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God’s Word for You

Isaiah 36:4-10

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Even before the nation was divided, the Kings of Judah had built a network of defenses to draw enemies into certain places where battles were on ground of their own choosing. By placing “lofty towers” as defensive outworks (weapons were stored there: Song of Solomon 4:4; Ezekiel 27:11; Psalm 61:3) and “fortified walls” (Psalm 122:7; Proverbs 25:28) surrounding key cities, the Jews created killing fields. Enemies like the Philistines preferred to avoid the military strongholds and would come into Judah through certain valleys like the Valley of Elah (1 Samuel 17:2), the Valley of Sorek (Judges 16:4) and the Valley of Raphaim (1 Chronicles 14:9)—only to be met by the Israelites who knew exactly where unseen invaders would have to move.

The Assyrians avoided the problem of the Judean killing fields by using their vastly superior strength to simply capture all the major fortresses. The capture of Lachish was the centerpiece of the Assyrian campaign. Lachish (about 20 miles southwest of Jerusalem, once a Canaanite city, Joshua 12:11) was the second largest city of Judah at this time and the most important fortress. After the Jews returned from their exile in Babylon, it would be one of the first places resettled (Nehemiah 11:30). After taking Lachish, the Assyrians marched through the heart of the Judean foothills and circled around Jerusalem from the north.

We find ourselves now near the aqueduct outside the city, and three of Hezekiah’s most trusted officials have gone out to speak with the Assyrian field commander. How many thousand sneering and heavily armed troops stood behind their general as the three Jews trembled on the edge of the laundry pools?

4 The field commander said to them, “Tell Hezekiah,  “‘This is what the great king, the king of Assyria, says: On what are you basing this confidence of yours?  5 You say you have strategy and military strength—but you speak only empty words. On whom are you depending, that you rebel against me? 6 Look now, you are depending on Egypt, that splintered reed of a staff, which pierces a man’s hand and wounds him if he leans on it! Such is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who depend on him. 7 And if you say to me, “We are depending on the LORD our God”—isn’t he the one whose high places and altars Hezekiah removed, saying to Judah and Jerusalem, “You must worship before this altar”?
8 “‘Come now, make a bargain with my master, the king of Assyria: I will give you two thousand horses—if you can put riders on them! 9 How then can you repulse one officer of the least of my master’s officials, even though you are depending on Egypt for chariots and horsemen? 10 Furthermore, have I come to attack and destroy this land without the LORD? The LORD himself told me to march against this country and destroy it.’” (NIV)

God sometimes used foreign nations to punish the Israelites and turn them back to him (Ezekiel 7:11; Hosea 10:10; Amos 3:14). One of Hezekiah’s descendants would attempt to stop Pharaoh Neco from a battle at Megiddo (Armageddon), and the Egyptian King would say, “God has told me to hurry!” (2 Chronicles 35:21). But this time, God was not with the Assyrians at all. In fact, God was going to make a point with this Assyrian army.

The field commander thought he had three good points:

  1. Hezekiah is relying on Egypt for help, which is like leaning      on a broken reed. You’re just going to get hurt.
  2. You’ve made the Lord angry by removing his high places      and telling people that they have to worship only here.
  3. The Lord himself told us to come and lay siege to this city.

But several of Isaiah’s own words in this book have been oracles from God against making an alliance with Egypt, and the Assyrian suspicions were false on that score. As to removing the high places, Sennacherib’s spies were right. But God had commanded that the high places should be removed, and although many of the people of Judah were upset about this, that didn’t make it the wrong thing to do. Finally, whether or not God actually told Sennacherib to lay siege to Jerusalem or not, that didn’t mean that Jerusalem had been given up. It just meant that God wanted the people of Jerusalem to see first-hand what was about to happen to Sennacherib’s army.

Now who should be trembling?

God watches over us, and he’s watching over us even when things seem blackest and most desperate. As for the army in front of Jerusalem, the story isn’t over yet…

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.