Sennacherib is intent on conquering Judah. Hezekiah comforts the people telling them that God’s got their back. Blasphemy pours from Sennacherib’s mouth when he says God isn’t able.
When we left last time, Hezekiah was telling the people of the forces that fought for them against the armies of Assyria. “With him [Sennacherib] is an army of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God, to help us and to fight our battles” (verse 8a). This was a great comfort to the people. The God of their fathers would fight for them. The same God who brought the Hebrew children out of the land of Egypt. The One who parted the Red Sea. The One who fed them in the wilderness. The One who stood with David against the armies of the Philistines. The One who gave Solomon rest on all sides. The One who has been blessing them since Hezekiah brought them back to Him. The ONE they can trust!
It would be wonderful if it ended there and the people sat back and watched in comfort. It didn’t and it usually doesn’t. Now that the people are comforted, their faith is tried.
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No sooner had Hezekiah finished speaking to the people than voices could be heard coming from outside the city. It was a chorus of voices raised high, calling for Judah to surrender and save themselves the agony of a protracted siege.
“Haven’t you heard of the might of Sennacherib? NO nation or god has been able to stand against him. Yours will be no different. For ‘thus says Sennacherib king of Assyria, “On what are you trusting, that you endure the siege in Jerusalem? Is not Hezekiah misleading you, that he may give you over to die by famine and by thirst, when he tells you, ‘The Lord our God will deliver us from the hand of the king of Assyria’?” (verses 10-11).
The people begin to look at one another. Hezekiah can feel the doubt searching for a place to take root. The messenger’s continue their assault on the people’s faith.
“Has not this same Hezekiah taken away His high places and His altars and commanded Judah and Jerusalem, ‘Before one altar you shall worship, and on it you shall burn your sacrifices’?” (verse 12).
Hezekiah logs this ‘accusation’ in his list of points to cover with the people. Removing all the altars and high places encourages God to bless His people instead of angers Him.
Without pausing to let the people respond, the messenger continues his assault on the people’s hearts. “Do you not know what I and my fathers have done to all the peoples of other lands? Were the gods of the nations of those lands at all able to deliver their lands out of my hand? Who among all the gods of those nations my fathers devoted to destruction was able to deliver his people from my hand, that your God should be able to deliver you from my hand?” (verses 13-14).
“Good point” thinks Hezekiah. “NONE of those other gods had any power against Sennacherib. But those other gods were made with the hands of man. Our God made man with His hands. HE has sufficient power to save His people.”
The messengers continue. “Now, therefore, do not let Hezekiah deceive you or mislead you in this fashion, and do not believe him, for NO god of ANY nation or kingdom has been able to deliver his people from my hand or from the hand of my fathers. How much less will you God deliver you out of my hand!” (verse 15).
While taunts of Sennacherib continue to pour forth from the messengers lips pounding on the gate captures the guard’s attention. He looks out the porthole and sees one of Sennacherib’s messengers waving a scroll sealed with wax. “I have a letter for Hezekiah, king of Judah from Sennacherib, king of Assyria and beyond.”
Warry of a trap, the gate guard sends a lookout to the top of the wall to ensure there is no one waiting to rush in with the messenger.
“All is clear my captain” comes the cry from the wall.
The gate guard draws his sword and brings two other guards with him as he opens the small door within gate to receive the letters. With arms fully extended out to his sides, Sennacherib’s messenger advances to meet the guards. They take the scroll from his extended right hand and both parties walk backwards to safety, neither taking their eyes off the other until the door is firmly bolted back in place.
Shouting continues from outside the city walls, relaying the same message over and over again. “Give up, your God can’t help you.”
Hezekiah, concerned for his people repeats his earlier words to them. “’Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or dismayed before the king of Assyria and all the horde that is with him…With us is the Lord our God, to help us and to fight our battles’ (verses 7a, 8b). I will seek the Lord on our behalf. I encourage you each to do the same. For this moment though, do not respond or react to the words you hear. Wait on the Lord.”
