6.42 Isaiah -- The Immediate Threat of Assyria
Isaiah addressed not only the “big picture” of God’s historic purposes of judgment and redemption. He also dealt with the present crises Judah faced:
Although King Ahaz feared Aram and Israel, Isaiah warned him that the real problems would come from Assyria and, to a lesser extent, Egypt (Isa 7:17-20). Assyria will shatter and overthrow Israel (Isa 7:8, Isa 8:4). Since the people of Israel and Judah will not listen to God’s prophets, He will speak to them "with foreign lips and strange tongues" (Isa 28:11).
Judah sought alliances with other nations. Instead of depending on the Lord, Judah’s leaders sent envoys to Egypt (Isa 30:1-17, Isa 31:1-3). The Lord instructed the prophet not to share in their panics and conspiracy theories (Isa 8:11-13). In the end, no human treaty will stand. But the Lord, in mercy, will show His power by delivering Jerusalem supernaturally. He had made up His mind to be Immanuel, "God with us"; to set His name and His presence where His Temple stood. Therefore He gathered foreign nations to attack, only to shatter them. It will be as in the days of Gideon, when the Lord supernaturally destroyed Midian’s great army (Isa 9:4; Isa 10:26).
The deliverance of Jerusalem from the threat of Assyria is recounted in chapters 36-37. See also 2 Kings 18 and 2 Chr 32. It occurred during the reign of Hezekiah, and was a miraculous act of God, not due to any military strength of Judah:
Then the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning-there were all the dead bodies! (Isa 37:36).
This white-knuckle experience -- that the Lord saved His people, His city, at the last minute -- created problems for later prophets. Jeremiah told his contemporaries that they "trust in deceptive words" when they pointed to the Temple, taking it as a sign that, no matter how badly they behaved, the Lord would not abandon them; he pointed out that the Lord overthrew Shiloh and Israel (Jer 7:1-15). But one senses that this message is a hard sell. Had not the Lord said,
"I will defend this city and save it, for My sake and the sake of David My servant" (Isa. 37:35)?
And He had done just that in the days of Isaiah and Hezekiah. Surely, then, Jeremiah and other doomsayers must be false prophets!
In truth, though, the precedent of the great deliverance created problems even for Isaiah. For the same prophet who spoke of Immanuel and a rescued city also described Jerusalem’s fall and a chosen people sent far away. This illustrates the great difficulty in linking prophecy to specific events in history. God did indeed miraculously deliver Jerusalem from one siege (Assyria), only to let the city fall to Babylon a little over a century later.