These are my notes from my ladies’ Sunday School class this morning. I’ll be posting the notes from my class here each week. Click here for last week’s lesson.
Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 31 ~ July 27- Aug. 2
Isaiah 44-66, 2 Kings 18:9-21:26, Psalm 46, 80, 135
Hezekiah: Who Are You Going to Believe?
2 Kings 18:1-8
This first part of the chapter sets the stage for everything we subsequently learn about and from Hezekiah. Even though he had a despicable, idolatrous example for a father (King Ahaz), Hezekiah somehow turned out to be a godly man and king. Could it have been the way his mother raised and taught him? Possibly. (The Zechariah mentioned in v. 2, is not the prophet in the book of the same name.) It could also have been one of the priests or Levites brought in to train him as part of his childhood education. Scripture doesn’t tell us specifically, but we should never discount the importance of a godly mother or teachers, and we should strive to take hold of every opportunity we have to impact children’s lives for Christ.
At any rate, Hezekiah was off to a good start. Notice that this passage talks much more about Hezekiah’s relationship with the Lord than his actions for the Lord. It says, “he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord” (3), “he trusted in the Lord,” (5). He held fast to the Lord, did not depart from the Lord, and kept the Lord’s commandments (6). “And the Lord was with him.” (7)
His actions followed his faith: he tore down idol worship paraphernalia, rebelled against the king of Assyria, and struck down the Philistines.
This passage continues to set the stage by reminding us that during the first few years of Hezekiah’s reign in Judah, the king of Assyria captured Samaria (capital of Israel) and carried Israel away to Assyria because they had rebelled against God.
13-16 (2 Chronicles 20:12)
Sennacherib (king of Assyria after Shalmaneser, who had captured Israel) wasn’t wild about Hezkiah rebelling against him, so he attacked Judah and captured all the stronghold cities except Jerusalem (the capital), which was next on the hit list.
What was godly, faithful Hezekiah’s response. Did he pray? Seek out Isaiah or another prophet or priest for godly counsel? No. Here, Hezekiah showed us an example of what we are not to do. Before, we read that Hezekiah did what was right in God’s eyes. Here, he simply reacted to his circumstances in the way that was right in his own eyes, the way that was most expedient and practical. It was exactly what his father and others before him had done when they became vassals of Assyria or other kings. Instead of following in their footsteps, he would have done better to pray as his predecessor Jehoshaphat did:
“O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” (2 Chron.)
What determines our response?
When we face an impossible situation like Hezekiah did, we have two options: we can let our circumstances dictate our response, or we can let God’s word dictate our response. Hezekiah didn’t consult God’s word. So, since he didn’t know what God would have him do in this situation, his only remaining option was to let circumstances dictate his response.
17- 37 (Isaiah 30:7, 10:5-6)
What happened? The 11 tons of silver and 1 ton of gold that Hezekiah sent Sennacherib, king of Assyria weren’t good enough for him. So Senaccherib sent his goon squad over to make Judah an offer it couldn’t refuse.
The Rabshakeh (commander) did his best to demoralize and talk Hezekiah’s men into surrendering. Notice that he didn’t really have to lie to them very much. Much of what he said was actually true:
Egypt was weak and would be of no help in fighting off Assyria (21,24). In fact, Isaiah had already told them this (Is. 30).
Even if Assyria herself supplied Judah with horses for battle, Judah was still too weak to defeat even the weakest of Assyria’s troops, so Egypt certainly wouldn’t be of any help. (23-24)
Whether the Rabshakeh knew it, or was just boasting and stumbled on the truth, Assyria was to be God’s arm of wrath against his people (25). Judah knew this because Isaiah had already told them (Is. 10)
From man’s point of view, and in his own flesh, Hezekiah would lose this battle and the people would be carried off to captivity in Assyria (29-32).
The false gods of the other nations had not been able to save them from Assyria (33-35).
But the truth was mixed with falsehood and fallible human wisdom:
The Rabshakeh didn’t know that the places of idol worship that Hezekiah had torn down were to false gods, not the true God. (22)
God might have been against Judah, but he wasn’t with Assyria (25).
The Lord is trustworthy and able to defeat any enemy (30, 32b, 35).
Hezekiah’s officials delivered the message to him. Would he believe the Rabshakeh? Would he react the way he did last time?
Hooray for Hezekiah! This time, he responded the right way. The first thing he did was to grieve before God and head to His house to pray (1). The second thing he did was to send his staff to Isaiah to seek God’s word. (2-4).
And what was God’s word? Do not be afraid; this dude’s going down. (6-7)
The Rabshakeh left and went back home only to find Sennacherib fighting with one kingdom and under impending attack from another. So, just to let Hezekiah know he hadn’t forgotten about him, Sennacherib sent another threatening message: “I may be busy right now, but I’m still coming for you. And don’t forget– none of the gods of these other countries saved them and your God isn’t going to save you.”
Hezekiah had a choice to make. Who was he going to believe, the Rabshakeh or God? The Rabshakeh had said a lot of stuff that was true. He even said that God had sent him. It would have made sense to listen to him, do what he said, and surrender.
But that’s not what Hezekiah did. He again turned to the Lord in prayer. While he was praying, Isaiah heard from the Lord, who reiterated and expanded on his earlier promise: God would defeat Assyria in this battle, and would even give Hezekiah a sign that confirmed His word.
35-37 Even though it seemed reasonable to believe Sennacherib, and even though he had talked about God sending him, Hezekiah chose to believe God’s word. He believed God’s word even though the situation seemed impossible. Even though he was scared. Even though it didn’t make sense.
Who are we going to believe?
God calls us to do the same thing as believers. We encounter a lot of situations these days in which people say things that seem to be reasonable, might even be true, and tell us they come to us in the name of the Lord:
“Pastors” and “theologians” who tell us that evolution or homosexuality or abortion or female pastors/teachers (of men) are OK with God, or that the Bible isn’t infallible.
But no matter how strong the evidence might appear to be or how convincing the argument, it all comes down to this question:
Who are we going to believe?
Are we going to believe fallible, sinful human beings, or are we going to believe God’s word, even when it’s hard, even when we don’t fully understand it?
For Christians, SCRIPTURE ALONE is our final authority for what to believe, think, and do. It doesn’t matter what we (or someone else) have personally experienced, what our feelings or opinions are, what science says, what conventional wisdom says, or what political correctness says. God’s word stands, and let the chips fall where they may.
Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. John 17:17
This God—his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him. Psalm 18:30