Rather than reading the Bible through the eyes of modern secularism, this provocative six-part course teaches you to read the Bible through its own eyes—as a record of God’s dealing with the human race. When you read it at this level, you will discover reasons to worship God in areas of life you probably never before associated with “religion.”
© Charles A. Clough 1998
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 4: Disciplinary Truths of God’s Kingdom
Chapter 3: Kingdoms in Decline: The Discipline of Cursing
Lesson 83 – Prophetic Ministry 900–586 BC (Isaiah 36–37)
19 Mar 1998
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
Last time we introduced the prophets, the prophetic section, the great, usually unread section of the Bible. We mentioned that there are Major Prophets and Minor Prophets. The Major Prophets are the big three, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, major because they are major sections of Scripture. We gave you a silly way of remembering the Minor Prophets. There are sixteen of these books, three major and thirteen minor. Tonight we’re going to get into the heart of this prophetic material and the problem is that we’re going to cover so much material so fast, that’s the unfortunate way we’re approaching it, topical rather than a verse by verse approach, but it will demand a little focusing on your part.
Once again to get our minds in the right frame of reference, let’s review. We have the original events of Scripture, the creation, fall, flood and covenant; this is the foundation, we call it The Buried Foundation because mankind through sin has tried to bury it and suppress it. We went on in history on this side of the flood, and we said that we could summarize the Old Testament events from the time of the call of Abraham to the call of David by calling it The Disruptive Kingdom. The reason we use that adjective, disruptive kingdom, is because God is disrupting the way depraved men organize their civilization. Since the tower of Babel man has wanted security, he has wanted his life, he has wanted everything in his terms; don’t bother me God, I want my life to run the way I want it and I don’t want anything to interfere. Therefore, by definition, given that as the basis of our depraved heart, any work that God does is disruptive. That’s why we call it The Disruptive Kingdom; it disrupts sin because it represents an interference, an intrusion of God into the life of man.
Then we looked at a series of events, we’re looking at a period of history from the time of Solomon, we’ve looked at the golden era of Solomon, we have looked at the kingdom divided, we are looking at the kingdoms in decline, “kingdoms” plural. The next event we are going to move to will be the exile, the end of the kingdom. These are the events, roughly from 900–930 BC on to the exile of the southern kingdom in 586 BC. You can see we’re approaching ever more closely to the days of the New Testament, and the arrival on the planet of the God-man Savior, Jesus Christ. This is all preparatory to the gospel, but it’s a very critical hunk of history. You can see, God wrote sixteen books, He only wrote four for the life of Christ so that tells you something. Yet rarely do we ever study these books.
We have gone into this material to show you how much the prophets analyzed history in terms of the covenants. One of the great operations that is going on in this time period of all these events is the ministry of the people called prophets. A lot of us have a wrong view of what these men are about. That’s why we spent considerable time defining what these guys did. They were very, very critical in the revelation of God. Their ministry, the prophetic ministry, gave God’s viewpoint of what He was doing in history. These men actually constitute historians in the true sense of the word. What we study in school for history is a very wimpy abbreviated version of real historical analysis, because inevitably when you get a book on history, whatever it is, whatever course you are taking on campus or in high school, history is being interpreted in terms of economics, political power, always in terms of some structure of man. These guys interpreted history in light of a particular set of documents, the Torah, the first five books of the Scripture gave these guys the base.
What was their base is called “the law.” That’s why Jesus referred to three parts of the Old Testament: the law, the prophets and the writings. This a second chunk of material in the Old Testament, but it builds on the law, and the law revealed covenants to man. We’ve emphasized this and tonight you’ll see why I emphasize the covenants. Remember what a covenant is. A covenant is exactly the same word, doesn’t differ in meaning whatsoever, from our word contract. Get used to thinking of this. The problem of using the vocabulary word “covenant” is it sounds too religious. We get used to using this religious vocabulary and we lose the content because we just keep repeating it, repeating it, and forgetting what we’re talking about. So let’s substitute the word “contract” here. Tonight we’re going to talk in terms of contracts. We said there were several contracts. We talked about the Noahic contract, that was between God and the entire human race, saved and unsaved alike, so there’s a covenant that goes to all men regardless of whether they’ve accepted Christ or not, they’re still under the Noahic Covenant. It doesn’t make any difference whether they respond to the gospel or they don’t respond to the gospel, their lives are controlled by a covenant.
The second covenant we studied was the covenant that God made with Abraham. That was an elective covenant; it was made only with Abraham and his seed. The problem is, it isn’t obvious who the “seed” are until history unfolds. The hint about who this seed is the first time it’s used. The principle of interpretation in the Bible is when you get to a vocabulary word in Scripture always look at the context of the first time it occurs, it sets up for all the other times the word occurs. The first time the word “seed” occurs it is between what great struggle in Abraham and Sarah’s personal life? Whether they’re going to have a baby or not. What’s the struggle? It’s over Ishmael vs. Isaac. What is true of Isaac, the first seed? It’s supernatural. Isaac is born of Abraham in the sense that he’s a Jew; he carries the genes of his dad and his mom. He is the physical seed of Abraham; we’re not getting spooky and interpreting some spiritual seed or something. No, it’s a physical seed, the physical seed that came into existence in a supernatural way. Then Jacob, then Jacob’s son, the twelve tribes, then you have the nation, etc. all this constitutes the term “the seed of Abraham.”
