Hezekiah Seeks Isaiah’s Help
In a display of his deep mourning, King Hezekiah tore his clothes and wore sackcloth. Hezekiah took the words of Rabshakeh seriously as he knew that the King of Assyria was dedicated to the conquering of Jerusalem. Hezekiah knew the situation was desperate for Jerusalem and his reaction to it was good. The king humbled himself before the Lord. “City, after a city has fallen to Sennacherib and long lines of deportees, are already snaking their bitter way into exile – and it is all Hezekiah’s fault! He followed the lunatic policy of rebellion and was bewitched by Egyptian promises. He might as well have sold his people himself. But even when a matter is our own fault we can still pray about it. And the Lord can always be trusted to put his people.” (Motyer)
Hezekiah’s second reaction was even a better one, as he did not allow his grief to turn him into a rejection of the Lord’s power and help. He knew that this was the time to humbly seek the Lord. Hezekiah went to the courts of the house of the Lord but did not go into the forbidden holy place that only the priest could enter. King Uzziah broke this command and went into the holy place. (2 Chronicles 26:16) But this was his destruction as he transgressed against the Lord to burn incense on the altar. God struck him with leprosy and was isolated until his death. The next thing Hezekiah did was to seek out the word of the Lord through His Prophet Isaiah.
Hezekiah sent this message to Isaiah. “Thus says Hezekiah, ‘This day is a day of distress, rebuke, and rejection; for children have come to birth, and there is no strength to deliver.” These words were to express the total calamity of the situation. The expression is a disaster for a woman who is so exhausted by labor that she could not complete the birth of her child.
The hope of Hezekiah was that the Lord would take offense at the words of Rabshakeh for his blaspheme and rise up against him. Hezekiah is asking for the prayers of Isaiah, as the nation has been devastated by the Assyrians and only Jerusalem is left to stand. Isaiah is to pray for the remnant that is left.
Isaiah knew that he was a prophet of the Lord God and he spoke without hesitation the words of the Lord that came to him. Isaiah did not take this responsibility lightly. The fate of the nation and his credibility as a prophet always rode on what he said. Isaiah is making a bold prediction and it will happen or not, Isaiah will be known as a true prophet or a false prophet shortly.
There may have been a gentle rebuke from the Lord in these words. The Lord is saying it was good for Hezekiah to seek Him passionately but the words of Rabshakeh were only words and he should not be afraid of them.
Hezekiah should have been cheered by these words. Hezekiah had hoped that the Lord would have heard the words of Rabshakeh and his reproach of the living God. (Isaiah 37:4) The Lord now speaks through His prophet that He has heard the words and He is taking them personally. “The servants of the king of Assyria: Servants is “a deliberately belittling expression, ‘the king of Assyria’s lads/flunkies’.” (Motyer) “He calls Rabshakeh and the other officers of the army the slaves or servant boys – we could say the errand boys – of the king of Assyria.” (Bultema)
The Lord assures Hezekiah that He will deal with Rabshakeh. The Lord will bring judgment against him. Yet in the words of Isaiah, there is no mention of the deliverance of Jerusalem or the defeat of the Assyrian army. The focus of God’s words against Rabshakeh is personal.
Hezekiah must have seen Assyria’s war with Libnah as a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. Rabshakeh left Jerusalem and Hezekiah must have thought he would go back to his land and be killed there. But the King of Assyria heard the King of Ethiopia had come out to make war with him. In the absence of Rabshakeh, Egyptian troops under the Ethiopian King were advancing from the south. This is the intervention that the Assyrians feared and Judah had hoped for. But as Isaiah had prophesied it amounted to nothing. (Isaiah 20:1-6; Isaiah 30:1-7)
Even as Rabshakeh is not in Jerusalem he is not deterred from trying to build fear and discouragement in Hezekiah. He sends a letter to the King of Judah to further discourage him. In the eyes of a faithful man, these words of Rabshakeh must have helped in building trust in the heart of Hezekiah. By Rabshakeh’s continued blaspheme of God by counting Him with the false gods Rabshakeh invites the judgment of God.
Hezekiah’s Prayer in the Temple
King Hezekiah did as any child of God should do with such a letter. He took it to the house of the Lord and he spread it out before the Lord. In doing this Hezekiah fulfilled the command written by the Apostle Peter to cast our cares upon the Lord. “Casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)
When in the ministry of the Kingdom of Heaven one will receive nasty letters and what should be done with them? If they are of concern they should be spread before the Lord for His counsel.
This title of our Lord “God of the host” means Lord of Armies. The crisis that Hezekiah was in was a military crisis so he addressed the Lord as the Lord of the armies. The God of Israel was a confirmation that the Lord was the covenant God of Israel. It also meant that God was fateful and true and would not forsake His people. As the God who dwells between the cherubim show His great majesty. The Lord God would not let Rabshakeh go unpunished for the blasphemies. The word God is a simple title for our Lord, but it may be the most powerful. If He is God, then what is there that He cannot do? What would not be under His control? Hezekiah knows the fundamental fact of theology that God is God and that we are not. God is God and the Assyrians are not.
