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On Whom Are You Depending? (Isaiah Sermon 39 of 80)

On Whom Are You Depending? (Isaiah Sermon 39 of 80)

February 03, 2013 | Andy Davis
Isaiah 36:1-22
Allegory, Spiritual Warfare

Pastor Andy Davis preaches a verse-by-verse expository sermon on Isaiah 36:1-22. The sermon's main subject is ensuring we depend on God and not ourselves for victory in spiritual warfare.



As I listened to Nathan read that historical narrative, I thought, “OK, finally—it's on.” Basically, what I thought. For 30 chapters, it's almost like Assyria and God have been kind of circling and getting ready, and now when we come to Isaiah 36-37, finally the battle is joined, it's on. And you hear the words, these are in my opinion, satanic words that came into our sanctuary today, the words of the devil, basically, that's what we got to listen to as Nathan was reading that text. The words of a taunter and a boaster and a blasphemer, the words of an enemy, the words of a bully, and if our eyes were open to see the surrounding, the spiritual realm around us, we would realize we are still surrounded by evil, wicked enemies, bullies that would seek to intimidate us out of our secure position in Christ, in effect to come out of the walled fortress of our holiness, the walled fortress of our security, open the doors and go out and surrender to the enemy. Frankly, I look on every temptation about the same way, and so what I'm gonna do in Isaiah 36-37 is we're gonna take these chapters and we're going to feel the weight of the history here, we're going to embrace it as history, we're gonna say it really happened, we believe in the inerrant word of God, and we think that the actual historical events are important, and we're gonna deal honestly with the history.

And then, please don't tell anyone, but we're gonna go straight allegorical after that. Alright, we're gonna go right into spiritualization and allegory, in which I'm going to say that the words of this field commander represent Satan and the walled fortress of Zion, the citadel of Zion, the city of Jerusalem represents your soul. And I'm going to talk about how God wants you to resist the flaming arrows of the words of the evil one as you stand in your secure position in Christ. That's what we're gonna do. Now, I was talking to an Old Testament professor at Southeastern yesterday at the 20/20 conference, Heath Thomas, and he said I'm allowed to do it. So we're gonna go ahead and do it. Frankly, I don't know really how else we can take the lessons of a history 27 centuries ago and make it applicable to us today without drawing out spiritual principles and applying them to us. And so that's what we're going to do.

This is one of the darkest nights of Israel's history, one of the darkest nights of the history of the Jews, they are rendered very low at this point, their sin has brought them low, the judgments and chastisements of Almighty God have brought them very low. And yet, God is about to unleash a deliverance so spectacular and so glorious that it still, really for me, just takes my breath away, and we'll see the account of that in the next chapter. So chapter 36 just kind of sets the table for what's going to happen, the deliverance of Almighty God in chapter 37.

I. The Dire Situation: Assyria Invades Judah!

So let's do the setting, let's try to understand the setting. Scholars tell us, the year is about 700, 701 BC. About a little over 20 years before that, the Assyrians had invaded the northern kingdom of Israel and shut it down. They deported it because of the wickedness of that northern kingdom of Jews, the 10 tribes that were there, and so that's the backdrop, they fully had the power to do it, they were awesome, militarily strong, and they did it. In the year 705 BC, about four years before the events of this chapter, Sargon, the second king of Assyria died, and his son, Sennacherib, took his place on the throne of the Assyrian Empire. Hezekiah, at this point, King Hezekiah, king of the small kingdom of Judah, was a vassal king, a submissive king, and so the great king, and you hear that title given, “the great king,” is a ruler of kings in some way, a king of kings, and he expected tribute and submission from these vassal kings, but Hezekiah at this point led, it seems, some kind of a rebellion against this new king, this young king of Assyria, testing him to see his resolve.

Hezekiah, it seems, was a ring leader in this. It seems that he did it as an act of his faith in Almighty God. His father Ahaz had made an unholy and ungodly political alliance with Assyria. And the story's told in Isaiah 7, as he was afraid of Syria, a different nation, a small nation, and the northern kingdom of Israel, as they allied together against him. Ahaz, trembling in fear, was being tempted to make an alliance with the mighty Assyrians to deliver him from these two smaller kingdoms. Isaiah at that point, in Isaiah 7, went out to him at the exact same location as in this chapter, the aqueduct in the Upper Pool of to the road to the Washerman's Field, that place, that's where Isaiah challenged Ahaz and told him. Because it says in Isaiah 7, the hearts of the people were flattering like leaves of a tree shaken by wind, so they're all terrified of Syria and Israel, the northern kingdom. He said, “Be careful, keep calm, don't be afraid. [Don't do what I think you're going to do, don't send out for an alliance with Assyria],” and then he gives them this warning in Isaiah 7:9, “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.”

