Sunday, October 10, 2010

What Are You Trusting In?

The challenge came to the people of Jerusalem from the mighty King of Assyria, who was conquering cities left and right. The Israelites were to surrender to Sennacherib and his powerful army, or the city of Jerusalem would be put under siege. Shouting his threats in Hebrew, the king’s messenger believed that he could convince the people to give up hope that their God would rescue them, so that they would submit to Assyria, as all those before them had done. But would they?

What are you trusting in that makes you so confident?” (Isaiah 36:4)

With your tiny army, how can you think of challenging even the weakest contingent of my master’s troops, even with the help of Egypt’s chariots and horsemen?” (v. 9)

“What god of any nation has ever been able to save its people from my power? Name just one! So what makes you think that the LORD can rescue Jerusalem? (v. 20)

Using further tactics of doubt, confusion, deception, temptation, and fear, the messenger certainly had a persuasive argument for turning the Israelites’ loyalty away from their king Hezekiah and their God. A simple statement is the only record we have of the people’s response. They “were silent and did not answer because Hezekiah had told them not to speak.” (v. 21) So much is there though, isn’t it? True loyalty and obedience. Of course, the people must have been wrestling with fear and dread and panic. But they waited to see what their godly leader would do.

Hezekiah received this bad news in an admirable way. He “tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and went into the Temple of the LORD to pray.” (37:1) And he sent the news on to the prophet Isaiah, seeking his prayers for their desperate situation. The prophet sent him back a reply from the LORD:

Do not be disturbed by this blasphemous speech…
I will make sure the king will receive a report…
I will make him want to return home…
I will have him killed with a sword…” (v. 5-7)

A longer response would come later. But this initial reminder to Hezekiah that God was aware and that He was in control was enough to sustain his confidence.

Another message from Sennacherib, full of boasting and threats, came to Hezekiah:
Don’t let this God you trust deceive you with promises that Jerusalem will not be captured by the king of Assyria. You know perfectly well what the kings of Assyria have done wherever they have gone. They have crushed everyone who stood in their way. Why should you be any different? Have the gods of other nations rescued them…” (v. 10-12)

My heart sings with the way Hezekiah responds to this letter! He spread the letter out before the LORD in His Temple and prayed:

O LORD Almighty, God of Israel, you are enthroned between the mighty cherubim! You alone are God of all the kingdoms of the earth. Listen to me, O LORD, and hear! Open your eyes, O LORD, and see! Listen to Sennacherib’s words of defiance against the living God!

It is true, LORD, that the kings of Assyria have destroyed all these nations, just as the message says. And they have thrown the gods of these nations into the fire and burned them. But of course the Assyrians could destroy them! They were not gods at all—only idols of wood and stone shaped by human hands. Now, O LORD, our God, rescue us from his power. Then all the kingdoms of the earth will know that you alone, O LORD, are God. (v. 16-20)

Don’t you love it? Hezekiah first and foremost affirms God’s sovereignty and authority over all the nations. He acknowledges what Sennacherib said that was true, but understands that Assyria could burn the gods of other nations only because they were idols shaped by human hands and were not gods at all. He pleads for God to listen and to see, to rescue His people from the Assyrians so that not only the Israelites, but all the nations of the earth would recognize that God alone is God!

Then a message came for Sennacherib, through Isaiah, from the LORD:
(I can imagine the thunder!)
Whom do you think you have been insulting and ridiculing? Against whom did you raise your voice? At whom did you look on in such proud condescension? It was the Holy One of Israel! (v. 23)

God continued to humble this mighty king by explaining that He had planned all of this long ago. The only reason that Assyria was so powerful was because God had allowed them to conquer the land, at that point in history, to accomplish the purposes of God. He also told Sennacherib that God would make him return home in defeat.

Isaiah then told Hezekiah what proof the LORD would give that He would protect the city and told him God’s answer to their prayers:

“And this is what the LORD says about the king of Assyria: His armies will not enter Jerusalem to shoot their arrow. They will not march outside its gates with their shields and build banks of earth against its walls. The king will return to his own country by the road on which he came. He will not enter this city, says the LORD. For my honor and for the sake of my servant David, I will defend it.” (v. 33-35)

God thwarted mighty Assyria’s plans to conquer Jerusalem for He had a bigger plan that would not fail, no matter how tiny the army of Jerusalem was.

“That night the angel of the LORD went out to the Assyrian camp and killed 185,000 troops.” (v. 36)

“Then King Sennacherib broke camp and returned to his own land.” (v. 37)

And one day his sons killed him, while he was worshipping in the temple of his god. (v. 38)

What are you trusting in?

This simple but huge question reveals our true hearts when we are attacked with doubt, fear, confusion, deception, or temptation from the enemy. Will we give up hope that God can rescue us and listen instead to the boasts and threats that the advancing army is sure to defeat us? Or will we trust in God alone and cry out to Him to save us, as Hezekiah did and proclaim:

“O LORD Almighty, you alone are God of all the kingdoms of the earth!
Rescue us so that all the nations will know that you alone, O LORD, are God.

Hezekiah lived out the faith of his forefather, King David, who years earlier had written: “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.” (Psalm 20:7)

Our temptations today to put our trust elsewhere are probably not chariots and horses, but could include wealth, our ability, our wisdom, other people, possessions, position, popularity, modern medicine....

What are you trusting in?

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