Day 117 – Thru the Bible
Today we continue in Isaiah and Psalms.
Isaiah 36 – Isaiah 36–39 largely corresponds with 2 Kings 18–20. Isaiah’s ministry has warned of compromises and temptations, and now we reach a climax in the narrative: will King Hezekiah trust in Yahweh or will his fear of a threatening political force cause him to lose faith in the God of Israel? Though the circumstances differ, the battle of the heart remains the same for us today.
“On what do you rest this trust of yours?” Like the Assyrian commander taunting Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, we often face voices—internal and external—that tempt us to second-guess God’s commitment to us. If we say we trust in God, these voices counter that others have claimed divine protection only to end up helpless and exposed. Anticipating Hezekiah’s plea to the people, the Assyrian commander intimidates the besieged people in their native tongue, warning them not to listen to Hezekiah’s cries to trust in Yahweh for deliverance. No other god has been able to stand up to the Assyrian forces thus far. What makes them think Yahweh will be any different?
The chapter ends with silence and no response. As readers, we are to identify with Hezekiah, feeling the tension and temptation. How will we respond? Gaining courage from him (ch. 37), we are to break the silence of doubt and disbelief. In repentance we are invited to turn our gaze to the God of the exodus who is not like the other gods, for He alone is the Lord of creation. Sennacherib doesn’t frighten the Lord; therefore, he shouldn’t frighten the Lord’s people.
Fear is what happens when we take our eyes off of the Lord (Matthew 14:30).
In Jesus, how do we have a tangible picture of what the love and care of God looks like? Hint: 2 Corinthians 4:6.
Let us therefore look to Jesus (Hebrews 12:2).
Isaiah 37 – King Hezekiah is here a model of personal and corporate repentance amid weakness and threat. While it was a day of “distress,” “rebuke,” and “disgrace”, it was also a day in which the living God was being publicly mocked by the Assyrian leadership. Isaiah’s prophetic perspective and counsel centers around a consistent message we hear throughout this biblical book: “Do not be afraid.” Yahweh—not Sennacherib—is alone truly sovereign, and He can be trusted. Confident of God’s sovereignty, Hezekiah prays honestly and desperately, asking that God would see, hear, and respond to their dire situation in a way that no idol could.
Very often our faith is strongest when we come to see the depth of our need and dependence, for in our weakness the wonder of God’s mercy and tender concern gives us hope and strength (Mark 4:35–41; 5:35–42). Above all, we now have Jesus as the greatest expression of God’s power and mercy. Fear not!
Isaiah tells Hezekiah that “because you have prayed,” God responded. According to Isaiah, human agency and divine sovereignty are not at odds but rather work in beautiful harmony. God’s people are to cry out to Him, to honestly make their concerns known. The Lord of Israel delights to act in response to those prayers as He carries out his good and wise purposes.
How do we see the supreme instance of divine sovereignty and human responsibility working together at the crucifixion of Jesus, which the Bible clearly teaches was the sovereign will of God and yet also the culpable wickedness of men? Hint: Acts 2:23–24; 4:27–28.
Isaiah 38 – After hearing a sobering divine announcement that his death is imminent, Hezekiah doesn’t become a passive stoic. Rather, he becomes an active worshiper, knowing that prophesies based on the direction of present circumstances can provide opportunity for prayer for a change of circumstances. He is convinced that God hears and responds to prayer, so from his depths he makes his groans and fears known to God, weeping bitterly in the process.
God doesn’t rebuke Hezekiah for lack of faith here, but instead graciously responds not simply to the sounds of his words but to the reality of his tears. Thus, God grants him not only an additional fifteen years of life but also the promise of deliverance for the city from the Assyrians—a deliverance for his lifetime, accompanied by a miraculous sign as confirmation.
In Hezekiah’s beautifully written response, he reminds us that ultimately such gracious actions of God point beyond mere physical healing to divine forgiveness: “in love you have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for you have cast all my sins behind your back.”
Like Hezekiah, let us not forget to celebrate God’s gracious provision and answers to prayer with music and delight. For we see with supreme clarity something that Hezekiah could never see; we see with utter confidence that God has cast all our sins behind His back—through the substitutionary work of Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13).
How will you celebrate the finished work of Jesus today?
Psalm 117 – While the gracious promises of God are, in a particular way, for His chosen people Israel, they are promises that God intends to extend to the whole world. The Psalm begins from this assumption: “Praise the Lord all nations! Extol Him, all peoples!
Why should the nations of the world join in the praise of Yahweh, the God of Israel? Because the very steadfast love and faithfulness He has shown over and again to Israel are the very qualities He longs to express also to the nations. Here, then, is the saving God of all the earth, the covenant-making/keeping God who through Israel will reach the nations (see Paul’s quotation of Ps. 117:1 in Romans 15:11).
Consider two implications of this truth:
(1) Even though other nations and peoples do not recognize the God of Israel and, by extension, the God of the Christian faith, as their God, He nonetheless is their God since He is the only true and living God. He has rights over them, both in judgment and in salvation, whether they ever acknowledge this or not.
(2) Because God has promised to bless the nations of the world through the seed of Israel, we can be confident that as the gospel goes forth, God will not fail to bring in people from “every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9). What gospel confidence and hope these twin implications offer. God is the only true and living God, and His intent is to save men and women from all the nations. May the gospel of grace go forth in power under the banner of this saving God, who has come to earth in Jesus to redeem a people for Himself from all the nations of the world.
How does this great news give you hope for your friends and family that may not believe…yet?
What other thoughts or questions does today’s reading bring up?
Some of these notes are from the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible study notes. We highly recommend this study Bible.
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