Well, that was Ahaz, Hezekiah's father, and he went ahead and made the faithless, the godless alliance with Assyria. But it says about Hezekiah, his son, he fully trusted in the Lord his as God, he followed whole-heartedly after the pattern of his father David. And it says in 2 Kings 18:5-7, “Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him. He held fast to the Lord and did not cease to follow him; he kept the commands the Lord had given Moses. And the Lord was with him; he was successful in whatever he undertook. He rebelled against the king of Assyria and did not serve him.” So you just see the flow. It says, “He's faithful, he's trusting, he's doing everything God said, and he rebelled against the king of Assyria. It's clear that that's what God wanted him to do. Break that unholy Alliance, stop serving the king of Assyria.”

Well, the King of Assyria didn't take it kindly, to put it mildly, and it wasn't just Hezekiah. Other small kingdoms and their kings also sought to challenge the authority of the Assyrian Empire at that time. One of them was Merodach-Baladan, king of Babylon. Babylon at that point was just a small subject people, part of the Assyrian empire, and Sennacherib in 703, about two years before the events of this chapter, took an army, a mighty army and went down the Fertile Crescent and chased Merodach-Baladan the king of Babylon and defeated him put down that rebellion. When that was done, he comes back up with his army and starts to make his way down the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea to take on all of these small nations, these vassal states that have rebelled against him, it seems under Hezekiah's leadership. And so he turns to attack and to assault these small kingdoms.

Now, Hezekiah at this point is leading, in effect, a religious revival in Judah, turning back with a whole heart to true worship, worship in the old covenant pattern, and turning away from the worship of the high spots and the high places. This is the clearest display of Hezekiah's piety. It seems these high places, there were hills, mountains where the people, the Canaanites and Perizzites and Hivites and Jebusites, all those people, had set up shrines. And when the Jews were about to cross the Jordan into the promised land, the Lord through Moses, in the book of Deuteronomy said, “You must not worship as the people in the land do, everyone under every spreading tree or on the top of every hillside, to the one place I choose for worship, there you must go and there you must make your worship.” But unfortunately, the people, when they took over the promised land, took over the high places and started using them for worship, and so there came a kind of a pattern of syncretism, which is using pagan worship practices to worship the true God and frankly, eventually, even idolatry, worshipping false gods at those high places.

Now, what's sad is in the Book of Kings, in 1 Kings and 2 Kings, there's this regular pattern of godly kings who would come along, but they wouldn't remove the high places. It was a blind spot. And again, at the risk of spiritualizing, I think that it's just a truth, in sanctification, you can just have blind spots, there's just areas you just don't see that it's an issue. You can be godly, you can be walking with the Lord, but you just don't see that this is a problem. So you're not reading God's word carefully, you're not reading it properly. And so Asa for example, in 1 Kings 15, it says, “Although he did not remove the high places, Asa's heart was fully committed to the Lord all his life.” So here's someone fully committed the Lord, but a blind spot, he doesn't remove the high places. Jehoshaphat was the same way. “In everything [Jehoshaphat] walked in the ways of his father Asa and did not stray from them; he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. The high places, however, were not removed, the people continued to offer sacrifices on them and burn incense there.”

And it's a steady drone of 2 Kings as well. “Joash did what was right in the eyes of the Lord… The high places, however, were not removed.” “[Amaziah] did what was right in the eyes of the Lord… The high places, however, were not removed; the people continued to burn sacrifices and incense on them.” “[Uzziah] did what was right in the eyes of the Lord… The high places, however, were not removed; the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there.” “Jotham did what was right in the eyes of the Lord… The high places, however were not removed; the people continued to burn sacrifices and incense there.”

