So Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers, read it, and went up to the house of the LORD and spread it out before the LORD.
I. A DEEP SENSE OF THE DIVINE PRESENCE. "That dwellest between the cherubim;" i.e. the God that has come down and has taken up his abode in the midst of us - a God at hand and not afar off. Hezekiah spread the letter before the Lord (ver. 14), before the Present One. It is a point of the first importance that we should feel, in prayer, that God is with us in very deed and truth; that we stand in his near presence; that the angels who inhabit the heavenly kingdom are not more truly, though they may be more consciously, before him than are we as we take his Name on our lips and breathe our petitions into his ear.
II. A REVERENTIAL REMEMBRANCE OF HIS MAJESTY. "Thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth." Our boldness in prayer (Hebrews 4:16) must stop short of anything like irreverence. Our Lord himself was "heard in that he feared (Hebrews 5:7); much more does it become us to think and to speak with holy awe when we address the Majesty of heaven; we must ever have in mind that it is the one only God, the Lord of hosts, the Infinite and Eternal One, to whom we are addressing ourselves (see Genesis 18:23-32).
III. FULL CONFIDENCE IN HIS DIVINE POWER. Thou hast made heaven and earth." To doubt God's power to interpose on our behalf, by whatever restraints we imagine that power to be limited, must be painful to him, and must invalidate our prayer. To have a firm assurance that God is able to sustain, to supply, to deliver us; to feel that no obstacles of any kind can prevent his interposition on our behalf, if he only sees it to be wise and right to intervene, is to be right-minded in devotion.
IV. A HOLY CONFIDENCE IN HIS DIVINE INTEREST IN US. Hezekiah addressed Jehovah as the "God of Israel" (ver. 16); i.e. the God who had a peculiar interest in Israel, "the chosen people," his own "inheritance," "a people near unto him" (Psalm 148:14). We place ourselves in accord with God's will concerning us, not when we presuppose that the most urgent entreaties have to be made to secure his interest in us and in our affairs, but rather when we assume the fact that we are the objects of his deep solicitude, that we are near to his heart, and that he is disposed to do all that is needful for our present well-being and future blessedness.
V. UNSELFISHNESS OF SPIRIT. Hezekiah pleaded with the Lord, not his own and his people's extremities, but the dishonour which had been cast o,, the Name of Jehovah, and the need there was for that Name to be glorified before the nations (vers. 17-20). We may plead with God our own necessities, both temporal and spiritual; but we are in the tree mood, in the right spirit, when we rise above all selfish considerations.
1. We do well to pray for our suffering and necessitous friends.
2. We do better to pray for our lost and perishing race.
3. We do best to pray for the extension of our Saviour's kingdom and the exaltation of his holy Name. The prayer which the Lord taught his disciples may teach us the "order of merit" in regard to our desires when we bow down at the throne of grace. - C.
And Hezekiah received the letter... and read it... and spread it before the Lord.2 Kings 18:13 — 19.; 2 Chronicles 32:1-21.) The first peremptory message, with the proud and blasphemous boasts of Sennacherib, threw Hezekiah into great distress of mind and profound dismay. He appealed to the prophet Isaiah, who encouraged him to keep silence and trust in God (vers. 1-7). A sudden rumour of an army marching in his rear caused a diversion of the Assyrian's purpose, but meantime he sent another haughty message to Hezekiah, warning him that he was powerless to resist, and intimating his return presently to capture the city This was a written message (ver. 14), and it again disturbed Hezekiah, but apparently his faith in God was not shaken, and so he resorted again to the temple and spread the whole matter out before the Lord and sought help and deliverance.
I. THE PRAYER OF HEZEKIAH. Hezekiah was a righteous, though not a perfect man. He was habituated to prayer.
1. The place and attitude of prayer. "Hezekiah went up unto the house of the Lord." This was the proper standing-ground on which to make petitions. God had promised to meet His people there, and hear and answer their prayers (2 Chronicles 7:14, 15). We have not now any particular place in which to pray, but we have a Name which to plead — the name of Jesus, and "whatsoever we ask in His name," other conditions being also fulfilled, "shall be done unto us." Jesus is the true "meeting-place" between God and His people; He is the true ground on which prayer is to be made. By Him we have access to God (Ephesians 2:14). Then Hezekiah did another thing. He took the haughty and insolent letter of Rabshakeh and "spread it before the Lord." So should we take God into our confidence, and "in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving make our request known unto God" (Philippians 4:6). We too often plan our own deliverance or our own work and then ask God to ratify it, whereas the first thing to do is to spread the matter at once fully before God, reverently submitting to His plan and will, seeking in His wisdom the right thing to do.
