How the mighty have fallen.
That phrase came to my mind when I read the Scripture for today's "Bible Pick 'Ems." It is an excerpt from the account of a confrontation between King Hezekiah of Judah and Sennacherib, the fearful leader of the Assyrian people, as told by the prophet Isaiah.
I thought it might be fun today to do a sort of *play-by-play* of this confrontation.
Let's start with a little history lesson:
"Sennacherib (pronounced Sin-ahhe-criba) was an Assyrian ruler in Mesopotamia who reigned from 704-681 BC. He is known in history for the destruction of Babylon in 689 BC and for his siege on Jerusalem that was under the Hebrew King, Hezekiah in 701 BC (see II Kings 18:13). He spent a good portion of his leadership protecting what his predecessors and namely his father, Sargon II, had established. Sennacherib became the first Assyrian ruler to rebuild Nineveh and make it his capital city…We get a lot of information on his conquests from the discovery of what is known as Sennacherib's Prism, a six-sided clay cylinder-like document which contains the story of his conquests. A Colonel R. Taylor during a mid-19th-century archeological study discovered it in the ruins of Nineveh. The prism is now on display at the British Museum." (from www.sennacherib.net)
Here's an interesting excerpt from that prism – Sennacherib's account of his initial invasion into Judah:
"Because Hezekiah, king of Judah, would not submit to my yoke, I came up against him, and by force of arms and by the might of my power I took 46 of his strong fenced cities; and of the smaller towns which were scattered about, I took and plundered a countless number… Then upon Hezekiah there fell the fear of the power of my arms…"
Amazing, isn't it, how his arrogant tone still carries all these centuries later?
The Biblical account of Sennacherib's siege details Sennacherib's attack on Judah and its capital city, Jerusalem. Hezekiah had rebelled against the Assyrians, so they had captured all of the towns in Judah. Hezekiah, realizing his error, sent great tribute to Sennacherib. But the Assyrians were not deterred – they marched toward Jerusalem anyway. Sennacherib sent his supreme commander with an army to besiege Jerusalem. The supreme commander met with Hezekiah's officials and threatened them to surrender, while hailing insults so the people of the city could hear, blaspheming Judah and particularly Jehovah.
"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…They have completely destroyed anyone who stood in their way! Why should you be any different?" (Isaiah 37:10-11)
Dripping with sarcasm and pride, isn't it?
When King Hezekiah heard of this, he tore his clothes (as was the custom of the day for displaying deep anguish) and prayed to Jehovah in the Temple.
"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. And Hezekiah prayed…'Bend down, O LORD, and listen! Open your eyes, O LORD, and see! Listen to Sennacherib's words of defiance against the living God…Now, O LORD our God, rescue us from his power…'" (Isaiah 37:14-15, 17, 20)
I love that the very first thing King Hezekiah did was to turn toward the Lord. He laid out his problem before the Lord – all the frightening and daunting details – and then he prayed. He prayed his heart – he prayed his heart out.
Isaiah the prophet told the king that Jehovah would take care of the whole matter and that he would return to his own lands.
"Because you prayed about King Sennacherib of Assyria, the LORD has spoken this word against him…'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!'" (Isaiah 37:21-23)
YAY! God is coming to the rescue.
That night, the angel of Jehovah killed 185,000 Assyrian troops. (Jewish tradition maintains that the angel Gabriel was the angel sent to destroy the Assyrian troops, and that the destruction occurred on Passover night). Sennacherib soon returned to Nineveh in disgrace.
The Bible says it this way: "Then King Sennacherib of Assyria broke camp and returned to his own land. He went home…and stayed there." (Isaiah 37:37)
If you really try to put yourself into this story – if you really try to picture all the characters and action – it's incredibly exciting! It's scary – as the enemy troops threaten. It's humbling – as the enemy king pompously struts about, bragging about all his power. It's inspiring – as King Hezekiah turns to the only source of his sure hope, God. It's thrilling – as God rides in on a "white horse" of rescue, and saves His people!
On a personal level, our story is no less different.
We face a powerful enemy, who takes great delight in threatening us, taunting us. He postures his mighty armies against us. He details his great victories, and brags about previous conquests. He is pompous, and proud, and mocking…
"Don't let your God, in whom you trust, deceive you with promises that I will not defeat you. I have completely destroyed anyone who stood in my way! Why should you be any different?"
Where can we turn? To God – where else? ("Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life." John 6:68)
We must "lay it all out" before Him. Every detail of our hopes and fears, our confusion and weakness, our total inability to fight any battle in our own strength.
We must let God be the One to answer our enemy. And He will. For it is God that the devil is defying. When he attacks God's children, he is really coming up against God Himself.
"Whom have you been defying and ridiculing? Against whom did you raise your voice?"
Those words just give me holy goosebumps!
Yes, the Lord will send the enemy skulking away, with his "tail between his legs." You see, though there will be many battles against the devil – he has lost the war. The cross took care of all of that.
And one day, because of that cross – and because of a certain empty tomb – we are promised this tremendous Truth about our nefarious adversary:
"He went home…and stayed there."
There is an eternal punishment awaiting him. We can be sure of that.
And in the meantime, all of his words are empty. They are just the blustering rant of an arrogant, but defeated, enemy. Just posturing, prideful "Sennacherib words"…
For the LORD has spoken:
"'…I know you well – where you stay and when you come and go. I know the way you have raged against me. And because of your raging against me and your arrogance, which I have heard for myself, I will put my hook in your nose and my bit in your mouth…The passionate commitment of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!'" (Isaiah 37:28-29, 32)
God to the rescue! YAY!
Are you turning a deaf ear to the "Sennacherib words" of our enemy, and claiming the victory won by the LORD of Heaven's Armies?
"When in doubt, search God out!"