Hezekiah has been focusing on the spiritual aspects of his kingdom. Turning Judah back to the Lord. Now he is physically threatened but he is courageous in the face of Sennacherib.
The Temple is reopened, the altars are torn down, Passover is being observed, and the people are once again bringing the tithe to the storehouse. These are major changes since Hezekiah took the throne. All of them focus on the relationship between Judah and the Lord. These changes also focused on the relationships between the people of God; Israel and Judah.
Hezekiah’s focus was NOT on the neighboring nations. The defense of Judah wasn’t an issue at the time. Now it is. Sennacherib has come down from Assyria. Assyria, under Sargon II conquered Israel. Shalmaneser started the conquest but in the three years it took for Israel to fall the throne had changed hands. At least one more throne change has happened since that time and Sennacherib is now king of Assyria. He wants the land of Judah to add to his territory. Assyria already controlled the most fertile soil in the land; the Jezreel Valley. I suppose Sennacherib thought, like most conquerors, that you can’t have too much land.
Sennacherib marches towards Jerusalem with his forces and Hezekiah turns his eyes towards the approaching danger. Some things the Hezekiah DID NOT do were 1) panic, 2) try to make a treaty, 3 ) attempt to buy off Sennacherib, or 4) surrender. What Hezekiah DID do was to begin preparing the people and the land for war. The first thing he did was to cut off the water supply to the area Sennacherib was encamped.
I was curious about the people that lived in the area where the water supply was cut off. How would they survive? After reading a bit farther I found the answer. Hezekiah moved the people into the city where he could protect them. Rather than having his forces station themselves wherever the people were, he brought everyone into safety behind the walls of the city. He didn’t stop there. He strengthened the walls, put towers on them and even put in a second wall of protection. Hezekiah also made weapons and shields.
All these things had been destroyed during his father’s reign. And Hezekiah’s immediate concern had been the people’s spiritual welfare. He KNEW the Lord would care for his people when they turned their hearts towards Him. Hezekiah also knew that God expected him to be a good steward of the resources He provided, including his intellect.
With all the preparations Hezekiah was making, he NEVER lost sight of Who was really in charge of Judah’s safety. The people are trembling in fear. They can clearly see the evidence of Sennacherib’s forces. Jerusalem is set up on a hill so the people could probably look down and see the army below. They certainly would have been able to see the smoke from their fires rising into the sky. This was a MASSIVE force that prepared to attack them. All the shields, spears and arrows being made by Hezekiah’s craftsmen would not be enough to save them.
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Hezekiah could see their fears etched on their faces, could taste it in his mouth. But he would NOT partake in that fear. Why? Because he KNEW the truth. He has been holding to the hand of the Lord all through his preparations. It’s time to let the people in on his confidence.
Morning breaks and it is clear that Lachish, a neighboring town is under siege. Smoke rises into the air. Not the scattered smoke of many cooking fires but smoke thick and black with the burning of buildings. Fear is running wild through the people. They believe Jerusalem is next. Knowing this, Hezekiah appears before the people.
A guard blows his trumpet and Hezekiah raises his hands for quiet from the people. When they have quieted he begins to speak. “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or dismayed before the king of Assyria and all the horde that is with him, for there are more with us than with him” (verse 7).
The people begin to look around at one another. “Surely he must be kidding” they think, KNOWING that they have limited skills in battle and are no match in size for Sennacherib’s army.
Hezekiah discerns their thoughts and quickly continues. He points in the direction of the smoke rising from Lachish. “With him is an arm of flesh,” then he sweeps his arm across the people arrayed before him. “…but with us is the Lord our God”, he points towards the temple. “…to help us and to fight our battles” (verse 8a). Hezekiah’s voice rose with this last proclamation. NO ONE could mistake the certainty with which he spoke.
The people’s fear melted away as if it was snow on a hot summer’s day. They “took confidence from the words of Hezekiah the king of Judah” (verse 8b).
(to be continued)
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Father God, give me Hezekiah’s confidence when I face battles! I KNOW I have his truth but I don’t always feel it. You ALWAYS fight for me. You surround me with Your hand of protection. You NEVER abandon me. I DO trust in You. It’s me that I’m not so confident in.