Isaiah 36-41 The Message Bible

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The Invasion of Sennacherib

36 1  In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, Sennacherib king of Assyria made war on all the fortress cities of Judah and took them. 2  Then the king of Assyria sent his general, the "Rabshekah," accompanied by a huge army, from Lachish to Jerusalem to King Hezekiah. The general stopped at the aqueduct where it empties into the upper pool on the road to the public laundry. 3  Three men went out to meet him: Eliakim son of Hilkiah, in charge of the palace; Shebna the secretary; and Joah son of Asaph, the official historian. 4  The Rabshekah said to them, "Tell Hezekiah that the Great King, the king of Assyria, says this: 'What kind of backing do you think you have against me? 5  You're bluffing and I'm calling your bluff. Your words are no match for my weapons. What kind of backup do you have now that you've rebelled against me? 6  Egypt? Don't make me laugh. Egypt is a rubber crutch. Lean on Egypt and you'll end up flat on your face. That's all Pharaoh king of Egypt is to anyone who leans on him. 7  And if you try to tell me, "We're leaning on our God," isn't it a bit late? Hasn't Hezekiah just gotten rid of all the places of worship, telling you, "You've got to worship at this altar"? 8  "'Be reasonable. Face the facts: My master the king of Assyria will give you two thousand horses if you can put riders on them. 9  You can't do it, can you? So how do you think, depending on flimsy Egypt's chariots and riders, you can stand up against even the lowest-ranking captain in my master's army? 10  "'And besides, do you think I came all this way to destroy this land without first getting God's blessing? It was your God who told me, Make war on this land. Destroy it.'"

11  Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah answered the Rabshekah, "Please talk to us in Aramaic. We understand Aramaic. Don't talk to us in Hebrew within earshot of all the people gathered around." 12  But the Rabshekah replied, "Do you think my master has sent me to give this message to your master and you but not also to the people clustered here? It's their fate that's at stake. They're the ones who are going to end up eating their own excrement and drinking their own urine." 13  Then the Rabshekah stood up and called out loudly in Hebrew, the common language, "Listen to the message of the great king, the king of Assyria! 14  Don't listen to Hezekiah's lies. He can't save you. 15  And don't pay any attention to Hezekiah's pious sermons telling you to lean on God, telling you 'God will save us, depend on it. God won't let this city fall to the king of Assyria.' 16  "Don't listen to Hezekiah. Listen to the king of Assyria's offer: 'Make peace with me. Come and join me. Everyone will end up with a good life, with plenty of land and water, 17  and eventually something far better. I'll turn you loose in wide open spaces, with more than enough fertile and productive land for everyone.' 18  Don't let Hezekiah mislead you with his lies, 'God will save us.' Has that ever happened? Has any god in history ever gotten the best of the king of Assyria? 19  Look around you. Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? The gods of Sepharvaim? Did the gods do anything for Samaria? 20  Name one god that has ever saved its countries from me. So what makes you think that God could save Jerusalem from me?'" 21  The three men were silent. They said nothing, for the king had already commanded, "Don't answer him." 22  Then Eliakim son of Hilkiah, the palace administrator, Shebna the secretary, and Joah son of Asaph, the court historian, tearing their clothes in defeat and despair, went back and reported what the Rabshekah had said to Hezekiah.

Judah Delivered from Sennacherib

37 1  When King Hezekiah heard the report, he also tore his clothes and dressed in rough, penitential burlap gunnysacks, and went into the sanctuary of God. 2  He sent Eliakim the palace administrator, Shebna the secretary, and the senior priests, all of them also dressed in penitential burlap, to the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz. 3  They said to him, "Hezekiah says, 'This is a black day. We're in crisis. We're like pregnant women without even the strength to have a baby! 4  Do you think your God heard what the Rabshekah said, sent by his master the king of Assyria to mock the living God? And do you think your God will do anything about it? Pray for us, Isaiah. Pray for those of us left here holding the fort!'" 5  Then King Hezekiah's servants came to Isaiah. 6  Isaiah said, "Tell your master this: 'God's Message: Don't be upset by what you've heard, all those words the servants of the Assyrian king have used to mock me. 7  I personally will take care of him. I'll arrange it so that he'll get a rumor of bad news back home and rush home to take care of it. And he'll die there. Killed - a violent death.'"

8  The Rabshekah left and found the king of Assyria fighting against Libnah. (He had gotten word that the king had left Lachish.) 9  Just then the Assyrian king received an intelligence report on King Tirhakah of Ethiopia: "He is on his way to make war on you." 10  "Don't let your God, on whom you so naively lean, deceive you, promising that Jerusalem won't fall to the king of Assyria. 11  Use your head! Look around at what the kings of Assyria have done all over the world - one country after another devastated! And do you think you're going to get off? 12  Have any of the gods of any of these countries ever stepped in and saved them, even one of these nations my predecessors destroyed - Gozan, Haran, Rezeph, and the people of Eden who lived in Telassar? 13  Look around. Do you see anything left of the king of Hamath, the king of Arpad, the king of the city of Sepharvaim, the king of Hena, the king of Ivvah?" 14  Hezekiah took the letter from the hands of the messengers and read it. Then he went into the sanctuary of God and spread the letter out before God. 15  Then Hezekiah prayed to God: 16  "God-of-the-Angel-Armies, enthroned over the cherubim-angels, you are God, the only God there is, God of all kingdoms on earth. You made heaven and earth. 17  Listen, O God, and hear. Look, O God, and see. Mark all these words of Sennacherib that he sent to mock the living God. 18  It's quite true, O God, that the kings of Assyria have devastated all the nations and their lands. 19  They've thrown their gods into the trash and burned them - no great achievement since they were no-gods anyway, gods made in workshops, carved from wood and chiseled from rock. An end to the no-gods! 20  But now step in, O God, our God. Save us from him. Let all the kingdoms of earth know that you and you alone are God."

21  Then Isaiah son of Amoz sent this word to Hezekiah: "God's Message, the God of Israel: Because you brought King Sennacherib of Assyria to me in prayer, 22  here is my answer, God's answer: "'She has no use for you, Sennacherib, nothing but contempt, this virgin daughter Zion. She spits at you and turns on her heel, this daughter Jerusalem. 23  "'Who do you think you've been mocking and reviling all these years? Who do you think you've been jeering and treating with such utter contempt All these years? The Holy of Israel! 24  You've used your servants to mock the Master. You've bragged, "With my fleet of chariots I've gone to the highest mountain ranges, penetrated the far reaches of Lebanon, Chopped down its giant cedars, its finest cypresses. I conquered its highest peak, explored its deepest forest. 25  I dug wells and drank my fill. I emptied the famous rivers of Egypt with one kick of my foot. 26  "'Haven't you gotten the news that I've been behind this all along? This is a longstanding plan of mine and I'm just now making it happen, using you to devastate strong cities, turning them into piles of rubble 27  and leaving their citizens helpless, bewildered, and confused, drooping like unwatered plants, stunted like withered seedlings. 28  "'I know all about your pretentious poses, your officious comings and goings, and, yes, the tantrums you throw against me. 29  Because of all your wild raging against me, your unbridled arrogance that I keep hearing of, I'll put my hook in your nose and my bit in your mouth. I'll show you who's boss. I'll turn you around and take you back to where you came from. 30  "'And this, Hezekiah, will be your confirming sign: This year's crops will be slim pickings, and next year it won't be much better. But in three years, farming will be back to normal, with regular sowing and reaping, planting and harvesting. 31  What's left of the people of Judah will put down roots and make a new start. 32  The people left in Jerusalem will get moving again. Mount Zion survivors will take hold again. The zeal of God-of-the-Angel-Armies will do all this.' 33  "Finally, this is God's verdict on the king of Assyria: "'Don't worry, he won't enter this city, won't let loose a single arrow, Won't brandish so much as one shield, let alone build a siege ramp against it. 34  He'll go back the same way he came. He won't set a foot in this city. God's Decree. 35  I've got my hand on this city to save it, Save it for my very own sake, but also for the sake of my David dynasty.'" 36  Then the Angel of God arrived and struck the Assyrian camp - 185,000 Assyrians died. By the time the sun came up, they were all dead - an army of corpses! 37  Sennacherib, king of Assyria, got out of there fast, back home to Nineveh. 38  As he was worshiping in the sanctuary of his god Nisroch, he was murdered by his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer. They escaped to the land of Ararat. His son Esar-haddon became the next king.

Hezekiah's Sickness

38 1  At that time, Hezekiah got sick. He was about to die. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz visited him and said, "God says, 'Prepare your affairs and your family. This is it: You're going to die. You're not going to get well.'" 2  Hezekiah turned away from Isaiah and, facing the wall, prayed to God: 3  "God, please, I beg you: Remember how I've lived my life. I've lived faithfully in your presence, lived out of a heart that was totally yours. You've seen how I've lived, the good that I have done." And Hezekiah wept as he prayed - painful tears. 4  Then God told Isaiah, 5  "Go and speak with Hezekiah. Give him this Message from me, God, the God of your ancestor David: 'I've heard your prayer. I have seen your tears. Here's what I'll do: I'll add fifteen years to your life. 6  And I'll save both you and this city from the king of Assyria. I have my hand on this city. 7  "'And this is your confirming sign, confirming that I, God, will do exactly what I have promised. 8  Watch for this: As the sun goes down and the shadow lengthens on the sundial of Ahaz, I'm going to reverse the shadow ten notches on the dial.'" And that's what happened: The declining sun's shadow reversed ten notches on the dial.

9  This is what Hezekiah king of Judah wrote after he'd been sick and then recovered from his sickness: 10  In the very prime of life I have to leave. Whatever time I have left is spent in death's waiting room. 11  No more glimpses of God in the land of the living, No more meetings with my neighbors, no more rubbing shoulders with friends. 12  This body I inhabit is taken down and packed away like a camper's tent. Like a weaver, I've rolled up the carpet of my life as God cuts me free of the loom And at day's end sweeps up the scraps and pieces. 13  I cry for help until morning. Like a lion, God pummels and pounds me, relentlessly finishing me off. 14  I squawk like a doomed hen, moan like a dove. My eyes ache from looking up for help: "Master, I'm in trouble! Get me out of this!" 15  But what's the use? God himself gave me the word. He's done it to me. I can't sleep - I'm that upset, that troubled. 16  O Master, these are the conditions in which people live, and yes, in these very conditions my spirit is still alive - fully recovered with a fresh infusion of life! 17  It seems it was good for me to go through all those troubles. Throughout them all you held tight to my lifeline. You never let me tumble over the edge into nothing. But my sins you let go of, threw them over your shoulder - good riddance! 18  The dead don't thank you, and choirs don't sing praises from the morgue. Those buried six feet under don't witness to your faithful ways. 19  It's the living - live men, live women - who thank you, just as I'm doing right now. Parents give their children full reports on your faithful ways. 20  God saves and will save me. As fiddles and mandolins strike up the tunes, We'll sing, oh we'll sing, sing, for the rest of our lives in the Sanctuary of God. 21  Isaiah had said, "Prepare a poultice of figs and put it on the boil so he may recover." 22  Hezekiah had said, "What is my cue that it's all right to enter again the Sanctuary of God?"

Hezekiah Receives Envoys from Babylon

39 1  Sometime later, King Merodach-baladan son of Baladan of Babylon sent messengers with greetings and a gift to Hezekiah. He had heard that Hezekiah had been sick and was now well. 2  Hezekiah received the messengers warmly. He took them on a tour of his royal precincts, proudly showing them all his treasures: silver, gold, spices, expensive oils, all his weapons - everything out on display. There was nothing in his house or kingdom that Hezekiah didn't show them. 3  Later the prophet Isaiah showed up. He asked Hezekiah, "What were these men up to? What did they say? And where did they come from?" Hezekiah said, "They came from a long way off, from Babylon." 4  "And what did they see in your palace?" "Everything," said Hezekiah. "I showed them the works, opened all the doors and impressed them with it all."

5  Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, "Now listen to this Message from God-of-the-Angel-Armies: 6  I have to warn you, the time is coming when everything in this palace, along with everything your ancestors accumulated before you, will be hauled off to Babylon. God says that there will be nothing left. Nothing. 7  And not only your things but your sons. Some of your sons will be taken into exile, ending up as eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon." 8  Hezekiah replied to Isaiah, "Good. If God says so, it's good." Within himself he was thinking, "But surely nothing bad will happen in my lifetime. I'll enjoy peace and stability as long as I live."

The LORD's Comforting Words to Zion

40 1  "Comfort, oh comfort my people," says your God. 2  "Speak softly and tenderly to Jerusalem, but also make it very clear That she has served her sentence, that her sin is taken care of - forgiven! She's been punished enough and more than enough, and now it's over and done with."

3  Thunder in the desert! "Prepare for God's arrival! Make the road straight and smooth, a highway fit for our God. 4  Fill in the valleys, level off the hills, Smooth out the ruts, clear out the rocks. 5  Then God's bright glory will shine and everyone will see it. Yes. Just as God has said." 6  A voice says, "Shout!" I said, "What shall I shout?" "These people are nothing but grass, their love fragile as wildflowers. 7  The grass withers, the wildflowers fade, if God so much as puffs on them. Aren't these people just so much grass? 8  True, the grass withers and the wildflowers fade, but our God's Word stands firm and forever."

9  Climb a high mountain, Zion. You're the preacher of good news. Raise your voice. Make it good and loud, Jerusalem. You're the preacher of good news. Speak loud and clear. Don't be timid! Tell the cities of Judah, "Look! Your God!" 10  Look at him! God, the Master, comes in power, ready to go into action. He is going to pay back his enemies and reward those who have loved him. 11  Like a shepherd, he will care for his flock, gathering the lambs in his arms, Hugging them as he carries them, leading the nursing ewes to good pasture. The Creator of All You Can See or Imagine

Israel's Incomparable God

12  Who has scooped up the ocean in his two hands, or measured the sky between his thumb and little finger, Who has put all the earth's dirt in one of his baskets, weighed each mountain and hill? 13  Who could ever have told God what to do or taught him his business? 14  What expert would he have gone to for advice, what school would he attend to learn justice? What god do you suppose might have taught him what he knows, showed him how things work? 15  Why, the nations are but a drop in a bucket, a mere smudge on a window. Watch him sweep up the islands like so much dust off the floor! 16  There aren't enough trees in Lebanon nor enough animals in those vast forests to furnish adequate fuel and offerings for his worship. 17  All the nations add up to simply nothing before him - less than nothing is more like it. A minus.

18  So who even comes close to being like God? To whom or what can you compare him? 19  Some no-god idol? Ridiculous! It's made in a workshop, cast in bronze, Given a thin veneer of gold, and draped with silver filigree. 20  Or, perhaps someone will select a fine wood - olive wood, say - that won't rot, Then hire a woodcarver to make a no-god, giving special care to its base so it won't tip over! 21  Have you not been paying attention? Have you not been listening? Haven't you heard these stories all your life? Don't you understand the foundation of all things? 22  God sits high above the round ball of earth. The people look like mere ants. He stretches out the skies like a canvas - yes, like a tent canvas to live under. 23  He ignores what all the princes say and do. The rulers of the earth count for nothing. 24  Princes and rulers don't amount to much. Like seeds barely rooted, just sprouted, They shrivel when God blows on them. Like flecks of chaff, they're gone with the wind. 25  "So - who is like me? Who holds a candle to me?" says The Holy. 26  Look at the night skies: Who do you think made all this? Who marches this army of stars out each night, counts them off, calls each by name - so magnificent! so powerful! - and never overlooks a single one?

27  Why would you ever complain, O Jacob, or, whine, Israel, saying, "God has lost track of me. He doesn't care what happens to me"? 28  Don't you know anything? Haven't you been listening? God doesn't come and go. God lasts. He's Creator of all you can see or imagine. He doesn't get tired out, doesn't pause to catch his breath. And he knows everything, inside and out. 29  He energizes those who get tired, gives fresh strength to dropouts. 30  For even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall. 31  But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles, They run and don't get tired, they walk and don't lag behind.

God's Assurance to Israel

41 1  "Quiet down, far-flung ocean islands. Listen! Sit down and rest, everyone. Recover your strength. Gather around me. Say what's on your heart. Together let's decide what's right. 2  "Who got things rolling here, got this champion from the east on the move? Who recruited him for this job, then rounded up and corralled the nations so he could run roughshod over kings? He's off and running, pulverizing nations into dust, leaving only stubble and chaff in his wake. 3  He chases them and comes through unscathed, his feet scarcely touching the path. 4  "Who did this? Who made it happen? Who always gets things started? I did. God. I'm first on the scene. I'm also the last to leave. 5  "Far-flung ocean islands see it and panic. The ends of the earth are shaken. Fearfully they huddle together. 6  They try to help each other out, making up stories in the dark. 7  The godmakers in the workshops go into overtime production, crafting new models of no-gods, Urging one another on - 'Good job!' 'Great design!' - pounding in nails at the base so that the things won't tip over. 8  "But you, Israel, are my servant. You're Jacob, my first choice, descendants of my good friend Abraham. 9  I pulled you in from all over the world, called you in from every dark corner of the earth, Telling you, 'You're my servant, serving on my side. I've picked you. I haven't dropped you.'

10  Don't panic. I'm with you. There's no need to fear for I'm your God. I'll give you strength. I'll help you. I'll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you. 11  "Count on it: Everyone who had it in for you will end up out in the cold - real losers. Those who worked against you will end up empty-handed - nothing to show for their lives. 12  When you go out looking for your old adversaries you won't find them - Not a trace of your old enemies, not even a memory. 13  That's right. Because I, your God, have a firm grip on you and I'm not letting go. I'm telling you, 'Don't panic. I'm right here to help you.' 14  "Do you feel like a lowly worm, Jacob? Don't be afraid. Feel like a fragile insect, Israel? I'll help you. I, God, want to reassure you. The God who buys you back, The Holy of Israel. 15  I'm transforming you from worm to harrow, from insect to iron. As a sharp-toothed harrow you'll smooth out the mountains, turn those tough old hills into loamy soil. 16  You'll open the rough ground to the weather, to the blasts of sun and wind and rain. But you'll be confident and exuberant, expansive in The Holy of Israel! 17  "The poor and homeless are desperate for water, their tongues parched and no water to be found. But I'm there to be found, I'm there for them, and I, God of Israel, will not leave them thirsty. 18  I'll open up rivers for them on the barren hills, spout fountains in the valleys. I'll turn the baked-clay badlands into a cool pond, the waterless waste into splashing creeks. 19  I'll plant the red cedar in that treeless wasteland, also acacia, myrtle, and olive. I'll place the cypress in the desert, with plenty of oaks and pines. 20  Everyone will see this. No one can miss it - unavoidable, indisputable evidence That I, God, personally did this. It's created and signed by The Holy of Israel.

The LORD's Challenge to False Gods

21  "Set out your case for your gods," says God. "Bring your evidence," says the King of Jacob. 22  "Take the stand on behalf of your idols, offer arguments, assemble reasons. Spread out the facts before us so that we can assess them ourselves. Ask them, 'If you are gods, explain what the past means - 23  or, failing that, tell us what will happen in the future. Can't do that? How about doing something - anything! Good or bad - whatever. Can you hurt us or help us? Do we need to be afraid?' 24  They say nothing, because they are nothing - sham gods, no-gods, fool-making gods. 25  "I, God, started someone out from the north and he's come. He was called out of the east by name. He'll stomp the rulers into the mud the way a potter works the clay. 26  Let me ask you, Did anyone guess that this might happen? Did anyone tell us earlier so we might confirm it with 'Yes, he's right!'? No one mentioned it, no one announced it, no one heard a peep out of you. 27  But I told Zion all about this beforehand. I gave Jerusalem a preacher of good news. 28  But around here there's no one - no one who knows what's going on. I ask, but no one can tell me the score. 29  Nothing here. It's all smoke and hot air - sham gods, hollow gods, no-gods.

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