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Hezekiah & Sennacherib

This is our third week in our series of Great Battles of the Bible. We started off with the Sunday school classic – Joshua and the battle of Jericho. Then we looked at the not so familiar story of Jonathan & his armor bearer taking on the Philistines. Now today we are looking at a story that again, isn’t one of the more popular Bible storybook battles, but I think it’s a story that give us some good insight as to who God is and how we are to respond to Him.

So if you want to follow along in your Bibles, we’ll be starting in 2 Kings chapter 18, but I’ll warn you right off the bat, it’s a pretty long story. Its about 74 verses in all – so I’m just going to be reading the key verses – perhaps you’ll want to read all the details later.

But for now, let’s start at 2 Kings, chapter 18, verse 5.

5 Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before or after his time. 6 He remained faithful to the Lord in everything, and he carefully obeyed all the commands the Lord had given Moses. 7 So the Lord was with him, and Hezekiah was successful in everything he did. He revolted against the king of Assyria and refused to pay him tribute.

Ok pause there for a second – the stage has been set. Hezekiah is a good king. He’s a great king. In fact, the Bible tells us that of all the kings of Judah – no one was like him. Not anyone. He remained faithful to the Lord in everything.

And because of that, God gave him success in everything he did – including revolting against the king of Assyria.

Now to help us understand what’s going on here, let’s review a little history, starting with back at King Saul. After Saul died, David became King, and after David, came his son Solomon. But after Solomon, the kingdom of Israel split into two nations. Ten of the twelve tribes kept the name ‘Israel’ – and the remaining two tribes were known as ‘Judah’. Now while Judah had a few kings that followed God, not a single one of Israel’s kings followed God. So, after God sent many, many warnings from the prophets, God finally had enough, and sent the Assyrians to wipe out Israel – which they did. The Assyrians had become a world power by this time. They entirely wiped out the ten tribes of Israel, and the remaining two tribes of Judah had to pay tribute to them every year. That is until Hezekiah decided to revolt and stop paying the tribute money.

This did not sit well with Sennacherib, the King of Assyria, and He mobilized his army to come and attack Jerusalem. Well, when Hezekiah realize that Sennacherib was not happy and had come to destroy Jerusalem, Hezekiah changed his mind and basically said, “Oops. Sorry, I made a mistake. I’ll send you whatever tribute money you want if you’ll just leave us alone.”

So Sennacherib demands 11 tons of gold and silver. To pay that, Hezekiah strips all the gold and silver from his palace and the Temple and sends it to Sennacharib. But even after King Sennacharib gets all the gold and silver that he demanded, he keeps coming for Jerusalem. He doesn’t stop.

This is where we pick it up our story in verse 28, as Sennacharib’s army is gathered around the walls of Jerusalem and his army commander, or his chief of staff (as the New Living Translation puts is) tries to negotiate a surrender.

28 Then the chief of staff stood and shouted in Hebrew to the people on the wall, “Listen to this message from the great king of Assyria! 29 This is what the king says: Don’t let Hezekiah deceive you. He will never be able to rescue you from my power. 30 Don’t let him fool you into trusting in the Lord by saying, ‘The Lord will surely rescue us. This city will never fall into the hands of the Assyrian king!’

“Don’t listen to Hezekiah when he tries to mislead you by saying, ‘The Lord will rescue us!’ 33 Have the gods of any other nations ever saved their people from the king of Assyria? 34 What happened to the gods of Hamath and Arpad? And what about the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivvah? Did any god rescue Samaria from my power? 35What god of any nation has ever been able to save its people from my power? So what makes you think that the Lord can rescue Jerusalem from me?” But the people were silent and did not utter a word because Hezekiah had commanded them, “Do not answer him.”

Now you can imagine how frightened and discouraged the people would be after hearing this… But how do you suppose Hezekiah felt right about now? I mean, here he is, a good king – one who was faithful to the Lord in everything, and now this. His city is under attack. He’s being discredited, ridiculed, & insulted. His God, whom he has faithfully served his whole life, is being mocked and made fun of. And there is nothing that Hezekiah can do about it. How would you feel if you were Hezekiah?

Maybe you have a pretty good idea. Maybe you you know what it’s like to be made fun because of your beliefs. Maybe you’ve experienced having people discredit you or ridicule you because you believe in God. Maybe you know what it’s like to be the odd guy out because you go to church or Bible study.

If so, you can probably relate pretty well with Hezekiah. What do you do when someone ridicules God right to your face? What do you do when they make fun of what you believe in?

Well, let’s see what Hezekiah did. Jump over to the next chapter – 2 Kings 19 – and we’ll see what happens.

9 Soon afterward, King Sennacherib received word that King Tirhakah of Ethiopia was leading an army to fight against him. Before leaving to meet the attack, he sent messengers back to Hezekiah in Jerusalem with this message:

10 “This message is for King Hezekiah of Judah. Don’t let your God, in whom you trust, deceive you with promises that Jerusalem will not be captured by the king of Assyria. 11 You know perfectly well what the kings of Assyria have done wherever they have gone. They have completely destroyed everyone who stood in their way! Why should you be any different?

This is pretty much the same speech He shouted out to the people on the walls of Jerusalem. But now look what Hezekiah does.

After Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it, he went up to the Lord’s Temple and spread it out before the Lord. 15 And Hezekiah prayed this prayer before the Lord: “O Lord, God of Israel, you are enthroned between the mighty cherubim! You alone are God of all the kingdoms of the earth. You alone created the heavens and the earth. 16 Bend down, O Lord, and listen! Open your eyes, O Lord, and see! Listen to Sennacherib’s words of defiance against the living God.

