20 September 2017 Bible Reading
In today’s reading from Isaiah, we learn about the Assyrian siege of Jerusalem. It is also discussed in Chronicles and Second Kings. As the Assyrians began their invasion, Hezekiah began preparations to protect Jerusalem. In an effort to deprive the Assyrians of water, springs outside the city were blocked. Workers then dug a tunnel to the Spring of Gihon, providing the city with fresh water. Additional siege preparations included fortification of the existing walls, construction of towers, and the erection of a new, reinforcing wall. Hezekiah gathered the citizens in the square and encouraged them by reminding them that the Assyrians possessed only “an arm of flesh”, but the Judeans had the protection of Yahweh.
According to Second Kings 18, while Sennacherib was besieging Lachish, he received a message from Hezekiah offering to pay tribute in exchange for Assyrian withdrawal. Hezekiah paid three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold to Assyria — a price so heavy that he was forced to empty the temple and royal treasury of silver and strip the gold from the doorposts of Solomon’s temple. Nevertheless, Sennacherib marched on Jerusalem with a large army. When the Assyrian force arrived, its field commander brought a message from Sennacherib himself. In an attempt to demoralize the Judeans, the field commander announced to the people on the city walls that Hezekiah was deceiving them, and Yahweh could not deliver Jerusalem from the king of Assyria. He listed the gods of the people thus far swept away by Sennacherib then asked, “Who of all the gods of these countries has been able to save his land from me?”
During the siege, Hezekiah clad himself in sackcloth out of anguish from the psychological warfare that the Assyrians were waging. The prophet Isaiah took an active part in the political life of Judah. While opposed to Hezekiah’s pro-Egyptian policy, however, when Jerusalem was threatened, he assured Hezekiah that the city would be delivered and Sennacherib would fall. During the night, an angel brought death to 185,000 Assyrians troops. When Sennacherib saw the destruction wreaked on his army, he withdrew to Nineveh. Jerusalem was spared destruction.
13 Hear, you who are far off, what I have done;
and, you who are near, acknowledge my might.”
14 The sinners in Zion are afraid.
Trembling has seized the godless ones.
Who among us can live with the devouring fire?
Who among us can live with everlasting burning?
15 He who walks righteously,
and speaks blamelessly;
He who despises the gain of oppressions,
who gestures with his hands, refusing to take a bribe,
who stops his ears from hearing of blood,
and shuts his eyes from looking at evil—
16 he will dwell on high.
His place of defense will be the fortress of rocks.
His bread will be supplied.
His waters will be sure.
17 Your eyes will see the king in his beauty.
They will see a distant land.
18 Your heart will meditate on the terror.
Where is he who counted?
Where is he who weighed?
Where is he who counted the towers?
19 You will no longer see the fierce people,
a people of a deep speech that you can’t comprehend,
with a strange language that you can’t understand.
20 Look at Zion, the city of our appointed festivals.
Your eyes will see Jerusalem, a quiet habitation,
a tent that won’t be removed.
Its stakes will never be plucked up,
nor will any of its cords be broken.
21 But there Yahweh will be with us in majesty,
a place of wide rivers and streams,
in which no galley with oars will go,
neither will any gallant ship pass by there.
22 For Yahweh is our judge.
Yahweh is our lawgiver.
Yahweh is our king.
He will save us.
23 Your rigging is untied.
They couldn’t strengthen the foot of their mast.
They couldn’t spread the sail.
Then the prey of a great plunder was divided.
The lame took the prey.
24 The inhabitant won’t say, “I am sick.”
The people who dwell therein will be forgiven their iniquity.
34 Come near, you nations, to hear!
Listen, you peoples.
Let the earth and all it contains hear;
the world, and everything that comes from it.
2 For Yahweh is enraged against all the nations,
and angry with all their armies.
He has utterly destroyed them.
He has given them over for slaughter.
