Isaiah 20

Sunday Morning Bible Study

June 6, 1999


We are in the middle of a section of Isaiah called the "burdens". These are "heavy" prophecies given to nations that have in times past been harsh with Godís people.

The last few chapters have been dealing with the prophecies that dealt with the Ethiopian and Egyptian kingdoms. This chapter continues with the same countries.

Isaiah 20

:1 In the year that Tartan came unto Ashdod (when Sargon the king of Assyria sent him,) and fought against Ashdod, and took it;

Tartan Ė a general under Sargon II (2 Kings 18:17), who was king of Assyria from 722 to 705 BC.

the year Ė Tartan captured Ashdod in 711 BC. It would be ten years later (701 BC) that the Assyrians under their next king, Sennacherib, would attack Judah (Is. 36-37).

Ashdod Ė a city 30 miles west of Jerusalem and three miles inland from the coast. Itís name means "stronghold". It was an important city because it was on the main road from Egypt to Palestine. When Joshua had conquered the Promised Land, Ashdod was given to the tribe of Judah to conquer (Josh. 15:47). It was one of the five main cities of the Philistines. For 700 years, the tribe of Judah was unable to conquer it until the time of Hezekiahís grandfather, Uzziah. It had only belonged to Judah for about 50 years before the Assyrians attacked and captured it. See map

When the Assyrians took Ashdod, they fortified the city against attack. They did such a good job that in a later battle, it took a 29 year seige for a later Egyptian army to capture the city.

:2 Go and loose the sackcloth from off thy loins Ö

Apparently, Isaiah wore "sackcloth" as part of his outer garments. Sackcloth is similar to what weíd call a "gunny sack". Itís rough and not exactly designed for comfortable clothing. People would wear it as a sign of mourning, a sign of sadness over something.

Isaiah is asked to go take off his sackcloth and sandals. He will not be completely naked, but only partially naked in the sense that he isnít wearing his outer garments.

:2 And he did so

Some commentators say that the wording here gives an indication that it wasnít necessarily all the time that he did, but at least sporadically Isaiah walked around in his underwear. Donít think of this as some kind of sexy thing. It was pure humiliation and shame.

:3-4 as my servant Isaiah hath walked Ö

As weíve seen in Isaiah 18-19, Ethiopia and Egypt had been under a single rule for a period of time. They were considered a mighty country, and there were some in Judah who were trying to urge King Hezekiah to make an alliance with them in order to make a stand against the Assyrians. But the Egyptians too would fall to the Assyrian army and be taken captive.

The Egyptian and Ethiopian captives wonít just have their outer garments taken away like Isaiah, but will be totally ashamed in being totally naked. Egyptian monuments have been found that have pictures of captives being led off just like this, naked.

Lesson #1

A living witness.

It was not uncommon for God to ask his prophets to do something that would give a chance to teach the people some lesson.

Ezekiel prophesied to the captives in Babylon, and had a kind of model of Jerusalem to demonstrate how the Babylonian armies were currently surrounding their beloved Jerusalem and how it was being captured. He was a kind of living CNN.

In the New Testament, the prophet Agabus took Paulís belt, bound himself up, and said that the man who owned the belt would be one day bound the same way.

People who hung around a prophet could expect to see some kind of tangible demonstration of Godís message to them.

Can people see Godís Word active in your life?

Iím not suggesting that you take your clothes off like Isaiah, but the world shouldnít just hear us talking about Jesus, they ought to see Jesus at work in our lives.


A small town prosecuting attorney called his first witness to the stand in a trial-a grandmotherly, elderly woman. He approached her and asked, "Mrs. Jones, do you know me?" She responded, "Why, yes, I do know you Mr. Williams. I've known you since you were a young boy. And frankly, you've been a big disappointment to me. You lie, you cheat on your wife, you manipulate people and talk about them behind their backs. You think you're a rising big shot when you haven't the brains to realize you never will amount to anything more than a two-bit paper pusher. Yes, I know you." The lawyer was stunned. Not knowing what else to do he pointed across the room and asked, "Mrs. Williams, do you know the defense attorney?" She again replied, "Why, yes I do. I've known Mr. Bradley since he was a youngster, too. I used to baby-sit him for his parents. And he, too, has been a real disappointment to me. He's lazy, bigoted, he has a drinking problem. The man can't build a normal relationship with anyone and his law practice is one of the shoddiest in the entire state. Yes, I know him." At this point, the judge rapped the courtroom to silence and called both counselors to the bench. In a very quiet voice, he said with menace, "If either of you asks her if she knows me, you'll be jailed for contempt!

