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Chuck Smith :: C2000 Series on Isaiah 36-40

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Shall we turn to Isaiah chapter 36.

Last week as we completed the thirty-fifth chapter of the book of Isaiah, of course, we got into those glorious prophecies of the future Kingdom Age when Jesus Christ will be reigning over the earth, and how God is going to restore the earth to its Edenic glory. Now we always it seems have sort of curious minds and we wander off on just how God proposes to do the things that He said He is going to do. And in reality, the whys aren't really our real concern. However, we so often make them a concern. You know, "Well, if He did this or if He did that." There are many suggestions as to how the earth might be restored to the Edenic glory and beauty. Here in the thirty-fifth chapter there are references to there being streams in the deserts, pools in the dry places, and so forth. And how that the whole earth is going to be more or less restored, as far as the deserts will be gone. They will blossom as a rose and the whole earth will become very fertile and productive.

With the prophecies of Isaiah there are also those prophecies of the earth being moved out of its place, staggering to and fro as a drunken man, and things of this nature, which has caused some people to theorize that it is quite possible that we will have another polar axis shift. And it could very well explain many of the cataclysmic events that are declared to be taking place during the Great Tribulation. As the earth shakes and as the mountains and the islands disappear. And it talks really of a tremendous cataclysmic upheaval of the earth.

At the present time, the earth is tilted at about, as far as the polar axis in its relationship to the sun, it's tilted at about 23 1/3 degrees, which causes our summer and winter seasons because of this tilt on the polar axis. And now being in the northern hemisphere, the sun is, because of our tilt we are now receiving longer days and will do so up until the twenty-second of June when we come into the summer equinox.

There is a suggestion that there will be another polar axis shift at which time it could be that the earth will come into pretty much a straight alignment with the sun and the earth revolving on its axis. Now if this should result, what would happen is, of course, you would have a medium climate all the way around the earth. You wouldn't really have your seasons any longer. But you'd have pretty much a medium climate around the earth. It would heat up the earth sufficient to melt the ice pack at the North and the South Pole, which would raise the water level around the entire earth.

With the greater warmth it would cause more evaporation of the water on into the atmosphere and would create a much larger moisture barrier within the atmosphere itself. Because of the polar ice packs being melted, you would not have your tremendous cold air, arctic air moving, so all of your winds would become much more mild than they presently are, as the air would move much slower than it now does as a result of the polar arctic winds and so forth that bring these. You have your warm air rising and the cold air moving in. But it would sort of minimize the air movement, much milder winds and so forth than what we presently have.

Probably increased rainfall upon the... around the earth, of course, would raise the water level on all of the shorelines and it would give us a little bit more of a water-earth ratio, rather than 2/3:1/3. And would result probably in the disappearance of all of the desert regions and also all of your extremely hot zones and extremely cold zones so that you'd have a pretty much of a temperate climate all around the world.

We do know that at one time at the North Pole there was tropical vegetation. Mammoths that had been found encased in ice in Siberia have had tropical vegetation still in their digestive tracts. The mammoths were fast frozen there by some cataclysmic event of the past, quite possibly the flood of Noah. We do know that at one time at the South Pole there were great forests because they have found tremendous deposits of charcoal 200 feet under the ice pack, indicating that there were once forests down there. And, again, it could be accountable back to the flood, that at that time there was a polar axis shift causing the tremendous movement of the waters, the oceans and so forth and creating whole new type of continents and entirely new kind of a geography around the earth.

So there are hints and indications in the scripture that this indeed might be what will cause these changing effects. However God works it out, as I say, we only guess. We really don't know. But God is going to work it out and the earth is going to be a beautiful place to live. And so it really doesn't matter. You don't have to put a claim on Hawaii. I don't even know if Hawaii will still be here because during the great cataclysmic changes, it talks about the islands disappearing. It would be a shame, I agree, if Hawaii would go, but you know, no matter where you live it will be beautiful and verdant as God restores the earth.

So chapter 35 is prophetic as it looks ahead into that glorious Kingdom Age. Now from thirty-six to thirty-nine, Isaiah just takes out of the historic records and you'll find that this particular area parallels Second Kings beginning with around chapter 17 or 18. And so he evidently took the historic records. In fact, chapter 37 of Isaiah is identical to Second Kings, chapter 19. So he has just more or less copied the historic records of which Second Kings is a part of the history of the nations of Israel and Judah. And he copied out of the historic accounts these chapters in order to give you the historic background for the prophecies that he has just made of the destruction of the Assyrian forces and so forth. Having prophesied these things, he now gives the historic background that you might see that God's Word was accurate and true and what God foretold would come to pass did indeed transpire.

So these next four chapters are just out of the Kings and other historic records that he had available to him that we do not have now. And they just covered this period of history over which he has been prophesying, the period of history when the Assyrians would be bringing their armies in an invasion of Jerusalem but would be turned back by the hand of God. So this is the history of it.

Now it came to pass in the fourteenth year of king Hezekiah, that Sennacherib the king of Assyria came up against the defensed cities of Judah, and took them. And the king of Assyria sent Rabshakeh (Isa 36:1-2)

Now Rabshakeh is the title. We really don't know what the name of the man was, but that is the title of this particular person.

from Lachish to Jerusalem unto king Hezekiah with a great army. And he stood by the conduit of the upper pool. Then came forth unto him Eliakim, Hilkiah's son, which was over the house, and Shebna the scribe, and Joah, Asaph's son, the recorder. And Rabshakeh said unto them, Go tell Hezekiah, Thus saith the great king, the king of Assyria, What is this confidence wherein you trust? I say, (but they are but vain words) I have counsel (Isa 36:2-5)

He said, "You're saying, actually, that you have counsel,"

and strength for war: now on whom are you trusting, that you would rebel against me? Lo, you are trusting in the staff of the broken reed, of Egypt; whereon if a man would lean, it would go into his hand, and pierce it: so is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all that trust in him. But if you say to me, We trust in Yahweh our God: is it not he, whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah has taken away, and said to Judah and to Jerusalem, Ye shall worship before this altar? (Isa 36:5-7)

