Sunday, July 30, 2017

Hezekiah's Enemy (Part II)

"So Rabshakeh returned, and found the king of Assyria warring against Libnah: for he had heard that he was departed from Lachish. And he heard say concerning Tirhakah king of Ethiopia, He is come forth to make war with thee. And when he heard it, he sent messengers to Hezekiah, saying, Thus shall ye speak to Hezekiah king of Judah, saying, Let not thy God, in whom thou trustest, deceive thee, saying, Jerusalem shall not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria. Behold, thou hast heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands by destroying them utterly; and shalt thou be delivered? Have the gods of the nations delivered them which my fathers have destroyed, as Gozan, and Haran, and Rezeph, and the children of Eden which were in Telassar? Where is the king of Hamath, and the king of Arphad, and the king of the city of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivah? And Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it: and Hezekiah went up unto the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD." (Isaiah 37:8-14)

After conquering Lachish, Sennacherib moved northwest toward Libnah, another fortified city. This would seem to be where the king was when his army was faced with divine judgment. It is impossible to give minute details concerning the engagement between Egypt and Assyria. Ancient history has little to say about the conflict; however, Sennacherib's records claim that there was a confrontation and that he was victorious. Apparently, the two armies confronted each other in the plains of the Philistines. The Egyptians and Ethiopians under their Ethiopian king Tirhakah were defeated, and the surrounding Philistine towns were destroyed. Sennacherib claims to have hung the bodies of the citizens on poles around the town of Ekron. Isaiah had vividly illustrated the defeat of the Egyptians and Ethiopians (20:1-6) some ten years earlier (711).

The river of Gozan was a tributary that emptied into the Euphrates River, and the city of Gozan was located on its banks between the cities of Harran and Nineveh. Harran is probably the same Syrian city to which Abraham came on his journey out of Ur (Acts 7:2-4).

Amos identifies Eden as a city connected to Damascus in Syria (Amos 1:5). Telassar means Assyrian hill indicating its defeat by Assyria. Apparently it was in Mesopotamia. The king reiterates his defeat of the previously mentioned cities.

Hezekiah had come to the end of himself; therefore, he humbly went into the house of God. Hezekiah's grandfather did not enter into the temple of the Lord (II Chronicles 27:2), and nothing good came of it. It is good to know that God honors the son who wishes to avoid the mistakes of the father.

"And Hezekiah prayed unto the LORD, saying, O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, that dwellest between the cherubims, thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth: thou hast made heaven and earth. Incline thine ear, O LORD, and hear; open thine eyes, O LORD, and see: and hear all the words of Sennacherib, which hath sent to reproach the living God. Of a truth, LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations, and their countries, and have cast their gods into the fire: for they were no gods, but the work of men's hands, wood and stone: therefore they have destroyed them. Now therefore, O LORD our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the LORD, even thou only." (Isaiah 37:9-20)

Hezekiah's prayer condemned the polytheistic thinking of the heathen enemy. God was well aware of what Sennacherib had both thought and said; yet, Hezekiah entreats the Lord to see and to hear as a full expression of the weight he felt because of Sennacherib's contempt for God.

The king admits to the truth of Assyria's victories; but, unknown to Sennacherib, these victories were against godless nations. The nation which does not reside under the Creator's protection leaves itself open for destruction. A predominantly wrong view of God and deity has never changed the truth. The Lord is not intimidated by the fact that most of the world has always been against His truth. In the end, the vast majority will be proven wrong, and God will reign supreme.

Hezekiah's prayer expressed a desire for God to be glorified before all people. "Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also (Romans 3:29)." The Lord may be known of anyone who has a desire to seek Him. The deliverance for which the king prayed would directly affect the Jew and indirectly affect the Gentile.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Hezekiah's Enemy

"And it came to pass, when king Hezekiah heard it, that he rent his clothes, and covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of the LORD. And he sent Eliakim, who was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and the elders of the priests covered with sackcloth, unto Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz. And they said unto him, Thus saith Hezekiah, This day is a day of trouble, and of rebuke, and of blasphemy: for the children are come to the birth, and there is not strength to bring forth. It may be the LORD thy God will hear the words of Rabshakeh, whom the king of Assyria his master hath sent to reproach the living God, and will reprove the words which the LORD thy God hath heard: wherefore lift up thy prayer for the remnant that is left." (Isaiah 37:1-4)

Hezekiah's response is exemplary. When faced with an impossible situation, he humbled himself and took the need to God. Sending the elders of the priests demonstrated the appropriate involvement and concern of the spiritual leadership. This was not a task solely for Hezekiah's own officers.

