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The Second Part of the History of Sennacherib and Jerusalem

Let us read this next chapter in Isaiah. You need to know how this story ends because it is one of the most powerful stories in history—Isaiah 37:

And so it was, when King Hezekiah heard it, that he tore his clothes, covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of the Lord.  Then he sent Eliakim, who was over the household, Shebna the scribe, and the elders of the priests, covered with sackcloth, to Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz.  And they said to him, “Thus says Hezekiah: ‘This day is a day of trouble and rebuke and blasphemy; for the children have come to birth, but there is no strength to bring them forth.  It may be that the Lord your God will hear the words of the Rabshakeh, whom his master the king of Assyria has sent to reproach the living God, and will rebuke the words which the Lord your God has heard.  Therefore lift up your prayer for the remnant that is left.’”

        So the servants of King Hezekiah came to Isaiah.  And Isaiah said to them, “Thus you shall say to your master, ‘Thus says the Lord: “Do not be afraid of the words which you have heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed Me.  Surely I will send a spirit upon him, and he shall hear a rumor and return to his own land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land.”’”

        Then the Rabshakeh returned, and found the king of Assyria warring against Libnah, for he heard that he had departed from Lachish.  And the king heard concerning Tirhakah king of Ethiopia, “He has come out to make war with you.” So when he heard it, he sent messengers to Hezekiah, saying, “Thus you shall speak to Hezekiah king of Judah, saying: ‘Do not let your God in whom you trust deceive you, saying, “Jerusalem shall not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.”  Look! You have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands by utterly destroying them; and shall you be delivered?  Have the gods of the nations delivered those whom my fathers have destroyed, Gozan and Haran and Rezeph, and the people of Eden who were in Telassar?  Where is the king of Hamath, the king of Arpad, and the king of the city of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivah?’”

The seal of Hezekiah discovered in the biblical town of Netofa

        And Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord.  Then Hezekiah prayed to the Lord, saying: “O Lord of hosts, God of Israel, the One who dwells between the cherubim, You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth.  You have made heaven and earth.  Incline Your ear, O Lord, and hear; open Your eyes, O Lord, and see; and hear all the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to reproach the living God.  Truly, Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations 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.  Therefore they destroyed them.  Now therefore, O Lord our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the Lord, You alone.”

        Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah, saying, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘Because you have prayed to Me against Sennacherib king of Assyria, this is the word which the Lord has spoken concerning him:

 

“The virgin, the daughter of Zion,
                Has despised you, laughed you to scorn;
                The daughter of Jerusalem
                Has shaken her head behind your back!

                “Whom have you reproached and blasphemed?
                Against whom have you raised your voice,
                And lifted up your eyes on high?
                Against the Holy One of Israel.
                By your servants you have reproached the Lord,
                And said, ‘By the multitude of my chariots
                I have come up to the height of the mountains,
                To the limits of Lebanon;
                I will cut down its tall cedars
                And its choice cypress trees;
                I will enter its farthest height,
                To its fruitful forest.
                I have dug and drunk water,
                And with the soles of my feet I have dried up
                All the brooks of defense.’

                “Did you not hear long ago
                How I made it,
                From ancient times that I formed it?
                Now I have brought it to pass,
                That you should be
                For crushing fortified cities into heaps of ruins.
                Therefore their inhabitants had little power;
                They were dismayed and confounded;
                They were as the grass of the field
                And the green herb,
                As the grass on the housetops
                And grain blighted before it is grown.

                “But I know your dwelling place,
                Your going out and your coming in,
                And your rage against Me.
                Because your rage against Me and your tumult
                Have come up to My ears,
                Therefore I will put My hook in your nose
                And My bridle in your lips,
                And I will turn you back
                By the way which you came.”’

                “This shall be a sign to you:

                You shall eat this year such as grows of itself,
                And the second year what springs from the same;
                Also in the third year sow and reap,
                Plant vineyards and eat the fruit of them.
                And the remnant who have escaped of the house of Judah
                Shall again take root downward,
                And bear fruit upward.
                For out of Jerusalem shall go a remnant,
                And those who escape from Mount Zion.
                The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

                “Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the king of Assyria:

                ‘He shall not come into this city,
                Nor shoot an arrow there,
                Nor come before it with shield,
                Nor build a siege mound against it.
                By the way that he came,
                By the same shall he return;
                And he shall not come into this city,’
                Says the Lord.
                ‘For I will defend this city, to save it
                For My own sake and for My servant David’s sake.’”

        Then the angel of the Lord went out, and killed in the camp of the Assyrians one hundred and eighty-five thousand; and when people arose early in the morning, there were the corpses — all dead.  So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and went away, returned home, and remained at Nineveh.  Now it came to pass, as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, that his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer struck him down with the sword; and they escaped into the land of Ararat.  Then Esarhaddon his son reigned in his place.

Forgive me for taking more time than usual with this message, but this is the only Sunday that I will have at Monte Sion on this trip. Before I came to Colombia, I had no plans to speak on this theme, but from the time that I was on the airplane, the Lord was putting this theme on my heart. I believe that it is an important theme for us to understand, because these passages speak to our generation, to our time. The battle is the same today as it was yesterday. The devil wants us to believe that it is a battle between men, but it is not. It is not a battle between Iran and Israel. It is not a battle between Venezuela and Colombia, because God wants to save the Iranians and the Israelis, the Venezuelans and the Colombians. It is a battle between God and the powers of hell. The question is not who is the battle between, but who will be ready for the battle, ready to serve the Lord in the time of battle?

Hezekiah was a righteous man, but young people, when did he become righteous? When did he learn to fear God? When did he learn to have faith in the Lord? He was a young man when he became king, but he learned to fear God in his youth. He learned to choose the right when he was young, and to refuse the wrong. He learned to fear God, not the world, and not even his friends as a young man. He could have feared his ungodly Jewish friends as a boy, and there were a lot of ungodly Jews around when he was growing up, so it was tough! But Hezekiah chose to fear God as a boy, and that is why he did not fear Sennacherib as a man. The boy is the father of the man. The girl is the mother of the woman that you will become.

Young people, in making your choices—what you allow out of your lips, what you allow into your mind, what you place in front of your eyes—you are already making decisions that will affect the rest of your life. God wants you to make decisions while you are young to flee the evil and run after the good, to put your hope in Him and not in the world, to give your heart to the Lord and not to the world. If you do not give your heart to God, your life will be wasted and forgotten forever. But no one who gives their life to the Lord will ever be forgotten!

One of the greatest poems in English literature is a famous poem about Sennacherib and Hezekiah, Lord Byron’s “The Destruction of Sennacherib.” Why do we still speak of Hezekiah today? In himself, he was no great man. But faced with the threats we just read in Isaiah 27:1, what did he do? Did he call out his armies? Did he go out and make a full charge against the Assyrian army? Did he threaten them back? Did he rebuke the king of Assyria in the strength of his own flesh? No, he did things that instead showed weakness. He tore his clothes, he put off his kingly garments, he covered himself with sackcloth, and he went into the house of the Lord. Some other person walking in fleshly strength at the time could have accused him of being a coward: “The battle is out there! Why are you hiding in God’s house?” Why was Hezekiah in God’s house when the battle was in the field? Because he learned as a boy, like David, that the battle is not won in the field—the battle is won in the house of God. If we do not prevail in prayer before God first, we will not prevail in the field. But if we prevail in prayer in the house of God, then no army can prevail against Israel, or against Colombia, or against the plan of God for Latin America.