This contract was an elective contract, this is the Abrahamic Covenant. It’s an elective contract that promises a land, a seed, and a worldwide blessing. Look at that structure very carefully, because we’re going to fill up those three parts of the Abrahamic Covenant and pull this together for you so you can see what the prophets are all about, what they’re doing. These guys are building on each of these three promises. It’s very important to see that.
After the Exodus God makes another contract with the nation, this is the Sinaitic Covenant, or the Covenant of Moses, or the Law. What is the difference between these two contracts? There’s a very profound difference between these two contracts. The Abrahamic Covenant is a sovereign declaration of what God is going to do, period! The Sinaitic Covenant is a contingent covenant; it is a conditional contract that stipulates blessing or cursing depending on the choice of the nation. The nation will be free to choose whether or not they’re going to obey God, the Great King, Jehovah, Yahweh, and they are free to obey Him or disobey Him but they’re not free to dictate the consequences of their choice. Yes, they are free to choose and submit, and they’re going to be blessed, or they can rebel and they are going to be cursed. That’s the Sinaitic Covenant.
Last time in preparation for tonight we said that this creates a tension in Old Testament doctrine, a tension that goes all the way into the New Testament. Here’s the tension: the dilemma is if God conditions blessing, which He clearly does upon the nation, it’s conditional on their obedience, here’s the rub, if this is conditional but the Abrahamic Covenant says God is going to bring it about, how do you pull these two covenants together without eradicating human responsibility? We’re right back with sovereignty and human responsibility, because God’s holiness … remember the attributes of God. God is sovereign, God is holy, God is love, God is omnipotent, God is omniscient, omnipresent, immutable, eternal. God doesn’t change His character, these are His attributes; those attributes are the same yesterday, today and forever. God has integrity, and He doesn’t violate His integrity because He gets wimpy and emotional and feels sorry for somebody. His character remains the same.
The covenants that are structured on His character can’t change. God is showing in the Sinaitic Covenant in particular His attribute of what He expects by way of righteousness and holiness. And he’s not going to compromise that; He is not going to change the standard. He’s not going to lower it because He gets outvoted, or because somebody else wants to say we believe the standard ought to be this. God doesn’t care what people believe, because the standard is His character and He’s not going to change. So we can forget any notion whatsoever that His righteousness or His holiness is going to change if we don’t like it, or we feel bad, or it makes us depressed, or whatever. It doesn’t make any difference; it can’t change because God can’t change.
The Sinaitic Covenant establishes on the basis of God’s character what holiness looks like, and how human beings relate to holiness. If we relate properly we’re blessed; if we relate in disobedience, we’re cursed. The Abrahamic Covenant relates to His sovereignty, because the Abrahamic Covenant is a declaration of what God in His sovereignty is going to do in history. It doesn’t make any difference what economics do, it doesn’t make any difference what politics are doing, it doesn’t make any difference about all the human conspiracies, political dealings, back room negotiations, or whatever. None of it is going to change God’s sovereign will for history, period! The Third Reich in the late 30s and 40s thought they were going to break the Abrahamic Covenant by annihilating the Jew.
We’ve always had these clowns in history that get arrogant and think they’re going to determine history so they pass some political thing and go after the Jew. The Jews are the fault of everything; if you have crooked teeth the Jews are involved in it. It’s always the Jews fault, and it’s always the voice of Satan coming out in these things. It is his animosity toward Israel because Israel has a future role in world history. If Satan can destroy the seed of Abraham, he can cancel out his doom, he thinks. Already he’s lost round one, because as hard as he tried to destroy the Jew from history, which Jew made it to the cross and undermined Satan’s claim? The Lord Jesus Christ. So He’s already lost round one.
The next thing he’s going to try to do is if you can remove Israel from history, you can remove the condition of the return of Christ, because Christ isn’t going to return until as He said in Jerusalem, until they say “Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord.” And the Blessed and the blessings are Israel. Until Israel invites the Lord Jesus Christ back into the stage of history, He won’t return. Now we have a situation where Satan, obviously to prevent that, the way he can do it is destroy Israel, annihilate the Jew.
All this hinges on this covenant structure. On page 41 I quote an Old Testament theologian just to show you that I’m not just drawing this out of thin air. Look at the quote carefully, thinking in terms of how these prophets operated in history in terms of covenants and contracts. “A clear divine will becomes discernible, which can be depended upon and to which appeal can be made. The covenant knows not only of a demand, but also of a promise: ‘You shall be My people and I will be your God.’ ” Not watch this carefully, we’ll go through it real slow because this is the essence of a biblically correct view of history and this is not just for history class, it’s for our personal lives because your life and all the events of your personal individual life is a small part of history. So if it applies to history, it applies to you, it applies to me; it applies in all of our lives. This is very critical that we see this; this is a biblically correct way of looking at life. “In this way it provides life with a goal and history with a meaning. Because of this the fear that constantly haunts the pagan world, the fear of arbitrariness and caprice within the Godhead is excluded. With this God, men know exactly where they stand; an atmosphere of trust and security is created.”
Let’s go back to this chart, what the prophets are doing in this period of time. All of these events are happening. When you read these sixteen books of the prophets you come away with… this is where people that never read the Bible but they always listen to somebody who says they’ve read the Bible somewhere along the line, they go to some class on the Bible somewhere and they get this view that the God of the Old Testament is a meany, the God of the Old Testament is a God of wrath but the God of the New Testament is a loving gracious God. I don’t know where they get that stuff; I used to believe that, I was taught that in college, until I started studying the Old Testament. Once you study the Bible you wonder, gee, do these guys read it, the Bible is in English, try reading it sometime. It’s not a different God between the Old and New Testament. The God of the Old Testament is a very, very gracious God. The impression that these guys get from His severity is from these events and what’s happening, the suffering that’s going on here.
