Hezekiah and Sennacherib

2 Kings 18 and Psalm 68

Hezekiah, son of Ahaz, became king of Judah when he was 25 years old and reigned for 29 years during the height of Isaiah’s prophetic years. Finally, after reading about horrible leadership we see these words:

He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father David had done. … And the Lord was with him; he was successful in whatever he undertook. 2 Kings 18:3,7

Hezekiah did away with the “high places,” he cleaned the slate that previous kings refused to eliminate; he did it because it was the right thing to do, not for personal glory. He even destroyed the bronze snake that Moses made, at the direction of the Lord, to save those who were bitten by snakes during their journey (Numbers 21:4-9). He had to destroy it because these people considered it an idol, they “were burning incense to it” (2 Kings 18:4). Crazy stuff!!

Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him. 2 Kings 18:5

It’s important to note that Hezekiah rose to the throne while the Assyrians were overpowering Israel in Samaria–essentially the rest of the Promised Land. He had no possible way of repelling the Assyrians, no way to prevent them from taking the tiny tribe of Judah. Yet here he was, completely faithful. He removed the idols and taught the people to worship the One True God. He listened to Isaiah.

Hezekiah was in his early 30’s when the Assyrians carried away his brothers, those following the king of Israel (northern kingdom) off to exile–to their eventual death. But he remained faithful.

By his 40th birthday, the arrogant Assyrians, under leadership of Sennacherib, attacked Judah and captured the fortified cities. The NIV Study Bible notes refer to Sennacherib’s own documents that indicate he captured 200,000+ people across 46 cities and Hezekiah was a mere “bird in a cage” hiding in his palace.

Sennacherib sends an envoy to Hezekiah as he prepares to mop up the rest of the kingdom (at least in his mind). The message is strong, demeaning, demoralizing and clear: we took your fortified cities, you’re next! The Assyrian supreme commander sends the message loud and clear for all to hear:

This is what the great king, the king of Assyria, says: On what are you basing this confidence of yours? You say you have the counsel and the might for ware–but you speak only empty words. 2 Kings 18:19-20

He goes on to taunt and completely disrespect the Lord, doing everything he can to demoralize the people. The commander continues,

“Was is only to your master and you that my master sent me to say these things, and not to the people sitting on the wall — who, like you, will have to eat their own excrement and drink their own urine?” 2 Kings 18:27

Seriously? Did you just say that in the Bible? The commander isn’t done. He was speaking in Aramaic up to that point, now he switches to Hebrew and continues his tirade against the people of God. Over and over the commander speaks against the Lord and Hezekiah,

“Do not let Hezekiah deceive you… Do not let Hezekiah persuade you to trust in the Lord… Do not listen to Hezekiah… Do not listen to Hezekiah…” 2 Kings 18:28-35

Here’s the remarkable response from the people who follow Hezekiah as their king and trust in the Lord:

the people remained silent and said nothing in reply 2 Kings 19:36

Nothing. Silence.

Is it possible that we should react to vicious attacks against us with silence? Is this the season to be silent? The oppression of the Assyrians is huge! If the boastful Sennacherib is accurate, he’s just captured more than the population of Anderson, Greenville and Columbia combined and now he surrounds Jerusalem. His words are not mere words, they are backed up by aggressive actions against our brothers and sisters. Nothing? Silence?

I can only imagine that these people, the remnant of God’s chosen, have listened to Isaiah’s words, they have watched the faithful actions of Hezekiah, and they have made the decision to trust God completely.

Lord, give us a discerning heart to know how you would have us react. May we have the confidence to completely trust in your word, your ways and your timing in all things–even as our enemies surround us! Let us know when the response should be silence and when we should respond boldly. Help us to seek you in all things. Put a song in our mouths to sing in confidence and with great joy:

May God arise, may his enemies be scattered;
    may his foes flee before him.
May you blow them away like smoke—
    as wax melts before the fire,
    may the wicked perish before God.
But may the righteous be glad and rejoice before God;
    may they be happy and joyful. Psalm 68:1-3

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Let the Word evoke words. May your life encourage lives.

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