Monday, October 3, 2016

Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 97

Comfort My People:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah
Day 97

Yesterday we found Sennacherib's field commander and his troops standing outside the gates speaking with three of King Hezekiah's top officials. The goal of this man is to get Jerusalem to surrender without a fight. It has always been a common military tactic to lay siege to fortified cities until, desperately thirsty and hungry, its citizens surrender. Assyria plans to just wait it out and not endanger her soldiers in battle. Yesterday we closed with the field commander telling Hezekiah's men that they can expect no help even from the Lord.

At these words, the men are aghast that the citizens of Jerusalem listening from the top of the walls can hear such a hopeless statement. "Then Eliakim, Shebna and Joah said to the field commander, 'Please speak to your servants in Aramaic, since we understand it. Don't speak to us in Hebrew in the hearing of the people on the wall.'" (Isaiah 36:11) The intent of the field commander is to so demoralize the people that they will come streaming out of the city waving the white flag of surrender. The officials of Hezekiah fear losing the city at any moment if the people hear these awful words and come out with their hands up. It's bad enough to lose the nation's capitol in battle; giving it away is unthinkable.

Yesterday we compared the attitude of this field commander to that of Satan. He too would rather avoid engaging us in battle, for when he fights against the children of God, he fights against our Mighty Redeemer. When he perpetrates an attack on us, he is throwing down the gauntlet to the King of glory, the Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. (Psalm 24:8) This is why Satan uses the tool of discouragement against us. His goal is to induce us to surrender without a fight, to taunt us with lies, and to cause us to give up without firing a single arrow at him.

When Sennacherib's man hears the pleas of Hezekiah's officials, he is defiant. "But the commander replied, 'Was it only to your master and you that my master sent me to say these things, and not to the people sitting on the wall---who, like you, will have to eat their own excrement and drink their own urine?'" (Isaiah 36:12) This is a crude description of severe siege conditions. He plans to block up Jerusalem's water source, which was piped in from the Gihon Springs. He plans to prevent trade. No one will be able to come in or go out and eventually their supply of stored food will dry up. The people within earshot of the field commander know this is true. When Assyria laid siege to Samaria, the capitol city of the northern kingdom of Israel, conditions became so desperate that the people even resorted to eating the dead. 

To drive home his point, the field commander steps back to look directly at the people along the wall. He wants them to believe their leaders are foolishly gambling with their lives in refusing to surrender. "Hear the words of the great king, the king of Assyria! This is what the king says: Do not let Hezekiah deceive you. He cannot deliver you! Do not let Hezekiah persuade you to trust in the Lord when he says, 'The Lord will surely deliver us; this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.'" (Isaiah 36:13-14) As we noted in his speech yesterday, there is some truth mixed into it. Hezekiah will not be able to deliver Jerusalem from such a formidable enemy. But he is wrong when he makes the assertion that Judah's God cannot deliver her. 

Hezekiah has told the people to stand firm and this is because the prophet Isaiah has assured him, on the authority of the Lord, that Jerusalem will not fall to Assyria. He reiterates this promise in 2 Kings 19:6-7, when Hezekiah sends his officials to him for help after hearing the field commander's words. "Isaiah said to them, 'Tell your master, 'This is what the Lord says: 'Do not be afraid of what you have heard---the words with which the underlings of the king of Assyria have blasphemed Me. Listen! When he hears a certain report, I will make him want to return to his own country, and there I will have him cut down with the sword.'" We will see this come true later in our study when Sennacherib gets word he is being attacked by the king of Cush. Right after that, the troops he sent to besiege Jerusalem will die of a plague sent by God. The king of Assyria will then retreat to his capitol at Nineveh where two of his own sons will assassinate him. 

The people of Jerusalem are standing on nothing but faith at this point but that is what will save them. As Isaiah counseled the people earlier in Chapter 7, when they feared the combined forces of Israel and Aram coming against them, "If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all." (v 9) The lies the field commander is shouting at them are the lies of their true enemy the devil. The Lord Jesus said of this ancient enemy, "When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies." (John 8:44b) Satan even tried to lie to the Lord Himself during His forty days of temptation in the wilderness, but Jesus resisted him with the word of God. That is the firm foundation upon which we stand. Our faith is based on the truth of God's word and His precious promises to us. Satan will lie to us just like the field commander lied to the people of Jerusalem, saying, "God is not coming to the rescue. You've messed up one too many times. He's tired of fixing your problems and getting you out of these jams. Yes, I know what the Bible says, but why do you think God's promises apply to you? Look at what a screw-up you are! Why should He come running to help you? You aren't worth it." 

Well, I beg to differ. Maybe we aren't worth much but the Lord Jesus Christ, perfect and spotless Lamb of God, thought we were! He thought we were worth dying for! And having suffered the punishment that should have been ours, making a way for us to be right with a holy God, why would He abandon us now? Having paid the ultimate price for us, why would He go back on His word? Satan became a vanquished foe on the morning our Lord rose in victory from the dead, having the keys of death and hell in His hand (Revelation 1:18). Satan knows it, but he doesn't want us to know it and to walk in the liberty that Christ won for us. When the lies of the enemy strike us like arrows, the best thing we can do is stand on the word of God, just as Jesus did. "For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds." (2 Corinthians 10:3-4) We fight lies with the truth of the Scriptures, just as Jesus did when He was tempted. He didn't get into a debate with Satan, He simply replied, "It is written," and then quoted God's infallible word. 

God is not done with us. I believe our best days in the faith are still ahead. I believe He is going to do great and mighty things in our generation. Let's not fall prey to doubt and discouragement but stand on the firm foundation of the truth of God's word. It has been enough up til now; it will continue to see us through. 

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