The proud tyrant only had one more city to destroy. The cities of Judah had fallen like bowling pins, and it looked like the king of Assyria was about to bowl a strike. Jerusalem was the last Jewish resistance, and surely there was no way that the city of this pygmy kingdom could stop his monstrous empire. Or so he thought.
Isaiah 27-39 covers the events surrounding Assyria’s attack on Judah. Judah had, under Hezekiah, rebelled against Assyria, and King Sennacherib of Assyria was having none of it. Lachish had just fallen, and Sennacherib sent a chief officer, called a rabshakeh, to persuade the Jews in Jerusalem to defect. Hezekiah did what any godly leader would do given such dire circumstances: He begged the prophet Isaiah to pray (Isaiah 37:1-4). In a miracle that reminds us of the way God obliterated the elite Egyptian army many years before, God took the lives of 85,000 Assyrian troops. Whereas Hezekiah had gone into the house of his God and received miraculous help, Sennacherib went into the house of his god, only to be assassinated by his own sons (Isaiah 37:14-38).
The Lord guided Isaiah to write the prophecies of chapters 27-35 in the time leading up to this great deliverance. Although the first verse of 27 is part of the “Little Apocalypse” that we looked at last month, the rest of chapter 27 deals with those who had fled Assyria to go to Egypt. In chapter 28, the Lord promised to judge the drunk leaders of the northern kingdom of Isaiah (or “Ephraim”), which the Lord fulfilled when Assyria wiped them out.
Through these chapters, the Lord made promises and threats about Assyria’s imminent invasion. They would eventually fail (29:1-8), and those who had trusted in Egypt for protection would be put to shame (30:1-7, 31:1-9). A king would rule righteously (chapter 32), and the destroyer, Assyria, would encounter destruction (chapter 33). The Lord would judge Edom, the ancient local enemy of Judah, with unquenchable fire (chapter 34), while God would reverse the fortunes of His people as they would return home with everlasting joy (chapter 35).
In these chapters, Christians today learn that God’s people can’t fulfill their mission of blessing the nations if they are ultimately trusting in political solutions. Egypt failed against Assyria. As Hezekiah saw firsthand, the cause of God can only go forth with the power of God. Prayer is the way we express our trust in God. Christians today can, moreover, see that the promises of these chapters exceed what God did in Hezekiah’s day. He promised to make the blind see, the deaf hear, and the ruthless to die out (29:17-21), but these events did and will only happen through Hezekiah’s descendant, the Lord Jesus. The joy that God’s ransomed people experience will only be literally “everlasting” (35:10) at Christ’s second coming.
The section ends with an odd story about Hezekiah showing the Babylonian envoys all of Jerusalem just after God miraculously healed Hezekiah of a terminal illness. Even the godliest fail in significant ways. The post-Assyrian peace was only the temporarily peaceful eye of the hurricane; the second half of the storm would be worse: Babylon. The Lord had, nonetheless, sustained His people through the first half of the storm. They could trust Him to continue to be faithful in the future. We, too, can trust in Him for His faithfulness and power before or after the eye of the hurricane.