Trusting in God – Isaiah 37
Read the Passage: Isaiah 37
Isaiah’s Assurance (37:1–7)
Isaiah 36–39 is an historical narrative that punctuates the prophecies of Isaiah. These four chapters are almost copied verbatim in 2 Kings 18:13–20:19 and again in 2 Chron. 32:1–23. It is probable that the writer of 2 Kings, whom tradition holds was Jeremiah, copied from Isaiah, not vice-versa (cf. 2 Chron. 32:32). Structurally speaking, Isaiah 36–37 concludes Isaiah’s prophecies about Assyria, while Isaiah 38–39 introduces Isaiah’s prophecies about Babylon. Isaiah 36 records that the Assyrians attacked Judah in the 14th year of Hezekiah’s reign, which was 701 BC. Note that the Assyrians had destroyed the northern nation of Israel in 722 BC. The Assyrians laid siege to Jerusalem and sent a spokesman, named the Rabshakeh, to declare to Hezekiah that neither the Egyptians nor the Lord would be able to rescue Judah, as had been the case with the other nations whom Assyria had captured.
When King Hezekiah heard the insults of the Rabshakeh, he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth. This was a cultural sign of grief and repentance. In all likelihood, Hezekiah was moved by the words of the Rabshakeh, saddened by news of the Assyrians capturing the smaller towns of Judah, and grieved by his forebear’s foolish reliance upon Assyria for deliverance in spite of God’s warnings not to do so (cf. Isa. 10:5–19). Hezekiah went into the Temple to pray, and from there sent word to Isaiah about the message from the Rabshakeh. Perhaps sensing that deliverance was on the threshold, Hezekiah likened Jerusalem’s situation to that of a pregnant woman who lacked strength to give birth. In response, Isaiah gave a very specific prophecy that God would alter the desires of the king of Assyria, which is exactly what occurred, as is recorded at Isa. 37:8–13, 36–38.
Hezekiah’s Prayer (37:8–20)
Isaiah 37:8–13 summarizes the events that transpired after Isaiah’s prophecy of deliverance. In short, while sacking some of the smaller cities of Judah, Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, learned that Tirhakah, the king of Egypt, was coming to make war with him. The king of Assyria, then, withdrew from his siege of Jerusalem, but not before warning Hezekiah not to interpret his withdrawal as a defeat. In response, Hezekiah returned to the Temple to praise God and to pray for further deliverance, saying, “O Lord our God, save us from Sennacherib’s hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the Lord, You alone” (Isa. 37:20). Note the reaction of Hezekiah—that is, reentering the Temple to pray (cf. Isa. 37:14)—as compared to the earlier reaction of Ahaz who had refused God’s offer to ask for a sign to confirm Isaiah’s prophecy (cf. Isa. 7:11–12).
God’s Deliverance (37:21–38)
In response to Hezekiah’s prayer recorded at Isa. 37:16–20, in Isa. 37:21–35 God immediately sent Isaiah to inform the king that Jerusalem would be delivered. Note that in his prayer, king Hezekiah recognized the reason why the Assyrians had succeeded in defeating foreign gods is because “they were not gods, but the work of men’s hands” (Isa. 37:19), whereas God is the only true God (cf. Isa. 37:16). In Isa. 37:22–39 the Lord spoke directly to the Assyrians, noting: Israel would laugh at them (cf. Isa. 37:22), He was the one whom they were fighting against (cf. Isa. 37:23), He had been offended by their pride (cf. Isa. 37:24–25), He was the one who had given them past victory (cf. Isa. 37:26–27), and He would give them future defeat (cf. Isa. 37:28–29). In Isa. 37:30–35 the Lord addressed Hezekiah personally, as He both offered a sign of victory (cf. Isa. 37:30–32) and gave a promise of deliverance (cf. Isa. 37:33–35).
Isaiah 37:36–38 records the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy about the demise of Sennacherib. Note that in this chapter Isaiah actually gave two prophecies about Assyria and King Sennacherib. First, in Isa. 37:7 Isaiah prophesied that Sennacherib’s desires would change and that he would depart from the siege of Jerusalem. This was fulfilled in Isa. 37:8–13. Second, in Isa. 37:28–29, 33–34 Isaiah prophesied that Sennacherib would depart and not return to Jerusalem, implying his demise. Isaiah 37:36–38 details the death of Sennacherib in 681 BC, which occurred some 20+ years after his departure from Judah. In contrast to God’s deliverance and protection of His own people, Isaiah notes that King Sennacherib was murdered by two of his own sons in the temple of his god as he was worshiping. The contrast between the Assyrian god and the Israelite God is evident.
- Do you find it difficult to trust God to provide for your needs and to deliver you from difficult situations? Has God ever failed to meet your needs or to rescue you?
- Are you ever discouraged by the criticism of others or by the present flourishing of the ungodly in the world (cf. Psalm 10, 37, 73)?
- What does our response to God’s promises reveal about our faith? Can someone be an authentic believer and still doubt God’s Word?
- Does God still give signs to His people as He occasionally did in the Bible? What might the request a sign from God indicate about one’s faith (cf. Matt. 12:39)?
- Have there been times in your life when you’ve prayed for deliverance and God has provided help in an unexpected way?