Finally, along comes Hezekiah, and I don't know what he saw or how he understood or how the Lord worked in his heart, but he realizes, “We have got to get rid of these high places, and we have got to worship as the Lord commanded before this one in this one place, the Lord has chosen from all the tribes there we must worship.” And so it says in 2 Kings 18, “[Hezekiah] did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father David had done. He removed the high places.” Amen! Hallelujah! I can't do that much with my voice, if I do two or three more of those, I'll be out, so, no more, that's it. I'm really happy about the high places, they're gone at last. “He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones, cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had used for the healing of the people, do you remember that? They were worshipping it, and they called it Nehushtan—broke it into pieces. “Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him. He held fast to the Lord and did not cease to follow him; he kept the commands the Lord had given to Moses.” And his faith led him to break his alliance with the King of Assyria. And so it's on. The king of Assyria is jealous for his glory, he's jealous for his kingdom, and he is taking on all of these small little vassal countries, and he's going to punish them for this rebellion, and so he comes with his awesome army down the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea.

First, he crushes the kings of Tyre and Sidon and leaves an outpost there. Fear and panic start spreading among all these small kingdoms. Ashdod and Ammon and Moab and Edom all sent emissaries to Sennacherib with gifts, begging for peace. He invades the land of the Philistines and destroys them, and subjugates Ashkelon, turns his attention to Ekron. Ekron had a pro-Assyrian king, but his people toppled him and sent that king to Hezekiah as a prisoner. At that point Sennacherib was confronted by a small allied army of Philistines, Egyptians and Ethiopians, a small force against him, and he knocks them aside like a gnat, crushes them about 20 miles west of Jerusalem. And then after all of these victories, all of this carnage, there's only one rebel leader left. And that's Hezekiah. And so he invades Judah. And as he invades Judah, that's where our story begins. In verse 1, “In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah's reign, Sennacherib king of Assyria, attacked all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them.” Look at the word all. He basically destroys everything but Jerusalem, now he's besieging Lachish at that point. But he just comes in, and this is exactly what God through Isaiah had said that Assyria was going to do. Like I said, we've been dealing with Assyria on and off for 30 chapters in Isaiah. And so he makes it very, very plain, in Isaiah 8:7-8, this is the prophecy, “Therefore, the Lord is about to bring against them [the sinners and Judah] the mighty floodwaters of the River—[parentheses] the king of Assyria with all his pomp. It will overflow all its channels, run over all its banks and sweep on into Judah, swirling over it, passing through it and reaching up to the neck.” Do you not see the precision of this prophecy. Everything in Judah will be gone, but the head, right up to the neck, and the neck, the head is the king and Jerusalem. And so the Assyrians come, Sennacherib comes, and he is besieging these cities, he conquers 46 cities in Judah, or towns or cities in Judah, and he's got just one left, the second most powerful city, Lachish, and he's besieging in, and it's only just a matter of time.

And at that point, the King of Assyria levies money on Hezekiah, implication is “Send me some money, I might think about going away.” And so 2 Kings 18:14-16, “Hezekiah king of Judah sent this message to the king of Assyria at Lachish: ‘I have done wrong. [I'm sorry, please forgive me.] Withdraw from me, and I will pay whatever you demand of me.’ The king of Assyria exacted from Hezekiah king of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold. So Hezekiah gave him all the silver that was found in the temple of the Lord and in the treasuries of the royal palace. And at that time Hezekiah king of Judah stripped all the gold with which he had covered the doors and door posts of the temple of the Lord and gave it to the king of Assyria.” Now we covered this a little bit in some chapters earlier in Isaiah 33, where he talks about woe to the betrayer and the treacherous one. I don't think he should have sent the silver and gold. Let him come because that's what's eventually gonna happen anyway, and when the king of Assyria received the gold and silver, he then sends this field commander with a detachment of his army to say to Jerusalem, “You need to surrender too.” So what did the gold and silver accomplish? Nothing. What did all the emissaries down to Egypt accomplish? Nothing, All that's left now is Hezekiah and God, Hezekiah and the remnant within the walls of Jerusalem, and the Almighty Ruler of the universe, Almighty God.

So the field commander comes with a large detachment of soldiers, not the whole army, but just a portion of the Assyrian army, and his mission is very clear. He is there to intimidate and to bluff Hezekiah into coming out of the walled fortress of Zion, the city of Jerusalem, to open the gates and come out and surrender, that's what the mission is, and he's going to use intimidation, he's gonna use words, he's gonna use what you heard Nathan reading in Isaiah 36, he's gonna use that.

