[Hezekiah] was successful in whatever he undertook. He rebelled against the king of Assyria and did not serve him. From the watchtower to fortified city, he defeated the Philistines, as far as Gaza and its territory. (II Kings 18:7-8) Hezekiah was going forward in the power of the Lord almighty, defeating enemies, claiming land, purposing success for the nation of Judah.
But he hits a snag.
Throughout his reign, he witnessed the King of Assyria begin to snatch up land all around him, in Samaria, deporting Israel to Assyria and settling them in various towns, but the scripture was specific in why God had allowed this , “This happened because they had not obeyed the Lord their God, but had violated his covenant–all that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded. They neither listened to the commands nor carried them out.”
And unfortunately, the next big target for the King of Assyria was Judah…“Sennacherib King of Assyria attacked all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them.” This is where, I believe, the story gets sticky.
Because Hezekiah allows himself to be intimidated and begins to back down saying to Sennacherib, “I have done wrong. Withdraw from me, and I will pay whatever you demand of me.” Not only does Hezekiah hand over all the silver in the temple, but he raids the treasuries of the royal palace, going so far as to strip the doors and posts of the temple of their gold.
Wait a minute…didn’t scripture say in II Kings 18: 6 that Hezekiah “held fast to the Lord and did not cease to follow him.”?? Why was he backing down?
Proverbs 29:25a “The fear of man will prove to be snare…”
We cannot back down.
That is why God gives us his spiritual armor (Ephesians 6:13), promises his angel armies (Psalm 91:11) and declares throughout Scripture, “Never will I leave you, Never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5) Yes, our enemy the devil is prowling BUT that is why we are commanded to remain self-controlled and alert. (I Peter 5:8)
Continuing on with the story: “The king of Assyria sent his supreme commander…with a large army, from Lachish to King Hezekiah at Jerusalem.” They called for the King and he sent out his palace administrator, secretary and recorder.
Isn’t it just easier to get other people to do our dirty work? 🙂
Assyria’s field commander tried to intimidate King Hezekiah’s men with phrases like: “You say you have strategy and military strength–but you speak only empty words. On whom are you depending, that you rebel against me?”
And if you say to me, “We are depending on the Lord our God”–isn’t he the one whose high places and altars Hezekiah removed, saying to Judah and Jerusalem, ‘You must worship before this altar in Jerusalem?”
The enemy begins to bargain with them:
“Come now, make a bargain with my master, the king of Assyria: I will give you two thousand horses–if you can put riders in them!”
And then he resorts to just plain lies:
“The Lord himself told me to march against this country and destroy it.”
He turns to Hezekiah’s people, switching his language from Aramaic to Hebrew so that they can understand [I can just see the sweat trickling down his face.]
“Hear the word of the great king, the king of Assyria! This is what the king says: Do not let Hezekiah deceive you. He cannot deliver you from my hand. Do not let Hezekiah persuade you to trust in the Lord when he says, ‘The Lord will surely deliver us; this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria. “
He then showers them with empty promises (I can’t help but think about the first liar in the garden…)
“Make peace with me and come out to me. Then every one of you will eat from his own vine and fig tree and drink water from his own cistern, until I come and take you to a land like your own, a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of olive trees and honey.”
Stand firm, brothers and sisters.
This man has got to be red in the face by now, asking,
“Has the god of any nation ever delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria?”
But the people remained silent and said nothing in reply because the King has commanded, “Do not answer him.”
After this passionate speech, Hezekiah’s messengers were scared, intimidated, tore their clothes and came back to Hezekiah, telling him what was said.
Hezekiah was scared too, he tore his clothes and asked for his men to go to Isaiah the prophet and have him plead their case before God.
And Isaiah relays this message from the Lord: “Do not be afraid–those words with which the underlings of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me. Listen! I am going to put such a spirit in him that when he hears a certain report, he will return to his own country, and there I will have him cut down with the sword.”
The King of Assyria sent a second message to Hezekiah. Same scare and intimidation tactics…
Hezekiah is broken, he is frightened. He is fearful for an entire kingdom that he had carefully grown for fourteen years. So this is where the story catches in my throat. We know God’s promises. Hezekiah knew God’s promises–it was going to be ok, but he did the only thing he knew to do. He took it to God, face down, fingers clutched around the King’s letter and laid it before the Lord of Hosts, the Lord Mighty in Battle. He says, “It is true, O Lord, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands. They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by men’s hands. Now, O Lord our God, deliver us from his hand so that all kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O Lord, are God.”
God wants us to come to him like this. Whether we are pleading or crying or just submissive, he wants us to lay it out before him–and Hezekiah’s words and actions are reminiscent of another’s, “We don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”(I Chron. 20:12) Nothing we can conjure up will make it go away, so we lay it submissively, painfully, frightfully at his feet and we remember the promises.
Isaiah sends this message from the Lord, “I have heard your prayer concerning Sennacherib king of Assyria…He will not enter this city or shoot an arrow here. He will not come before it with shield or build a siege ramp against it. By the way that he came he will return; he will not enter this city, declares the Lord. I will defend this city and save it, for my sake and for the sake of David my servant.”
And we serve a God who is true to His Word:
That very night, the angel of the Lord put to death 185,000 men in the Assyrian camp. So Sennacherib broke camp, returned to Nineveh and stayed there…he was later killed with the sword by his two sons.
This is a powerful story and there are so many elements that we must be mindful of in our own lives. Maybe you are hearing these very threats of intimidation right now, I know I have personally, but here is the important part:
Cling to God with the last ounce of strength that you have, rely on others to intercede in prayer for you, take it before the father, just like Hezekiah did and admit that you have nothing left except for a promise. Find that one verse that God has revealed to you in all this mess, memorize it, repeat it, put it up places where you will see it several times a day and finally, worship God in advancefor the victory that He will bring you.
You need only be still.