God has heard the plea of Hezekiah for his people. He has also heard the words of Sennacherib. God promised to fight for Judah and delivers victory!
Hezekiah has been a faithful king to the people and to the Lord. He has turned back the hearts of the people to their God. The people are facing an enemy they cannot physically repel on their own but they don’t have to. The Lord helps those who love Him. He promised Moses this and has promised as much to Hezekiah, through Isaiah the prophet, when he brought his petition to the Lord.
The story we have been going through took a little longer to play out than what it appears from my telling. There must have been a few days at least for Sennacherib to move his forces to the outskirts of Jerusalem after finishing with the city of Lachish. We are not given a specific timeline in this telling of the story nor in 2 Kings 19’s telling. I don’t believe it was long before God dealt with Sennacherib though. Probably not more than a day after he arrived at Jerusalem. We are going to move to that point in our story and pick up from there.
Not many days after Hezekiah received God’s promise regarding the city of Jerusalem, the army of Sennacherib is observed making its way into the valley below the city. By evening the whole landscape is dotted with tents, campfires, and all manner of supplies for the invading forces. The people have been ignoring the words of Sennacherib’s servants who shout up to them words of discouragement. But this sight brings urgency to their steps and a bit of fear and excitement to their hearts.
The people well remember the words spoken to them on behalf of the Lord. God promised that Sennacherib would NOT come into the city, would NOT shoot an arrow above or against them, would NOT raise sword or shield against them, or raise a siege works against them either. They were safe in His arms. This they trusted but the appearance of so many soldiers encamped about them resurrects doubt and fear among the people.
The people aren’t the only ones feeling a bit concerned. Hezekiah and Isaiah both feel prompted to turn again to the Lord. They, unlike the people, are not turning to the Lord out of fear but with expectation. They KNOW with every fiber of their beings that God WILL do exactly as He promised. They are turning to Him with a prayer of “NOW please Lord” and “Thank You for Your promises.”
Sennacherib has spent all day moving his forces into place. Once his tent was set up by his servants he summoned his best captains into it. Here they talk battle strategy.
“I want the people to see the glare of the sun off the faces of our shields first thing in the morning. Make sure to have the men polish their shields tonight so that the sun will catch them and the glare will blind them.”
“From which direction do you want to attack my king?”
“I want to surround this city and attack it from every gate. If we don’t, we risk their cowardly king slipping out an unguarded gate.”
“Do you really think he will try to steal away?”
“I would if I were him” rumbles Sennacherib. “I’m just glad I’m NOT him for he will taste death before all is done.” Sennacherib pauses for a moment and a wicked grin splits his face. “Double the men who call out to the people for surrender. Have them call day and night. Don’t give the people hiding within those walls a moment’s peace. This will bring them to their knees. They will have little to no energy to resist our attack.”
The captains bow and then leave to be about their duties in preparation for the morning’s attack.
Within the walls of the city Hezekiah has called the people together again. His words are few but pointed. “Be strong and courageous! The Lord will do ALL that He has promised. Raise your voices in prayer and wait expectantly to see His deliverance. As for me, I will be in prayer for this conflict. I will be seeking the Lord and His direction.
As the sun exits the sky for the night, campfires come to life. The reprieve that the people of Judah got from the constant barrage of voices calling out to them is absent. Fresh ‘barkers’ have taken their places. The people do their best to continue ignoring them but their sleep this night will not come so easily.
Soldiers are settling into their places for the night. Guards are posted and animals fed. Sennacherib enters his tent for the night in perfect peace with visions of utter defeat of Hezekiah in the morning. He isn’t sure how long it will take but he is determined to see it through.
In the Temple, Hezekiah and Isaiah have gathered to call upon the Lord. They KNOW the Lord will keep His word and rescue the people. But there is nothing wrong with interceding on the people’s behalf for faith and fast deliverance. They have committed to doing this all night, or until the Lord sends them word to rest.
After hours of the ‘criers’ continued assault things fall silent. Those inside the city who were sleeping now rest easier. Those who were still awake can finally sleep. Hezekiah and Isaiah feel a peace come over them that tells them their prayers have been heard. They change to praise now. They are not certain the exact reasons for their peace but they know enough to trust in the Lord.
