Saturday, October 8, 2016

Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 102

Comfort My People:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah
Day 102

Today we continue looking at the answer to prayer that the Lord gave Hezekiah through the prophet Isaiah. 

The Lord says to King Sennacherib of Assyria in this prophecy, "But I know where you are and when you come and go and how you rage against Me." (Isaiah 37:28) There is no place to hide from the living God. He reads Sennacherib's thoughts and finds nothing but rage there. He sees all the way down into Sennacherib's heart and finds nothing good there. 

"Because you rage against Me and because your insolence has reached My ears, I will put My hook in your nose and My bit in your mouth, and I will make you return by the way you came." (Isaiah 37:29) Ancient Assyrian carvings and monuments show us that it was their habit to string long lines of captives together by putting a hook in each person's nose and drawing a rope through it. You've probably heard the expression of being "led by the nose", which means to be forcefully taken in a specific direction by someone else. Sennacherib has been proud of all the captives he has taken as slaves back to his own land, cruelly stringing them together in this inhumane way, and so the Lord uses this imagery to describe how He is going to grab hold of Sennacherib and forcefully remove him from Judah. Sennacherib believes he is sovereign over his own life but he can only do what the Lord allows him to do. God will put a bit in his mouth just like a man puts a bit in a horse's mouth to lead it where he wants it to go. Sennacherib thinks he's the big man in charge but he's about to be confronted by the real Man in charge.

Now the Lord turns His attention to King Hezekiah with comforting words and offers him a sign he didn't even ask for. "This will be the sign for you, Hezekiah: 'This year you will eat what grows by itself, and the second year what springs from that. But in the third year sow and reap, plant vineyards and eat their fruit.'" (Isaiah 37:30) The people are bottled up at this time, unable to bring in seeds for planting gardens in the city. Outside the gates, the countryside of Judah is devastated by the Assyrians. We learned earlier in our study of Isaiah that the fields in the rural areas were overgrown and the fences broken down because the marauding Assyrians made it unsafe for people to till their ground and plant crops. They were surviving on what they could hunt or scavenge. So the Lord promises to provide for the people even though they are unable to sow seeds. My family grew almost all our own food when I was growing up in rural Virginia. Sometimes we would have what we called "volunteer" plants, which meant they sprang up on their own the next summer without having been replanted. They tended to be few in number but it was always exciting to find these happy little bonuses in the garden. This is what the Lord is going to send the people: plants that voluntarily spring up from what was in the ground the prior year. This is going to happen the following year too. But by the third year Assyria will be out of the picture and the people will be free to work the land again. The plants that spring up on their own for two years in a row are a sign to Hezekiah that the Lord is going to remove the Assyrians from Judah. 

The volunteer crops are another type of sign. God isn't just going to provide for the people in this specific time but He intends to preserve the line of Judah forever. "Once more a remnant of the kingdom of Judah will take root below and bear fruit above. For out of Jerusalem will come a remnant, and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this." (Isaiah 37:31-32) Like the crops in the field which seem to spring up out of nothing, Judah too will continue on. For a moment there her destruction appeared imminent but in every generation the Lord will preserve His people. The kingly line of David must endure because the Messiah and King will be born from it. 

We don't know how well King Hezekiah understood Messianic prophecy but as we continue on with our study of Isaiah we will find that the prophet had a good grasp of the concept of the coming King and Redeemer. Isaiah presents the gospel to us about seven hundred years before the birth of Christ. He describes the crucifixion in vivid detail centuries before the Romans became a world power and began to use the cross as a method of capital punishment. He will speak of the blood that makes our sins as white as snow and will announce the resurrection of our Savior following His suffering and death. Isaiah will predict the Gentiles becoming children of God, something that was an alien concept to Israel in his day. He will tell us of a King who will rule from the throne of David and of a kingdom that has no end, a kingdom of joy and peace, where no sin or illness or war or death will enter. I've said before that I often think of the book of Isaiah as "The Gospel According To Isaiah", for if this were the only book of the Bible we had, we would know enough about the Lord to come to Him.

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