2nd Sunday in Advent LSB #’s 900, 648, 349
Text – Isaiah 37:20
So now, O Yahweh our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are Yahweh.
YAHWEH WILL SAVE HIS ZION
Imagine yourself in the city of Jerusalem in the year 701 BC. It’s a bustling, fairly large & well-known city in the ancient Near East. Archaeologists estimate that it was about 150 acres in size. The temple is there, built by King Solomon over 250 years earlier. Outside of Jerusalem is the presence of a terrifying army, the multinational military of Assyria.
The kings of Assyria have conquered the surrounding lands, including the northern kingdom of Israel. Their practice was to conquer & deport the local populations to distant places. The northern Israelites had already gone into exile. In 701 BC the king of Assyria, Sennacherib, had already destroyed 46 towns of Judah & deported over 200,000 people.
Now he wants Jerusalem to surrender to Assyrian rule. Their surrender would be less of a bother for him, rather than having to carry out a military attack & go to all the fuss of destroying the city’s walls. It would be simpler if Jerusalem just waves the white flag.
Sennacherib was currently busy with destroying Lachish, a prominent city of Judah, located to the west. In order to persuade Jerusalem to surrender Sennacherib sent the Rabshakeh, a high-ranking official in the Assyrian government.
King Hezekiah, of Judah, believed in Yahweh, the God of Moses & the Prophets, the God of Isaiah, the God whose temple was there in Jerusalem. Earlier when Hezekiah had been seriously ill & near death he prayed to Yahweh, who answered his prayer. In Isaiah chapter 38, Yahweh promised to give Hezekiah fifteen more years.
And, He made this promise: “I will deliver you & this city out of the hand of the king of
Assyria, & I will defend this city” (38:6). King Hezekiah believed that promise from the true God. Hezekiah believed the theology he was taught, the theology of Isaiah the prophet. King Hezekiah told the rest of Jerusalem this promise. Now the Assyrian official was trying to undermine confidence in that theology.
Let’s imagine ourselves in Jerusalem in 701 BC. We the people of Jerusalem live under the rule of King Hezekiah. Isaiah 36–37 records the speeches given by the Rabshakeh, the Assyrian official. You & I will listen to his arguments.
He had done his homework. He knows something about the theology of King Hezekiah. So, he tries to undermine our confidence in that theology. His goal is to persuade us to surrender. Will we give in or will we believe the theology that you & I have been taught?
Will you believe the theology you were taught from this pulpit Sunday after Sunday? Will you believe the theology you were taught at Sunday school & in confirmation class? Will you believe the theology you were taught in adult Bible study? Will you believe the theology you were taught every Sunday through the liturgy & the hymns?
Judgment Day will recognize whether you believed the promises of God or surrendered to the voices of the world. Have you become a Christian in name only, whose mind & heart & will were actually shaped by the voices of the world more than by the voice of the Lord?
We are inundated by the world’s voices every minute of every day. They come to us 24/7 via TV, the radio, our computer screens & phones, in countless ways. Many Christians end up conforming to the world & its ways of thinking. Many Christians basically surrender to the Rabshakeh, the Assyrian official. Will you? Or will you believe in God’s promise to save?
Let’s listen to the Rabshakeh’s speech. He is trying to undermine confidence in the claims made by King Hezekiah. Hezekiah tells Jerusalem to trust in their God, Yahweh, the God of Israel. Yahweh promised to deliver Jerusalem, His city, from the king of Assyria & his army. But the Rabshakeh claims that is all a bunch of nonsense. The Rabshakeh says to Jerusalem:
You are no match to the might of Assyria. If you rely on Egypt, they are a broken reed. They cannot & they will not save you. If you think your own military power can deliver you, the king of Assyria will spot you 2000 horses, if you even have that many horsemen (Isaiah 36:6–9). The Assyrian official speaks to Jerusalem:
Hear the words of the great king, the king of Assyria! Thus says the king: “Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, for he will not be able to deliver you. Do not let Hezekiah make you trust in Yahweh by saying ‘Yahweh will surely deliver us. This city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.’ Do not listen to Hezekiah... Beware lest Hezekiah mislead you by saying ‘Yahweh will deliver us.’ Has any of the gods of the nations delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath & Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim? Have they delivered Samaria out of my hand? Who among all the gods of these lands have delivered their lands out of my hand, that Yahweh should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?” (Isaiah 36:13–20)
The Rabshakeh mocks the theology of Isaiah & King Hezekiah. He says: “Wake up, Zion. Resistance is futile. Your god is no match to the overpowering, unstoppable might of Assyria. Sennacherib has already conquered countless other cities. Their gods were no match. None were able to deliver them. What makes you think your god is any different. Surrender!”
Today, the challenge from the voices of the world remains basically the same. “What rules the world is earthly power & might, the economy, politics, science. That is what calls the shots. Your theology is a bunch of nonsense, wishful thinking, made-up dreams. All religions are the same. The world & its ways rule, not your god. Conform to the reality of life!”