But think about it, look at this quote, notice the last sentence of the quote, “With this God, men know exactly where they stand; an atmosphere of trust and security is created.” That goes back to a simple thing like parenting. For the last 30 or 40 years every parent has heard of Dr. Spock, it was always Benjamin Spock was going to raise kids and don’t spank them, don’t do this, don’t do that because you might warp their personality; all these theories. It’s interesting, if you talk to Christians who are deep into psychology, etc. from a biblical point of view, and they say do you know what came out of all that historically in people’s lives? The children that were raised in a very promiscuous environment are profoundly insecure as adults. Why is that? Let’s think about that in light of this. Yes, there’s suffering going on here, but what’s very predictable about it? Isn’t this a predictable suffering? It’s not arbitrary; these people don’t wake up and all of a sudden they come down with pneumonia tomorrow out of the clear blue. God has promised a frame of reference, disobey Me and I’m going to spank you. Then He spanks and it’s a big surprise. It’s no surprise, that’s what He said He was going to do and He’s doing it.
Some modern minds think this is all cruel stuff here. But think about it, it really is not cruel. What is cruel is not caring enough to do it, that’s cruelty. Here God cares for His people, this is a caring God. This is not a cruel God, this is not an arbitrary God, this is a God who loves His people and He wants His people to be in shape to enjoy Him forever, and He knows they’re not going to get in shape to enjoy Him forever without going through a disciplinary process. And the disciplinary process is all foreordained in the Torah.
Tonight we’re going to start with two themes that the prophets emphasized. The first one begins on page 41, and turn to Isaiah 36, we’ll go rapidly through this exciting passage of Old Testament history. The first theme that the prophets had, that each guy had his own style but if you read the different books you’ll see these themes again and again. Bottom of page 41, the first theme that I’m pointing out that these guys did in their own way, each guy in his own generation, pressed with his own political situation, said “Yahweh,” or Jehovah, or the Lord, “ruled surrounding pagan nations as much as He ruled Israel and Judah.” Do you know why? Let’s ask some questions. Why is that important? Why is it important for the nation Israel to know that? The answer is because they’re getting spanked; the answer is they’re getting disciplined by Syria, out to the northeast further, Assyria is coming in, and these people are getting disciplined, they’re undergoing military defeat, their armies are getting slaughtered, they’re experiencing ecological problems. We think El Nino is bad, see what God did to the northern and southern kingdom.
It’s important that while they’re going through the disciplinary process that they understand that the paddle that’s smacking them is controlled. It’s like the Assyrians have the paddle, so the Assyrian hand is on the paddle, but what Israel needs to see is that behind the Assyrians God is on top of the Assyrians who are under the paddle. They have to understand that this discipline is controlled. We want to go to an Old Testament incident that happened that shows in a very dramatic way how the prophets, the moment this sort of issue came up, they dealt with it, they dealt with it quickly, and they dealt with it very clearly. It was recorded by the Holy Spirit for our edification, and it’s just a tremendous lesson.
Just a quick note, we don’t have time to prove this to you, but if you’ll take a pencil or pen and write in the margin on page 42, 2 Kings 18:17ff, go back and look at it and you’ll notice a very strange thing. The exact text of Isaiah 36 is repeated in 2 Kings 18 word for word, verse for verse. Why do I point that out? To show you the prophets are the same guys that wrote history. Who do you think wrote 2 Kings? Who wrote 1 Kings? The prophets. So don’t think of the history books like Kings and Samuel as distinct from these sixteen books which we said are prophetic books. I brought the Hebrew Bible in and said there’s a prophetic section in the Old Testament in the Hebrew, and in the prophetic section is Kings and Samuel, because the prophets wrote those.
Let’s look at Isaiah 36 and get the gist of what’s going on here. Here’s the deal. This occurs after the loss of Israel. So in your mind cross out all the orange territory on this map; visualize the nation left now only in green, and the king in the south is Hezekiah. Hezekiah faces a big problem at this point because historical the enemy of Israel on the northeast side is Syria or Aramaean. But Aramaean has been eclipsed in turn by an even greater enemy northeast of her, and that greater enemy is Assyria. Don’t confuse Assyria with Syria. Assyria was a major, major power. These guys were nasty guys, occupying the area of Iraq today. They came down, in a very cruel way, and they destroyed the northern kingdom; the date for this destruction is 721 BC. So the northern kingdom lasted 200 years, from 930 BC to 721 BC. The Assyrians came down, and then the Assyrian king at this time was called Sennacherib. Sennacherib was a typical Middle Eastern arrogant tyrant. In the passage we’re about to see, in his arrogance and cockiness he really manifested a Satanic spirit. It was a terrifying moment for the south because it looked like for a while he was going to take out the south along with the north.
Isaiah 36 picks up the scene right at the time Sennacherib has sent his ambassadors to propagandize…, they didn’t have CNN and all the media in those days, but they had their propaganda machine nevertheless. In Isaiah 36 here comes Sennacherib’s propaganda machine. “Now it came about in the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and seized them.” What he’s done, clever military strategy, the Jews had defense cities around their border so he’s taken out all these small cities and he’s picking off the defense cities for the luscious little plum he wants next…Jerusalem. So he’s already done this.
