Sabbath School Lesson for February 6-12, 2021

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Overview of Lesson 7 (Isaiah 36 through 39)

  • Sunday: Cities around Jerusalem were being attacked by Assyria (Isaiah 36:1)
  • Monday: Spokesmen from Assyria were sent with propaganda, designed to intimidate King Hezekiah and those in Jerusalem (Isaiah 36:2-20)
  • Tuesday: Although shaken by their threats and taunts, Isaiah brings comforting words from the Lord and Hezekiah prays even harder (Isaiah 36:21-37:20)
  • Wednesday: The miraculous rescue of Jerusalem, with the entire Assyrian army being found dead outside the city’s walls (Isaiah 37:21-38)
  • Thursday: Hezekiah’s illness and unwise response to God’s sparing of his life (Isaiah 38, 39)

Our story this week begins about fourteen years after Ahaz’s son Hezekiah came to the throne in Judah. Hezekiah did his best to bring about spiritual reforms, with temple services being observed again. But he was left with a dangerous ally. Assyria was not being faithful to its commitments, even though Hezekiah had been forced to pay it tribute money for protection all those years.

Assyria was now becoming a threat to all in the region. Their alliance did nothing to spare the surrounding cities of Jerusalem  from the brutal, terrorizing actions of the Assyrian army. The way God spared His city through a miraculous defeat was an amazing testimony of how God fights our battles.

God later spared Hezekiah’s life when he was dangerously ill. God gave him a miraculous sign that he would be healed. But Hezekiah did not return faithful thanks and the Jews paid for his unwise, prideful behavior when Babylon became the dominant power in the region years later.

Memory Text: ” ‘O Lord of hosts, God of Israel, the One who dwells between the cherubim, You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth.’ ” Isaiah 37:16 NKJV

This is the beginning of Hezekiah’s prayer, one of the most beautiful prayers in times of distress that are in the Bible. Its entire focus is on God–His power and might, His beauty and sense of justice. The request made at the end of the prayer is even centered on God’s vindication and glory.

Sunday: Strings Attached (Isaiah 36:1)

Although Hezekiah, the son of King Ahaz, tried to be more faithful to God than his father had been, he was still forced to pay tribute to Assyria for many years. But when King Sargon II of Assyria died in battle, Hezekiah saw this is as an opportunity to rebel against Assyria, which by now had become a real threat to the region.

Sennacherib, the new ruler of Assyria, however, proved to be every bit as ruthless as his predecessor. Hezekiah knew he was soon in for a dangerous confrontation with the Assyrian army in Jerusalem. Isaiah 36:1 tells us that Sennacherib had already taken all the other fortified cities in Judah.

2 Chronicles 32:1-8 outlines the actions Hezekiah took to prevent an attack on Jerusalem. He built up the walls and towers that skirted the city, increased the number of weapons, and even made plans to stop the water supply outside Jerusalem. He spoke to his army captains, trying to lift their morale by reminding them that God was with them and would  fight for them.

Little did he know how accurate this assurance and prediction would prove to be.

Bible Verses to Read and Discuss:

Isaiah 36:1,  2 Chronicles 28:27, 29:1-3, 30:1, 31:1, 21

  • What kind of positive spiritual reforms did Hezekiah make in Judah?

2 Chronicles 32:1-8 and Philippians 2:12, 13

  • Why were these measures appropriate, considering their dangerous situation?
  • How do we know that Hezekiah was working with God?
  • Do we ever do anything totally on our own, if we have surrendered to God?

Monday: Propaganda (Isaiah 36:2-20)

There was a verbal clash with the Assyrian army that happened outside the walls of Jerusalem, before any military action was taken there. Isaiah only mentioned one Assyrian officer, probably a governor (called the Rabshakeh), who delivered Sennacherib’s message. But we find in 2 Kings 18:17 that three Assyrian officers were there. So, the commander in chief and another chief officer were likely there as well.

The message they presented was a threat, but it was cunningly mingled with taunts and enticing invitations to surrender. Hezekiah’s representatives, sent to meet the Assyrian officers, refused to respond to their message and remained silent, as they were told to do (Isaiah 36:21). But they came back to Judah’s king and delivered their sad and frightening report.

The arguments of the Rabshakeh were partly true. He declared that…

  1. You can’t trust Egypt.
  2. You can’t depend on the Lord.
  3. You are vastly outnumbered.
  4. They had orders to destroy Jerusalem.
  5. By surrendering they could spare themselves total destruction.

Hezekiah and those with him were very distressed with these declarations and their options. They went to the best place for a solution though. The king called for Isaiah.

Bible Verses to Read and Discuss:

Isaiah 36:6 and Psalm 146:3

  • Why was this a good point to begin their propaganda campaign?

Isaiah 36:7 and Numbers 33:52

  • What was untrue about this statement from the Assyrians? Who was being worshiped in these high places?

Isaiah 36:8, 9 and 2 Chronicles 32:6-8

  • How was the Rabshakeh’s observation meant to intimidate them into surrendering?
  • Why were the numbers not important, according to Hezekiah’s earlier encouraging words?

Tuesday: Shaken but Not Forsaken (Isaiah 36:21-37:20)

Hezekiah’s representatives remained silent after the Rabshakeh’s nerve-shattering words. They had been directed not to reply to the Assyrians’ demands and threats. But, when they reported back to Hezekiah, their distress was obvious. They tore their clothes, a sign of intense anguish and grief. See Isaiah 36:21, 22.

Hezekiah himself then tore his clothes, covered himself with sackcloth, and sent his messengers to go find Isaiah the prophet. They badly needed to hear direction from God for what their next steps should be.