So here he is, “Then the king of Assyria,” verses 2-3, “sent his field commander with a large army from Lachish to King Hezekiah at Jerusalem. And when the commander stopped at the aqueduct of the Upper Pool, on the road to the Washerman's Field, Eliakim son of Hilkiah the palace administrator, Shebna the secretary, and Joah son of Asaph the recorder went out to him.”

II. Psychological Warfare: The Field Commander’s Intimidating Speech (vs. 14-17)

And now it begins, we see the psychological warfare, verses 4-17. This is just sheer propaganda. You guys remember in World War II, the use of propaganda like Tokyo Rose and Axis Betty or whatever her name was, that just putting over the airwaves, all the bad things that were gonna happen to the Allies, if they would continue to fight against the undefeatable forces of Germany or of Japan. Propaganda. Well, why is this going on? Is Assyria... Is the king of Assyria, afraid of Jerusalem. No, but let's be honest, siege warfare is costly, it's is dangerous, it's is gonna take time and money, it's gonna lose some soldiers. If you can talk them out of the fortress, that's better. And that's what he's trying to do.

Now, in verse 4-5, the field commander amazingly asked what I think are two of the most important questions that you could ever ask of yourself. It's really quite interesting when you think about it. And in fact, God speaks through him to us. What are those questions, in verse 4, “On what are you basing this confidence of yours?” What's the basis of your confidence? Verse 5, “On whom are you relying?” It's really the same question twice. “What are you trusting in? On whom are you relying? What is the source of your confidence?” So I kinda wanna unfold that, but let's keep it in the history here. The field commander says, “Tell Hezekiah, ‘This is what the great king, the king of Assyria, says: On what are you basing this confidence of yours?’” So the field commander acts incredulous, “So I don't…” he's saying, “I don't get it. Is there something I'm missing here? Do you not know who we are? Do you not know who Sennacherib is? Do you not know who this great king is? We are the undefeated and undefeatable Assyrian army, it’s who we are. Where in the world did you get this arrogance, this confidence to rebel against my master?”

Notice the disrespect, he says, "Tell Hezekiah." “Oh, you mean King Hezekiah?” “No, tell Hezekiah.” The disrespect. So this is not an envoy of peace coming to negotiate a peace treaty or whatever, this is just absolute intimidation, is what this is. And then he says, "Tell Hezekiah, this is what the great king, the king of Assyria says." That almost sounds like, "Thus says the Lord," doesn't it? This kind of arrogant taking of God's place. This is what God says, this is what your God says, in effect. And he asked this question, “On what are you basing this confidence of yours?” And so what he's gonna try to do is chop down the tree of confidence, he's gonna try to figure out what could they be relying on that they're not coming out of the city. Perhaps in verse 5, it's some secret military strength, there's some kind of hidden strategy that we don't know. Perhaps in verse 6, it's an alliance with Egypt, maybe that's what it is that you're relying on? Really, maybe in verse 7, you're relying on your religion, relying on the Lord to deliver you. So he wants to try to strip away, step by step, any confidence they may have in these things.

First one in verse 5, secret military strength or are some kind of hidden strategy. Verse 5, he says, "You say you have strategy and military strength—but you speak on the empty words. On whom are you depending, that you rebel against me?" “On whom are you relying, here? So maybe Hezekiah thinks he has some tricks, a military trick that he can use, some device maybe, maybe his inventors have invented some kind of an invention, a device that'll win the battle, but actually, ultimately, you Judeans who are still inside the walled fortress of Jerusalem, you're just relying on words. Mere words.” So the ESV translation is just mere words, he says, "Do you think that mere words are strategy and power for war? In whom do you now, trust that you have rebelled against me?" So Hezekiah is a talker, but he doesn't have anything behind it. By the way, notice how the field commander is using “mere words” to try to open the citadel of Jerusalem. Aren't you grateful that mere words have power? Because that's what your soul is relying on today, the mere words of the gospel, the mere words of Almighty God. The gospel, which is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. And faith comes from what? What does it come from? Hearing the word. And so as you hear the word, that's where you get saved, and yet he says, you're relying on mere words.

"Aren't you grateful that mere words have power? Because that's what your soul is relying on today, the mere words of the gospel, the mere words of Almighty God. The gospel, which is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes."

