Prayer Focus: Israel

Bible Reading: Isaiah 36-37; 2 Kings 18:9-19:37; 2 Chronicles 32:1-23; Psalm 76

Scripture

Surely your wrath against mankind brings you praise,
and the survivors of your wrath are restrained. (Psalm 76:10)

Observation

My paraphrase version of our reading today:

The king of Assyria, Sennacherib, sent a party to Jerusalem to negotiate a surrender. They’d previously taken the Northern Kingdom of Israelites by laying siege to their city for years, and then finally carrying them off to captivity. Now they had their sights set on Judah.

He issued a challenge, mocking God by saying “Where were all the other nation’s god’s when I destroyed them? You won’t stand against me either.” God answered Sennachrib’s challenge by killing 180,000 of his men in their sleep, forcing him to withdraw from the field!

Soon after this event, God spoke to Hezekiah through Isaiah, telling him to get his affairs in order, he was going to die soon. Hezekiah prayed and wept bitterly for himself and for the fate of the nation. God answered his prayer by telling him that He would grant him another 15 years. The sign for his belief was that he would move heaven and earth, literally. He caused the shadow of the sun to move backwards by 10 steps on the staircase.

The result of these miracles?  It witnessed powerfully to the surrounding nations. Tiny Judah, who has a God who fights their battles for them, saves them from disaster, turns back time, and gives their King a longer life is not to be trifled with! Asaph, Hezekiah’s recorder, wrote a song, likely sung far and wide in that time, and the scripture I’ve pulled for today is from that song, Psalm 76. “Surely your wrath against man brings you praise and the survivors of your wrath are restrained. Make vows to the Lord and fulfill them; let all neighboring lands bring gifts to the one to be feared.”

And so the neighboring lands, did.

Word got to Babylon about these gifts, and they sent envoys to survey. Hezekiah took them on the royal tour, holding back nothing from their sight. Isaiah scolded him for this, prophesying that Babylon would come and take it all.

Hezekiah’s response was “Good. There will be peace in my lifetime.” We could speculate all sorts of reasons why Hezekiah would say that. Was he being short-sighted? Didn’t he believe Isaiah? Was he simply tired of conflict? Maybe he just wanted to finish well, for the records to say that as far as was up to him he lead in righteousness and there was peace. I don’t know. I do know however, that at the height of a recent victory, before any conflict with Babylon had happened yet, Isaiah was prophesying disaster. The rise of a good king forestalled the consequences of  the rebelling of Israel, and God’s plan for uniting them. 

Application

The lesson I draw from today’s reading is what Asaph declared in verse 76:10 “Surely your wrath against men brings praise, and the survivors of your wrath are restrained.” If you take that verse out of context it sounds like God gets glory from violence, but when you place it back in the time and place it was written, you see that the wrath was not against his children, but against their oppressors, the ones who were trying to take their land and would make them slaves. God’s wrath rescued the people in an event that echoed the angel of death during the Passover before they left Egypt. The whole purpose was to remind his people and the world that he was a God not made by man and crafted of wood or stone, but a living, breathing, fully-engaged God who fights his own battles, and protects his children. He doesn’t abandon us to ourselves.

Prayer

Lord, look on me and cleans me from all my rebellious ways. I am so grateful to you, mighty God, for not leaving me alone in my sin. You conquered sin and death and rescued me, and I am a survivor. Your wrath teaches me restraint. Amen!

 

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