What do people know you for?

Itís not just a matter of being a person who "says" the right things, but someone whoís life reflects the things they talk about, just as Isaiah is being a living demonstration.

Do they look to you as a person who has spent time with God?

When Peter and John had been used by God to heal a lame man, the Jewish leaders wanted to know how they had done this.

(Acts 4:13 KJV) Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.

Being a good witness has nothing to do with being a "learned" person. It has to do with having your life match the words you speak. It has to do with spending real time with Jesus. Do people see you as a person who has spent time with Jesus?

Lesson #2

Willing to be shamed.

Isaiah was willing to do whatever God required. He was willing to do what it took for people to get the message. God wanted people to see that the Egyptians were not going to be victorious over Assyria. God wanted to make a vivid example that would stick in their minds.

Donít get the idea that this was some action by a crazy-eyed nut, where everybody stands back and feel pity for the poor mental case. This was a man who had been recognized as Godís prophet, this was a man who was considered one of the chief counselors to the king, this was something serious.

Are we willing to do what is necessary to communicate the message? Are we willing to risk being called a "fool" for the chance of sharing Godís message with people?

God isnít going to ask anyone here to walk around in their underwear.

Revelation 16:15 Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed [is] he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.

But you might risk feeling that kind of embarrassment when you admit to your "cool" friends that you are a Christian. Paul wrote:

(1 Tim 4:10 NLT) We work hard and suffer much in order that people will believe the truth, for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and particularly of those who believe.

Keep in mind, there was Somebody who was willing to suffer great humiliation for you. He wasnít only willing, but He actually followed through. Two thousand years ago, the Creator of the Universe allowed a bunch of puny men to mock Him, spit on Him, beat and whip Him, strip Him of His clothes, nail Him to a cross, and hang Him up high, naked and exposed, for all to ridicule and mock. He did it willingly for you.

(Heb 12:1-2 NLT) Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress. And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us. {2} We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish. He was willing to die a shameful death on the cross because of the joy he knew would be his afterward. Now he is seated in the place of highest honor beside God's throne in heaven.

:5 And they shall be afraid and ashamed of Ethiopia Ö

The Assyrian attack on Ashdod, with Isaiahís accompanying "nakedness" were to remind the people that these alliances werenít going to do them any good.


Putting too much faith in people.

Relationships can be an important thing in our life. God desires that we not be "Lone Ranger" Christians.

(Heb 3:12-13 KJV) Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. {13} But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.

Itís important that we have relationships with other Christians so that we can encourage each other, and not be deceived by our own tendencies toward sin.

But the problem is that people will let you down.

There will be times when you are "ashamed" of them.

I see this kind of thing happening when people feel like they need to change churches. Sometimes itís people leaving our church, sometimes itís people who have left other churches and are coming here.

A bad reason for leaving a church

"Somebody hurt my feelings", or, "I donít like a certain person in the church".

Youíre never going to find a place where this wonít happen. Any church that has human beings attending it will be a place where your feelings are going to be hurt once in a while.

I believe maturity happens in our lives when we learn to face people that hurt us and when we learn to tolerate people who rub us wrong. After all, do you think we ever hurt the Lordís feelings? Does He tolerate us?

The whole point Iím trying to make is that on one hand, we need people. But on the other hand, weíre going to be disappointed by people too.

If we put too little faith in people, then we isolate ourselves and donít receive the kind of encouragement we need.

If we put too much faith in people, then we get disappointed and want to pull away.

Donít be surprised when you are let down. The reality is that the other person is only human, just like you, and humans are extremely faulty.

