Crisis: a time of intense difficulty, trouble, or danger.
The people are in a crisis and this was an ongoing long ordeal as God was teaching them to not rely on any other gods, their own wisdom, and other nations to protect them. God was their God and He chose the Children of Israel to be a light to the other nations, but God wanted that light to shine on Him and not themselves. For God to get the glory in our circumstances we must forsake our sins and trust in Him. circumstances.
To say we need to stay focused on God is easy until we face a crisis that takes all our attention and strength and it is in difficulties we examine what we believe and why we believe it and we sometimes wonder if all that we believe is true. As a pastor it is very difficult to watch people walk away from God when life does not go the way they thought it should go or that God did not act the way they thought He should act. We are not promised an easy life in this world even though some have twisted the Bible to make it sound that way. Jesus even told us in John 16:33 that in this life we would have trouble, but many have the false notion that God promised them a fun filled easy life.
Jerusalem and King Hezekiah are facing a crisis that is out of their control and so now they are going to have to learn to rely on God if they are going to survive. There are several things we can learn from this historical event that I believe applies to everyone. Because we all face crisis’s in our lives and so there are some things we need to learn.
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.
- Be Silent
“But they kept silent and did not answer him because the Kings command was to remain silent”
The King of Assyria messenger was trying to cause the people to waiver in their trust of King Hezekiah and especially in God. Our natural reaction is to defend our position but sometimes it is better to be quiet because no amount of discussion is going to help the situation. Our natural reaction is to complain and voice our frustration but it is better to be quiet so that we do not rehearse what is wrong but we focus on God. When to speak and when to be silent is difficult to discern and we must be guided by the spirit of God so we can know which one we should do.
Proverbs 26:4-5 Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself. 5 Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.
Did you know you do not have to answer every person? (I am not good at this) Did you know you do not have to voice your frustrations on social media? Did you know you do not have to complain out loud at all?
Hezekiah told them not to respond and so the people knew they should be silent but a rule to follow is “when in doubt keep your mouth shut”. You can always speak but once you speak there is no more being silent and after you speak you must live with the consequences of what you said. This is difficult when you have accusations being said about you but the people did not even try and defend themselves against false accusations.
“Often it is a waste of time to argue with a strong enemy. These matters would not be decided by the one who could shout the loudest, by the one who had the biggest army, or by the one who could intimidate the other with more gruesome threats. Often Threats and intimidation only reveal that a person is proud and acts like a bully, so trying to reason with people who think they are stronger than God is usually a waste of time. They will eventually have to answer to God.” (The New American Commentary, Isaiah, Pg 606)
The people asked for something earlier from the Assyrians and it was disregarded so they knew no amount of talking was going to help the situation. The Assyrian objectives were clear, and they had only one plan and that was to destroy the people of Jerusalem either by invasion or surrender.
“For some people, it is a big step to realize that there are people in the world who hurt you- not unintentionally the way a foolish person does but because they want to. But it is true. There are some people whose desire it is to hurt others and do destructive things. And with them, you have to protect yourself, your company, your loved ones, and anything that matters to you. They actually want to bring you down. This is difficult for some leaders to come to grips with; they think they can reason with anyone and finally get through. But evil people are not reasonable. They seek to destroy. So you have to protect yourself… Sometimes you must see people for who they truly are, protect yourself, create a very necessary ending, and have nothing more to do with them. The kind of person who likes to bring others down, is intentionally divisive, enjoys it when someone fails, and tries to create the downfall of other or of the company is to be protected against all costs. The longer you have hope for this kind of person, the more vulnerable you are. (Necessary Endings, Dr Henry Cloud, PG 143-144)
The people tore their clothes which was a sign of public grief and distress and with heavy hearts they repeated to King Hezekiah all that was said to them. A crisis reveals more about what we believe than when life is going our way but sometimes the best thing, we can do is be silent. This goes against our world and especially in a world that gives everyone an ability to talk through social media. We tend to over share and voice every frustration rather than be quiet and trust in God.
Exodus 14:13-14 And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”
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!”
When we are noisy and busy, we cannot hear God because our own voice tunes Him out either verbally or in our heads. When we are noisy and busy, we tend to be anxious because our focus is not on God.