Verse 2, “And the king of Assyria sent Rabshakeh from Lachish,” Lachish was one of the defense cities that fell, “to Jerusalem to King Hezekiah with a large army. And he stood by the conduit of the upper pool on the highway of the fuller’s field.  Then Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, who was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and Joah the son of Asaph, the recorder, came out to him.  Then Rabshakeh said to them, ‘Say now to Hezekiah, ‘Thus says the great king, the king of Assyria, ‘What is this confidence you have?’  ‘I say, ‘your counsel and strength for the war are only empty words. Now on whom do you rely,” now watch the theme, just watch the theme, this guy is going to make one big strategic goof and it’s going to get him in deep trouble, but watch the propaganda; this is exactly how Satan gets to us, this is the voice of Satan coming to us through the propaganda machine of this pagan king and watch the strategy of Satan to undermine our trust in the Lord to take care of our needs. It starts in verse 4, right there is the issue.
“What is this confidence you have,  ‘I say, ‘your counsel and strength for the war are only empty words. Now on whom do you rely, that you have rebelled against me?  Behold, you rely on the staff of a crushed reed, even on Egypt; on which if a man leans, it will go into his hand and pierce it. So is Pharaoh King of Egypt to all who rely on him.” the Assyrians took on Egypt and they whipped them, and that was scary because Egypt was a big power, and for the Assyrian army to come in and beat Pharaoh’s army meant that they were the big boys on the block now. They said go ahead, make an alliance with Egypt, and while he’s saying this, by the way, he’s doing it on “the upper pool on the highway of the fuller’s field,” verse 2, the idea there is Hezekiah’s walled in the city, all of the citizens of Jerusalem are on the wall and they can hear this thing going on. So there’s method in his madness. He gets his propaganda machine going and he wants to break the spirit of the people. Verse 7, “But if you say to me, ‘We trust in the LORD our God, is it not He whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah has taken away, and has said to Judah and to Jerusalem, You shall worship before this altar?”
Verse 8, “Now therefore, come make a bargain with my master the king of Assyria, and I will give you two thousand horses, if you are able on your part to set riders on them.” See the sarcasm. I’d give them to you but you can’t even find two thousand people around you who can ride them if I gave them to you. Verse 9, “How then can you repulse one official of the least of my master’s servants, and rely on Egypt for chariots and for horsemen?  And have I now come up without the LORD’s approval against this land to destroy it? The LORD said to me, Go up against this land, and destroy it…’” He’s manipulating, he already knows some of the words, some of the Old Testament, he had good intel.
Verse 11, here’s the Jews, they’re down at the bottom and they realize this guy is shouting and if he shouts much more all these people are going to hear this kind of thing and they’re going to get dispirited and discouraged. “Then Eliakim and Shabna and Joah said to Rabshakeh, ‘Speak now to your servants in Aramaic, for we understand it; and do not speak with us in Judean, in the hearing of the people who are on the wall.” The Assyrians are multilingual, they had their guys out there, they spoke in Hebrew for one reason, propaganda; put it in the common language of the people. The whole attempt of this dialogue is to repudiate the central faith of the southern kingdom, and get people to be so scared that they have seen the Assyrian machine eat up the northern kingdom, they wiped out the Egyptian army, and if you look at it from the human viewpoint they’ve got a reason to be shaking in their boots right now. The Assyrians thought it was a joke to spread eagle someone on the ground and take a knife and peel their skin off. They thought that was fun. So this is what these people behind the wall are worried about, what’s going to happen next, do these guys mean business? So it’s a real test of whose presuppositions are going to control this thing.
Verse 12, “But Rabshakeh said, ‘Has my master sent me only to your master and to you to speak these words, and not to the men who sit on the wall, doomed to eat their own dung and drink their own urine with you?’” They mean business, the language of the street, it communicates. That’s the Old Testament, that’s why most pastors don’t want to teach the Old Testament. Verse 13, “Then Rabshakeh stood and cried with a loud voice in Judean, and said, ‘Hear the words of the great king, the king of Assyria.” He deliberately does this, you asked me to speak in Aramaic, no, I’m going to speak in Hebrew so everybody can hear me, I’m going to speak it real loud so all you thousands of people up on the wall can hear what I’m saying.
Verse 14, “Thus says the king, ‘Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, for he will not be able to deliver you.” Now here’s where he screws up. Had he threatened Hezekiah that would have been one thing, but these clowns always overdo it, just like Goliath. And the moment they overdo it they cut their noose, cut the limb off that they’re on. Don’t listen to Hezekiah, verse 15, “nor let Hezekiah make you trust in the LORD, saying, The LORD will surely deliver us, this city shall not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.” That’s exactly what Hezekiah was doing. Now watch the argument here. If you were sitting there and you were a weak believer, and you listened to this stuff, and your family was sitting back there, you might be very inclined to start making deals here, bailing out. But look at the argument. [Verse 16, “Do not listen to Hezekiah, for thus says the king of Assyria, ‘Make your peace with me and come out to me, and eat each of us his vine and each of us his fig tree and drink each of the waters of his own cistern.  until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards.  Beware lest Hezekiah misleads you, saying, ‘The LORD will deliver us.’ Has anyone of the gods of the nations delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria?”]
Verse 19, “Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim? And when have they delivered Samaria from my hand?  Who among all the gods of these lands have delivered their land from my hand, that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem from my hand?  But they were silent and answered him not a word; for the king’s commandment was, ‘Do not answer him.’” Here we have a leader who is a believer in a big jam and how he handles it, how he responds to the jam. Do you want a role model? Here’s a great role model.
