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Hezekiah . . . rent his clothes . . . and went into the house of the Lord
The distress, of Hezekiah
Hezekiah was probably weak in body, and therefore had lost true courage of soul.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
Peril should drive the soul to God
The best way to baffle the malicious designs of our enemies against us is to be driven by them to God and to our duty, and so to fetch meat out of the eater. Rabshakeh intended to frighten Hezekiah from the Lord, but it proves that he frightens him to the Lord. The wind, instead of forcing the traveller’s coat from him, makes him wrap it closer about him. (M. Henry.)
This day is a day of trouble
Hezekiah’s day of trouble
Ahaz the father and immediate predecessor of Hezekiah on the throne of Judah, engaged himself, and virtually his successors, to pay tribute to the kings of Assyria.
Such a state of vassalage Hezekiah no doubt rightly though hazardously declined to continue, and this is what is meant when it is said of him that “he rebelled gains the king of Assyria and served him not” (2 Kings 18:7). Any such refusal on the part of Hezekiah to acknowledge the despotic king of Assyria as his lordparamount we may be sure would not be allowed to pass unchallenged, and hence Sennacherib’s invasion of the kingdom of Judah in order to compel submission to what the king of Judah objected to and declined to do. This is what constituted Hezekiah’s day of trouble. (W. Alnwick.)
Days of trouble
1. Hezekiah but represents what has been the general experience of man, for there has probably never lived a man on the face of the earth whose lot it has not been to have some days of trouble and annoyance.
2. If we cannot entertain a reasonable hope of any such thing as immunity from trouble, we can, however, endeavour to live and act so that our troubles may not be more than they need to be. It cannot be doubted that many bring much trouble on themselves, and subject themselves to many heart-aches and heart burns, which they ought never to have known, and probably would not have experienced had a different course of conduct been pursued, a course, perhaps, pointed out to them by those gifted with greater wisdom, prudence, and foresight than they themselves were possessed of, but which by their obstinacy of will and unjustifiable determination to take their own way, they were led to reject.
3. We are not, of course, to think that because many and great troubles fall to the-lot of a man, he has necessarily acted foolishly, acted in opposition to any law of God, either natural, religious, or spiritual. This was just the grievous mistake Job’s friends fell into.
4. It is only in heaven that trouble will be a thing unknown, and where all tears will for ever be wiped away.
5. We cannot but see the importance of being well prepared for days of trouble before we are made sensible of their presence with us. If we are wise enough to prepare ourselves for them their approach will be no surprise to us, and we shall be the better able to battle with them, and to turn that which is an evil in itself into a blessing, and so much help to us in our journey heavenward.
6. There can be no doubt that troubles are often sent by a wise and gracious providence for this very purpose.
7. It now only remains for me to make a few further remarks on how to deal with days of trouble when from being matters of prospect or future contingents, they have become translated into actual and stern facts. In dealing with such days we shall find much instruction and guidance afforded us by the example of Hezekiah in dealing with his day of trouble. As soon as Hezekiah became acquainted with the invasion of Sennacherib, he went into the house of the Lord, the sure resort of God’s people in the time of distress, there in prayer to lay both his trouble and its cause before God, and at the same time he sent Eliakim and Shebna unto the prophet Isaiah to desire that man of God to lift up his prayer in behalf of the remnant that was left. We are informed what was the blessed result of this union of prayer on the part of the king and the prophet. The day of trouble was removed, and the sun, which one day was shrouded in darkness, the next, shone forth bright and clear, every cloud being swept from the sky. The course taken by the king of Judah in his day of trouble and distress must commend itself to all who are found in similar circumstances by its marvellous success. It is a fact, in spite of the sneering scepticism of some people, that prayer is a really great power, and that as a means for the attainment of ends consistent with and approved by infinite wisdom and goodness, it will succeed when other means, such as men in their ignorance sometimes elect to employ as the best and fittest, utterly fail to reach the end aimed at. (W. Alnwick.)