3 Their slain will also be cast out,
and the stench of their dead bodies will come up;
and the mountains will melt in their blood.
4 All of the army of the sky will be dissolved.
The sky will be rolled up like a scroll,
and all its armies will fade away,
as a leaf fades from off a vine or a fig tree.
5 For my sword has drunk its fill in the sky.
Behold, it will come down on Edom,
and on the people of my curse, for judgment.
6 Yahweh’s sword is filled with blood.
It is covered with fat, with the blood of lambs and goats,
with the fat of the kidneys of rams;
for Yahweh has a sacrifice in Bozrah,
And a great slaughter in the land of Edom.
7 The wild oxen will come down with them,
and the young bulls with the mighty bulls;
and their land will be drunken with blood,
and their dust made greasy with fat.
8 For Yahweh has a day of vengeance,
a year of recompense for the cause of Zion.
9 Its streams will be turned into pitch,
its dust into sulfur,
And its land will become burning pitch.
10 It won’t be quenched night nor day.
Its smoke will go up forever.
From generation to generation, it will lie waste.
No one will pass through it forever and ever.
11 But the pelican and the porcupine will possess it.
The owl and the raven will dwell in it.
He will stretch the line of confusion over it,
and the plumb line of emptiness.
12 They shall call its nobles to the kingdom, but none shall be there;
and all its princes shall be nothing.
13 Thorns will come up in its palaces,
nettles and thistles in its fortresses;
and it will be a habitation of jackals,
a court for ostriches.
14 The wild animals of the desert will meet with the wolves,
and the wild goat will cry to his fellow.
Yes, the night creature shall settle there,
and shall find herself a place of rest.
15 The arrow snake will make her nest there,
and lay, hatch, and gather under her shade.
Yes, the kites will be gathered there, every one with her mate.
16 Search in the book of Yahweh, and read:
not one of these will be missing.
none will lack her mate.
For my mouth has commanded,
and his Spirit has gathered them.
17 He has cast the lot for them,
and his hand has divided it to them with a measuring line.
They shall possess it forever.
From generation to generation they will dwell in it.
35 The wilderness and the dry land will be glad.
The desert will rejoice and blossom like a rose.
2 It will blossom abundantly,
and rejoice even with joy and singing.
Lebanon’s glory will be given to it,
the excellence of Carmel and Sharon.
They will see Yahweh’s glory,
the excellence of our God.
3 Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
4 Tell those who have a fearful heart, “Be strong.
Don’t be afraid.
Behold, your God will come with vengeance, God’s retribution.
He will come and save you.
5 Then the eyes of the blind will be opened,
and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped.
6 Then the lame man will leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the mute will sing;
for waters will break out in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert.
7 The burning sand will become a pool,
and the thirsty ground springs of water.
Grass with reeds and rushes will be in the habitation of jackals, where they lay.
8 A highway will be there, a road,
and it will be called The Holy Way.
The unclean shall not pass over it,
but it will be for those who walk in the Way.
Wicked fools will not go there.
9 No lion will be there,
nor will any ravenous animal go up on it.
They will not be found there;
but the redeemed will walk there.
10 The Yahweh’s ransomed ones will return,
and come with singing to Zion;
and everlasting joy will be on their heads.
They will obtain gladness and joy,
and sorrow and sighing will flee away.”
