Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 108. Hezekiah King Of Judah, Part 6

Prophets And Kings
Day 108
Hezekiah King Of Judah
Part 6

Today the author of 2nd Kings reminds us of what happened to the northern kingdom of Israel when she rebelled against Assyria. Judah also rebels against paying tribute to Assyria and today we find King Sennacherib coming to put down Judah's rebellion.

2 KINGS 18:7b-16, 2 CHRONICLES 32:1-8
In Chapter 17 we learned that King Hoshea of Israel stopped paying tribute to the king of Assyria and tried to make an alliance with Egypt. But Egypt was no help to him and King Shalmaneser of Assyria came up and attacked Israel. Today King Hezekiah of Judah also stops paying tribute to Assyria; however, he doesn't try to ally himself with any other nation. Although Assyria has been powerful enough to vanquish the ten northern tribes of Israel, Hezekiah has been successful in defeating the Philistines and may believe he will be successful against Assyria too. After all, at the end of our study yesterday, we learned that Hezekiah has prospered in everything he has done because he trusted in the Lord. "He rebelled against the king of Assyria and did not serve him. From watchtower to fortified city, he defeated the Philistines, as far as Gaza and its territory." (2 Kings 18:7b-8) 

Now the author of 2nd Kings reminds us of what happened to Israel when she rebelled against Assyria. "In King Hezekiah's fourth year, which was the seventh year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, Shalmaneser of Assyria marched against Samaria and laid siege to it. At the end of three years Assyria took it. So Samaria was captured in Hezekiah's sixth year, which was the ninth year of Hoshea king of Israel. The king of Assyria deported Israel to Assyria and settled them in Halah, in Gozan on the Habor River and in towns of the  Medes. 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." (2 Kings 18:9-12)

In the verse above I believe we find the main clue as to why Hezekiah thought he could get away with his rebellion even though Israel had not. Israel's defeat was a result of her sin. "This happened because they had not obeyed the Lord their God," and, "They neither listened to the commands nor carried them out." The same cannot be said for Judah at this time. Because of his unwavering faith, Hezekiah instigated a major revival in Judah. The temple is back in service and the people are bringing so many offerings that they overflow. God is blessing Judah because she has listened and obeyed. When Hezekiah rebels against Assyria, I believe he expects the Lord to reward him by avoiding any trouble with Assyria's king. But we can be right in the middle of God's will and still have troubles. Many of our troubles in this life are a result of our own wayward actions but certainly not all of them are. Just think of all the Bible characters who were living for the Lord but still endured hardships. 

The second clue as to why Hezekiah rebelled against Assyria may be found here in verse 13. Shalmaneser, who squashed Israel's rebellion, is dead and his son Sennacherib is on the throne. It seems to be typical in ancient times for rebellions to spring up at the changing of kings. But Sennacherib doesn't intend to let Judah get away with refusing to pay tribute any more than his father allowed Israel to get away with it. "In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah's reign, Sennacherib king of Assyria attacked all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them." (2 Kings 18:13)

"So Hezekiah king of Judah sent this message to the king of Assyria at Lachish: 'I have done wrong. Withdraw from me, and I will pay you whatever you demand of me.' The king of Assyria exacted from Hezekiah king of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold. So Hezekiah gave him all the silver that was found in the temple of the Lord and in the treasuries of the royal palace. At this time Hezekiah king of Judah stripped off the gold with which he had covered the doors and doorposts of the temple of the Lord, and gave it to the king of Assyria." (2 Kings 18:14-16) Hezekiah makes haste in attempting to make peace. He apologizes for rebelling against the king and promises to pay any penalty the king chooses to levy on him.

But we learn that paying the penalty is not enough to keep Sennacherib from coming against Judah with the intent to conquer it. As we continue our study this week, we find Sennacherib's army coming to attack Jerusalem itself. He will send a message to Hezekiah taunting him about his faith in God. He will tell Hezekiah that no nation's god has withstood him and neither will Judah's God. The king will boast that no god ever has or ever will be able to stand up to him. 