This is difficult in a crisis because we are people who must do something and waiting on God is not a natural reaction for us but learning to be quiet and wait on God is the best option no matter what we are going through. Both the people in Jerusalem and the children who were escaping Egypt were in a crisis that if God did not come through then it would have been certain death. Imagine the impact it would make on non-Christians if Christians did not act like the rest of the world by being panicked by every situation they faced. Imagine the impact Christians could make simply by being silent before God.
Isaiah 37:1 As soon as King Hezekiah heard it, he tore his clothes and covered himself with sackcloth and went into the house of the Lord.
- Go to God
“The King went into the House of Yahweh. “What a simple solution but how many of us truly go to God right away when we are facing a crisis in our lives? The king is overwhelmed by the situation and he is told to trust in God and the King knows unless God intervenes on behalf of His people there is no hope so he goes to the Temple to talk to God directly about it. We have that same access to God and yet how many times do we not take advantage of it.
Hebrews 4:14-16 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
The King “Covered himself in sackcloth” which is a rough fabric worn next to the skin as a sign of mourning for the dead and was also a sign for repentance of sin. Hezekiah was accepting the fact that he was the one who did wrong in the eyes of God by not trusting Him and by trying all the human ways possible to keep the Assyrians from attacking Jerusalem. He did not blame his father, who also did not trust in God, he did not blame his people, who were rebellious and he did not blame his situation, he simply went to God and confessed his own sins. King Hezekiah, like many of us, tried to handle everything in his human power first before going to God but now he thought it might be too late, yet he went in to speak to God about it. The Story of the prodigal (Luke 15) son teaches us that no matter where we have been and where we have failed, we do not have to believe a lie that we cannot go back to our father. According to custom when he went into the house of Yahweh, he would have offered a sacrifice for his sin and then brought the nations situation before God in prayer. Going to God is more than just asking for relief of our situation it is seeing that our own sinful behavior is part of the problem.
1 John 1:8-9 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
God had a purpose for the Assyrian invasion and one of the reasons was for the people to clean themselves of sin and learn to trust in Him. Sometimes we go through a Crisis because of our own sin or the sin of others but the reality is that God is going to use it in our lives to teach us to trust in Him and to make us more like Jesus. Going to God is seeing that God has a bigger purpose than the situation we face.
Romans 8:28-29 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[a] for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
WE are set on a path to Holiness that one day will be achieved when we leave this earth and so although we may not fully understand all that we are going through we can know that God is using it somehow FOR GOOD so He gets glory and I become more Holy. King Hezekiah knew they needed Divine Intervention because they were in this mess because of his own disobedience when he ignored God. Like many of us we tend to try to fix everything by our own power and ingenuity instead of going to God first and trusting Him for a divine intervention. The Beauty of Christianity is that it’s never too late to turn to God even if your situation does not change because the main thing is to be in a right relationship with God. Whether you caused the crises or someone else did, just go to God where you will find grace and help in your time of need.
Isaiah 37:2-4 And he sent Eliakim, who was over the household, and Shebna the secretary, and the senior priests, covered with sackcloth, to the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz. 3 They said to him, “Thus says Hezekiah, ‘This day is a day of distress, of rebuke, and of disgrace; children have come to the point of birth, and there is no strength to bring them forth. 4 It may be that the Lord your God will hear the words of the Rabshakeh, whom his master the king of Assyria has sent to mock the living God, and will rebuke the words that the Lord your God has heard; therefore lift up your prayer for the remnant that is left.’”
