Not to resurrect an unpleasant topic, but one huge lesson I’m trusting for in these days following Election 2020 is that God’s people do not need to be powerful culturally or in power politically to be obedient to him and to accomplish his purposes in the world. All we need to join the great sweep of redemptive history is to be faithful to the One who has called us by his own name. Old Testament military stories demonstrate the truth of this from “Joshua fit the battle of Jericho,” through Gideon’s selective service program, and now, in our reading, into the waning of Israel’s days as a distinct and independent nation.
In this week’s reading, we meet Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, and a continual threat to Judah, for it was his goal to gobble them up and add them to his own kingdom. Chapter 36 recounts the tale of Sennacherib’s royal heckler, sent to sow panic among God’s people and to undermine their confidence in the one true God:
On what do you rest this trust of yours?”Isaiah 36:4
He provided an impressive resume of pagan deities proven to be too weak to stand against the armies of Assyria, but King Hezekiah reached deep into his well of trust and encouraged God’s people to be strong and brave. A parallel passage in 2 Chronicles quotes him: “We have more on our side than he has. He has human strength; but we have the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles.”
The prophet Isaiah played a role in encouraging King Hezekiah, joining with him on the spiritual battlefield of prayer. In this narrative section that includes military smack talk and a stunning victory for the people of God involving the angel of the LORD and 185,000 dead Assyrians, Isaiah 36-39 offered a welcome change in genre and an encouraging reminder that God is still fighting for his people–even in the midst of their waywardness. Sennacherib was assassinated in his own home town, and Isaiah plants seeds of hope that even though Israel will endure God’s chastening, “the remnant who have escaped of the house of Judah shall again take root downward and bear fruit upward” (37:31).
Who or what is your Sennacherib today? Perhaps you are hearing the same question addressed to King Hezekiah: “On what do you rest this trust of yours?” If you are facing fear, sorrow, rejection, or loss, are you handing it over to God? Impossible human relationships, fatigue, and time pressure are daunting enemies and there’s not a one of us who hasn’t wondered whether, just maybe, our duties may be beyond our strength or ability. Like Sennacherib, your obstacles may seem to taunt you with the idea that the Lord cannot deliver you.
The God of the universe still hears and answers the prayers of those who put their trust in him. You can face your enemies with a strength that is not your own!
The God of the universe still hears and answers the prayers of those who put their trust in him. You can face your enemies with a strength that is not your own!Tweet
It’s not too late to join us in our journey through Isaiah. Download the reading schedule here, and be saturated in truth from Isaiah’s pen during this Advent season!
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