Good morning. It is currently 6:32 am (!) and I am feeling overwhelmed with something I read during my quiet time this morning. So I’m going to regurgitate it here for you (isn’t that a lovely word picture for such an early hour?).
Thanks to the encouragement of a good friend last night, I decided this morning to pick up my No Other Gods Bible study book and start working through it again.
It was amazing. The story Kelly Minter had us read was 2 Chronicles 32:1-23. If you don’t have time to read it for yourself, I’ll give you the Reader’s Digest version.
The story begins with these words: “After these acts of faithfulness Sennacherib king of Assyria came and invaded Judah”. The “acts of faithfulness” are outlined in the previous chapter, 2 Chronicles 31:20-21: “Thus Hezekiah…did what was good, right and true before the Lord his God. Every work which he began in the service of the house of God in law and in commandment, seeking his God, he did with all his heart and prospered.”
So at the end of Chapter 31, we’re applauding Hezekiah for being a good king. Then we read that after all those acts of faithfulness, Sennacherib decides to invade Judah.
To quote my brother-in-law, “Whaaaaaat????” I thought God REWARDED the faithful!! But hold on – the story isn’t over.
So Hezekiah gets busy and starts fortifying cities and stopping up the water wells and preparing. Then he encourages the people with these words: “Be strong and courageous, do not fear or be dismayed because of the king of Assyria nor because of all the horde that is with him; for the one with us is greater than the one with him” (v.7).
By the way, isn’t it interesting – Kelly points this out in the Bible study – how similar that verse is to this one:”greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4)? I guess that might be considered a Biblical theme, huh? (See with what ease I put those 4 years of seminary into use?!!)
So back to the story. It gets worse before it gets better. Sennacherib starts out by saying (in my own paraphrase), do you really think your God is going to be any more effective in your case than the gods of all these other people I defeated? To quote Sennacherib, “Do you not know what I and my fathers have done to all the peoples of the lands?” (2 Chronicles 32:13). He’s trying to intimidate them. Then he sends his people over to “talk trash” to the Israelites living in Jerusalem.
I particularly love this part, because it really speaks to me: “They called this out with a loud voice in the language of Judah to the people of Jerusalem who were on the wall, to frighten and terrify them, so that they might take the city. They spoke of the God of Jerusalem as of the gods of the peoples of the earth, the work of men’s hands” (2 Chronicles 32:18-19).
I find it particularly interesting that they used the “language of Judah” to call out “with a loud voice”. So many voices are constantly screaming at us for attention. And the ones we tune in to, the ones that are able to defeat our built-in filter, are the ones that “speak our language”. And who speaks our language better than our closest friends and family? Therefore they are the ones who have the most influence over us. That can be particularly difficult when they remove God from the equation of our lives, which is what Sennacherib’s servants were doing.
But Hezekiah resisted: “But King Hezekiah and Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, prayed about this and cried out to heaven” (2 Chronicles 32:20). He turned to God, and in his case, the results were astounding.
“And the Lord sent an angel who destroyed every mighty warrior, commander and officer in the camp of the king of Assyria. So he returned in shame to his own land. And when he had entered the temple of his god, some of his own children killed him there with the sword”(2 Chronicles 32:21).
Okay, so maybe it doesn’t always happen that way, but it did this time. God took Sennacherib’s words personally, and He killed him. And then it goes on to say the Hezekiah was exalted among the other kings and enjoyed peace and prosperity. There’s more to Hezekiah’s story, but at least in this case, the ending is a good one.
What really struck me about this story, however, was that it is an example of how desperate things can look when you’re in the middle of the siege. And how easy it is for us me to get mad at God for my situation. In fact, it speaks volumes to me that Hezekiah was doing everything right when Sennacherib attacked. But I think God was waiting to see if Hezekiah would continue doing everything right during the attack. And he did.
Good for him – I usually don’t. But maybe next time I’m under siege, my Bible will open to this story and I will remember that there will always be an end to the storms of life but God is watching to see how I react to the stress. And maybe that will be enough, but if it isn’t, I can be sure there will be another storm a’coming.