Monday, 06 July 2015 10:36

Hezekiah's God-Given Triumph

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The whole Bible teaches us what a great, gracious, most glorious God you and I serve when trusting and following the God of the Bible, the LORD of hosts! Will you listen and be teachable about this having as our theme now in this third sermon on God and King Hezekiah: Learning from King Hezekiah’s God-given triumph over Sennacherib? This is so worth listening to, for it is God’s word to us especially as told in II Kings 18 & 19, II Chronicles 32, and Isaiah 37. Consider with me the story, the strategy, and the success with the victory of King Hezekiah over Sennacherib. All three points can be summarized in the words of II Chronicles 32:7-8 where we read of King Hezekiah’s words to the captains of war over the peopl, as he “spake comfortably to them saying, Be strong, and courageous, be not afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria, nor for all the multitude that is with him: for there be more with us than with him: With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the LORD our God to help us, and to fight our battles. And the people rested [literally leaned] themselves upon the words of Hezekiah, king of Judah.” What is the story? King Hezekiah lived during the time when the 10 northern tribes had been overtaken by the Assyrians. That awful event happened in the year 722-723 B.C [Before Christ]. Hezekiah became king of Judah as sole ruler around 715-716 B.C. and reigned for 29 years. And the Assyrian empire was an advancing imperialistic empire during his reign. They were like the world leaders, the so-called most powerful country of the time, and they were a ruthless brutal people, looking to invade all the nations around them. We read in II Kings 18:7 that King Hezekiah “rebelled against the King of Assyria and served him not.” King Hezekiah also had taken various efforts to further protect and strengthen the city of Jerusalem, the capital city of Judah. And, sure enough, the Assyrians came against Judah and threatened Jerusalem, so much so that Hezekiah, it seems, at one point decided to strike a deal with the King of Assyria by paying him so much ransom money to get him and the Assyrians off his back. We read in II Kings 18:13: “Now in the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah did Sennacherib king of Assyria come up against all the fenced cities of Judah, and took them.” He captured over 40 of the surrounding towns of Judah and then came to seize Jerusalem. So Hezekiah caved and offered to Sennacherib the ransom fee and peace treasures he insisted on with the understanding the Assyrians then would leave. King Hezekiah paid a high price, draining the king’s treasury fund and also taking gold and silver from the temple in Jerusalem to meet the required amount that Sennacherib demanded. But then guess what? From the text it seems that the king of Assyria reneged on the deal and betrayed King Hezekiah and would conquer Jerusalem anyways. Fallen mankind is by nature a lying, deceitful, self-serving, murderous people. We see such a clear and sad example of that in the Assyrians and King Sennacherib and his chief spokesman, Rabshakeh. King Sennacherib and Rabshakeh speak most boastfully and blasphemously against not only the people of Judah and King Hezekiah but also against the God of Israel and Judah, the one only true God. Big loud-mouth words were said to try to shame and scare the people of Judah and residents and soldiers in Jerusalem. Listen to II Chronicles 32:13-19 to get an idea of what wicked words were spoken and the psychological warfare vented from the Assyrians when gathered around the city of Jerusalem ready to attack it. Can you picture this huge army of hundreds of thousands of soldiers camped around the city and this Assyrian delegation meeting a few leading men from Hezekiah’s side, and the Assyrian shouting through their spokesman, Rabshakeh: “13 Know ye not what I and my fathers have done unto all the people of other lands? were the gods of the nations of those lands any ways able to deliver their lands out of mine hand? 14 Who was there among all the gods of those nations that my fathers utterly destroyed, that could deliver his people out of mine hand, that your God should be able to deliver you out of mine hand? 15 Now therefore let not Hezekiah deceive you, nor persuade you on this manner, neither yet believe him: for no god of any nation or kingdom was able to deliver his people out of mine hand, and out of the hand of my fathers: how much less shall your God deliver you out of mine hand? 16 And his servants spake yet more against the LORD God, and against his servant Hezekiah. 