King Sennacherib of Assyria
(2 Kings 18.13-37; Isaiah 36.1-22)
1After King Hezekiah had faithfully obeyed the Lord's instructions by doing these things, King Sennacherib of Assyria invaded Judah. He attacked the fortified cities and thought he would capture every one of them.
2As soon as Hezekiah learned that Sennacherib was planning to attack Jerusalem, 3-4he and his officials worked out a plan to cut off the supply of water outside the city, so that the Assyrians would have no water when they came to attack. The officials got together a large work force that stopped up the springs and streams near Jerusalem.
5Hezekiah's workers also repaired the broken sections of the city wall. Then they built defense towers and an outer wall to help protect the one already there. The landfill on the east side of David's City was also strengthened.
He gave orders to make a large supply of weapons and shields, 6and he appointed army commanders over the troops. Then he gathered the troops together in the open area in front of the city gate and said to them:
7Be brave and confident! There's no reason to be afraid of King Sennacherib and his powerful army. We are much more powerful, 8because the Lord our God fights on our side. The Assyrians must rely on human power alone.
These words encouraged the army of Judah.
9When Sennacherib and his troops were camped at the town of Lachish, he sent a message to Hezekiah and the people in Jerusalem. It said:
10I am King Sennacherib of Assyria, and I have Jerusalem surrounded. Do you think you can survive my attack? 11Hezekiah your king is telling you that the Lord your God will save you from me. But he is lying, and you'll die of hunger and thirst. 12Didn't Hezekiah tear down all except one of the Lord's altars and places of worship? And didn't he tell you people of Jerusalem and Judah to worship at that one place?
13You've heard what my ancestors and I have done to other nations. Were the gods of those nations able to defend their land against us? 14None of those gods kept their people safe from the kings of Assyria. Do you really think your God can do any better? 15Don't be fooled by Hezekiah! No god of any nation has ever been able to stand up to Assyria. Believe me, your God cannot keep you safe!
16The Assyrian officials said terrible things about the Lord God and his servant Hezekiah. 17Sennacherib's letter even made fun of the Lord. It said, “The gods of other nations could not save their people from Assyria's army, and neither will the God that Hezekiah worships.” 18The officials said all these things in Hebrew, so that everyone listening from the city wall would understand and be terrified and surrender. 19The officials talked about the Lord God as if he were nothing but an ordinary god or an idol that someone had made.
(2 Kings 19.14-19,35-37; Isaiah 37.14-20; 37.36-38)
20Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz begged the Lord for help, 21and he sent an angel that killed every soldier and commander in the Assyrian camp.
Sennacherib returned to Assyria, completely disgraced. Then one day he went into the temple of his god where some of his sons killed him.
22The Lord rescued Hezekiah and the people of Jerusalem from Sennacherib and also protected them from other enemies. 23People brought offerings to Jerusalem for the Lord and expensive gifts for Hezekiah, and from that day on, every nation on earth respected Hezekiah.
What a breath of fresh air – a story in the Book of Chronicles that ends well! As I write this I too am faced with a ‘Sennacherib situation’—something that threatens one’s very existence, essence and well-being. How many times do we feel we don’t deserve such a difficult situation because, like Hezekiah, we’ve been good and faithful? (v 1a)
Isn’t it amazing though that what the enemy means for evil God turns around to build our faith and character and bring himself glory? Sometimes even some of his fame rubs off us, for “every nation on earth respected Hezekiah.” (v 23b)
What must our attitudes and actions be, however, in between the threat and the triumph? Faith! Faith means crying to God in prayer (v 20) but also consulting the trusted people he has placed in our lives (v 3). Faith is not just a castles in the air notion; it is also rooted in practical steps and hard work (vv 4-6); after all “faith without works is dead” (James 2 17). Faith speaks the truth of God’s word to those around us and even to our own selves (vv 7-8).
The Assyrian king was so confidently wrong! We’ve got to challenge the untruths about our ‘Sennacherib Situation’ itself with the truth of God’s word. The enemy “talked about the Lord God as if he were nothing but an ordinary god or an idol that someone had made” (v 19). Even when all is sifted and one has come to bare facts, an important thing about faith is not denying the facts (yes, Sennacherib’s powerful army has defeated many nations), but defying them (“We are much more powerful, because the Lord our God fights on our side. The Assyrians must rely on human power alone.”).
Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid or discouraged because of your “Sennacherib Situation.” Have faith!
God of Angel Armies, because in your omnipotence you have blessed me with a greater power than just “the arm of flesh” (v 8), I confidently call on you to save me on every side and fight my battles. Give me the Hezekiah kind of faith to overcome! In Jesus’ name, Amen!
Dr. Yaw Perbi is a physician, pastor and president of International Student Ministries Canada (ISMC). He is the founder and Global CEO of The HuD Group and has ministered in 45 countries on five continents. Yaw is a Fellow of the Africa Leadership Initiative and a Lausanne Movement Catalyst. Dr. Perbi currently resides in Montreal, Canada with his dear wife Anyele and six delightful children. He owes all this to Christ Jesus.