Isaiah 34–39: Faith & Flattery

Read the Bible in 2023 ◊ Week 7: Friday

Now it happened in the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, that Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and seized them.
Isaiah 36:1 LSB

Today’s Bible reading of Isaiah 34–39, divides into two different sections. Chapters 34–35 finish a series of summons that began in Isaiah 28.1 (See last week’s Isaiah post, Isaiah 29–33: Rogues & Rest, for more on the six summons).

Isaiah 34–35 are on God’s judgment of the world and the future of His people are part of the sixth summons that Alec Motyer titles, “Ultimate realities, Universal proclamations.”2 Isaiah 33:13–24 is the first proclamation, “Zion’s citizens and Zion’s king.”3 Isaiah 34 has the second proclamation, “The final overthrow,”4 while in Isaiah 35, Motyer writes,

“The sixth summons ends with this glorious picture of the final ‘Exodus’ pilgrimage of the Lord’s people to their eternal and blissful destination in Zion.”5

Ray Ortlund describes 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.”6

Isaiah 36–39 is about the life of Hezekiah, king of Judah, and his dealings with the Assyrians and Babylonians. (Hezekiah’s life is also recorded in 2 Kings 18–20 and in 2 Chronicles 29–32 with details on the cleansing of the temple and the destruction of idols).

In chapter 36, Sennacherib, king of Assyria, comes against Judah and seizes Judah’s fortified cities. He sends Rabshakeh to Jerusalem to challenge and demoralize Hezekiah and the people even as he scorns God.

Hezekiah sent messengers to Isaiah to ask him to pray, and Isaiah sent word that God would 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.

Then Hezekiah took the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it, and he went up to the house of Yahweh and spread it out before Yahweh. And Hezekiah prayed to Yahweh saying,
“O Yahweh of hosts, the God of Israel, who is enthroned above the cherubim, You are the God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Incline Your ear, O Yahweh, and hear; open Your eyes, O Yahweh, and see; and listen to all the words of Sennacherib, who sent them to reproach the living God. Truly, O Yahweh, the kings of Assyria have laid waste to 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. But now, O Yahweh our God, save us from his hand that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are Yahweh, You alone.”
Isaiah 37:14–20 LSB

Isaiah sends word that God had heard his prayer, and not only would the city be safe, but that Sennacherib would not even come to Jerusalem to try to seize it.

Then the angel of Yahweh went out and struck 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And the men arose early in the morning, and behold, all of them were dead bodies.
So Sennacherib king of Assyria set out and returned home and lived at Nineveh. Now it happened that as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, Adrammelech and Sharezer his sons struck him down with the sword; and they escaped into the land of Ararat. And Esarhaddon his son became king in his place.
Isaiah 37:36–38 LSB

Chapter 38 gives us another prayer of Hezekiah’s—this one for his own life. God once more answers and heals 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.”7

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

Silvesterzug Laterne: Bk muc. (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Sennacherib: Cast of a rock relief of Sennacherib from the foot of Cudi Dağı, near Cizre. The cast is exhibited in Landshut, Germany. Timo Roller.  (CC BY-SA 3.0).
1,2,3,4,5Alec Motyer, Isaiah By The Day: A New Devotional Translation (Christian Focus Publications Ltd, Scotland, U.K.: 2011) 135, 158–159, 159, 162, 166.
6Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr., Isaiah: God Saves Sinners (Crossway Books, Wheaton IL: 2005) 196.
7Derek Kidner, “Isaiah,” The New Bible Commentary: Revised, D. Guthrie, J. A. Motyer, eds., A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman, contributing eds., (Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1970) 610–611.

I’m using Michael Coley’s Bible reading plan (one page PDF to print) to read through the Bible in 2023. Each day my posts are on different books because he divides Bible readings into seven categories, one for each day of the week: Epistles, The Law, History, Psalms, Poetry, Prophecy and Gospels. There’s more information on his plan and other ones at Read the Bible in 2023.

Copyright ©2011–2023 Iwana Carpenter

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