The king likens Jerusalem's situation to a birth-ready child which cannot progress beyond the cervical opening. Judah's attempts to deliver herself from the enemy were as successful as an unfinished birth. To fail just inches from the finish line is still to fail. Hezekiah had learned much. His choice to reject Isaiah's anti-Egyptian counsel had proven a serious mistake. The compromise of the temple's treasures, and the delivery of his own family into the hand's of the Assyrians had proven a useless waste. Now was the time for complete dependence upon the mercies of God. The Lord would need to intervene. The king and his people were as that unborn child. If they could not escape the "womb" of their predicament, it would forever be their grave.

"So the servants of king Hezekiah came to Isaiah. And Isaiah said unto them, Thus shall ye say unto your master, Thus saith the LORD, Be not afraid of the words that thou hast heard, wherewith the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me. Behold, I will send a blast upon him, and he shall hear a rumour, and return to his own land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his 
own land." (Isaiah 37:5-7)

In keeping with His infinite mercy, the Lord sends encouraging words to the king and his people. "He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him (103:10-11)."

God commanded the people not to fear. Sennacherib's quarrel was not with them but with the Almighty. God does not need any man to mediate for Him. To blaspheme means to revile. The Assyrians had reviled and despised their Creator. Because of this, God promised to send an evil blast upon them. The word behind blast is spirit, breath or wind. God's Spirit would move among the army inciting death and terror from which they would never recover. As the Lord had already promised, Sennacherib and his army would die.

For Tophet is ordained of old; yea, for the king it is prepared; he hath made it deep and large: the pile thereof is fire and much wood; the breath of the LORD, like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle it (Isaiah 30:33)

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Sennacherib's Rage (Part V)

"But they held their peace, and answered him not a word: for the king's commandment was, saying, Answer him not. Then came Eliakim, the son of Hilkiah, that was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and Joah, the son of Asaph, the recorder, to Hezekiah with their clothes rent, and told him the words of Rabshakeh." (Isaiah 36:21-22)

Some words do not deserve a reply. Hezekiah's messengers would have been wasting their time to answer such an arrogant fool. The Almighty would answer these arguments Himself. Besides, what was there to say? The sins of Judah had brought this situation upon her. God was using this Assyrian rod, and only He could break it when its arrogance exhausted its usefulness. The messengers showed wisdom in their actions. They rent their clothes in humility and fear for what had been spoken against the Lord. Their actions demonstrated an acknowledgment of their inability to help themselves and their dependence upon the One Who can work the impossible. At this juncture, they and their king had no recourse but to take Rabshakeh's words to God and remember the words of Isaiah spoken many years prior.

Wherefore it shall come to pass, that when the Lord hath performed his whole work upon mount Zion and on Jerusalem, I will punish the fruit of the stout heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his high looks. For he saith, By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom; for I am prudent: and I have removed the bounds of the people, and have robbed their treasures, and I have put down the inhabitants like a valiant man: And my hand hath found as a nest the riches of the people: and as one gathereth eggs that are left, have I gathered all the earth; and there was none that moved the wing, or opened the mouth, or peeped. Shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith? or shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it? as if the rod should shake itself against them that lift it up, or as if the staff should lift up itself, as if it were no wood. Therefore shall the Lord, the Lord of hosts, send among his fat ones leanness; and under his glory he shall kindle a burning like the burning of a fire (Isaiah 10:12-16).

Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Judgment following the Kingdom

"And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their 
works." (Revelation 20:11-12)

This is the second resurrection. The blessed of the first resurrection will not take part in the resurrection described here. This resurrection is reserved for the damned. The Scriptures have foretold of not only a resurrection of the just but also of the damned. "And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake ... some to shame and everlasting contempt (Daniel 12:2)." Jesus said, "...The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth ... they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation (John 5:28-29)."

Outside of Christ's righteousness, each person will be judged not according to the merits of the sinless Savior but according to the merits of his own insufficient and evil works. The one who resists the grace of Jesus Christ will receive the graceless reward of his own works (Psalm 143:2, Romans 4:4, James 2:10).