2. The address. Here was a reverent remembrance of His majesty and a silent appeal to His power, in which also Hezekiah renewed his own confession of faith: "O Lord of hosts, God of Israel." Israel was in trouble, and God was Israel's God, not a mere titular deity, but the great God of hosts. This is a familiar designation of God and Jehovah, and refers to His universal sovereignty and power. "That dwellest between the cherubim." This is a reference to the fact that God had been pleased to make His dwelling-place on the mercy-seat between those mysterious figures called the cherubim, from which place He was always graciously inclined towards His people. If the cherubim symbolise the incarnation (of which I, at least, have no doubt), then the reference to God's position between them, or, as we would now say, "God in Christ," is very significant. David made a similar appeal to now say, "God on behalf of Israeal: "Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel; Thou that dwellest between the cherubim, shine forth. Stir up Thy strength and come and save us" (Psalm 80:1, 2). "Thou art the God, Thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth." The views of Sennacherib were that each nation and kingdom had their own gods (Isaiah 36:18-20), but Hezekiah ascribes to God not only aloneness in His being, but oneness, and universal sovereignty over all the kingdoms of the earth. He therefore could interfere in the plans of the Assyrian king for the purpose of frustrating them, as well as come to the defence of His own peculiar people; besides, there was a refutation and repudiation of the boasted idol gods who had been compared to Him. "Thou hast made heaven and earth." It is a favourite thought of Isaiah and the old prophets, and indeed all the Jews who were instructed in the knowledge of God, to couple His redemptive with His creative power. Thus did Hezekiah throw himself on all the great attributes of God before he began his petition.
3. The supplication. "Incline Thine ear and hear, open Thine eyes and see." Shall all the doings of this vain and proud braggart go past without Thine observation? Shall all his scandalous words in which he has openly derogated Thee pass by Thine hearing? True prayer has always reference to the glory of God, however much our own personal desires and needs may be involved in the things asked for. "Let not thy God in whom thou trustest deceive thee" (ver. 10). "Lord, refute and roll back that scandalous speech and reproach."
4. Confession. Hezekiah was not unmindful of the difficulties that opposed themselves to him, of the dangers that confronted him, nor of the truth of the statements of the letter concerning the power of Sennacherib. "Of a truth, Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations and their countries, and have cast their gods into the fire." For two centuries they had had a steady career of conquest. There was no denying this; and many of the countries and kingdoms that had succumbed to their power were much stronger than that of Hezekiah at this time. There was therefore some show of truth in what they said (2 Kings 15:19, 20, 29; 2 Kings 16:9; 2 Kings 17:5, 6; Isaiah 20:1). Faith does not ignore difficulties nor close its eyes to precedents in which the enemy has triumphed, but then it is bold in the belief that God is able; and that what may seem to be failure is due to other causes than the lack of power or covenant faithfulness on the part of God.
5. The faith in which the prayer was made. Hezekiah having admitted the prowess of the great enemy, proceeds to say to the Lord that the triumph of Sennacherib over other nations and their gods proves nothing in this case, from the fact that the gods of the nations were no gods at all, but mere idols of wood and stone, the work of men's hands. Hezekiah in thus declaring his faith in God above all idols, seems also to call on God to make this truth apparent to the Assyrians. Here his jealousy for God momentarily rises above his anxiety for Jerusalem.
6. The petition. "Now therefore, O Lord our God, save us from his hand." This is the simple, brief, and comprehensive petition. Just save us. We do not dictate the means, we do not dictate the nature of the salvation. Sometimes the most effective prayers are the shortest. "God be merciful to me, a sinner," was a very brief prayer. So was "Lord save me," but both were heard and answered; so was Hezekiah's.
7. The argument. Hezekiah's argument is all gathered up into this consummation, "that the kingdoms of the earth may know that Thou art Jehovah, even Thou only." True believers long always that others may know their God. It is right for us to desire that our own may know God, and even our friends, but it is the part of the true Christian spirit to desire that even our enemies might know God, to long to see even all the nations of the earth brought to a saving knowledge of the truth. This was a true missionary prayer of Hezekiah. Sometimes the knowledge of God can only be spread by the overthrow of some great political power, or the removing of some gigantic enemy, such as Assyria and Sennacherib. It proved to be so in this case.
II. THE DELIVERANCE. After his prayer (we do not know how long after) Isaiah, who seems to have been supernaturally informed of the prayer, and in like manner put in possession of Jehovah's reply, "sent word to Hezekiah," that inasmuch as he had submitted the matter concerning Sennacherib to God for help and deliverance, his request would be heard and answered. The following verses give an account of the answer.
