Bible Study: Isaiah 36:1-22
The Scriptures take a break from prophecy to cover historical events with Hezekiah King of Judah. Today’s lesson covers an Assyrian’s railing against God in an attempt to make God’s people afraid and loose faith.
Isaiah Chapter 36
In II Corinthians, Paul says that we are not ignorant of satan's devices (2:11). In today's Scripture, we see two of those devices.
1. Satan tries to make us doubt that God will follow through with His promises.
When the holy temple was first built, Solomon prayed that God would hear His children if they had repented of their sins and deliver them from invading armies (I Ki 8:33). God responded audibly to Solomon and promised that He would do as Solomon asked (I Ki 9:1-3). The Assyrian is ignoring this promise and trying to make the Jew think about the strength of his army rather than about God. So we see that satan wants to make us doubt God's faithfulness by keeping our mind on physical problems.
2. Satan belittled God.
The Assyrian claims that the Lord is just like other gods. This is, of course, a lie. No other being or sculpture that has been called a god has ever been able to deliver its worshipers from trouble. The Lord brought the ten plagues on Egypt and parted the Red Sea for His people. The Lord has predicted with one hundred percent accuracy the future before it happened. The Lord has physically shown Himself on Mount Sinai, by a pillar of fire and a cloud of smoke in the desert, by a cloud of glory in the holy temple, and in physical form to Abraham and as Jesus Christ.
No other God has done anything close to that. Better yet, these facts about God can be proven (for example, just dive to the bottom of the Red Sea.) Nonetheless, satan has people convinced that the Lord is no better than the false gods who we all acknowledge, at least subconsciously, are not real. Just because Buddha can't deliver Buddhists from trouble doesn't mean the Lord cannot deliver His believers because He, unlike Buddha, is alive.
When satan tries to tell you that God will not live up to His promises or that God is unable to fulfill His promises, you just think about all the miracles that God has done, how powerful, and how real that He is. Just do as the Jews of Hezekiah's day did: ignore the message of satan and go straight to the living God for help!
Lessons from the text
Verse by Verse Commentary
1-2 Rabshakeh is not a proper name but a title meaning “chief of the captiains.” This person was the head of the Assyrian army, probably second in command to the king himself. Sennacherib was sending his best to defeat Jerusalem, just as satan sends his best to try to destroy the believer.
3 In response to this army, Hezekiah sends his top three officials to parlay. When troubles and trials come, one should be prepared to greet the problem to assess the situation. It does no good to go run and hide at the first sign of trouble.
4-10 The Assyrian’s speech takes on three stages. In verse 4-7 he tries to convince the Jews that they are trusting in the wrong things, in verses 8-9 he promises rewards to them if they surrender, and in verse 10 he concludes with the declaration that he is on a divine mission supported by the Jews’ God. This is just like the devil. He wants to make one doubt, then promise rewards, and finally declares that his way is the right way. This is, of course, a lie.
The Assyrian betrays his true intent on two fronts. First, he believes that all the groves and altars in high places were altars to God. These were actually spots of idolatry that Hezekiah had removed. The Jews had been in idolatry so long that the countries around them thought the idols were their gods. If this Assyrian had known the true God, then he would have known that God wants to be worshipped in spirit and in truth and rejects all graven images.
Those who are lost misunderstand how to worship God. Kneeling at an altar, having elders pray over someone, or being baptized do no good without faith. God is not interested in the external worship of things but in the internal worship of the heart.
Second, the Assyrian makes the claim that God has sent him against the Jews. While God does promise judgment on His people if one neglects Him, He promises blessing and safety to one who trusts in Him. Hezekiah and all of Judah had turned from their idolatry. God will not destroy the repentant soul!
Just a few chapters before, God made it clear that the righteous can have assurance and confidence forever (32:17). Satan tries to make one doubt that God will uphold this promise. He will say, “Are you really saved? God will still punish you for that sin from years before.”
The truth is, when God forgives an individual, one has a fresh start. The sins from before are forgiven and one has passed from wrath to salvation (Isa 12:1-2). Anyone who says that God will punish one for something He has already forgiven is a liar.
11 The three delegates are afraid that the people will believe the Assyrian’s lies. They want to stop the people from hearing his words. In the face of lies, one is to rebuke the liar by stating the truth. The delegates, probably not wanting to start the battle right then and there, gave into fear and answered with a meekness that reveals a sense of defeat. They did not trust their own people to have faith in God.
12 Lies are always exposed. The Assyrian now shows his filthiness and vulgarity.
13-20 In defiance, the Assyrian shouts even louder, making a big scene. Evil loves to make a ruckus. In his second speech, the Assyrian accuses God's chosen king of lying and, even worse, blasphemes God.
Buddha are empty statues to which people pray; these gods cannot in anyway intervene in a person's life to help one. They cannot bring one back to life. They cannot heal one of cancer. They cannot even wake one up in the morning with the breath of life!
All of this speech is an attack on God, saying that He is as useless as these other false gods. In the Assyrian's eyes, Hezekiah is leading the people with false promises from a non-existent God. He could not have been further from the truth, but his words are the same tactics that are still used today. Satan tries to convince believers that one has heard false promises from a non-existent God. He will even try to change the character of God, reducing Him to a human, or saying that not all of His word is accurate; one needs to change His words because they are not applicable to today's standards. Do not be fooled by such lies!
21 Despite Hezekiah's delegates’ lack of faith in their fellow Jews, the people respond correctly to the Assyrian’s lies; they hold their peace. When satan throws lies in one’s face, ignore them! They are just lies.
22 Although they responded correctly with silence, these men are still grieved by what they heard. It does not bother them so much what has been said against Hezekiah; it is the blaspheme against God that bothers them.
As a Christian, there are certain words and behaviors which grieve one's spirit. This is normal. A holy God is grieved by the lies and sins of the world. His righteousness cries for justice and compassion to be found throughout all the earth, but instead evil and abuse abound. When one's heart is lined-up with God's, one will share God's grief at the state of the world.
Thank you for your faithfulness in studying God's word.
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