Do You Take Your Burdens to the Lord?

Explore the Bible Series

April 9, 2006

 

Background Passage: Isaiah 32:1-39:8

Lesson Passage: Isaiah 37:10-12, 14-20, 33-37

 

Introduction: Stylistically and thematically, this week’s lesson falls into two sections.  Chapters Thirty-two through Thirty-five continue the themes of the previous lessons, and Chapter Thirty-seven through Thirty-nine provide a brief historical interlude that will introduce the second half of the prophecy (Chapters Forty through Sixty-six).

 

For several chapters (beginning as early as Chapter Thirteen), Isaiah recorded God’s complaint against the nations of the Middle East.  He included indictments against Babylon, Philistia, Moab, Syria, Ethiopia, Egypt, Edom, and Assyria; then, the prophet turned his attention to Israel and Judah.  As discussed in an earlier lesson, Isaiah interspersed wonderful promises of salvation and grace among the bitter predictions of judgment upon the Jews.  Chapters Thirty-two through Thirty-five, in the current lesson, belong to this section on the judgment of the nations. 

 

Chapters Thirty-six through Thirty-nine recount important historical information concerning the reign of Hezekiah, king of Judah.  Sennacherib, ruler of Assyria, threatened Judah by sending an enormous army to Hezekiah’s borders.  Ominous pronouncements by the Assyrian general Rabshakeh troubled the good king of Judah, but the monarch sought the wise counsel of Isaiah, and, as a result of the prophet’s direction, the king trusted God for deliverance from his enemies. Please recall that Judah had struggled with forming sinful alliances with pagan nations, and certainly Hezekiah must have experienced some of this temptation.  Thankfully, he resisted the allurement of ungodly alliances, and he placed his trust in Jehovah. Despite the grave threat of the Assyrian conquest of Judah, God miraculously delivered his people from their enemies.

 

After the Assyrian defeat, Hezekiah grew ill, and appeared to stand at the threshold of death.  He asked God to spare his life, and the Lord granted the monarch’s request.  Unfortunately, during the next fifteen years, Hezekiah made some serious mistakes.  Among the grave errors of these last years, Hezekiah allowed pagan Babylonia emissaries to tour the city of Jerusalem survey the wondrous riches and glories of the city.  Certainly, Hezekiah must have revealed some of the treasures of the Temple; thus, he contributed to the defilement of the sacred place by permitting the presence of the Babylonians.  Furthermore, Hezekiah exhibited an unseemly spirit of pride in displaying the Lord’s city to these emissaries.  This behavior, of course, displeased the Lord, and Isaiah predicted grave consequences for the king’s indiscretion. Eventually, the Babylonians would, according to Isaiah, defeat Judah and carry off all of the treasures Hezekiah had accumulated.  Furthermore, the king’s descendants would be held in captivity and serve as eunuchs in the palace of the Babylonians. This prediction of captivity acts as a prelude to the second half of the Book of Isaiah.

 

Outline of the Background Passage:

 

I.                    The Reign of the Coming King (32:1-20)

A.     The Righteous King (vv. 1-8): These verses clearly have messianic significance.  The coming King will rule in justice, and serve as a shelter for his people.  Like streams of water and a great rock, he will nourish and protect. He will bring great change to the people.

1.      He will open eyes and ears, in contrast to the pronouncements of Isaiah 29:9-10 and 31:1 (v. 3).

2.      Hasty men will have understanding, and the tongues of stammerers will speak clearly (v. 4).

3.      The fool and the scoundrel will no longer be seen as honorable (vv. 5-8).

B.     The coming doom of complacent women in Judah (vv. 9-20): The word “complacent” denotes, in this context, a false security.  These women placed their confidence in unworthy objects.

1.      These women will come to catastrophe soon (v. 10).

2.      A call to repentance (vv. 11-14)

3.      A promise of future restoration (vv. 15-20): The Spirit will be poured out, and the people will dwell in the land in peace and security (v. 18).  Great fruitfulness will accompany this settled peace of this time. 

 

II.                 A Cry for Mercy (34:1-24): Some commentators think this chapter reflects the repentant lament of the people of Judah (John Oswalt holds to this view). 

A.     Despite the presence of treacherous and cruel people in Judah, the prophet raised a cry for mercy (v. 2).  This appeal for grace rests upon Isaiah’s conviction of the exalted, glorious nature of God (vv. 5-6).

B.     Justice will lay waste to the nation (vv. 7-14): The sinners in Zion will become afraid at the terrible judgments in the land (See, in particular, verse fourteen). 

C.     God will not judge the upright (vv. 15-24): Such a man will dwell in the heights with God and will find safety and sustenance. Notice, in verses twenty and following, the emphasis Isaiah placed on what the people will see.

