In the northern kingdom of Israel, King Hoshea was a traitor to both his people and to the Assyrian king who had appointed him. Israel had known many evil kings and continued to worship idols as they turned further away from God; so he allowed them to be taken prisoner by Assyria. As these events were occurring, there was a new king on the scene, Hezekiah, to the south in Judah. Only 25 years old, Hezekiah was completely obedient to God and destroyed all of the false idols in the land. In return, God made him successful in whatever he did. Because he was unlike the king of the north, he rebelled against the king of Assyria and refused to serve him.
The Assyrian king sent three of his men to intimidate Hezekiah. In closing, they said, “Has the god of any nation ever delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria?” Great faith or not, this must have been daunting, because at that time, the answer was no.
Not many people can relate to a threat of this magnitude, but most of us can relate to feeling overwhelmed, outnumbered and afraid. Human beings are all vulnerable to threats of painful and tragic events that are out of our control. We cannot control many illnesses, natural disasters, death, etc. But the question for us is, how do we respond to them? How do we recover? Do we surrender and lose hope or do we cling to our faith and follow the example of Hezekiah?
Hezekiah was not rash. He sought counsel from the prophet Isaiah. He was afraid and he was desperate. Isaiah was a man whom God had spoken through many times and he assured him that the Lord would destroy both Sennacherib and his army. When the king of Cush was about to march out against him, Sennacherib again sent messengers to Hezekiah with a letter that the god he depended on would not deliver his kingdom.
This seems to have signaled an imminent attack and was the boiling point for Hezekiah himself, for he acted. He did not seem to take the threat personally but seemed instead to be incensed at the blasphemous words spoken against God. This is a place where things might have gone differently if Hezekiah had not been a man of great faith. He did not simply fall to his knees and cry out in prayer. He went up to the temple of the Lord and prayed. “Lord, the 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 ear, Lord, and hear; open your eyes, Lord, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God.” He went on to ask for deliverance.
Ever faithful and consistent in his pursuit of love and compassion for his children, the Lord heard Hezekiah’s prayer. That very night, the angel of the Lord went out and put 185,000 of the enemy to death. The next morning when this was discovered, the remaining Assyrians, including Sennacherib, retreated. It is difficult to imagine what they must have been thinking. It certainly would have rendered them terrified. Imagine the supreme arrogance and power they must have been feeling before they slept the night before. They likely had a great feast and party not just in anticipation of their victory but their complete faith in it.
There are many times when God uses certain people to make an example of others and for others. Divine intervention, as we now call it, is undoubtedly the only way good King Hezekiah could have defeated the Assyrians.
Soon after things began to get back to normal, Isaiah reminded the Israelites to follow the Lord. But they turned away from God repeatedly and, as they did, things continued to get worse for them as a nation. Despite their disobedience, God delivered a promise through Isaiah. A new King, a suffering Servant, a Savior, the Messiah, who would bring eternal life in heaven for those who believe.
Yes, the Lord’s pursuit of us is awe-inspiring as is his desire to have a personal relationship with each and every human being, great and small, and provide us with a Savior who not only forgives our human nature but delights in us!