Fourth in the COURAGE series
We sometimes read of business people, pastors and politicians who stand up against evil and refuse to compromise their principles, but perhaps it took them some time to gather their resolve. Maybe they spent many days weighing one action against another, and praying to know what to do. Maybe they fasted and cried out for courage to stand against those who would belittle, rob, defame and silence them.
In days to come or even today, we might need to know how to proceed against an enemy. We may not be able to quickly figure out what to do, and our first response could be unwise.
The special story of Hezekiah and the Assyrian army told in 2 Kings 18, 2 Chronicles 32 and Isaiah 37 describes this type of personal crisis. Many stories are found in two books of the Bible, but how many in three? (I'll have to look into this.)
Hezekiah began to reign as Judah's king in 715 BC. This was in the third year of Hoshea, the king of Israel. (2 Ki 18:1) Hezekiah did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, as David had done. He trusted God, excelling the other kings of Judah. The Lord was with him and he prospered. (2 Ki 18:3-6) He restored proper worship in the temple (2 Ch 29) and this brought great comfort and excitement to Judah and to many in Israel. (2 Ch 30:25)
In his fourth year as king, the seventh year of king Hoshea of Israel, the king of Assyria surrounded Samaria and in three years conquered her and "carried away Israel unto Assyria" (2 Ki18:11) because of their horrific disobedience.
A side note to this historic account is that when the Assyrian king removed Israel from her land he sent men from Babylon, Cutlah and other conquered cities to dwell there, but they did not fear the Lord so the Lord sent lions among them. Therefore, the king of Assyria sent one of the priests of Israel back to Samaria to "teach them the manner of the God of the land." (2 Ki 17: 24-27) After that, the new Samaritans feared the Lord but still served their own gods. The area had not changed much when Jesus visited there and asked the woman at the well for a drink. (John 4:7)
In Hezekiah's fourteenth year as king, the king of Assyria, Sennacherib, attacked and seized the fenced cities of Judah! (2 Ki 18:13) In his shock, Hezekiah sent a message to this king that he realized he had offended him and would bear whatever yoke necessary, sending him 300 talents of silver and 30 talents of gold. In fact, Hezekiah gave Sennacherib all the silver found in the Temple and in his own house, and even cut off the gold from the doors of the temple of the Lord and from the pillars which he as king had overlaid with gold. (2 Ki 18:15, 16)
O unhappy day! Hezekiah had jumped to a conclusion because of fear and disillusionment, yet the Lord was working all things together for good. This affront would lead him to cry out to God and his prophet, Isaiah, for help.
Of course, the financial appeasement did not work but only whetted the appetite of the Assyrians, and a host with three terrifying leaders arrived to take over Jerusalem. They taunted the people, urging them to turn against Hezekiah and to make a truce with them, reminding them that no other nation had been successful in escaping the Assyrian conquerors. Nevertheless the people did not answer because Hezekiah had told them not to.
Meanwhile, after fortifying Jerusalem, Hezekiah rent his clothes, covered himself with sackcloth, went to the temple, and sent his faithful men to Isaiah to ask for his prayers for the remnant. (2 Ki 19:1-5) They explained to Isaiah that the Assyrians had reproached the living God.
Isaiah told them, Thus shall ye say unto your master, Thus saith the LORD, Be not afraid of the words that thou hast heard, wherewith the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me. Behold, I will send a blast upon him, and he shall hear a rumour, and return to his own land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land. (Is 37:6-7) ... I will defend this city to save it for mine own sake, and for my servant David's sake. (Is 37:33-35)
So it was that the aggression of the Assyrians was halted. The angel of the LORD "smote" 185,000 Assyrian soldiers, and any yet alive early that day, on waking saw all the corpses. Sennacherib departed, retiring to Nineveh, and not long after as he worshipped his god, his sons killed him by sword. (2 Ki 19:35-57)
Reflecting upon this story, we may wonder: Since Hezekiah was a good and obedient king, why did the Lord allow the Assyrians to invade and conquer the fenced cities of Judah?
Inevitably in life's trials, we will take some losses. Fear will grip us, squeezing the life from our hearts. Then, we will be led to reflect upon the ways of God, and to seek his direction and thoughts toward us.
The lesson here is that enemy attacks, disrespect, threats and even loss of property and security are not a reason to give up and assume the worst.
When Satan derides and condemns you, boasting that he will enslave you, do not believe him or try to appease his mockers. Remember how much MORE powerful the living God is, whose foundation... standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. (2 Tim 2:19) The Lord is well able to defend his church and people, yet, as Hezekiah did, we must obey God's commands and depart from evil.