Isaiah 37:1, “When King Hezekiah heard it, he tore his clothes, covered himself with sackcloth and entered into the house of the LORD.” The first thing he does is he’s not going to answer these clowns, he is not going to dialogue on their basis, he’s going to get back, pull out of the situation and get with the Lord. A great maneuver, because if stands on that wall he’s going to get out-maneuvered, so he comes back to the temple, we’ll have a little chit-chat session with the Lord about this one. Verse 2, “Then he sent Eliakim who was over the household with Shebna the scribe and the elders of the priests, covered with sackcloth, to Isaiah, the prophet, the son of Amoz,” see there’s the role of the prophet. Isaiah is a very powerful prophet now, he’s being consulted. Verse 3, “And they said to him, ‘Thus says Hezekiah, This day is a day of distress, rebuke, and rejection; for children have come to birth, and there is no strength to deliver.” He describes the whole situation.
Verse 5, “So the servants of King Hezekiah came to Isaiah.  And Isaiah said to them,” now here is a word from the Lord through a prophet in the middle of a historic crisis. Watch what’s going to happen. Isaiah says, “Thus you shall say to your master, ‘Thus says the LORD, ‘Do not be afraid because of the words that you have heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed Me.” See that language, do you see what’s happened here, there’s a bigger thing going on than just Hezekiah and the Jews at stake. Hezekiah and the Jews are associated with Jehovah God in the eyes of the pagans. The pagan mind can’t separate the people of God from God. We are identified with our God, and the attacks that Satan motivates against you, and against us as a body, are motivated not necessarily because he has it in for you personally, the attacks come because we are flying the flag of the Savior, and he’s shooting at the flag. That’s why there’s stuff incoming, it’s because the flag is a target. Our allegiance to Jesus Christ is what attracts the satanic lightening. It’s not something personal, it’s in principle; he wants to oppose everything that God is doing.
Here Isaiah picks it up, he says now Hezekiah look the servants of the king of Assyria haven’t tried to just dupe the citizens of Jerusalem, that’s not the issue. They “have blasphemed Me.” Verse 7, “Behold, I will put a spirit in him so that he shall hear a rumor and return to his own land. And I will make him fall by the sword in his own land.’ ” That’s a pretty short prophecy. To make a long story short because we don’t have time to go through all the details of this, he said verse 10, “Thus you shall say to Hezekiah king of Judah. Do not let your God in whom you trust deceive you, saying…” etc. What happens is that Hezekiah, verse 14, the second thing that Hezekiah does; the first thing he goes to the temple, gets a word from God through the prophet. What would be analogous for us today when we get ourselves in a jam like that? Who wrote this? The word of the prophet. Verse 14, “Then Hezekiah took the letter” look what he does, this is such a neat picture, “Then Hezekiah took the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it,” this is the ultimatum in the diplomatic palace delivered by the Assyrian diplomats, would to God we had people in our country that would do this. “…and he went up to the house of the LORD,” and look what he did, isn’t this neat, look what he did, he “spread it out before the LORD. Go ahead Lord, take a look at this. And he laid the whole thing out before God.
Then he starts to pray. Look at this prayer. This prayer tells us several things that have happened in Hezekiah’s head. He’s really got his act together here. This guy is hitting on all cylinders. He responds to the crisis the proper way. He doesn’t panic, he goes to the Lord. It’s not that he’s passive, he’s upset, he’s one upset person, there’s no denying the emotions. But he doesn’t let his emotions rule. His spirit dictates that he has to have time with the Lord about this, and he is determined he is going to have time with the Lord about this, whether he’s emotional or he isn’t emotional, or whatever his emotions are. They are irrelevant; he’s got to have time with the Lord. So he spends time with the Lord, he gets this word, this promise in verse 7 from the Lord that the Lord is going to deal with this situation. Now he’s motivated to pray.
Verse 16 begins a wonderful prayer. “O LORD of hosts the God of Israel, who art enthroned above the cherubim, Thou art the God, Thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. Thou hast made heaven and earth.” What event and doctrine does he go to first? Creation, because creation defines the nature of God and you can’t pray to a God without a clear idea of Him being Creator. It goes right back to basics. So right in the first part of his prayer he’s hitting the framework. He comes in, he goes to the creation, he says God, You have made heaven and earth, if God made heaven and earth God made the Assyrians. See what it does, it reduces the Assyrians down to a molecule. You made the molecules, You made the Assyrians. The issue is that I know that you are the Creator, I’m remembering that and I believe that. That puts You in charge of this situation.
Now he has another neat thing. Notice what he says in verse 17, “Incline Thine ear, O LORD, and hear; open Thine eyes, O LORD, and see; and listen to all the words of Sennacherib, who sent to reproach the living God.” It reminds you of David. Remember what David said? Who’s this clown, this uncircumcised Philistine that thinks he can defy the armies of the living God. David takes Goliath as a personal enemy. What angered David in his spirit was what Goliath was doing to the nature of God, falsifying the nature of God. That made David in his spirit angry, that’s righteous anger. Hezekiah has righteous anger here. Notice also in verse 17 something else about Old Testament praying; you see this in the Psalms very powerfully. These guys, when they went into God’s presence, were very insistent that God listen to them. We get kind of pious about this and we kind of feel embarrassed about walking into the Lord and telling Him hey, listen to me, just open your eyes and listen, I want you to read this! It sounds impudent to our ears. But whether it sounds impudent to our ears or not, it’s in the Psalms repeatedly. The only thing I can conclude it seems like maybe God overlooks the impudence associated with that just because the guy’s got it together. He’s doing the right think he’s coming to the Lord. So how he comes to the Lord isn’t as much of an issue as the fact that he does come to the Lord. He’s angry, he’s upset, so he says, now you hear this Lord, and you look at this letter, I’m laying it right out in front of you, now read it. Do you see what he’s done Lord, he’s reproaching You.
