Taking it to the Lord
Isaiah 37: Then he went into the sanctuary of God and spread the letter out before God.
The threat Sennacherib makes to Judah through his general Rabshekah can’t be ignored. King Hezekiah sends representatives to God’s man, Isaiah, to seek a response from the Lord. God doesn’t let Hezekiah down. The Lord has heard the threats and the blasphemy and is going to personally deal with the situation. Not long after that, Sennacherib is called away to deal with a crisis elsewhere in his kingdom. However, before he leaves he sends a letter to Hezekiah, promising that he’ll be back to finish the destruction of Jerusalem just as he promised. Upon receiving that letter Hezekiah takes it to the Temple. There, in the presence of God he opens that scroll and spreads it out before the Lord. He prays, reminding himself and God of the promise the Lord made to take care of Sennacherib and to protect his people. I love what Hezekiah does with that letter. He knows that the Lord has promised to deliver him but that letter and the threat it contains is real. Rather than letting it consume him with fear he takes it to the Lord. This is a lesson I need to learn. What difference might it make if I take that lab report from the doctor that’s causing me concern and lay it out before the Lord when I pray? Or maybe a good course of action is to write out the situation from work that’s worrying me and then lay it out before the Lord? I’m not saying that this is some magical formula for getting the Lord to do what I want him to do. However, I do think that it might serve as a practical reminder to me that God does know about these difficult situations and that he has promised to walk with me through even in them.
Take Away: In the words of the old hymn: “Oh, what peace we often forfeit, oh, what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer!
Just the facts
Isaiah 36: Be reasonable. Face the facts.
There’s nothing theoretical about the threat Sennacherib of Assyria and his great army is to Jerusalem. They can crush that city as they have crushed many others. The king sends a spokesman with his terms of surrender and he minces no words in telling them what will come if they don’t give in. He offers them a choice: be starved and then destroyed, or surrender and be relocated to a distant land under the rule of Assyria. The king’s man, Rabshekah, isn’t much of a diplomat. He’s convinced that these pitiful people are in his hands and that either through defeat or surrender his army will win the day. He says to them, “Be reasonable…face the facts…” pointing out that they couldn’t mount an opposing army even if they were given horses and chariots with which to fight. Those words strike terror in the hearts of all who hear them. In that terror all of God’s promises are forgotten and they’re ready to do the “reasonable” thing and abandon their faith. I am, I think, a reasonable person and generally do a good job of learning the facts and acting on what I’ve learned. However, there’s a whole set of “facts” that can only be seen with the eyes of faith. Rabshekah’s facts ignore the fact that these are the people of God and that God has something to say about what happens to them. In the decisions I make I must remember that I’ve surrendered my life to the Lord and, even though some facts aren’t apparent to me, they’re clear to him. When I’ve done my spreadsheet of pluses and minuses, I must remember that there’s a dimension beyond my view and that dimension is every bit as real as the facts and figures I might collect. If I’m going to be truly reasonable, I must carefully listen to the Lord. That’s the only way I can really keep my facts straight.
Take Away: Even though some facts aren’t apparent to me, they’re clear to the Lord.
Guilt free living
Isaiah 33: Best of all, they’ll all live guilt-free.
Jerusalem is conquered, now condemned by Assyria to bow and scrape to those in control of their holy city. Isaiah promises that things won’t remain as they are. As the citizens turn back to the Lord, the Lord will turn back to them. The day is coming when the Assyrian tax collector will be gone and their new masters’ foreign language will no longer be heard in the streets of Jerusalem. It won’t be King Sennacherib who’ll be in charge, instead, Isaiah promises it will be “God who makes all the decisions here” and it’ll be God who’ll be king. Isaiah adds, describing his people, “Best of all, they’ll all live guilt-free.” This is such a wonderful promise. You see, the people hearing these words are really guilty. It’s their abandonment of God that brought this calamity on them in the first place. The good news is that the only One who can forgive them is willing to do so. It’s a great thing when God removes the “foreign kings” from our lives and forgives us our sins. One lady told me that when she confessed her sins and received Christ into her life that she “felt lighter.” In other words, having the sin burden lifted from her was just as real as if a 40 pound backpack had been lifted from her shoulders. Only God can make that kind of difference in a life or in a nation. The Good News is that he wants to do just that.
Take Away: How wonderful to realize that the only one who can forgive us our sins is willing to do just that.
2 Chronicles 32: King Hezekiah…responded by praying.
Before moving on, let’s take one last look at this King of Judah who’s ranked with Solomon or even King David. Here we see his tiny nation threatened by the mighty Assyrian army. Sennacherib, himself, has come to oversee the defeat of Judah and the capture of Jerusalem. The siege starts with psychological warfare. With the huge Assyrian army camped out nearby messengers come to intimidate Hezekiah and try to divide the loyalty of the people. Of course the threat is real. Assyria has marched across the region defeating one nation after another. When Sennacherib says that Judah is next he’s deadly serious. Hezekiah responds in some practical ways. For one thing he plugs up the springs that the enemy army might use as a water supply. However, we’re told that his primary response is to pray. I love the picture I see here. For Hezekiah prayer isn’t the “last ditch because I’ve tried everything else” approach. This man has learned a valuable lesson: when he prays, God answers. It seems that I have to often return to this basic lesson. Even when I have a wealth of evidence that prayer makes all the difference in the world my first response to many life events is to try to handle things myself. It’s only when that fails that I get serious about praying. Know what? I don’t think the problem is unique to me! “O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.”
Take Away: Prayer is to be our first response.