This morning we continue in our series – Lessons from the Kings. If you’ve missed the last couple of weeks, let me give you a quick summary of what we’ve been talking about. Two weeks ago we looked at king Saul and learned the lesson that he never did, about fully obeying God. God had given him specific instructions and he specifically disobeyed them. Not a good example to follow. Then last week we looked at Hezekiah – who was rather the opposite of King Saul – because the Bible says of Hezekiah that He sought his God wholeheartly. We saw that even though his father, King Ahaz, completely led the nation away from God, the moment he became king, Hezekiah began to lead the people back to God.
Now originally, I had planned only to do one message per king in this series, but because Hezekiah has such a cool story and the lessons that we can learn from it are so important, I’ve decided to do a ‘part 2’ to last week’s message. I’ve got to show you what happens next after his fantastic start.
We’re going to pick up the story now in Isaiah – chapter 36 – verse 1. Or if you’d prefer, 2 Kings chapter 18 has the exact same story – starting in verse 13.
In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah’s reign, King Sennacherib of Assyria came to attack the fortified towns of Judah and conquered them.2 Then the king of Assyria sent his chief of staff from Lachish with a huge army to confront King Hezekiah in Jerusalem. The Assyrians took up a position beside the aqueduct that feeds water into the upper pool, near the road leading to the field where cloth is washed.
3 These are the officials who went out to meet with them: Eliakim son of Hilkiah, the palace administrator; Shebna the court secretary; and Joah son of Asaph, the royal historian.
Then the Assyrian king’s chief of staff told them to give this message to Hezekiah:
“This is what the great king of Assyria says: What are you trusting in that makes you so confident? 5 Do you think that mere words can substitute for military skill and strength? Who are you counting on, that you have rebelled against me? 6 On Egypt? If you lean on Egypt, it will be like a reed that splinters beneath your weight and pierces your hand. Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, is completely unreliable!
7 “But perhaps you will say to me, ‘We are trusting in the Lord our God!’ But isn’t he the one who was insulted by Hezekiah? Didn’t Hezekiah tear down his shrines and altars and make everyone in Judah and Jerusalem worship only at the altar here in Jerusalem?
Now I’m just going to pause here for a second to clarify something. This Assyrian chief of staff is a little confused. He didn’t really understand how the Israelites were supposed to worship God.
He thought, that when Hezekiah torn down all the pagan shrines and altars that his father Ahaz had put up all over the country, that he was insulting God. You see, in the pagan cultures, the more altars and shrines you had, the better. If you really wanted to please your gods, you would have all kinds of shrines and altars and idols set up for them all over place. So in his mind, when Hezekiah got rid of all those shines and altars, leaving only one place to worship God – in Jerusalem at the temple – he thought that would be a great insult to Hezekiah’s God.
But that certainly wasn’t the case. In contrast to the pagan cultures around them, God had instructed the Israelites to bring their sacrifices and offerings only to His one temple in Jerusalem. He didn’t want many shrines or many altars – there was to be one temple where all the people must come to worship.
And I’m not usually one to read too much symbolism into these things, but I think that system of having only one place to go to worship was perhaps a foreshadow of Jesus being the only way of salvation. Let me explain:
In the Old Testament, there was only one place where people could go to be right with God – (that’s the temple) and today there is only person to whom all must go to be right with God – Jesus Christ. Our culture today tells us that all religions are equal – that there are many paths by which to get to God. But the Bible is very specific that there is only one way to get to God.
In Acts 4:12 we read…
There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12
And in John 14:6 we read….
Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” John 14:6
The Bible is very clear. Jesus Christ is the one and only way to Heaven. Don’t be confused. Don’t be like that Assyrian chief of staff and get your facts mixed up. Know that there is only one way to heaven. But I guess that’s a bit of a rabbit trail – let’s get back to our story…. The chief of staff continues his challenge to Hezekiah’s three officials for the next few verses, and then in verse 13 he turns his attention to the rest of the Israelites within earshot – standing on the wall around the city….
13 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! 14 This is what the king says: Don’t let Hezekiah deceive you. He will never be able to rescue you.15 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!’
16 “Don’t listen to Hezekiah! These are the terms the king of Assyria is offering: Make peace with me—open the gates and come out. Then each of you can continue eating from your own grapevine and fig tree and drinking from your own well. 17 Then I will arrange to take you to another land like this one—a land of grain and new wine, bread and vineyards.
