Sunday, October 9, 2016

Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 103

Comfort My People:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah
Day 103

The Lord has one more thing to say against Sennacherib of Assyria in the message Isaiah sends to King Hezekiah of Judah. He is not going to be able to fire a single arrow at Jerusalem. The words spoken against him in verse 7 of our current chapter will come true, "I will have him cut down with the sword."

"Therefore this is what the Lord says concerning the king of Assyria: 'He will not enter this city or shoot an arrow here. He will not come before it with shield or build a siege ramp against it. By the way he came he will return; he will not enter this city,' declares the Lord. 'I will defend this city and save it, for My sake and for the sake of David My servant!'" (Isaiah 37:33-35) The Lord is referring to what is known as "the Davidic covenant". The Lord promised David through the prophet Nathan, "Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before Me; your throne will be established forever." (2 Samuel 7:16) The Lord promised David that his son Solomon would succeed him as king and that his name would be great, but the Lord also promised another "son" from the line of David, One whose kingdom would never end. The Lord chose Judah as the royal tribe of Israel and He chose David's family line for His own Son. Nothing could change these things. God was going to deliver Jerusalem and the royal bloodline of Judah because He never breaks a promise. For a time in the eyes of man it looked impossible for God to keep His promise. Judah was conquered by Babylon about a hundred years later and taken to a foreign land. After being allowed to return when Cyrus of Persia conquered Babylon, several centuries later the people of Judah were overthrown by Rome. But a King was coming anyway. A young engaged couple in Nazareth named Joseph and Mary, both descended directly from King David, received some stunning news about a Child to be born when the angel Gabriel announced, "He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over Jacob's descendants forever; His kingdom will never end." (Luke 1:32-33) In speaking these words the Lord reconfirmed the Davidic covenant, the one He vows to keep in our chapter of Isaiah today.

The Assyrian army is currently camped outside Jerusalem while King Sennacherib is nearby at his headquarters at Lachish. No doubt he intended to begin his siege at dawn but the Lord has something else in mind. "Then the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning---there were all the dead bodies!" (Isaiah 37:36) We don't know whether the illness itself was natural or supernatural, but we can be certain its arrival was divinely ordained. Some scholars, historians, and medical professionals believe the Assyrian soldiers were afflicted with the bubonic plague. There are a couple of things which back up this opinion. As we shall soon see in our study of Isaiah, King Hezekiah himself fell ill with a life-threatening sickness around this same time, an illness that involved a huge festering boil like those experienced by people afflicted with the plague. In addition, the Greek historian Herodotus is thought to have confused Sennacherib's failed attack on Jerusalem with a failed attack on Egypt, in which he says that "there swarmed by night upon their enemies mice of the fields, and ate up their quivers and their bows, and moreover the handles of their shields, so that on the next day they fled, and being without defense of arms great numbers fell". This sounds like a fictionalized account of something that actually happened to the Assyrian army at some point, and since plague is known to be spread by fleas who have bitten infected mice and rats, it's possible that plague is what the Lord brought upon the Assyrians. Whatever the disease actually was, it was especially sudden and virulent. The army which was so hale and hearty the day before lies dead the next morning and it will put so much fear into Sennacherib that he will immediately return to his own land.

"So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there." (Isaiah 37:37) Sennacherib reigned as king of Assyria for twenty more years but he never again tried to take Jerusalem. In fact, he didn't even want to talk about Jerusalem. I bet all his top officials and advisers knew better than to even bring up the name of Jerusalem in his presence. It would have taken an exceedingly brave or very foolish man to say to the king, "So when are we planning to attack the capitol of Judah again?" It's noteworthy that Sennacherib, like all ancient kings, loved to brag about his exploits in detail. He kept records and carved reliefs and monuments that boasted of his victories but he had nothing to say about Jerusalem or her king except that he exacted a high amount of tribute from them. As we know from our study of Isaiah, this tribute was paid before Sennacherib even came to Jerusalem and was intended to smooth things over between Assyria and Judah. Sennacherib took the gold and silver but came to attack the nation anyway, but in his own official records he tries to pretend as though Hezekiah bribed him when he got there. This would be out of character for Sennacherib who never saw a city he didn't want to conquer. Having gotten to the gates of Jerusalem, he would have appeared weak if he had simply taken money and walked away. At that point he had already destroyed forty-six fortified cities and small villages of Judah; why walk away from his main prize of Jerusalem? His enemies would have laughed at him and Sennacherib would not have been able to bear that.

In the prophecy given to Isaiah, the Lord foretold a bad end for Sennacherib. He was going to be "cut down". But it took twenty years for this prophecy to come true. Sennacherib had twenty years to think about the mighty God of Judah and how He miraculously delivered Jerusalem. He had twenty years to mull over the fact that he was wrong in boasting that no god of any nation could stand against him. He had twenty years to come to the conclusion that the God of Judah is the one and only true God, the living God, the Almighty, the Creator. And he had twenty years in which to repent and turn to the Lord. God, because He knows all things, knew Sennacherib would not repent, but at the judgment Sennacherib will never be able to claim he wasn't given the opportunity. 

We know Sennacherib didn't repent because we find him worshiping a pagan god on the day of his death. "One day, while he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisrok, his sons Addrammelek and Sharezer killed him with the sword, and they escaped to the land of Ararat. And Esarhaddon his son succeeded him as king." (Isaiah 37:38) The Bible doesn't tell us what led to this murderous conspiracy. Historians believe these were Sennacherib's two elder sons by his chief wife and queen but that Esarhaddon, the son of a concubine, had already been announced as Sennacherib's chosen successor. Being passed over like this may have motivated the two elder sons to assassinate their father and take the throne by force. There appears to have been a faction in Assyria who supported these two brothers, for Esarhaddon wrote that it took him six weeks to put down a rebellion led by his brothers and their co-conspirators, after which he executed his brothers' families along with the other men who were involved and their families. Evidently his brothers fled the nation in time to keep from being executed.

An ancient Jewish legend provides us with a different motive which states that Sennacherib promised the god Nisrok that he would sacrifice his two older sons to him if only the god would restore his power and give him victory. 

We find in today's passage the proof that God is a personal God who intervenes on behalf of His people. The enemy army was defeated without the people of Jerusalem having to fight a battle. So often this is what happens in our own lives. I can't tell you how many times my stomach has twisted in fear over a situation I knew I would have to face in a few days, only to have the day arrive and my problem already resolved without me having to lift a finger. How many times has God worked out a problem before we even got to it? How many times has He supernaturally stepped in and turned disaster away from us and we don't even know about it? A cell in our body might have gone dreadfully wrong and the Lord killed it before it could turn into cancer. An accident might have been waiting to happen down the road but the Lord caused us to be delayed by a few vital seconds. I believe when we get to heaven we are going to be stunned at how many times the Lord saved our lives and we didn't even know it. But we know enough already to look around us and see that He has rescued us from a great deal of trouble and heartbreak and despair. There are things we feared that never happened. There are hard times He brought us out of when it looked impossible. And the greatest miracle of all is how He saved us from our sins by the Redeemer who came from the royal tribe of Judah, the King of the line of David, the Lamb of God who gave Himself in our place. What more could we ask for than this? This one miracle would be enough to cause us to shout His praises for eternity. But He's a personal God. He's a Father. And He is actively involved in our daily lives. 

No comments:

Post a Comment