17 He wrote also letters to rail on the LORD God of Israel, and to speak against him, saying, As the gods of the nations of other lands have not delivered their people out of mine hand, so shall not the God of Hezekiah deliver his people out of mine hand. 18 Then they cried with a loud voice in the Jews’ speech unto the people of Jerusalem that were on the wall, to affright them, and to trouble them; that they might take the city. 19 And they spake against the God of Jerusalem, as against the gods of the people of the earth, which were the work of the hands of man.” The Assyrians were a very serious threat against Judah and, humanly speaking, there was no way Judah could stand up against this world power. As a heathen ungodly world power, the Assyrians disowned the one true God and compared Him as helpless and hopeless as all the idols gods of the many other nations they had already conquered. They believed and shouted boldly to the people of Jerusalem something like: We are number ONE, and we can’t be undone. You will be overrun, and end up being scum. Not your king nor your God will spoil our fun. Get over it, and just watch us come! Before we look further at how King Hezekiah responded to this all, it is good to make some observations here. The first observation: You might ask, how can this be happening to King Hezekiah and the people of Judah at this time? As we have already learned, Hezekiah was a godly king. He was leading the people in true repentance and reformation. He was doing what was right in the sight of the LORD. Why now was all this trouble and threat for their very survival so falling upon them? Here was a king of Judah finally who truly feared the Lord and walked in God’s ways but notice what great troubles still came his way. Trusting and following the Lord with all your heart doesn’t mean you will be kept from struggles and trials, sorrows and challenges, temptations and hardships. As one put it: You can cling to the LORD and the Assyrians come [still]. Are not some of you experiencing this very thing in your lives even right at this time in one way or another? Why that family breakup, why that loss of a baby, why that loss of your job, why still so much division and strife even within the visible church, and why this trouble and that trial in our lives? The Bible teaches us, looking to the Lord and following Him will mean not a trouble-free life but triumph in your troubles in the long run, ever staying with the LORD. Trials and tribulations in this life do not overthrow the overall promise of God’s blessing and help given to His believing obedient people. For wise and sovereign reasons that often we can’t explain, God allows for trials and troubles in our lives. We know in the whole history with the Assyrians God would be showing His glory and might, and He will make clear who is God over all and teach and strengthen His people in the faith. And He will deal justly with all unbelievers and evildoers. Often God’s gracious training of His people comes in the way of hard providences. He knocks the life out of us to have us ever knock on His door for mercy and help. Indeed, isn’t it true with testing times that God’s true people come through by God’s grace, and those not really saved turn away and prove their unregenerate unbelieving heart after all? When people do not have true faith in God but just temporary faith or faith that looks to God as a miracle worker and not as Saviour of sinners, then the least hardship can have them fall away. The man who prays for his wife having cancer and seeing her die anyways then decides never to pray again. Or the woman who works as a diligent children’s worker in the church but then is abandoned by her husband who leaves the church for good. Countless examples can be given here, but how true as one said about the whole story of this attack of Sennacherib against King Hezekiah and the people of Judah and Jerusalem, God gives us here “a helpful corrective” in the Christian faith. It is important to realize following God and His word doesn’t mean never having great trials and tribulations and the call to persevere in humble dependency upon the LORD. Are you and I proving in the face of many afflictions to look to God and His word and to trust and follow Him no matter what in our life’s brief journey here on earth? Or do we turn away from God and show and prove we never really trusted Him and we won’t follow Him? God’s true people endure in the faith, by God’s grace, and even pray to do so regardless the trials they meet with. Is that what you too, by God’s grace? A second observation: Is it clear to you that here we have another example of the seed of Satan in attack against the seed of the woman the true people of God? All of history is about this ongoing battle between the ungodly world and the Lord’s true people, His church and bride here on earth. In the pompous boastful words of Sennacherib and the Assyrians against the people of Judah and their God, we see the defiance and ridicule of the wicked and unbelieving as shown throughout history against God and His people and His word and will. Defiant boastful Sennacherib here is like Goliath earlier, and we know how he, who ridiculed and minimized both Israel’s army and Israel’s God, ended up with a rock in his head. No one will succeed in mocking God and scoffing and hurting His people. King Hezekiah was so convinced of this as well, and how good when the same may be true of you and me. How wonderful when you know to live in the fear of the Lord is the way of wisdom and triumph whereas to live in the way of the world is the way of shame and defeat. Do you know this in your life and heart and reflect this gospel reality to those around you? Think here of the ultimate climactic battle of Christ when here on earth against Satan and the ungodly people within the covenant people and outside in the world. It seemed like the ungodly world had all the victory on their side. But how wrong! God never loses in any battle against evil and Satan. Even so hear Jesus not only loudly proclaim from the cross in connection with His saving work on behalf of sinners, “IT IS FINISHED”, but also see that rolled away