This is Episode #217 and today we’ll read Isaiah 36-41 together. Be careful what you wish for…you just might get it.
Joy: You’re listening to Season 2 of the Lifting Her Voice podcast. This is Episode #217 and today we’ll read Isaiah 36-41 together. Be careful what you wish for…you just might get it.
Welcome to the Lifting Her Voice podcast, Season 2! I’m your host, Joy Miller, and I invite you to grab your Bible and join me – from the beginning – simply reading God’s word together. We built some spiritual muscles in 2020 with just the New Testament. But this year we’re going all out, cover-to-cover, Old Testament and New. So, whether with your first cup in the morning, your commute to work, or as the last thing on your mind before sleep, God’s Word will equip you for every good work. I’m really glad you’re here!
Isaiah Chapter 36
In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, King Sennacherib of Assyria attacked all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them. Then the king of Assyria sent his royal spokesman, along with a massive army, from Lachish to King Hezekiah at Jerusalem. The Assyrian stood near the conduit of the upper pool, by the road to Launderer’s Field. Eliakim son of Hilkiah, who was in charge of the palace, Shebna the court secretary, and Joah son of Asaph, the court historian, came out to him.
The royal spokesman said to them, “Tell Hezekiah:
The great king, the king of Assyria, says this: What are you relying on? You think mere words are strategy and strength for war. Who are you now relying on that you have rebelled against me? Look, you are relying on Egypt, that splintered reed of a staff that will pierce the hand of anyone who grabs it and leans on it. This is how Pharaoh king of Egypt is to all who rely on him. Suppose you say to me, ‘We rely on the Lord our God.’ Isn’t he the one whose high places and altars Hezekiah has removed, saying to Judah and Jerusalem, ‘You are to worship at this altar’?
“Now make a deal with my master, the king of Assyria. I’ll give you two thousand horses if you’re able to supply riders for them! How then can you drive back a single officer among the least of my master’s servants? How can you rely on Egypt for chariots and horsemen? Have I attacked this land to destroy it without the Lord’s approval? The Lord said to me, ‘Attack this land and destroy it.’”
People Listening on the Wall
Then Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah said to the royal spokesman, “Please speak to your servants in Aramaic, since we understand it. Don’t speak to us in Hebrew within earshot of the people who are on the wall.”
But the royal spokesman replied, “Has my master sent me to speak these words to your master and to you, and not to the men who are sitting on the wall, who are destined with you to eat their own excrement and drink their own urine?”
Then the royal spokesman stood and called out loudly in Hebrew:
Listen to the words of the great king, the king of Assyria! This is what the king says: “Don’t let Hezekiah deceive you, for he cannot rescue you. Don’t let Hezekiah persuade you to rely on the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord will certainly rescue us! This city will not be handed over to the king of Assyria.’”
Will God Rescue Jerusalem?
Don’t listen to Hezekiah, for this is what the king of Assyria says:
“Make peace with me and surrender to me. Then every one of you may eat from his own vine and his own fig tree and drink water from his own cistern until I come and take you away to a land like your own land — a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards. Beware that Hezekiah does not mislead you by saying, ‘The Lord will rescue us.’ Has any one of the gods of the nations rescued his land from the power of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim? Have they rescued Samaria from my power? Who among all the gods of these lands ever rescued his land from my power? So will the Lord rescue Jerusalem from my power?”
But they kept silent; they didn’t say anything, for the king’s command was, “Don’t answer him.” Then Eliakim son of Hilkiah, who was in charge of the palace, Shebna the court secretary, and Joah son of Asaph, the court historian, came to Hezekiah with their clothes torn and reported to him the words of the royal spokesman.