Then he comes up with this neat explanation, because remember what the insult was, well, where are the gods of Hamath, where are the gods of Arpad, but what Hezekiah says is yeah, I know, their gods couldn’t defend them but here’s why. Verse 18 says “Truly, O LORD, the kings of Assyria have devastated all the countries and their lands,” he’s not denying that,  “and have cast their gods into the fire, for they were not gods but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. So they have destroyed them.” Of course they have.  “And now, O LORD our God, deliver us from his hand that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that Thou alone, LORD, art God.”
That’s biblical praying. It’s hard to get into this but when you do you know you’re rocking in the prayer, because what started out as a political crisis that could have been treated just as a purely political crisis, a negotiation problem, see what’s happened, it’s attained cosmic significance now.
He’s not praying this prayer just to get himself off the hook. He’s not praying this prayer just so he can look like a great Judean king. He’s not praying the prayer just to help the people that are falling apart on the wall. He’s not doing it just for that, he cut to the quick, he’s recognized that in the middle of this pressure situation and insinuation has been made about the nature of God our Savior, and it’s because of his heart, loyalty go Jehovah God, that he’s offended by that and the offense over what is being done to God is so overwhelming compared to the concerns politically down on the wall, that when he goes to pray, look at the issue that comes out. Not once in this prayer does he mention anything about the fear of the people. [blank spot]
… it’s in the core of the prayer. He says “And now O LORD our God,” look what he’s saying, do something neat to show yourself; these clowns have gone into one nation after another, and they think they’re pretty hot stuff. God, show them what happens now, they picked the wrong boy this time, now you show them what’s going to happen. And boy did the Lord show them what’s going to happen. So verse 21, “Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent word to Hezekiah, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, Because you have prayed to Me about Sennacherib king of Assyria,” look at this, a great answer. See the Lord responded immediately to that prayer, that kind of prayer got results. And immediately the answer comes to the prophet. See the role of the prophet, always there, like a go between.
Verse 22, “This is the word that the LORD has spoken against him; she has despised you and mocked you, the virgin daughter of Zion; she has shaken her head behind you, the daughter of Jerusalem!  ‘Whom have you reproached and blasphemed? And against whom have you raised your voice, and haughtily lifted up your eyes? Against the Holy One of Israel.  Through your servants you have reproached the Lord, and you have said, ‘With my many chariots I came up to the heights of the mountains, to the remotest parts of Lebanon; and I cut down its tall cedars and its choice cypresses. And I will go to its highest peak, its thickest forest.” It goes on with this long episode.
Verse 28, “But I know your sitting down, and your going out and your coming in,” do you know what that expression means? It’s a Hebrew expression, it means I know you all the way, every hair on your head, I’m omniscient, I know your heart, you don’t have to hide from me, I know exactly what your attitude is, “and your raging against me.  Because of your raging against Me, and because your arrogance has come up to my ears, therefore I will put My hook in your nose, and My bridle in your lips, and I will turn you back by the way which you came.  Then this shall be the sign for you,” and he goes on and gives the various signs of the remnant.
Verse 36, here’s a picture of how God got rid of them. “Then the angel of the LORD went out,” do you know who the angel of the Lord turns out to be? The Trinity is in the Old Testament; the angel of the Lord is none other than God the Son. So when you see “the angel of the Lord” in the Old Testament, it’s a preincarnate Jesus Christ. Jesus has a very mild, meek side, but if you want to see the wrath of the Lamb, you’ve got it right here. Here’s the Lord Jesus Christ, and what He does. He “went out and struck 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians; and when men arose early in the morning, behold, all of them were dead bodies.” Do you know how much 185,000 in terms of today’s army, what we have left of our army? Seven and a half divisions… seven and a half divisions wiped out in one night by the Lord Jesus Christ in response to the prayer of one man. Can He do great things? Yes, He sure can, look at that.
This is the toughest military unit that existed at that time in history. This was such a devastating blow and such and embarrassment to the Assyrians that if you read Assyrian history, you read a broken document where Sennacherib brags that I have Hezekiah penned in like a bird, and then there’s no victory document following it, it’s a missing element. It’s always amazed historians of history that all the other campaigns when Sennacherib said I’ve got this guy bottled up, and the next phrase is I wiped him out. He brags about he has Hezekiah bottled up, but there’s a missing document, no report of victory. There’s no report of this defeat either because obviously it was so embarrassing for him to come back to Assyria, it’s like Napoleon going into Russia and coming back with the bare threads of the great grand armies of France and all he’s got is a tag-tale group of squads left after he went out with divisions. He comes back with this mess, pieces left of what was a fine military unit. This is what Sennacherib wanders back to Nineveh with after he met the Lord Jesus Christ outside the city of Jerusalem. So who’s the victor here?