18 “Don’t let Hezekiah mislead you by saying, ‘The Lord will rescue us!’ Have the gods of any other nations ever saved their people from the king of Assyria?19 What happened to the gods of Hamath and Arpad? And what about the gods of Sepharvaim? Did any god rescue Samaria from my power? 20 What 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?”
Now this is a pretty demoralizing speech. And there was some truth to what he said. It was true that no other god had saved any other nation from the armies of the Assyrians. They had a perfect record. They had conquered every nation that they had encountered. And from the Assyrians standpoint, they had no reason to believe that Jerusalem would be any different. They had no reason to believe that the God of the Israelites would stand up any better than the gods of all those other nations.
But just like how that chief of staff mis-understood how the Israelites were to worship their God – he also misunderstood who their God really was. The Israelites’ God wasn’t just an idol. He wasn’t just a wooden statue. The God of the Israelites was the Living God – the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth – the all-powerful, all-knowing, ever-present God of the Universe!
The Assyrians completely mis-judged who this God of the Israelites was. But Hezekiah didn’t. He knew who his God was.
And so when he heard what the Assyrian chief of staff had said, the first thing Hezekiah did was to go to God. Isaiah 37:1
“When King Hezekiah heard their report, he tore his clothes and put on burlap and went into the Temple of the Lord.” Isaiah 37:1
What a fantastic example to follow! When faced with an impossible situation – the first thing we should do is to go to God.
Some of you probably know about impossible situations. Situations that stress you out. Situations that you don’t know how to fix. Situations that are out of your control.
The best advice I can give to you, is to go to God. Remember, he’s not wooden idol. He’s not a figment of someone’s imagination. He’s your Creator. He made you. He knows everything about you. He knows everything about your impossible situation. And He loves you like crazy.
Let me show you two cool verses. When you’re faced with an impossible situation – I want you to remember these two verses.
“Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” 1 Peter 5:7
Let that sink into your brain. The Living God of the Universe – cares about you. He cares what happens to you. It matters to Him. If its a big deal to you, its a big deal to Him. So give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you. The second verse is Philippians 4:6-7.
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
When we choose not to worry about anything, but to go to God instead and pray about everything, we can have a peace in our hearts that exceeds anything we can understand. You can’t even really explain the relief you feel when you hand over all your worries, all your cares – all your impossible situations to God – and you know that God is in control. He’s well able to handle your situation. He’s all powerful – He’s all-knowing – He’s ever present – AND He loves you like crazy! Who better to handle your impossible situation!?
Well, this is exactly what Hezekiah does. He goes to God – and hands over all his worries and cares and his impossible situation to Him. And God responds. Through the prophet Isaiah, God gives Hezekiah this message. Verse 6.
‘This is what the Lord says: Do not be disturbed by this blasphemous speech against me from the Assyrian king’s messengers. 7 Listen! I myself will move against him, and the king will receive a message that he is needed at home. So he will return to his land, where I will have him killed with a sword.” Isaiah 37:6
God heard Hezekiah’s prayers and He promised to act. He would cause the Assyrian king to return home where he would be killed with a sword. And this is exactly what begins to unfold.
“Soon afterward King Sennacherib received word that King Tirhakah of Ethiopia was leading an army to fight against him.” Isaiah 37:9
This wasn’t just a coincidence. This was the hand of God. This was God fulfilling his promise. King Sennacherib would have to abandon his siege of Jerusalem to face this new threat back at home. But of course, King Sennacherib didn’t see this as the hand of God. He still didn’t believe that the God of the Israelites was any different than all the other false gods that they had defeated previously. And so as he prepares to go fight the Ethiopians, he sends a message to King Hezekiah. In the second part of verse 9 we read…
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?12 Have the gods of other nations rescued them—such nations as Gozan, Haran, Rezeph, and the people of Eden who were in Tel-assar? My predecessors destroyed them all! 13 What happened to the king of Hamath and the king of Arpad? What happened to the kings of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivvah?” Isaiah 37:9-13
Basically he’s saying, “Don’t think you’ve won yet – I’ll be back! Your God is not going to save you.”
Well, Hezekiah responds just the same way as he did before. He goes to God. Verse 14.
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:16 “O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, 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.17 Bend down, O Lord, and listen! Open your eyes, O Lord, and see! Listen to Sennacherib’s words of defiance against the living God.
