Today, we continue the story we began yesterday from 2 Kings 18, this exciting tale is also recounted in Isaiah 36-37. Remember that Judah’s king Hezekiah was a very faithful king who had a moment of doubt and agreed to pay tribute to Assyria to try and save Judah from the annihilation that Assyria had brought to Israel and countless other nations surrounding them after Assyria had invaded Judah. The Assyrian king sent his representatives led by Rabshakeh to get Hezekiah to surrender Jerusalem. But Hezekiah would not listen to the boldfaced lies of Rabshakeh who scorned and belittled The Lord saying The Lord could not and would not save Jerusalem from desolation.
Assyria had besieged and conquered nation after nation surrounding them, they had captured several Judahites cities. The situation was dire and faith was not easy. God does not expect us to stoically sit through our suffering. Even Jesus cried out to His Father and begged Him to let Him skip the torture of the cross (Matthew 26:36-42). But like Jesus, He wants us to learn obedience and faith through that suffering. Hebrews 5:7-10 reads,
“In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. 8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. 9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, 10 being designated by God a high priestafter the order of Melchizedek.”
When Hezekiah heard the report of what had happened he was more than a little distressed. Where would he turn? Verses 1-4 read,
“As soon as King Hezekiah heard it, he tore his clothes and covered himself with sackcloth and went into the house of the Lord. 2 And he sent Eliakim, who was over the household, and Shebna the secretary, and the senior priests, covered with sackcloth, to the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz. 3 They said to him, “Thus says Hezekiah, This day is a day of distress, of rebuke, and of disgrace; children have come to the point of birth, and there is no strength to bring them forth. 4 It may be that the Lord your God heard all the words of the Rabshakeh, whom his master the king of Assyria has sent to mock the living God, and will rebuke the words that the Lord your God has heard; therefore lift up your prayer for the remnant that is left.”
Look at the phrase Hezekiah used, “children have come to the point of birth, and there is no strength to bring them forth.” That describes so well how I have felt sometimes under the oppression of the enemy. I have thought to myself, “I just don’t have the strength to keep going. I can’t do this.” But the wonderful news is, it is not my strength that saves me. It is not our effort that rescues us. It is The Almighty LORD. He lets us be strong in Him. He is with us even to the end of our rope and when we let go of the rope, when we give up trying to save ourselves, He takes us in His hands and He delivers us. Isaiah 40:28-31 reads,
“Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
30 Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
31 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.”
Believer, it is a lie that ‘God will not give you more than you can handle.’ God does not give you the bad things in your life, He does allow some bad things to happen for various reasons. They will almost certainly be ‘more than you can handle.’ If you could handle your sin, trials, and suffering yourself, why would you turn to Him? He saves the wicked, not the righteous (Mark 2:17,Matthew 9:13) He binds up the brokenhearted not the satisfied. Read through the Psalms. David was very often so anguished and distraught that felt his heart was melting in his chest. He turned to The Lord and The Lord bought him through. Psalm 13 is an example.
“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
3 Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
4 lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
5 But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
6 I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.”
It was Hezekiah’s attempt to use his own resources to save Jerusalem that put Jerusalem in danger (2 Kings 18:13-18).
Isaiah, God’s prophet to Judah during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah (Isaiah 1:1) gave the men God’s answer. Verses 5-7 read,
“When the servants of King Hezekiah came to Isaiah, 6 Isaiah said to them, “Say to your master, ‘Thus says the Lord: Do not be afraid because of the words that you have heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have reviled me. 7 Behold, I will put a spirit in him, so that he shall hear a rumor and return to his own land, and I will make him fall by the sword in his own land.’”
God is not unaware of the evil in men’s hearts. He knew Rabshakeh’s heart and He heard the vile things that came out of his mouth. The Lord would not let him defame Him nor threaten His children. He would teach Rabshakeh just who He is. Verses 8-13 continue the story.
“The Rabshakeh returned, and found the king of Assyria fighting against Libnah, for he heard that the king had left Lachish. 9 Now the king heard concerning Tirhakah king of Cush, “Behold, he has set out to fight against you.” So he sent messengers again to Hezekiah, saying, 10 “Thus shall you speak to Hezekiah king of Judah: ‘Do not let your God in whom you trust deceive you by promising that Jerusalem will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.11 Behold, you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands, devoting them to destruction. And shall you be delivered? 12 Have the gods of the nations delivered them, the nations that my fathers destroyed, Gozan,Haran, Rezeph, and the people of Eden who were in Telassar? 13 Where is the king of Hamath, the king of Arpad, the king of the city of Sepharvaim, the king of Hena, or the king of Ivvah?’”
Rabshakeh kept the smack talk coming, he was shameless and audacious as he taunted The LORD and Jerusalem. Hezekiah had faith in God but that didn’t mean he was not distraught over the situation. When he received Rabshakeh’s abhorrent message he went straight to The Lord. It is our response to fear, dreadful circumstances and the enemy that define our faith or doubt. We can turn to ourselves, money, government, or our other idols or we can turn to The Lord and know He will fight for us, He will never forsake us. Verses 14-19 describe Hezekiah’s response.
“Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the Lord and spread it before the Lord.15 And Hezekiah prayed before the Lord and said: “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. 16 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. 17 Truly, O Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands 18 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. 19 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.”
I think there is an abundance to learn from Hezekiah’s prayer. One of the most important is that Hezekiah spent time studying scripture, this king followed the teaching of a priest or a prophet or read the word himself. He knew that the Lord is enthroned above the cherubim. That means he had read the prophets or listened to the readings of the prophets and taken it to heart. He also addressed God with a description of His greatness, power, and concern. While he spoke his heart to God, God fortified him. And he asked the Lord to save Israel, prove Rabshakeh wrong, and show Himself as LORD to Assyria.
This was before the Lord had sent His Spirit to the believers. He was only on Prophets and a very few others at this time. So He spoke to Hezekiah through Isaiah. Verses 20-24 read,
“Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah, saying, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Your prayer to me about Sennacherib king of Assyria I have heard. 21 This is the word that the Lord has spoken concerning him:
“She despises you, she scorns you--
the virgin daughter of Zion;
she wags her head behind you--
the daughter of Jerusalem.
22 “Whom have you mocked and reviled?
Against whom have you raised your voice
and lifted your eyes to the heights?
Against the Holy One of Israel!
23 By your messengers you have mocked the Lord,
and you have said, ‘With my many chariots
I have gone up the heights of the mountains,
to the far recesses of Lebanon;
I felled its tallest cedars,
its choicest cypresses;
I entered its farthest lodging place,
its most fruitful forest.
24 I dug wells
and drank foreign waters,
and I dried up with the sole of my foot
all the streams of Egypt.’
Although the Lord is speaking to Hezekiah, His prophecy is for Sennacherib the king of Assyria. First He told Sennacherib what his crimes were. Sennacherib had gone against The Lord, he had mocked Him, and he had acted as if he were a god taking everything and anything he wanted. He took credit for the Lord’s work. But God had more to tell him. Verses 25-29 read,
“Have you not heard
that I determined it long ago?
I planned from days of old
what now I bring to pass,
that you should turn fortified cities
into heaps of ruins,
26 while their inhabitants, shorn of strength,
are dismayed and confounded,
and have become like plants of the field
and like tender grass,
like grass on the housetops,
blighted before it is grown.
27 “But I know your sitting down
and your going out and coming in,
and your raging against me.
28 Because you have raged against me
and your complacency has come into my ears,
I will put my hook in your nose
and my bit in your mouth,
and I will turn you back on the way
by which you came.”
It was the Lord who allowed Sennacherib to be king, to conquer, and do all he had done. And the Lord would also be the one who made him return home and meet the violent death he had forced on so many others. God knows what evil men do, just like He knows what good men do. He knows every heart, He is the One who created each one. You don’t have to worry that God doesn’t know how people have hurt you. He does. The wages of sin is death (Ezekiel 18:20, Romans 6:23). They will pay with their lives or Jesus will pay with His, either way it is not your concern. Vengeance is the Lord’s and He loves you. He is Jealous over you! People will not get away with hurting you, His beloved child. Nahum 1:2-3 reads,
“The Lord is a jealous and avenging God;
the Lord is avenging and wrathful;
the Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries
and keeps wrath for his enemies.
3 The Lord is slow to anger and great in power,
and the Lord will by no means clear the guilty.
His way is in whirlwind and storm,
and the clouds are the dust of his feet.”
Then The Lord had a promise for Hezekiah and the remnant of Jerusalem. Verses 29-34 read,
“And this shall be the sign for you: this year eat what grows of itself, and in the second year what springs of the same. Then in the third year sow and reap and plant vineyards, and eat their fruit. 30 And the surviving remnant of the house of Judah shall again take root downward and bear fruit upward. 31 For out of Jerusalem shall go a remnant, and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors. The zeal of the Lord will do this.
32 “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. 33 By the way that he came, by the same he shall return, and he shall not come into this city, declares the Lord. 34 For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David.”
The Lord gave Jerusalem a command and a promise for two years they would not have to plant food, just eat what grew. On the third year they would again be able to sow, reap, and plant and they would know that once again Jerusalem would be firmly theirs. God would do the defending and the saving. God kept His word as He always does. Verses 35-37 read,
“And that night the angel of the Lord went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies. 36 Then Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and went home and lived at Nineveh. 37 And as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, Adrammelech and Sharezer, his sons, struck him down with the sword and escaped into the land of Ararat. And Esarhaddon his son reigned in his place.”
Believer, I know that you suffer and sometimes it seems like you cannot last one more day. Sometimes it feels like you cannot muster the strength to reach the end of the tunnel. But you do not have to. Let the Lord be your strength and your shield. Faith is not the absence of doubt, it is the courageous act of responding to it by turning to The Lord instead of giving in to fear. Remember trust in the Lord and He will give you joy, even in your suffering.