Isaiah 36 The Enemies Strategy

The fact that there is evil in the world is not difficult to see and although it is a cause for some people to question if there is  a God the reality is if there is no God, then there is no such thing as evil. The Bible tells us about evil and suffering and although we may not fully understand it this side of Heaven, the reality is that it exist and God uses it somehow for our good and His glory.

“Christians are not dualist; we do not believe that good and evil are equal and opposite. We believe that God is infinitely more powerful than Satan and his evil minions. The fact that an omnipotent God allows Satan not only to continue to exist but also temporarily to harm God’s people will perpetually be one of the most perplexing issues of theology.” (Christ Centered Exposition, Davis,  Isaiah, PG. 204)

The enemy has been on the attack of God’s creation for a long time and one of the things we can learn from the 36th chapter of Isaiah is that the enemy has a strategy to destroy us.

1 Peter 5:8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

The Enemy has strategy to destroy us, but most people live their lives as if an enemy does not exist. A strategy is simply a plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim. The best thing we can do is to know the enemy’s strategy so we do not fall victim to his plans. (2 Kings 18 tells this story as well.)

Isaiah 36:1-3 In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and took them. And the king of Assyria sent the Rabshakeh[a] from Lachish to King Hezekiah at Jerusalem, with a great army. And he stood by the conduit of the upper pool on the highway to the Washer’s Field. And there came out to him Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, who was over the household, and Shebna the secretary, and Joah the son of Asaph, the recorder.

  1. Focus on the situation and not on God

The King of Assyria has made a successful campaign conquering every city in his path and 46 cities have already fallen victim to the Assyrian army.  Jerusalem was a fortified city and so the cost of a campaign to take it would be costly and drawn out and to counter this the King of Assyria sent some delegates to try and persuade King Hezekiah to surrender peacefully. Although they already paid a price to keep from being attacked the Assyrians have broken that agreement and want full surrender of their people which many would be taken captive. The Conduit or aqueduct on the highway to fuller field is where Isaiah confronted King Hezekiah’s dad Ahaz (Isaiah 7:3) and predicted that this would happen and now the Assyrian army is setting up camp which could cut off the water supply to Jerusalem. Jerusalem was vulnerable and with all the people that have flooded into Jerusalem for safety as well as the crops being destroyed or eaten by the Assyrian military, they knew that their situation was turning desperate. The first strategy that the enemy uses is to get our eyes off God and onto our situation.

Colossians 3:1-2 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

We can be distracted in this life so easily by our conveniences and our necessities in life being threatened. When our supplies are being threatened, we tend to look at who is causing this inconvenience rather than looking to God who is our true supplier. Philippians 4:19 says that God will supply all our needs, but we act as if our own energy and ingenuity are going to provide everything we need. Where are you placing your mind when the situations of life get difficult? The enemy’s strategy is to divert your attention away from God and onto your circumstances and so you must focus on God no matter how bad your situation in life gets.

Isaiah 36:4- 7  And the Rabshakeh said to them, “Say to Hezekiah, ‘Thus says the great king, the king of Assyria: On what do you rest this trust of yours? Do you think that mere words are strategy and power for war? In whom do you now trust, that you have rebelled against me? Behold, you are trusting in Egypt, that broken reed of a staff, which will pierce the hand of any man who leans on it. Such is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who trust in him. But if you say to me, “We trust in the Lord our God,” is it not he whose high places and altars Hezekiah has removed, saying to Judah and to Jerusalem, “You shall worship before this altar”?

  • Question our Beliefs

Where do you place your Trust? The Assyrians do not even address King Hezekiah as King but only call him Hezekiah. This was not only disrespectful it was to show that they believed there was only one king and that was the King of Assyria. Hezekiah had been trying to build up his arsenal (2 Chronicles 32:5) so he could defend the city but he knew what he had was no match for the Assyrian military. Hezekiah sought help from Egypt and Samaria and both of those options had failed him just like Isaiah told him they would.

Hezekiah was doing the right thing by no longer trusting in the King of Assyria but he was having a crisis of faith as he was trying to trust in God in the midst of very bad circumstances. Along with the difficulty that King Hezekiah was having trusting in God the enemy asked seven times what the basis of their trust was. Yes, some of the things they trusted like Egypt and Samaria were not good things to place their trust but now they are questioning his trust in God. The message is clear to Hezekiah that he should not trust God for deliverance and surrender his life and city now. The enemy wanted to undermine their confidence in God by getting them to question God Himself. Knowing what you believe and why is important when you face difficulties in life because it is those very beliefs that will be questioned when life is not going the way you would hope it would go.

Hebrews 10:32-36 But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, 33 sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. 34 For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. 35 Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised

It is easy to begin to question our beliefs when life is not going the way we thought it should, but our focus is not to be in this world but the world that is to come. What we believe is grounded in the fact that Jesus Christ lived, died and rose again and because of that we know we have forgiveness of sins and when we leave this earth it is only the beginning  of eternity. Christianity is not based on a Holy Book like many of the religions of the world it is based on the Historical figure of Jesus Christ who was God in the flesh and who died so that we could be back in a right relationship with God.

