“THE SURVIVING REMNANT”
Today’s chapter 19 of 2nd Kings brings Isaiah onto the scene. King Hezekiah in his great distress at the conquests of the Assyrians and now their presence outside the walls of Jerusalem sends his secretary and senior priests to the prophet, with a message saying, “It may be that the LORD your God heard all the words of the Rabshakeh,” adding, “therefore lift up your prayer for the remnant that is left” [v.4]
Isaiah’s response is very positive; “Say to your Master, ‘Thus says the LORD: Do not be afraid because of the words that you have heard with which the servants of the king of Assyria have reviled me. Behold, I will put a spirit in him, so that he shall hear a rumour and return to his own land, and I will make him fall by the sword in his own land.'” [v.6,7] This happens, but as the Assyrians depart they say, “Thus shall you speak to Hezekiah king of Judah: ‘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. ‘Behold, you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands, devoting them to destruction. And shall you be delivered?” [v.10,11]
History is full of human boasting like this, but “The word of the LORD” comes to Isaiah over this (v.21-28) that the LORD is “aware of their raging against me”[v.27] Within a generation or two the Assyrians fade into history and Nineveh is a heap of ruins to this day – the Babylonians then become the main enemy, but in time Babylon too becomes a heap of ruins, as it is today.
Then Isaiah conveys a remarkable long term prophecy. “ … the surviving remnant of the house of Judah shall again take root downward and bear fruit upward. For out of Jerusalem shall go a remnant, and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors. The zeal of the LORD will do this.” [v.30,31] We witness the resilience of the “surviving remnant” today. We can read in Isaiah’s book, the prophecy the LORD gives him, how “in that day the Lord will extent his hand a second time to recover the remnant that remains of his people … and gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth” [11 v.11,12]
We are witnessing that event and are in awe of the climax when God “shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.” [v.4] Soon, in Luke’s gospel, we will come to Jesus’ awesome words predicting this. How awesome the fate of the great Assyrian army, because they reviled God! (185,000 died – v.35) How awesome the fate awaiting at least some who do so today! Let us do the opposite. And what is the opposite?.