1.      They will see the beauty of the Lord (v. 17).

2.      They will not see captivity (vv. 18-19).

3.      They will see a restored Jerusalem (vv. 20-24).

 

III.               A Final Contrast Between the Destinies of the Wicked and the Godly (34:1-35:10)

A.     God’s judgment on the nations (34:1-17)

1.      A summons for judgment (vv. 1-2): God called the nations to his bar of judgment for a final reckoning.

2.      Prediction of a great slaughter (vv. 3-4): The enemies of God will perish in disgrace.  Their slaughter will be so great that the survivors cannot bury all of the bodies.  A great stench will arise and the mountains will flow with blood.

3.      God will make his sword drunk with the blood of his enemies (vv. 5-7):  Vivid imagery creates a sickening impression upon any reader of this section.  The people of Edom will die like sacrificial animals in the Temple. The soil will be saturated with the blood and fat of the Lord’s adversaries.

4.      The utter destruction of Edom (vv. 8-17): Edom, it seems, stands as a symbol of all of the nations who have oppressed Judah and Israel.  The destruction of Edom will resemble a great fire that consumes everything in its path (vv. 9-10). 

5.      God will so completely destroy Edom that wild birds, animals, and plants will inhabit the land (vv. 11-15).

B.     The salvation of the godly (35:1-10)

1.      The wilderness, as a token of the Lord’s mercy, will blossom like a rose (vv. 1-2).

2.      Jehovah admonished the prophet to strengthen and comfort the righteous (vv. 3-4).  The consolation of the Lord’s people rests in the confidence in the justice and saving power of God.

3.      A catalog of the blessings of the Lord (vv. 5-10): The blind will see, the deaf will hear, the lame will walk, the mute will sing, streams will break out in the desert, a highway of holiness will be opened, and the ransomed of the Lord will return in everlasting joy. 

 

IV.              The Assyrian Threat to Judah (36:1-37:38)

A.     The Assyrian conquest of the fortified cities of Judah (36:1-4):

1.      The occasion of the conquest (v. 1):  The “fourteenth year” probably refers to the period in which Hezekiah ruled as sole monarch. Recall that he had governed as regent with his father for several years.

2.      Sennacherib’s aggression toward Judah (v. 2): This evil monarch had recently ascended the Assyrian throne, and, perhaps, he wished to assert his power over the region.  Rabshakeh, emissary of Sennacherib, brought a great army to assail the fortified cities of Judah.  Hezekiah sent three officials to speak with the Assyrians. 

3.      Rabshakeh’s threatening speech (vv. 3-22): This pagan military official mocked Judah, and tried to shame her into submission through his threats.  He knew, of course, that the Egyptians could not help Judah, and he predicted that Jehovah had no power to help in these dire circumstances (vv. 6-7). Hezekiah’s negotiators pleaded with Rabshakeh to speak in Aramaic so the common people would not easily understand his disheartening words.  Of course, the pagan leader, realizing that his speech would unnerve the people of Judah, spoke loudly in the Hebrew tongue. After hearing the blasphemous and cruel oration of Rabshakeh, Hezekiah’s representatives returned to give the dismal news to the King of Judah.

B.     Hezekiah’s response to Rabshakeh (37:1-38)

1.      The king’s humility before the Lord (vv.1-2)

2.      The king’s inquiry to the Prophet Isaiah (vv. 3-4)

3.      Isaiah’s message of assurance to Hezekiah (vv. 5-7)

4.      Rabshakeh’s continued blasphemy against God and threats toward Judah (vv. 8-13)

C.     The king’s prayer (vv. 14-20): Note the God-centered prayer of Hezekiah.  Clearly, the king infused his prayer with great personal pathos; yet, he disciplines his prayer to focus on the glory of God.

D.     The defeat of the Assyrians (vv. 21-38)

1.      God’s assurance that God has designed, long ago, the destruction of the Assyrians (vv. 21-29).

2.      God gave instructions for Judah to prepare for the blessings of the future (vv. 30-32).

3.      God pledged to defend Jerusalem (vv. 33-35).

E.      The angel of the Lord killed 180,000 Assyrian soldiers, and, some time later, the sons of Sennacherib murdered their father (vv. 36-38).

 

V.                 Hezekiah’s Illness, Miraculous Healing, and Final Years (38:1-39:8)

A.     Hezekiah’s grave illness and impending death (38:1-3)

B.     God’s answer to Hezekiah’s prayer for healing (38:4-8)

1.      God added fifteen years to the king’s life (vv. 4-6).

2.      God moved the sundial as a token of his favor toward Hezekiah (vv. 7-8).

C.     The king’s prayer of thanksgiving (38:9-21)

1.      A reflection of Hezekiah’s fear when he learned that he would die (vv. 9-18).

2.      The king’s rejoicing when God spared his life (vv. 19-21)

D.     Hezekiah’s foolish courting of the Babylonians (39:1-8)

1.      Hezekiah’s naivety about the Babylonians (vv. 1-2)

2.      Isaiah’s inquiry about the king’s activities with the Babylonians (vv. 3-4)

3.      The Lord’s postponed judgment on Hezekiah (vv. 5-8)