Isaiah 36:7  But if you say to me, “We trust in the Lord our God,” is it not he whose high places and altars Hezekiah has removed, saying to Judah and to Jerusalem, “You shall worship before this altar”?

  • Cause Division

“Suppose you say to me that you rely on the Lord, didn’t he remove those altars?

2 Kings 18:1-7 In the third year of Hoshea son of Elah, king of Israel, Hezekiah the son of Ahaz, king of Judah, began to reign. He was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Abi the daughter of Zechariah. And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that David his father had done. He removed the high places and broke the pillars and cut down the Asherah. And he broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it (it was called Nehushtan).[a] He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him. For he held fast to the Lord. He did not depart from following him, but kept the commandments that the Lord commanded Moses. And the Lord was with him; wherever he went out, he prospered. He rebelled against the king of Assyria and would not serve him.

King Hezekiah did what was right in the eyes of God and began destroying all the pagan worship that had been mixed with the true worship of God. (2 Kings 18:1-5) The Assyrians did not understand the true God that Hezekiah served and how the true God did not want other gods and idols mixed in with the worship of Himself. What they were doing is trying to pit the people against one another because some of the people may have liked the worship they were mixing in with the true worship of God so this may have been a sore spot for the Assyrians to try and turn the people against their King and against each other. There was also the thought that some of these gods would protect them because many people in that day were worshiping wood or golden idols that were assigned for different areas of protection and provision. They had a god you would pray to for rain, a god for protection, and many other gods instead of going directly to God Himself.

Jesus taught us in Matthew 6 to pray directly to God when we pray “Our Father who art in Heaven” God created us to be in a relationship with Him and it was that relationship that was restored through Jesus Christ. Hezekiah was correct but that did not stop the enemy from trying to divide the people against the king and one another. Division among Christians is still a strategy that the enemy uses today.

Romans 16:17 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.

Paul was addressing this very thing because people were causing division by allowing in false doctrine and the Assyrians were trying to cause division over what they heard King Hezekiah did to all the false idols. Gods church uses Gods word as its standard and not the practices of other religions so we should turn away from false teachers and false doctrine and avoid them. False theology is a divider of the brethren and is also an extremely sensitive subject in our society especially since America is similar to Isaiah’s day with a mixture of pagan worship being introduced into our churches.

Isaiah 36:8 -9 Come now, make a wager with my master the king of Assyria: I will give you two thousand horses, if you are able on your part to set riders on them. How then can you repulse a single captain among the least of my master’s servants, when you trust in Egypt for chariots and for horsemen?

  • Point out our weaknesses

“I’ll give you two thousand horses” The Assyrians knew that even if they gave them 2000 horses to help them go to war that they could not even find enough riders to put on them. It is a sarcastic offer because Hezekiah had nothing to offer them and so wanted again to show how weak they were against the enemy. It is the equivalent to fighting an opponent and saying you will tie one hand behind your back to show that you are so dominant that defeating them will take minimal effort.

They then went on to explain how helpless and weak they were to further discourage the people who could hear the Assyrians who would then pass it on to other people in the city. It was designed to create panic and division. The enemy’s strategy is to get us to focus on our own abilities instead of relying on God who is all powerful and when we begin to look at our own abilities, we will then faulter in our faith.

2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

This is the opposite of what the world says to do. Yes, God has given us gifts and abilities to be used for His glory but even if He calls us to do something, we are not good at we can do it by His power and strength. Moses could not speak well but God called him to confront Pharaoh. Gideon was scared but God called him to go and fight. David was small but God used him to defeat a giant. The reason that we do not need to evaluate our abilities or gifts is because It is not about us.

Isaiah 36:10 Moreover, is it without the Lord that I have come up against this land to destroy it? The Lord said to me, “Go up against this land and destroy it.”’”

  • Question God’s Motives

“Yahweh said go up to the land to destroy it.” They now claim it is God who sent them to destroy them, which was true, but the Assyrians did not know that. In Isaiah 10:5-6 Isaiah tells the people that God will use the Assyrians as a rod to discipline His people. It was a strategy that many invading armies would use to say that the gods of the people had sent them to punish them. Destroy it shows clearly what the Assyrians had in mind to do and they knew if they could get the people to doubt God then it would break their will. Even if they did surrender peacefully the intentions of the Assyrians were to destroy them as a nation and as a people.

Genesis 3:1-5 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You[a] shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

When we are going through a difficult time the enemy’s strategy is always to get us to question Gods love and care. Have you ever found yourself wondering if God loved you? Cares for you? Or even sees you? How God uses evil is beyond our ability to comprehend but even the Apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12 he was given a messenger of Satan to harass him to keep him reliant on God. God has a plan and even though we may not understand it we can trust that God is using all things for His Glory and for our benefit. As we wait on God to help us understand we must never question the love of God for us and His ability to provide what we need.

