Thursday, May 26, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 109. King Hezekiah Of Judah, Part 7

Prophets And Kings
Day 109
King Hezekiah Of Judah
Part 7

King Hezkiah rebelled against payin tribute to Assyria and so King Sennacherib attacked some of the outlying towns of Judah. Now him sends an army to attack Jerusalem itself.

2 KINGS 18:17-25
According some history for our background study, when Sennacherib first ascended to the throne he was considered a weak king by the nations around him. His father Shalmaneser had been a mighty military man, going off to battle and leaving his son at home to handle the administrative duties of the kingdom. When Shalmaneser died, the nations previously subject to him saw it as a good time to rebel and so Sennacherib had to constantly occupy himself with putting down rebellions in his first several years as king. According to Assyrian history, when Hezekiah defeated the Philistine territories, a ruler that Sennacherib had appointed to over Ekron was taken prisoner to Jerusalem, further fueling Sennacherib's rage against Judah. Egypt promised to help the nations who stood against Assyria, which may be one reason King Hoshea of Israel rebelled against Assyria during the time of Shalmaneser, but as we know Egypt was no help to him and he and his people were taken captive. Sennacherib believes Hezekiah too is trusting in Egypt for aid but today he promises Hezekiah that Egypt will be no more help to him than she has been to anyone else. Sennacherib will also mock the name of the living God, insisting He will be no help to him.

"The king of Assyria sent his supreme commander, his chief officer and his field commander with a large army, from Lachish to King Hezekiah at Jerusalem. They came up to Jerusalem and stopped at the aqueduct of the Upper Pool, on the road to the Washerman's Field. They called for the king; and Eliakim son of Hilkiah the palace administrator, Shebna the secretary, and Joah son of Asaph the recorder went out to them." (2 Kings 18:17-18) These men from Assyria are bold and arrogant, secure in the power of the king behind them. They call for a meeting with the Hezekiah himself but Hezekiah sends his officials to meet these men. The Bible doesn't tell us why he doesn't come out personally but I think he did the right thing by not going. It would make him look weak as a king if he came out himself to meet anyone but another king. Plus it might have put his life in danger to meet these men and the soldiers behind them. Hezekiah is the nation's leader and must be protected just as here in the United States we have a Secret Service to protect the president.

"The field commander said to them, 'Tell Hezekiah: 'This is what the great king, the king of Assyria, says: On what are you basing this confidence of yours? You say you have the counsel and the might for war---but you speak only empty words. On whom are you depending, that you rebel against me? Look, I know you are depending on Egypt, that splintered reed of a staff, which pierces the hand of anyone who leans on it! Such is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who depend on him." (2 Kings 18:19-21) Hezekiah probably did hope for help from Egypt, as there is evidence from the book of Isaiah that he believed Egypt would come to his aid. Sennacherib points out the foolishness of trusting in Pharaoh who will disappoint anyone who depends on him. Sennacherib has a way with words, saying that anyone who leans on the staff of Egypt will find it unable to bear his weight. It will break and splinter, piercing any man who trusts in that kingdom. According to the book of Isaiah, Egypt only made one attempt to aid the northern kingdom of Israel and they were defeated by the Assyrians in that battle. Since then Egypt has made no further attempts to help.

Sennacherib may be a brilliant orator but he is ignorant of the true nature of the God of Abraham. "But 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?'" (2 Kings 18:22) Hezekiah was actually doing the will of God when he tore down the old high places and altars. Sennacherib doesn't understand this and intends to suggest that God is now angry with Judah for tearing down His altars. Sennacherib wants to make the people of Judah doubt the wisdom of this, to make them doubt their king did the right thing, and to make them doubt their God is on their side.

The field commander urges Jerusalem to either fight or surrender to their army, "Come now, make a bargain with my master, the king of Assyria: I will give you two thousand horses---if you can put riders on them!" (2 Kings 18:23) The commander mocks the size of Judah's army, as if she doesn't have enough men to put on two thousand horses. He's saying that even if Judah comes against him with all she has, it will be nothing in comparison to the might of the Assyrian army behind him.

