My reading the past week has been the book of Isaiah, which is quite a long book. It contains prophecies against the nations that surround Israel, and threaten her well-being, all written in poetry and prose by the prophet Isaiah. There are also some chapters of historic details which tie back into the records of the divided kingdom in 1 & 2 Kings and Chronicles.
Isaiah wrote just before the northern tribes of Israel were taken captive by Assyria. The Assyrian King Sennacherib made an advance during Hezekiah’s reign (Isaiah 36-37). His people surrounded Jerusalem and made threats against them, causing fear and anxiety among the people. When King Hezekiah heard what was happening, his first response was to enter the house of the Lord. He sent word to God’s prophet, Isaiah, and asked him to pray to God for the nation. He then took the letter his messengers had brought him about the impending doom Assyria was promising to bring, and spread it out before the Lord, praying with a humble heart for God to intervene.
Hezekiah’s faith was revealed in a time of crisis; it was proven genuine as it was tested in the refining fire. He prays for God to deliver them because he knows that God is the only one powerful enough to defeat the enemy. His prayer also reveals why he wants God to deliver the nation:
Now, O LORD our God, deliver us from his hand that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You alone, LORD, are God. (Isaiah 37:20)
God speaks through Isaiah, telling Hezekiah the answer has come because you have prayed (Isaiah 37:21). Through Isaiah, God exposes Sennacherib’s arrogance in believing his conquests have come from his own strength. In his pride, the Assyrian king thinks it’s his great army and many chariots and wise leadership that have given him victory, but God reminds him who is orchestrating these events for His own glory.
Have you not heard? Long ago I did it, from ancient times I planned it. Now I have brought it to pass, that you should turn fortified cities into ruinous heaps. (Isaiah 37:26).
God planned all along to discipline the nation of Israel by using hostile nations as His tool. He was refining His people; He had a purpose in the crisis, but He did not simply turn loose a wicked, hostile king to do as he pleased. Sennacherib was simply carrying out what God had planned long ago. When the people repented and sought His help as Hezekiah did, God turned Sennacherib back. He defended His people in a supernatural rescue. The angel of God destroyed their armies and Sennacherib died by the hands of his own sons as punishment for his arrogance against God (Isaiah 37:36-38).
Eventually, Assyria did indeed take Israel captive, as Israel failed to fully repent, but not in Hezekiah’s lifetime. God’s plans always work out in His time, in His ways, and for His glory. The enemy may think he’s in charge, but God holds the leash.
What’s our takeaway?
First, God often orchestrates calamity and crisis to accomplish His purposes in our lives. When bad things happen, don’t assume it’s the enemy. God may be moving you into “refine mode” to strengthen your faith, discipline you if necessary, and bring glory to Himself as He sustains, protects, and walks with you through the hard things.
Second, God will deal with our oppressors; they are firmly in His grasp and can do nothing except what He allows them to do. Do not fear man; what can they do to you, except what God allows?
And lastly, when the crisis does come, as it always will, make your first response to go to the house of the Lord! Seek His wisdom and help. God will answer the humble prayer of His children, and He will act on our behalf.