July 9.—Morning. [Or January 14.]
“The wrath of man shall praise thee.”
HEZEKIAH had prayed, and Isaiah had been sent with a message in which Sennacherib’s overthrow was promised: the king had not long to wait to see what he desired. God’s actions are prompt, for his preparations for war are always made; his arsenal is well stored. It was a word and a blow, and Assyria was smitten never to trouble Hezekiah again.
2 Kings 19:35–37
35 ¶ And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the Lord went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred four score and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses. (The few who survived looked upon the myriads of dead, lying “like the leaves of the forest when autumn has blown.”)
36 So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed, and went and returned, and dwelt at Nineveh.
Now that this terrible robber was no longer able to roam abroad with his marauding host, there was some rest to the surrounding nations, who thus profited by Hezekiah’s prayer.
37 And it came to pass, as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer his sons smote him with the sword: and they escaped into the land of Armenia. And Esarhaddon his son reigned in his stead. (Thus at the feet of his own idol he poured out his heart’s blood, and his blasphemies were heard no more.)
THAT jubilant Psalm, the seventy-sixth, was probably written at the time of the destruction of Sennacherib’s army; at any rate it is singularly descriptive of it. Let us sympathise in the holy joy of the writer as he triumphs in the triumph of his God.
1 In Judah is God known: his name is great in Israel. (If unknown in all the world beside he is famous among his people. Because the world knows him not, it blasphemes as Rab-shakeh did, but the Lord’s people delight to sound forth his praises to the world’s end.)
2 In Salem also is his tabernacle, and his dwelling place in Zion.
3 There brake he the arrows of the bow, the shield, and the sword, and the battle. Selah. (Without leaving his peaceful abode in the temple, he sent forth his word and snapped the arrows of his enemies before they could fit them upon the string, he ended the fight ere they could begin it. They did not cast up a bank nor shoot an arrow there. And shall not the Lord defend his church? Assuredly! She is safe, come what may.)
4 Thou art more glorious and excellent than the mountains of prey. (Heaps upon heaps, Assyria had stowed away her plunder, and the fame thereof went abroad, but Israel’s God eclipsed the mighty deeds of the destroying invader. Glory be to his name!)
5 The stouthearted are spoiled, (They came to spoil, and were spoiled themselves,) they have slept their sleep: (their last sleep, the sleep of death:) and none of the men of might have found their hands. (Their arms were palsied, the rigour of death stiffened their fingers.)
6 At thy rebuke, O God of Jacob, both the chariot and horse are cast into a dead sleep. (Never to neigh or rattle again; still were the trampings of the horses and the crash of the cars.)
7, 8 Thou, even thou, art to be feared: and who may stand in thy sight when once thou art angry? Thou didst cause judgment to be heard from heaven; the earth feared, and was still. (So complete a destruction was evidently a judgment from heaven, and those who heard of it cried out, “This is the finger of God!” Such a blow will yet be struck at the Papacy, for fall it must, to the astonishment of all mankind.)
9 When God arose to judgment, to save all the meek of the earth. Selah.
10 Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain.
Enemies are held in by God’s will, and when allowed to rage, God’s glory will be enhanced by their overthrow. Let us never yield to fear. The Lord of hosts is mightier than the mightiest foes of his church.
11 Vow, and pay unto the Lord your God: let all that be round about him bring presents unto him that ought to be feared.
12 He shall cut off the spirit of princes: he is terrible to the kings of the earth. (As men slip off a tender shoot from a plant, so can the Lord remove the proudest monarchs; be it ours to worship, love, and serve the King of kings. To his name be endless praises.)
July 9.—Evening. [Or January 15.]
“His place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks.”
HOW gloriously did Isaiah speak at this time; let us read his eloquent words—
Isaiah 33:1, 2; 7–24
1 Woe to thee that spoilest, and thou wast not spoiled; and dealest treacherously, and they dealt not treacherously with thee! when thou shalt cease to spoil, thou shalt be spoiled; and when thou shalt make an end to deal treacherously, they shall deal treacherously with thee. (Assyria had gained power by treachery, and by treachery she should fall.)
2 O Lord, be gracious unto us; we have waited for thee: be thou their arm every morning, our salvation also in the time of trouble.
7 Behold, their valiant ones shall cry without: the ambassadors of peace shall weep bitterly. (The Assyrian king refused all terms of peace, and made valiant men weep for fear, at the remembrance of his power and cruelty.)
8 The highways lie waste, the wayfaring man ceaseth: he hath broken the covenant, he hath despised the cities, he regardeth no man.
9 The earth mourneth and languisheth: Lebanon is ashamed and hewn down: Sharon is like a wilderness; and Bashan and Carmel shake off their fruits. (Devastation and desolation followed the invader’s track.)
10 Now will I rise, saith the Lord; now will I be exalted; now will I lift up myself.
11 Ye shall conceive chaff, ye shall bring forth stubble: your breath, as fire, shall devour you.
12 And the people shall be as the burnings of lime: as thorns cut up shall they be burned in the fire. (At God’s rebuke the mighty adversary would be consumed, consumed by his own fury, gone like thorns in the fire.)
13 ¶ Hear, ye that are far off, what I have done; and, ye that are near, acknowledge my might.
14 The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? (Their terror at Sennacherib led them to enquire how they could endure the yet greater wrath of God, whose wrath is like a fire which devours, and yet burns on. Everlasting burnings are more to be feared than death itself; be it our great business to escape from them. The righteous were at ease while the hypocrites were alarmed, and so we read)—
15 He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil;
16 He shall dwell on high: his place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks: bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure.
17 Thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty: they shall behold the land that is very far off. (Hezekiah came forth in his robes again, and the people, being free from the invader, could travel as far abroad as they chose.)
18 Thine heart shall meditate terror. Where is the scribe? where is the receiver? where is he that counted the towers?
19 Thou shalt not see a fierce people, a people of a deeper speech than thou canst perceive; of a stammering tongue, that thou canst not understand. (The proud Assyrian engineers and accountants were disappointed, and his harsh-speaking soldiery came not near the city.)
20, 21 Look upon Zion, the city of our solemnities: thine eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation, a tabernacle that shall not be taken down; not one of the stakes thereof shall ever be removed, neither shall any of the cords thereof be broken. But there the glorious Lord will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams; wherein shall go no galley with oars, neither shall gallant ship pass thereby.
22 For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; he will save us. (They had all the advantages of broad rivers without being exposed to attacks by vessels of war, for the Lord was with them. Not so Assyria, for its state was like a vessel in a storm.)
23 Thy tacklings are loosed; they could not well strengthen their mast, they could not spread the sail: then is the prey of a great spoil divided; the lame take the prey.
24 And the inhabitant shall not say, I am sick: the people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity. (Jerusalem healed, restored, forgiven, was blessed indeed. Such blessings have all the saints.)