1. The promise. The first part of this promise is to the effect that the "virgin daughter of Zion hath despised thee and laughed thee to scorn; the daughter of Jerusalem hath shaken her head at thee" (vers. 22, 23). This seems to be not only an answer to Rabshakeh for his vain and blasphemous boasting, but also an assurance to Hezekiah. The daughter of Zion, like a virgin maid, was in herself weak and helpless; nevertheless she held all the threatening of the Assyrian in scorn and contempt, and would shake her head in derision at him, either in defiance of his onset or following him with mockery in his retreat from the city. Then follows a message to the Assyrian direct, in which God rebukes him for his boastful blasphemies, and reminds him of how in the ages past God has overthrown and destroyed the nations which had presumed to oppose themselves to Jehovah. Then he is told that God's eye has been upon him, and that now Jehovah was about to "put a hook in his nose" and lead him away out of the country in contempt, not even giving him the glory of a battle. Then follows another promise to the remnant of Judah that they should again "take root downward and bear fruit upward" (vers. 24-32). Then comes again God's "Therefore," concerning the Assyrian.(1) "He shall not come into the city," not even near enough to shoot the first preliminary arrow at it, much less near enough to use shields, or even raise an embankment against it for the purpose of a siege. Sennacherib's army was not then under the walls, but only gathering in the distance, when the "letter" came to Hezekiah. God now assures the king that it shall not approach the city. He should be delivered, and that without even a siege.(2) "I will defend this city to save it for Mine own sake." This of course meant that, without even the secondary help of man, He would in a supernatural way defend it, and that for His own sake. Rabshakeh had defied God and put contempt upon His name, while boasting his own prowess, or that of his king. God would vindicate His name and save His city by such a demonstration of supernatural power, without the immediate agency of man, as would leave no doubt in the mind of the Assyrian as to the fact that the Lord was God indeed. Now and again God has done such things just to clear up the testimony and leave men no excuse for their opposition on the ground of ignorance. He did it with Pharaoh, who challenged His power.
2. The fulfilment. "Then the angel of the Lord went forth and smote in the camp of the Assyrians, an hundred and four score and five thousand; and when they arose early in the morning, behold they were all dead corpses." This was an awful visitation. All the more so that it was done in the night and with perfect silence (2 Kings 19:35). Who can withstand His judgments? Who is strong enough to fight against God? Let the wicked wonder before they perish at the rebuke of His countenance and the breath of His mouth.
3. Sennacherib's humiliation. It must have been an awful humiliation for this proud king to take his march over the same route by which he had approached Jerusalem, not laden with the spoil of the captured city, leading thousands of the chief men and princes, and King Hezekiah himself in his triumphal captive train, but with his shattered army to be the gazing stock of the countries he had subdued, and a by-word among his own people. We must fancy that he entered Nineveh with muffled drums, or no drums at all, with trailing or furled banners. When God does rise up to humble the proud, He does it thoroughly. A further humiliation awaited him. He went after up into the house of his idol to worship, not immediately, for he appears to have lived some twenty years after this defeat. But, at any rate, instead of his god defending him, much less giving him assurance of further victories, his own sons, who should have stood by and comforted their father, conspired together and slew him. So ended the career of this proud boaster, and so began the decline of this great Assyrian power.
(G. F. Pentecost, D. D.)
I. FAITH DISCOVERS GOD. The king of Judah needed such discernment to be sure that God was on his side. He must have been surprised when the Assyrian commissioner said to him, "Do not believe that Jehovah will take your part; this is my master's message to you: 'The Lord said to me, Go up against this land to destroy it.'" That was not the first time nor the last when bad men have claimed Divine authority.
II. FAITH ASKS GOD FOR DELIVERANCE. The army of Judah understood very well that they were no match for the Assyrians: they were far weaker in numbers and were demoralised by a long experience of defeat and servitude. Sennacherib had taken pains to increase this impression. When this letter reached Hezekiah, he "went up unto the house of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord." That was his privilege — that is the right of every one who believes; it is our prerogative as God's children. He offers us help in every extremity, only requiring that we feel our need.
III. FAITH INSPIRES FAITH. Hezekiah "trusted in the Lord," but not always. Like most men he found it easier to believe when he could see the way. When the Assyrian army was moving toward Jerusalem, in the early part of his reign, he was frightened: he forgot his God and so forgot himself, even sending to the invader this humiliating message: "I have offended; return from me: that which thou puttest on me will I bear (2 Kings 18:14). And his unbelief spread. The people, who had little enough of spirit at the best, now, following their leader, gave up in despair. But there came to the king in his distress an inspiration — a friend had been raised up for his deliverance. It was the prophet Isaiah; a man who knew how to trust in the Lord at all times; when the sky was darkest he could see the stars beyond. When, after Samaria fell, leading men proposed an alliance with the Egyptian king, "No" he said "woe to them that go down to Egypt for help." "As birds flying, so will the Lord of hosts defend Jerusalem; defending also He will deliver it." That faith inspired Hezekiah, giving him a reinforcement of courage which he very soon needed. He rallied and organised his forces for defence, and then went personally among the people, with the cheering exhortation, "Be strong and courageous," &c. His faith inspired faith in them.
IV. FAITH OVERCOMES (vers. 33-36). What delivered Hezekiah? Not his generalship; not his army. it was "the angel of the Lord.
(T. T. Holmes.)
( M. Henry.)
(I. E. Page.)
Sunday School Chronicle."When," Sir Josiah Mason once said, "I have done everything I can and see no clear way, I say to myself, God help me. I have brought out all my judgment, my brain can do no more, so may it please Thee to give me a push." "And," he added, "I get the push, for as sure as I ask for help, help comes."
(Sunday School Chronicle.)
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