"And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire." (Revelation 20:13-15)

"The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death (I Corinthians 15:26)." Prior to being sentenced herself, death will be required to surrender the last of her victims. These souls will then be judged by their own faulty merits and consigned to the lake of fire. The lake of fire would seem to be the zenith of eternal damnation since death and hell are seen being cast into it.

The Almighty keeps perfect records. He knows His own. God's memory is flawless. He does not need records, but He keeps them as a testimony to man. Other Bible passages speak of these heavenly records (Exodus 32:32-33, Philippians 4:3).

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Sennacherib's Rage (Part IV)

"Hearken not to Hezekiah: for thus saith the king of Assyria, Make an agreement with me by a present, and come out to me: and eat ye every one of his vine, and every one of his fig tree, and drink ye every one the waters of his own cistern; Until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of corn and wine, a land of bread and vineyards. Beware lest Hezekiah persuade you, saying, The LORD will deliver us. Hath any of the gods of the nations delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arphad? where are the gods of Sepharvaim? and have they delivered Samaria out of my hand? Who are they among all the gods of these lands, that have delivered their land out of my hand, that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?" (Isaiah 36:16-20)

Rather than face starvation through resistance, the king proposes surrender. He promised that each inhabitant would be permitted to return temporarily to his home. Cisterns were large pits used to collect rain water which could then be used for drinking. Not being very clean, this water was usually mixed with alcoholic wine in order to kill bacteria and prevent sickness. In light of this, the vineyard was a necessary part of life. The Assyrians commonly practiced deportation of conquered peoples. Removing a population from its homeland and replacing it with another from a different country reduced the probability of a patriotism-inspired uprising.

The king continues to tread upon dangerous ground by blaspheming the God of Israel. He now places God on the same level as the nations he had previously conquered. By inference, Sennacherib is saying that Ashur, the god of Assyria, is stronger than the LORD, the God of Israel. He would soon discover that the opposite was true. As mentioned previously in chapter ten, Arpad was besieged in 743 by Tiglathpileser III and overcome in 740. The city was located in northern Syria approximately thirteen miles north of Aleppo. Hamath was also a Syrian city, and it lay along the Orontes River in western Syria. This important city fell to the Assyrians sometime near 732 BC when Damascus was taken by Tiglathpileser (see notes on 10:9). The exact location of Sepharvaim remains a mystery. Some equate it to the ancient city of Sippar in Babylonia; however, no one is certain. Of course, Samaria was the capital of Israel and had fallen in 722 BC under the reign of Sargon.

Rabshakeh's message from the king ends with one final word of blasphemy. He suggests that the God of Israel is no stronger than the well-known false gods of the fallen nations; therefore, Jerusalem could not possibly be victorious.   

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Assault against the Kingdom

"And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, and shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea." (Revelation 20:7-8)

Thousands will come to faith in Christ during His earthly reign; however, the millennial kingdom is not the eternal state. Man's sin nature will still be present. Babies will be born in the kingdom. Flesh and blood will co-exist with the bodies of resurrected saints. The rebellious heart of man will still exist, and the evil heart of many will choose the lies of Satan over the truth of Christ.

A few Old Testament passages give a small glimpse into the presence of rebellion during the kingdom period. In his millennial Psalm, the Holy Spirit said, "Say unto God, How terrible art thou in thy works! through the greatness of thy power shall thine enemies submit themselves unto thee (Psalm 66:3)." The Hebrew word behind submit, means to deceive or (in this context) to cower in deception. Not every citizen in the kingdom will be a true believer. It would appear that only true believers will be permitted to enter the kingdom (Matthew 25:31-46); however, near the end of the kingdom, many will be unregenerate and will choose to side with Satan against the Messiah. Zechariah 14:17-19 also indicates the presence of human rebellion in the kingdom.

"And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever." (Revelation 20:9-10)

In every dispensation God has proven that man is wicked and the Lord is righteous. Man failed in the garden. He abused government. His need for God's righteousness is thoroughly displayed under the Abrahamic covenant. The dispensation of Law exposed his sinful heart. The age of grace has clearly revealed the degradation of man and the sufficiency of Christ, and in the end of the world, God will once more reveal man's failure even in the most blessed of circumstances. In summation, every individual needs the saving work of Jesus Christ.

This final defeat of Jerusalem's attackers is likely not the battle described in Ezekiel 38-39. Although similarities exist, there are too many obstacles to definitively say that the events of Ezekiel and the events presented here are one and the same.

