Isaiah 36-39
(Trust In the LORD)
July 25th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

Click here for a print- friendly version

Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

“Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth."

- Isaiah 37:16 (NIV)

Summary of Chapters

This group of chapters concludes the first half of the book of Isaiah with a historical account. The placement of this account, rather than a prophecy, sets it apart as markedly different than most of the previous chapters. The situations recorded in this section are key events that occurred during Hezekiah’s reign as ruler of the southern kingdom of Israel (Judah).

Chapter 36 reports that Sennacherib, king of Assyria had captured the cities of Judah and approached Jerusalem. He then sent his field commander, The Rabshekah to meet with Hezekiah, but was intercepted outside the wall of Jerusalem by three representatives : "Eliakim son of Hilkiah, in charge of the palace; Shebna the secretary; and Joah son of Asaph, the official historian (Isa 36-3 - MSG)." The Rabshekah spoke loudly, in Hebrew, so that those on the wall would hear him and be afraid. He mocked the people for depending on the LORD and claimed that the LORD had sent him to Jerusalem to destroy it. .

The next chapter describes how Isaiah sent a message to Hezekiah saying that the LORD will defend Jerusalem from Sennacherib's army and preserve a remnant of the people.

    Therefore this is what the LORD says concerning the king of Assyria:

        “He will not enter this city
        or shoot an arrow here.
    He will not come before it with shield
        or build a siege ramp against it.
    By the way that he came he will return;
        he will not enter this city,”
            declares the LORD.
    “I will defend this city and save it,
    for my sake and for the sake of David my servant!”

    - Isaiah 37:33-35 (NIV)

During the night an angel of the LORD killed 185,000 of Sennacherib’s men, so he went back the way he came, without firing a single arrow, just as Isaiah had predicted. Sennacherib was eventually assassinated and never returned to attack Jerusalem.

Chapter 38 records the events surrounding Hezekiah’s grave illness, which are thought to have occurred before the incident with Sennacherib. Hezekiah was dying, but cried to the LORD and his life was extended by fifteen years. As a sign, the LORD pushed back the sun by “10 steps” as measured on the stairway of Ahaz.

Hezekiah later responded with a song of praise, acknowledging that his suffering was for his own benefit and recognized that God saved him from death. In chapter 39, Isaiah describes a visit to Hezekiah from an ambassador of Babylonia, who sought an alliance against Assyria. Hezekiah proudly showed all his riches to this visitor. When Isaiah heard what Hezekiah had done he issued another prophecy:

    Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, "Now listen to this Message from God-of-the-Angel-Armies: I have to warn you, the time is coming when everything in this palace, along with everything your ancestors accumulated before you, will be hauled off to Babylon. God says that there will be nothing left. Nothing. And not only your things but your sons. Some of your sons will be taken into exile, ending up as eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon."

    - Isaiah 39:5-7 (MSG)

Reflection and Application

You might recognize that chapters 37-39 are a restatement of portions of 2 Kings 18 - almost word for word. This may seem redundant, but on the other hand, it might be something important that we need to hear again and again.

Here is one lesson for us from chapter 36: If God sends us on a mission, we ought not to brag about it, and certainly, should not mock God while we are carrying out his mission. For if we do mock God, it may be someone else’s mission to correct us in a severe way. When we are called, we should be bold in telling others that God sent us but otherwise carry out the mission with humility.

We may hear others mock God. In those cases, we are called to stand firm, and to the extent possible, set the record straight regarding our LORD.

The overnight casualties experienced by Sennacherib may be hard for us to accept. When have we seen such an intervention from God in our generation? Where was God when Hitler and Stalin murdered millions of people during World War II? Where is our protector now as genocide rages in the Middle East? Where was God when bombers struck in Budapest, Boston, London, Brussels, and Istanbul? Where was the army of the angels when insane individuals randomly attacked innocent people in Norway, Arizona, Newtown, Aurora and other places? Where are the restraining forces of the heavenly hosts as ISIS commits countless acts of terror throughout the Middle East and around the world? Where was God on our day of great tragedy? These are not questions intended to mock God but rather to wonder aloud in honest lament like the Psalmists did as we try to understand why the Creator does not intervene to help his people in these cases. Maybe he is waiting for us to act, or maybe his time has not yet come. Maybe there are many times that he and his angels intervened that we don't know about or don't remember, but then we may ask, "Why those times and not others?" Only God knows.

Perhaps we have witnessed God’s intervention in the healing of the bodies of our family or friends. There are many miraculous stories of healing from chronic diseases that doctors cannot explain. By contrast, we have also seen the emergence of diseases that are inexplicable. We have to keep reminding ourselves that God chooses when to intervene. It seems appropriate to pray for healing for our family and friends and ourselves, but we must also be prepared to accept God’s will as the response to our prayers.

God answered Hezekiah’s prayer and extended his life. Hezekiah responded with a song of worship. Others have followed his lead in the generations that followed, including the poet Lord Byron, who penned a poem to recognize the victory over Sennacherib described in chapter 37:

        The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
    And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;
    And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea,
    When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.

        Like the leaves of the forest when Summer is green,
    That host with their banners at sunset were seen:
    Like the leaves of the forest when Autumn hath blown,
    That host on the morrow lay withered and strown.

        For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast,
    And breathed in the face of the foe he pass’d;
    And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill,
    And their hearts but once heaved, and forever grew still!

        And there lay the steed with his nostril all wide,
    But through it there rolled not the breath of his pride;
    And the foam of his gasping lay white on the turf,
    And cold as the spray of the rock-beating surf.

        And there lay the rider distorted and pale,
    With the dew on his brow, and the rust on his mail:
    And the tents were all silent, the banners alone,
    The lances unlifted, the trumpet unblown.

        And the widows of Ashur are loud in their wail,
    And the idols are broke in the temple of Baal;
    And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword,
    Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord!

    - “The Destruction of Sennacherib,”
    George Gordon Byron (22 January 1788 – 19 April 1824)

Have you considered writing a song or poem to express to God how you feel about what he has done for you? You could share it with others and pass it down to the next generations or perhaps even keep it between yourself and God. We don’t need to possess the talent of famous poets to praise God; we only need to pour out our hearts.

Although Hezekiah wrote a beautiful praise song, he eventually lost his perspective, became foolish, and bragged about his riches instead of declaring what God had done for him. He only cared for his own legacy, not the lives of those to follow, but they paid the penalty, just as Isaiah had foreseen. He was as guilty of pride as his adversary. When God allows us to succeed we can keep ourselves on the right path by continually praising him for our success and remaining humble regarding the temporary accumulation of wealth.

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

Related Questions
  1. How do you estimate time when you don’t have any type of clock? Have you ever used a sun dial or other shadow indicators to tell time?
  2. In what circumstances has God helped you to defeat an overwhelming opponent?
  3. What problems can we turn over to God today?

Recommended Prayer
Father in heaven, we know that you hear our cries and decide to intervene in the way and time of your choosing. Help us to remain humble as we seek your help.

Suggested Prayer Concerns
First Responders

Looking Ahead

Tomorrow's reading: Isaiah 40-42 (Run and Not Grow Weary)

Comments and Questions
If you have comments or questions, please add them to our Comments page, email to the author at, or share your comments or questions via the Listening for God Twitter account

Click to follow Listening for God(@listeningforgod)