Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 111. King Hezekiah Of Judah, Part 9

Prophets And Kings
Day 111
King Hezekiah Of Judah
Part 9

When we left off Friday, the officers of King Sennacherib of Assyria were threatening Jerusalem. King Hezekiah's men listened to their words and came back to the palace to report to him. Now we see what Hezekiah does next.

2 KINGS 19:1-19
"When King Hezekiah heard this, he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and went into the temple of the Lord." (2 Kings 19:1) He knows his only help is in the Lord. No other nation has been able to stand against Assyria and Judah won't be able to either, not without her God.

"He sent Eliakim the palace administrator, Shebna the secretary and the leading priests, all wearing sackcloth, to the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz. They told him, 'This is what Hezekiah says: This day is a day of distress and rebuke and disgrace, as when children come to the moment of birth and there is no strength to deliver them. It may be that the Lord your God will hear all the words of the field commander, whom his master, the king of Assyria, has sent to ridicule the living God, and that He will rebuke him for the words the Lord your God has heard. Therefore pray for the remnant that still survives.'" (2 Kings 19:2-4) The field commander has blasphemed God, comparing Him to the false gods of the nations Assyria has already conquered. Hezekiah isn't certain the Lord will defend Judah because He didn't defend Israel, allowing her to be conquered and taken captive by Assyria. But he hopes the Lord will defend His own name. He compares the weakness of Judah to the weakness of a woman who has labored for many hours and has no strength left. If God does not intervene, death is imminent.

"When King Hezekiah's officials came to Isaiah, Isaiah said to them, 'Tell your master, 'This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid of what you have heard---those words with which the underlings of the king of Assyria have blasphemed Me. Listen! When he hears a certain report, I will make him want to return to his own country, and there I will have him cut down with the sword.'" (2 Kings 19:5-7) The Lord calls the fearsome field commander of King Sennacherib an "underling"; in the original language the word is something like "errand boy". The field commander who stood and screamed threats at the people on Jerusalem's wall is a nobody, full of air, full of empty threats, because he cannot stand against the Lord. When the field commander compared the living God to false idols, he was badly mistaken. This God he so recently blasphemed is going to deliver Judah and Jerusalem from the hand of Assyria.

Isaiah prophesies the death of King Sennacherib but it's not going to come immediately. The king of Assyria will continue to terrorize Judah while he fights another enemy on another front. "When the field commander heard that the king of Assyria had left Lachish, he withdrew and found the king fighting against Libnah." (2 Kings 19:8) Sennacherib had set up a military command center at Lachish, in the mountains of Judah, and archaeological evidence of this remains in that region. He now leaves Lachish to fight against the people of nearby Libnah and the field commander withdraws from Jerusalem to help him.

While engaged in battle with Libnah, a rumor comes to King Sennacherib. He previously accused King Hezekiah of relying on Egypt to help him, and apparently Hezekiah did hope for help from Egypt according to the book of Isaiah. In last week's study Sennacherib made fun of any man who thought he could find help in Egypt, calling Egypt a broken reed that will splinter in the hand of any man who trusts in it. But now he hears a rumor that frightens him. "Now Sennacherib received a report that Tirhakah, the king of Cush, was marching out to fight against him." (2 Kings 19:9a) Cush is the upper Nile region of Egypt and this rumor leads Sennacherib to believe that Egypt really is going to come to the aid of Judah.

Unwilling to suspend his psychological warfare against Judah, Sennacherib sends Hezekiah another threatening message. "So he again sent messengers to Hezekiah with this word: 'Say to Hezekiah king of Judah: Do not let the god you depend on deceive you when he says, 'Jerusalem will not be given into the hands of the king of Assyria.' Surely you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all the countries, destroying them completely. And will you be delivered? Did the gods of the nations that were destroyed by my predecessors deliver them---the gods of Gozan, Harran, Rezeph and the people of Eden who were in Tel Assar? Where is the king of Hamath or the king of Arpad? Where are the kings of Lair, Sepharvaim, Hena and Ivvah?'" (2 Kings 19:9b-13) Again Sennacherib fails to understand the difference between the living God and the idols of the nations. He blasphemes His name again, making Him equal with false gods. He attacks the word of the Lord spoken through the prophet Isaiah, calling the Lord a liar.

This next passage is one of my favorites. Hezekiah receives this ugly letter and takes it straight to the only One who can do anything about it. "Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord." (2 Kings 19:14) This is a beautiful act of faith. The king of Judah is helpless against the enemy. The army of Judah is helpless against the enemy. Egypt is not coming to help, nor is any other nation. It is just Judah and her God against a mighty army. 

There are some things in my life right now that nobody can help me with but God. My Father in heaven is the only One with the power to solve my problems. I bet some of you have problems that no one but God can solve. We might as well take these things straight to Him and lay them out before Him. We come to our God in helplessness, like Hezekiah, knowing that we have an enemy we are powerless to overcome on our own. But with God on our side, we are greater than any enemy. 

"And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord: 'Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, You alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Give ear, Lord, and hear; open Your eyes, Lord, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God.'" (2 Kings 19:14-16) Hezekiah reminds himself that God is still on the throne. God is the maker of heaven and earth; no idols of any of the nations had any part in the creation. The false gods fell before the Assyrians because they were not gods at all, only powerless carved images. But the God of Israel is the one true God, the maker of all things, having power over all things. So Hezekiah invites the Lord to look on the blasphemous letter and read the terrible words of the king of Assyria.

"It is true, 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 human hands. Now, Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You alone, Lord, are God." (2 Kings 19:17-19) The king of Assyria isn't boasting without reason. He and the kings before him really have conquered many nations and have thrown the idols of those nations into the fire. But that is because those gods were unable to save. The God whom Hezekiah worships is mighty to save, mighty in battle, mighty in power. Hezekiah says, "Lord, the Assyrians overthrew the pagan nations because their gods were not gods. But don't let King Sennacherib conquer Judah. Show him that You are the living God, the one and only God."

The Lord hears Hezekiah's prayer. He knows how the Assyrians have blasphemed His name and He knows Judah is unable to fight this powerful enemy. In tomorrow's study He will send comforting words to Hezekiah through the prophet Isaiah. The Lord will send a message of hope to Judah, calling that nation "daughter", reassuring her that her Father in heaven is going to act on her behalf.

The Lord calls me "daughter" too and the last few days I've had to take some problems and concerns to my Father (my Daddy) in heaven. He is able to do all the things that I can't. My enemy is powerful but my God is far more powerful. So I intend to do what Hezekiah did. He didn't look to the right hand or to the left hand; he simply went straight to the Lord. Our enemy is much like King Sennacherib, speaking blasphemy against God, speaking words of discouragement, telling us not to get our hopes up that God will come to the rescue. Let's shut all those lies out and do what Hezekiah did. He's aware of what his enemy is saying but those ugly words draw him closer to the living God. He refuses to surrender. He refuses to let the lies of the enemy keep him from the house of God. Let's take our problems and place them before the Lord. He knows what we're up against in this world. He sees and hears our problems just as He saw and heard Hezekiah's problems. Never mind what the enemy says against the holy name of our God, for our Redeemer is mighty to save. Our Redeemer loves us and is for us. With Him on our side, how can we lose?

Below is a worship song link that celebrates the awesome power of our Savior.

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