Isaiah 37 God’s sovereignty over evil
Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, has beseiged Jerusalem during the days of King Hezekiah. The situation is hopeless. Sennacherib and his military commander, the Rabshakeh, are mocking the Jews and their God. This has always been one of my favorite Bible stories because it is a hopeless situation. The Jews are unable to do anything to answer the mockery. They are completely powerless and unable to deliver themselves, and yet the end of the story is 185,000 Assyrian soldiers being struck down by God in a single night and the king of Assyria slinking back to where came from, humiliated and defeated, ultimately struck down by his own sons exactly as God declared through his prophet in Isaiah 37:7.
Part of God’s answer to Hezekiah’s prayer for deliverance is the following,
““ ‘Have you not heard that I determined it long ago? I planned from days of old what now I bring to pass, that you should make fortified cities crash into heaps of ruins, while their inhabitants, shorn of strength, are dismayed and confounded, and have become like plants of the field and like tender grass, like grass on the housetops, blighted before it is grown. “ ‘I know your sitting down and your going out and coming in, and your raging against me. Because you have raged against me and your complacency has come to my ears, I will put my hook in your nose and my bit in your mouth, and I will turn you back on the way by which you came.’” (Isaiah 37:26–29, ESV)
I think it is glorious that in God’s words against the king of Assyria here, he doesn’t just say that he is greater than the king of Assyria, and he doesn’t just say that his power is greater. He says that everything the king of Assyria is boasting of is actually only what he, God, has brought to pass! The king of Assyria boasts of his conquests, and God says, “I planned this! I determined it long ago!” God is the one who caused the king of Assyria to “make fortified cities crash into heaps of ruins.”
Because the king of Assyria rages in pride against God (note that “complacency” in the ESV is “arrogance” in NASB and “insolence” in NIV) God declares that he will drag him away with a hook in his nose! What a picture! A “bit in your mouth” pictures a man guiding a horse. In the same way, God directs every motion of this wicked king in accordance with his eternal plans (v. 26).
Surely this truth of God’s sovereignty over Sennacherib can be extrapolated and applied to his sovereignty over every human and spiritual power, from unjust governments and forces in the world today to the power of Satan himself. Through all of this evil, God is “bringing to pass” what he “determined long ago.”