Isaiah 34–39: Faith & Flattery

Read the Bible in 2011 ◊ Week 7: Friday

Truly, O LORD, the kings of Assyria have devastated all the countries and their lands, and have cast their gods into the fire, for they were not gods but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. So they have destroyed them. Now, O LORD our God, deliver us from his hand that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You alone, LORD, are God.
Isaiah 37:18–20

Today’s Bible reading of Isaiah 34–39, divides into two different sections. Chapters 34–35 are God’s judgment of the world and the future of His people, while 36–39 are about the life of Hezekiah, king of Judah, and his dealings with the Assyrians. (Hezekiah’s life is also recorded in 2 Kings 18–20 and in 2 Chronicles 29–32).

Ray Ortlund writes of chapters 34–35:

“In these two chapters Isaiah leads us by the hand all the way out to the brink of future history, where time merges into eternity….He lifts his eyes from his own times in the eighth century B.C. to see how things will finally end up “forever and ever” (34:10). He see this world order deconstructed (34:11, 12), human existence renewed (35:1, 2), God’s people no longer enfeebled by sin (35:5, 6), all tears wiped away from their eyes (35:10). His point is this: The salvation you prefer now, whether earthly or heavenly, is shaping who you are and which direction you will go forever.”1

In chapter 36, Sennacherib, king of Assyria, comes against Judah and sends Rabshakeh to Jerusalem to challenge and demoralize Hezekiah and his people as he scorns God. Hezekiah asks Isaiah to pray, and Isaiah replies to the king’s messengers that God will have the Assyrian king return to his own land where he will die. In a very dramatic and moving moment, in chapter 37, Hezekiah goes to the temple and spreads out the message of Sennacherib before God and pleads for deliverance. Again, Isaiah sends word—the Lord will deliver Jerusalem.

Chapter 38 gives us another prayer of Hezekiah’s—this one for his own life. God once more answers and saves him.

Unfortunately, after seeing such powerful acts of God, different circumstances arise in chapter 39. Derek Kidner writes:

“The faith of Hezekiah, proof against the heaviest blows, melts at the touch of flattery (notice his delighted account in vv. 3, 4), and the world claims another victim by its friendship. Enough is known of Merodach-baladan to suggest that this enterprising rebel against Assyria had plots to hatch under cover of this visit. But the Bible is silent on this, and Hezekiah is condemned for glorying in wealth and human patronage.

The price of disloyalty is very heavy (vv. 5ff.). To Hezekiah there was comfort in postponement (v. 8); but not to Isaiah.”2

Whether our back is against the wall or whether we live in safe circumstances, we are called to trust in God. The temptations are in different guises, but they each contain the choice of whether we will trust in God or rely on others or ourselves.

Isaiah 42 Photograph: – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publications
1Ray Ortlund, Jr., Isaiah: God Saves Sinners, p. 196.
2Derek Kidner, “Isaiah,” The New Bible Commentary: Revised, D. Guthrie, J. A. Motyer, eds.,
A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman, contributing eds., pp. 610–611.
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Original content: Copyright ©2011 Iwana Carpenter

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