Wednesday, December 20, 2023

2023.12.20 Hopewell @Home ▫ Isaiah 36–37

Read Isaiah 36–37

Questions from the Scripture text: To what sort of writing does Isaiah now (from prophetic prophecy) transition (Isaiah 36:1)? To what date does he refer? Who came up? Against whom? And did what? Then whom did he send (Isaiah 36:2)? With what/whom? From where? To whom/where? Where did the Rabshekah stand? Who came out to him (Isaiah 36:3)? With what question does the Rabshekah begin (Isaiah 36:4-5)? What hope does he attack first (Isaiah 36:6)? And what hope in Isaiah 36:7? What does he suggest has offended YHWH? What does he urge in Isaiah 36:8? What does he say is the only deterrent from Assyria arming them? What would this condition do to the “Egypt” plan (Isaiah 36:9)? What has he heard, and does he now repeat, about why the rest of Judah has fallen (Isaiah 36:10)? What do Eliakim,Shebna, and Joah request in Isaiah 36:11? Why? But why does the Rabshekah say that the people need to understand what is being said (Isaiah 36:12)? In Whom does he tell the people not to let Hezekiah get them to trust (Isaiah 36:13-15)? In whom does he urge them to trust instead (Isaiah 36:16-17)? To whom does he compare YHWH (Isaiah 36:18-20)? How do the three men answer (Isaiah 36:21)? Why? What do they do instead (Isaiah 36:22)? How does Hezekiah respond in Isaiah 37:1? Where does he go? Whom does he send to whom (Isaiah 37:2)? How do they introduce the king’s message (Isaiah 37:3)? What does he hope YHWH has heard (Isaiah 37:4)? What does he ask Isaiah to do? When they arrive (Isaiah 37:5), what does Isaiah already have to say (Isaiah 37:6)? How, specifically, will this happen (Isaiah 37:7, cf. Isaiah 31:8–9, Isaiah 37:36–38)? When the Rabshekah returns, what does he find (Isaiah 37:8-9)? As he runs to deal with this, what challenge does he attempt to re-make (Isaiah 37:10-13)? But why would this renewed threat sound weak and hollow (cf. Isaiah 37:7)? What does Hezekiah do with this most recent threat/message (Isaiah 37:14)? How does he praise (Isaiah 37:15-16), in contradiction to what (Isaiah 37:12-13)? How does He pray that the Lord would respond—in order to show what (Isaiah 37:17-20)? How does the answer to the prayer come (Isaiah 37:21)? Whom does YHWH choose to scorn Sennacherib (Isaiah 37:22)? For, against Whom has he blasphemed (Isaiah 37:23)? With what great prospective works has Sennacherib flattered himself through the Rabshekah (Isaiah 37:24-25)? Of what greater works is he ignorant (Isaiah 37:26a–c)? What should he have actually known/believed (Isaiah 37:26-27, cf. Isaiah 36:10)? How will YHWH not only defeat but humiliate him (Isaiah 37:28-29)? After the invasion, what are they currently able to eat (Isaiah 37:30a–c)? But how much peace and safety is the Lord now promising them (verse 30d–e)? What will those who currently remain even be permitted to do (Isaiah 37:31)? What else will the Lord do in the future (Isaiah 37:32)? What does the Lord say that He will not permit (Isaiah 37:33-35)? How does He end up doing this (Isaiah 37:36-38)? 

What should we do when the opponents of true religion try to intimidate believers by mocking it? Isaiah 36–37 prepares us for the first serial reading in public worship on the Lord’s Day. In these sixty verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that those who mock true religion are provoking God against themselves, and believers must learn to provoke God’s deliverance by repentance and prayer. 

Hope in man fails. Ahaz’s reign has come and gone. In the 14th year of Hezekiah, the futility of hoping in man comes crashing down upon Judah. Long gone is the favor of Tiglath-Pileser, which Ahaz thought he bought with tribute that he plundered from the temple. The nations all around have fallen. A last ditch effort to send envoys to Egypt has not found them able to help at all (cf. Isaiah 30:1–7). And now Sennacherib’s lackey, the Rabshekah, comes and makes this point to Judah (Isaiah 36:5–6Isaiah 36:8-9).

