My daughter told me she was tired of people telling her to trust God. She had begged Him to make her hair grow back after her alopecia diagnosis. Despite years of prayers, though, she remained completely bald with no eyelashes or eyebrows. She knew all the Sunday School answers about God’s love and power. But her real-life circumstances caused her to question why a God who loved her and had the power to heal her didn’t do so. She wondered if the Lord was unable or unwilling.
Our focus in Isaiah centers around trusting God’s calendar, which means surrendering to His timing over ours. When God doesn’t act as quickly as we’d like, we can revert to striving in our human strength to gain our desired result rather than seeking postures that position us for trust. For me that often looks like freaking out (worry, fear) or excessive planning.
King Hezekiah’s story shows us one example of what it looks like to trust God’s plan even when we face circumstances that threaten our security. In spite of Hezekiah’s payoff, the commander of the Assyrian army came to threaten Judah during the days of Isaiah. This is the historical backdrop as we enter the scene of Isaiah 36. The Assyrian army sent by Sennacherib was “huge” (v. 2). The commander spoke threatening words to incite fear and undermine trust in Yahweh—the God of Israel. He referenced trusting in the Lord seven times (vv. 4-7,9,15) and used these arguments:
- Words won’t help you against military might (vv. 4-6);
- God is mad at you for getting rid of His altars (v. 7);
- God called our nation to punish you (v. 10);
- Your leaders can’t be trusted because Hezekiah is deceiving you to trust in a God who can’t rescue (vv. 14-16);
- Slavery is the best option for you (vv. 16-17);
- Look around you at the other nations we’ve defeated for evidence that there is no way out (vv. 18-19).
Some of these arguments made by the commander defy logic. He said that God sent them (v. 10) and that God was no match for their power (vv. 18-20). These tactics remind us of those used by another enemy of the Lord. Like the field commander, Satan often uses one argument after another hoping to leave his victims feeling hopeless and helpless. I doubt your attackers have come in the form of physical armies shouting threats, but perhaps your inner dialogue has included some version of these same lies.
Lies of the enemy evidence themselves in a variety of ways. When our circumstances feel urgent, waiting on the Lord doesn’t always seem like the most prudent posture. So, what should we do during the time between the threat of trouble and God’s rescue? In Isaiah 37:1-4 Hezekiah didn’t blame others, negotiate alliances, or seek creature comforts. Instead, he put on scratchy clothes and embraced the gravity of the situation. This was a serious threat. Hezekiah didn’t put on a happy face and pretend everything was fine. His faith in God led him to mourn, ask for prayer, and seek God’s word through the prophet Isaiah. Hezekiah’s example reminds us that trusting God doesn’t mean an absence of grief.
Isaiah told Hezekiah not to be disturbed by a very disturbing situation. He prophesied that the king of Assyria would return to his land and be killed. Hezekiah then had a choice. He could trust the word of God spoken by Isaiah or strive in human strength to fix the problem. This is often the tension for me. I long to believe God’s promises, but I struggle in between the promise and the rescue—especially if that season is prolonged.
My daughter was bald for more than five years. During that time, she worked through her questions and doubts. Sometimes her prayers were raw and full of anguish. Other times they acknowledged God’s character and sovereignty in her life. She got to a place where she believed God was good and powerful even if she never had hair. Hezekiah also prayed, holding trouble in one hand but acknowledging God’s blessing in another.
God answered Hezekiah’s prayer. Isaiah prophesied against Assyria for the remainder of the chapter. We can trust God in our seasons of waiting, knowing that He is working even when we don’t feel it. In between our problem and God’s rescue, we can trust more and strive less through prayer. Spend some time considering anywhere your trust feels threatened.
You may not feel like you are facing anything in your life right now like Hezekiah battled. Yet when you learn to trust God with the small things, you will be prepared to trust Him during your own times of crisis. Whether you are facing an aggravation or an atrocity today, pray about it.
Hezekiah stayed the course, trusting God even when the situation seemed impossible. He knew that other kingdoms failed against Assyria because their gods weren’t real. God sent an angel into “the Assyrian camp and killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers” (Isa. 37:36). This great loss caused King Sennacherib to return home where his sons killed him with swords while he was worshiping in the temple of his false god Nisroch (v. 38).
God intervened according to His plan, and yet at the same time responded to Hezekiah’s prayer. I wonder if Hezekiah would look back on his season of trouble and acknowledge an intimacy with God that desperation can produce. While waiting seasons aren’t usually my favorite, they are a place where trust can grow.
Want to learn more about the Isaiah Bible study? Watch the short video below or view a free sample and teaching video clips at lifeway.com/isaiah
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