positioned himself in the house of the Lord. The Lord emphatically declared that He would cause the king of Assyria to return to his own land, and there in that land He would cause him to be slaughtered by the sword. What I find to be so incredibly powerful concerning these two chapters is that neither the king of Assyria, nor Rabshakeh knew what word the Lord was speaking to His people. Rabshakeh came against the city of Jerusalem with the words of a mere man and mortal, while Hezekiah inquired of a word—not from mere man and mortals, but a word straight from the Lord of hosts. Hezekiah knew the mind of the king of Assyria, yet he purposed and determined within himself to discover the mind of the Lord. It is absolutely imperative that we recognize this, for when the enemy comes in like a flood and seeks to threaten us with a great force, we need not cower in fear, panic or dread, but instead seek the heart and mind of the Lord.
This passage within the thirty-seventh chapter is the conclusion of Hezekiah’s experience and interaction with the king of Assyria—a king which sought to capture the city of Jerusalem and take the inhabitants of Judah to the land of Assyria. This set of verses is the response of the Lord after Hezekiah received the letter from the king of Assyria and went up into the house of the Lord. SPREADING THE TAUNT OF THE ENEMY BEFORE THE LORD IN THE HOUSE OF THE LORD! SPREADING THE THREAT OF THE ENEMY BEFORE THE LORD OF HOSTS! How absolutely astounding is it that as soon as Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it, he went up unto the house of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord. In all honesty, the Old Testament book of Psalms is perhaps one of the single greatest examples of taking the threats of the enemy and spreading them before the Lord. When you read the words of David especially, you will uncover that David never hesitated to declare unto the Lord the actions of his foes and adversaries. In fact, there was more than one occasion when David declared unto the Lord how his foes were many, and how his foes sought to take his life. The Old Testament book of Psalms is replete of individuals who took the threats and taunts of their enemies and adversaries and spread them out before the Lord. In fact, there were multiple times when David himself would cry out to the Lord and ask Him to destroy his enemies. There were times when David admitted to the Lord that his foes and enemies were too great for him, and that he was utterly powerless to overcome them. I can’t help but wonder what threat you may be facing right now at this very moment. I can’t help but wonder what taunt and brazen words of the adversary you are experiencing within your life. Are you one who is willing to take the words of your adversary and spread it before the Lord in His holy Temple? What letter(s) have you received in recent days, weeks, or months that have so seized and gripped your heart with fear, terror and dread? What words and message has the adversary sent to you to completely and totally paralyze you within your inheritance? Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it, and instead of cowering in fear, he spread it before the Lord.
As I read this passage, I am completely and totally struck with Hezekiah’s prayer which he prayed after spreading out the words of the king of Assyria. “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. Inline 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. Of a truth, Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations, and their countries, 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. 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” (Isaiah 37:16-20). What I find to be so incredibly unique about Hezekiah’s prayer is that he asked the Lord to not only hear the words which were spoken by the king of Assyria, but also to see the words which were spoken. The king of Assyria first threatened the city of Jerusalem with words which were spoken by Rabshakeh outside the walls and gates of the city. The king of Assyria would threaten the city of Jerusalem again with words written on parchment which were sent unto Hezekiah king of Judah –words which after HEzekiah read brought them before the Lord in His holy house. Please don’t miss the significance and importance of Hezekiah’s actions in this chapter for they reveal something incredibly powerful and necessary within our own lives. Hezekiah received the words of the king of Assyria and immediately brought those words before the Lord in His holy temple. We must pay careful attention to this, for prayer before the Lord can sometimes be a recounting of the taunts and threats of the adversary against us. There are times when our prayer(s) before the Lord is nothing but a describing to the Lord that which the adversary has spoken within our lives—how the enemy and adversary has threatened us, and threatened to take us captive. There are times when the only thing we can do is go up into the house of the Lord and spread before the Lord as it were “letters from the enemy.” LETTERS FROM THE ADVERSARY! LETTERS FROM THE ACCUSER! LETTERS FROM THE ENEMY! I can’t help but be reminded of the account of Naboth and how Jezebel sent a letter which contained within it words of false accusation against Naboth—words which would undoubtedly call for his death, and subsequently would result in the seizing of his inheritance.