Isaiah’s prophecy about the king of Assyria must have been encouraging (Isaiah 37:6, 7). He predicted that Sennacherib would hear a rumor, return to his homeland, and die in battle there.

But, in the meantime, a letter was sent from Sennacherib, which reinforced the same threats they had heard outside the wall from the Rabshakeh. Hezekiah was again in despair, took himself and the letter to the temple, and there pleaded to God for help in their dire circumstances.

Bible Verses to Read and Discuss:

Isaiah 36:21, 22

  • Why do you think these representatives were told to remain silent?
  • Why would this have been a good idea, considering the enemy they were facing?
  • How can silence sometimes be our best weapon? And when is it not?

Isaiah 37:6, 7

  • How would this prediction have been a sign to increase their faith in God’s power to save them?

Isaiah 37:15-20

  • How and why was God kept the central theme of Hezekiah’s prayer?

Wednesday: The Rest of the Story (Isaiah 37:21-38)

In answer to Hezekiah’s prayer, Isaiah was sent by the Lord to deliver His answer. God told Isaiah that He had spoken to the king of Assyria, and Isaiah was even given His words to Sennacherib (Isaiah 37:22-32). They were a scathing rebuke and prediction that he would not take Jerusalem, God’s holy city.

God then left Hezekiah with the comforting words that the attack would not take place. God Himself would defend them and save Jerusalem, fulfilling Hezekiah’s prayer request.

The amazing truth of those words were realized the next morning, when the entire Assyrian army that surrounded them were found dead in their tents. Sennacherib returned to Nineveh, but was killed there by two of his sons (Isaiah 37:36-38).

Historians have found numerous, detailed records of how the king of Assyria took all the cities of Judah, but Jerusalem did not appear on their list. There is only the statement that he made Hezekiah “a prisoner in Jerusalem”. It was true that they had surrounded the city. Sennacherib failed to tell the whole story of their defeat there, which was typical for boasting monarchs back then. But the Bible is clear about what happened.

Bible Verses to Read and Discuss:

Isaiah 37:20, 33-38

  • How was this outcome a direct answer to Hezekiah’s prayer?
  • Why is it sometimes necessary for God to come to our aid with a supernatural miracle such as this?

Thursday: In Sickness and in Wealth (Isaiah 38 and 39)

Isaiah 38 reveals a telling story about an illness that plagued King Hezekiah. It appeared to be serious enough to be terminal (Isaiah 38:1). Although it follows the chapter about the defeat of Sennacherib, it may have been something that happened at some point prior to the city’s miraculous deliverance from the Assyrian army. Isaiah 38:5, 6 and 2 Kings 20:6 lead us to believe the king’s healing occurred while they still faced the Assyrian threat.

We find in 2 Kings 20:8 that Hezekiah asked Isaiah to request a sign from God that He would be healed. It must be noted that Ahaz, Hezekiah’s father, had rejected a sign from God previously, even after God had offered him the opportunity to name that sign himself (Isaiah 7:11, 12). This shows the amount of spiritual maturity Hezekiah developed over the years he spent on the throne.

Once again 2 Kings 20 brings out some interesting details of the story. God asked Hezekiah if he wanted the sundial to go forward or backward as a sign of his healing. Hezekiah chose what he felt was the hardest sign–to make the sundial go backward. This choice leads us to believe that Hezekiah had a healthy belief in God’s power. He knew God was able to deliver even the hard stuff.

But Hezekiah’s level of faith unfortunately must have diminished over the years. Isaiah 39 provides us with a lesson for what can happen if we allow pride to creep into our experience. When some envoys from Babylon were visiting Jerusalem some time later to investigate how this miraculous healing had taken place, Hezekiah chose rather to showcase all the treasures in his house.

When Isaiah heard about the visit and found out about Hezekiah’s prideful display of his wealth, he prophesied that many years later that Babylonians would invade the land, take those treasures he had pridefully boasted of, and even make his sons captives and eunuchs in a Babylonian palace.

Hezekiah’s reaction to this prediction was disappointing. He only seemed concerned about his own time on earth (Isaiah 39:8). Another indication of a selfish and prideful attitude.

Bible Verses to Read and Discuss:

Isaiah 38:5, 6 and 2 Kings 20:6

  • How might this miraculous healing have affected Hezekiah’s faith and actions when the Assyrian army was later right outside Jerusalem?

2 Kings 20:8 and Isaiah 7:11, 12

  • How did this show Hezekiah’s relationship with God as different from his father’s?

Isaiah 39:6-8

  • What did Hezekiah’s answer reveal about his character at this later time?
  • What can we learn about Hezekiah’s shift in priorities and how can we prevent ourselves from falling into the same condition?

Friday: Final Thoughts

There’s much to be learned from the life of King Hezekiah in these chapters:

  1. It’s alright to use our human efforts, as long as they are guided and aided by God. (Hezekiah took proper precautions to arm themselves when an Assyrian attack was imminent. 2 Chronicles 32:1-8)
  2. A battle with words can be just as destructive as a physical attack. (The verbal clashes outside the city with Sennacherib’s emissaries had an adverse effect on the frightened citizens in Jerusalem. Isaiah 36)
  3. God does not forsake us, even when we are in great mental or physical distress. (God heard and answered Hezekiah’s passionate pleas for help. Isaiah 37:1-35)
  4. God has the ultimate power to overthrow our enemies without our help. (The miraculous death of an entire army became the defense that was needed to save Jerusalem. Isaiah 37:36-38)
  5. No matter how close we are to God, there is a possibility that our loyalties can change. (Hezekiah’s healing did not guarantee his faithfulness later in life, when he let pride into his heart. Isaiah 38 and 39)

Next Week: Sabbath: “Comfort My People” –Isaiah 40

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