The author of 2nd Chronicles relates Hezekiah's troubles to us like this, "After all that Hezekiah had so faithfully done, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and invaded Judah. He laid siege to the fortified cities, thinking to conquer them for himself. When Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib had come and that he intended to wage war against Jerusalem, he consulted with his officials and military staff about blocking off the water from the springs outside the city, and they helped him." (2 Chronicles 32:1-3) I love it that the author says these things happened, "After all that Hezekiah had so faithfully done." Don't we tend to think this way when trouble comes? Don't we say to ourselves, "After all that I've faithfully done, why would the Lord let this trouble come into my life?" We tend to feel astonished and, if we are honest, we feel offended. We feel offended at God that He would let us suffer. We can understand Him allowing wicked people to suffer, just as Hezekiah understood why God allowed idolatrous Israel to suffer. But we can't understand why He would allow us to suffer, we who are walking as closely with our Savior as we know how, we who are faithfully attending church and reading our Bibles and praying to our Lord. When bitter hardship strikes us, we want to look up and spread out our hands to God and say, "You mean You are letting this happen to me, after all that I have so faithfully done?" I believe Hezekiah is every bit as shocked as we often are. Judah is walking more faithfully with her God than she has in a long time. God has been with Hezekiah and has prospered him in all his work up til now. Why has this trouble come? Why does Judah now stand threatened by a pagan king? Why is Judah facing the same fate Israel faced?

"They gathered a large group of people who blocked all the springs and stream that flowed through the land. 'Why should the kings of Assyria come and find plenty of water?' they said. Then he worked hard repairing all the broken sections of the wall and building towers on it. He built another wall outside that one and reinforced the terraces of the City of David. He also made large numbers of weapons and shields." (2 Chronicles 32:4-5) Hezekiah fully intends to appeal to God for help but he also intends to do all that is humanly possible to defend his nation and his people. There are some occasions in the Bible where God instructs His people to sit still and see what He will do, but there are many more occasions where God fights alongside His people. In our own lives God sometimes simply reaches down and whisks us out of trouble, without a hair on our heads harmed, without us having to lift a finger. But many more times we have to go into the battle; we have to fight with the Lord our God fighting right beside us. Whichever method God chooses, He has a reason for it. I believe He chooses whichever method better builds our faith. There are times when a situation is so large and looks so hopeless that there's literally nothing we can do but be still and know that He is God. (Psalm 46:10) In those circumstances, our faith is strengthened by knowing we did nothing and God did everything. There are other circumstances when God wants us to know that, even if we go through the fire, He will be with us. He will be with us on the battle lines, our partner in victory. This is when He assures us, "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze." (Isaiah 43:2) God may take us through the fire but it isn't for the purpose of consuming us; it's for the purpose of refining us like fine silver. It's to burn off the dross so that, when we emerge on the other side, we are an even finer vessel for His honor.

Hezekiah fortifies and defends Jerusalem as much as humanly possible and then trusts God to do the rest. After doing all that can be done, he addresses the people with a message of hope. "He appointed military officers over the people and assembled them before him in the square at the city gate and encouraged them with these words: 'Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is greater power with us than with him. With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles.' And the people gained confidence from what Hezekiah the king of Judah said." (2 Chronicles 32:6-8) 

Hezekiah, though he lived many centuries before the Apostle Paul, is living as Paul instructs God's people to live in this dark and troubled world, "Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand." (Ephesians 6:13) Paul tells us to buckle on the belt of truth, with the breastplate of righteousness fastened over our hearts, with our feet shod with the gospel. We are to carry the shield of faith and wear the helmet of salvation, with the sword of the Spirit in our hand. Fitted out this way, we are covered from head to toe by our God. We are dressed for battle because there will be battles we have to fight, but we are fighting them in the strength of the Lord God, not in our own strength. Like Hezekiah, we only do what humanly can be done, knowing the rest is up to God. Hezekiah is standing in faith, knowing he is no match for the king of Assyria in his own strength, but knowing that no king and no kingdom is a match for Almighty God. He believes God is with him and God is for him. Sennacherib, with his vast army, is already outnumbered and defeated even though he doesn't know it yet. God is going to fight for Judah. 

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