Isaiah 39; Psalm 76

The Power of Pride and Presumption.

“Our boldest enemies have been plundered. They lie before us in the sleep of death. No warrior could lift a hand against us. ” ­– Psalm 76:5 NLT

More than likely, the writing of Psalm 76 by Asaph was immediately after the Assyrians had been routed by God. They were camped outside the walls of Jerusalem, issuing edicts and threats against Judah, taunting Hezekiah the king and warning him not to trust in God. But that night, an angel of God visited the camp of the Assyrian army, wiping out 185,000 of Sennacherib’s soldiers without Judah having to lift so much as a finger. God had miraculously defeated a superior army and rescued Judah once again from their enemies. “God is honored in Judah; his name is great in Israel. Jerusalem is where he lives; Mount Zion is his home. There he has broken the fiery arrows of the enemy, the shields and swords and weapons of war” (Psalm 76:1-3 NLT).

God is honored in Judah. Really? It seems that not long after the defeat of the Assyrians Hezekiah received an official visit from emissaries of Merodach-baladan, the son of the king of Babylon. It seems that Babylon, an upstart nation, struggling under the superior power of Assyria, was planning a revolt against the Assyrians and was enlisting nations to form an alliance. When Hezekiah received the prince’s envoys in Jerusalem, he proudly gave them the grand tour of the royal city, and “there was nothing in his palace or kingdom that Hezekiah did not show them” (Isaiah 39:2b NLT). That phrase is repeated over and over again in this chapter. “Hezekiah was delighted with the Babylonian envoys and showed them everything in his treasure-houses—the silver, the gold, the spices, and the aromatic oils. He also took them to see his armory and showed them everything in his royal treasuries!” (Isaiah 39:2a NLT). “‘They saw everything,’ Hezekiah replied. ‘I showed them everything I own—all my royal treasuries'” (Isaiah 39:4b NLT).

So what was the problem? Why does Isaiah make such a big deal out of Hezekiah’s “tour of homes” mentality? It seems that Hezekiah, in revealing all his wealth to the officials from Babylon, was acting in pride and presumption. He was proud of all his wealth. He wanted these officials to see just how rich and prosperous he was. His vanity got the best of him. He was presumptuous in that he failed to see that Babylon might one day become a threat to Judah’s very existence. At this point, Babylon was just another nation, struggling under the heavy hand of the superpower of the day, Assyria. Hezekiah seemed to be trusting in his wealth and his weapons. He appeared to place his trust in a possible alliance with Babylon. He failed to remember that it was God who had delivered Judah from the hands of the Assyrians. Not Egypt. Not Babylon. Not even Hezekiah’s own army.

So God tells Hezekiah the bad news. “The time is coming when everything in your palace – all the treasures stored up by your ancestors until now – will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left” (Isaiah 39:6 NLT). The fulfillment of this prophecy is recorded in 2 Kings 25. It would not take place during Hezekiah’s lifetime, but it would happen nonetheless. Hezekiah seemed content with the knowledge that he wouldn’t have to live to see it come to fruition. He could live out his life in peace and security. He was legitimately grateful to God that he would be spared having to see the destruction of Jerusalem, but there is a certain sadness to the fact that Hezekiah was so short-sighted and not concerned about the long-term security of the nation of Judah. His prayers had seen God defeat the Assyrians and heal him from disease, but in this case he doesn’t even voice a single word of intercession on behalf of the nation. Hezekiah’s pride and presumption had led him to trust in himself and a possible alliance with Babylon. He had taken his eyes off of God and become distracted by his own self-importance. God was to be his help, hope, and security. Nothing else. And the same is true for us today.

Father, how easy it is to get distracted by our own self-importance and the world around us. We can take our eyes off of You and forget that You alone are all we need. You are our provider and protector. We are to trust in nothing and no one else, including ourselves. Keep us focused on You. Keep us dependent on You. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

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