There was no denying the seriousness of the situation, and Hezekiah’s torn clothes and sackcloth showed that he had no intention of pretending that things were other than they were. But he had three great resources: the Lord (v. 1), The Lord’s prophet (v. 2), and prayer (v. 4, 15). And Hezekiah resolved at once to use them all. He resorted to the temple of the Lord, he informed Isaiah of the desperate situation, and he both asked for prayer and prayed himself. This was perhaps Hezekiah’s finest hour. He was not perfect. In fact, the mess he was in was largely of his own making. But in the last analysis, he knew that the Lord reigned, and therefore nothing was impossible or hopeless. The pressure of circumstances had stripped him back to basics.
Isaiah’s response was immediate (v. 5). Isaiah is the channel by which God’s Word enters the situation and begins to transform it. It’s not just Hezekiah or the people that Sennacherib has demeaned, but the living God (vv. 4 & 6), and in doing so he over-reached himself. Isaiah saw very clearly that pride is the worst of all sins. It is the purest form of defiance possible; it is ousting God from the throne of our lives and putting ourselves in His place. It is the primal sin which all others grow. And it was especially, in this case, the sin of the king of Assyria. Now that threat is flushed out and confirmed: He will return to his own country, and there I will have him cut down with the sword (v. 7). In the last analysis, it is the Word of the Lord that will prevail, not the word of Sennacherib.
The Word which has entered the situation like yeast gradually begins to have its effect. Isaiah had spoken about God unsettling Sennacherib and of him hearing a report (v. 7). Unease is suggested by the fact that when the envoy returns, he finds that Sennacherib has temporarily broken off siege of Lachish and is fighting against Libnah (v. 8). He is perhaps expecting an attack from Egypt. If so, his suspicions are soon confirmed; he receives a report that an Egyptian force has indeed begun to move against him (v. 9). What happened next is unclear; neither the Bible nor Sennacherib’s annals throw any light on it. But since he continued to threaten Jerusalem, it is unlikely that the Egyptians had much success. In short, despite his successes, it was clearly in his own best interests to wind up proceedings in Palestine as quickly as possible. But what was to be done about Jerusalem? If it could not be frightened into surrender, the Assyrians could either mount a full-scale siege (which might last eighteen months or more) or decide that Hezekiah had already been taught a salutary lesson and leave him to lick his wounds. Sennacherib may well have been considering these options as Hezekiah went to prayer (v. 14).
Isaiah 37:1-13 Reflection Questions:
Have you ever found yourself in a big mess similar to Hezekiah’s? What was your first response, to turn to the world or to the Lord?
Do you have the same faith and trust as Hezekiah did?
What did the Lord strip Hezekiah from by allowing him to go this far in his troubles?
What is a primary lesson you learn from today’s study?