Thursday, January 12, 2012

Hezekiah’s Prayer

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

2 Kings 19
 14 Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the LORD and spread it out before the LORD. 15 And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD: “O LORD, God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. 16 Give ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to insult the living God.
 17 “It is true, O LORD, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands. 18 They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by men’s hands. 19 Now, O LORD our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O LORD, are God.” 

There are so many great stories in the Bibles. I'm sure you know the big ones like Adam and Eve, Abraham, Joshua and Noah but there are so many others and perhaps you've heard it but maybe were not able to connect the dots to how it might be relevant and how to apply the truths found in it to your life. So todays post is that - one of those lesser known stories from the bible but full of treasures to inspire us to a closer walk with the Lord.

This is a great story of trust. You need to go back a chapter to read this story but I will tell you the Margot version. So Hezekiah is in his 14th year as king of Judah. Keep in mind that the kingdom of Israel shortly after David split. The majority left and were called Israel and were pretty much led by one wicked king after another till finally God allows them to be scattered to the winds. Heziekiah is the 13th king since the kigdoms have split. He is part of the side that remains loyal to David lineage of kings. He is one of the good kings and is credited with restoring the temple and he puts a stop to a lot of the idol worship that was happening in the land. He is quite a man of faith and trust in God.
So in this story Hezekiah is having to deal with Assyria who has pretty much swept thorough the surrounding area and taken over.  They have already demanded tribute from Hezekiah which he does pay at one point having to take and strip the gold off the doors of the temple to pay. So at this point there I'm not sure if Judah has just run out of funds to pay or if Hezekiah has simply had enough.  
So the king of Assyria has captured all of Judah's fortified cities and now stands out side of the walls of Jerusalem yelling in effect. "Dude you are next. Who are you trusting to save you. Certainly not in Egypt or in your God - look at all the other gods the surrounding kingdoms have trusted - we've piled them in a heap and burned them. Here are his exact words which he speaks in the language of the people so that everyone hears his threats.

 19 The field commander said to them, “Tell Hezekiah:
   “‘This is what the great king, the king of Assyria, says: On what are you basing this confidence of yours? 20 You say you have strategy and military strength—but you speak only empty words. On whom are you depending, that you rebel against me? 21 Look now, you are depending on Egypt, that splintered reed of a staff, which pierces a man’s hand and wounds him if he leans on it! Such is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who depend on him. 22 And if you say to me, “We are depending on the LORD our God”—isn’t he the one whose high places and altars Hezekiah removed, saying to Judah and Jerusalem, “You must worship before this altar in Jerusalem”?

There is another story of a Giant who yells insults and taunts the people of God. In that story a shepherd boy takes him down with a river rock and a sling.  I have to wonder if Hezekiah might have remembered that story.  He hears these taunts and the way that Assyria is blaspheming God. I love the part of our verse today where he is praying and he say it is true what they are saying. "It is true, O LORD, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands. 18 They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by men’s hands." But I love it that he does not stop there. You know we have circumstances around us and the facts may clearly point to death or defeat. The kid from "The Boy who went to Heaven" he should have died. When his mom walked into that trauma center - everything the doctors were saying was true. Like her and Hezikiah and David the shepherd boy we can look at those things and we don't have to go in and pretend that the circumstances are not what they are. The question is what will we do. What will we speak who will we align our selves with. In the case of the three stories I just mentioned they chose to look beyond the facts to the Lord and to believe in spite of the facts that God is able to save, heal, and deliver.  So Hezikiah continues his prayer. 19 "Now, O LORD our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O LORD, are God

Sennecherib shouts to the people standing on the walls - Don't listen to Hezikiah and his stories that the Lord is going to deliver you. Make a deal with me now and I will be nice and deport you to a land like your own.   Who in all the land has been able to stand against Assyria. Who the heck do you people think you are to trust your God to save you. This is of course my version of the story and I would encourage you to read it for your self in 2 Kings 18 and 19.   I love it that the people were silent and obeyed their king who told them don't answer him.

So when Hezikiah first hears of the threat he tears his clothes and goes to the temple to seek the Lord.
Good response to trouble. We should also be quick to turn to the Lord.  So from that place he sends a delegation of priests to the Prophet Isaiah with the following message.

“This is what Hezekiah says: This day is a day of distress and rebuke and disgrace, as when children come to the point of birth and there is no strength to deliver them. 4 It may be that the LORD your God will hear all the words of the field commander, whom his master, the king of Assyria, has sent to ridicule the living God, and that he will rebuke him for the words the LORD your God has heard. Therefore pray for the remnant that still survives.

Hezekiah realizes that they are pretty much goners unless the Lord delivers them. He does not just give up and walk out with the white flag of surrender. Nor does he mount up his little army. He goes to God and he sends out word to the leading prophet of the day, Isaish to pray and get direction from the Lord.

So the message he gets back from Isaiah. Pretty much God says don't worry - I've got you covered some of it is kind of humorous. Its a great response and too long to put in this post - I hope you will go in your quiet time and read the story and enjoy some of the richness of it. He says things like....
"The Daughter of Jerusalem
   tosses her head as you flee.
22 Who is it you have insulted and blasphemed?
   Against whom have you raised your voice
and lifted your eyes in pride?
   Against the Holy One of Israel!

If God is for us... who can stand against us.
The end to this story is that in the night God sends an angel who puts to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the Assyrian camp. No fighting, no arrows, no siege ramps... just a lot of dead bodies. Just for a point of reference Yankee Stadium holds 52,325 people. A bit more than 3 stadiums full of dead soldiers. Thats a lot of dead guys.  So Sennacherib gets up that morning to find his army dead so he leaves and goes to Nineveh. Before you think that he does not get his just desserts here is what happens to him.
 37 One day, while he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisroch, his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer cut him down with the sword, and they escaped to the land of Ararat. And Esarhaddon his son succeeded him as king.

So today no matter what you are facing, rather than taking things into your own hands to solve, or sinking down in to depression and fear - turn instead to God. Yes the circumstances are what they are but God is bigger than those things. You have to make a choice - who's report are you going to believe? Who are you going to align yourself with? I hope you will turn to God and draw near to Him to hear his wisdom and council to you. That you would have courage to stand your ground and to obey him. That you would not give up but would trust Him when every thing points to doom and failure that you will turn your eyes and ears and heart to heaven.

Dear Lord,
You know the taunts of the enemy in each of our lives. No matter if it coming from the voice of loved ones, or just the battle ground of the mind. Help us to look to you. Help us to be quick to acknowledge or helplessness and our great need for you. We are so arrogant to think we can find a solution to deliver our selves. I echo this prayer from the Covenant Hymnal "Gracious God, Our sins are to heavy to carry, too real to hide, and too deep to undo. Forgive what our lips tremble to name, and what our hearts can no longer bear, and what has become for us a consuming fire of judgment. Set is free from a past that we cannot change; open to us a future in which we can be changed; and grant us grace to grow more and more in your likeness and image; through Jesus Christ, the light of the world. Amen"

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