Wednesday after Rorate coeli, The Fourth Sunday in Advent
Scripture: Isaiah 37-39 (NKJV)
37:1 And so it was, when King Hezekiah heard it, that he tore his clothes, covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of the LORD. 2 Then he sent Eliakim, who was over the household, Shebna the scribe, and the elders of the priests, covered with sackcloth, to Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz. 3 And they said to him, “Thus says Hezekiah: ‘This day is a day of trouble and rebuke and blasphemy; for the children have come to birth, but there is no strength to bring them forth. 4 It may be that the LORD your God will hear the words of the Rabshakeh, whom his master the king of Assyria has sent to reproach the living God, and will rebuke the words which the LORD your God has heard. Therefore lift up your prayer for the remnant that is left.'”
5 So the servants of King Hezekiah came to Isaiah. 6 And Isaiah said to them, “Thus shall you say to your master, ‘Thus says the LORD: “Do not be afraid of the words which you have heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed Me. 7 “Surely I will send a spirit upon him, and he shall hear a rumor and return to his own land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land.”‘”
8 Then the Rabshakeh returned, and found the king of Assyria warring against Libnah, for he heard that he had departed from Lachish. 9 And the king heard concerning Tirhakah king of Ethiopia, “He has come out to make war with you.” So when he heard it, he sent messengers to Hezekiah, saying, 10 “Thus you shall speak to Hezekiah king of Judah, saying: ‘Do not let your God in whom you trust deceive you, saying, “Jerusalem shall not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.” 11 Look! You have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands by utterly destroying them; and shall you be delivered? 12 Have the gods of the nations delivered those whom my fathers have destroyed, Gozan and Haran and Rezeph, and the people of Eden who were in Telassar? 13 Where is the king of Hamath, the king of Arpad, and the king of the city of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivah?'”
14 And Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD. 15 Then Hezekiah prayed to the LORD, saying: 16 “O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, the One who dwells between the cherubim, You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. 17 Incline Your ear, O LORD, and hear; open Your eyes, O LORD, and see; and hear all the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to reproach the living God. 18 Truly, LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations and their lands, 19 and have cast their gods into the fire; for they were not gods, but the work of men’s hands—wood and stone. Therefore they have destroyed them. 20 Now therefore, O LORD our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the LORD, You alone.”
21 Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah, saying, “Thus says the LORD God of Israel, ‘Because you have prayed to Me against Sennacherib king of Assyria, 22 this is the word which the LORD has spoken concerning him:
“The virgin, the daughter of Zion, has despised you, laughed you to scorn; The daughter of Jerusalem has shaken her head behind your back!
23 “Whom have you reproached and blasphemed? Against whom have you raised your voice, and lifted up your eyes on high? Against the Holy One of Israel.
24 “By your servants you have reproached the Lord, and said, ‘By the multitude of my chariots I have come up to the height of the mountains, to the limits of Lebanon; I will cut down its tall cedars and its choice cypress trees; I will enter its farthest height, to its fruitful forest.
25 ‘I have dug and drunk water, and with the soles of my feet I have dried up all the brooks of defense.’
26 “Did you not hear long ago how I made it, from ancient times that I formed it? Now I have brought it to pass, that you should be for crushing fortified cities into heaps of ruins.
27 “Therefore their inhabitants had little power; They were dismayed and confounded; They were as the grass of the field and the green herb, as the grass on the housetops and grain blighted before it is grown.
28 “But I know your dwelling place, your going out and your coming in, and your rage against Me.
29 “Because your rage against Me and your tumult have come up to My ears, therefore I will put My hook in your nose and My bridle in your lips, and I will turn you back by the way which you came.”‘
30 “This shall be a sign to you: You shall eat this year such as grows of itself, and the second year what springs from the same; Also in the third year sow and reap, plant vineyards and eat the fruit of them.
31 “And the remnant who have escaped of the house of Judah shall again take root downward, and bear fruit upward.
32 “For out of Jerusalem shall go a remnant, and those who escape from Mount Zion. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
33 “Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the king of Assyria: ‘He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shield, nor build a siege mound against it.
34 ‘By the way that he came, by the same shall he return; And he shall not come into this city,’ says the LORD.
35 ‘For I will defend this city, to save it for My own sake and for My servant David’s sake.'”
36 Then the angel of the LORD went out, and killed in the camp of the Assyrians one hundred and eighty-five thousand; and when people arose early in the morning, there were the corpses—all dead. 37 So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and went away, returned home, and remained at Nineveh. 38 Now it came to pass, as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, that his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer struck him down with the sword; and they escaped into the land of Ararat. Then Esarhaddon his son reigned in his place.
