O Lord Almighty, God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth.
Notes to the Leader: This is a discussion-oriented study. It’s purpose is to show that success does not necessarily mean we are pleasing God. In good times and our affluent society, it is easy to come to the conclusion that because live is good, there is no more to do. However, faith in good times and bad are to be part of the Christian life.
While the Scripture is from the Old Testament, its relevance to today’s society is very contemporary. This study will require reading of Scripture and discussion. In order to give your group adequate time to hear and relate to the verses, you may want to ask several people with differing translations of the Bible to re-read the verses.
Can trust be formed in an environment of only perfect harmony?
- When everything is going well, we of course, rejoice. No stress, just peace and tranquility. Yet, most of us would agree that it is the trials of life that bring forth significant growth in one’s trust in virtually anything. This is true between people as well as between our God and us.
What is the basis for your trust in the following areas?
- Government – It has survived many trials (war, depression, political turmoil, etc.)
- Banks and our monetary system – There is a reason why the world has loaned us so much money so that we have become the largest debtor – we have the resources to be stable and pay it back.
- Your church – To most of us, our has stood by us through good and bad times. Its congregation has probably remained non-judgmental and supportive.
- Driving – Personally, this is my weakest area of trust. It’s good to have air bags, ABS brakes and a vehicle that rates five stars in the crash test.
When you reflect upon how the world has twisted biblical truths to accomplish worldly goals, what are some of the ungodly philosophies that come to mind? How do each cause difficulties for believers?
- Holidays and their conversion into materialistic rituals.
- God is love, therefore, He will not punish us for our ignorance of His will.
- The Holy Word of God was really written by men and, therefore, is not accurate.
- The Holy Word of God is accurate and, therefore, can be taken literally, without the aid of the Holy Spirit.
- God will provide. This is carried forward into laziness and a view toward materialistic provisions.
- Because things are going well, God is pleased. Because things are going poorly, God is displeased.
Section One: Trusting God In Difficult Times
Have someone in the group read Isaiah 36:1-22.
What typical response do you see in verse 7 that non-believers typically make with regard to our God?
Note: The Assyrian army was besieging the town of Lachish, a fortified city 30 miles from Jerusalem. In Sennacherib’s confidence, he pulled out his commander to go to Jerusalem and taunt Hezekiah’s officials. This was done at the aqueduct (v. 36:3).
- In the commander’s own ignorance, was his inference that Judah had betrayed God by destroying the idolatrous altars and high places. So typical of many nonbelievers: while not even pretending to have faith themselves, they presume to critique or comment on beliefs that to them are meaningless.
What else did the commander say?
- See Isaiah 36:6-9: Neither the armies of Egypt nor the God of Israel would rescue the people of Jerusalem.
- See Isaiah 36:10: The Lord had ized him to destroy Judah.
Read Romans 1:21 to the group.
What makes people so blind as to our God?
- When God gives up on someone (after they have continually mocked and rejected Him), their hearts can no longer see what we see.
Which one of the misunderstood biblical truths do you see violated here?
- Because the commander was, up to that point, successful, he assumed that it would continue.
How do we make this same mistake in today’s society?
- The United States, your city, your church by all standards are operating successfully. However, that should not relieve us of the responsibility to constantly assess our motives and the principles to which we subscribe. Affluence and success are not necessarily proof of following God’s will.
Why did Hezekiah’s officials want the commander to speak in Aramaic?
- So the people would not become demoralized.
Why did the commander refuse?
- So they would be demoralized. It was, of course, the primary objective of his visit to Jerusalem, to win without a battle.
Have someone in the group read Isaiah 36:21.
What was Hezekiah’s orders regarding their discussions with the commander?
- He ordered them to keep quite. This is often the best advice when the enemy seems to have the upper hand.
- How does this example translate to our role as Christians today?
- There are times when God’s wisdom does direct us to give an answer for our faith and there are times when we are wise to remain silent.
Have someone in the group read Isaiah 37:1-38.
What was Hezekiah’s first response to the trouble that lay ahead?
- Isaiah 37:1 – He went to the temple and prayed.
What do you notice about the prayers?
- Hezekiah then humbly sought God’s counsel. Isaiah had good news for Hezekiah. Sennacherib would return home and die by the sword. Sennacherib mocks our God in verses 37:10-13. Based on the outcome of this story, it is not wise to mock our God.
Have someone in the group read Isaiah 37:16-18.
What are the components of Hezekiah’s simple prayer?
- Hezekiah shows his intention to rely solely upon God’s glory, not his own.
- Hezekiah does not ask for revenge, only that the world will know God is in charge.
Notes: Verses 37:36-38 record the amazing fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. The Lord sent a destroying angel to the Assyrian camp, killing 185,000 enemy troops in one night. After this, a devastated Sennacherib could only return with his crippled army to Nineveh, the capital of Assyria. There he was eventually assassinated by two of his sons, all according to prophesy.
Section Two: Trusting God When We are Sick
Have someone in the group read Isaiah 38:1-8.
What is the real message in this story about Hezekiah’s healing?
- God does hear and answer the prayers of His people: so much so that prayer can affect even history.
Read Isaiah 38:7 to the group.
What was the sign that God gave Hezekiah?
- The shadow cast by the sun would go back ten steps. (The stairway of Ahaz was probably westward facing).
Why did God have to provide such a visible affirmation of His promise to extend Hezekiah’s life?
- This encouraged Hezekiah’s faith at a time of great need. God works in our lives the same way.
Have someone in the group read Isaiah 38:9-22.
What can we learn about Hezekiah’s healing experience from his lament and song of praise?
- Hezekiah was not immediately healed. He continued in sickness and approached death.
- This brought Hezekiah to think how easy it was for God to end his life. This brought humility.
- Hezekiah reflected upon his life. The illness brought about a self-examination of priorities.
- When Hezekiah was brought to his knees, then God healed him.
- Hezekiah’s response: this gives him another chance to praise God for His love.
Note: In 38:21, Isaiah directed some attendants t make a paste from some figs and put it on the king’s boil. Yet regardless of the scientific (God-created) applications, Hezekiah’s response is praise to God for working through this medicinal technique. God works both within natural means and supernatural means. We are to give Him praise in either case.
Section Three: Trusting Our Own Understanding
Have someone in the group read Isaiah 39:1-8.
Comments to add after the reading: Hezekiah accepted the good wishes of the envoys from Babylon. Hezekiah shared much with them but later, the Babylonians would use this information against Judah (39:2).
What was it that Hezekiah did wrong?
- God had promised to give His people all the protection they needed. Hezekiah thought otherwise and tried to increase his nation’s security through an alliance with the Babylonians.
What is the message for us all in this part of the story?
- Even after all God did for Hezekiah, he fell back on relying upon worldly resources for protection. Hezekiah didn’t need worldly resources and God didn’t like him relying upon them either.
How is this same attitude and mistake being made today?
- The longer we remain protected by God, the less prone we can be to trust Him and the more likely we are to pursue folly. Just pick up a paper or watch the news.
Bible Truth Being Taught
God wants us to respond to life’s hardships by remaining faithful to Him, rather than to act like foolish people, forgetting Him in good times and turning to Him in hard times.
To emphasize the importance of turning to God in faith with all our problems, big and small.