Isaiah 36, 37
Have you ever convinced yourself that you have done things so well that nothing bad could possibly happen to you? And then it happens! Real life hits and suddenly life just doesn’t seem fair. What have I done to deserve this kind of treatment?
None of us can plead total innocence on any of these counts. If we possess any spiritual maturity at all, we have learned that “negative” life experiences become some of our best teachers. The Apostle Paul put it this way, “I’ve experienced poverty…I have had some prosperity.” Paul concluded. “I have learned how to be content in whatever state I might be in.” We understand from this that contentment and peace of mind are learned behaviors.
Our reading today from Isaiah highlights some of the life of King Hezekiah. This good king was described as one of those kings who “did what was right in the sight of the Lord, just as his father David had done…” Hezekiah ascended the throne at the young age of twenty-five. For most of his twenty-nine years in office he performed well.
Isaiah 36 lets us in on a bad time in Hezekiah’s experience. In his fourteenth year of his reign over Judah, the king of Assyria began attacking the fortified cities of Judah. The Assyrian king’s field commander, accompanied by a large army began a terrorizing attack on the cities around Judah. As is the case in some of our experiences, the enemy uses intimidating words against us to create doubt in us. Notice the words of the Assyrian field commander.
“Do not listen to Hezekiah…make peace with me and come out to me. Every one of you will eat from his own vine and fig tree and drink water from his own cistern.” (Isaiah 36:16) “Don’t let Hezekiah mislead you…Has the god of any nation ever delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria? (Isaiah 36:18)
At this point in the story, it would seem that the forces of Hezekiah had reached a tipping point. They could have fallen either way. The tide turns, however, when Isaiah is consulted as to what to do. Hezekiah dispatches leaders from the temple to hear Isaiah. Consider the prophets response to this barrage of intimidating words from Assyria.
“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! I am going to put a spirit in him so that when he hears a certain report, he will return to his own country and there I will have him cut down with the sword.”
Strengthening the resolve of these leaders from Jerusalem, Isaiah sent a letter back to Hezekiah. With letter in hand, the king went to the temple and spread out the letter on the altar and prayed.
“O Lord Almighty, 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, O Lord and hear; open your eyes, O Lord and see; listen to all the words Sennacherib has sent to insult the living God.” (Isaiah 37: 16-18)
At the end of this lengthy prayer, God responded. “Then the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty five thousand men in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies.” (Isaiah 37:36, 37)
Haven’t we all been in the shoes of Hezekiah at some point in our lives? Perhaps it was a financial dilemma. It might have been a domestic crisis. A marriage went bad. Children rebelled. Or perhaps it’s your health.
As I read this story from Isaiah, I am encouraged to know that nothing is beyond God’s ability to intervene.
Take heart, the problem you find yourself in today is not the “end of the world.” Find a place to pray.
He heard Hezekiah.
He’ll hear you.