Hours when prophets have influence
In the midst of his distress Hezekiah sent “unto Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz.” So far Hezekiah was right. He might have gone himself directly by an act of faith to the living God, but he had regard to the constitution of Israel, and he availed himself of the ordinances and institutes appointed of Heaven. Hezekiah made through Eliakim a pathetic speech to Isaiah--“This day is a day of trouble, and of rebuke, and of blasphemy.” There are hours when prophets come to the enjoyment of their fullest influence. Isaiah had been despised and derided, but now his hour has come, and he stands up as the one hope of Judah. The question was, What can you, Isaiah, do to extract Israel from all the peril which now presses upon the people of God? In the sixth verse we see how nobly the attitude of Isaiah contrasts with the attitude of Hezekiah. Instead of the word of inspiration proceeding from the, king it issued from the prophet. (J. Parker, D. D.)
A dangerous crisis
“The children are come to the birth,” &c. Obviously a proverbial expression for a crisis which becomes dangerous through lack of strength to meet it (Isaiah 66:9; Hosea 13:13). (Prof. J. Skinner, D. D.)
Lift up thy prayer for the remnant that is left
THE PERSON WHO WAS TO ENGAGE IN THE WORK OF INTERCESSION Was one of great eminence in the Church and commonwealth, a great and good man, a prophet of the Lord, and one who was indulged with peculiar nearness to Him. Persons of eminent piety will not be contented with ordinary applications to the throne of grace; they will seek till they find, and wrestle till they prevail. This was a day of trouble, as Hezekiah calls it; and therefore, it ought to be a day of prayer. Intercession is the duty of all saints. But herein ministers should take the lead. They are the Church’s watchmen, and God’s remembrancers. Zedekiah, who at one time cast Jeremiah the prophet into a dungeon, at another time desired an interest in his supplications, and sent messengers to him, saying, “Pray now unto the Lord our God for us.” And God often spares the wicked for the sake of the righteous, and in answer to their requests, even as the intercession of Abraham was accepted for the inhabitants of Sodom.
II. THOSE FOR WHOM THE PROPHET WAS REQUESTED TO PRAY were “the remnant that was left”; a certain number known unto God, and who remained after the rest were scattered or destroyed. This should teach us, that though in our prayers we should be forgetful of none, yet we are to be particularly mindful of our fellow-Christians, especially when in a state of adversity. It becomes us also to be attentive to public and national calamities, as well as to those which are personal and private, and to spread them before the Lord in prayer and supplication.
III. There is something observable as to THE MANNER IN WHICH THE PROPHET’S INTERCESSION IS REQUESTED. “Lift up thy prayer.” This expressive form of speech may teach us to remember--
1. That the glorious object of prayer is infinitely exalted.
2. The low and mean condition of the worshipper.
3. The secrecy of prayer, according to our Lord’s direction, “When thou prayest, enter into thy closet,” &c. Lifting up a prayer may denote the same thing as David expresses by the lifting up of the soul to God, in mental and silent ejaculation.
4. The importunity and ardour of prayer. In lifting up our prayer to God, our affections should rise high, though our voice may be low and feeble.
5. The spirituality and heavenly-mindedness of the person engaged.
6. Boldness and confidence, accompanied with the hope of being heard and answered.
7. The proper end of prayer, which is not to draw the Divine Being near to us, but ourselves to Him. (B. Beddome, M. A.)
Let not thy God, in whom thou trustest, deceive thee
A piece of satanic advice
LET US WEIGH THIS PIECE OF SATANIC ADVICE. It is a very dangerous temptation for three reasons.
1. Because it appeals to the natural pride of the heart. There is a universal instinct which makes a man abhor the idea of being deceived. There is something in the very idea which rouses all the pride that lies latent in every heart.
2. There is no disguising the fact that if God did deceive us we are in a hopeless plight, and therefore there is force in the temptation.
3. The methods of God’s government being beyond our comprehension, sometimes appear to incline towards the tempter’s suggestion,--from appearances one might say, “God is going to leave us in the lurch.”
II. LET US TURN ROUND AND TEAR THE ADVICE UP.
1. We may tear it up because it comes too late. If God be a deceiver we are already so thoroughly deceived, and have been so for years, that it is rather late in the day to come and advise us not to be.
