Yesterday morning I was reading in the Old Testament book of Isaiah. It has become one of my favorites. In the beginning of chapter 36 bad news arrives. “In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, King Sennacherib of Assyria attacked all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them. Then King of Assyria sent his royal spokesman, along with a massive army, from Lachish to King Hezekiah at Jerusalem…The royal spokesman said to them, “Tell Hezekiah: The great king, the king of Assyria, says this: What are you relying on?” (verses 1-4). We could stop right here and have a great conversation. Have you ever been questioned like this by someone more “powerful” than you? I know this feeling, especially in my younger days. I hear this also being said like, “where does your hope come from”? We will get to that, but lets keep reading.
The royal spokesman continues with another question. “You think mere words are strategy and strength for war. Who are you now relying on that you have rebelled against me?” (36:5). Is it just me or do you hear “who do you think you are”? He urges them to make a deal, to compromise in fear. “Don’t let Hezekiah deceive you to rely on the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord will certainly rescue us! This city will not be handed over to the king of Assyria.” (36:15). Doubts must have been a flying by now. However, the people didn’t say a word, because their king had said not to respond.
Word gets back to King Hezekiah and “he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth, and went to the Lord’s temple.” (37:1). This was the place to go to be close to the glory of the Lord during this time. He also sent word to the prophet Isaiah saying, “Perhaps the Lord your God will hear all the words of the royal spokesman, whom his master sent to mock the living God, and will rebuke him for the words that the Lord your God has heard.” (37:1-4). One thing I notice here is how Hezekiah refers to God. He calls him Isaiah’s God, but not his. Maybe he doesn’t quite yet trust that God would speak directly to him.
Maybe we too have counted on other people to pray for us or discern some big decision for us, because we just didn’t trust God to speak to us. Why is that? For me it came down to insecurity, fear, doubt and I didn’t spend much time actually listening. The easier thing for me to do was ask others who did put in the time listening, praying and reading their Bibles. With this set up, I could spend my time doing what I wanted to do and receive the benefits of direction. But you know what? I was the one who missed out and my reliance on others became unbalanced. Once I got a taste of hearing Him speak to me through His word and just deep inside (also known as the Holy Spirit living in you), I’ve never been the same. Don’t get me wrong, I still seek others insight who know the Lord and it often confirms what I have heard.
In King Hezekiah’s case, Isaiah sent him back God’s response. “The Lord says this: Don’t be afraid because of the words you heard, with which the king of Assyria’s attendants have blasphemed me. I am about to put a spirit in him and he will hear a rumor and return to his own land, where I will cause him to fall by the sword” (37:6-7). This had to give Hezekiah hope!
The royal spokesman sends Hezekiah another message. “Don’t let your God, on whom you rely, deceive you by promising that Jerusalem won’t be handed over to the king of Assyria. Look, you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all the countries: they completely destroyed them. Will you be rescued? Did the gods of the nations that my predecessors destroyed rescue them…” (37:10-12)? I like the wording hear “your God, on whom you rely”. I wonder if, even in this realistic threat, if Hezekiah felt strengthened? My guess is yes, because of what happens next.
“Hezekiah took the letter from the messangers’ hands, read it, then went to the Lord’s temple and spread it out before the Lord. Then Hezekiah prayed to the Lord: Lord of Armies, God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you are God – you alone – of all the kingdoms of the earth. You made the heavens and the earth. Listen closely, Lord, and hear, open your eyes, Lord, and see. Hear all the words that Sennacherib has sent to mock the living God. Lord, it is true that the kings of Assyria have devastated all these countries and their lands. They have thrown their gods into the fire, for they were not gods but made from wood and stone by human hands. So they destroyed them. Now, Lord our God, save us from his power so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, Lord, are God – you alone” (37:14-20).
Do you see how he has changed in his reference to God? He pulls Him near and places his trust in Him alone. Hezekiah isn’t seeking his own glory here either. He wants the world to know who the one true God is. Have you been in a situation of such humility that you have done the same?
King Hezekiah receives another message from Isaiah. “The Lord, the God of Israel, says, ‘Because you prayed to me about King Sennacherib of Assyria, this is the Lord has spoken against him…” (37:21-22). Read 37:22-32 for yourself. It is so good! I’ll pick up with verse 33-35. “He will not enter this city, shoot an arrow here, come before it with a shield, or build up a siege ramp against it. He will go back the way he came, and he will not enter this city. This is the Lord’s declaration. I will defend this city and rescue it for my sake and for the sake of my servant David.” Do not miss the importance of Hezekiah going to the Lord himself with what appears to be an assurance of the power of God. He takes the letter from one set of hands into his own and then spreads them out before the Lord. I love how he figuratively took this situation out of his own hands and placed it into the Lords.
Want to know how the story ends? “Then the angel of the Lord went out and struck down one hundred eighty five thousand in the camp of the Assyrians. When the people got up the next morning – there were all the dead bodies! So King Sennacherib of Assyria broke camp and left. He returned home and lived in Nineveh” (37:36-37). (Maybe next time we will fast forward to the book of Jonah and see what happens to the city of Nineveh.) See how God kept His word. He always keeps His word. “Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him” Proverbs 30:5. I do not read of any harm coming to the silent people of Jerusalem. They obey their earthly king and he prayed for their deliverance. He also sought the help of Isaiah to pray to the Lord, their shield, as well.
What I took away from these words was beautiful. God always hears and sees. He sees us at all times and hears not only our words, but the words spoken to us. This encourages and saddens me. If you only knew some of the unkind words that have flown quickly out of my mouth. However, I John 1:9 tell us that, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Clearly we are told if we confess, talk to God and tell Him what we have done, He will forgive and cleanse us. I don’t see a list of sins that He will forgive and ones He won’t. So that one sin you might be thinking of that He could not possibly forgive, yeah that one, do you not think He isn’t ready to forgive and cleanse you? Oh friend, He is more than ready.
Take your sins, concerns, papers if you have them and place them in the Lord’s hands. Pray, read His word and listen. After you’ve done this, if you feel lead, talk to someone. Hope is waiting and fear can be dealt with!!