Secondly, that alliance with Egypt cannot save you. Mere words cannot save you, and the alliance with Egypt cannot save you. Verse 6, “Look now, you're depending on Egypt, that splintered reed of a staff, which pierces a man's hand and wounds him if he leans on it! Such as Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who depend on him.” Well, it's amazing that frankly, the field commander and Isaiah and God are all in agreement on this one. Aren't they? We've been talking about this for a while, Isaiah 30, and then Isaiah 31 both say, "Why are you sending emissaries to Egypt? They can't help you. They won't help you." That was Isaiah's message to Hezekiah and to his counselors. And I love, actually, love what the field commander says it's like a false assurance is like a splintered reed of a staff, which as you lean on it, it's going to pierce your hand. So hold on to that image 'cause I'm gonna use it later in the allegorical section of the this sermon. But that leaning, it's like stepping on a board and putting your whole weight on it, and it's rotten and it collapses and you fall to your death. Such is a false confidence or false trust, and Egypt is that. God frankly says the exact same thing about Egypt in Ezekiel 29. He says in verse 6, and following, “You [Egypt] have been a staff of reed for the house of Israel. When they grasped grasp you with their hands, you splintered and you tore open their shoulders; when they leaned on you, you broke and their backs were wrenched.” So that's a false assurance, something you trust in that will not hold you up when you need it to. In any case, the field commander’s striking at whatever he can to demoralize the people of Judah.

So mere words cannot save you, Egypt cannot save you, and the Lord will not save you. Verse 7, “And if you say to me, ‘We are depending on the Lord, our God’—isn't he the one whose high places and altars Hezekiah removed, saying to Judah and Jerusalem, ‘You must worship before this altar’?” Well, he's going for the jugular, right here. At this point, they are trusting in God, that's exactly what they're trusting in, and so he said, “Let's talk about that. Hezekiah has initiated these religious reforms, and God's angry about those religious reforms and doesn't want them done.” Well, praise God for the faulty theology of the field commander, it's going to end up destroying him. So this is the first time he has a twisted interpretation of what's happened. It is true, he does have information that Hezekiah destroyed all the high places, but he doesn't have it right what God thinks about that. Now, he could be doing a political trick and saying, in effect, “Some of your own people are really tweaked at you Hezekiah for removing the high places, They liked them, and they're angry at you for removing them,” and so he's trying to drive a wedge between Hezekiah and his people, that's quite possible, but at any rate, he's going for their faith in Almighty God.

Well, let's get to the real issue from the point of view of the Assyrian field commander, “You know what the real issue is? You're pathetically weak compared to us, and let's just get the that brass tacks. You can't beat us in battle, and therefore you need to surrender to us. I mean, all the rest of the stuff is just theory, until you come to your senses and realize you can't beat us.” That's verse 8-9, he says, "Come now, make a bargain with my master, the king of Assyria: I will give you two thousand horses—if you can even put riders on them! How then can you repulse one officer of the least of my master's officials, even though you are relying on Egypt for chariots and horsemen?” So this guy actually has some good information, that's exactly what they sent money down to Egypt to get is a cavalry. They have good infantry in Judah, they just don't have a cavalry. He said, “I tell you what? Let me help you with that. Can I help you with that? I tell you what, we'll give you horses. We'll go ahead and give you some horses. Do you have anybody that can ride them? Actually, we're excellent at cavalry. We do this very, very well. The fact of the matter is, you can't even come close to defeating us in a battle. Simple mathematics, difference, simple mathematics.” And frankly, at one level, this makes perfect sense. Jesus himself said it, didn't he? In Luke 14, “Suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand men? And if he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and ask for terms of peace.” That's just the mathematics of battle.

Do you know how many times in the Old Testament God blows the rules of the mathematics of battle? So in one sense, it makes perfect sense. To the king of Assyria and to his underling, it makes perfect sense, but God's gonna do something different. It's gonna be 185,000 versus one and the one's gonna win. See, I told you again, I hate letting it out, the plot spoiler, but you already read it. You know what's gonna happen. The mathematics don't line up. And then he says in verse 10, "Furthermore, [God actually told us to come. God told us to come.] have I come to attack and destroy this land without the Lord? The Lord himself told me to march against this country and destroy it." Actually, that's true. God sent the Assyrians. He sent them to discipline his people for their idolatry and their sin. That's actually true. It says in Isaiah 7:20, "In that day the Lord will use a razor hired from beyond the River—the King of Assyria—to shave your head and the hair of your legs, and to take off your beards also." In Isaiah 10, he calls the Assyrian “the rod of [his] anger, in whose hand is the club of [his] wrath.” God uses them against the godlessness of his people.

