June 4, 2015

Isaiah 36-37
In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, Sennacherib king of Assyria made war on all the fortress cities of Judah and took them. Then the king of Assyria sent his general, the “Rabshekah,” accompanied by a huge army, 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. Three men went out to meet him: Eliakim, in charge of the palace; Shebna the secretary; and Joah son of Asaph, the official historian....The Rabshekah said to them,... “‘Be reasonable. Face the facts:... 

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.” 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.”... The three men were silent. They said nothing, for the king had already commanded, “Don’t answer him.”...

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. 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.  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! 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!’”

Then King Hezekiah’s servants came to Isaiah. 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. 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.’”...

Just then the Assyrian king received an intelligence report on King Tirhakah of Ethiopia: “He is on his way to make war on you.”  On hearing that, he sent messengers to Hezekiah with instructions to deliver this message: “Don’t let your God, on whom you so naively lean, deceive you, promising that Jerusalem won’t fall to the king of Assyria. 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? Have any of the gods of any of these countries ever stepped in and saved them,... 

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.  Then Hezekiah prayed to God: “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. Listen, O God, and hear. Look, O God, and see. Mark all these words of Sennacherib that he sent to mock the living God. It’s quite true, O God, that the kings of Assyria have devastated all the nations and their lands. 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! 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.”

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, here is my answer, God’s answer:
....“‘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 and leaving their citizens helpless, bewildered, and confused, drooping like unwatered plants, stunted like withered seedlings. “‘I know all about your pretentious poses, your officious comings and goings, and, yes, the tantrums you throw against me.  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.

“‘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. What’s left of the people of Judah will put down roots and make a new start. 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.’

“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. He’ll go back the same way he came. He won’t set a foot in this city. God’s Decree. 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.’”

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! Sennacherib, king of Assyria, got out of there fast, back home to Nineveh. 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.

Luke 12:1 - 12:34
At this time, the crowd, unwieldy and stepping on each other’s toes, numbered into the thousands.  But Jesus’ primary concern was his disciples.  He said to them, “Watch yourselves carefully so you don’t get contaminated with Pharisee yeast.  Pharisee phoniness....You can’t hide behind a religious mask forever; sooner or later the mask will slip and your true face will be known.  You can’t whisper one thing in private and preach the opposite in public; the day is coming when those whispers will be repeated all over town.

I’m speaking to you as dear friends.  Don’t be bluffed into silence or insincerity by the threats of religious bullies.  True, they can kill you, but then what can they do?  There is nothing they can do to your soul, your core being.  Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life - body and soul - in his hands.  God attends to the details of our lives - God watches over canaries and even the number of hairs on your head...So don’t be intimidated by all their bully talk.  You’re worth more than a million canaries...

If you badmouth the Son of Man out of misunderstanding or ignorance, that can be overlooked.  But if you knowingly attacking God himself, taking aim at the Holy Spirit, that won’t be overlooked.  When they drag you into their meeting places...don’t worry about defending yourselves---what you say or how you’ll say it.  The right words will be there.  The Holy Spirit will give you the right words when the time comes.

Someone out of the crowd said, “Teacher, order my brother to give me a fair share of the family inheritance.”  Jesus replied, “Master, what makes you think it’s any of my business to be a judge or mediator for you?”...

Take care!  Protect yourself against the least bit of greed.  Life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot.”  Story of the greedy farmer.... There is far more to your inner life than the food you put into your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body.  Look to the ravens, free and unfettered, not tied down by a job description, carefree in the care of God.  And you count for more....

If God gives such attention to the wildflowers, most of them never even seen, don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you?  What I am trying to do here is get you to relax, not be so preoccupied with getting so you can respond to God’s giving.  People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works.  Steep yourself in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions.  You’ll find all your everyday concerns will be met.....

Be generous.  Give to the poor.  Get yourselves a bank that can’t go bankrupt, a bank in heaven far from bankrobbers, safe from embezzlers, a bank you can bank on.  It’s obvious, isn’t it?  The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be and end up being.”