God as the Creator Hezekiah sees the Lord as all-powerful and has rights over every created thing. We can almost feel Hezekiah’s faith rising as he prays this prayer. Hezekiah knew that the Lord heard the blasphemies of Rabshakeh. This is a poetic way of asking God to act on the words of Rabshakeh and most certainly He will.
King Hezekiah knew that the gods of all the other nations were false gods and the work of men’s hands. Hezekiah knew that these false gods would not be able to save the Assyrians. Hezekiah is confident in the living God that He will save them and that all the kingdoms of the earth will know that God is the Lord alone.
God Answers through Isaiah
Our prayers are not always answered when we pray them but God is faithful and does answer at the right time according to His plan and purpose. When He answers it is a glorious answer. The rest of this chapter in Isaiah is filled with the answer from God to Hezekiah’s prayer. If Hezekiah had not prayed then we would be led to think that there would have been no answer from the Lord and Jerusalem would have been conquered. This is true in our time as it was in the time of Hezekiah that our prayers to the Lord make all the difference between defeat and victory. We must wonder then how many blessings, how many victories, and how many unsaved souls that weren’t saved for the glory of Jesus lay unclaimed because we have failed to pray? How many times has the Lord been unable to say “because you prayed to Me?
The Assyrian armies have come to ravish the city of Jerusalem but the Lord will not allow it. “Jerusalem is represented as a young girl rebuffing with contempt the unwelcome advances of a churl.” (Grogan) The word usage here of the word virgin holds the meaning of untouched by a marauder. The Assyrian’s came with the intent to rape their victims but because of the prayer of Hezekiah, they shall remain unharmed.
The Lord speaks through Isaiah to Rabshakeh who obviously did not know the Lord who he was dealing with. This prophecy may have never reached the ears of Rabshakeh, as Isaiah did not have access to him. God may have found a way to get His message to him before Rabshakeh’s end. If God did or did not this message would have been encouraging to Hezekiah and the people of Judah.
The Assyrians were prideful because of their military might. But they did not know that the Lord God was in charge. The Lord had allowed Assyrians to be successful in their military campaigns crushing fortified cities. The Assyrians may not have known this but still, they owed their success to the Lord. How humbling it must have been for the Assyrians when they heard this prophecy. All along they thought it was accomplished by their mighty power. God now makes it clear that the power of their invasion thus far was His.
The Assyrians could go so far and no more because they had blasphemed the One who had made their effort successful. “Therefore I will put My hook in your nose And My bridle in your lips, And I will turn you back by the way which you came.” This would have been dramatic for the Assyrians as this is what they had done to their captives. They would line them up and drive a hook into their nose and string them together and marched them off in captivity. God is saying that He will do the same to them.
“The invasion prevented sowing in 702 B.C., but when the threat lifted in 701 they would find sufficient growth to preserve life; in 701 the withdrawing Assyrians still inhibited agriculture, yet in 700 there would still be enough through ‘chance growth’. Thus the Lord would confirm retrospectively that it was his hand that dispersed the threat.” (Motyer)
The Assyrian’s would like to have crushed the city of Jerusalem and all of Judah but God would preserve His remnant. God has drawn the line and as the Assyrian military machine is poised to lay siege to Jerusalem they will not be able to. The King of Assyrian will not be able to enter into Jerusalem because the Lord is defending it. God defends the city of Jerusalem for His own sake. Sometimes we think that we must defend God’s glory but He is able to defend His glory. God is also defending the city for His servant David. King David had died over three hundred years before this time but God is faithful to His promises. (2 Samuel 7:10-17) God did not defend Jerusalem for the sake of the city and its people but for His sake. Jerusalem deserved the judgment of God. We too deserve His judgment but God defends us not for our sake but for His own sake and the sake of Jesus.
The Lord sent His angle out in the night and slew 185,000 of the Assyrian army. Against every expectation, with the exception of faith, the Assyrian army was turned back without even sending a single arrow over the wall of the city. The unstoppable was stopped and the undefeated was defeated. “But I will have compassion on the house of Judah and deliver them by the LORD their God, and will not deliver them by bow, sword, battle, horses or horsemen.” (Hosea 1:7)
As God had said the King of Assyria left as he came but was still filled with pride. “I attacked Hezekiah of Judah who had not subjected himself to me and took forty-six fortresses, forts and small cities. I carried away captive 200,150 people, big and small, both male and female, a multitude of horses, young bulls, asses, camels, and oxen. Hezekiah himself I locked up in Jerusalem like a bird in its cage. I put up banks against the city. I separated his cities whose inhabitants I had taken prisoners from his realm and gave them to Mitiniti, king of Ashdod, Padi, and king of Ekron, and Zilbel, king of Gaza and thus diminished his country. And I added another tax to the one imposed on him earlier.” (Cited in Bultema)
In an old legend of the Hebrews, we are told how the sons of Sennacherib’s sons came to kill him. “Sennacherib was troubled at how God seemed to bless the Jews so much and tried to find out why. Someone told him it was because Abraham had loved God so much that he was willing to sacrifice his son unto the LORD. Sennacherib thought he would be even more favored by God, and decided to kill two of his sons in sacrifice to the LORD, becoming even more blessed than Abraham and his descendants. But his two sons learned of the plan, and killed him before he could kill them, thus fulfilling the word of the LORD!”