2. We may tear it up, because if God deceive us we may be quite certain that there is nobody else that would not. From all we know of our God, His holiness, His righteousness, and His faithfulness, if He can deceive us, then are we quite certain that there are none to be trusted
3. There is not one atom of evidence to support the libel. Search the world through, and see if you can find a man who will deliberately say, “I have tried God, I have trusted Him, and He has deceived me.”
4. There is overwhelming evidence to refute it. Never yet did man trust his God and be put to shame. Heaven and earth and hell declare that Jehovah never hath deceived and never can deceive. (A. G. Brown.)
Sennacherib versus Jehovah
Never before in his experience had Sennacherib heard of a God who could resist his progress; he believed in the almighty power of Asshur. (B. Blake, B. D.)
And Hezekiah received the letter . . . and read it . . . and spread it before the Lord
Hezekiah’s prayer and deliverance
In the struggles, defeats, and final triumph of the ancient people of God in their conflicts with the surrounding nations, we have a key to the purposes of God in respect to the kingdom of Christ and the kingdoms of this world; a key to the interpretation of the principles and powers underlying the conflict between the people of God and the unbelievers of this world.
God’s hand is in this earth’s history; His eye is upon all men and His ear open to their ,counsels; at the proper time and in the proper place He will frustrate all the combinations of evil and bring to pass all His purposes of righteousness. It is not by might nor by power that believers triumph over their spiritual enemies or win their victories, but by the interposition of God s almighty arm. The preceding chapter is so closely connected with that from which our present study is taken, that the two must be read together. Jerusalem was under siege, or at least was threatened with siege and capture by the Assyrian king. In spite of all Hezekiah’s efforts to buy a peace for himself and his kingdom, the greedy, haughty, and most powerful king was determined to be satisfied with nothing short of entire and full possession of Jerusalem itself. (For further historical setting let the reader consult 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 (verses 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 (verse 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” (Psalms 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 (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” (verse 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; 2 Kings 15:29; 2Ki 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” (verses 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” (verses 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.)
Hezekiah’s prayer and deliverance
It is said of Hezekiah that “he trusted in the Lord God of Israel.” Let us with reference to this side of his character notice some lessons suggested by this story of his trouble and his deliverance.
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 (verses 33-36). What delivered Hezekiah? Not his generalship; not his army it was “the angel of the Lord. (T. T. Holmes.)
It is bad to talk proudly and profanely, but it is worse to write so, for that argues more deliberation and design; and what is written spreads farther, and lasts longer, and doth the more mischief. Atheism and irreligion written will certainly be reckoned for another day. (M. Henry.)
Professor Cheyne refers to a striking parallel in the Egyptian version of Sennacherib s overthrow. “On this the monarch (Sethos) greatly distressed, entered into the inner sanctuary, and before the image of the god (Ptah) bewailed the fate which impended over him. As he wept he fell asleep and dreamed that the god came and stood by his side, bidding him be of good cheer, and go boldly forth to meet the Arabian (Assyrian) host, which would do him no hurt, as he himself would send those who should help him.” (Herodotus.)
Prayer a way of escape
I know an ancient castle on a high rock, which used to be garrisoned by soldiers. From inside the castle a long, winding passage, cut out of the solid rock, and called Mortimer s Hole, leads right away under the town, and opens up at a great distance. It was the way of escape for the garrison in a case of extremity. Prayer is such a door of deliverance, and no man can shut it. (I. E. Page.)
Prayer for help answered
“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.)
Whom hast thou reproached and blasphemed?
Isaiah’s saving idea of God
Isaiah in his day saved Jerusalem by teaching the people a better idea of their God. For forty years he had been witnessing to a truer thought of God, and at last the crisis and the triumph of his religious statesmanship came. Jerusalem would have surrendered to Assyria had not Isaiah at last brought king and people, in their despair, to the faith in God to which for forty years he had borne witness. At an hour when the Assyrian was making his rapid march towards the city, two props of the people’s confidence had entirely given way: their reliance upon Egypt, and their confidence in their religion. Isaiah had told them over and over again that these supports were rotten, and would give way when the crash came. And they did when at last came the scourge of the nations which had swept other cities before it reached Jerusalem. For a moment the luridness of the popular despair was lit up by a wild light of passion and revelry: “Let us eat and drink,” they said, “for to-morrow we shall die.” Then the hour for the triumph of the prophet’s lifelong truth was come. He led a sobered people and a humbled king to the Holy One of Israel (Newman Smyth, D. D.)