Well, at this point, the envoys, deeply intimidated, terrified by this man's words, make a simple request: “Please speak to your servants in Aramaic, since we understand it. Don't speak to us in Hebrew in the hearing of the people on the wall.” I think, you know, a reasonable request. Yeah, but they're missing this guy’s mission, they don't understand what his mission is. He said, "Alright, good idea, let me raise my voice,” and I can't do it, you guys know that, but he raises his voice at that point and starts calling out in Hebrew to the men on the wall. “Thanks for reminding me about the men on the wall, let's talk to them.” “Was it only to your master and you that my master sent me to say these words, and not also to the men sitting on the wall—who, like you, will have to eat their own filth and drink their own urine?” Well, that's just flat out disgusting. But it's reality, because when you are besieged by a mighty force and you can't break out, you're going to starve to death, and so he's intimidating them and saying, “You're going to starve to death if you stay in there.” And so he calls out, “Divide and conquer.” He wants to separate the people from Hezekiah. “Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, [O people on the wall]. He cannot deliver you. Do not let Hezekiah persuade you to trust in the Lord when he says, ‘The Lord will surely deliver us; this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.’" “He's trying to deceive you. Hezekiah's lying to you—he can't defeat Assyria.” And he's trying to divide them, not only from faith in their king Hezekiah, but trying to divide them from faith in Almighty God.

Then he gives them a satanic sweetener. And what do I mean by that, a satanic sweetener? He says, "Tell you what? Let's make a deal. Why don't you surrender? Why don't you come out? And life is gonna be really, really good for you, it's gonna be great." Look at what it says in verse 16-17, "Do not listen to Hezekiah. This is what the king of Assyria says: ‘Make peace with me and come out to me. Then every one of you will eat from his own vine and fig tree and drink water from his own cistern, until I come and take you to a land like your own—a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards." “So it's gonna be really good if you surrender to us, it's gonna be great, you can keep your own land, you'll be able to eat your own food, and we'll just go away, and then later we might take you on a vacation to Assyria, and it's gonna be wonderful. And you can could just have a great time.” Do you not hear how diabolical this is? It's the allure, the temptation, the enticement. Do you not know the reputation the Assyrians had and what they did to those that rebelled against them? They put them up on sharpened spikes of wood, they decapitate them, there were piles of heads in one places and headless bodies in the other. This is what the Assyrians did all the time. They loved cruelty to those that opposed them. It says in Nahum 3, concerning Nineveh the capital city of Assyria, "Woe to the city of blood, full of lies." This is a lie. “Full of lies, full of plunder, never without victims! The crack of whips, the clatter of wheels, galloping horses, jolting chariots! Charging cavalry, flashing swords, glittering spears! Many casualties, piles of dead, bodies without number, people stumbling over the corpses.”

III. Blasphemy: The Field Commander’s Fatal Error (vs. 18-20)

Now we get to the good part at last. Verses 18-20, blasphemy, "Do not let Hezekiah mislead you when he says, ‘The Lord will deliver us.’ Has the god of any nation ever delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim? Have they rescued Samaria from my hand? Who of all the gods of these countries has ever been able to save his land from me? And how then can the Lord deliver Jerusalem from my hand?" Here, the field commander, in his blasphemy, overreaches himself. Evil always overreaches, it always goes further than it should go. The field commander filled with national pride, with arrogance and blasphemy takes on God, Almighty God. Earlier, in effect, he said, “The Lord will not save you.” But what does he say here? “The Lord cannot save you.” That is the fatal error that will bring down the Assyrian Empire. That's what happened. The Assyrian Empire came down after this. Babylon took its place.

