Delivered from Assyria’s Hand
“Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD. And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD” (vv. 14–15).- Isaiah 37
Isaiah warned King Ahaz of Judah that relying on Assyria for help against Syria and Israel was foolish, for it would lead to Judah’s devastation (Isa. 7:1–8:8). His words were soon fulfilled, for Ahaz had to empty the temple and the palace of their gold to buy Assyria’s aid. He also encouraged false worship in Judah, modeling Jewish rituals after Assyrian paganism (2 Kings 16). Isaiah also foresaw that Assyria would invade Judah up to its neck—the capital city of Jerusalem (Isa. 8:5–8).
Assyria invaded Judah during the reign of one of its few righteous kings—Hezekiah— even though Isaiah said wicked Ahaz’s choice to trust Assyria and not the Lord led ultimately to the invasion. Among other things, this shows how our choices may affect others far more than ourselves. In any case, Isaiah’s account of Assyria’s invasion is found in chapters 36–37. At the time, King Sennacherib of Assyria was putting down the client-state revolts in the western part of his empire that had been sparked by the death of his father, Sargon II. King Hezekiah rejected Assyria’s lordship, to which his father Ahaz first submitted (2 Kings 18:1–8). Doubtless this decision was hard, as Hezekiah had seen the fall of Samaria and the exile of the Israelites in 722 BC (vv. 9–12). Moreover, what seemed at the time to be the right choice—abandoning Assyria to serve the Lord— soon appeared less than wise, for Sennacherib invaded Judah to teach the nation a lesson. This time, however, the temple treasury could not buy him off (vv. 13–17).
Things looked bleak indeed. As Sennacherib was conquering Judean cities left and right, he sent the Rabshakeh, a close adviser and representative, to Jerusalem to announce that the army was on its way (vv. 18–19; 19:8–13; Isa. 36). Today’s passage records the Rabshakeh’s arrogant speech to Judah, wherein he claimed that Yahweh, the Lord of Judah, could no more save His people than the other nations’ gods had saved them (37:8–13). Clearly the Rabshakeh had no idea that Yahweh is the one true God, for he equated Him with the lesser pagan deities worshiped throughout the ancient Near East.
Hezekiah could have chosen to resist Assyria in his own power or to continue relying on the alliance with Egypt, but he had a word from God through Isaiah to believe that the Lord would deliver him (Isa. 37:5–7). The king believed this word, though that did not stop him from praying to the Almighty for deliverance (vv. 14–20).
Hezekiah’s willingness to pray in today’s passage indicates that while the promises of God are sure, we should not be afraid to pray even after we have received them. As we seek the Lord’s face, He brings His purposes to pass, as He has ordained that our prayers are a means by which He fulfills His Word to us. That is why, for example, we pray for the Lord Jesus to return (Rev. 22:20). His return is sure, but the Lord will bring it about as His people pray to Him.
Passages for Further Study
2 Kings 18:13–19:37
2 Chronicles 32:1–23