Satan is seen receiving his eternal reward. His freedom to roam and to devour will soon be terminated, and he will then take his place in the lake of fire along with the rest of the unholy trinity (19:20).

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Establishment of the Kingdom

"And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, and cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season." (Revelation 20:1-3)

The two names mean slanderer and adversary respectively. From the beginning, the devil has opposed the work of God and led people astray with his lies. "...For he is a liar, and the father of it (John 8:44)." He misrepresented God and deceived Eve (Genesis 3:1, I Timothy 2:14). He sought to move God against Job without cause so that Job might be destroyed (Job 2:3). He is termed the god of this world who is consistently about the work of deceiving mankind (II Corinthians 4:4). He is compared to a roaring lion that roams about freely looking to devour anyone he may (I Peter 5:8, Job 1:7). Unceasingly, he is engaged in the occupation of deception and destruction, and the believer is susceptible to the danger of his attacks (II Corinthians 2:11).

During the 1,000 year reign of Jesus Christ, the devil will be imprisoned in the abyss (bottomless pit). He will not be permitted to carry out his deceptive work during that time. The conversion of millions will be a fruit of the devil's confinement; however, the context will soon declare that man's rebellious heart remains with him even in the absence of Satan.

"And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years." (Revelation 20:4-6)

The saints of all ages will be present in the kingdom. Church Age saints who have died in Christ will be resurrected and taken up with those saints who are alive. This event will occur prior to the Tribulation.

For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord (I Thessalonians 4:15-17).

On numerous occasions, the New Testament speaks of Church Age believers being present in the millennial kingdom (Acts 14:22, Romans 14:17, I Corinthians 6:9, Colossians 1:13, I Thessalonians 2:12).

Old Testament saints will also be present. Christ's kingdom was that for which they looked with eager expectation. God told Daniel, "But go thou thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days (Daniel 12:13)." Daniel was promised an inheritance in Christ's kingdom. Concerning the patriarchs, Jesus said, "...Many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 8:11)."

The text makes it clear that tribulation saints will be there as well. Regardless of dispensation, every believer in Christ's righteousness will have a part in the kingdom. This first resurrection of the righteous is mentioned in both the Old and the New Testaments. Isaiah prophesied, "Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead (Isaiah 26:19)." In his disclosure of last things, the angel told Daniel, "And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life...(Daniel 12:2)." Commenting on this very passage, Jesus told the Jews, "Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life...(John 5:28-29)."

The participant in the first resurrection is blessed because he is covered by the blood of Jesus Christ; however, the participant in the second resurrection is cursed because he is damned being outside of faith in Christ's blood. Although the second resurrection is not specifically mentioned in the text, it is referred to by the phrase the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. These unregenerate souls are then seen being resurrected, judged and eternally sentenced after the kingdom of Christ is past.

Little is spoken of the kingdom. So much has been given in the Old Testament that the Holy Ghost merely says, "And they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years." Should the reader have questions as to the nature and order of the kingdom let him read the writings of Isaiah, Ezekiel, Amos, Micah, Zechariah and many others.

Sennacherib's Rage (Part III)

"Then said Eliakim and Shebna and Joah unto Rabshakeh, Speak, I pray thee, unto thy servants in the Syrian language; for we understand it: and speak not to us in the Jews' language, in the ears of the people that are on the wall. But Rabshakeh said, Hath my master sent me to thy master and to thee to speak these words? hath he not sent me to the men that sit upon the wall, that they may eat their own dung, and drink their own piss with you? Then Rabshakeh stood, and cried with a loud voice in the Jews' language, and said, Hear ye the words of the great king, the king of Assyria. Thus saith the king, Let not Hezekiah deceive you: for he shall not be able to deliver you. Neither let Hezekiah make you trust in the LORD, saying, The LORD will surely deliver us: this city shall not be delivered into the hand of the king of Assyria." (Isaiah 36:11-15)

Afraid of how these verbal threats might affect both commoner and soldier, the messengers entreat Rabshakeh to change his speech to Aramaic. Syrian, Syriac or Aramaic (various titles for the same language) was the common trade language of the day. This very language was that used by the prophet Daniel to reach the nations with the prophecies concerning the preeminence of Christ's kingdom (the text behind Daniel 2:4 through 7:28 is written in Aramaic, not Hebrew). As ambassadors, these men were familiar with Aramaic and sought to deliver the common people from the terror incited by Rabshakeh's words.