“The Lord cannot save you. No god's ever done it before.” It's that polytheistic mentality. “Each nation has its own gods. Those gods fight in the heavenly realms reflected in the way their armies fight on earth, and so your god must not be very powerful, you have a very small country, and so you probably can't win very big battles. Our gods have defeated everybody else is gods, and we're gonna defeat your little Yahweh God too.” But they don't understand who God is or who Israel is. They don't understand that relationship. They don't know what's going on. They don't understand that God sits enthroned above the circle of the earth and its people are like grasshoppers, and the nations are like a drop from the bucket, and that God is manipulating and pulling the strings and the chords of human history, and that it was because of the will of God that Assyria conquered all of these nations, and that when he's done with Assyria, he's gonna crush them and raise up another nation. It's what God does. And we're gonna get to all of that in chapter 37. Final act in 21-22, “The people remained silent and said nothing in reply, because the king had commanded them, ‘Do not answer him.’ Then Eliakim son of Hilkiah the palace administrator, Shebna the secretary, and Joah son of Asaph the recorder went to Hezekiah with their clothes torn, and told him what the field commander had said.”

"They don't understand that God sits enthroned above the circle of the earth and its people are like grasshoppers, and the nations are like a drop from the bucket, and that God is manipulating and pulling the strings and the chords of human history"

IV. Central Question in Life: On Whom Are You Depending?

So now we get to application, call it allegory if you want. But the central question in your life is this: on whom are you depending, on whom are you depending? And now let me tell you who the true bully is. It's like a three-headed bully: Satan, sin, death. It's a three-headed bully there, they all work together in effect, I take them the same. Satan as he allures you to sin and sin as it puts you to death. And so here's this bully standing outside, intimidating you, dominating you. Sin is portrayed as a tyrant that reigns. It says in Romans 5:21, “Sin reigned in death.” They're linked together. Sin and death are like dominating tyrants, and no one could take the hobnail bloody boot of death off of our necks, we could not throw off sin, we weren't strong enough. Let me ask you a question, when it comes to Satan and sin and death, on whom are you depending? What's your answer to the problem of Satan and sin and death? They besiege your soul and they threaten you with eternal loss. In whom are you trusting?

Now, there are some false faiths, there are some splintered reeds you can lean on when it comes to death, you can lean on them, but they're gonna pierce your hand in the end. False religions, the false faiths of the cults, at the heart of all false religions and cults is human effort, self-righteousness and effort to pay for sin by good works. Every false religion has that at its core. The five pillars of Islam are works righteousness in the Islamic pattern. So it is with Hinduism and Buddhism. So it is with Mormonism. The Jehovah's Witnesses are seeking to earn their salvation by good works. These are false reeds that you can lean on. Then there's the splintered reed of atheistic materialism. They face death by saying, “It's part of life,” ironically. “We are just made up of atoms and molecules, that's all and when you die, whatever it is you were, goes away, there is no conscious existence after death.” Friends, that is a splintered reed of a staff that will pierce you eternally, if you believe that, because it is appointed to each one of us to die once and after that, to face judgment, Hebrews 9:27. So apparently there's an “after that.” Or there's the splintered reed of a staff of nominal Christianity, people who really don't understand the gospel and think that because they come to church or because they say, “Lord, Lord,” on judgment day, that he's going to welcome them. “Many will say to me…, ‘Lord, Lord,’” and he will say, "I never knew you. Away from me." It's a splintered reed of a staff.

So what then can we rely on? How about the Lord Jesus Christ? How about our Defender against the bully? I get this picture now of the walled citadel of the people of God, and the gate opening and out goes the champion to face the enemy. That champion is Jesus. He fought our battle for us. He went to the cross and he died in our place. His blood was shed for our sins. “The wages of sin is death.” Jesus paid the death penalty, but he didn't stay dead. On the third day, he rose again, throwing off the yoke of death, and he wants to give you the victory, full forgiveness of sins, a life forever more. Jesus is our champion. Are you relying on him? On whom are you depending? What are you relying on to face your enemies? And guess what? On the walls of Zion, on the walls of salvation, we may smile at all of our foe, we can look down and say, "We are safe and secure here because of the blood of Jesus, the imputed righteousness of Jesus. We are safe and secure." So we get to taunt death a little bit. Maybe even a lot. Let's taunt it forever. Amen. “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” That's taunting. We're gonna do some taunting, let's taunt back. Death cannot touch us. We're not afraid of death, we're not afraid of any of these things.

