23 Who is it you have insulted and blasphemed?
Against whom have you raised your voice
and lifted your eyes in pride?
Against the Holy One of Israel!
24 By your messengers
you have heaped insults on the Lord.
And you have said,
‘With my many chariots
I have ascended the heights of the mountains,
the utmost heights of Lebanon.
I have cut down its tallest cedars,
the choicest of its pines.
I have reached its remotest heights,
the finest of its forests.
25 I have dug wells in foreign lands [c]
and drunk the water there.
With the soles of my feet
I have dried up all the streams of Egypt.’
26 “Have you not heard?
Long ago I ordained it.
In days of old I planned it;
now I have brought it to pass,
that you have turned fortified cities
into piles of stone.
27 Their people, drained of power,
are dismayed and put to shame.
They are like plants in the field,
like tender green shoots,
like grass sprouting on the roof,
scorched [d] before it grows up.
28 “But I know where you stay
and when you come and go
and how you rage against me.
29 Because you rage against me
and because your insolence has reached my ears,
I will put my hook in your nose
and my bit in your mouth,
and I will make you return
by the way you came.
30 “This will be the sign for you, O Hezekiah:
“This year you will eat what grows by itself,
and the second year what springs from that.
But in the third year sow and reap,
plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
31 Once more a remnant of the house of Judah
will take root below and bear fruit above.
32 For out of Jerusalem will come a remnant,
and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors.
The zeal of the LORD Almighty
will accomplish this.
33 “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.
34 By the way that he came he will return;
he will not enter this city,”
declares the LORD.
35 “I will defend this city and save it,
for my sake and for the sake of David my servant!”
Now It’s Personal
As the story continues, Hezekiah pleads urgently to God to save Israel from destruction at the hands of the Assyrians. And on behalf of God, Isaiah confirms that the Lord will save Israel, and He does so at the end of the chapter, in a miraculous, mysterious way.
But what strikes me about this passage is God’s response to the threats of the Assyrian king – if you remember, the Assyrians threatened the Jews with destruction, and cited their past conquests as proof of their power and resolve. This seems like a political conflict between two nations, but in verse 23, it seems as if God takes this very personally, that this threat is a threat not against Israel, but ultimately, against the sovereignty of God Himself. And because He does take this personally, his response is swift and overwhelming.
I think there are two ways to take this passage: as an encouragement, but also as a warning. First, it is an encouragement to remember that God does take up our causes personally. It is easy to fall into the mis-perception that God is distant and only works indirectly with us. But this is not the God we see here, but instead, a God who very personally takes up our causes and our defense. like a Father protecting his children from harm.
But it is a warning as well. Often, we live our lives our way, doing whatever we think is right without giving thought to God. And we do this more freely under the mistaken belief that God doesn’t care as long as He’s not directly involved. “I’m just living for myself and doing what’s good for me, or what feels good, and that’s not sinning sinning.” But we should be very careful with this line of reasoning, because like the King of Assyria, we could be very mistaken as to what God is willing to overlook, and what he is not.
1. What burden are you carrying that you don’t think God cares about?
2. What does it mean or look like when God takes up our causes personally?
3. Is there something that you are doing that seems harmless enough, but may dishonor God more than you think?