Outside the city silence falls too but for a different reason. In the dark of night the angel of the Lord moved through the camp of the Assyrians. From tent to tent he silently moved leaving even deeper silence in his wake. The tents he visited no longer host the night sounds of those sleeping. The silence of death takes its place. Even the ‘criers’ are falling silent, permanently. They are far enough apart that those who still cried out didn’t see their fellows fall. They knew nothing of the fate of their fellows until they joined them.
Not everyone in the camp is visited this night. Sennacherib and a handful of his servants remained alive. God wanted Sennacherib to KNOW Who had interceded on behalf of Judah.
Morning breaks and Sennacherib emerges angrily from his tent. The sky is fully lit. Why was he not woken earlier by his captains? They were supposed to attack Jerusalem at first light. He is surprised to see almost no one moving around in the camp.
“Where is everyone” bellows Sennacherib.
One of his servants comes rushing to his side. “They are all dead my lord!”
“Dead? How? What happened?”
“Their bodies are all cold as if it happened sometime in the night. Of how they died I can only assume it must have been the God of king Hezekiah.”
Sennacherib rushes into the nearest tent to verify the servant’s words. Each tent he enters he finds the same thing. His face burns with shame as he recalls his own words about the God of Israel and Judah. “Apparently there is a God that I cannot defeat” thinks Sennacherib. “The God of Hezekiah is a true God who is able to deliver His people.”
Once Sennacherib is convinced of the dire straits he doesn’t even bother dismantling his tent or packing his belongings. He calls out to his fellow survivors. Once they are assembled they begin a quick march back the way they came. NEVER again will he attack or discredit Israel’s God!
The guards watching from the wall note the absence of movement in the camp. They watch with fascination as Sennacherib rushes from tent to tent. When Sennacherib rushed out of the first tent, word was sent to the king.
Hezekiah receives word while Sennacherib is scouring the camp for other survivors. He makes it to the wall in time to see Sennacherib muster the few men that remain and move out as quickly as possible from the hills surrounding Jerusalem. He wants to call out to him in mockery but holds his tongue. The Lord has done enough. He needs to add no more.
Word has spread through the city of unusual happenings going on in the camp or Assyria. The people wait eagerly for confirmation of the rumors that flow like water. Hezekiah turns from his place on the wall and gazes at the expectant faces below. NOW he will speak.
“The Lord has fought for us! Go out and collect the spoils. None remain to hinder us. PRAISE THE LORD! His faithfulness endures forever!”
A cheer rises up from the people. The guards on the gates throw them wide open and the people surge through them. They begin moving from tent to tent, collecting the spoils left behind. While the people do this, Hezekiah orders his captain to organize a detail to carry away the dead.
In the end there were 185,000 bodies to be dealt with and enough spoil to carry the people of Judah safely through the following year with no need to plant or harvest.
The people of Judah would be fed for two years from the spoil they gathered. The second year they were to eat what grew on its own. God not only saved them from destruction but restored what was lost to the Assyrians. He is FAITHFUL! He NEVER makes a promise He isn’t prepared to keep. And His loves His children with an everlasting love.
This does NOT mean that His children get a free pass on trouble but that He watches over them. We often walk right into our own trouble. He doesn’t abandon us there but uses it to discipline us and bring us back to where He wants us to walk. Sometimes bad things happen to us because of the fact that we live in a fallen world. He doesn’t leave us to work out these things on our own either. He walks with us through every moment of it, even if that means walking with us right through the gates of Heaven. We are NEVER alone. Hold on tight because the road ahead is bumpy.
Father God, thank You that You are ALWAYS beside me. Thank You for each time Your robe brushes against my arm. For the sensation of Your nearness. For the smells that remind me of Your love. For ALL the little things that assure me of Your love. Thank You for EVERY word You inspired and delivered to my hands. I LOVE reading Your stories and hearing how You stepped down into our world with salvation in Your hands.
Thank You Lord Jesus for walking the dusty roads. The dirt on Your feet and the dust in Your hair were there because of Your love. I would love to inhale the fragrance of Your robes. To sit and watch You eat. What was Your favorite meal? One day You may allow me these things in person. For now, I’ll take Your presence through the person of the Holy Spirit instead. He can fill my imagination with the joys of being with You physically while He keeps me close spiritually.