Now Rabshakeh shows his ignorance of the worship of the God of Israel or the God of Judah. For Hezekiah did indeed destroy the altars and the high places and the groves in which the children of Israel were worshipping the gods of the Canaanites. The worship of Molech and Baal and Mammon was done in these groves and in these high places. And so one of the pluses of Hezekiah is that when he came to the throne, he tore down the altars to the false gods that the children of Israel had been worshipping. But as is so often the case, those that are looking from the outside in presume to know a lot of what is being taught or said and really they know nothing of the truth. And in this case, Rabshakeh was totally wrong in that he is accusing Hezekiah of tearing down the altars or tearing down the high places of Jehovah. Jehovah actually commanded them not to build the high places and all. He spoke out against them. And it was established that there was only one place that they should gather to worship Jehovah and to offer sacrifices and that was in Jerusalem at the temple. And so Rabshakeh shows his total ignorance of Jehovah in his remarks.

Now he also is assuming that the children of Judah had gone to Egypt for help. But Hezekiah had been counseled by Isaiah not to go down to Egypt for help but just to trust in the Lord. Now, the natural thing to do in this situation, the wise natural thing would have been to go down to Egypt to seek their help because Egypt was also being threatened by Assyria. And so it would have made good natural sense to go down to get Egypt's help. But what often is to us good natural sense isn't always good spiritual sense. And where naturally it would have been a smart move, from a spiritual standpoint it would have been a bad move and God recommended and counseled them against it. He said, "Trust in Me and not in the arm of Egypt or in the arm of flesh." And so Rabshakeh shows two cases of his ignorance of the situation.

One is ignorance of their worship of Yahweh. Secondly, his ignorance of the counsel that God had given to them not to trust in Egypt. So they were not trusting in Egypt. They were trusting completely in the Lord through the encouragement of Isaiah to just trust in the Lord to deliver the Assyrian host into their hand. Now he is belittling them. He said, "Look, give me some money and I'll give you two thousand horses. And let's see if you can find enough men to sit upon those horses. We'll help you to fight us."

Just give us some pledges, and we'll give you two thousand horses, [if you can put men upon them] if you're able to set riders on them. How then will you turn away the face of just one captain of the least of my master's servants, and you put your trust in Egypt for chariots and for horsemen? And do you think that I now come up without the LORD against this land to destroy it? Yahweh said unto me, Go up against this land, and destroy it (Isa 36:8-10).

So now he is blaspheming God. He is saying, "Hey, God is giving me directions. You think I'd come out up here without God's instructions? For Yahweh said to me, 'Come on up and besiege this place.'"

Then said Eliakim and Shebna and Joah unto Rabshakeh, Speak, I pray thee, unto thy servants in the Syrian language [or in Aramaic]; for we understand it: don't speak to us in the Jews' language, in the ears of the people that are upon the wall (Isa 36:11).

Now here are all of the men of Israel sitting there on the wall and so these emissaries have had to kind of figure, "Man, these guys must be demoralizing these people saying, 'If we gave you two thousand horses you couldn't put men on them. And how are you ever going to defy us?' and all." And so they said, "Hey, don't talk to us in Hebrew. Talk to us in the Syrian; we can understand your Syrian tongue. We're Aramaic, we understand that. Speak to us in Aramaic." But this Rabshakeh picked up on what they were noticing and so he said,

[Hey, wait a minute.] Didn't the king send me to talk to you men on the wall? (Isa 36:12)

I don't care about your king Hezekiah.

And he stood, and he cried with a loud voice in the Jews' language, and said, Hear ye the words of the great king, the king of Assyria. Thus saith the king, Don't let Hezekiah deceive you: for he shall not be able to deliver you. Neither let Hezekiah make you trust in the LORD [or in Yahweh], saying, Yahweh will surely deliver us: for this city shall not be delivered into the hand of the king of Assyria. Hearken not to Hezekiah: for thus saith the king of Assyria, Just make an agreement with me by a present [just pay some tribute], and come on out (Isa 36:13-16):

And just work in your fields.

eat of your own vines, and of your own fig tree, drink waters out of your own cistern; Until I come and repopulate you in another land that is just as nice and pleasant as this one (Isa 36:16-17).

Now Sennacherib, the Assyrian king, had the habit or custom of repopulating the peoples from their lands, because as they would move them out of their land, away from their families and away from their friends, they had to learn a whole new culture and were with different people, and it kept them from banding together in a rebellion. And so he's offering them here. "We'll just take you away and we'll give you another land that's just as pleasant and nice as this. Just pay tribute and just wait for us to come and repopulate you." And then again he said,

Beware lest Hezekiah persuade you, saying, Yahweh will deliver us. Hath any of the gods of the nations delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? (Isa 36:18)

So he's now exalting himself against the God of Jacob.

Where are the gods of Hamath and Arphad? where are the gods of Sepharvaim? and have they delivered Samaria out of my hand? Who are they among all the gods of these lands, that have delivered their land out of my hand, that Yahweh should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand? But the men on the wall wisely held their peace, they didn't answer a word: for the king's commandment was, Don't answer him. Then came Eliakim, the son of Hilkiah, that was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and Joah, the son of Asaph, the recorder, to Hezekiah with their clothes rent, and they told him the words of Rabshakeh (Isa 36:19-22).

Now it was a custom that when you were very upset or when you were in real trouble, the thing to do is just tear your clothes. And so these guys have been receiving all of these threats now from this emissary of the king of Assyria and it's been a bad experience, so they tear their clothes and sort of, "Hey, woe is us. We've had it," kind of a thing. And they came in to Hezekiah with their clothes torn.

