Israel 2016

Israel 2016
Roman architectural influence in Bet Sean, Israel

Friday, August 4, 2017

Canonical Reading Plan for Aug 5, Isa 36-41

Today's readings are Isa 36-41.

In Isa 36, The promise of peace seems particularly poignant as the prophecies of destruction begin to come true in Judah. A representative of the king of Assyria shows up mocking God and king Hezekiah while threatening destruction unless the Jews abandon their God and turn to the king of Assyria for their provision and protection. 

This is exactly what Israel, the northern kingdom, did to disastrous results. It is a dark hour for Jerusalem and Judah who have been living in relative prosperity up to this point. The safe choice seems to be to accede to the threats of the king. But, that would mean turning their backs on the One who promised them peace if they remained faithful.   

Isa 36 ends with Hezekiah's messengers tearing their clothes, an act of grief, and taking the message to their king.

As believers in Christ, we have similar promises. It can be difficult to remember those promises when our circumstances threaten to overwhelm us. It can be easy to question the promise and trust the situation. It takes fortitude and bold commitment to hold on to the promise when all the evidence seems to indicate we should bow to our fears and doubts. 

It will be interesting to see how Hezekiah and his people react to this formidable threat. They know Assyria’s power. They just watched as Assyria’s army swept over the Northern Kingdom and took it captive, just as has happened in a number of neighboring kingdoms. Assyria is a juggernaut rolling through the Mideast and seems unstoppable.

The chapters leading up to Isa 40 are not in chronological order. Isa 36-37 actually happens after the events described in Isa 38-39.

We see why Judah is spared while Israel has been taken into captivity by the Assyrians. It's because Judah has a king who fears God more than he fears the Assyrians. The Assyrians first threaten then lay siege to Jerusalem. Unlike other kings who turned to neighboring nations, Hezekiah turns to God for help and counsel, relying on Him to deliver His people. God supernaturally delivers Jerusalem.

Once again, we see the sovereign and powerful hand of God moving against those who would mock or marginalize Him, an encouragement to us today as we watch many in our culture seek to minimize the one true God.

As we see in Isa 38, Hezekiah gets gravely ill and is near death. The Lord grants Him another fifteen years of life. Hezekiah's healing is a prophetic act by God, intended to show the people of Judah something about their future. It is a sign from God to Judah that, like their king, they will nearly die as a people but be delivered by a gracious God.

God's prophetic move in Hezekiah's health can have meaning to us as believers. Back then, the things that happened to a king were symbolic of what would happen to his people.  As a king went, so went his people. Our King is Christ. Jesus had to die before he arose to glory. As our king goes, so go we. 

Meanwhile, in Jerusalem, life is good, but there's trouble on the horizon! Hezekiah, as godly as he is, still has human faults and frailty. Envoys from Babylon arrive in Jerusalem, looking to form an alliance against the Assyrians and to pay tribute to Hezekiah, who naively puts the riches of the kingdom on display to this fierce and warring nation. This is not a good idea! Isaiah tells Hezekiah that the Babylonians will return and take the kingdom captive.

We must be careful not to get prideful or complacent when God blesses us. All we have and all we are, are gifts of God's grace. If we are to boast in anything, it should be in Christ alone.

Notice that Isaiah begins talking about the "servant" in Isa 41:8-9, generally referring to Israel, the nation prior to dividing into two kingdoms. This will be one of the themes of the following chapters just as one of the general themes of the first 39 chapters was "king." Keep this in mind as the book continues to develop. This transition from king to servant will be one of the keys to understanding Isaiah. At this point, Israel, the northern kingdom, has been taken captive and has truly become a servant, as has their king. Judah will soon follow. 

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