Rabshakeh's answer is terse and to the point. His mission was not to threaten privately the king and his counselors but rather to openly terrorize the city through psychological warfare. He proclaims that the end of the Jews' resistance would be that of starvation and thirst brought on by the Assyrian siege. He pictures every inhabitant being reduced to ingesting his own excrement due to extreme hunger.

In spite of his failures, Hezekiah had been justly admonishing his people to trust in the Lord and not to fear Assyria.

Be strong and courageous, be not afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria, nor for all the multitude that is with him: for there be more with us than with him: With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the LORD our God to help us, and to fight our battles. And the people rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah king of Judah (II Chronicles 32:7-8).

Through his blasphemy, the king of Assyria crossed the line and incited the wrath of God. Truly, the Jews had made many mistakes in seeking to Egypt and others for help, neither had they done wisely in turning a deaf ear to Isaiah. Yet, now the king and his people sought the Lord in their need. To discourage such an endeavor is to incite God's wrath. Sennacherib shared in the sins of those Jews who would later tell their countrymen under Ezekiel's ministry, "...Get you far from the LORD.(Ezekiel 11:15).. ."

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Sennacherib's Rage (Part II)

"And Rabshakeh said unto them, Say ye now to Hezekiah, Thus saith the great king, the king of Assyria, What confidence is this wherein thou trustest? I say, sayest thou, (but they are but vain words) I have counsel and strength for war: now on whom dost thou trust, that thou rebellest against me? Lo, thou trustest in the staff of this broken reed, on Egypt; whereon if a man lean, it will go into his hand, and pierce it: so is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all that trust in him." (Isaiah 36:4-6)

Rabshakeh used psychological warfare with the king and his people. His goal was to expose the fallacy of their Egyptian alliance and to discredit any trust in God. Rabshakeh mocked the confidence which Judah had displayed up to this time. The Jews believed that they and their allies were capable of waging warfare with Assyria. They also believed that Egypt would arrive as their ultimate deliverer. Rabshakeh's mockery of Egypt's strength was well-founded. His assessment of their overall ability to help harmonized with what Isaiah had been preaching for years. When Ashdod revolted against Sargon in 711 BC, the rebel leader of the revolt called upon Egypt for help, but he received none. In desperation, he fled to Egypt but was eventually handed over to the Assyrians by the Egyptians. Rabshakeh had good reason for calling Egypt a crushed reed that was ready to break the moment a man leaned on it. Hezekiah too was well aware of these events. Through this Assyrian leader's rebukes, Hezekiah and his people were hearing a sort of heavenly "I told you so."

Now the Egyptians are men, and not God; and their horses flesh, and not spirit (Isaiah 31:3).

"But if thou say to me, We trust in the LORD our God: is it not he, whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah hath taken away, and said to Judah and to Jerusalem, Ye shall worship before this altar? Now therefore give pledges, I pray thee, to my master the king of Assyria, and I will give thee two thousand horses, if thou be able on thy part to set riders upon them. How then wilt thou turn away the face of one captain of the least of my master's servants, and put thy trust on Egypt for chariots and for horsemen? And am I now come up without the LORD against this land to destroy it? the LORD said unto me, Go up against this land, and destroy it." (Isaiah 36:7-10)

Hezekiah had justly removed the heathenish high places from Israel. These places (located on the tops of hills and mountains) were a constant source of trouble for Israel. They provided a consistent temptation for the people to return to the worship practices of those whom they had dispossessed. This is one reason why God forbade the formal worship of Himself in just any place the people chose; but rather, the Lord commanded that all Israel journey to the place of worship which would be chosen by Him (Deuteronomy 12:1-8). Rabshakeh, in his ignorance of God's ways, mocked Hezekiah for his biblical actions. Rabshakeh was familiar with the widespread use of high places and groves for the worship of and sacrifice to the gods of Assyria. To him, the desecration of high places, groves and their accompanying symbols of idolatry was the height of blasphemy, worthy of the divine wrath of the gods. The unregenerate have never understood the wisdom of purity and separation.

In perhaps what was a tone of mockery, Rabshakeh urged the people to give a pledge to Sennacherib and he would be able to furnish 2,000 horses which Hezekiah would not even be able to use for battle. With this challenge, Rabshakeh was illustrating the weakness of Jerusalem's physical defenses. At some point, Hezekiah did make a gesture of submission to Sennacherib by sending him gifts. Although, exactly where this act fits in the biblical record is somewhat unclear. II Kings 18:13-17 presents the account.