The Divine holiness and Fatherhood
The historic truth is that wherever a better idea of God prevails men are delivered. The deep, permanent, at all times greatly needed lesson is, that the prophet’s truer teaching of God is for the salvation of a city. The subject for us to inquire concerning is, whether we are being saved by any truer, stronger ideas of our God? Are we saving our society, our neighbour-hood, our city, our land by nobler knowledge of God?
1. Do you hope to work out the redemption of men by education? It is a means, a sharp instrument for good or evil, but Rabshakeh could blaspheme in two languages. We have to face the question: “What leaven is to keep the school itself from moral corruption?”
2. But much, it is said, may be accomplished through sanitary and political science. Undoubtedly. Even Ahaz did a good thing when he looked after the water supply of Jerusalem in fear of a siege, although he would not hear a word that Isaiah was saying to him by the upper pool in the fuller’s field. But if Isaiah had not been the heart and the soul of the city in its critical hour, all the work that the kings had done in repairing the walls and looking after the watercourses, would never have kept the Assyrian out. Sooner or later we shall have to go down to the God on whom we depend, if we are to build anything of permanent worth.
3. What, then, is our better saving thought of God?
(1) We are coming to know better the Divine Fatherhood of men.
(2) Yet, this first truth of the Divine Fatherhood of men, and His special Fatherhood towards the son of His trust and love, does not exhaust our redeeming knowledge of God. Our text exalts the Holy One of Israel. Isaiah’s vision of Him whose glory fills the whole earth was the vision of the Holy One. In the holiness of the prophet saw the falsehoods of the court and the people burning as with everlasting fire. And when Jesus Christ in that sublime moment to which St. John has borne witness in the seventeenth chapter of his Gospel, summed up His whole lifelong teaching in His last prayer for the disciples, He lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said, Father, Holy Father, O righteous Father.
(3) There is one way in particular by which we, with all our worldliness, may be brought more fully into the saving power of these truths of God. It is through our increasing sense of God’s omnipresence, of the Divine immanence, of Immanuel, God with us. (Newman Smyth, D. D.)
God His people’s defence
A magistrate in Hamburg once held up his finger and said to Mr. Oncken, the Baptist preacher: “Do you see that finger, sir? As long as I can hold up that finger I shall put you down.” “I can see,” said Mr. Oncken, “what you cannot see; I can see the mighty arm of God, and as long as that arm is held up for my defence, you will never be able to put me down.” (Christian Age.)
The root and fruit of Christianity
THE REMNANT THAT ARE SAID TO HAVE ESCAPED. Truly this is a description of the Lord s Church in every age. Strait is the gate, &c. Even so now also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.” This remnan that is left is in great distress. A peculiar characteristic of this very small remnant is that they have escaped. They are apart from the great bulk of professors. They have escaped from the reigning power of sin; from the sentence of the law; from self and self-confidence, and from all apprehension of the Second death.
II. Glance at THEIR BEING THE OFFSPRING OF A DISTINGUISHED TRIBE. Although Joseph had an exuberance of blessings pronounced upon him by his fond father, and he probably realised them all, both in a temporal and spiritual point of view; yet the true dignity rested upon the house of Judah. Mark here the Gospel sense of this declaration, that Judah, the little chosen few, the Lord’s own living Church, have the sceptre among them--the sceptre of righteousness of their glorious Lord who sprang out of Judah, and is ruling and reigning among them. His presence is enjoyed, His love tokens are felt, the joys of His salvation are experienced amongst those that are a minority, the little flock that He has chosen and redeemed for Himself.
