- Date: November 20, 2022
- Bible Reading: Isaiah 36:1-3, 13-20; 37:1-7; 2:1-4
- Free Resource: Who Do You Trust? (Kids 3rd-6th, NL)
- Unit Theme (November 13—November 20): God’s Plan for Peace
- The Point: God’s promises of goodness and peace still stand in the face of challenges.
The Assyrian commander mocked the people of Jerusalem’s confidence in their king Hezekiah and their God. He failed. Beyond trusting God, who else in your life can you trust?
God’s Plan for Peace
This complicated set of readings from Isaiah marks our second—and last—lesson in our unit on God’s plan for peace. Last week, the assigned passage was in the Book of Micah and included the famous verse on doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly. This Isaiah reading is scheduled for Christ the King Sunday, the last Sunday of the church year. [It also marks the last lesson in our Fall Quarter, so don’t forget to buy your Winter faith formation resources!]
Our assigned reading is in four parts, which makes it look confusing. In reality, the first three sections (Isaiah 36:1-3, 13-20; 37:1-7) are parts of the same story. I’m sure the intentions of the good people at Working Preacher were to capture the essence of the story without subjecting worshippers to 29 verses (or 60 for the whole story). The fourth part (Isaiah 2:1-4) is unrelated—an image of the glorious future of God’s promised kingdom.
The Basic Story
The narrative found in chapters 36 and 37 is the story of the Assyrian Empire trying and failing to conquer the city of Jerusalem, an event that happened in 701 BCE. (You can also read about this event in 2 Chronicles 32 and 2 Kings 18–19.)
The Assyrian Empire had been expanding (a nice way of saying conquering and exiling the people) in this general region for quite a while. The northern kingdom of Israel had been conquered twenty years prior to this siege. The Assyrians have captured all the fortified cities of Judah except for the capital. And now it’s Jerusalem’s turn. The king of Assyria sent his field commander (or similar, Rabshakeh is a title, not a name) to oversee this. This commander made two main mistakes: he came during the reign of one of Judah’s few pious, YHWH-worshipping kings, Hezekiah, and he made a big deal of boasting to the people of Jerusalem that their God couldn’t save them.
Hezekiah, while certainly frightened, did not capitulate. Instead, he consulted the prophet Isaiah (which is why this story is in the Book of Isaiah) and prayed that God would save the city and people. God took up the challenge and proved the commander wrong. Dead wrong if you will.
Who Do You Trust?
However, in his arrogance, the commander asked an important question: “On whom do you now rely?” (part of Isaiah 36:5, outside of the assigned reading). He makes it clear that the people shouldn’t rely on their God nor their king
“Do not let Hezekiah mislead you by saying, The Lord will save us. Has any of the gods of the nations saved their land out of the hand of the king of Assyria?”Isaiah 36:18
The answer for the people, the king, and the prophet—as well as for us—is clear. We can and should all trust in God. God is the one who chose the people’s ancestors in Abraham and the king’s ancestors in David. God delivered them from slavery, protected them, and has been present for them. God’s love for the people has never failed, even if the people rejected the true God (God’s love then appears as anger and negative consequences).
Who Else Do You Trust?
I would argue that there is also a second place for who we should trust, albeit a distant second. The Assyrian commander touched on this, too. He said that the people should not trust Hezekiah or their God. But it seems (according to what is not said in the text) that the people did trust Hezekiah, and—in turn—Hezekiah trusted the prophet Isaiah.
So, who else should we trust? The right people. People are fallible, as Scripture shows us again and again, but God expects us to trust people who follow God’s ways of love, justice, and faith. The people were to trust Moses, Joshua, the judges, King David, Elijah, prophets like Isaiah, and the few righteous kings. Later, we are called to trust the apostles and others who lead us in God’s ways. We just need to have the knowledge and wisdom to discern who are the right people.
Christ the King Sunday
This leads us back to the church festival you might celebrate on November 20, 2022: Christ the King (Reign of Christ) Sunday. While the teaching of Jesus as the one, true king (King of Kings) is ancient, this holy day is relatively recent. It was established in 1925 by Pope Pius XI as a means to remind the faithful to trust in Jesus as their true ruler, and not in the fascist leaders and movements that were growing during that time.
So, on this festival day, remind yourself and your faith formation participants to trust in Jesus above all else, but also to trust in the people in their lives that exhibit God’s love and point them toward the grace and justice of God’s ways.
May God give you a strong faith and the wisdom to know who to follow.
Gregory Rawn (Publisher)
During the main Narrative Lectionary year (this year: September 11 to May 28), we provide a free resource download from one of our products to help you in your faith formation ministry. This week, download a free activity “Who Do You Trust?” a reflective activity from our Living the Word: Kids (NL, 3rd-6th) curriculum. This activity can be used intergenerationally or with most age groups.
2022-2023 Faith Formation Resources
The Fall is at the end and Winter (Advent through Transfiguration Sunday) is coming! Do you have everything you need for your faith formation ministries? Order Winter and Spring lessons of our Narrative Lectionary and Revised Common Lectionary resources, or one of our Learning Together units! You can download the lessons as soon as your payment is processed.
At Spirit & Truth Publishing, we might just have exactly what you are looking for:
- Resource for the Revised Common Lectionary (intergenerational classroom)
- Resources for the Narrative Lectionary (products for all ages)
- Learning Together: Five-lesson topical units for VBS, Sunday school, children, and intergenerational classes.
- Cross+Generational Confirmation
- Worship and Liturgy Education