Well, what happened? King Hezekiah & Jerusalem trusted in their God, Yahweh. King Hezekiah brought the matter before God & prayed:
O Yahweh of hosts, God of Israel, who is enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven & earth. Incline your ear, O Yahweh, & hear; open your eyes, O Yahweh, & see; & hear all the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God. Truly, O Yahweh, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations & their lands, & have cast their gods into the fire. For they were no gods, but the work of men’s hands – wood & stone. Therefore, they were destroyed. So now, O Yahweh our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are Yahweh. (37:16–20//2 Kgs 19:15–19)
What happened next? The God of ancient Israel, the God of King Hezekiah & Isaiah the prophet, wasn’t just another run-of-the-mill god on the smorgasbord of ancient gods & goddesses. Yes, the kings of Assyria conquered other gods, for they were no gods but simply statues of wood & stone. Big deal, the kings of Assyria conquered a bunch of statues.
Now they were facing the true God, the almighty Creator who made the heavens & the earth. The true God heard Hezekiah’s prayer & acted in a mighty way: “…the angel of Yahweh went out & struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies.” (Isaiah 37:36)
What happened to Sennacherib, king of Assyria? He returned to Nineveh. The text records that 20 years later in 681 BC, while “he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, Adrammelech & Sharezer, his sons, struck him down with the sword” (37:36–38//2 Kgs 19:35–37).
How ironic! Sennacherib’s god couldn’t even deliver him from being assassinated in that god’s own temple. But the God of ancient Israel, the God of King Hezekiah & the prophet Isaiah is not impotent. He is not a bunch of religious made-up mumble-jumble. He is the true God, the Creator of the heavens & the earth.
Yahweh acted upon His promises. He carried them out. They were not empty words. God fulfills all of His promises. He came mightily to save His people from the formidable Assyria. Jerusalem did not save herself. Her own might was no match for the Assyrian armies. The Rabshakeh was right about that.
Jerusalem’s salvation, her deliverance was due only to her God & His faithfulness to His promises. Believe the promises of your God, the true God, given by His ancient prophet Isaiah. The day of deliverance of Zion in 701 BC was one of the greatest miracles recorded in Holy Scripture. That mighty act of salvation gave a foretaste, an anticipation, a preview, a down payment on a coming act of God to save as frequently promised by Isaiah, the time when God will save from death itself, from sin itself, from all the might of the world to oppress & rule.
This Advent season we look forward to that future day of salvation. In fact, that future day of salvation has already entered into history ahead of time. Through Jesus of Nazareth, God’s saving work already took place. As Jesus said: “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33b-c).
He already has saved us from sin, death & the power of the devil. He did it by living the perfect life in our place & by offering Himself as our substitute. He did it willingly by allowing Himself to be crucified & put to death by the world. He saved us:
“…from all sins, from death, & from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood & with His innocent suffering & death that we may be His own & live under Him in His kingdom & serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, & blessedness.”
You do not belong to the world. You belong to Jesus the Lord, “as He is risen from the dead, lives & reigns to all eternity.” Jesus is the victorious Lord over all. He now gives you a share in His victory. Here in His new & greater Zion, in His new & greater Jerusalem, He gathers you into His saving presence & gives you the blessings of His salvation.
As 1 Corinthians 1:9 states: “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” He called you through Holy baptism. He calls through the gospel proclamation. He calls through the Lord’s Supper. Here in Zion among His people in His presence He gives salvation. And this gift now is the guarantee that on the last day Jesus will come again in visible glory to save you. Believe the true theology you were taught. Don’t surrender to the voices of the world. By the power of the Holy Spirit trust in the promises from the true God spoken by Isaiah His prophet of old. The true God will come mighty to save.
Trust in God’s promises as they were fulfilled by Jesus of Nazareth, God’s own Son in the flesh. Trust in God’s promises that one day will reach their consummation when the Lord returns in visible glory. Yahweh will save His Zion. Amen.
Glorious things of you are spoken, Zion, city of our God; He whose word cannot be broken formed you for His own abode. On the Rock of Ages founded, what can shake your sure repose? With salvation’s walls surrounded, you may smile at all your foes. Savior, since of Zion’s city I through grace a member am, let the world deride or pity, I will glory in Your name. Fading are the world’s vain pleasures, all their boasted pomp & show; solid joys & lasting treasures none but Zion’s children know. Amen. LSB 648:1, 4.
Isaiah it was foretold it, the rose I have in mind; with Mary we behold it, the virgin mother kind. To show God’s love aright, she bore to us a Savior, when half-spent was the night. This flower whose fragrance tender with sweetness fills the air, dispels with glorious splendor the darkness everywhere. True man, yet very God, from sin & death He saves us & lightens every load. O Savior, child of Mary, who felt our human woe; O Savior, King of glory, who does our weakness know: bring us at length we pray to the bright courts of heaven, & to the endless day. Amen. LSB 359:2-4.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet