The Bible is full of accounts of God’s mighty acts of deliverance. We read of one of the most spectacular in Isaiah 37:36, recorded in the most matter-of-fact style: “And the angel of the LORD went out and struck down a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the camp of the Assyrians.” Thus in one swift stroke God decimated the Assyrian army which threatened to destroy Jerusalem, and sent the king of Assyria, Sennacherib, back to Nineveh with his tail between his legs (“he returned with shame of face to his own land,” 2 Chronicles 32:21).
Through the prophet Isaiah we learn why the Lord saved his people at that time. It wasn’t because they were worthy or deserving of salvation. Throughout his prophecy, Isaiah leaves no doubt about the deplorable spiritual and moral condition of the people of Judah. Rather, God had other reasons for what he did: “For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David” (Isaiah 37:35).
First, the Lord saved the city of Jerusalem for his own sake. Leading up to the night of the Assyrians’ destruction, Sennacherib had boasted of his invincible might over the nations and the gods of the nations. He tried to intimidate the King of Judah, Hezekiah, and the people of the city to surrender to him. And in his boasts he made a good point! None of the gods of the nations had been able to withstand the power of his military machine.
But Sennacherib made a fatal mistake: he thought the God of Israel, the Lord, was just another lame national deity. In his arrogance and pride, he blasphemed the true and living God when he said to Hezekiah: “… Do not let your God in whom you trust deceive you by promising that Jerusalem will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria” (Isaiah 37:10). Sennacherib learned the hard way that the God of Israel was not like the gods of the nations. Indeed, he is the sovereign Lord who can destroy an entire army with a single word to one of his holy angels. And he will not be mocked. For the sake of his own glory and honor, God showed Sennacherib and the kingdoms of the earth that he alone is the Lord (Isaiah 37:20).
But there’s another reason why God delivered his people: “for the sake of my servant David” (Isaiah 37:35). Long ago the Lord promised David he’d raise up one of his offspring and “establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (2 Samuel 7:13). This is the promise of the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of David who would bring salvation to God’s people and rule over them forever. And this is the promise fulfilled with the coming of Jesus.
So God carried out this amazing deliverance of his people in Isaiah’s time in order to fulfill his promise of an even more amazing deliverance: our salvation from sin through the death and resurrection of Christ. How wonderful it is that throughout history, God was ruling over all things to bring about our salvation. And how humbling that he did this because he loved us, and it was his will to give us eternal life despite our sin and unworthiness.
God is faithful, and good, and worthy of our thanks and worship!
Soli Deo Gloria!