Contributor: Peter Folikwe
Assyria from our recent study was the super power of the world at this time: conquering many nations. Amongst nations conquered was northern Israel and the target of the Assyrians was to conquer the southern part of Israel called Judah.
During David and Solomon’s reigns, Israel was a single nation, later spilt into two during the reign of Rehoboam. The Northern part maintained its identity as Israel, but the south was named Judah. Hezekiah was the King of Judah at the time of Assyria’s invasion. In Chapter 36, we see Assyria evade the fortified cities surrounding Jerusalem, the capital of Judah. Judah had shut the gate of its capital Jerusalem to protect its inhabitants and the king. The Assyrians laid siege and their king Sennacherib wrote a threat letter to Hezekiah, demanding a wilful surrender. By way of repetition of the questions posed at last week’s study: Can God be trusted? Is He strong enough, is He good enough, to deliver us? Will He be faithful to keep His promises? In today’s study we will see from this chapter how the Hezekiah reacted to the threat and how God responded in His power and splendour.
“When King Hezekiah heard their report, he tore his clothes and put on burlap and went into the Temple of the Lord.” [NLT]
Just like Hezekiah, some challenging times overwhelmingly make us helpless and fearful, but our response to the threat/challenge makes all the difference. He tore his clothes as a sign of morning. He wore sackcloth as a sign of humility/helplessness. In those days the trend was offer prayers in the house of the Lord. Today our body is the temple of the Lord. We don’t need a special location for prayers.
“And he sent Eliakim the palace administrator, Shebna the court secretary, and the leading priests, all dressed in burlap, to the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz. They told him, “This is what King Hezekiah says: Today is a day of trouble, insults, and disgrace. It is like when a child is ready to be born, but the mother has no strength to deliver the baby.” [NLT]
Imagine the description of the problem: a woman in labour unable to deliver the baby. It’s a case between life and death. Besides seeking the face of God, Hezekiah sent for the Prophet Isiah to pray for the nation against the Assyrian assault. When in trouble or challenges of life, it is wise to deploy a two-prawn approach to addressing the problem: Seeking the face of God and asking your friends to pray for you. Apostle Paul in 2Thess 3:1 requested for prayers from the brethren. Jesus in Matt 18:19 reiterated the power in prayers of agreement. Hezekiah recognized the value of prayers.
“5 After King Hezekiah’s officials delivered the king’s message to Isaiah, 6 the prophet replied, “Say to your master, ‘This is what the Lord says: Do not be disturbed by this blasphemous speech against me from the Assyrian king’s messengers. 7 Listen! I myself will move against him,[a] and the king will receive a message that he is needed at home. So he will return to his land, where I will have him killed with a sword.’” [NLT]
Isaiah, a true prophet of God (not like the fake prophets), after seeking the face of God, debunked the threat of Sennacherib delivered through Rabshakeh – his General.
‘This message is for King Hezekiah of Judah. Don’t let your God, in whom you trust, deceive you with promises that Jerusalem will not be captured by the king of Assyria. You know perfectly well what the kings of Assyria have done wherever they have gone. They have completely destroyed everyone who stood in their way! Why should you be any different? Have the gods of other nations rescued them—such nations as Gozan, Haran, Rezeph, and the people of Eden who were in Tel-assar? My predecessors destroyed them all! What happened to the king of Hamath and the king of Arpad? What happened to the kings of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivvah?
Rabshakeh reels out a credential presentation of Sennacherib’s conquest. These are voices the enemy uses to intimidate and destabilise its victims. Here the enemy warns that the people of Judah should not trust their king. Secondly that their God cannot save them either.
‘After Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it, he went up to the Lord’s Temple and spread it out before the Lord. And Hezekiah prayed this prayer before the Lord: “O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, God of Israel, you are enthroned between the mighty cherubim! You alone are God of all the kingdoms of the earth. You alone created the heavens and the earth. Bend down, O Lord, and listen! Open your eyes, O Lord, and see! Listen to Sennacherib’s words of defiance against the living God. “It is true, Lord, that the kings of Assyria have destroyed all these nations. And they have thrown the gods of these nations into the fire and burned them. But of course the Assyrians could destroy them! They were not gods at all—only idols of wood and stone shaped by human hands. Now, O Lord our God, rescue us from his power; then all the kingdoms of the earth will know that you alone, O Lord, are God.’
Hezekiah spread this letter of sorrow before the Lord in His temple. He knows the true God he serves. Many who run to God when in trouble are not in right standing with God. The prayer of the sinner the Bible says is an abomination.
