Then Rabshakeh said to them, “Say now to Hezekiah, ‘Thus says the great king, the king of Assyria, “What is this confidence that you have? 5 I say, ‘Your counsel and strength for the war are only empty words.’ Now on whom do you rely, that you have rebelled against me?” (36:4-5).
We don’t hear a word from the Lord in this chapter. We hear claims made about Him, but everything uttered about Him comes out of the mouth of the enemy. How do we find Him when He seems silent; when the voice of the enemy is screaming; when the enemy looks strong and when hope looks bleak; and when the tangible help of the world is pulling us away from faith? How do we find Him when we can’t seem to hear Him or see Him?
This was the place the people of Judah found themselves. Nothing looked as though it was in their favor and the taunting ridicule being flung in their hearing was boisterous. Could the whispers of hope and faith even compete?
The daunting visual must have been chilling as this great army stood their ground to confront the people of Judah, making sure that all would see the vast number of troops and all would hear the menacing message of Sennacherib, king of Assyria. And intimidating questions were hurled, the tactical warfare of words intended to deflate any remnant of remaining hope or confidence for their deliverance from such a great earthly king.
Now in the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and seized them. 2 And the king of Assyria sent Rabshakeh from Lachish to Jerusalem to King Hezekiah with a large army. And he stood by the conduit of the upper pool on the highway of the fuller’s field… 4 Then Rabshakeh said to them, “Say now to Hezekiah, ‘Thus says the great king, the king of Assyria, “What is this confidence that you have? 5 I say, ‘Your counsel and strength for the war are only empty words.’ Now on whom do you rely, that you have rebelled against me,’”’” (36:2, 4-5).
Accusatory questions were hurled, but the target was not the Israelites; the target was the Holy One of Israel. Questions that cast doubt on His concern for His people and His ability to do anything about it. But in reality, these were the very questions that could prompt confidence and courage, if God’s people would choose to remember His Word and His Works, if they would choose to see and hear with eyes and ears of faith.
King Hezekiah had counseled them all to remain silent, to not retaliate with their own words. But I can’t help but wonder, while they were subjected to this sneering probe, did hope rise within anyone with the answer? You ask on whom do we rely? There is only One on Whom We Must Rely; and it is not the king of Egypt or the king of Assyria or even the King of Judah; for our confidence is in the name of the Lord our God, it is Him On Whom We Must Rely.
There was some truth spoken by Sennacherib. If the people of Judah sought counsel and strength from the king of Egypt, that would be akin to depending on a wimpy weed for their rescue that would end worse than if they had not sought any help at all.
“I say, ‘Your counsel and strength for the war are only empty words.’ 6 Behold, you rely on the staff of this crushed reed, even on Egypt, on which if a man leans, it will go into his hand and pierce it. So is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who rely on him,’” (36:5-6).
But the enemy is masterful in taking just enough truth to make it appear factual, and then mixing in lies to altogether distort the Truth of God.
“But if you say to me, ‘We trust in the Lord our God,’ is it not He whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah has taken away and has said to Judah and to Jerusalem, ‘You shall worship before this altar’?” (36:7).
Hezekiah had indeed torn down the high places; but these were the altars of pagan worship. Did God’s people recognize the deception? For if they did not, they would be left vulnerable and open to a possible pact with their enemy.
“Now therefore, come make a bargain with my master the king of Assyria, and I will give you two thousand horses, if you are able on your part to set riders on them. 9 How then can you repulse one official of the least of my master’s servants and rely on Egypt for chariots and for horsemen?” (36:8-9).
And then came this boastful claim that the king of Assyria came up with the full approval of God.
“Have I now come up without the Lord’s approval against this land to destroy it? The Lord said to me, ‘Go up against this land and destroy it,” (36:10).
There are three schools of thought as to what Sennacherib may have meant when he claimed that the Lord had spoken to him with the directive to destroy the land of Judah.
From Barnes’ Notes on the Bible:
“It is possible that there had been conveyed to Sennacherib a rumor of what Isaiah had said, that God would bring the Assyrians upon the Jewish people to punish them for their sins, and that Rabshakeh now pleads that as his authority, in order to show them that resistance would be vain.
Or it may be that he uses the name Yahweh here as synonymous with the name of God, and means to say that he had been divinely directed to come up in that expedition. All the ancient warriors usually consulted the gods, and endeavored by auguries to obtain the divine approbation of their plans of conquest, and Rabshakeh may mean simply to say that his master came now under the divine sanction and direction.