III. THE ORIGIN OF THEIR LIFE. They have a root. What is a root? It is a concealed, hidden life. If you have no more religion than what is seen, it is not worth your possessing. The real Christian has a hidden life. It is an abiding and downward growing principle. Even in wintry seasons and trying times, there should be at least the fruits of humility and self-abasement and meekness and gentleness, the fruits of the mind of Christ. And this is taking root downwards.
IV. THEIR TENDENCY UPWARD WITH FRUITFULNESS. The believer in Jesus has a life which is always tending upwards. If earth content you, your religion is not worth a straw. The fruits which this tribe bear upwards are diverse and profuse. “The fruits of the Spirit,” are said to be “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, goodness, gentleness, faith; against such there is no law. They are outlaws--there is no law for them. “The fruits of righteousness are by Jesus Christ.” Mark their upward tendency--“to the praise and glory of God.” (J. Irons.)
The sacred writers are frequent in speaking of a “remnant” as alone inheriting the promises. The word “remnant,” so constantly used in Scripture, is the token of the identity of the Church, in the mind of her Divine Creator, before and after the coming of Christ. (J. H.Newman, D. D.)
We may learn--
1. Not to entertain mean thoughts of our Lord, because there are but few sincere Christians.
2. To value the true religion and the professors of it.
3. God’s zeal for His children in working such marvellous deliverances for them, though they are so few in number.
4. Let us own our dependence upon God, and regard Him as our only defence and salvation in time of trouble, seeking to Him, as Hezekiah did here, by devout prayers and supplications, and craving the assistance of His Church and ministry, as this king did of the prophet Isaiah, to obtain of Him an answer of peace and love. (W. Reading, M. A.)
Rooting and fruiting
This is a promise for the encouragement of a downcast people. It is the seer’s way of looking through the clouds and finding the sunshine. Judah had stood like a splendid tree, with roots deep and branches wide. The hurricane had struck it, and it was plucked up by the roots. The kings of Assyria had swept down on the people of God like a very besom of destruction. Their cry to God brought back the assurance that His hand was still on the kings of Assyria and that He had a large hope to offer Judah, the hope that the remnant should grow again, taking root downward and bearing fruit upward. It does not take a large start to come to large growth. Rooting for the sake of fruiting--it is a familiar scriptural thought. “He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, which bringeth forth his fruit in his season.” In the parable, the seed that grew so quickly withered away because it had no root. The fig-tree which bore no fruit was dried up from the very root. And so on, probably twenty times in Scripture, where rooting and fruiting are connected. Of course you observe the simple naturalness of it. That is what we are accustomed to everywhere else. That is what we are to expect in the spiritual life. Trees and plants take root downward and bear fruit upward. So do souls; each in its appropriate soil and each in its appropriate fruit, but by processes that are as natural in one case as in the other. You cannot explain the process in either case without God; you need Him at the start of it, and in the progress of it, and at the end of it. And you find Him working through the laws He has made. The spiritual life is not an exception to the rest of the round of life; it is the same natural life, has its laws as native to it as the natural laws are native to the rest of life. Then you observe how the rooting is unseen, underground, unthought of, and the fruiting is above ground, in evidence, out in the light. Here is a laying bare of the necessity of the inner life and the outer life as well. Neither is indifferent to the other. You do not want roots for their own sake, and you cannot have fruit Without them. If you are going to improve the quality of the fruit, you must often start in a better care of the root. In that fact lies one of the puzzles of history and of human life. It is not difficult to find when the fruit began to appear, but the root is always baffling. So it is difficult to find the influence of the fruit already borne on the fruit that is riper and richer. Take the sphere of education. It is not difficult to find when the first school that might fairly be called a public school appeared; but it is quite impossible to find who first originated the idea of which it is the fruit--the idea of the equality of the mental rights of men. It is quite certain that there was a time when that idea was not fruit-bearing, if it existed. And it is evident, too, that the fruit borne through the years of the schools has reacted on the root idea, enlarging it and making it better. We have better schools now because we have a better root idea out of which to grow them. And so we come to a word about the two parts of our personal lives--this unseen root-life we are living, and the seen fruit-life we are meant to live. There is always peril that one may be neglected in the care of the other. On the one hand there are many who are seeking to develop the inner life, as though for its Own sake, seeking to gain new inner beauty and grace and assurance, without letting that inner life assert itself in outer seen life. On the other, there are some who are caring well for