35 Thirsty deserts will be glad; barren lands will celebrate and blossom with flowers. 2 Deserts will bloom everywhere and sing joyful songs. They will be as majestic as Mount Lebanon, as glorious as Mount Carmel or Sharon Valley. Everyone will see the wonderful splendor of the Lord our God.
God Changes Everything
3 Here is a message for all who are weak, trembling, and worried: 4 “Cheer up! Don’t be afraid. Your God is coming to punish your enemies. God will take revenge on them and rescue you.”
5 The blind will see, and the ears of the deaf will be healed. 6 Those who were lame will leap around like deer; tongues once silent will begin to shout. Water will rush through the desert. 7 Scorching sand will turn into a lake, and thirsty ground will flow with fountains. Grass will grow in wetlands, where packs of wild dogs once made their home.[a]
God’s Sacred Highway
8 A good road will be there, and it will be named “God’s Sacred Highway.” It will be for God’s people; no one unfit to worship God will walk on that road. And no fools can travel on that highway.[b] 9 No lions or other wild animals will come near that road; only those the Lord has saved will travel there.
10 The people the Lord has rescued will come back singing as they enter Zion. Happiness will be a crown they will always wear. They will celebrate and shout because all sorrows and worries will be gone far away.
The Assyrians Surround Jerusalem
36 Hezekiah had been king of Judah for fourteen years when King Sennacherib of Assyria invaded the country and captured every walled city 2 except Jerusalem. The Assyrian king ordered his army commander to leave the city of Lachish and to take a large army to Jerusalem.
The commander went there and stood on the road near the cloth makers' shops along the canal from the upper pool. 3 Three of the king’s highest officials came out of Jerusalem to meet him. One of them was Hilkiah’s son Eliakim, who was the prime minister. The other two were Shebna, assistant to the prime minister, and Joah son of Asaph, keeper of the government records.
4 The Assyrian commander told them:
I have a message for Hezekiah from the great king of Assyria. Ask Hezekiah why he feels so sure of himself. 5 Does he think he can plan and win a war with nothing but words? Who is going to help him, now that he has turned against the king of Assyria? 6 Is he depending on Egypt and its king? That’s the same as leaning on a broken stick, and it will go right through his hand.
7 Is Hezekiah now depending on the Lord, your God? Didn’t Hezekiah tear down all except one of the Lord’s altars and places of worship?[c] Didn’t he tell the people of Jerusalem and Judah to worship at that one place?
8 The king of Assyria wants to make a bet with you people! He will give you two thousand horses, if you have enough troops to ride them. 9 How could you even defeat our lowest ranking officer, when you have to depend on Egypt for chariots and cavalry? 10 Don’t forget that it was the Lord who sent me here with orders to destroy your nation!
11 Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah said, “Sir, we don’t want the people listening from the city wall to understand what you are saying. So please speak to us in Aramaic instead of Hebrew.”
12 The Assyrian army commander answered, “My king sent me to speak to everyone, not just to you leaders. These people will soon have to eat their own body waste and drink their own urine! And so will the three of you!”
13 Then, in a voice loud enough for everyone to hear, he shouted out in Hebrew:
Listen to what the great king of Assyria says! 14 Don’t be fooled by Hezekiah. He can’t save you. 15 Don’t trust him when he tells you that the Lord will protect you from the king of Assyria. 16 Stop listening to Hezekiah. Pay attention to my king. Surrender to him. He will let you keep your own vineyards, fig trees, and cisterns 17 for a while. Then he will come and take you away to a country just like yours, where you can plant vineyards and raise your own grain.
18 Hezekiah claims the Lord will save you. But don’t be fooled by him. Were any other gods able to defend their land against the king of Assyria? 19 What happened to the gods of Hamath, Arpad, and Sepharvaim? Were the gods of Samaria able to protect their land against the Assyrian forces? 20 None of these gods kept their people safe from the king of Assyria. Do you think the Lord, your God, can do any better?
21-22 Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah had been warned by King Hezekiah not to answer the Assyrian commander. So they tore their clothes in sorrow and reported to Hezekiah everything the commander had said.
35.7where. . . home: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
35.8And. . . highway: Or “And not even a fool can miss that highway.”
36.7worship: Hezekiah actually had torn down the places where idols were worshiped, and he had told the people to worship the Lord at the one place of worship in Jerusalem. But the Assyrian leader was confused and thought these were also places where the Lord was supposed to be worshiped.
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