This is one of those neat passages that shows you, that’s how in history, with Isaiah explaining it all as they went, that’s how they could see God at work and connect what He was doing with the promises of the Word. On page 42, let me read through this so you can see that this is not an isolated theme peculiar to Isaiah. “Other prophets besides Isaiah also assured the nation of Yahweh’s reign over the entire international scene. Nahum prophesied against Assyria; Habakkuk against Babylon; and Zephaniah against Philistia, Moab, Ammon and Ethiopia. In doing so, these prophets were really recalling the original basis of non-Hebrew civilization prior to the call of Abraham. God ruled over all the sons of Noah then, and He continued to do so in the days of these prophets. In no way had God become too weak to keep His promises to Abraham.” So the paddle that is spanking Judea itself is in the hands of God Almighty. The people have to understand that if they are being disciplined, the discipline itself also comes from the sovereign Lord of history. That’s one theme.
Now I want to introduce the second theme, the bottom of page 24, and that’s the theme that there’s been a breaking of the covenant. The Sinaitic Covenant has broken and once the covenant is broken that means that the nation no longer has a claim on blessing, because the cursings go into effect. The Sinaitic Covenant doesn’t say what will happen; it says however, obedience leads to blessing, disobedience leads to cursing. The nation has disobeyed so now the cursings are operative. The prophetic voices now announce that the Sinaitic Covenant is over. The Sinaitic Covenant cursings go into effect and the nation is now in deep, deep trouble. To do this they are going to use the concept of a lawsuit. The Hebrew word for law suit looks like this: רִיב rib, pronounced rib, the “rib” format is now picked up by the prophets. We know a little bit about the rib format because it’s used outside of Israel, outside of the Bible, and it’s a process that invokes a broken law. So it’s a lawsuit on the basis of a violation of law.
I want to introduce the rib format, and we’ll read some of these verses. We’re going to look first at the court procedure then the indictment, then the announcement of judgment. Listen to these passages; see if you can see a familiar theme. I want you to see that there’s a particular format, and the reason I want you to see this format is I want you to understand that the prophets were all coordinated. You tend to get the idea when you read your Bible, there’s sixteen books here, that these guys are just doing their own thing; it kind of gives you that impression. If you take a bigger view, who is it that’s calling the prophets to do their ministry? God. Does God have a coherent message? You bet He does. It’s different in different situations but the approach of the prophets is the same. I’m doing this to disprove what you usually get in the classroom, where they say it’s social reform. They’re not social reforms, sorry.
Isaiah 1:2-4, “Listen, O heavens, and hear, O earth; for the LORD speaks: ‘Sons I have reared and brought up, but they have revolted against Me.  An ox knows its owner, and a donkey its master’s manger, but Israel does not know, My people do not understand.’  Alas, sinful nation, people weighted down with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, sons who act corruptly! They have abandoned the LORD, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they have turned away from Him.” Notice the language, “Hear, O Israel,” it starts hear O heavens, etc.
Hosea 4:1-3, “Listen to the word of the LORD, O sons of Israel, for the LORD has a case against the inhabitants of the land, because there is no faithfulness or kindness or knowledge of God in the land.  There is swearing, deception, murder, stealing, and adultery. They employ violence, so that bloodshed follows bloodshed.  Therefore the land mourns, and every one who lives in it languishes along with the beasts of the field and the birds of the sky; and also the fish of the sea disappear.” In verse 1 what is the key vocabulary word you noticed, “the LORD has a case” there it is, lawsuit. The prophet is bringing a lawsuit against the nation.
Micah 6:1-4, “Hear now what the LORD is saying: ‘Arise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice.  Listen, you mountains, to the indictment of the LORD, and you enduring foundations of the earth, because the LORD has a case against His people; Even with Israel He will dispute.  My people, what have I done to you, and how have I wearied you? Answer Me.  Indeed, I brought you up from the land of Egypt and ransomed you from the house of slavery, and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.” See the similar language? What’s going on in all three passages? God is bringing a lawsuit.
What did we say back when we introduced covenants and contracts? Why do we make contracts? To monitor behavior. What happens? The contract gives you a standard to monitor behavior. That’s why you have warranties on cars, houses, furnaces, refrigerators; it’s a standard that measures behavior. God is the One that actually authorized these contracts. Now the time has come to give an account of behavior. So God, through the prophets, is giving an account of two issues. One the one hand, who has been faithful to the covenant? What did the verses say? I have done this, I have done this, I have done that. Whose behavior is that? God’s behavior. So in His lawsuit is God saying I was party to the covenant, I was faithful to the covenant, I did this for you, I did this for you, I did this for you, hear the voice of the Lord in these rib proceedings.
Then in Isaiah, what’s the attack against the people? Come on, you people are acting worse than animals, the animal knows who his master is and you idiots don’t. So it’s an indictment about the behavior of man over against the behavior of God, the two parties to the covenant. Who has been faithful and who has been unfaithful.
The second issue is the indictment. We want to conclude by turning to Deuteronomy 32 and looking at one verse. I made a point, after we dealt with the Sinaitic Covenant; I said when it was all done Moses left them with a national anthem. I made a point how our national anthem, Fort McHenry narrates the great battle in the Baltimore harbor. It’s a part of history. This national anthem in Scripture is not only a narration of history past; it’s a narration of history future. Deuteronomy 32, in light of these three passages we just read, the “hear” passages, the people being addressed in Hosea are the sons of Israel, in Isaiah the addressees were the heavens and earth. Isn’t this interesting, why do you suppose that is? That ought to grab your attention right away. Look at Deuteronomy 32:1-2, he opens the national anthem, “Give ear, O heavens, and let me speak; and let the earth hear the words of my mouth.  Let my teaching drop as the rain, my speech distill as the dew, as the droplets on the fresh grass and as the showers on the herb.”