38:1 In those days Hezekiah was sick and near death. And Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, went to him and said to him, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live.'”
2 Then Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall, and prayed to the LORD, 3 and said, “Remember now, O LORD, I pray, how I have walked before You in truth and with a loyal heart, and have done what is good in Your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.
4 And the word of the LORD came to Isaiah, saying, 5 “Go and tell Hezekiah, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of David your father: “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; surely I will add to your days fifteen years. 6 I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria, and I will defend this city.”‘ 7 And this is the sign to you from the LORD, that the LORD will do this thing which He has spoken: 8 Behold, I will bring the shadow on the sundial, which has gone down with the sun on the sundial of Ahaz, ten degrees backward.” So the sun returned ten degrees on the dial by which it had gone down.
9 This is the writing of Hezekiah king of Judah, when he had been sick and had recovered from his sickness:
10 I said, “In the prime of my life I shall go to the gates of Sheol; I am deprived of the remainder of my years.”
11 I said, “I shall not see YAH, the LORD in the land of the living; I shall observe man no more among the inhabitants of the world.
12 “My life span is gone, taken from me like a shepherd’s tent; I have cut off my life like a weaver. He cuts me off from the loom; From day until night You make an end of me.
13 “I have considered until morning—like a lion, so He breaks all my bones; From day until night You make an end of me.
14 “Like a crane or a swallow, so I chattered; I mourned like a dove; My eyes fail from looking upward. O LORD, I am oppressed; Undertake for me!
15 “What shall I say? He has both spoken to me, and He Himself has done it. I shall walk carefully all my years in the bitterness of my soul.
16 “O Lord, by these things men live; And in all these things is the life of my spirit; So You will restore me and make me live.
17 “Indeed it was for my own peace that I had great bitterness; But You have lovingly delivered my soul from the pit of corruption, for You have cast all my sins behind Your back.
18 “For Sheol cannot thank You, Death cannot praise You; Those who go down to the pit cannot hope for Your truth.
19 “The living, the living man, he shall praise You, as I do this day; The father shall make known Your truth to the children.
20 “The LORD was ready to save me; Therefore we will sing my songs with stringed instruments all the days of our life, in the house of the LORD.”
21 Now Isaiah had said, “Let them take a lump of figs, and apply it as a poultice on the boil, and he shall recover.”
22 And Hezekiah had said, “What is the sign that I shall go up to the house of the LORD?”
39:1 At that time Merodach-Baladan the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a present to Hezekiah, for he heard that he had been sick and had recovered. 2 And Hezekiah was pleased with them, and showed them the house of his treasures—the silver and gold, the spices and precious ointment, and all his armory—all that was found among his treasures. There was nothing in his house or in all his dominion that Hezekiah did not show them.
3 Then Isaiah the prophet went to King Hezekiah, and said to him, “What did these men say, and from where did they come to you?”
So Hezekiah said, “They came to me from a far country, from Babylon.”
4 And he said, “What have they seen in your house?”
So Hezekiah answered, “They have seen all that is in my house; there is nothing among my treasures that I have not shown them.”
5 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the LORD of hosts: 6 ‘Behold, the days are coming when all that is in your house, and what your fathers have accumulated until this day, shall be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left,’ says the LORD. 7 ‘And they shall take away some of your sons who will descend from you, whom you will beget; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.'”
8 So Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the LORD which you have spoken is good!” For he said, “At least there will be peace and truth in my days.”
The Lord gives two signs to Hezekiah in today’s reading. The first sign (37:30) is that the Lord will provide volunteer crops to feed the Judeans. They had not been able to sow or reap due to the Assyrians. The Lord would provide daily bread for them. They would not need the sweat of their brow. The second sign (38:8) the Lord gives specifically to Hezekiah. To demonstrate His favor and that He will extend Hezekiah’s life by fifteen years, the Lord promises to “bring the shadow on the sundial, which has gone down with the sun on the sundial of Ahaz, ten degrees backward.” In both cases death and destruction were imminent, the first was a national death and in the second Hezekiah’s own life was threatened. The Lord’s gracious promise to save was connected to a visible sign to strengthen the faith of all who believed.
Hearing this refrain twice in today’s reading, “This shall be a sign to you,” and, “This is the sign to you from the LORD,” should call to mind the first and greatest sign the Lord promised through the prophet Isaiah: “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (7:14). The Immanuel child is the chief sign by which we know the love and favor that God has for mankind. This sign is for all mankind, for the Immanuel child will be born to atone for the sins of the world, so that all who believe in Him and trust His gospel will have the forgiveness of sins and everlasting life.
Gracious heavenly Father, direct our eyes always to the sure and certain sign You give us: the Son of the Virgin crucified for our sins. Amen.