Chapter 37

And it came to pass, when king Hezekiah heard it, that he tore his clothes (Isa 37:1),

Yeah, man, it is bad. Rip, you know.

and he covered himself with sackcloth (Isa 37:1),

Now sackcloth was something that they put upon themselves to more or less afflict themselves. It was whenever you were in mourning you would put on sackcloth. Sackcloth, as you can well imagine, against the skin must be very irritating. And so the king himself put on sackcloth.

and he went into the house of the LORD (Isa 37:1).

Or he went into the temple. And they said unto him... let's see,

And then he sent Eliakim, who was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and the elders of the priests covered with sackcloth, and they came to Isaiah the prophet. And they said to Isaiah, Thus saith Hezekiah, This day is a day of trouble, and of rebuke, and of blasphemy: for the children are come to the birth, and the mothers do not have enough strength to bring them forth (Isa 37:2-3).

Actually, they were beginning to suffer from the ravages of being closed in by the Assyrian forces. And so with the shortage of food, the strength of the mothers was ebbing and they didn't have enough strength when it came time for a child to be delivered. They'd be in labor, and yet they didn't have enough strength to bring the children forth. He said,

It may be that Yahweh thy God will hear the words of Rabshakeh, whom the king of Assyria his master hath sent to reproach the living God, and will reprove the words which the LORD thy God hath heard: wherefore lift up thy prayer for the remnant that is left (Isa 37:4).

So it's really a request to Isaiah, "Pray. This guy has been down here and we're in trouble. Pray."

So the servants of king Hezekiah came to Isaiah. And Isaiah said unto them, Thus shall ye say to your master, Thus saith the LORD, Be not afraid of the words that you have heard, wherewith the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me. Behold, I will send a blast upon him, and he shall hear a rumor, and return to his own land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land (Isa 37:5-7).

So God's answer to these threats of Sennacherib is that he is going to return to his own land and there fall by the sword.

So Rabshakeh returned, and found the king of Assyria warring against Libnah: for he had heard that he was departed from Lachish. And he heard say concerning Tirhakah king of Ethiopia, He is come forth to make war with thee. And when he heard it, he sent messengers to Hezekiah, saying, Thus shall ye speak to Hezekiah king of Judah, saying, Let not thy God, in whom you trust, deceive you, saying, Jerusalem shall not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria. Behold, you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands by destroying them utterly; and you think you're going to be delivered? Have the gods of the nations delivered them which my fathers have destroyed, as Gozan, and Haran, and Rezeph, and the children of Eden which were in Telassar? Where is the king of Hamath, and the king of Arphad, and the king of the city of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivah? And Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it: and Hezekiah went up unto the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD (Isa 37:8-14).

I like this. He gets a threatening letter. It is a disturbing letter. And what does he do with it? He goes into the house of the Lord. He just spreads it out before the Lord. He said, "Look, Lord, what they're saying about You now. Take care of them, God." And so he spreads this thing out before the Lord.

If we would only learn to take our problems and our troubles to the Lord. Just spread it out before the Lord. "Lord, look what's going on." What a wise thing to do. Just take your problems and spread them out before the Lord.

And Hezekiah prayed unto the LORD, saying, O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, that dwells between the cherubims, thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth: thou hast made the heaven and the earth (Isa 37:15-16).

God is above all gods. There are many gods. For a god is the master passion of a person's life. The Bible speaks that the gods of the heathen are vain. There is only one true and living God. Francis Schaeffer said the time has come when we as Christians must really just... we can't just talk about God anymore, because God is so many things to so many people. You talk about God, and to some person it's an essence of love. It's so many things. So he said the time has come when we need to more or less qualify the term God and not just use the term God, but qualify it by saying, "The eternal living God who created the heavens and the earth." Then we know what God we're talking about. For there is only one eternal, living God who has created the heavens and the earth. Though there are many gods that people bow down to worship, yet there's only one true, eternal, living God. Creator of heaven and earth.

So here of all of the kingdoms of the earth and gods of all of the kingdoms, You're the only One who is really the Creator of heaven and earth.

Incline your ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see: and hear all the words of Sennacherib, which hath sent [which he has sent, actually] to reproach the living God (Isa 37:17).

So here he is. He addresses Him as the living God who has made heaven and earth, the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel who dwells between the cherubims. Now he acknowledges a certain truthfulness to this threatening letter,

Of a truth, LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations, and their countries (Isa 37:18),

Surrounding territories.

And they have cast their gods into the fire: because they were not true gods, but the work of men's hands, they were gods of wood and stone: therefore they were able to destroy them. Now therefore, O LORD our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the LORD, and you only (Isa 37:19-20).

Marvelous prayer. A prayer and the recognizing of the greatness of God, who He is. A prayer in which he lays out the facts as he understands them. And then asks God's help in the situation.

Then Isaiah sent unto Hezekiah, saying, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Inasmuch as you have prayed to me against Sennacherib the king of Assyria: This is the word which the LORD hath spoken concerning him; The virgin, the daughter of Zion, hath despised thee (Isa 37:21-22),

Talking about Sennacherib now, this powerful Assyrian king. Hey, our little girls despised thee.

and they've laughed thee to scorn; the daughters of Jerusalem just shake their heads at thee (Isa 37:22).

Which is a sort of a reproachful kind of a thing.

Who have you reproached and blasphemed? and against whom have you exalted your voice, and lifted up your eyes on high? even against the Holy One of Israel. By your servants you've reproached the Lord [the Adonai] and hast said, By the multitude of my chariots am I come in to the height of the mountains, to the sides of Lebanon; and I will cut down the tall cedars thereof, and the choice fir trees: and I will enter into the height of his border, and the forest of his Carmel. I have digged, and drunk water; and with the sole of my feet have I dried up all the rivers of the besieged places. Hast thou not heard long ago, how I have done it; and of ancient times, that I have formed it? now have I brought it to pass, that thou shouldest be to lay waste defensed cities into ruinous heaps. Therefore their inhabitants were of small power, they were dismayed and confounded: they were as the grass of the field, and as the green herb, as the grass on the housetops, and as corn that is blasted before it is grown up. But I know thy abode, and thy going out, and thy coming in, and thy rage against me. Because thy rage against me, and thy tumult, is come up into mine ears, therefore will I put my hook in your nose, and my bridle in thy lips, and I will turn thee back by the way by which you came. And this shall be a sign unto you, Ye shall eat (Isa 37:23-30)

And this is unto the children of Hezekiah.

