In many ways, this chapter is the resolution to a cliff-hanger! I used to hate when I was kid and my favorite TV shows would have cliff-hangers at the end of the season. I despised having to wait for weeks to find out what happened next. In this section of Isaiah, we are waiting to see how Hezekiah will respond to Assyria’s intimidation. Will Hezekiah trust in the Lord, or will he be influenced by a foreign nation to trust in worldly strength and power, just like his father Ahaz?
Hezekiah receives another letter of intimidation from Assyria, dictated by the Rabshakeh, telling him again that trusting in their God is futile - after all, look at what happened to other countries who trusted in their gods (Isaiah 37:10-13)! Sennacherib intends to intimidate Hezekiah, but instead of intimidating him, he drives Hezekiah straight to prayer - he comes before God earnestly and with humility in verses 14-20.
There’s a lot we could say about Hezekiah’s prayer, but one thing that sticks out to me is that he doesn’t plead to God on the basis of his own character or goodness or faithfulness as Judah’s king. Sometimes when I come before the Lord to ask him for something, I am tempted to bring up all of the things that make me “deserving” of His favor. Instead, Hezekiah pleads to God on the basis of God’s own character -recognizing that He indeed is Lord over all. The gods destroyed by the Assyrians were “the work of men’s hands, wood and stone” (Isaiah 37:19), but Hezekiah’s God is the living God, the God over all of the kingdoms of the earth (Isaiah 37:16-17).
Hezekiah comes before God enraged at how the Assyrians have mocked Him. He asks God to respond to these false claims and show His true might and save Judah. Now, did you catch the reason that Hezekiah desires deliverance for his country? He asks that Judah would be saved so “that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the LORD” (Isaiah 37:20). “Save us, so that others might know you are God!” he cries out. He doesn’t ask for deliverance so that they’ll be spared suffering; he asks for deliverance so that God might be glorified and others may come to see His majesty and worship Him. It’s convicting for me to think about this, because usually when I’m praying to be delivered from something, it’son the basis of my own desire for comfort and ease. I don’t often pray that God would save me from something as a means to give Him glory and to make Him known. Oh Father, help redirect our hearts to trust in You more deeply and to long to see You glorified in every situation!
Isaiah 37:1-20 (ESV):
As soon as King Hezekiah heard it, he tore his clothes and covered himself with sackcloth and went into the house of the Lord. 2 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.’”
5 When 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.’”
8 The Rabshakeh returned, and found the king of Assyria fighting against Libnah, for he had heard that the king had left Lachish. 9 Now the king heard concerning Tirhakah king of Cush, “He has set out to fight against you.” And when he heard it, he sent messengers to Hezekiah, saying,10 “Thus shall you speak to Hezekiah king of Judah: ‘Do not let your God in whom you trust deceive you by promising that Jerusalem will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria. 11 Behold, you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands, devoting them to destruction. And shall you be delivered? 12 Have the gods of the nations delivered them, the nations that my fathers destroyed, Gozan, Haran, Rezeph, and the people of Eden who were in Telassar? 13 Where is the king of Hamath, the king of Arpad, the king of the city of Sepharvaim, the king of Hena, or the king of Ivvah?’”
14 Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord. 15 And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord: 16 “O Lord of hosts, God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. 17 Incline your ear, O Lord, and hear; open your eyes, O Lord, and see; and hear all the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God. 18 Truly, O Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations and their lands, 19 and have cast their gods into the fire. For they were no gods, but the work of men's hands, wood and stone. Therefore they were destroyed. 20 So now, O Lord our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the Lord.”