the outer life, doing much for the Master, active in every good work, but caring little for the inner life, the root-life, out of which must grow the seen life if it be a secure life. Both are to be commended for what they do; each is to be warned for what he does not do. The life that is hid with Christ in God is meant to be seen of men for the glory of Christ. There is to be, do you not see, a measure of concealment and a measure of publicity, a certain hiding of life and a certain revealing of life, a degree of secrecy and a degree of openness? The men whom you most admire, I suspect, are men who always seem to have a measure of reserve power, but they are not men who live behind barriers, whom you never approach with any sense of companionship. They have an inner life, a taking root downward, out of your sight, and you do not forget it in your dealing with them; but they have also an outer, assertive life, the fruit of that inner life. Carry it just a little farther in the personal life into the fundamentals of religion. Every man of us carries about with him a certain bundle of convictions, a certain set of creed-articles, which are his personal and inviolable property. They may be like or unlike anybody else’s bundle. There are some of us whose possessions in this way are very small, and we tend to think that creeds and doctrines are not important; we go in for action, for conduct. We say that the world does not judge you by what you believe, but by what you do. And there is a measure of truth in it, of course: But are we so ignorant as not to know the power of a mighty conviction? Do we not realise the tremendous energy o| a fruit-yielding root of belief? It is not enough, therefore, that we say we do this or that that is good. That is bearing fruit upward; hut the power to bear fruit and the quality of the fruit, its power to feed and refresh the world, will be limited, be sure of it, by the amount of strength the roots of the life have gathered. They must go deep and far, or the branches will soon be stunted and starved. This same principle of root and fruit applies to the church of Christ. There have been times of a mistaken accent on either of the two phases of life. Sometimes the church has seemed to exist for its own sake, caring for itself, counting its task ended when it had done so, and careless of that true fruit-bearing which is meant to be its glory. Then there have been times when, in the joy of fruit-bearing, the inner strength of the church has been neglected. That is a strong accent on the root of the church, its creed, its inner life. On the other hand, who has not observed the weakness of the mere gathering together of people around no particular standard? That is one extreme. There are not a few churches which touch the other extreme. The preaching is faithful and truthful, the people are well indoctrinated in the faith, they hold the great truths of the gospel without wavering, but they make no successful onslaught on the world. And the same need and the same danger are not only in the pulpit, but also in the pew. I suppose there are few churches whose people are not called to constant care in maintaining the balance between the demands of their own church, which is root-work, and the demands of the kingdom at large, which is fruit-work. It appears markedly in the matter of benevolence. There are always a few to whom it is almost positive pain to see money going away from the church. Some resent all that goes to foreign missions; some all that goes out anywhere. They rejoice far more in a large gift for local expenses than they do in a large gift for charity or missions. On the other hand, there are some who neglect the demands of the home church, chafe under calls for it, are attracted by the outlying thing. I have not described the rank and file of any church in these extremes, but I have stated the two brood lines of peril to which a church is subject. For each is a peril. One is a magnifying of the root and a stunting of the fruit; the other is a magnifying of the fruit and a neglect of the root. But you cannot express the essential fact of rooting and fruit-bearing in terms of money. It yields to no terms except that of life. Leaving the church as an organisation, let your mind turn again to yourself as a living Christian, meant to take root downward and bear fruit upward. The Word makes plain what the rooting soil of the Christian must be “That ye being rooted and grounded in love, may grow up into Him in all things.” Of the early Christians it was said, “See how they love one another.” The strength of the church in history has been the intimate fellowship that has bound its people together and made them one body. Its inner power has been in large part in its being rooted in love. But not in that alone. The Word again bids us be rooted and built up in Christ Himself. Therein lies real power, the sending of the life root down deeper and deeper into Him, until the nourishment of life comes from Him. We have seen numberless enterprises start in the name of religion, flourish as did the seed of the parable and presently wither away, their root not running down into feeding soil. And what has thus appeared in a large way appears in many a life in the small way. Men individually also are striving to bear fruit without rooting in Christ, without drawing the very life sap of their beings from Him. God keep His church true to its soil, rooting it in love, rooting it in Him who is the very life of God revealed to us men for our salvation. (C. B.McAfee, D. D.)