Isaiah Chapter 37
Hezekiah Seeks Isaiah’s Counsel
When King Hezekiah heard their report, he tore his clothes, covered himself with sackcloth, and went to the Lord’s temple. He sent Eliakim, who was in charge of the palace, Shebna the court secretary, and the leading priests, who were covered with sackcloth, to the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz. They said to him, “This is what Hezekiah says: ‘Today is a day of distress, rebuke, and disgrace. It is as if children have come to the point of birth, and there is no strength to deliver them. Perhaps the Lord your God will hear all the words of the royal spokesman, whom his master the king of Assyria sent to mock the living God, and will rebuke him for the words that the Lord your God has heard. Therefore offer a prayer for the surviving remnant.’”
So the servants of King Hezekiah went to Isaiah, who said to them, “Tell your master, ‘The Lord says this: Don’t be afraid because of the words you have heard, with which the king of Assyria’s attendants have blasphemed me. I am about to put a spirit in him and he will hear a rumor and return to his own land, where I will cause him to fall by the sword.’”
When the royal spokesman heard that the king of Assyria had pulled out of Lachish, he left and found him fighting against Libnah. The king had heard concerning King Tirhakah of Cush, “He has set out to fight against you.”So when he heard this, he sent messengers to Hezekiah, saying, “Say this to King Hezekiah of Judah: ‘Don’t let your God, on whom you rely, deceive you by promising that Jerusalem won’t be handed over to the king of Assyria. Look, you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all the countries: they completely destroyed them. Will you be rescued? Did the gods of the nations that my predecessors destroyed rescue them — Gozan, Haran, Rezeph, and the Edenites in Telassar? Where is the king of Hamath, the king of Arpad, the king of the city of Sepharvaim, Hena, or Ivvah?’”
Hezekiah took the letter from the messengers’ hands, read it, then went up to the Lord’s temple and spread it out before the Lord. Then Hezekiah prayed to the Lord:
Lord of Armies, God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you are God — you alone — of all the kingdoms of the earth. You made the heavens and the earth. Listen closely, Lord, and hear; open your eyes, Lord, and see. Hear all the words that Sennacherib has sent to mock the living God. Lord, it is true that the kings of Assyria have devastated all these countries and their lands. They have thrown their gods into the fire, for they were not gods but made from wood and stone by human hands. So they have destroyed them.Now, Lord our God, save us from his power so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, Lord, are God — you alone.
God’s Answer through Isaiah
Then Isaiah son of Amoz sent a message to Hezekiah: “The Lord, the God of Israel, says, ‘Because you prayed to me about King Sennacherib of Assyria, this is the word the Lord has spoken against him:
Virgin Daughter Zion
despises you and scorns you;
Daughter Jerusalem shakes her head
behind your back.
Who is it you have mocked and blasphemed?
Against whom have you raised your voice
and lifted your eyes in pride?
Against the Holy One of Israel!
You have mocked the Lord through your servants.
You have said, “With my many chariots
I have gone up to the heights of the mountains,
to the far recesses of Lebanon.
I cut down its tallest cedars,
its choice cypress trees.
I came to its distant heights,
its densest forest.
I dug wells and drank water in foreign lands.
I dried up all the streams of Egypt
with the soles of my feet.”
Have you not heard?
I designed it long ago;
I planned it in days gone by.
I have now brought it to pass,
and you have crushed fortified cities
into piles of rubble.
Their inhabitants have become powerless,
dismayed, and ashamed.
They are plants of the field,
grass on the rooftops,
blasted by the east wind.
But I know your sitting down,
your going out and your coming in,
and your raging against me.
Because your raging against me
and your arrogance have reached my ears,
I will put my hook in your nose
and my bit in your mouth;
I will make you go back
the way you came.
“‘This will be the sign for you: This year you will eat what grows on its own, and in the second year what grows from that. But in the third year sow and reap, plant vineyards and eat their fruit. The surviving remnant of the house of Judah will again take root downward and bear fruit upward. For a remnant will go out from Jerusalem, and survivors from Mount Zion. The zeal of the Lord of Armies will accomplish this.’
“Therefore, this is what the Lord says about the king of Assyria:
He will not enter this city,
shoot an arrow here,
come before it with a shield,
or build up a siege ramp against it.
He will go back
the way he came,
and he will not enter this city.
