Isaiah 36-37 Delivered at InterVarsity

I will admit to you that if I am watching someone play sports, I would prefer to see someone who quietly shows up and just gets the job done. Some people really like to watch someone who likes to trash talk their opponent at every opportunity. And if you are one of those types of people, you are going to love the text that we are going to look at this evening.

Our text contains a trash talker who in his pride and arrogance speaks rashly to the LORD and to His people. On the surface, it appears that this man has every right to do so. He is a military of the greatest army of that day. He is serving King Sennecherib who he refers too as the ‘great king’. The army of Assyria have conquered every city that they have come up against. And after they were done ravaging their fortified cities they would burn that cities idols and loot their treasures.

It is because of all of this that the opening verses of our text tonight are so sobering, terrifying and intimidating. These are the words, “In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and took them. And the king of Assyria sent the Rabshakeh from Lachish to King Hezekiah at Jerusalem, with a great army.” (36:1-2)

The greatest world power is currently standing on Jerusalem’s doorstep with a big army. The army is boastful and arrogant as they have routed all forty-six fortified cities in Judah. None has been able to withstand the attack of the Assyrians.

When the military leader of Assyria comes, he asks a series of questions that set the tone for these two chapters. The military leader, called the Rabshekeh, begins to speak to the people by asking:

  1. On what do you rest this trust of yours?

  2. Do you think that mere words are strategy and power for war?

  3. In whom do you now trust, that you have rebelled against me?

I can almost imagine that this army almost believes that Jerusalem should immediately open up the doors to the city and let them come in. They seem to believe that they should lay down their weapons and simply accept the fact that they are already beaten. But when they arrive the guards are stationed in their posts and the gates are closed and barricaded. Therefore the Rabshekeh asks in what they trusted, in whom they were trusting and why they thought that words would somehow be powerful enough to win this war.

Knowing that a siege of the city could take several years Assyria seeks to intimidate and discourage any hope and trust that Judah might have. He does this by beginning to trash talk his opponents so that they would be thrown into confusion and disarray.

First, he attacks their trust in their alliance with Egypt. He does not lie to Judah about the futility of the alliance but speaks truthfully about the weakness of it. Because Assyria has already captured all of the fortified cities there is no clear path for Egypt to come to their rescue. They would be of no help to Judah.

Secondly, he attacks any trust they might have in the Lord. He wrongly suggests the Hezekiah’s righteous reforms would have limited the peoples ability to truly worship the Lord. He says that because Hezekiah has limited the way that the Lord is worshiped that they can expect no help from the LORD.

Thirdly, he mocks their military might and their ability to repulse even a single military captain of Assyria. This would have been very distressing for the people on the walls to listen too. They are out numbered and they are over powered.

Forth, he claims to have the Lord’s favor in this campaign against the people of Judah. How could they hope to win this battle if their own God had authorized this battle and conquest? He also says twice that his intent is to destroy the city and to show them no mercy!

Fifth, he seeks to intimidate the people in Jerusalem by saying, “You are doomed to eat your own dung and to drink your own urine.” I can’t imagine that the moral inside of this city is doing all that well by this time.

Sixth, he begins to speak maliciously and deceitfully of Hezekiah hoping that it would sow seeds of discord within the city. He says, .

  1. Do not let Hezekiah deceive you

  2. Do not let Hezekiah make you trust in the Lord

  3. Do not listen to Hezekiah

  4. Beware lest Hezekiah mislead you by saying, “The Lord will deliver us”

Seventh, he offers the people a peaceful way out if they will surrender. This must have been a tempting promise to these people.

Eighth, he reminds the people of all of the other cities and ‘gods’ who have fallen before the Assyrians. Then he reminds them that they will be no different.

Here is a man who has trash talked the people of Judah in eight different ways. By doing this he hopes to intimidate and scare them into submission.

One of my friends from high school joined the Marines. When Desert Storm began he found himself right there on the front lines as the war broke out. He told me a story that I have never forgotten. The night before the fighting was set to begin the coalition forces sent out special forces to plant white flags in the desert randomly. That night the military detonated concussion bombs that don’t do much damage but they are so loud that they can scare and traumatize the enemy. The next morning when the Iraqi soldiers looked around and saw the white flags they supposed that their fellow soldiers had surrendered and so they came out and surrendered to coalition forces without incident. This was a vivid reminder to me that these sort of mind games really work.