You shall eat this year (Isa 37:30)

In other words, God has declared, "I'm going to turn you back and by the way you came is where you'll go." This is the end of the message to Sennacherib. Now to Hezekiah, this shall be the sign that God is going to fulfill this.

this year you will eat that which just grows of itself out of the ground; and the second year [the same thing] that which springs from the same: and in the third year you're going to sow the land, and reap, and you'll plant the vineyards, and you'll eat the fruit thereof (Isa 37:30).

God is going to restore and remove the enemy entirely out of the land.

And the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah shall again take root downward, and bear fruit upward: For out of Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant, and they that escape out of mount Zion: for the zeal of the LORD of hosts shall do this. Therefore thus saith the LORD concerning the king of Assyria, He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shields, nor cast a bank against it. By the way that he came, by the same he will return, and shall not come into this city, saith the LORD. For I will defend this city to save it for mine own sake, and for my servant David's sake (Isa 37:31-35).

This is the word of the Lord through Isaiah to king Hezekiah. Now if you were king and the prophet of God gave you this message, how would you react to it? Here you're facing the strongest army in the world. And you are admittedly weak. The guy has said, "Hey, we gave you two thousand horses, you don't have enough men to put on them." They've wiped out all of the enemy, all of the other lands which were, many of them, stronger and more powerful than you are. Now the word of the Lord comes from the prophet Isaiah saying, "Don't worry about it. They'll never step inside of this city. They won't shoot an arrow in. By the way they came they're going to turn back."

Well, really what can you do? You're really sort of defenseless anyhow. You might as well just hope that the prophet's right 'cause you can't do much else. Fortunately in this case, the prophet is right, for we read,

Then the angel of the LORD went forth, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred and eighty-five thousand: and when they [that is, the children of Judah] awoke early in the morning, behold, the Assyrian army were all dead corpses. So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed, and he went and returned, and dwelt at Nineveh (Isa 37:36-37).

Which is the capital of Assyria. He returned to Nineveh in defeat, his armies destroyed by an angel of the Lord.

And it came to pass (Isa 37:38),

Remember, he said he's going to go back to his land and there he would fall by the sword.

It came to pass, as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer his sons smote him with the sword; and they escaped into the land of Armenia: and Esarhaddon his son reigned in his stead (Isa 37:38).

So God's word was fulfilled.

Chapter 38

In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came unto him, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Set your house in order: for you shall die, and not live (Isa 38:1).

These are pretty heavy tidings. You get sick and a prophet of God comes and says, "Hey, set your house in order, man, this is it. You're going to die and not live." There are things that we must take care of before we die. Important things to take care of. The most important thing that I take care of before I die is my relationship with God. And that's really what the prophet was referring to. "Set your house in order. You're going to die and not live."

So Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall, and prayed unto the LORD, And said, Remember now, O LORD, I beseech thee, how I have walked before you in truth and with a complete heart, and have done that which is good in your sight. And Hezekiah wept. Then came the word of the LORD to Isaiah, saying, Go, and say to Hezekiah, Thus saith the LORD, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen your tears: behold, I will add fifteen years to you. And I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria: and I will defend this city. And this shall be a sign unto thee from the LORD, that the LORD will do this thing that he hath spoken; Behold, I will bring again the shadow of the degrees, which is gone down in the sun dial of Ahaz, ten degrees backward. So the sun returned ten degrees, by which degrees it was gone down (Isa 38:2-8).

Interesting thing. Just to prove a point that what God said is true. "All right, I'll give you fifteen years. Don't cry. And to prove it, I'll bring the shadow on the sundial back ten degrees." So here is actually a long day. Ten degrees backward, and by the time it started again would give you about a forty-five minute lapse time here as God took... Now how did God pull that one off? I don't know. There are those who scoff at the miracles in the Bible and try to either rationalize them completely or just say that they didn't exist. We have the case in Joshua's time where the sun stood still for the space of almost a day in order that Joshua was able to completely wipe out the enemies.

Now if the sun stood still in the evening time and the moon there in the valley of Ajalon, then it would mean that over here on this side of the earth they would have had a long night, which, of course, the Aztec and Inca records do record. And Velikovsky in his book, Worlds in Collision, traces this long day of Joshua around the world. Now there are the scoffers who say, "Wait a minute, the sun doesn't revolve around the earth anyhow. We have that kind of an illusion only because the earth is spinning on its axis. So rather than the sun standing still, it must be that the earth came to a halt. But the earth is spinning at a thousand miles an hour, and if the earth would suddenly stop, everybody would be thrown off." And so they tried to deny the reality of that miracle through this idea that anything stopped spinning at a thousand miles an hour, everything would be thrown off of it.

Well, who said God put on the brakes that hard? Say God took fifteen minutes to slow the earth to a stop? Oh my, that's easing down, because from a thousand miles in fifteen minutes, you would hardly even notice the brakes being applied at that speed. So if God, say, slowed it down in five minutes, it would be like applying your brakes at sixty miles an hour to stop at a signal that is a half a mile away. So there's no problem. God didn't just slam on the brakes, yank, and everybody goes flying off. He just applied the brakes, stopped the thing. The miracle to me is how did He get it going again? Now here is a little bit better. He actually reversed the thing a little bit. Let it go back ten degrees before He fired it up. So the only reason why people have difficulty with these facets of scriptures is because their concept of God is so small. And the reason why their concept of God is small is because they have created their own ideas of God.