This is the Lord’s declaration.
I will defend this city and rescue it
for my sake
and for the sake of my servant David.”
Defeat and Death of Sennacherib
Then the angel of the Lord went out and struck down one hundred eighty-five thousand in the camp of the Assyrians. When the people got up the next morning, there were all the dead bodies! So King Sennacherib of Assyria broke camp and left. He returned home and lived in Nineveh.
One day, while he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisroch, his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer struck him down with the sword and escaped to the land of Ararat. Then his son Esar-haddon became king in his place.
Isaiah Chapter 38
Hezekiah’s Illness and Recovery
In those days Hezekiah became terminally ill. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz came and said to him, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Set your house in order, for you are about to die; you will not recover.’”
Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord. He said, “Please, Lord, remember how I have walked before you faithfully and wholeheartedly, and have done what pleases you.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.
Then the word of the Lord came to Isaiah: “Go and tell Hezekiah, ‘This is what the Lord God of your ancestor David says: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Look, I am going to add fifteen years to your life. And I will rescue you and this city from the grasp of the king of Assyria; I will defend this city. This is the sign to you from the Lord that he will do what he has promised: I am going to make the sun’s shadow that goes down on the stairway of Ahaz go back by ten steps.’” So the sun’s shadow went back the ten steps it had descended.
A poem by King Hezekiah of Judah after he had been sick and had recovered from his illness:
I said: In the prime of my life
I must go to the gates of Sheol;
I am deprived of the rest of my years.
I said: I will never see the Lord,
the Lord in the land of the living;
I will not look on humanity any longer
with the inhabitants of what is passing away.
My dwelling is plucked up and removed from me
like a shepherd’s tent.
I have rolled up my life like a weaver;
he cuts me off from the loom.
By nightfall you make an end of me.
I thought until the morning:
He will break all my bones like a lion.
By nightfall you make an end of me.
I chirp like a swallow or a crane;
I moan like a dove.
My eyes grow weak looking upward.
Lord, I am oppressed; support me.
What can I say?
He has spoken to me,
and he himself has done it.
I walk along slowly all my years
because of the bitterness of my soul.
Lord, by such things people live,
and in every one of them my spirit finds life;
you have restored me to health
and let me live.
Indeed, it was for my own well-being
that I had such intense bitterness;
but your love has delivered me
from the Pit of destruction,
for you have thrown all my sins behind your back.
The Dead Cannot Praise You
For Sheol cannot thank you;
Death cannot praise you.
Those who go down to the Pit
cannot hope for your faithfulness.
The living, only the living can thank you,
as I do today;
a father will make your faithfulness known to children.
The Lord is ready to save me;
we will play stringed instruments
all the days of our lives
at the house of the Lord.
Now Isaiah had said, “Let them take a lump of pressed figs and apply it to his infected skin, so that he may recover.” And Hezekiah had asked, “What is the sign that I will go up to the Lord’s temple?”
Isaiah Chapter 39
At that time Merodach-baladan son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a gift to Hezekiah since he heard that he had been sick and had recovered. Hezekiah was pleased with the letters, and he showed the envoys his treasure house — the silver, the gold, the spices, and the precious oil — and all his armory, and everything that was found in his treasuries. There was nothing in his palace and in all his realm that Hezekiah did not show them.
Then the prophet Isaiah came to King Hezekiah and asked him, “What did these men say, and where did they come to you from?”
Hezekiah replied, “They came to me from a distant country, from Babylon.”
Isaiah asked, “What have they seen in your palace?”
Hezekiah answered, “They have seen everything in my palace. There isn’t anything in my treasuries that I didn’t show them.”
Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the Lord of Armies: ‘Look, the days are coming when everything in your palace and all that your predecessors have stored up until today will be carried off to Babylon; nothing will be left,’ says the Lord. ‘Some of your descendants — who come from you, whom you father — will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.’”
Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the Lord that you have spoken is good,” for he thought: There will be peace and security during my lifetime.