17 “It is true, Lord, that the kings of Assyria have destroyed all these nations. 18 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. 19 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.”

Way to go, Hezekiah! He’s not intimidated by Sennacharib’s words. He knows who His God is. His God is not a figment of his imagination. His God is not an idol made of stone or wood. His God is the Living God. His God is the Creator of the heavens and the earth. And his God is our God too.

That’s why when we face ridicule, or discouragement, or persecution – or trouble of any kind, for that matter – we can do exactly what Hezekiah did. We can lay it all out before the Lord and say… “God, here’s my situation. Here are my circumstances. I know you are the God of the universe – and I trust in you.”

Isn’t that good? Isn’t it awesome to know that the Living God who created Heaven and earth is on our side – and we can trust in Him?

Well, Hezekiah trusted in the Lord – and what happened? Let’s read and find out. Verse 20.

20 Then Isaiah son of Amoz sent this message to Hezekiah: “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I have heard your prayer about King Sennacherib of Assyria.  21 And the Lord has spoken this word against him:

22 “Whom have you been defying and ridiculing?
Against whom did you raise your voice?
At whom did you look with such haughty eyes?
It was the Holy One of Israel!
23 By your messengers you have defied the Lord.
You have said, ‘With my many chariots
I have conquered the highest mountains—
yes, the remotest peaks of Lebanon.
I have cut down its tallest cedars
and its finest cypress trees.
I have reached its farthest corners
and explored its deepest forests.
24 I have dug wells in many foreign lands
and refreshed myself with their water.
With the sole of my foot
I stopped up all the rivers of Egypt!’

25 “But have you not heard?
I decided this long ago.
Long ago I planned it,
and now I am making it happen.
I planned for you to crush fortified cities
into heaps of rubble.
26 That is why their people have so little power
and are so frightened and confused.
They are as weak as grass,
as easily trampled as tender green shoots.
They are like grass sprouting on a housetop,
scorched before it can grow lush and tall.

32 “And this is what the Lord says about the king of Assyria:

“His armies will not enter Jerusalem.
They will not even shoot an arrow at it.
They will not march outside its gates with their shields
nor build banks of earth against its walls.
33 The king will return to his own country
by the same road on which he came.
He will not enter this city,
says the Lord.
34 For my own honor and for the sake of my servant David,
I will defend this city and protect it.”

35 That night the angel of the Lord went out to the Assyrian camp and killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers. When the surviving Assyrians woke up the next morning, they found corpses everywhere. 36 Then King Sennacherib of Assyria broke camp and returned to his own land. He went home to his capital of Nineveh and stayed there.

You know, this really shows how foolish it is to put our trust in anything else, but the Lord. King Sennacherib thought He was the top of the heap. No nation could stand up to him – and no god could either.  What He didn’t realize is that God was the one that gave him all those victories in the first place. God planned it all long ago that Sennacherib would crush all those nations!

So now when Sennacherib in all his pride decides to take on Jerusalem and scoff at the God of the Hebrews, God gives him a bit of a reality check.

God sends one angel into his camp and in one night Sennacherib loses 185,000 men.

It’s a powerful lesson for Sennacherib. But what lesson is there in this story for us? What is it that we can learn about God?

Well, there are a lot of lessons in there.

  • For some of us, this story might be a reminder that God is God above all else. No power in heaven or on earth can stand up to him.
  • Or we might be reminded that God is trustworthy. He is the only person that we can put our faith in who will never let us down.
  • Maybe you’ve seen how God answers prayer. He hears us and acts on our behalf.
  • Or perhaps the thing that stuck out to you is that God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
  • Or maybe God is speaking to you in a way that I haven’t even thought of.

But let me just share one thing with you that stood out to me. Look at verse 34. God says…

34 For my own honor and for the sake of my servant David,
I will defend this city and protect it.” 2 Kings 19:34

God acts for his own honor.

Everything He does, brings him Honor.

He uses the Assyrians to wipe out the ten tribes of Israel that have turned to evil – why? To bring Himself honor.

He wipes out 185,000 Assyrians in order to protect Jerusalem – why? To bring Himself honor.

When God He takes you through some difficult times in your life, He does it to bring Himself honor. When God brings great blessings into your life, He does it to bring Himself honor. When God acts, He does it to bring himself honor.

But that’s not the only thing that verse says. Look at it again… It says “For my own honor AND for the sake of my servant David, I will defend this city and protect it.”

God also acts for sake of his servants. He’s not just some distant God that acts without any thought for His creation. On the contrary, God acts with you in mind. He acts on your behalf.

  • When God rescues Jerusalem, He does it for His glory, and also for the sake of his servant David.
  • When God brings miraculous healing to someone, He does it for His glory, and also for the sake of his servants.
  • When God allows us, here in Mirror, to build a new church building, He does it for His glory, but also for the sake of us here in Mirror.
  • When God sent His Son, Jesus to died on a cross for the sins of the world, He did it for His glory, and also for the sake of you and I.

It is incredible to have the God of the universe – Creator of all things – the Only Living God, to care about you and I and to act on our behalf.

After our service today we are going to be having our annual meeting. This is a time where we celebrate how God has acted on our behalf and for his glory in this past year. So what better time, now as we close this part of our service, just to stop and to thank Him, for what He has done in our lives and in our families and in our church. I would also suggest that now is a great time to do what Hezekiah did. If you’re faced with difficult circumstances or some problem that you don’t know how to deal with, just lay it out before the Lord. Tell Him all about it, and then invite Him to act on your behalf and for his glory.


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