If you believe in the God that is revealed in the Bible, then these things present absolutely no problem at all. "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth" (Genesis 1:1). That's a pretty big God. And if He created the heavens and the earth, He has no problem in guiding and directing and in stopping if He wants the rotation of this earth upon its axis for a moment. Starting it up again. It's an interesting thing Velikovsky in his book believes that when God started up again, He started in the opposite direction. That actually the earth used to rotate from west to east. He believes and seeks to prove it in his book. But interesting. God just to prove to the king, "Hey, I mean it. Show you little proof just to encourage you."

Now when Hezekiah was sick, this is what he wrote. You talk about a negative confession. I mean, this guy had a classic negative confession. So this is what Hezekiah wrote when he was sick.

I said in the cutting off of my days, I shall go down to the gates of hell: I am deprived of the residue of my years. I said, I shall not see the LORD, even the LORD, in the land of the living: I shall behold man no more with the inhabitants of the world. Mine age is departed, and is removed from me as a shepherd's tent: I have cut off like a weaver my life: he will cut me off with pining sickness: from day even to night wilt thou make an end of me. I reckoned till morning, that, as a lion, so will he break all my bones: from day even to night wilt thou make an end of me (Isa 38:10-13).

Boy, what a negative confession! Now if what you say is what you get, then Hezekiah really would have been done in. But in spite of all of his negative confessions, God answered his prayer and gave him fifteen years. But that brings up a problem. Should he really have died at that time? It would appear that God's primary will for Hezekiah was that he should die at that time.

There's a theological debate on whether or not prayer really changes things. Can I by prayer really change the mind of God? God declares, "Behold, I am God, I change not" (Malachi 3:6). Should I by prayer seek to change the mind of God? What would be the purpose of changing the mind of God? The only purpose I can see of seeking to change the mind of God is that I've got a smarter thought than God does. "Now God, I want You to see it my way."

It is interesting how that so often in our prayers they are really real hyped jobs in trying to, in a sense, change the mind of God-at least the way we pray it. It is as though we're trying to make God see it our way and to convince God that our way is right. To sell God on my program here. But is that really the real thrust of prayer and the purpose of prayer, to change the mind of God? Does prayer really change God?

Now it would appear that there is a direct will of God for our lives, but then there is this area that we might title the permissive will of God for us. And quite often, God's direct will is expressed first. This is what is best. But I get in there and I begin to push and shove and insist and God says, "Well, all right. If that's what you really want, have at it."

It would appear that this did happen when Barak the king sent to Balaam to curse the people that were coming through the land. And Balaam prayed unto the Lord and the Lord said unto Balaam, "Do not go down to the king. Do not curse these people because they are My people." So Balaam sent back a message to Barak and said, "I'm sorry, king, I can't come down. The Lord won't let me. Neither can I curse these people for the same reason." So king Barak sent other messengers with great rewards, a lot of loot, and said, "Just come on down and counsel me concerning these people that are coming through the land." So Balaam was a greedy fellow and when he saw all the loot that the king was offering for counseling fees, he thought, "Wow, could I ever use that! Get me a new donkey and a new house." And greed really filled his heart.

So he prayed again. Now God had already said don't go down. But I can hear Balaam this time, "Oh, Lord, just please let me go. Lord, just, I'll be good, Lord. But oh, just let me go down, Lord. After all, what can it hurt me going down, Lord? Please, God." God finally said, "All right, go ahead, but you just be careful you don't say any more than what I tell you." But the anger of the Lord was kindled against Balaam. Evidently, you see, though Balaam insisted and God more or less gave him a tentative, "Sure do it," yet it wasn't God's direct will for this guy's life because an angel of the Lord stood in the path with a drawn sword. And that wise little donkey saw the angel though Balaam didn't. And he turned off the path and Balaam beat him and got him back on the path. But again the angel of the Lord stood where there was a cliff and the donkey edged up against the side of the cliff and got old Balaam's ankle, and he beat the donkey again and got him going. The third time and the angel stood in the path there was no place for the donkey to go; he just sat down. And Balaam began to beat him. And the donkey turned around and said, "You think that's right beating me three times? Haven't I been a faithful donkey ever since you owned me? Have I ever done anything like this to you before?" Balaam was so angry he answered the donkey back and said, "You bet your life I'd do right to beat you. If I had a stick I'd kill you."

He evidently was insisting that God allow him to go and God permissively said, "Yes, go." And yet, it wasn't the direct will of God. God allows things that are not His direct will. I can force my will. I can force my way. Where God more or less reluctantly says, "Well, if that's what you want, have at it." But yet, it isn't really pleasing to God. Now whenever these issues are forced, then the consequences are always disastrous.

I believe that Hezekiah's time to die had come and I think he would have been much better off. I know the nation of Israel would have been much better off had Hezekiah died at that time. Those extra fifteen years that God allowed him were disastrous. For two years later he had a son named Manasseh who became the ruler, the king over Judah when Hezekiah died, and Manasseh was indeed the foulest, rottenest king that ever reigned in Judah. And it was a result of Manasseh's ungodly reign that Judah got on the road downhill from which it was never able to recover. Now had Hezekiah died when God planned and wanted him to die, then Manasseh would never have been born and the history for the nation could have been different.

Whenever we insist upon our way over God's, you're not getting the best. God's way is always the best. Though we may not understand it or see it at the time, God's way is always the best. So it is possible that through our pig-headed bullishness, we might be able to get God to consent to something that we desire. But the result is always negative. How much better that we learn to say, "Oh God, Thy will be done," and to flow in the center of God's will. So Hezekiah prayed, cried, oh, he really was going at it.

Like a crane or a swallow, so did I chatter (Isa 38:14):

All night long here he was chattering like a little bird.