stone from the tomb and the fact of His triumphant resurrection from the dead as almighty victorious Saviour. You are more than conqueror trusting and staying with God and His word always! And always you are more than loser, indeed hopelessly defeated and justly punished even forever when you won’t turn from sin and evil and turn to God in Christ, the only Saviour of sinners. To see this more, consider our second point. Having heard something of the story so far, what was his strategy in response? From the various Scriptures on this whole history we see at least four parts to his strategy in the face of great threat and evil. 1. We learn he remained steadfast in the faith and encouraged all his people, especially the soldiers, likewise. Though Hezekiah had made the fortress of Jerusalem more secure and increased his weapons etc., it is so good to see here he didn’t substitute his faith. So often our own activities and efforts in being responsible and doing what we can and should to protect ourselves and our loved ones can actually become a substitute for faith instead of an expression of faith. But Hezekiah does what he should while keeping his hope and trust in the Lord and His word, and not in anything of himself. He reminds his people: Don’t take your eyes off the LORD, and remember while the Assyrians trust in themselves and their own weapons and resources and past successes, yet “with us is the LORD our God to help us, and to fight our battles.” He says to his people something like what David said to Saul and to Goliath and what Elisha said to his servant when surrounded by the Syrians in Dothan to capture Elisha [II Kings 6:16]: “Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.” Hezekiah’s strategy was to live relying on God and His word no matter the situation or dark or good the outlook. Isn’t this the strategy in life that all true Christians practice by God’s grace? The only strategy that never can fail? 2. Notice next, Hezekiah kept in mind clearly what the real issue was he and the people of Judah were facing. It wasn’t even really about them but more the honor and glory of God Himself. How important that we have that God-centered focus in our lives for living steadily and steadfastly in dependence and praise to God. Hear Hezekiah say to the LORD as we read in Isaiah 37:17ff: “Incline thine ear, O LORD, and hear; open thine eyes, and see: and hear all the words of Sennacherib, which hath sent to reproach the living God. Of a truth, LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations, and their countries, And have cast their gods into the fire: for they were no gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone: therefore they have destroyed them. Now therefore, O LORD our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the LORD, even thou only.” How good when you and I too, by God’s grace, look at life and take whatever happens in life always thinking of how now will this promote God’s glory? Or how this is an attack against God and His glory, and how can I go through this trial still bringing honor and praise to the Lord? Shall we, you and I, learn from King Hezekiah here with this godly strategy? Truly as one commentator put it: The beginning of true piety is that from the whole multitude of false gods we shall wisely distinguish that one God to whom we ought to be entirely devoted. 3. Another part of Hezekiah’s strategy in the crucible of trial was that he did not answer the scoffers and mockers of God and His word. We read this in Isaiah 36:21 that over against all the loud boastings and blasphemous mocking of God and the people of Judah, the delegation meeting with the Assyrian delegation that “they held their peace and answered him [Rabshakeh] not a word: for the king’s commandment was, Answer him not.” Hezekiah was here showing the wisdom of not answering a mad fool who is persistent in his reviling and scoffing and making fun of the one true God and His people and kingdom. Sometimes the best answer to others is no answer at all because of their ungodly belligerent attitude and ways. In the New Testament we read that Jesus never spoke a word and wouldn’t answer any of King Herod’s stream of questions to him. Jesus held his peace also before Pilate. How awful will be the day when to all unbelieving and wicked who so live and die, no word of hope and peace and illumination and reconciliation from God will ever be given, never in all endless eternity. Do you see the delegation of Hezekiah leave Rabshakeh and answer him nothing? Fearful dreadful ominous silence it would prove to be. Let God be the judge of all those who persist in placing themselves above the one true God and think nothing of belittling Him and refuse to submit to Him. We should not take the strategy of silence to the wicked and evil who persist in their ways as a matter of indifference on Hezekiah’s part. No, for we see yet another point in Hezekiah’s strategy in his God-given triumph over Sennacherib. What was that? 4. He spread the scoffing letter of Sennacherib and Rabshakeh before the LORD and prayed earnestly for Him to show His might and power and to intervene for His people for the glory of His name and in honor to His covenant and gospel promises. In doing so, Hezekiah was pleading God’s character, and promises and grace and mercy, and the glory of His own Name in all the earth. When have you last spread a matter irresolvable for yourself and impossible, humanly