Now in the fourteenth year of king Hezekiah did Sennacherib king of Assyria come up against all the fenced cities of Judah, and took them. And Hezekiah king of Judah sent to the king of Assyria to Lachish, saying, I have offended; return from me: that which thou puttest on me will I bear. And the king of Assyria appointed unto Hezekiah king of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold. And Hezekiah gave him all the silver that was found in the house of the LORD, and in the treasures of the king's house. At that time did Hezekiah cut off the gold from the doors of the temple of the LORD, and from the pillars which Hezekiah king of Judah had overlaid, and gave it to the king of Assyria.

Sennacherib's own record of these events adds gems of various kinds, ivory-inlaid couches and chairs, elephant hides and tusks, ebony, as well as Hezekiah's own daughters, concubines and musicians (Taylor Prism). At this juncture, it must be noted that Hezekiah's actions were not godly. Had the king and his people kept their eyes solely on the Lord and heeded the warnings and encouragements of Isaiah, such disgraceful tactics would not have been necessary. One cannot justify robbing the house of God and giving away one's own family in order to gain deliverance from the enemy. Also, this act of submission proved futile, because Sennacherib attacked Jerusalem anyway. These types of deeds are the result of a failure to put God first in all things. In the end, Hezekiah still had to trust God. With that said, Hezekiah was a man remembered for his love of the Lord. He eventually came to a place of dependence upon God alone, and the biblical record bears witness to his righteous encouragement in the lives of his people (II Chronicles 32:6-8).

In a fashion characteristic of the day, the king of Assyria takes credit for acting on behalf of Judah's God. It was not uncommon for ancient kings to believe that their campaigns were conducted under the direct authority of their own gods or of the displeased gods of the people against whom they warred. Also, unknown to Rabshakeh, the Lord was using the Assyrians to punish the oppression and idolatry practiced by the Jews.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Sennacherib's Rage

"Now it came to pass in the fourteenth year of king Hezekiah, that Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the defenced cities of Judah, and took them. And the king of Assyria sent Rabshakeh from Lachish to Jerusalem unto king Hezekiah with a great army. And he stood by the conduit of the upper pool in the highway of the fuller's field. Then came forth unto him Eliakim, Hilkiah's son, which was over the house, and Shebna the scribe, and Joah, Asaph's son, the recorder." (Isaiah 36:1-3)

The year has been established as 701 BC. Just ten years prior (711 BC), Ashdod had revolted against Assyria and had solicited the help of the surrounding provinces including Judah. Hezekiah did not join the revolt. Possibly, he took to heart the advice of Isaiah (20:1-6). However, when Sargon died and Sennacherib took the throne (705 BC), Hezekiah decided to join the rest of the region in a revolt. II Chronicles 32:1-8 lays out Hezekiah's preparations for the expected retaliation of Sennacherib.

After these things, and the establishment thereof, Sennacherib king of Assyria came, and entered into Judah, and encamped against the fenced cities, and thought to win them for himself. And when Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib was come, and that he was purposed to fight against Jerusalem, he took counsel with his princes and his mighty men to stop the waters of the fountains which were without the city: and they did help him. So there was gathered much people together, who stopped all the fountains, and the brook that ran through the midst of the land, saying, Why should the kings of Assyria come, and find much water? Also he strengthened himself, and built up all the wall that was broken, and raised it up to the towers, and another wall without, and repaired Millo in the city of David, and made darts and shields in abundance. And he set captains of war over the people, and gathered them together to him in the street of the gate of the city, and spake comfortably to them, saying, Be strong and courageous, be not afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria, nor for all the multitude that is with him: for there be more with us than with him: With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the LORD our God to help us, and to fight our battles. And the people rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah king of Judah.

The Siloam Tunnel found on the eastern side of Jerusalem is the result of Hezekiah's preparations against the Assyrians. This tunnel redirected the Gihon spring into the city where it emptied itself into a pool - the original location of which remains a mystery.

Sennacherib's famous clay prism on which he describes his invasion of Israel and the surrounding nations claims that the king took forty-six cities of Judah. If this is true, the Lord allowed His people to experience heavy defeat on account of their rebellion against His warnings through Isaiah. At no point did Egypt's help prove successful.