I did mourn as a dove: mine eyes fail with looking upward: O LORD, I am oppressed; undertake for me (Isa 38:14).

You see, he was really going at it. And God said, "Come on, you want fifteen years, all right." The guy's just really going at it. God said, "Ah, shut up. Fifteen years, go ahead, take it."

What shall I say? he hath both spoken unto me, and himself hath done it: I shall go softly all my years in the bitterness of my soul. O Lord, by these things men live, and in all these things is the life of my spirit: so wilt thou recover me, and make me to live. Behold, for peace I had great bitterness: but thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption: for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back. For the grave cannot praise thee, death cannot celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth. The living, the living, he shall praise thee, as I do this day: the father to the children shall make known thy truth. The LORD was ready to save me: therefore will we sing my songs to the stringed instruments all the days of our life (Isa 38:15-20)

So this is a song that he wrote during this time and it's a psalm of Hezekiah.

For Isaiah had said, Let them take a lump of figs, and lay it on as a plaster on his boil, and he shall recover. Hezekiah also had said, What is the sign that I shall go up to the house of the LORD? (Isa 38:21-22)

Chapter 39

At that time Merodachbaladan, the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a present to Hezekiah: for he heard that he had been sick, and that he had recovered (Isa 39:1).

Now here's another bad thing that came out of his recovery. The king of Babylon sent his son with a message of, "Glad you're well and all."

Hezekiah was glad of them, and showed them the house of his precious things, the silver, and the gold, and the spices, and the precious ointment, and all the house of his armor, and all of his treasures: there was nothing in his house, nor in all his dominion, that Hezekiah did not show them. Then came Isaiah the prophet to king Hezekiah, and said unto him, What did these men say to you? and where did they come from? And Hezekiah said, They are come from a far country unto me, even from Babylon. And Isaiah said, What did they see in your house? And Hezekiah answered, All that I have in my house they have seen: there is nothing among my treasures that I did not show them. Then said Isaiah to Hezekiah, Hear the word of the LORD of hosts: Behold, the days come, that all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have laid up in store until this day, shall be carried to Babylon: and nothing shall be left, saith the LORD. And of thy sons that shall issue from thee, which thou shalt beget, shall they take away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon. Then said Hezekiah to Isaiah, Good is the word of the LORD which you have spoken. He said moreover, For there shall be peace and truth in my days (Isa 39:2-8).

So it would appear that God's time for Hezekiah had come and that nothing but evil came out of the prolonging of his years fifteen years. When God's time comes to go, man, let's go.

Now this is the end of what they call Part One of the book of Isaiah. Thirty-nine chapters comprise the first part, which are, more or less, equivalent to the thirty-nine chapters of, or thirty-nine books of the Old Testament. Now the next twenty-seven chapters come into a whole new theme. It's a whole...in fact, it is so different that it has caused some critics to say that they are actually two Isaiah's and that another Isaiah wrote this second part because it is so different in style and all than the first part of Isaiah.

Chapter 40

But he's talking about a whole new message of God for the people as we get into the new covenant of God. And so it is appropriate that this new section of Isaiah begins with the word of the Lord declaring,

Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD'S hand double for all of her sins (Isa 40:1-2).

So the day of God's forgiveness, reconciliation.

The voice of him that cries in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God (Isa 40:3).

You remember when John the Baptist began his ministry that many people gathered out to him there at the Jordan River. And the Pharisees came unto John and they said, "Who are you? Are you Elijah?" He said, "Nope." "Are you Jeremiah?" "Nope." "Are you the Messiah?" "Nope." "Then who are you?" And he quoted this scripture, "I am the voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord" (John 1:23). So he quoted to them this prophecy of Isaiah. And so we are coming into the new age, into the New Testament era, as from this point on Isaiah really begins to zero in on the coming Messiah. "The voice of him that cried in the wilderness, 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.'"

Every valley shall be lifted up, every mountain and hill will be brought down: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain (Isa 40:4):

The Lord's going to smooth out things. Going to fill in the valleys and bring down the hills. He's going to straighten the crooked paths and smooth things out.

And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it (Isa 40:5).

And so God declares the day when His glory will be revealed and all will see it. What a glorious day! How we anticipate that glorious day of the return of Jesus Christ when every eye shall see Him in His glory. That's more or less an introduction to this new section. And now he cries out declaring the weakness and the frailty of man as it is contrasted with the glory and power of God.

The voice said (Isa 40:6),

That is, the voice of the Lord to Isaiah.

Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? [Cry] All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: The grass withers, the flower fades: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withers, the flower fades: but the word of our God shall stand for ever (Isa 40:6-8).

So men are as grass. Actually, "What is life?" James said, "It's just like a vapor, it appears for a season and then it's gone" (James 4:14). It's like, "the grass of the field, which today is, and is tomorrow cast into the oven" (Luke 12:28). Speaking of the brevity of life and the frailty of life. Like a flower, it blossoms forth and then it fades away. That's what it's all about. I'm on the fading end. So is life. We're here for a time and then we pass on. But there is something that endures-the Word of the Lord. Jesus said, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My Word will never pass away" (Matthew 24:35). Oh, the value and the power of the Word of God. It is forever. Man, one generation will come and another will go and you got the changing generations of humanity, but God's Word lasting right on through from one generation to the next.

O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God! Behold, the Lord GOD will come with a strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work is before him (Isa 40:9-10).

The coming of our Lord.

He shall feed his flock like a shepherd (Isa 40:11):

Now this is obvious-a reference to Jesus Christ. "Behold, Jehovah God will come with a strong hand. His arm will rule. Behold, His reward is with Him and His work before Him." Jesus said, "Behold, I come and My reward is with Me" (Revelation 22:12) in His messages to the churches. For He shall feed His flock like a shepherd.

he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young (Isa 40:11).

Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd: I lay down My life for My sheep" (John 10:11). "He shall feed His flock like a shepherd." And then it declares of the greatness of His power and of His glory.