- Ask Others to Pray
He sent a senior officials and priest to go and find Isaiah to ask Isaiah to pray. In Isaiah 7:3 we see Isaiah having to go and find Hezekiah’s dad but now King Hezekiah was going to find Isaiah. All the people that were sent to Isaiah were earlier called out by Isaiah as being wrong in the advice they were giving the king. Can you imagine being Isaiah and not trying to say, “I told you so”? In Isaiah 20:5-6 Isaiah told them not to rely on Egypt and in Isaiah 30:1-7 he argues against those who went down to Egypt to form an alliance against the Assyrians. In Isaiah 22:1-14 he rebuked those who rejoiced in the defensive preparations made by Jerusalem and the people were partying on roof tops thinking they were safe. Isaiah had repeatedly told King Ahaz and King Hezekiah to not participate in any anti- Assyrian alliances, but they refused to listen to him. The very people that Isaiah criticized now came to him in sackcloth asking for prayer and we are more like Christ when those we have warned come back to us and we do not say “ I told you so”. These men were no longer proud of their position or opinions but knowing that the situation was no longer something they by their own wisdom could navigate humbled themselves and asked Isaiah to pray for them.
One of the main duties of a prophet was prayer (Genesis 20:7) and prayer is always important but even more so in a time of distress, rebuke, and disgrace.
Day of distress: Outward pressures resulting in external danger and inward anxiety
Rebuke: God’s displeasure with the sins His people.
Disgrace: They enjoyed the favor of God but now they were experiencing Gods punishment (Deuteronomy 32:18-19)
Mothers and Children were at risk because this was a life-threatening situation but the good news was that the nation would begin to repent for their sin.
“Perhaps the Lord your God will hear all the words the Assyrians said” King Hezekiah felt so far away from God that he was not sure God would hear his prayers and he was not even comfortable enough to call God his God but only your God. This did not mean that King Hezekiah did not think he did not have a relationship with God, but He knew that the prophet Isaiah had maintained his trust in God to the point that he was still in close fellowship with Him. King Hezekiah knew that he was appealing to God’s grace and Mercy because there was nothing, he had to offer that could satisfy God.
The Living God can act because he is not a God made from human hands. King Hezekiah is calling on God to rebuke the Assyrians who had blasphemed God’s name like how David responded when he heard Goliath blaspheme God. It was not a selfish prayer of save me know but a prayer that was about Gods name being defended by God Himself in His timing. It was not a prayer about making my life better but a prayer about God defending His own name from the slander that the Assyrians have said that God could not save and that God was like all other gods.
Isaiah 37:5-7When the servants of King Hezekiah came to Isaiah, 6 Isaiah said to them, “Say to your master, ‘Thus says the Lord: Do not be afraid because of the words that you have heard, with which the young men of the king of Assyria have reviled me. 7 Behold, I will put a spirit in him, so that he shall hear a rumor and return to his own land, and I will make him fall by the sword in his own land.’”
- Listen to God’s Word
“The Lord says this” Prophets were spokesmen for God and now we have His words written down for us and access to them whenever we want. It is always important to find out what the Lord says about a matter and we do this by going to His word. God by His Spirit will guide you in the everyday decisions you have to make but it is important to fill your mind with His word first.
Philippians 4:6-8 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Peace comes when we fill our minds with the truth of God’s word by reading His word and being around God’s people. (Hebrews 10:19-25) You may not feel like going to church and you may not feel like reading your Bible but if you are going through difficult times it is important that you do. 1 Peter 5:8 says that Satan is a roaming lion and he wants you to be separated from others to make his attacks easier.
King Hezekiah is doing the right thing now by seeking out the words of God and Isaiah answers calmly because he has learned that God is in control even when the storms of life come.
Proverbs 21:1 The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.
Isaiah knew what God had said earlier and knew that there was no need to fear the situation they were in because the Assyrians were instruments in God’s hands to get His own people to repent from their pagan practices and to put their trust fully in Him.
“Don’t be afraid of the words you have heard” Our enemy’s words tend to be louder than what God has told us. Why does what someone said about us ring louder than what God has said? When the Assyrians blasphemed God, they were doing so to disparage and belittle Him in the eyes of the people, but it was God who would be the one to defend His name. Some versions say Behold or Look and it was to get the attention away from the situation and onto what God is going to do. “God will put a spirit in Him”. Although this is debated what it means this would be the inner voice that drives the Assyrians to leave. WE are not sure what was taking place for sure but there was a report that came that drew the Assyrian army (or part of it) away from Jerusalem for a time. God then tells them that Sennacherib would fall by the sword in his own land which was fulfilled 20 years later when he was killed by his sons in a temple worshiping a false god.