Rabshakeh is actually a title and not a name. As Tartan is a title for an Assyrian general (20:1), Rabshakeh is a title for a similar position. Lachish was a fortified city located some 30 miles southwest of Jerusalem on the road connecting Israel and Egypt. With Egypt threatening resistance against Assyria, Lachish would have been a valuable conquest for Sennacherib.  

Monday, July 10, 2017

Christ's Second Coming (Part V)

"And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God; That ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great. And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army. And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh." (Revelation 19:17-21)

Just as Daniel's vision declared, the antichrist and his kingdom are overcome, destroyed and consigned to hell.

I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened. I beheld then because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake: I beheld even till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame (Daniel 7:9-11).

Even though thousands will be killed in this pre-millennial battle, many Gentiles will survive, bow the knee to Christ and enter the kingdom along with redeemed Israel.

And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles (Zechariah 14:16).

For, behold, the LORD will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire and by his sword will the LORD plead with all flesh: and the slain of the LORD shall be many ... And I will set a sign among them, and I will send those that escape of them unto the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, that draw the bow, to Tubal, and Javan, to the isles afar off, that have not heard my fame, neither have seen my glory; and they shall declare my glory among the Gentiles. And they shall bring all your brethren for an offering unto the LORD out of all nations upon horses, and in chariots, and in litters, and upon mules, and upon swift beasts, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, saith the LORD, as the children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel into the house of the LORD (Isaiah 66:15-16, 19-20).

Sunday, July 9, 2017

The Delight of the Kingdom (Part IV)

"And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away." (Isaiah 35:10)

The ransomed of the LORD is a magnificent title. It applies first of all to the redeemed Jews who will find eternal life through belief in the Son of God. However, this glorious title is not reserved exclusively for the Hebrews. Millions of Gentiles will be there. Having washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 7:14), each individual who has been ransomed from death by the sacrifice of Christ will be welcome on this millennial highway of holiness. The word for songs means a ringing cry. Millions of people singing the praises of Christ the Almighty God will make up the grandest choir the world has ever known. Obtain means to overtake. True joy under the authority of God will be owned by every believer. Such joy is possible now if a Christian chooses to let the grace of God make him a partaker of the joy that is found in Christ's Spirit. "Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice (Philippians 4:4)." In the face of such rejoicing, be it now or in the millennial kingdom, sorrow and sighing do not stand a chance. Only the treasury found in the fear of the LORD could make such rejoicing possible (33:6).

The fulfillment of these things is fast approaching. Until the time comes, Christ encourages every believer with this admonition...

...Lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed (Hebrews 12:12-13).

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Christ's Second Coming (Part IV)

"And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS." (Revelation 19:14-16)

Christ's army follows Him; it does not lead. Every Christian should be mindful of this simple but relevant principle. Desiring to take the lead can be easy yet disastrous. Victory comes only when God's strength goes before His people.

The sharp sword is, of course, the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17). By His eternal word, Christ will conquer and rule the nations. "But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked (Isaiah 11:4)." The word behind rule means to shepherd. A perfect balance of tenderness and firmness is seen as the Holy One of Israel shepherds the world with His unbending staff. The strength and overcoming power pictured in the iron staff calls to mind the prophecy of Psalm 2:8-9. "Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel."

As the sacrificial Lamb at His first coming, Christ's blood stained His garments; but as the conquering King of kings at His second advent, the blood of His enemies covers His apparel.   

Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Delight of the Kingdom (Part III)

"Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert. And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water: in the habitation of dragons, where each lay, shall be grass with reeds and rushes." 
(Isaiah 35:5-7)

Jesus' miracles of healing were but a foretaste of things to come. Not only will man's soul be healed but his physical ailments will be terminated as well. Disease and disablement will be a thing of the past. Perhaps the two blind men had this prophecy in mind when they cried out to Jesus, "...Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou Son of David (Matthew 20:30)."

As previously described, the barren land both within and around Israel will be transformed into greenery. Creation will join the praises of men in adoration of the Lord God Almighty Whose personal reign will bring a peace and fulfillment never before seen.

Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof. Let the field be joyful, and all that is therein: then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice before the LORD: for he cometh, for he cometh to judge the earth: he shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth (Psalm 96:11-13).

The bedding ground of the desert beast will be transformed into an oasis with an abundance of waterfront vegetation. The sight will be amazing no doubt.

"And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein. No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there:" (Isaiah 35:8-9)

This highway is likely that which will be used by the nations for making their journeys to the millennial Jerusalem and its temple.