Who measured the waters in the hollow of his hand (Isa 40:12),

The great oceans of the earth-the Atlantic, Pacific, Antarctic, Arctic, Indian-measured them in the hollow of His hand. That's a pretty big God. When you fly over the Atlantic, the Pacific, you see all that water that is there. There it is; He's measured it out. Here, let's create the oceans. How great! But even more,

he meted out heaven with the span (Isa 40:12),

The measurement for the universe. Now someone came to me this morning and said that he read an article the other day that we have just discovered a galaxy that is fifty billion light years away. Now I have to question that figure. How do they know it's fifty billion light years away? Could be forty-nine. I mean, when you get that far off, how can you really know? You see, there's a lot of assumptions that have to be made to come up with a figure like that. One of the assumptions is that light always travels at a hundred and eighty-six thousand miles a second. That may not be a correct assumption. There may be variables that will cause a change in the speed of light that we don't know. Aspects of physics that may be that the speed of light isn't constant. So it's a lot of guesswork.

But at any rate, when he told me that he read this article that they found this galaxy fifty billion light years away, I said, "Wow, God's even bigger, isn't He?" 'cause He measured the thing with His span. I don't care how big it is. "He meted out the heavens with the span."

How big is your God? It is so important that our theology be correct, because if our theology is not correct, then we're going to have problems all the way along. Knowing God is the most important thing in the world. Knowing the truth of God. And God has revealed the truth concerning Himself in this book. And God is so great and so vast and so powerful, so awesome that He measured the waters in the palm of His hand and He meted out the heavens with the span.

he comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance? (Isa 40:12)

God comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure. Have you ever wondered how many grains of sand there might be here upon the earth? You know that they've actually sort of come up with a figure? And do you know that the figure that they have come up with is approximately what they figure to be the number of stars in the heaven? Now it is interesting that when God said to Abraham, "Even as the stars of the heaven are innumerable and the sands of the sea, so will your descendants be innumerable" (Hebrews 11:12). But God made a comparison between the stars of the heaven and the sands of the sea and they believe that it is something like 1025 power is the number. By weighing the earth and the grains of sand and so forth, got a formula by which they came to that. But who knows? Who counteth? Once more, who cares?

Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD (Isa 40:13),

I have. Man, I've directed God in so many things. I've sought so many times to take over the reins and tell God how He ought to do it. "Now Lord, got it all figured out. If You'll just do this and this and this, just it will be smooth, Lord, and just really work like a clock." I've sought to direct God, Spirit of the Lord.

or being his counselor who hath taught him? (Isa 40:13)

In reality, we've all endeavored to do this a time or two. To teach God what's best for us.

With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and showed to him the way of understanding? (Isa 40:14)

Now as we realize the greatness and the vastness of God, and surely the power and the wisdom of God, how foolish for me to attempt to instruct God in anything! And yet, so often our prayers are like little information times. "Now Lord, I want You to know what's going on. And I don't like it." And I start laying the trip on God. "This is what they did and this is what I said." Hey, He... What are you telling Him that He doesn't already know? Who's given God understanding? Who's instructed Him?

Our very endeavor to do so only indicates our lack of a true comprehension of the omniscience of God. This is what makes these doctrines of prosperity and everybody ought to be healed and all of this so ridiculous, because the effect of these doctrines is to place man in the driver's seat and God in the servant's seat. And now I am directing God what to do and how to do it. And rather than me taking my orders from God, it's reversed and God's got to be taking orders from me. Rather than God's will being done, there's an insistence that my will be done. And that whole system just is utterly blasphemous! To think that I know better than does God. What should be done in a given situation. Or I know what's best for me. I don't. I do. What's best for me is God to work out His will perfectly and completely in my life. That's what best for me. Nothing finer could ever happen to me.

Behold, the nations are like a drop of a bucket (Isa 40:15),

So that's where that phrase "a drop in a bucket" has come from.

and are counted as the small dust of the balance (Isa 40:15):

In those days, of course, they did all of their weighing in balanced scales. They had the little weights, and in Proverbs, you remember how God doesn't like divers weights? Some of the crooked merchants would have one weight for buying stuff and another weight for selling stuff. And they were both marked one pound, but one of them was heavier than the other. And so if you're buying you use one set of weights and in selling you use another set. And God said, "I hate those divers weights." And He really came down on them in the Proverbs. Now other merchants in endeavoring to show how totally honest they were, before they would put the merchandise in the scales, they would blow the dust off. So give me a pound of the almonds. And so he blows the dust off the scale and I think, "My, he's such an honest man. I'm not having to buy the dust. He's going to give me an honest weight. After all, he's taking care even to blow the dust off." So it was a common practice of blowing the dust off the scales before you weighed it in order to show how honest you were. So it's a figure of speech that Isaiah used that would be very vivid and picturesque to the people 'cause they could see the merchants blowing the dust off the scale. And as that dust is blowing off the scales, Isaiah is saying, "That's how the nations are before God. He can blow any of them out of existence in a moment."

Nations that become so powerful, so strong, the Assyrian, like dust in the balance. God can blow them right out into oblivion. And God did. You haven't met an Assyrian lately, have you? God blew.

behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing. And Lebanon (Isa 40:15-16)

The tremendous forests that were in Lebanon at that time, should you cut the whole forest down,

It would not be sufficient to burn [for an altar of sacrifice unto God], or if you took all of the beasts they would not be sufficient for a burnt offering sacrifice. All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and emptiness. To whom then will ye liken God? what kind of a likeness will ye compare unto him? (Isa 40:16-18)

And he's talking now of the folly of the people making a little idol to represent God. What are you going to make Him like? So you take a piece of wood or you take gold or silver and you start to carve. What are you going to carve to make a likeness of God? What are you going to make Him like? Now you think of the Hindu religion and the gods that they have carved out. Ugly, gargoyle kind of things. Multi-legged and armed and weird. Is that what God looks like? If you're going to make a likeness of God, what kind of a likeness you going to make, Isaiah says.

