Bible reading for weekend June 4 -- 6
Jun 4 -- Isaiah 36 and Revelation 6
Jun 5 -- Isaiah 37 and Revelation 7
Jun 6 -- Isaiah 38 and Revelation 8
"So now, O LORD our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the LORD." (Isaiah 37:20)
HISTORICAL INTERLUDE (ch 36). Chapters 36 and 37 demonstrate that what Isaiah prophesied actually came to pass. The pre-siege negotiations begin. The Rabshakeh, referring to the chief representative of the Assyrian army, dissuades the people of Jerusalem from trusting in Egypt for deliverance (good advice), and also not to trust the Lord, the God of Israel, to rescue them (bad advice). The Assyrians are mocking the God of Israel as just another regional god who would fall at the hands of their mighty men. "Who among all the gods of these lands have delivered their lands out of my hand, that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?" (v 20). Hezekiah's trust would need to be either a) in the word of the Lord through his prophet Isaiah, or b) in the might and power of the Assyrian empire. It was faith or fear, and Hezekiah the man of faith chose well. This was no light decision. Sennacherib had already laid waste to most of the cities of Judah, and now thousands upon thousands of his troops surrounded Jerusalem.
THE DELIVERANCE (ch 37). Hezekiah prays, and God answers and gives promises through his servant Isaiah. The Lord would deliver the city before an arrow was shot. In one night 185,000 Assyrian troops mysteriously died. The Jewish historian Josephus (quoting a Chaldean historian) said this came in the form of a plague. Sennacherib's own chronicle of his conquests (the prism of Sennacherib) ends at Jerusalem, but not stating that he took the city. And the story ends with irony: the Rabshakeh boasted that Sennacherib defeated all the gods of the nations (36:18), and yet "Nisroch his god" was unable to deliver Sennacherib from being murdered by his own sons (37:38). One of the big lessons here, and throughout the book of Isaiah, is that God alone is God. "You alone are the LORD" (v 20). One of the purposes of salvation, whether in time or in eternity, is that people looking on might realize that God is not merely one alternative among many faith options. Religious pluralism, in seeking to make all faiths equal, actually ends up downgrading the unique revelation of the one true and living God. Both Hezekiah and Sennacherib, looking out upon the multitude of dead bodies in the morning light, came face-to-face with the reality of the one and only God.
A MAN OF FAITH, BUT... (ch 38). Hezekiah is a man of faith, a good king, though in the next two chapters we will see something of his weaknesses, too. He petitions the Lord for a longer life, though he seems not to have used it well. One of the reasons we don't dismiss history, or cancel the memory of persons in history, is that we learn much from them. When they do well, as Hezekiah did in chapters 36 and 37, we can learn from their trust in the Lord (Heb 11:34). When they don't do well, as we shall see in chapters 38 (perhaps) and 39 (most certainly), we learn from their errors (1 Cor 10:6, 11). Also, today's victory does not guarantee tomorrow's success. The miraculous, wonderful deliverance from the Assyrians did not mean that Hezekiah wouldn't make poor decisions later. There is only one perfect Man, who is our Lord Jesus. All other heroes in the faith are a mixture at best.
"For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes." (Revelation 7:17)
SO IT BEGINS (ch 6). History will consummate with the second coming of Christ, accompanied by global judgment. Over the next chapters we will encounter seven seals, seven bowls, and seven trumpets. Chapter 6 reveals the breaking of the first six seals: nations at war, violence and bloodshed, food shortages, pestilence and plague, persecution, and environmental catastrophes. Read more here.
ISRAEL SHALL BE SAVED (ch 7). In an interlude between the sixth and seventh seal we are shown that salvation shall come to all the nations. But especially, we note that a central role is returned to the tribes of Israel. As we see in Romans 11, despite a partial hardening of Israel and and a great ingathering of Gentiles, the time will come when the people of Israel will be very responsive to the gospel of their Messiah. Read more here.
SEVEN TRUMPETS (ch 8). The opening of the seventh seal introduces the seven angels blowing seven trumpets. These judgments (ch 6-8) seem to be repeated in the seven bowls of judgment in chapters 15-18. Whereas the judgments of the seven seals mainly involves human disorder, these judgments are primarily environmental and cosmic in nature. Read more here.
THE PURPOSE OF THE BOOK OF REVELATION. Revelation is about Christ's sovereignty over all powers in heaven and on earth, which is demonstrated in the unfolding of history and its consummation in Christ's return. We are told this not merely to satisfy our curiosity, or so that we can draw fascinating charts, but in order that believers -- all believers for all time -- might be stimulated to patient endurance and faithfulness in the midst of persecution.
Image credit. Sennacherib's prism, British Museum, via Wikimedia Commons. About this newsletter: I post three times a week on my Bible reading, following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule, as arranged by D. A. Carson. Subscribe for email at Buttondown.email/Sandy. Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. A very helpful resource is the NET Bible with its excellent notes at netbible.org.