When we face formidable circumstances in our lives many of us find it quite challenging to remain confident. We may consider the daunting situation, our perceived lack of strength, past failures, or our lack of resources. The next thing we know we’re nursing an insecure and quivering heart. If there’s ever a situation where those sentiments would’ve been logical, it was when Hezekiah, King of Judah was confronted by Sennacherib, King of Assyria as told in 2 Kings 18-19.
Huddled together and shaking with fear, they squatted on top of the wall and peered at the Tartan, the Rabsaris, and the Rabshakeh as they stood in front of the great army of Sennacherib, king of Assyria. Rabshakeh’s voice echoed loudly, “What confidence is this in which you trust?” (2 Kings 18:19) It was the Rabshakeh, the chief in staff of king Sennacherib. “Now look! You are trusting in the staff of this broken reed, Egypt, on which if a man leans, it will go into his hand and pierce it. So is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who trust in him.” (2 Kings 18:21)
The mighty army stood (strategically I believe) next to the aqueduct, and the threats reverberated loudly through the air. “….Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, for he shall not be able to deliver from his hand; nor let Hezekiah make you trust in the LORD, saying, ‘The LORD will surely deliver us; this city shall not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.’ Do not listen to Hezekiah; for thus says the king of Assyria; Make peace with me by a present and come out to me; and every one of you eat from his own vine and every one from his own fig tree, and every one of you drink the waters of his own cistern;” (2 Kings 18:29-31)
I imagine chills ran down their spine and their legs were wobbly with fear. The army of Sennacherib, the infamous king of Assyria now stood at your front door. His feats were well known and the Rabshakeh would be so kind to cite it for you, reminding you that no one had ever prevailed against them. He asked, “Has any of the gods of the nations at all delivered its land from the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim and Hena and Ivah? Indeed have they delivered Samaria from my hand?” (2 Kings 18:33-34 NKJV) Rabshakeh, contrary to custom, spoke in Hebrew instead of Aramaic, so all the people heard and feared. Hezekiah’s representatives Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah tore their clothes when they heard these words. They shared these grievous threats with him, and King Hezekiah also tore his clothes in anguish.
It was a critical decision-making moment. Do we yield to the words of Sennacherib and give him pledge? His army was outside, weapons poised and ready to strike. And what the Rabshakeh said was true. Hezekiah’s alliance with Egypt would not likely stand against him. And none of the “gods” of the other nations had prevailed against him. His blasphemous boasts against the Lord were public and heralded before the ears of all the people.
So what will Hezekiah, King of Judah, do?
Most of us have experienced helplessness and faced with circumstances above our capacity. The physician may have given us a diagnosis and shook his head, stating he’s out of options. Your eyes may be spent with tears for a child whose lost his way, and you don’t know if he’ll ever come home. You’ve cut off the cable, internet and shop generic grocery items, but there’s still not enough money.
In times like this, God’s people can take heart.
One key observation is seen in the character of Hezekiah. 2 Kings 18:3 states “And he did what was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father David had done.” Verse 6 states “For he held fast to the LORD; he did not depart from following Him, but he kept His commandments, which the LORD had commanded Moses.” Hezekiah loved God enough to do what was right in His sight. He clung to Him. We too need to acquire a deep conviction and do ‘what thus sayeth the LORD.’ Without exception. In spite of every circumstance. In our culture today, right and wrong has become subjective and we have a tendency to make decisions according to “what’s right for me.” Yet Hezekiah cared more about what was right in God’s sight. Though many would have rationalized pledging to Sennacherib, he trusting in God as his Savior was always the right thing to do.
So what does this look life for us?
It means choosing to give as we prosper, trusting God for our provisions more than our budget. It means we’ll choose to assemble with the saints instead forsaking the assembly, because we’re convicted to be obedient and believe in the blessings of being with one another. It means choosing to spend time with Him in His Word, because we know it will help us more than all of the best-selling books on the New York Times list. For Hezekiah, it meant taking God at His word and remembering Him for all that He is.
So again, what did Hezekiah do?
He told another man of God, the prophet Isaiah. The 2 Chronicles account (32:20) shares that King Hezekiah and Isaiah prayed and cried out to heaven. The beauty of being in God’s family is that we don’t have to bear our burdens alone. God’s family prays and intercedes for you. They’ll encourage you and share testimonies of how God strengthened them. Isaiah tells them “….Thus says the LORD: Do not be afraid of the words which you have heard with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed Me.” (2 Kings 19:6b) When we find ourselves in difficult situations it’s good to have a fellow servant of God tell you what ‘Thus says the LORD.”
Secondly, Hezekiah, though he’d been reminded of Sennacherib’s military feats, knew it wasn’t worthy of being mentioned considering works of our God in heaven. Listen to his prayer, “O LORD God of Israel, the One who dwells between the cherubim, You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth.” (2 Kings 19:15b) Sennacherib may have defeated a slew of nations, however his strength was insignificant compared to the one who made all nations, the heaven and the earth. Hezekiah prays, “Truly, LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands, have cast their gods into the fire; for they were not gods, but the work of men’s hands—wood and stone. Therefore they destroyed them.” (2 Kings 19:17-18) The created gods were only works of men and had no power. The LORD God is the One with all power and strength and could not only deliver them, but do so mightily. In the moments when we find ourselves low on strength, we too need to call on Him, having faith in His power and His righteousness.
The LORD God is the One with all power and strength and could not only deliver Hezekiah and his men, but do so mightily. In the moments when we find ourselves low on strength, we too need to call on Him, having faith in His power and His righteousness.
Lastly, we can learn something else from Hezekiah. In his prayer, he prays for God to save them, but for a fundamental purpose. In 2 Kings 19:19 he prays, “Now therefore, O Lord our God, I pray, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the LORD God, You alone.” Hezekiah’s care was for His name sake. He prayed to be saved not to preserve his name as king of Judah, but so all the kingdoms would know that You are God. Do we have this heart of Hezekiah, where what’s most important is that the world knows the LORD God? In fact, isn’t knowing Him, described as eternal life by Jesus Christ? “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3) When we develop the mind of Christ, having the world know God becomes more important to us, just as it was to Hezekiah.
And not surprisingly at all, at the end of this story God saves mightily! God promises in 2 Kings 19:32-34 that the king of Assyria couldn’t come into the city or even throw an arrow there. Despite all his boasting, Sennacherib never set foot in the city. The Lord promised to save it and did so triumphantly! Sennacherib ultimately ended up returning to Nineveh where he was killed by his own sons as he worshipped his false god in the temple. The strength of any man, false god or every false teaching will ultimately crumble when faced against the Lord God. Hezekiah’s faced a formidable foe in Sennacherib yet demonstrated fully the answer to Rabshakeh’s question, ‘What confidence is this in which you trust?’ His confidence, as ours, should be in our Lord.
by Rachel Robertson