The workman melts a graven image, and the goldsmith spreads it over with gold, and he places silver chains on it. He that is so impoverished that he hath no oblation chooses a tree (Isa 40:19-20);

Now you don't have enough money to make a gold god, then you'd go out and get a tree and you start carving out a little wooden idol.

a tree that will not rot (Isa 40:20);

So you seek to get good strong wood.

and then he seeks a cunning workman to prepare a carved out image, that he can set it up and worship (Isa 40:20).

And say, "That's my god."

Have ye not known? have ye not heard? has it not been told you from the beginning? have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is he that sits upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; he stretches out the heavens as a curtain, and spreads them out as a tent to dwell in (Isa 40:21-22):

The greatness of God. Now what are you going to make Him like and what are you going to fashion to look like your god? Don't you realize how vast and great and so over-awing that He is that there's no representation that you can make in a likeness of Him.

Notice He sits upon the circle of the earth. The Bible did not and does not and has never taught a flat earth. That was the view of the scientists of those days, not the men of God. The Bible has never taught that the earth rested on the back of an elephant or a turtle, or was being held by Atlas. That was taught by the men of science in those days. But Job said, "He hanged the earth on nothing" (Job 26:7). He was scoffed at. How ridiculous! And so here, the circle of the earth. The earth is round. God's Word declared it. Scientists finally caught up with it.

He brings princes to nothing; he makes the judges of the earth empty. Yea, they shall not be planted (Isa 40:23-24);

I guess some of the judges are empty. Boy, I'll tell you. Did you read in the L.A. Times this week? God help us! They've got new parlors in Los Angeles, Hollywood. Hollywood's got everything. Where you can go in and get beat for a half hour. Go in and get flogged. And they said the majority of their customers are judges in Los Angeles. And they say that it relaxes you and stimulates you sexually so you go home and ravish with your wife. But they say it isn't really a sexual experience. Though, of course, the masochist can have an orgasm by being beat and all. But you go in and pay these people to flog you for half an hour. Now if that isn't sick, I don't know what is. And they're bragging about the fact that so many of their customers are judges in Los Angeles. That they go in before the court in the morning and they get flogged and then they come to court and decide the future of people's lives. God keep me out of court in L.A., I'll tell you. But what I know of some of the Orange County judges, I wouldn't want to be in court here either.

I feel like Habakkuk sometimes. "God, please don't show me anything else. I can't take it. Lord, I don't want to know it. Ignorance is bliss. God, I'd just rather not know these things. It just upsets me so much!" And Habakkuk, he said, "Lord, please, the whole thing is going down the tubes and You're not doing anything, God. I'd just rather not know. God, please, just don't show me anything else. I'm just tired of seeing it, Lord. I just can't take it. I just... Don't let me see it."

Yea, they shall not be planted; yea, they shall not be sown: yea, their stock shall not take root in the earth: and he shall also blow upon them, and they shall wither, and the whirlwind shall take them away as stubble (Isa 40:24).

The princes and the judges of the earth.

To whom then will ye liken God (Isa 40:25),

What are you going to compare Him to? What kind of a standard would you use in trying to compare with God? Who is the equal? You see, how can you compare the finite with the infinite? There is no even basis for comparison. There's no standards.

Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created all of these stars, that brings out the constellations and all by their number: and he calls them all by their names (Isa 40:26)

The Bible says that God calls all the stars by their names. And if there's 1025 power stars, that's a good memory. And these names aren't George or Joe, but they are Arcturus and a lot of really fancy names. God calls them all by their names. Who you going to liken Him like? Who you going to make Him equal to? Who's created all of these things?

by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth. Why do you say, O Jacob, and you speak, O Israel, [saying] My way is hid from the LORD, and my judgment is passed over from my God? (Isa 40:26-27)

What makes you think you can hide from God? What makes you think God isn't going to judge you? The prophet is saying to the people, "You're only fooling yourself if you think that you've hidden it from God. You're only fooling yourself if you think that God isn't going to bring judgment."

Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, Yahweh, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding (Isa 40:28).

There is no way by which the understanding or wisdom or knowledge of God can be measured. He's omniscient. And yet,

He gives power to those who are fainting; and to those who have no might he increases strength (Isa 40:29).

How beautiful that is. That this great God who created the universe will strengthen me and help me in my weakness. Paul the apostle said that he had a weakness, but he said that that weakness was something that he actually gloried in in order that God's power might be demonstrated through him. For he said, "His strength is made perfect in our weakness" (II Corinthians 12:9). And so it's a glorious thing that I recognized my weakness, because then I learn to rely on Him and trust in Him. As long as I think I'm strong, as long as I think I can manage it, as long as I think I've got it. I can handle it, I've got it, don't worry. I'll take care of it. Man, I'll tell you, I'm heading for disaster. But when I say, "Hey, there's no way. I can't do it." Don't panic. Feel secure, because in my weakness, His strength is perfected.

Now we're so prone to feel secure when a guy says, "Well, don't worry, I'll handle that for you. I can do it." We think, "All right, this guy has really got it together." Hey, watch out, man. That's the kind of guy that's going to fold when the pressure really gets heavy. But the guy who is not certain of himself but certain of his God is the one you want to be around when the chips are down. Because that is the man through whom the power of the eternal God will be demonstrated. He gives power to the faint. And to them who have no might He increases strength.

Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint (Isa 40:30-31).

For the strength of the Lord is their portion and shall sustain them. This is the beginning of this glorious new section of the book of Isaiah and it is exciting. These last twenty-seven chapters of Isaiah are just thrilling to read of what God has in store for the future.

May the Lord be with you, watch over and keep you through the week. And may His strength be perfected in your weakness as you learn to just wait upon the Lord for His work and His help in your lives.

CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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