Prov 15:8 “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD: but the prayer of the upright is his delight.”
Some, when they run to their gods they get no answer, just like the nations overrun by the Assyrians. Furthermore, their god were burnt together with their covens. In V20, Hezekiah charged God to glorify Himself. The real trust for our prayer should be to bring glory to God.
“Then Isaiah son of Amoz sent this message to Hezekiah: “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Because you prayed about King Sennacherib of Assyria, the Lord has spoken this word against him: “The virgin daughter of Zion despises you and laughs at you. The daughter of Jerusalem shakes her head in derision as you flee.” [NLT]
This testifies that when we are confronted by overwhelming life’s trials and we seek the face of God in prayers, He hears us and respond appropriately. Particularly when the name of the Lord is disdained, the culprit will have himself to blame.
Verses 23-26 God Responds
“Whom have you reproached and blasphemed? Against whom have you raised your voice, And lifted up your eyes on high? Against the Holy One of Israel. By your servants you have reproached the Lord, And said, ‘By the multitude of my chariots I have come up to the height of the mountains, To the limits of Lebanon; I will cut down its tall cedars And its choice cypress trees; I will enter its farthest height, To its fruitful forest. I have dug and drunk water, And with the soles of my feet I have dried up All the brooks of defense.’ “Did you not hear long ago How I made it, From ancient times that I formed it? Now I have brought it to pass, That you should be For crushing fortified cities into heaps of ruins.”[NKJV]
God clearly stating that He permitted the Assyrians to possess all the have, because He created all things and gives to whom He pleases. Sennacherib is making an empty boast. IsaiahThe Lord says in 37:29 NLT “And because of your raging against me and your arrogance, which I have heard for myself, I will put my hook in your nose and my bit in your mouth. I will make you return by the same road on which you came.”
God says I will put my hook in Sennacherib’s nose and my bit in his mouth. Scary I must say! The nose and the mouth are critical organs that supply nourishment to the body - air and water. A man may survive without water for a while but, if he loses breath for more than 5-7mins he is a goner.
“This shall be a sign to you: You shall eat this year such as grows of itself, And the second year what springs from the same; Also in the third year sow and reap, Plant vineyards and eat the fruit of them. And the remnant who have escaped of the house of Judah Shall again take root downward, And bear fruit upward. For out of Jerusalem shall go a remnant, And those who escape from Mount Zion. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.” [NKJV]
Usually during a siege, the farmlands are destroyed by the intruder.
God here promised to give a sign of their deliverance that for two seasons they will harvest their crops without planting.
“And this is what the Lord says about the king of Assyria: “‘His armies will not enter Jerusalem. They will not even shoot an arrow at it. They will not march outside its gates with their shields nor build banks of earth against its walls. The king will return to his own country by the same road on which he came. He will not enter this city,’ says the Lord. ‘For my own honour and for the sake of my servant David, I will defend this city and protect it.’””[ NLT]
God is Covenant Keeper, not a Covenant Breaker.
God pronounced that He will defend Judah against the onslaught of Assyria for His name sake. God is ever faithful to keep His covenant, a covenant He had with David, years before.
Each time we are oppressed, repressed or depressed by those who assume undue authority over us, rather than become confrontational, let’s remember our covenant keeping God who fights our battles.
“That night the angel of the Lord went out to the Assyrian camp and killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers. When the surviving Assyrians woke up the next morning, they found corpses everywhere. Then King Sennacherib of Assyria broke camp and returned to his own land. He went home to his capital of Nineveh and stayed there.” [NLT]
In one night, an angel of God killed 185 thousand soldiers of the Assyrians. The survivors woke up to see many of their colleagues slain without fighting a war. Quite terrifying.
No surprise that king Sennacherib took to his heels and fled. This is what is called ‘a victory without a fight’. Psalms 20:7 AMP says: “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, But we will remember and trust in the name of the Lord our God.”
Finally, in Isaiah 37:38 PAM “It came to pass as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer his sons killed him with the sword; and they escaped into the land of Ararat [in Armenia]. And Esarhaddon his son became king in his place.”
The gods of Sennacherib could not save him from the swords of his own sons.
Zechariah 2:8 AMP says, “For thus says the Lord of hosts, “After glory He has sent Me against the nations which plunder you—for he who touches you, touches the apple of His eye.”
If only many in privileged positions of authority today can understand how ephemeral such powers and authority that come with such positions are, they will use such for the good of mankind. May the Lord help us to focus our gaze on the eternal, and not on the temporal.