Isaiah 36:11-15 Then Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah said to the Rabshakeh, “Please speak to your servants in Aramaic, for we understand it. Do not speak to us in the language of Judah within the hearing of the people who are on the wall.” 12 But the Rabshakeh said, “Has my master sent me to speak these words to your master and to you, and not to the men sitting on the wall, who are doomed with you to eat their own dung and drink their own urine?”13 Then the Rabshakeh stood and called out in a loud voice in the language of Judah: “Hear the words of the great king, the king of Assyria! 14 Thus says the king: ‘Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, for he will not be able to deliver you. 15 Do not let Hezekiah make you trust in the Lord by saying, “The Lord will surely deliver us. This city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.”

  • Question God’s Ability

“Do not let Hezekiah persuade you to trust in the Lord when he says “Surely the Lord will deliver us

They went from the Lord “will not save you” because He sent them, to the Lord “cannot save you”.

Aramaic was used in all negotiations, but the Assyrians sent someone who could speak Hebrew for the purpose of making sure other people including the army heard the threats and promises that were being made. The Assyrians wanted them to know that this would be a long siege which would eventually deprive them of food and water and with the number of refugees that already have flooded in for safety this would have been a foreseen conclusion by the people who were in the city. Would they forgo conveniences to serve God or would they allow their desire for comfort for a short time overtake them?

They now accuse King Hezekiah of lying to the people and encourage them to turn against him. The word deliverance occurs 8 times in this chapter and God is known as a deliverer (Exodus 3:8; Psalm 7:1; 70:1) for His own glory (Exodus 18:8) There was no practical solution to how God could deliver them and so trusting God to come through took a giant step of faith. There really was not human answer to how they were going to get out of this and so the enemy knew they needed to attack their faith in God so that they would give in and give up. God is not like us and we need to remember that no matter what circumstances we faith He can overcome anything anytime He desires. Regardless if God comes through the way we want or not our job is to trust Him and to place our faith in Him and do what He has asked of us.

Isaiah 36:16-20 Do not listen to Hezekiah. For thus says the king of Assyria: Make your peace with me[b] and come out to me. Then each one of you will eat of his own vine, and each one of his own fig tree, and each one of you will drink the water of his own cistern, 17 until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of grain and wine, a land of bread and vineyards. 18 Beware lest Hezekiah mislead you by saying, “The Lord will deliver us.” Has any of the gods of the nations delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? 19 Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim? Have they delivered Samaria out of my hand? 20 Who among all the gods of these lands have delivered their lands out of my hand, that the Lord should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?’”

  • Offer an Alternative

“Make peace with me” He tells them to come out and serve him and make him their god. He promises them that they will enjoy their own land for a while until he comes to take them to a land that is as good or better than the one, they have. Satan always promises a better life but, in the end, it is still just captivity.  The Assyrians would take the people and spread them out all over so that they would integrate into the Assyrian world’s customs and beliefs which would dilute their own beliefs and customs over time making them no longer a Jewish nation.

The Assyrians made the prospect of being exiles into another land sound good and sin always seems like a good alternative at first. Hebrews 11:25 says that sin looks good at first and Proverbs 14:12 says there is a way that seems right, but it leads to death. The sales pitch sounded good, but they had to count the cost and see if it was worth it in the long run. Adam and Eve were deceived in the garden into believing a lie and did not trust God and it led to consequences they could not have imagined.

So, what do we do when the alternative is offered even though by giving in it will lead to temporary relief?

1 Peter 5:9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.

James 4:7 says resist the devil and he will flee from you and Hebrews 12:1 says to throw off the sin that so easily entangles us.  What sounds like a good alternative to our current situation will only lead to more bondage and pain if we are not listening and trusting in Gods way. Sin like a vine is something that will eventually overtake you adding weight to your life and eventually destroy you by choking the life out of you.

Isaiah 36:21-22 But they were silent and answered him not a word, for the king’s command was, “Do not answer him.” 22 Then Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, who was over the household, and Shebna the secretary, and Joah the son of Asaph, the recorder, came to Hezekiah with their clothes torn, and told him the words of the Rabshakeh.

The people were silent, and silence is sometimes the most difficult thing to do during bad circumstances and while being antagonized with lies.

Psalm 46:10 Be still, and know that I am God.  I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!

Being silent and still is one of the most difficult things to learn when our world is falling apart. Psalm 46 is about that bad things that are going on around them, yet they will put their trust in God.

The enemy’s strategy has been around for a long time and although the temptation may seem different for each person, we can see how they are working to lead us into bondage. Can you see how the enemy is working to get you to focus on your situation and not on God?  Is the enemy causing you to question what you believe? Is the enemy causing division in your life by getting you to believe false teaching?  Is the enemy getting you to look at your weaknesses instead of God’s strength?  Have you questioned God’s motives and abilities in your life?  Are you tempted by the alternative that is being offered instead of trusting God for deliverance? Know your enemy and you will see how he is attacking you to get you to not put your trust in God.

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