One thing that is worth noting in Scripture is that both the letter from Jezebel, and the letter from the king of Assyria both had within them the same ultimately objective—the seizing of the inheritance of the people of God. Jezebel released the letter concerning Naboth in order to accuse him of crimes he did not commit so she could seize his inheritance for Ahab. The king of Assyria released the letter unto Hezekiah threatening to seize and take the city of Jerusalem—that city which was the city of the great King. What letter has the enemy and adversary released within your life this day? What letter have you received from the adversary that has caused you to be seized with fear, panic, terror and dread? Perhaps your letter has come in the form of a doctor’s report that expressed concerns over your health. Perhaps your letter is from the government concerning back taxes which you owe. Perhaps your letter is from a bank denying your application for a loan or credit. Perhaps your letter is in the form of your being terminated from your current position. Perhaps your letter is even a letter of rejection from that college you were interested, or that position with that company you really wanted. What letter have you received recently? What discouraging words of the enemy have you received—words which have every intention to destroy your trust and confidence in the Lord? When was the last time you took such a letter—such a report and message—and spread it out before the Lord in prayer? When was the last time you called on the Lord to hear the words which the adversary has spoken over your life? When was the last time you called on the Lord to hear the words which were written in that report or that letter and asked Him to look upon them? What is so incredibly unique about Hezekiah’s response is that he didn’t ask the Lord for deliverance, nor did he ask for salvation—he simply spread out the letter from the adversary before Him and called on Him to hear and see all that the king of Assyria had spoken. Hezekiah made no plea for the Lord to come to his rescue, or the rescue of the city of Jerusalem, but instead recounted the conquests of the adversary. It’s interesting that Hezekiah didn’t deny the devastation and havoc wreaked by the adversary, but instead acknowledged it before the Lord in prayer. Hezekiah admitted to the Lord the devastation and destruction the king of Assyria had wreaked upon the nations and lands of the earth, thus choosing not to minimize the threat that loomed before the city of Jerusalem.
Oh that we would read the words of the prophet Isaiah in this passage of Scripture and glean from it what our response should be when the adversary seeks to release a rumor, a report, or a letter within our lives. I still cannot escape the thought that nowhere in Hezekiah’s prayer before the Lord did he actually ask for deliverance or salvation. When appearing before the Lord in prayer he simply recounted the greatness of the Lord of hosts, and the destruction of the adversary. What’s more, is that Hezekiah recounted the goodness and greatness of the Lord before acknowledging the threat and words of the enemy. This is incredibly important for us to pay attention to, for far too many times do we do the complete opposite. Far too many times we start with the threat and taunt of the enemy rather than starting with the goodness a nd greatness of the Lord our God. Hezekiah declared before the Lord of hosts that He was the God of Israel who dwelt between the cherubims, and was God over all the kingdoms of the earth. Hezekiah emphatically acknowledged the sovereignty and omnipotence over all the kingdoms of the earth, which coincidentally would include the kingdom of Assyria. Hezekiah encouraged himself in the Lord as he recounted His goodness and greatness, and then called on the Lord to listen and hear the words which the king of Assyria had threatened Jerusalem with. Oh dear brother, dear sister—please don’t miss the importance and significance of this within this passage of Scripture, for it reveals something absolutely vital and necessary within our lives. When the adversary releases a report within our lives, we have great need to take that threat, that taunt, that arrogant boast, that prideful speech and bring it before the Lord. We must enter into the house of the Lord and spread out each and every word which the adversary has spoken. Hezekiah called on the Lord to pay attention to the words which were spoken by the king of Assyria, and the same reality should be demonstrated within our lives today. We ourselves must enter into the house of the Lord and spread out the accusations of the adversary before Him, and call on Him to see and hear. We must enter into the house of the Lord and spread before the Lord the threats and taunts of the adversary and call on the Lord to see and hear. I can’t help but be reminded of the words of the Lord which He spoke in response to Solomon after the dedication of the Temple of the Lord –“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. NOW MINE EYES SHALL BE OPEN, AND MINE EARS ATTENTION UNTO T HE PRAYER THAT IS MADE IN THIS PLACE.” (2 Chronicles 7:14-15). Oh that we would enter the sanctuary of the Lord our God and cry out to Him that His eyes might be open and His ears attentive to the cries of His people. Let us recognize this great and precious promise which we have in the Scripture that the Lord promises to both see with open eyes and hear with open ears the cries of His people when they come and appear before Him.