Or, which is more probable, he made use of this as a mere pretense for the purpose of influencing the people who heard him, and to whom he said he was sent [Isaiah 36:12], in order to alienate their minds from Hezekiah, and to induce them to surrender.”
But God always calls His people to believe Him, no matter the injustices of life or the attempts of the enemy; for God commands that His people trust Him, and He has proven Himself time and time again. And throughout the nation’s history, throughout every word of Isaiah’s prophecy ultimately fulfilled in Christ Jesus, God’s message has not changed; it is Him on Whom We Must Rely.
Consider Him on Whom We Must Rely
Then God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3 You shall have no other gods before Me,” (Exodus 20:1-3).
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go,” (Joshua 1:9).
But the Lord abides forever;
He has established His throne for judgment,
8 And He will judge the world in righteousness;
He will execute judgment for the peoples with equity.
9 The Lord also will be a stronghold for the oppressed,
A stronghold in times of trouble;
10 And those who know Your name will put their trust in You,
For You, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You, (Psalm 9:7-10).
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
6 In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.
7 Do not be wise in your own eyes;
Fear the Lord and turn away from evil, (Proverbs 3:5-7).
“The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace,
Because he trusts in You.
4 “Trust in the Lord forever,
For in God the Lord, we have an everlasting Rock,” (Isaiah 26:3-4).
“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?” (Matthew 6:25-26).
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, (Philippians 4:6-7).
How do we respond to Him on Whom We Must Rely?
Now, it was true that the Lord did use Assyria as a tool of His discipline, but He did not leave their destructive and violent brutality go unpunished.
“The Lord will bring on you, on your people, and on your father’s house such days as have never come since the day that Ephraim separated from Judah, the king of Assyria. 18 In that day the Lord will whistle for the fly that is in the remotest part of the rivers of Egypt and for the bee that is in the land of Assyria,” (Isaiah 7:17-18).
And tomorrow, we will read of God’s judgment enacted against Assyria’s king. But today, the judgment had not come; and today the people were faced with the decision to make, “On whom do we rely?”
And the truth is, relying on God is a decision we must make every day. When life is going according to plan (our plan), it often seems easier to make that choice. But perhaps, it is when life is smooth that we are actually relying on the blessings and not the Blesser.
Let us decide to seek Him with all that we are and to trust Him with all of our hearts, believing He will conform our desires to His and provide the blessings we need as we commit our lives to Him.
Trust in the Lord and do good;
Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.
4 Delight yourself in the Lord;
And He will give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him, and He will do it, (Psalm 37:3-5).
“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you,” (Matthew 6:33).
Let us decide today, that when we face trials we will rely only on Him on Whom We Must Rely, trusting that He is always at work to accomplish His good purposes.
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose, (Romans 8:28).
And we received some great advice from King Hezekiah; we don’t have to argue with the enemy’s taunts. Engaging in the tactical warfare of words can unleash a barrage of what-ifs, undermining and unsettling the confidence of our souls in His Truth. Sometimes it is best to wait in the silence of unshakeable faith.
My soul, wait in silence for God only,
For my hope is from Him.
6 He only is my rock and my salvation,
My stronghold; I shall not be shaken, (Psalm 62:5).
But our silence is not to be passive. When all seems hopeless, when death looms, we must dwell on His Truth in active belief to withstand the accusatory attacks, and to see the glory of Him on Whom We Must Rely.
Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” (John 11:40).
When God seems silent; when the voice of the enemy is screaming; when the enemy looks strong and when hope looks bleak; and when the tangible help of the world is pulling us away from faith, let us wait in silence, that we would close the mouth of our complaints and trust Him to open wide our ears to hear and our eyes to see in faith as we wait on Him on Whom We Must Rely.
Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. 8 You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. 9 Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door, (James 5:7-9).
And no matter what comes, may we never give in to despair. When hope and faith seem to be but a whisper, we must decide to believe every promise, believe that He will surely bring understanding to our confusion and good out of every hardship as we decide to remember His Word and His Works. Oh, let us trust Him to strengthen our hearts with courage as we wait in unshakeable faith for Him on Whom We Must Rely.
I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living.
14 Wait for the Lord;
Be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the Lord, (Psalm 27:13-14).