18 “It is true, Lord, that the kings of Assyria have destroyed all these nations. 19 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.20 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.” Isaiah 37:14-20
What a powerful prayer! I’m reminded of the verse in James 5:16. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. So often we under-estimate the power of prayer – and perhaps that because we under-estimate the power of the God who hears our prayers.
But Hezekiah knew the power of his God. Look how he begins his prayer:
“O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, 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.” Isaiah 37:16
Hezekiah knew the power of his God and thus, he understood the power of his prayers. And as you might expect, God responds. Verse 21.
Then Isaiah son of Amoz sent this message to Hezekiah: “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Because you prayed about King Sennacherib of Assyria, 22 the Lord has spoken this word against him: Isaiah 37:21-22
Now stop there for a minute. Isn’t that interesting? It says “Because you prayed…. about King Sennacherib of Assyria.” Because you prayed. I wonder how many things don’t happen, because we don’t pray? I wonder how many things is God waiting for and wanting to do on our behalf, but He’s just waiting for us to pray to Him and ask Him?
Well, Hezekiah prayed and God responded. Isaiah said to him, Because you prayed about King Sennacherib of Assyria, the Lord has spoken this word against him: And then he gives God’s message for King Sennacherib… It’s fairly lengthy, so I’ll just read a few key verses – you can read through the whole thing later if you like… Verse 23 God says to Sennacherib:
“Who is it you have ridiculed and blasphemed? Against whom have you raised your voice and lifted your eyes in pride? Against the Holy One of Israel! 24 By your messengers you have ridiculed the Lord.” Isaiah 37:23-24
29 “Because you rage against me and because your insolence has reached my ears, I will put my hook in your nose and my bit in your mouth, and I will make you return by the way you came.” Isaiah 37:29
“Therefore this is what the Lord says concerning the king of Assyria: “He will not enter this city or shoot an arrow here. He will not come before it with shield or build a siege ramp against it. 34 By the way that he came he will return; he will not enter this city,” declares the Lord. Isaiah 37:33-34
And of course, when God says something, He always follows through. And he follows through big time on this one. Let me read for you the conclusion. verse 36
Then the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies! 37 So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there.
38 One day, while he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisrok, his sons Adrammelek and Sharezer killed him with the sword, and they escaped to the land of Ararat. And Esarhaddon his son succeeded him as king. Isaiah 37:36-38
And thus all of God’s promises were fulfilled. King Sennacherib did not lay siege to Jerusalem. He did not conquer the city. Instead, he returned home where he was killed by the sword – exactly as God had said.
Contrary to what king Sennacherib believed, the God of the Israelites was not just another god. The God of the Israelites was the real and living God. The are no Gods like Him. He is all-powerful, He is all knowing, He is ever present – and He cares about His people.
And what really blows my mind, is that, the God that rescued Hezekiah and all the people of Jerusalem back then, is the same God that we serve today. The God that heard Hezekiah’s prayers hears my prayers too. The God that can wipe out armies is the same God that loves me like crazy! We are such a blessed and privileged people to have a God like that.
We don’t have to pray to a wooden idol or a medal statue. We don’t have to wonder if our God is strong enough to save us. We don’t have to fear when we face impossible situations, because we serve the one, true, Living God. How incredible is that?!
Now, I don’t know where everyone is in their journey with God. Maybe some of you still doubt, like King Sennacherib, that our God is any different than all the other gods of this world. In your opinion, Christianity is no different than all the other religions. If that’s the case, then I hope that Hezekiah’s story has at least stirred up some questions in your mind. I hope you’ve been challenged to maybe dig a little deeper – and find out the truth for yourself. See if maybe there is some truth to Jesus’ statement that “no man comes to the Father except through Him”.
Or maybe you have already been doing a little digging and you’ve come to a conclusion. Maybe you’re ready to make a decision today to give your life to God. To accept the one, true, living God – as your personal Lord and Saviour. And if that’s the case, then I sure encourage you to do that. To make that decision. And to please come talk to me or another Christian friend – we would love to pray with you and get your started on your journey with God.
Or perhaps there are some of you here that are facing impossible situations. Like Hezekiah, you’ve got a situation that you don’t know how to deal with. Can I encourage you – take it to God. Cast all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you. He cares about the things that are stressing you out and causing you grief. And what’s more – he can handle it! He’s God. There is nothing in this world beyond his control – no problem that exceeds his abilities. Take it to God.