He shall not come into this city
The momentous issues involved in Sennacherib’s defeat
We do not, perhaps, realise the magnitude of the crisis, not alone in the life and fortunes of Isaiah, but in the history of the Jews, and, inbreed, of the world at large.
It is not too much to say that if Sennacherib had taken Jerusalem, in all human probability the Jews would have ceased to exist as a nation, and the world would not have been prepared for the coming of Christ. They had not yet reached a point in their training at which the national life and religion could have survived such a calamity as that which a century later overtook Jerusalem in the time of Jeremiah; and there is every reason to believe that had they been carried captives now, they would simply have been absorbed into heathenism, as the ten tribes doubtless were. (Edward Grubb, M. A.)
Jerusalem and Leyden
The siege of Jerusalem reminds us of the siege of Leyden in later days. William the Silent (as Hezekiah had done before him) put his sole trust for deliverance in God. On the last night of the siege, and when help from man seemed hopeless, God came to their aid, and with His ocean and tempest delivered Leyden, and struck such terror into their enemies, that when the morning dawned, the Spaniards had fled, panic-struck, during the darkness. Leyden was relieved, and every person within its walls repaired to the great church to return thanks to Almighty God. (Sunday School Chronicle.)
The history of God’s people is one oft-repeated story of deliverance. Years ago, the Sultan of Turkey declared that every Christian missionary would be banished on a certain day. The Christians met in earnest prayer, and one said, “The great Sultan of the universe can change all this.” He did. The Sultan of Turkey died on the very day he had named for the expulsion of the missionaries, and they were allowed to remain. (J. S.Drummond.)
Then the angel of the Lord went forth
The destruction of Sennacherib’s army
The narrative does not say here (but see Isaiah 30:30-31) what secondary means, if any, were used.it does not exclude the use of secondary means. As Dean Plumptre remarks, a modern historian would dwell on the details of the pestilence. To Isaiah, who had learnt to see in the winds the messengers of God Psalms 104:4), it was nothing else than the “angel of the Lord.” (Expository Times.)
A parallel in English history
In English history there is a striking parallel to the events of this period of Jewish history. Edward VI., under the guardianship of Cranmer, had established a pure form of religious worship in England. On his death, Queen Mary upset everything, and drove into retirement those who escaped the fires of Smithfield for their allegiance to the Protestant faith. With Elizabeth a new era dawned, and the religious life of the country displayed itself in great enthusiasm, resulting in the overthrow of the Armada. The reign of Ahaz was like unto that of Mary; with the accession of Hezekiah begins a reign like unto that of Elizabeth, having in its course the magnificent defeat of Sennacherib’s hosts by the arm of the Lord. (B. Blake, B. D.)
His sons smote him with the sword
The sacred history would seem to imply that this disastrous end came at once; but here twenty years of ignominy count for nothing.
“The mills of God grind slowly, but they grind to powder.” Sennacherib died in 681 B.C., some twelve years after Hezekiah. (B. Blake, B. D.)
The two parricides fled to the land of Ararat, therefore to Central Armenia; Armenian history derives the tribes of the Sassunians and Arzrunians from them. From the royal house of the latter, among whom the proper name Sennacherib was common, sprang Leo the Armenian, whom Genesius describes as of Assyrio-Armenian blood. If this is so, no fewer than ten Byzantine emperors may be regarded as descendants of Sennacherib. (F. Delitzsch, D. D.)
Humiliation of Napoleon I.
Napoleon said that “God was always on the side of the biggest battalions,” and God flung the lie back into his teeth. (S. K. Hocking.)
The end of worldly ambition
Take the greatest rulers that ever sat upon a throne. Alexander, who wept because there were no more nations left to conquer, at last set fire to a city and died in debauch. Hannibal died from poison administered by himself. Caesar, having conquered three hundred cities, was stabbed by his best friends. (G. S. Bowes.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Isaiah 37". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29