Isaiah Chapter 40
God’s People Comforted
“Comfort, comfort my people,”
says your God.
“Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and announce to her
that her time of hard service is over,
her iniquity has been pardoned,
and she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.”
A voice of one crying out:
Prepare the way of the Lord in the wilderness;
make a straight highway for our God in the desert.
Every valley will be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill will be leveled;
the uneven ground will become smooth
and the rough places, a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will appear,
and all humanity together will see it,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
A voice was saying, “Cry out!”
Another said, “What should I cry out?”
“All humanity is grass,
and all its goodness is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flowers fade
when the breath of the Lord blows on them;
indeed, the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flowers fade,
but the word of our God remains forever.”
Zion, herald of good news,
go up on a high mountain.
Jerusalem, herald of good news,
raise your voice loudly.
Raise it, do not be afraid!
A Drop in a Bucket
Say to the cities of Judah,
“Here is your God!”
See, the Lord God comes with strength,
and his power establishes his rule.
His wages are with him,
and his reward accompanies him.
He protects his flock like a shepherd;
he gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them in the fold of his garment.
He gently leads those that are nursing.
Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand
or marked off the heavens with the span of his hand?
Who has gathered the dust of the earth in a measure
or weighed the mountains on a balance
and the hills on the scales?
Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord,
or who gave him counsel?
Who did he consult?
Who gave him understanding
and taught him the paths of justice?
Who taught him knowledge
and showed him the way of understanding?
Look, the nations are like a drop in a bucket;
they are considered as a speck of dust on the scales;
he lifts up the islands like fine dust.
Lebanon’s cedars are not enough for fuel,
or its animals enough for a burnt offering.
All the nations are as nothing before him;
they are considered by him
as empty nothingness.
With whom will you compare God?
What likeness will you set up for comparison with him?
An idol? — something that a smelter casts
and a metalworker plates with gold
and makes silver chains for?
A poor person contributes wood for a pedestal
that will not rot.
He looks for a skilled craftsman
to set up an idol that will not fall over.
Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
Has it not been declared to you
from the beginning?
Have you not considered
the foundations of the earth?
God is enthroned above the circle of the earth;
its inhabitants are like grasshoppers.
He stretches out the heavens like thin cloth
and spreads them out like a tent to live in.
He reduces princes to nothing
and makes judges of the earth like a wasteland.
They are barely planted, barely sown,
their stem hardly takes root in the ground
when he blows on them and they wither,
and a whirlwind carries them away like stubble.
“To whom will you compare me,
or who is my equal?” asks the Holy One.
Look up and see!
Who created these?
He brings out the stars by number;
he calls all of them by name.
Because of his great power and strength,
not one of them is missing.
Jacob, why do you say,
and Israel, why do you assert,
“My way is hidden from the Lord,
and my claim is ignored by my God”?
Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the whole earth.
He never becomes faint or weary;
there is no limit to his understanding.
He gives strength to the faint
and strengthens the powerless.
Youths may become faint and weary,
and young men stumble and fall,
but those who trust in the Lord
will renew their strength;
they will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not become weary,
they will walk and not faint.
Isaiah Chapter 41
The Lord versus the Nations’ Gods
“Be silent before me, coasts and islands!
And let peoples renew their strength.
Let them approach; let them testify;
let’s come together for the trial.
Who has stirred up someone from the east?
In righteousness he calls him to serve.
The Lord hands nations over to him,
and he subdues kings.
He makes them like dust with his sword,
like wind-driven stubble with his bow.
He pursues them, going on safely,
hardly touching the path with his feet.
Who has performed and done this,
calling the generations from the beginning?
I am the Lord, the first
and with the last — I am he.”
The coasts and islands see and are afraid,
the whole earth trembles.
They approach and arrive.
Each one helps the other,
and says to another, “Take courage!”
The craftsman encourages the metalworker;
the one who flattens with the hammer
encourages the one who strikes the anvil,
saying of the soldering, “It is good.”
He fastens it with nails so that it will not fall over.