But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it. And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem (Micah 4:1-2).

The souls of these millennial pilgrims will not be defiled by unbelief and the absence of godly fear. The travelers of this road will be washed in the blood of the Lamb. Even the simplest of people will not lose their way on this road. The knowledge of God will guide each soul as millions make their way to the temple of the LORD. Dangerous animals will no longer be a threat. The beasts of the kingdom will be tamed and harmony will once again exist between man and the creatures over which God placed him.

And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox ... The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent's meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD (Isaiah 11:7, 65:25).

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Christ's Second Coming (Part III)

"And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God." (Revelation 19:11-13)

Earlier, the antichrist was pictured atop a white horse indicating his victory over the nations (6:2). That picture was temporary; this one is permanent. Now, the Lord is riding the white stallion as He comes to permanently subjugate the earth. The white horse was a familiar symbol of victory to the Romans and would have been recognized instantly by the readers of John's day.

The Lord Jesus is given the title of Faithful and True. A Christian's life must reflect these attributes; otherwise, how can he be thought to be genuine by others? The text says that Christ judges and makes war through the agency of righteousness. When men judge, the result is not always honest. When men make war, the motives are often tainted. God's judgment and war are always products of His righteous and holy character.

Christ's physical appearance declares His splendor. His eyes of fire see through and try every work of mankind. "The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good (Proverbs 15:3)." The many crowns of the Savior declare His supreme reign over all when He comes as Prophet, Priest and King.

And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Take of them of the captivity, even of Heldai, of Tobijah, and of Jedaiah, which are come from Babylon, and come thou the same day, and go into the house of Josiah the son of Zephaniah; Then take silver and gold, and make crowns, and set them upon the head of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest; And speak unto him, saying, Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The BRANCH; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD: Even he shall build the temple of the LORD; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both (Zechariah 6:9-13).

The Lord's name is precious and not to be taken lightly. Here, He is given a title not disclosed to man. Christ's clothes are stained with blood. As the context will soon declare, this blood is not that which was shed for man but that which Christ will shed through the subjugation of His enemies. As Isaiah prophesied, the Lord's second coming will be a glorious relief for His saints and a bloody defeat for His foes.

Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save. Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat? I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment. For the day of vengeance is in mine heart, and the year of my redeemed is come. And I looked, and there was none to help; and I wondered that there was none to uphold: therefore mine own arm brought salvation unto me; and my fury, it upheld me. And I will tread down the people in mine anger, and make them drunk in my fury, and I will bring down their strength to the earth (Isaiah 63:1-6).

Jesus name indicates that He is the incarnate and living Word of God. He is the Spirit of prophecy (19:10). God spoke the world into existence (Genesis 1), and that spoken word was the agency of the Lord Jesus Christ (John 1:1-3, Hebrews 1:2).

Sunday, July 2, 2017

The Delight of the Kingdom (Part II)

"Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you." (Isaiah 35:3-4)

The Lord encourages faith in His delivering power. Every individual outside of Christ's righteousness is weak and feeble. Fear can often keep a person from obeying God's command to simply trust in His ability to save. God encourages the reader to reject any and all fear of man and to fear Him alone. The Lord knows how weak and fearful man is, so He lovingly says, "Fear not." The Lord can and will save, but He will not deliver the one who allows fear to stand in the way of saving faith.

This message would have been particularly appropriate for King Hezekiah and his people. The fear of the Assyrians tempted the Jews to find help in the physical armies of Egypt rather than turn in simple faith to God. Jesus' kingdom will usher in the full redemption of the Jews and the widespread salvation of the Gentiles. In that day, the weak hands and the tottering knees will be strengthened and the fear of man will be swallowed up in the delivering power of godly fear.

Undoubtedly, the physical healing of people will be present in the kingdom of Christ; however, this passage speaks primarily of spiritual redemption. In his admonitions to the Hebrews, Paul quoted these verses in the context of salvation. He said, "Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed." Many of the Jews to whom Paul was writing were vacillating between Judaism and Christianity. The fear of being ostracized and the fear of leaving a works-based religion inhibited many of them from placing simple faith in the blood of Jesus Christ. Paul admonished his readers to stop fearing man and to start fearing the Lord. He encouraged the lost among them to turn in repentant faith to Jesus and for the saved among them to continue on in a life of faith lest faithlessness should result in God's rejection.