36 Now in the fourteenth year of king Hezekiah, Sennacherib king of Assyria attacked all of the fortified cities of Judah, and captured them. 2 The king of Assyria sent Rabshakeh from Lachish to Jerusalem to king Hezekiah with a large army. He stood by the aqueduct from the upper pool in the fuller’s field highway. 3 Then Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, who was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and Joah, the son of Asaph, the recorder came out to him. 4 Rabshakeh said to them, “Now tell Hezekiah, ‘Thus says the great king, the king of Assyria, “What confidence is this in which you trust? 5 I say that your counsel and strength for the war are only vain words. Now in whom do you trust, that you have rebelled against me? 6 Behold, you trust in the staff of this bruised reed, even in Egypt, which if a man leans on it, it will go into his hand and pierce it. So is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who trust in him. 7 But if you tell me, ‘We trust in Yahweh our God,’ isn’t that he whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah has taken away, and has said to Judah and to Jerusalem, ‘You shall worship before this altar?’” 8 Now therefore, please make a pledge to my master the king of Assyria, and I will give you two thousand horses, if you are able on your part to set riders on them. 9 How then can you turn away the face of one captain of the least of my master’s servants, and put your trust on Egypt for chariots and for horsemen? 10 Have I come up now without Yahweh against this land to destroy it? Yahweh said to me, “Go up against this land, and destroy it.”’”
11 Then Eliakim, Shebna and Joah said to Rabshakeh, “Please speak to your servants in Aramaic, for we understand it; and don’t speak to us in the Jews’ language in the hearing of the people who are on the wall.”
12 But Rabshakeh said, “Has my master sent me only to your master and to you, to speak these words, and not to the men who sit on the wall, who will eat their own dung and drink their own urine with you?” 13 Then Rabshakeh stood, and called out with a loud voice in the Jews’ language, and said, “Hear the words of the great king, the king of Assyria! 14 Thus says the king, ‘Don’t let Hezekiah deceive you; for he will not be able to deliver you. 15 Don’t let Hezekiah make you trust in Yahweh, saying, “Yahweh will surely deliver us. This city won’t be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.”’ 16 Don’t listen to Hezekiah, for thus says the king of Assyria, ‘Make your peace with me, and come out to me; and each of you eat from his vine, and each one from his fig tree, and each one of you drink the waters of his own cistern; 17 until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards. 18 Beware lest Hezekiah persuade you, saying, “Yahweh will deliver us.” Have any of the gods of the nations delivered their lands from the hand of the king of Assyria? 19 Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim? Have they delivered Samaria from my hand? 20 Who are they among all the gods of these countries that have delivered their country out of my hand, that Yahweh should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?’”
21 But they remained silent, and said nothing in reply, for the king’s commandment was, “Don’t answer him.”
22 Then Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, who was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and Joah, the son of Asaph, the recorder, came to Hezekiah with their clothes torn, and told him the words of Rabshakeh.
13 For you, brothers, were called for freedom. Only don’t use your freedom for gain to the flesh, but through love be servants to one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, be careful that you don’t consume one another. 16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you won’t fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, that you may not do the things that you desire. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the deeds of the flesh are obvious, which are: adultery, sexual immorality, uncleanness, lustfulness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, strife, jealousies, outbursts of anger, rivalries, divisions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these; of which I forewarn you, even as I also forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit God’s Kingdom.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, 23 gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and lusts. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let’s also walk by the Spirit. 26 Let’s not become conceited, provoking one another, and envying one another.
For the Chief Musician. A Psalm by David.
64 Hear my voice, God, in my complaint.
Preserve my life from fear of the enemy.
2 Hide me from the conspiracy of the wicked,
from the noisy crowd of the ones doing evil;
3 who sharpen their tongue like a sword,
and aim their arrows, deadly words,
4 to shoot innocent men from ambushes.
They shoot at him suddenly and fearlessly.
5 They encourage themselves in evil plans.
They talk about laying snares secretly.
They say, “Who will see them?”
6 They plot injustice, saying, “We have made a perfect plan!”
Surely man’s mind and heart are cunning.
7 But God will shoot at them.
They will be suddenly struck down with an arrow.
8 Their own tongues shall ruin them.
All who see them will shake their heads.
9 All mankind shall be afraid.
They shall declare the work of God,
and shall wisely ponder what he has done.
10 The righteous shall be glad in Yahweh,
and shall take refuge in him.
All the upright in heart shall praise him!
23 Buy the truth, and don’t sell it.
Get wisdom, discipline, and understanding.