Deuteronomy 32 is the source of the lawsuit proceedings administered later by the prophets. What happens in a courtroom trial? Oftentimes who is critical in a case in a courtroom? If somebody has committed a crime besides circumstantial evidence, what does the prosecutor really like? Eyewitnesses. The witness plays a big role. Who in the national anthem of Israel is called to be witness? Think this one through. Why, in Deuteronomy 32:1-2 is a set of witnesses called to watch the covenant, and they are called back; as we saw in Micah, Isaiah, they call upon the witnesses that were established here. Who really are the witnesses? Do you think it’s just the hills, just the mountains, the rock and trees? Or do you think that behind the hills and the heavens there is the angelic observers? See, the angelic observers were the witnesses in this grand case. The case: God against man; the issue: the covenant. Who are the observers that are witnessing this? The angelic beings who are invoked by the prophets. Who has done this, and they call as a summons to the courtroom proceedings, to the lawsuit format, they call upon the witnesses. We’ll push this further next week.
What I want you to see is there’s an awful lot going on in the prophets. They’re not just saying you are sinners, you guys did social unrighteous acts, it’s far more grandiose than that. There’s a whole plan behind these guys. We just saw in a few minutes three different men, three different ministries, in three different historic situations, all doing exactly the same thing, following the format of the original Law in Deuteronomy 32. Pure accident, or was that God’s design?
Question asked: Clough replies: An issue has been raised, she wants to be cautious about identifying Jesus Christ as the angel of Jehovah because the Jehovah’s Witnesses interpret Jesus to be an angel only, and if you make this identification are you not playing into the hands of the Jehovah’s Witnesses when you do that. The way to protect that from happening… the problem is Jehovah’s Witnesses are basically what we call Arians, this is an ancient heresy, it was 2nd-3rd century, and it’s just regurgitated Arianism. The church dealt with that a long time ago and that’s why they have the creeds, and of course the Jehovah’s Witnesses will always tell you the Trinity is not in the Bible, it’s imported into the church, because what they’re angry is that the church took 300-400 years thinking through how to defend themselves against Arianism, and that’s when they defined the Trinity.
But the way to do that is to show very carefully and you can very easily, show that the angel of Jehovah has exactly the same set of attributes that Jehovah has. You do this with a concordance. It takes a little while, but it’s already been done for you, one of the great books on this is called Jesus Christ Our Lord by John Walvoord of Dallas Seminary. He has a whole thick chapter; he goes through every single reference you’d ever want to think about on this. The Trinity is present in Isaiah, because there’s a passage where it says “The Lord has called me and put upon me His Spirit,” and Jesus later uses that passage for Himself. So it’s quite clear that the Trinity, while not detailed in the Old Testament, is implicit in it. The angel of Jehovah is always a part of Jehovah that shows up and does things. Like, He comes to Hagar; He does things like we saw tonight. It’s interesting, sort of providential, the name of the last prophet in the English Bible, before Matthew, is Malachi. Malachi is “My messenger,” “My angel,” and it’s very neat that precedes the Gospel.
The angel of Jehovah is clearly distinct from all other angels, and the reason He is is that everywhere else, when angels appear to men and men attempt to bow to them, they’re rebuked. A real angel will not permit people to worship him because you see it in the New Testament. It’s very interesting, John is so overwhelmed that he starts to worship the angel and he says don’t you do that, I am of the same as your brethren, it’s a neat passage. And here’s a powerful angel, whatever these beings are, these angels, they’re just awesome apparently in what they can do. The non-angel of Jehovah, just the normal angel, there’s some neat things that are done. When I first learned Greek I translated passages, and there’s that time when Peter was in jail, in the book of Acts, and the King James text says something about the angel came along and smote Peter or something because he was sleeping. Actually the Greek emphasis is more that the angel reached down and grabbed him and pulled him up, and then interestingly, after he woke Peter up and got him going, then he says okay, now put on your coat. The angel wouldn’t dress him, he said you dress yourself, I just woke you up.
So there are neat things and this witnessing passage here, the angels are witnessing, and they are Jehovah’s witnesses, and this is a perversion of the whole thing, because I believe that these passages that we talked about tonight, “Give ear, O heavens… and let the earth hear,” that the angels are the witnesses, and that they are called upon to give… it’s as though they are called upon to give almost like a tape recording and video of history. What’s kind of somewhat disturbing is that in Ephesians and in Corinthians they are said to patrol the congregation, because there’s that mysterious passage in Corinthians talking about women, the hair issue there, and the veil, however you translate the veil, all that minutia, and then all of a sudden in the middle of the text comes this little clause, do it because of the angels, and he’s talking about a worship service. Apparently if we could see, the angels do gather together with us when we worship. Why? If those guys are doing to us what they were doing to Israel it’s almost like they’re sitting here taking video of what we’re doing spiritually. They apparently do this.
But the angel of Jehovah, if you go to a concordance and track that term, it’s obvious that it is not an ordinary angel. The only way to prove that is to go to a concordance to prove it. But these guys don’t want to do that. It’s so sad, because… do you know where they got the term “Jehovah’s Witnesses?” From Isaiah. I even found the verse once, I was going through some Jehovah’s Witness material and right near the passage where the Trinity is, and it says you shall be witnesses to Me. The sad thing about it is the “witnesses to Me,” the one who is the “Me” in there is the angel of Jehovah. That’s what’s so ironic; it’s the Lord Jesus Christ.
Tonight we just broke the ground to see that these guys are involved in very serious litigation.