When it comes to war, the words, “imminent threat with clear and present danger” are words not to be taken lightly. Our country created a law that halts other laws when danger to the citizens of the United States is made evident. Clear and present danger was a doctrine adopted by the Supreme Court of the United States to determine under what circumstances limits can be placed on First Amendment freedoms of speech, press, or assembly. The test was replaced in 1969 with Brandenburg v. Ohio‘s “imminent lawless action” test. Imminent danger means something is about to happen that will take all freedoms from everyone by an act of an outsider or insider who provokes war.
Isaiah warns God’s People that they are in imminent danger of losing all freedoms in all ways. This is the first time Isaiah clearly predicts Judah’s captivity in Babylon. With God’s leading, Isaiah teaches us some valuable lessons about faith, prayer, and the dangers of pride. Though the setting today may be different, the problems and temptations are still the same; for Hezekiah’s history is our history, and Hezekiah’s God is our God.
Isaiah 36, The Message
It’s Their Fate That’s at Stake
1-3 In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, Sennacherib king of Assyria made war on all the fortress cities of Judah and took them. Then the king of Assyria sent his general, the “Rabshekah,” accompanied by a huge army, from Lachish to Jerusalem to King Hezekiah. The general stopped at the aqueduct where it empties into the upper pool on the road to the public laundry. Three men went out to meet him: Eliakim son of Hilkiah, in charge of the palace; Shebna the secretary; and Joah son of Asaph, the official historian.
4-7 The Rabshekah said to them, “Tell Hezekiah that the Great King, the king of Assyria, says this: ‘What kind of backing do you think you have against me? You’re bluffing and I’m calling your bluff. Your words are no match for my weapons. What kind of backup do you have now that you’ve rebelled against me? Egypt? Don’t make me laugh. Egypt is a rubber crutch. Lean on Egypt and you’ll end up flat on your face. That’s all Pharaoh king of Egypt is to anyone who leans on him. And if you try to tell me, “We’re leaning on our God,” isn’t it a bit late? Hasn’t Hezekiah just gotten rid of all the places of worship, telling you, “You’ve got to worship at this altar”?
8-9 “‘Be reasonable. Face the facts: My master the king of Assyria will give you two thousand horses if you can put riders on them. You can’t do it, can you? So how do you think, depending on flimsy Egypt’s chariots and riders, you can stand up against even the lowest-ranking captain in my master’s army?
10 “‘And besides, do you think I came all this way to destroy this land without first getting God’s blessing? It was your God who told me, Make war on this land. Destroy it.’”
11 Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah answered the Rabshekah, “Please talk to us in Aramaic. We understand Aramaic. Don’t talk to us in Hebrew within earshot of all the people gathered around.”
12 But the Rabshekah replied, “Do you think my master has sent me to give this message to your master and you but not also to the people clustered here? It’s their fate that’s at stake. They’re the ones who are going to end up eating their own excrement and drinking their own urine.”
13-15 Then the Rabshekah stood up and called out loudly in Hebrew, the common language, “Listen to the message of the Great King, the king of Assyria! Don’t listen to Hezekiah’s lies. He can’t save you. And don’t pay any attention to Hezekiah’s pious sermons telling you to lean on God, telling you ‘God will save us, depend on it. God won’t let this city fall to the king of Assyria.’
16-20 “Don’t listen to Hezekiah. Listen to the king of Assyria’s offer: ‘Make peace with me. Come and join me. Everyone will end up with a good life, with plenty of land and water, and eventually something far better. I’ll turn you loose in wide open spaces, with more than enough fertile and productive land for everyone.’ Don’t let Hezekiah mislead you with his lies, ‘God will save us.’ Has that ever happened? Has any god in history ever gotten the best of the king of Assyria? Look around you. Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? The gods of Sepharvaim? Did the gods do anything for Samaria? Name one god that has ever saved its countries from me. So what makes you think that God could save Jerusalem from me?’”
21 The three men were silent. They said nothing, for the king had already commanded, “Don’t answer him.”
22 Then Eliakim son of Hilkiah, the palace administrator, Shebna the secretary, and Joah son of Asaph, the court historian, tearing their clothes in defeat and despair, went back and reported what the Rabshekah had said to Hezekiah.
WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?
Hezekiah was arrogant. He felt he didn’t need God or his leading. God’s great purpose in the life of faith is to build godly character. Hezekiah and his people needed to learn that faith is living without scheming. Life is God. Living for God leads to doing life right in the eyes of God.
Who we listen to is so important to discern right from wrong, life from death. The speech by the Assyrian chief of staff is one of the most insolent and blasphemous found anywhere in Scripture, for he reproached the God of Israel. He emphasized the greatness of the king of Assyria because he knew the common people were listening and he wanted to frighten them. His speech is a masterful piece of psychological warfare in which he discredited everything that the Jews held dear. What do we hold most dear?
The Assyrian chief of staff’s coup de grace was that everything Assyria had done was according to the will of the Lord. How could Judah fight against its own God? In one sense, this statement was true, for God is in charge of the nations of the world. But no nation can do what it pleases and use God for the excuse, as Sennacherib and his army would soon find out.
Insolence is best answered with silence. Jerusalem’s deliverance did not depend on negotiating with the enemy but on trusting the Lord. How deep and wide is our trust in God even when most nations around us do not?
Before the invasion, when Hezekiah had been deathly ill, Isaiah had assured him of deliverance. God’s promises are sure, but God’s people must claim them by faith before God can work. So, the king sent word to Isaiah, asking him to pray, and the king himself called out to the Lord for help. In the building up of our faith, the Word of God and faith go together (See Romans 10:17).
Hezekiah and his officers humbled themselves before the Lord and sought his face. As the king went into the temple, perhaps he recalled the promise God had given to Solomon after he had dedicated the temple: “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
Personally speaking, our response is to pray…
Lord, we, as believers in Jesus Christ, Son of God, call on You in the Name of Jesus. We humbly come before you, seeking your face, your wisdom, your will and your strategic plan to accomplish what you want. We repent and turn from sin that holds us in bondage. Set us free to worship you, love you and love each other the way you rlove us. We have faith and trust in you as we rely on your promise to hear us from heaven, forgive us our sins and heal us and our land.
In Jesus Name, For Your Glory, Amen!