"How can you repulse one officer of the least of my master's officials, even though you are depending on Egypt for chariots and horsemen? Furthermore, have I come to attack and destroy this place without word from the Lord? The Lord Himself told me to march against this country and destroy it." (2 Kings 18:24-25) The field commander says something like, "My master didn't even send the biggest part of his army here to Jerusalem because we won't need that much might to defeat you. You are unable to stand against me and the men in my regiment, much less against Assyria's whole army. Egypt is still licking her wounds from the last time we defeated her, so you need not expect any help from Pharaoh. He isn't coming. In addition, your own God is fighting against you. He's angry with you. I am here not only on the authority of my master the king, but on the authority of your God. Your God is done with you. Don't expect any help from Him for He is against you to destroy you."

The tactics the enemy of Judah uses are the same tactics the enemy of our souls uses. When trouble comes, Satan attacks us from the outside in. He doesn't begin with mocking our trust in God because that would offend us and quickly cause us to reject his taunts. Instead he takes the same approach Sennacherib took: first attacking our confidence in ourselves, then attacking our confidence in friends, then at last attacking our confidence in the Lord. When trouble comes, Satan says to us, "Who do you think you are that you will be able to overcome this? Look how many times you've failed in the past! Look how many things you've given up on!!" After shaking our sense of self-worth, he moves on to attack those we trust to stand with us, "And what about those friends of yours? Haven't they let you down before? Haven't they hurt your feelings? Haven't they failed to show you the sympathy you deserve? If they were unable to help you in smaller troubles, why would they be any help in this big trouble?" After shaking our sense of community and fellowship, he then moves on to strike us in our very hearts. "God? You're expecting God to come running to the rescue? God is angry with you! That's why these troubles have come. You have failed Him time and time again. Look what a loser you are! You can't even get through one day without sinning. God is sick and tired of your weaknesses and your failures. What use are you to Him? He's had it with you and has given me permission to destroy you."

King Sennacherib has sent an army to Jerusalem but he believes he can conquer the city without firing a single arrow. His main weapon is discouragement. He intends to demoralize the people to the point of giving up and surrendering without a fight. Discouragement is Satan's main weapon too. He intends to discourage us in ourselves, in our fellow believers, and in our God. Satan too wants us to surrender without a fight. He knows if he engages us in battle he's actually engaging the One who is our strength: the Lord Jesus Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords. Sennacherib is not quite so wise; he doesn't understand who he's dealing with when he engages the Lord God of Israel. Sennacherib is willing to fight if it comes to that, but he is arrogant enough to believe it won't come to that. 

Discouragement is a thing that can sneak up on us, taking us captive before we are aware of it. But there are three principle ways I believe we can fight back.

1. Don't speak discouragement to yourself. How many victories have we talked ourselves out of? How many battles have we lost before we ever got on the field? The things we say to ourselves are very important. The wise King Solomon once said, "The tongue has the power of life and death." (Proverbs 18:21) We have the ability to choose whether we speak words of life or words of death to ourselves. In Christ, we are the sons and daughters of God. (2 Corinthians 6:18) We are heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ. (Romans 8:17) Let's speak these words of life to ourselves. On our own we may not be much but in Christ we are children of the King.

2. Don't listen to the lies of the enemy. Jesus said that Satan is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44) He said that the only thing Satan wants to do is steal, kill, and destroy. (John 10:10) We mustn't give him the time of day. We have to stop our ears to these lies and decide to listen only to the truth of God's word. Which brings me to the third point.

3. Listen to the truth of God's word. Because we are His children, God will never abandon us. "I will never leave you or forsake you." (Deuteronomy 31:6, Hebrews 13:5) We fight discouragement with the truth of God's word. We fight the lies of our enemy with the truth of God's word, just as Christ fought the lies of Satan during the forty days in the wilderness. God speaks nothing but life to His children. He speaks nothing but words of encouragement to His children. Jesus Christ died for us so we could live. "He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all---how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?" (Romans 8:31)

The power of life and death is in the tongue. Let's speak words of life to ourselves today. These words of life will banish the lies of any enemy.

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