Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Reading Through Isaiah #4 (Chapters 36-39)

Structure of Isaiah 1-39

51wW9fXkBCL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_This week we move into the transition section of the book of Isaiah, accompanied by Isaiah, The College Press NIV Commentary, by Terry R. Briley. This section is a historical interlude used by Isaiah to transition from a focus on the past Assyrian threat to the future Babylonian exile. I am posting quotes from the book on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (NT is Mon-Wed-Fri) and we can discuss comments and questions about the passage there. As usual, quotes from the commentary are in blue below…

Chapters 36-39 provide a historical interlude that describes the deliverance from Assyria and rise of Babylon (probably not in chronological order in Isaiah) in narrative fashion. The chapters highlight the faith of Hezekiah in the deliverance from Assyria, but his lack of faith in his response to the Babylonian emissaries. Israel, and we, must learn to trust God and God alone for our daily lives and futures.

Assyria’s arrogance and presumption are actually Jerusalem’s greatest hope for deliverance. Jerusalem is not invulnerable, as those who falsely trust in “the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord” (Jer 7:4) will discover. For those who humble themselves before God and lay claim to his honor and his promises, however, hope remains. Isaiah 36.15, 81

Both Hezekiah’s response in prayer and the content of his prayer reveal his accurate understanding of the situation he faces. God is his only hope for deliverance, and the Assyrian offense against God is his only basis for an appeal for deliverance. Isaiah 37.14, 87

Isaiah 38-39 continues the interlude but moves the focus to Babylon and the future. Hezekiah is given a great sign and miracle which sustains his life for 15 extra years to encourage him to trust God through the Assyrian crisis. However, this added prosperity leads to pride and he fails to recognize the threat that the Babylonian delegation represents. Isaiah announces that the Babylon exile is inevitable. The rest of the book of Isaiah will be written to reassure those future exiles.

The method by which God makes the shadow go back is not as important as the message it conveys to Hezekiah: God has the power, whenever he chooses, to reverse the normal course of human events. To understand this message is to know the essence of the miraculous. Isaiah 38, 98

In the end, in spite of all his efforts at reformation, Hezekiah learns that Babylonian destruction looms in his people’s future. In recording this news Isaiah’s primary aim is neither to condemn nor to commend Hezekiah. He sets before his audience a message that, though tragic, must be accepted by the nation with the same humility as Judah’s righteous but flawed king. The critical unresolved issue, of course, centers upon whether or not God’s grace extends to a future for the covenant people beyond exile, and if so, how it will be achieved. To these matters the final major section of the book speaks. Isaiah 39.8, 105

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