Hezekiah walks down from the platform where he stood to address the people. The gate guard approaches him with the scroll held firmly in his hands. “Sennacherib has sent you a letter my king.”
“No doubt it contains the same message his servants are delivering in our own tongue to the people.” He shakes his head but reaches out and takes the scroll from the guard.
Hezekiah goes into his study to read the scroll. Its likening the God of Heaven to the gods built with hands of the other nations is sickening. There is NO comparison! Those other gods are but wood and stone. Israel’s God is the True Living God. The ONLY One able to save with His right hand. Hezekiah knows only one thing to do; bring this matter before the Lord.
Hezekiah dressed carefully for his moment before the Lord. He did not want to look proud or arrogant so he wore no crown or jewels. He also did not want to appear as though he was in dire fear for he trusted completely in the Lord’s ability to care for His people so he wore no sackcloth. He dressed in a plain linen ephod as he approached the House of the Lord.
Hezekiah entered into the Temple to the place where the king was allowed to go and no farther. He knelt down and spread the scroll on the floor in front of him. And then he prayed to the ONLY God who could answer.
“O Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, You are the God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; You have made heaven and earth. Incline Your ear, O Lord, and hear; open Your eyes, O Lord, and see; and hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God. Truly, O Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands and have cast their gods into the fire, for they were not gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. Therefore they were destroyed. So now, O Lord our God, save us, please, from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You, O Lord, are God alone” (2 Kings 19:15-19).
God heard Hezekiah’s prayer as clearly as He heard the words of Sennacherib. He knew both their hearts too. And He would respond to both as they deserved. God sent word through His prophet Isaiah to Hezekiah. He had MUCH to say about the arrogance of Sennacherib. This man and his army were NO match for the hand of the Living God! Hezekiah held most dearly to God’s final words on the subject.
“Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the king of Assyria: He shall not come into this city or shoot an arrow there, or come before it with a shield or cast up a siege mound against it. By the way that he came, by the same he shall return, and he shall not come into this city, declares the Lord. For I will defend this city to save it, for My own sake and for the sake of My servant David” (2 Kings 19:32-34).
These words Hezekiah would cling to and share with the people. He and the people would also follow the Lord’s command concerning recovering from the damage to the land at the hands of Sennacherib.
As the time of the evening sacrifice drew near the voices outside the city were quieting. Even the enemy needed their rest. Hezekiah stood before the people. They too would hear the words the Lord spoke to His people.
“Be strong and courageous I say again. Do NOT be dismayed. The Lord our God has truly heard our prayers. He has also heard the words of Sennacherib. His fierce anger burns against him for his arrogance. The Lord has declared through His prophet that ‘the king of Assyria will NOT come into this city or shoot an arrow there, or come before it with a shield or cast up a siege mount against it… I will defend the city to save it, for My own sake and for the sake of My servant David.’ Trust in the Lord our God. Wait on His salvation.”
Praise rises up from the midst of the people who are assembled. The priests offer the evening sacrifice and then the people return to their places with peace in their hearts and an air of expectancy. None know exactly what the Lord will do to remove Sennacherib from their doorstep but they FIRMLY believe He will do EXACTLY as He said.
(to be continued)
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I had to reach into 2 Kings 19 for the exciting details of this story. I’m as excited as the children of Israel for the ‘next chapter’ in this story. The One that clearly shows the power of our God. We share that same God today. The one who has power over ALL things. The One who fights for His children. The One not made with hands or limited to our imaginations.
Thank You Father that YOU can stand up to ANY amount of scrutiny or comparison. You are TRULY Lord of ALL. There is NONE like You. And You care about every aspect of my life, even the mundane things. You give me strength where I have none. You hold me during the storms. You stop up the mouths of my enemies, or at the very least stop up my ears so I cannot hear them. Help me focus on Your words for my future and not the enemies.