Hope in the Lord requires faith. Manmade religion is a cruel hoax. Just ask the people of Hamath, Arpad, and Sepharvaim (Isaiah 36:20). Only a fool would believe that Nisroch (Isaiah 37:38) is any better. But there is one God Who is different than all the rest. YHWH, the one, true, and living God. Unbelievers can’t be expected to understand this anymore than the Rabshekah understood that the removal of the high places actually pleased the Lord (Isaiah 36:7). 

Faith isn’t just to believe in the one true God; faith is to take Him at His Word, not our “spiritual” ideas. Faith refuses to multiply worship (Isaiah 36:7) by the designs and doings of men (Isaiah 37:19). And faith must stand firm before a world that can’t tell the difference between the religions of men and the religion of the one true God. They will constantly dissuade us from hoping in Him (Isaiah 36:15Isaiah 36:18). 

Sometimes, a believer’s remaining fleshliness will even give rise in his heart to the idea that his hope is no different than the false hope of idolaters. The Lord forgive us such foolish (literally) thoughts, and the Lord protect us from listening to them. And the Lord act in such a way as to show all the kingdoms of the earth that He alone is God (Isaiah 37:20).

Unbelief provokes the Lord. Hezekiah knows this; even before he hopes that the Lord will hear Isaiah’s prayer (end of Isaiah 37:4), he hopes that the living God has heard the reproaches of Assyria (verse 37:4). And Isaiah doesn’t even need to pray, because he already has the message ready, when Eliakim, Shebna, and the elders arrive: YHWH has heard the words that blasphemed Him (Isaiah 37:5). When the Lord has already begun to deliver Israel (Isaiah 37:8-9), the Rabshekah tries again to dissuade him from hoping in God (Isaiah 37:10). But this becomes fodder for more prayer that the one, true God (Isaiah 37:16) would hear and respond to the reproaches of the Assyrians (Isaiah 37:17). 

Faith also provokes the Lord. Whereas the Lord’s first response through Isaiah was a response to the words of the king of Assyria (Isaiah 37:6-7), the Lord’s second response is a response to the words of Hezekiah (Isaiah 37:21). He hears when they pray. It is not mighty believers who prevail, but believers in a mighty God. The young girls of Zion (Isaiah 37:22) far outclass the arrogant (Isaiah 37:24-25) of the world. Believers know that those who seem to be something are entirely dependent upon our own Lord for their very existence (Isaiah 37:23Isaiah 37:26-27). 

The Lord is merciful and faithful. After all that Jerusalem has done, the Lord gives them not a momentary deliverance but an extended reprieve. The Assyrians had wiped out all the rest of Judah (Isaiah 36:1), such that there was no plowing or sowing. But the Lord would give them two years’ food from volunteer plants (Isaiah 37:30a–c) as a sign that it was He indeed Who had judged Assyria (Isaiah 37:28-29). Indeed, the Lord would give them enough that they would have plenty for sowing the next year’s harvest (Isaiah 37:30d), not to mention enough years that they may start vineyards and enjoy their fruit (verse 30e). Indeed, the sign would point forward, so that when exile did come, they would know that the Lord is yet saving a remnant out of zeal for Himself (Isaiah 37:31-32). What the Lord said of Assyria (Isaiah 37:33-35) came true (Isaiah 37:36-38)—as did His promise of a remnant emerging from the exile. But even that remnant was a reminder that in what the Lord did in those moments of history, He was displaying what He is doing in history as a whole (cf. Romans 9:23–27).

Dear reader, hope in the God of the Bible. Know that He is as He describes Himself. Worship Him in the way that He says to do. Trust that He saves for His own glory, and that He hears both the reproaches of others and the prayers of His people. He is merciful and faithful, and hope that is placed in Him will not be put to shame.

Who currently reproach the Lord? How do they lump believing in Him with the false religions of the world? What manmade worship or religious ideas even enter the church? To Whom will you bring all of these things? 

Sample prayer:  Lord, You are the one, true, and living God. As the world challenges You, like Assyria did, forgive us for whenever our faith wavers. Grant unto us to remember that a young girl who believes in You ranks above the greatest ones in the world, who don’t believe. Forgive us for being intimidated by those to whom the Lord has given a little power for a little while. Grant that we would be sure of Your faithfulness to complete Your plan of redemption in Christ, through Whom we ask it, Amen!

Suggested songs: ARP46 “God Is Our Refuge and Our Strength” or TPH243 “How Firm a Foundation”

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