Isaiah 37 – Unveiled Threats and Failed Gods

Bible opened to Isaiah 37 with Endangered Species Dark Chocolate with Espresso Beans

Today’s Chocolate: Endangered Species Dark Chocolate with Espresso Beans

Today’s PassageIsaiah 37

Today’s chapter begins with King Hezekiah getting the news of the Assyrian commander Rabshakeh’s threats against Jerusalem. After mourning, Hezekiah sends his steward Eliakim to get Isaiah the prophet. Rabshakeh has claimed, “The Lord said to me, ‘Go up against this land and destroy it.” (36:10), and the king needs to find out from God himself whether God has sided with the Assyrians. His inquiry and command for Isaiah: “Perhaps the Lord your God will hear the words of 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, offer a prayer for the remnant that is left” (37:4). If Rabshakeh is putting words in the Lord’s mouth, then perhaps the Lord won’t stand for it. Perhaps.

In short, Isaiah responds that God has not abandoned Jerusalem. He sends a message back to Hezekiah: “Do not be afraid because of the words that you have heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed Me” (37:6). Rabshakeh’s words are false, overt blasphemies; God hasn’t sanctioned his attack on Jerusalem, and God is not like the other gods whose kingdoms have fallen to Assyria. Due to conflicts in Libnah and Cush, Rabshakeh has to withdraw, but his parting insults in vv.10-13 echo his threats from 36:14-20. This time around, though, he calls God himself a liar: “Do not let your God in whom you trust deceive you, saying, ‘Jerusalem will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria'” (10). I don’t know about you, but this plays to one of my greatest questions: how do we know if the trust we place in a given person or thing is merited?

Perhaps this question is also close to Hezekiah’s heart, because once he receives Rabshakeh’s letter full of threats, he goes to the temple and prays. Now, when I’m reading the Bible, I tend to view passages through the lens of God’s status as Creator even when his divine authorship of the universe isn’t explicitly mentioned, but here Hezekiah explicitly mentions it. Among the first words out of his mouth? “You are the God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth” (37:16). In his prayer, he puts Assyria’s victories in perspective: “[T]he kings of Assyria have devastated all the countries 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” (37:18-19). It’s like a hierarchy of creation: the uncreated Creator, God made men, and then men made things that they called gods. And now Hezekiah is praying for God to prove himself different from the failed idols of the conquered nations, prove Rabshakeh wrong, and deliver his people.

Spoiler warning: he does.

 

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