text: Isaiah 36 & 37
San Francisco has its cable cars. Seattle has its Space Needle. And Longview, WA has its squirrel bridge called The Nutty Narrows Bridge. Spanning Olympia Way, is a local landmark.
The Nutty Narrows Bridge was built in 1963 by a local builder, the late Amos Peters, to give squirrels a way to cross the busy thoroughfare without getting flattened by cars. Before the bridge was built, squirrels had to dodge traffic to and from the Park Plaza building where office staff put out a nutty feast for the squirrels. Many times, workers near Park Plaza witnessed squirrels being run over. It didn’t take long before squirrels started using the bridge. They even escort their young across, teaching them the ropes. In addition to the Nutty Narrows Bridge, four additional bridges have since been built, the most recent bridge was installed in May of 2015. The sixth bridge is in the works.
This safe squirrel-highway reminds us that God daily and richly provides for all we need, even when we forget to ask; even when we fail to say thanks. This safe squirrel-highway was a complete gift to the squirrels. Provided because the builder saw the need and responded with kindness beyond measure.
That reminds me of God and God’s presence, provision and protection for us. Even when things go wrong. Even when disaster strikes as in our reading from Isaiah.
Most all of us can recall times in our lives when we were absolutely desperate, with crises and bad news confronting us and now where to turn. In our text Hezekiah has just such a situation!
Sennacherib, the king of Assyria had defeated nation after nation and has now come up against Judah. Sennacherib’s army has already captured a number of cities in Judah and he now turns his attention to the capital city of Jerusalem. He is powerful. He confident and his boasts are not without warrant. His army has had victory after victory and Judah’s capital city would be nothing for him to capture!
Sennacherib sends an emissary to Jerusalem. He speaks the language of the Jews and addresses King Hezekiah in the Hebrew language so all the residents of Jerusalem can hear and understand him. Hezekiah’s officials meet with him at the water gate. The emissary is clever and wants to dishearten and discourage the Jews of Jerusalem. He wants to undermine King Hezekiah and cause a revolt against him by his own people.
The emissary openly questions Hezekiah’s leadership. “Do you think that mere words are strategy and power for war!” Who do you rely on? Egypt is useless! Will you trust God? God sent me here to destroy and capture you! You have failed God. God has sent me to punish and destroy you!
The emissary continues in verse 13, do not let Hezekiah fool you. Do not let him make you trust God. Do not listen to him!
Make your peace with me instead. I will take care of you and you will be okay. I will let you stay in your own homes until I come to take you away to a land like your land. Besides none of the god’s of the other nations have been able to deliver them from me. How can your God deliver you! Give up. Give in. It’s no use to fight me!
Can you imagine how Hezekiah must be feeling in this story? Isaiah 37 shows he is desperate. I can think of a series of “d” words for his situation. Desperate. Demoralized. Depressed. Distressed. Despondent.
Was he wrong for trusting God? What if God had sent Sennacherib to punish him? Hezekiah was a good king and followed God, but his predecessors had not been faithful. What if Hezekiah had not “earned God’s approval?” What if they were doomed?
Hezekiah sends his officials to the prophet Isaiah dressed in mourning and repentance and gives them the message in Isaiah 37:3-4:
“this is a day of distress, of rebuke, and of disgrace; children have come to the birth (by this he must mean distressed women have miscarried or given birth prematurely), and there is no strength to bring them forth. It may be that the Lord your God heard the words of Rabshakeh, whom his master, the king of Assyria has sent to mock the living God, and will rebuke the words that the Lord your God has heard; therefore lift up your prayer for the remnant that is left.”
Many of us have been in tough situations in our lives when we struggled. Is God punishing me? Has God neglected me or forgotten me? Is there any hope? I cannot image how people in concentration camps have felt, or Jews being persecuted by Hitler’s reign of terror, or how the Syrian refugees and other war refugees must feel, or the refugees that are part of the so called “immigrant train” from Central America—who left because of terror and violence in hopes of finding help and safety—I cannot image nor picture the desperation they must feel.
It is hard to find answers to these troubled times. Yet I cling to Isaiah’s words to Hezekiah.
“Do not be afraid because of the words that you have heard…”
Over and over again the Bible quotes God through prophets and angels telling us to “not be afraid.” Don’t give in to fear. Sometimes it is nearly impossible to not be afraid—to trust God through all the storms and disasters of life.
What are times in your life when you have felt—desperate—doomed—hopeless? God delivered Hezekiah from a powerful and dangerous foe. A foe that taunted and insulted him, and undermined him before his people. A foe that mocked and insulted God.
What if this Thanksgiving you make a declaration to yourself and to our Lord that you need Him? When we celebrate the national day of Thanksgiving, that, in effect, is what we do. Lord, we are grateful for Your provision of all our needs. And we express our utter dependence upon You for daily life and all the provision necessary for this life. We need God’s provision, God’s protection, God’s mercy and grace, God’s presence and leading in our lives.
Today we give thanks for Jesus. We give thanks for grace, for heaven, for all that God does and continues to do for us.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.