Often when one resolves to wholeheartedly follow Christ and the Lord God, it is not some easy passage toward the Heavenly Kingdom.
Though the good news is, we won’t be left without the aid of Omnipotence! Yet there is a sore battle along the way. When king Hezekiah began to purify the land and seek the Lord whole heartedly, he sometime later was faced with a very formidable foe. Sennacherib, king of Assyria marched out and made his presence known.
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 counsel and might for war—but you speak only empty words. On whom are you depending, that you rebel against me? (Isaiah 36:4-5)
The field commander under Sennacherib then went on to insult God and say it was no use to trust in the Lord God, because no god of any other nation was able to deliver them.
“Do not listen to Hezekiah. This is what the king of Assyria says: Make peace with me and come out to me. Then each of you will eat fruit from your own vine and fig tree and drink water from your own cistern, until I come and take you to a land like your own —a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards. “Do not let Hezekiah mislead you when he says, ‘The Lord will deliver us.’ Have the gods of any nations ever delivered their lands from the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim? Have they rescued Samaria from my hand? Who of all the gods of these countries have been able to save their lands from me? How then can the Lord deliver Jerusalem from my hand?” But the people remained silent and said nothing in reply, because the king had commanded, “Do not answer him.” (Isaiah 36:16-21)
Sennacherib was only a man made of flesh and blood. He does though depict Satan in a sense, and uses a strategy to first cast doubt and offer a empty promise.
First Sennacherib boasts in insolence against God and rages out the pride of his own heart. Then he uses fear and tempts them to surrender by offering to bring them into a good land.
“Make peace with me and come out to me. Then each of you will eat fruit from your own vine and fig tree and drink water from your own cistern, until I come and take you to a land like your own —a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards.”
Jesus while he was tempted in the wilderness for forty days by the devil, was offered several tempting alternatives. One was “All this will I give to you, if you bow down and worship me.” Jesus does not reason with the devil any more then Hezekiah tries to reason with Sennacherib. Jesus merely quotes the word of God and defeats the devil, three recorded occasions.
See how Hezekiah also says: “But the people remained silent and said nothing in reply, because the king had commanded, “Do not answer him.”
We cannot argue with the devil. The Wird of God though can disarm the devil. Also, praying to the Lord of heaven is another way to deal with temptation as well as a crisis.
We see how Hezekiah responds:
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. And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord: “ Lord Almighty, 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 all the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God. “It is true, Lord, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste all these peoples 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, Lord, are the only God. ”
Isaiah 37:14-20 –
There are some noteworthy elements to Hezekiah’s prayer. We should learn from how he approaches God in prayer.
• His prayer magnified God’s power and position as the One on the throne of heaven.
• Hezekiah acknowledges there is a very real threat. He neither shrinks the problem but acknowledges it is serious.
This is important especially when we are struggling with some problem of sin we want to overcome. We should be honest to God that we know it is very serious and not justify it. We must own a struggle that threatens to sink us and seek God’s delivering power! Often we may feel fear that if we are honest and straightforward about a struggle with sin, we may be all the more afraid if we come to grips there is something serious going on! Yet, God is more then able to grant the honest heart who intercedes what is needed to overcome!
• Hezekiah’s prayer also upheld God’s glory in the petition. His prayer sought God be glorified through the deliverance He would bring!
Jesus taught us to pray “Our Father, who is heaven, holy be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10)
We see eventually God does respond and Isaiah the prophet comes and says, “Then Isaiah son of Amoz sent a message to Hezekiah: “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Because you have prayed to me concerning Sennacherib king of Assyria, (Isaiah 37:21)
I find it fascinating the language God uses, he says “Because you have prayed to me concerning Sennacherib king of Assyria.”
God does not say “I heard your prayer about Sennacherib” but seems to suggest a lesson on prayer. The Apostle James says of unanswered prayer: “You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
We see though Hezekiah’s prayer benefited both himself and the people greatly, it was not just about himself. God’s glory was in mind and the character of God was on the line. Sennacherib was boasting against God.
God eventually says “this is the word the Lord has spoken against him: “Virgin Daughter Zion despises and mocks you. Daughter Jerusalem tosses her head as you flee. Who is it you have ridiculed and blasphemed? Against whom have you raised your voice and lifted your eyes in pride? Against the Holy One of Israel! By your messengers you have ridiculed the Lord. And you have said, ‘With my many chariots I have ascended the heights of the mountains, the utmost heights of Lebanon. I have cut down its tallest cedars, the choicest of its junipers. I have reached its remotest heights, the finest of its forests. I have dug wells in foreign lands and drunk the water there. With the soles of my feet I have dried up all the streams of Egypt.’ “Have you not heard? Long ago I ordained it. In days of old I planned it; now I have brought it to pass, that you have turned fortified cities into piles of stone. Their people, drained of power, are dismayed and put to shame. They are like plants in the field, like tender green shoots, like grass sprouting on the roof, scorched before it grows up. “But I know where you are and when you come and go and how you rage against me. Because you rage against me and because your insolence has reached my ears, I will put my hook in your nose and my bit in your mouth, and I will make you return by the way you came. (Isaiah 37:22-29)
As a result, “Then the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies! So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there. One day, while he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisrok, his sons Adrammelek and Sharezer killed him with the sword, and they escaped to the land of Ararat. And Esarhaddon his son succeeded him as king. (Isaiah 37:36-38)
As we see throughout Scripture in many place, God is very interested in defending His glory and name. God is very keenly interested in His honor and reputation, and rightfully so. He is not selfish in doing so. He knows we need Him far more then we could ever realize. If we fail to esteem Him in His glory, we will suffer more so then He. He needs nothing we can provide Him and is entirely self sustaining, but it is for our good we learn to esteem Him as rightful King.
As Paul preached to a crowd of people on the book of Acts and said:
“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”
We need God, he does not need us. He desires us, even before we desired Him.
The only thing we can give to God is what he desires, but he does not need- he wants our love and loyalty in response to His kindness and goodness. This is the only thing of value he sees we could ever offer. He wants our hearts!