Sometimes the answer is just learning to be patient with each other.

:6 the inhabitant of this isle shall say Ö how shall we escape?

isle Ė 'iy Ė coast, island, shore, region. Itís referring to the people of Judah.

If powerful Egypt would be overcome by the Assyrians, what chance would little Judah? The people who lived in Judah would realize that the Egyptians they had been trusting in were not going to be able to help them. Esarhaddon, who was king of Assyria after Sennacherib, would conquer Egypt in 671 BC., some forty years after this prophecy.


Flee to the right place. Flee to Jesus.

Where do you flee to for help?

Sometimes we flee to the wrong places and it doesnít work.


Paul Harvey, in his book For What It's Worth, tells about a county jail in south Florida where jail officials found a plastic trash bag hanging to the bars of a cell. Inside was Jimmy Jones, a prisoner who hoped he'd get taken out with the trash. And he might have--except during roll call his reflexes took over. And when the name Jimmy Jones was called... From inside the bag came a muffled response: "Here."

Sometimes we flee to things like drugs or alcohol:


I understand that the FDA may be considering additional warnings (J ) on beer and alcohol bottles, such as:

WARNING: consumption of alcohol may make you think you are whispering when you are not.

WARNING: consumption of alcohol is a major factor in dancing like an idiot.

WARNING: consumption of alcohol may create the illusion that you are tougher, handsomer and smarter than some really, really big guy named Kerry.

Hezekiah learned well. He knew where to go for help.

Look what happens ten years later, when a new king of Assyria (Sennacherib) first began his own attack against the nation of Judah:

2 Chr 32:1-8 After these things, and the establishment thereof, Sennacherib king of Assyria came, and entered into Judah, and encamped against the fenced cities, and thought to win them for himself. {2} And when Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib was come, and that he was purposed to fight against Jerusalem, {3} He took counsel with his princes and his mighty men to stop the waters of the fountains which were without the city: and they did help him. {4} So there was gathered much people together, who stopped all the fountains, and the brook that ran through the midst of the land, saying, Why should the kings of Assyria come, and find much water? {5} Also he strengthened himself, and built up all the wall that was broken, and raised it up to the towers, and another wall without, and repaired Millo in the city of David, and made darts and shields in abundance. {6} And he set captains of war over the people, and gathered them together to him in the street of the gate of the city, and spake comfortably to them, saying, {7} Be strong and courageous, be not afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria, nor for all the multitude that is with him: for there be more with us than with him: {8} With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the LORD our God to help us, and to fight our battles. And the people rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah king of Judah.

Hezekiah was clearly trusting in the Lord.

Does that mean that all he did was pray? No, he made actual, physical preparations as well.

Trusting in the Lord means that we get our direction from the Lord, and that we do what God asks us to.

It doesnít mean that we donít talk to people or work to resolve the problem weíre in.

But it means that we go to God first for direction, then we do what God leads us to do.

Fleeing to the right place starts with fleeing to Jesus.

Itís understanding that there is nobody who loves me more than Jesus. Itís realizing that He has loved me enough to take care of the biggest problem I have, my own sin. He loved me so much that He willingly gave up His life in my place, dying a horrible death on the cross to pay for my sins.

Fleeing to the right place means that if Iím going to run, Iím going to turn from my sins and run to Jesus.

There's an old hymn they sing at the beginning of J.Vernon McGee's radio program:

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,

Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!

What more can He say than to you He hath said,

To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

"Fear not, I am with thee; O be not dismayed,

For I am thy God, and will still give thee aid;

Iíll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,

Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.

"When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,

My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply:

The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design

Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.

"The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose

I will not, I will not desert to its foes;

That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,

Iíll never, no, never, no, never forsake!"


Assyrian Kings


Dates reigned

Shalmaneser V (This is the king who conquered the northern kingdom, Samaria in 722)

727-722 BC

Sargon II (He finished the work on Samaria, was the one involved in taking Ashdod)

722-705 BC

Sennacherib (He threatened Hezekiah, lost 185,000 men)

705-681 BC

Esarhaddon (He conquered Egypt)

681-669 BC