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.”

Bible Study

Exodus 15 Jesus’ victory over our enemy

I read yesterday about Moses leading the Israelites across the Red Sea and today I read in Exodus 15 the victory song that the Israelites sang after the crossing.  Some things stood out to me in the song.  First of all, it is important to realize that the Exodus from Egypt is a picture of God’s salvation of his people.  It was a real historical event, and it was a real salvation, but in God’s eternal plan, it was only a foreshadowing of the eternal salvation that he provides for those whom he has chosen.  So when we read about the Exodus, we should see in it a picture of what God has done for us.

One of the things that stood out to me is that this was a salvation from an enemy.  Pharaoh was against God and out to keep the Israelites in slavery.  In the same way, we have an enemy, Satan, who wants to keep us enslaved to himself, and one of the aspects of our salvation is that we are delivered from him and he is destroyed.  This is mentioned in the song when they sing in Ex. 15:4-10

“Pharaoh’s chariots and his host he cast into the sea, and his chosen officers were sunk in the Red Sea.    The floods covered them; they went down into the depths like a stone.  Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power, your right hand, O Lord, shatters the enemy.  In the greatness of your majesty you overthrow your adversaries; you send out your fury; it consumes them like stubble.  At the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up; the floods stood up in a heap; the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea.

The enemy said, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake,
I will divide the spoil, my desire shall have its fill of them.
I will draw my sword; my hand shall destroy them.’
10  You blew with your wind; the sea covered them;
they sank like lead in the mighty waters.

This encouraged me because I very definitely see Satan scheming against me daily, and to know that he is defeated is very encouraging.  When Jesus died on the cross, it was Satan’s ultimate defeat, and just as Pharaoh and his officers sunk in the Red Sea and were “shattered” (v. 6) our enemy is also shattered.  By the “greatness of his majesty” Jesus has overthrown our adversary.  Of course, the ultimate manifestation of this is still future when Satan is cast into the Lake of Fire, but it is a certain thing that has already been accomplished.  So I can have confidence that I, in Christ’s strength am able to overcome our enemy.

Also encouraging were verses 16-18 where the song describes the effect of the Red Sea deliverance on the pagan peoples around who would certainly hear about this great act of salvation…

16  Terror and dread fall upon them;

because of the greatness of your arm, they are still as a stone,

till your people, O Lord, pass by,

till the people pass by whom you have purchased.

17  You will bring them in and plant them on your own mountain,

the place, O Lord, which you have made for your abode,

the sanctuary, O Lord, which your hands have established.

18  The Lord will reign forever and ever.”

Notice that verse 16 says that God has “purchased” his people.  Jesus has purchased us by his blood–his death on the cross.  The idea of being purchased is a very special way of thinking of our salvation.  We belong to God and he will certainly care for us because we are his.  1 Cor. 6:20 says, “you were bought with a price…”  and 1 Peter 1:18-19 say, “…you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.”

We can rejoice today in the fact that we belong to God and that he has defeated our enemy!  Hallelujah!

Bible Study

Isaiah 36-37 The Enemy’s Tactics and Our Response

The story of Hezekiah’s miraculous victory over Sennacherib, King of Assyria is one of my favorite stories in the Old Testament (it’s also related in 2 Kings 18-19).  I love the way God silences the boasting of the Rabshakeh, the Assyrian general who had mocked, scorned and blasphemed the God of Israel.  Some of the most arrogant boastings and threats in the whole Bible are recorded as coming from this man’s mouth.  But you remember the end of the story… Overnight, 185,000 Assyrian soldiers are put to death by the angel of the Lord.  Sennacherib and his general return to Assyria defeated and humiliated and Jerusalem is spared.