speaking, to overcome before the LORD and not let Him go except He bless you, asking for Jesus’ sake to have mercy and help? To call on God and pray to Him in all our needs for body and soul, in life and death, is the one remedy in every situation and trouble and trial and sorrow and danger. Is God your refuge and strength in your journey of life? To whom shall you go truly to be blessed and be a blessing for now and forever? Hezekiah prayed, “O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, that dwellest between the cherubims”. In effect he was praying to God pleading His mercy and grace as would be ultimately revealed in the promised Messiah and His once for all sacrifice on behalf of sinners like us. What better way to pray then to come to God recalling His majesty and grace and pleading His promises for His own name’s sake. Surely, for Jesus’ sake alone, always God will incline His ear to His people who so look to Him and rely on Him in the fierce and relentless battle on this side of heaven against sin, Satan, the flesh, death, and hell. Does not Hezekiah’s prayer to God give so clear example to us that under trial and hardship the best is always to cast our burden upon the Lord? As one said: All other methods of relief will be of no avail, if this single method be unknown [lacking].” How true, don’t you agree? And how encouraging Hezekiah’s story is in regards to the outcome. Here we come now to our last main point about the success in triumphing over the Assyrians by God’s hand. Upon Hezekiah’s petition and prayer to God, and his asking others to pray with him to the Lord, including Isaiah the prophet, then also Isaiah comes with God’s response. What is the LORD’s response? God came with swift answer to Hezekiah promising him complete victory over Sennacherib and the Assyrians. Several details of the victory include delay in attack from the Assyrians because of rumors from other fronts that had to be dealt with first. This would cause the Assyrians to leave off their concentration on attacking Jerusalem, at least for a little while. At the same time the Lord also promised Hezekiah and the people that soon again they would feed off the land, though so badly plundered by the Assyrians. God would provide for them and restore the crops so none would have to go hungry. And even more, God promised that His covenant people would flourish in Judah taking root downward and bearing fruit upward to God’s praise and glory. They would not be cut off. “For out of Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant, and they that escape out of Mount Zion: the zeal of the LORD of hosts shall do this” we read in Isaiah 37:32. God wouldn’t hold back in keeping and saving, defending and helping, and protecting and blessing His people. No one and nothing can or will prevent Him from fulfilling His promises to His people. To prove this beyond a shadow of a doubt, what does God do with the Assyrian army, even by the hand of only a single angel in one night? After Hezekiah’s prayer, no less than 185,000 soldiers in that night were slain by the angel. What a massive sudden defeat and we are told, Sennacherib “returned with shame of face to his own land.” After a time Sennacherib was killed there, murdered by his own sons as he was worshipping one of his idol gods. What a clear picture and proclamation this should give us all. Are you paying attention? To live and die in revolt against the one true God is to live and die in eternal shame and everlasting punishment for all our sins and evil before the one true God. On the other hand to live trusting God’s word and looking to the great Saviour God, the Son of David, Jesus Christ the Lord, ever seeking and serving Him in accordance with His word and will is the way of victory and glory. With this story God wants to make so plain to us there is comfort and help for all who confess and follow Him but only defeat and judgment for all who resist Him. The Lord Jesus Himself by His saving work on the sinner’s behalf has obtained so great salvation for all who trust and follow Him. The gospel call is to turn from sin and submit to Christ Jesus as only Saviour and Lord while it is yet the day of grace. Yes, for as one put it: The people of God, are, admittedly, pretty pathetic [in and of themselves] but if you assault them, you will find their God is able to deliver them—and, if you mock their God, watch out for the terror of the night. Learning from Hezekiah’s God-given triumph over Sennacherib. Are you learning, and will you keep learning, the same old lessons so important and urgent all the time, living also in these perilous last times as we do? I end with the words of II Chronicles 32:7-8 once again. In the face of great dangers and assaults and troubles, Hezekiah said to his people as godly leader, “Be strong and courageous, be not afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria, nor for all the multitude that is with him: for there be more with us than with him: With him is the arm of flesh; but with us is the LORD our God to help us, and to fight our battles. And the people rested [leaned] themselves upon the words of Hezekiah king of Judah.” Dear friends, you are never s o safe as when daily and steadfastly leaning on and resting in the word of the King of kings, the gospel of Jesus Christ the Saviour of sinners. Indeed, thus saith the LORD! Amen ans Overduin, Radio Pastor
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