God Chose Jacob
But you, Israel, my servant,
Jacob, whom I have chosen,
descendant of Abraham, my friend —
I brought you from the ends of the earth
and called you from its farthest corners.
I said to you: You are my servant;
I have chosen you; I haven’t rejected you.
Do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be afraid, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you; I will help you;
I will hold on to you with my righteous right hand.
Be sure that all who are enraged against you
will be ashamed and disgraced;
those who contend with you
will become as nothing and will perish.
You will look for those who contend with you,
but you will not find them.
Those who war against you
will become absolutely nothing.
For I am the Lord your God,
who holds your right hand,
who says to you, “Do not fear,
I will help you.
Do not fear, you worm Jacob,
you men of Israel.
I will help you” —
this is the Lord’s declaration.
Your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.
See, I will make you into a sharp threshing board,
new, with many teeth.
You will thresh mountains and pulverize them
and make hills into chaff.
You will winnow them
and a wind will carry them away,
a whirlwind will scatter them.
But you will rejoice in the Lord;
you will boast in the Holy One of Israel.
The poor and the needy seek water, but there is none;
their tongues are parched with thirst.
I will answer them.
I am the Lord, the God of Israel. I will not abandon them.
Submit Your Case
I will open rivers on the barren heights,
and springs in the middle of the plains.
I will turn the desert into a pool
and dry land into springs.
I will plant cedar, acacia, myrtle, and olive trees
in the wilderness.
I will put juniper, elm, and cypress trees together
in the desert,
so that all may see and know,
consider and understand,
that the hand of the Lord has done this,
the Holy One of Israel has created it.
“Submit your case,” says the Lord.
“Present your arguments,” says Jacob’s King.
“Let them come and tell us
what will happen.
Tell us the past events,
so that we may reflect on them
and know the outcome,
or tell us the future.
Tell us the coming events,
then we will know that you are gods.
Indeed, do something good or bad,
then we will be in awe when we see it.
Stirred Up One From the North
Look, you are nothing
and your work is worthless.
Anyone who chooses you is detestable.
“I have stirred up one from the north, and he has come,
one from the east who invokes my name.
He will march over rulers as if they were mud,
like a potter who treads the clay.
Who told about this from the beginning,
so that we might know,
and from times past,
so that we might say, ‘He is right’?
No one announced it,
no one told it,
no one heard your words.
I was the first to say to Zion,
‘Look! Here they are!’
And I gave Jerusalem a herald with good news.
When I look, there is no one;
there is no counselor among them;
when I ask them, they have nothing to say.
Look, all of them are a delusion;
their works are nonexistent;
their images are wind and emptiness.
Hmmm…be careful what you wish for. Usingenglish.com tells us the meaning of this idiom: If you get things that you desire, there may be unforeseen and unpleasant consequences. In Hezekiah’s case, there were unforeseen and unpleasant consequences to what he prayed for too. 2 Chronicles 32:25 tells us that Hezekiah’s heart became proud, so it’s easy to see why he shared every detail of his treasury with the Babylonians. He was just showing off. And we all know the unforeseen and unpleasant consequences that were brought about when Nebuchadnezzar invaded.
Hezekiah exacerbated his downward spiral with alarming selfishness in Isaiah 39: 8. Hey, that’s okay, Hezekiah…the Lord has treated you with kindness. Don’t worry about those that come after you…as long as there is peace and security in your days. Unbelievable!
This very long episode includes however one of the most beautiful and oft repeated verses in the Bible – Isaiah 40:31. Certainly a boost after the disappointment of Hezekiah’s story.
Thank you for joining me here today. I pray that by spending time in His Word every day, you will by changed. Visit me at Lifting Her Voice.com with your comments and questions. And don’t forget to visit the Blog page while you’re there. If you like the podcast, it would be great if you’d give it a five-star review and share it with everyone you know. Don’t forget to subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. See you tomorrow!
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Christian Standard Bible(r), Copyright (c) 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible(r) and CSB(r) are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
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