We are left with a tense cliffhanger at the end of this week’s OT reading, akin to moments of seemingly inevitable defeat for epic heroes in Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones: King Sennacherib of Assyria has laid siege of Jerusalem where King Hezekiah reigns. (The same story is found in 2 Kings 18.) Sennacherib taunts Hezekiah and his people, claiming that neither Hezekiah nor their Lord will be able to save them.
Hezekiah has a choice: to turn to the Lord or not?
The preceding chapters of Isaiah are hopeful and optimistic, with prophecies of deliverance from enemies and judgement on the nations who have oppressed the Israelites. Isaiah 33.20,22 even says: ‘Your eyes will see Jerusalem, a quiet habitation, an immovable tent, whose stakes will never be pulled up, and none of whose ropes will be broken. […] For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our ruler, the LORD is our king; he will save us.’ However, circumstances seem to say something different—this was a real test of faith for Hezekiah.
There is also a condition set out for Israel: ‘Turn back to him whom you have deeply betrayed, O people of Israel (31.6).’ God longs to be reunited with His children, but it requires an act of repentance, i.e. to turn away from their wicked ways and walk in His righteousness once again. If they do so, there ‘will be peace, […] quietness and trust forever (32.17,18).’
We in the current age are not exempt from this. Hebrews uses the example of Israel’s disobedience to teach us a lesson and exhort us not to follow in their footsteps. Similarly, we are to ‘[t]ake care […] that none of you may have an evil, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God (Hebrews 3.12; italics mine).’ And if we turn to the Lord and are obedient? We too are promised rest (Heb. 4).
Spoiler: Hezekiah does turn to and cry out to God (in Isa. 37). And God delivers him and his people. How amazing that Jesus—who also ‘offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears (Heb. 5.7)’—has made a way for us to cry out to our heavenly Father and King!
- When life gets difficult, do you have the tendency to turn to or away from God?
- Do you struggle to cling onto the promises God has made which you haven’t seen come to fruition? What about God’s nature can you draw encouragement from? (see Isa. 37.26; Heb. 6.13–20)
- Do you find your life to be characterised more by rest or a lack of? How might you enter the rest that God has promised to us?
- How often do you look to Jesus as one who has suffered before us yet persevered in obedience?