Welcome to another free day. We have had some pretty long readings so this is a chance to catch up or catch your breath. I would like to begin today by taking a closer look at King Hezekiah. He was a co-r gent with his father Ahaz for many years. When his father died he ascended to the throne of the southern kingdom of Judah. The year was 715 B.C. This was just six years after the northern kingdom had fallen to the Assyrians. No doubt Judah was a bit on edge. After all, the northern kingdom had been a bit of a buffer zone for them for many years, taking the first blow from powers that came from the north. Hezekiah immediately set to work, restoring the long neglected temple. He went so far as to invite the remnant of the northern tribes to join them in the celebration of Passover in Jerusalem. In the beginning of his reign he remained a loyal subject of Assyria, refusing to revolt when the Philistine states did. But when the Assyrian king died in battle in 705 B.C., the transfer of power to his successor became the occasion for many of Assyria’s vassals, including king Hezekiah, to attempt to regain their independence. King Sennacherib ascended to the Assyrian throne facing rebellion in all sides. In 701 B.C. King Sennacherib moved from Assyria to lay siege to Lachish which was the guard city to Jerusalem from their south, and king Hezekiah. The Assyrian king sent forces to besiege Jerusalem, demoralize the people, and try to persuade the people to hand over their king. Isaiah encouraged Hezekiah by prophesying the deliverance of Jerusalem. This was when Hezekiah and the people of Jerusalem saw the power and might of the Lord. He sent His angel who entered the Assyrian camp and slew 185,000 Assyrian soldiers.
Scripture tells us that Hezekiah went to great lengths to prepare Jerusalem and fortify his nation against the Assyrian onslaught. He protected Jerusalem’s water supply, channeling the Gihon spring through the city. He built a wall and erected additional towers to prevent access to the spring from without. We see this in both 2 Chronicles 32:5 and Isaiah 22:11. He added what is known as the broad wall to the western hills of Jerusalem, and an outer wall was added to the eastern side of the city, expanding Jerusalem’s area fourfold to accommodate refugees from the northern kingdom and western Judah. Hezekiah also stopped up water sources in outlaying areas and fortified many Judahite cities. He also set to work producing armaments. Hezekiah’s efforts to safeguard Jerusalem against prolonged sieges may be evidenced by the countless jars discovered throughout ancient Judah. These large jars bear the inscription Imlk…belonging to the king. They are dated at the time of Hezekiah and suggest he was preparing and equipping store houses of food and supplies throughout the land.
Another of the themes we have seen in the Book of Isaiah is God’s justice. His justice, mishpat in Hebrew, is part of God’s divine order. A world without justice is a place where people set aside the order planned by God, the creator. And since the Lord is the creator, it follows that His rule will be just and righteous. His Messiah will usher in a just world, and His Spirit will transform the world into a place of justice, righteousness, and peace. This is good news for the poor and needy whose rights have been denied by the powerful of society. Isaiah does not define justice and injustice. Instead he illustrates it with examples. Justice is relating rightly to God and dealing fairly with fellow human beings. It is closely related to righteousness and faithfulness. The theme of God’s justice runs throughout the whole Book of Isaiah. It explains the prophecies of judgement, which condemn the leaders and people for their injustice. It also explains the prophecies against the nations because of their oppressive, proud, and unjust ways. Justice is central, and humans are condemned for failing to uphold God’s justice. God’s retribution is just, because people get no worse than they deserve. In fact, they often get better than they deserve. This is because God pours out His just judgement on a willing substitute, whose death calls people to turn away from their sin and live by God’s righteousness. When God’s kingdom Is fully established, the world too will be just and righteous.
We also see a focus on God’s servant. Isaiah deals with this theme in chapters 40-66. The servant proclaims the new order of justice and righteousness to the world. He serves as God’s instrument to prepare the world for God’s coming. So, who is this servant anyway? Isaiah identifies the servant with Israel (41:8, 44:1-2), who serves as God’s witness (43:10) and as a light to the Gentiles. But Israel could not fully complete this mission. They were deaf, blind (42:19), and in need of God’s forgiveness (44:21-22). Israel failed again and again. By contrast, God’s servant faithfully witnesses, proclaims, and waits for the coming redemption (61:1-3, 62:1-5). He represents the godly in Israel. Isaiah portrays him as an obedient individual who suffers. The servant is God’s faithful witness to humanity and he stands in opposition to the idolatrous practices of paganism. One Israelite in particular was perfectly faithful and suffered on behalf of others. Jesus Christ fulfilled the role of the righteous servant. By His suffering, God’s benefits came to many, including other nations. In union and fellowship with Him, the apostles ministered as servants of Jesus Christ to both Jews and Gentiles. All who have faith in Jesus Christ share in the mission of the servant and fulfill the role of God’s servants in the world.
Isaiah has also made many connections to his current events and the exodus from Egypt. Like the exodus from Egypt, return from exile would restore the people of Israel to the land. Just as they had left Egypt many years before, the people would leave Babylon. This time they would have to be cleansed because they would carry back to Jerusalem all the holy items from the temple. The only way to bring them back involved the people being ritually clean. This time the people of God would not have to rush their departure. In both instances, God was in total and complete control. The second exodus would be new, not a carbon copy of the first. But both the journey and the time in exile are likened to a desert from which the Lord would bring rescue. He prepares a road through the desert, feeds His people, protects them from the desert heat, and strengthens them. He changes the experience of the exiles from sorrow to great joy and pours out His Spirit on them. Exodus continues for us today. This is the exodus from sin and death through Christ’s death and the power of His resurrection. The Holy Spirit enables us to live in newness of life and to serve God with joy as we await the coming of His kingdom in all its fullness.
As you have seen in your reading Isaiah prophesied many times about the coming servant who would save His people. The people of Isaiah’s day heard the prophecy but had no real concept of what that would look like . We on the other hand, have the blessing of knowing not only the prophecy, but we have been able to read and see it’s fulfillment. And even better, we have the benefit of knowing and building a relationship with the suffering servant who died willingly for us to that we would have eternal life.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W