V. How Satan Attacks Our Minds

So what's left? What's left is you are in the citadel fortress of salvation in Christ, but you're not in heaven yet, and so up comes the satanic messenger and he starts to try to talk you out of your secure position. He tries to entice you through his words, to open the gate of security and come out and sin. John Bunyan wrote an allegory, not his more famous allegory is Pilgrims Progress, but he wrote an allegory called The Holy War, and he likened individual people to a walled city, the city of Mansoul. It's kind of cool, you guys gotta read it, Holy War, and Mansoul has five gates, five gates, to enter in. The five gates are Ear-Gate, Eye-Gate, Mouth-Gate, Nose-Gate, and Feel-Gate. But he said that the most important one, first and foremost was Ear Gate, and this is what Bunyan wrote, Ear-Gate, “This was the gate of audience, and through the gate, the words of the temper must penetrate, if the temptation is to be successful. Into the ears of our first mother did the wily serpent whisper the…words of his seductive wiles and through Ear-Gate, he assailed her heart and won it [over]. To give audience to the temper [then] is the next step to yielding up obedience to his will.” So what does Satan do to get in through Ear-Gate? Well, what did he do to Eve? Do you remember what he said? How he began the whole encounter? “Did God really say you must not eat from any tree in the garden?” Okay? “God did say that we can eat, we're free to eat from any of the trees, but we must not eat from the tree of the knowledge good and evil, for when we eat it, we will die.” “You will not surely die. For the Lord knows, God knows that when you eat of it, your eyes will be opened and you'll be like God, knowing good and evil.”

There are three categories of satanic communication. Category one, “Did God really say?” That's just questioning. “I'm just asking a question here. I'm just raising up an issue. This is what the scholars do, I'm just raising... I'm just raising a question now. I'm just raising an issue. Did God really say?” Raising a doubt. Category one. Category two, “You will not surely die.” Friends, what do you call that? That's just a lie. That's a deadly lie. Jesus said that Satan was a liar from the beginning, an assassin of souls. And that's just a lie. “You will not surely die.” And then the third statement, “For God knows that when you eat of this tree, your eyes will be opened and you'll be like God, knowing good and evil,” what is that? Friends, that's the truth, but it's truth in service to a lie. These are the three abiding categories of satanic communication to your souls. Satanic communication. Questioning “Did God really say?”, lying about what God really said, and telling the truth, but twisting it for the purpose of serving a lie.

And so, how can we resist? Well, first of all, see yourself in a walled citadel of holiness and know that temptation is coming and stand firm and extinguish all the flaming arrows of Satan's temptations, his allurements. He's going to entice you. He's gonna say, "Hey, make a deal with my master if you come out. It's gonna be really good. You can have a good time." It kinda reminds me of Proverbs 7 with this seductress. Remember her? In Proverbs 7:16-18, she says, “I've covered my bed with colored linens from Egypt. I perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. Come, let's drink deep of love until morning. [My husband's away, he's not coming back for a long time.] Let's enjoy our fill of love until the morning." “It's gonna be really, really good. So why don't you make a bargain with my master once you come out of that city of yours and eat from your own vine and fig tree and enjoy yourself.”

Yeah, but you don't know that when you come out, they'll decapitate you immediately. Just know what he's doing—he assaults your holy resolutions. He says, "Okay, I know you resolved to change this sin pattern in your life, you can't do it. Sooner or later you're mine, baby. Sooner or later you're gonna yield. So why don't you just do it today?" He's assaulting your holy resolutions, he's assaulting what you've resolved to do and be in Christ, by telling you you'll never be able to keep it up. “Sooner or later you're mine.” But that's a lie. You're not a slave to sin, you're a slave to righteousness. You can keep this up by the power of the Spirit, absolutely. And then he'll accuse you of sin, he'll assault you with sin, causing you to focus more on your sin then on God's provision. He'll assault your hope; he'll assault our unity, seeking to sever us from confidence in our leaders and in each other, just like this field commander did. He'll assault our doctrine; he'll teach blasphemous lies about God's ability or power or sovereignty. So what do we do to stay safe? Resist him standing firm in the truth you have in Christ. “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm.” And as Jesus said, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written…" Close with me in prayer.

Father, we thank you for the time we've had to study Isaiah 36. I pray that you would help each of my brothers and sisters here to stand firm in the security of Christ's righteousness, and I pray if there are any here that do not yet know Christ, that they would turn to the cross, to the blood that was shed, and believe that Christ has died in their place and risen again, and that they would not walk out of here unregenerate, walk out of here instead, a child of God, in your name, we pray, Lord, amen.

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