Faithfulness to the Lord does not guarantee a smooth and easy life; in fact, it invites opposition and hardship. Hezekiah is a perfect example. Here was one of Judah’s godliest kings, faced with a seemingly impossible challenge—and a wonderful opportunity.
Our Wisdom Journey continues now in the reign of Judah’s godly King Hezekiah. As we pick up the biblical narrative in 2 Kings 18, I want to go back to verse 7 to note just a brief statement there concerning Hezekiah: “He rebelled against the king of Assyria.” In other words, he stopped making the tribute payments to Assyria that his father Ahaz had been paying to keep the barbarians at bay.
In verses 9-12, we are told again of Assyria’s conquest of Samaria, Israel’s capital, and the capture of the Israelites. This underscores the great seriousness of Hezekiah now refusing to make any further payments to this brutal nation.
In our last study, we watched as the godly King Hezekiah led the nation in a great revival. He reopened the temple, reinstated the worship of God and the Passover observance, and led the people to get rid of their idols and turn back to God.
Now after all that, it’s surprising what happens next. Over in the parallel account in 2 Chronicles 32, verse 1 tells us:
After these things and these acts of faithfulness, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and invaded Judah and encamped against the fortified cities, thinking to win them for himself.
You would think that Hezekiah’s acts of faithfulness would be rewarded with peace. But instead, the Assyrian army comes to invade Judah. Beloved, it’s a hard lesson to accept, but walking with God does not necessarily mean the absence of trials. PQ In fact, walking with God sometimes creates new troubles for the believer.
We can’t imagine the terror in this moment for Hezekiah. This is like little David taking on a terrifying giant like Goliath. David’s descendant, Hezekiah, now is facing the giant of the
Hezekiah then makes a mistake, out of fear. When he discovers that the Assyrian king, Sennacherib, is in the process of conquering nearby Lachish, he sends a message to Sennacherib, asking for forgiveness and offering to pay a ransom to be left alone. He’s trying to negotiate Goliath, as it were. You don’t negotiate with Goliath.
And back in 2 Kings 18:14, we read; “The king of Assyria required . . . three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold.” That’s more money that Hezekiah has—today it would be worth several million dollars. Well, he ends up having to empty the treasuries of the temple and the palace and even strip the gold off the temple doors.
This is a tragic disgrace. But it only gets worse. Sennacherib decides he wants everything—which means not only all the gold and silver but also the city of Jerusalem itself. So, he sends three officials, along with an army, to Jerusalem to intimidate Hezekiah and the people into surrendering themselves and their city in exchange for their lives being spared.
The spokesman for Sennacherib stands outside Jerusalem’s wall and delivers the message:
“Hear the word of the great king, the king of Assyria! Thus says the king: ‘Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, for he will not be able to deliver you out of my hand. Do not let Hezekiah make you trust in the Lord . . . Make your peace with me and come out to me. . . . that you may live, and not die. . . . Has any of the gods of the nations ever delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria?’” (verses 28-33)
In other words, no god can stop this Assyrian giant.
Well, Hezekiah realizes what he has opened the door to and that he is backed into a corner. In chapter 19 verse 1, we are told how Hezekiah responds to this message from Sennacherib: “He tore his clothes and covered himself with sackcloth and went into the house of the Lord.”
He should have done this in the first place instead of stripping the temple doors of their gold. Now he prays. He also sends two men to get counsel from the prophet Isaiah—the same Isaiah who wrote the biblical book of Isaiah. God responds through Isaiah, telling Hezekiah not to be afraid because the Lord will move Sennacherib to return to his own land, where he will die by the sword.
Sennacherib has no thought of returning to his land yet. He sends a letter to Hezekiah repeating his threat, along with his prediction that the God of Israel is not strong enough to help Hezekiah.
Verse 14 then records:
Hezekiah went up to the house of the Lord and spread [the letter] before the Lord. And Hezekiah prayed before the Lord.
He prays then in verse 19:
“O Lord our God, save us, please, from his [Sennacherib’s] hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O Lord, are God alone.”
The Assyrian giant has not just challenged Judah; he has challenged God. And Hezekiah gets it right here—he wants all the earth to know that his God, the Lord, is the true and living God.
And once again, God responds through His prophet Isaiah. His response, given at length in poetic form here beginning in verse 21, stresses the sovereignty of God. God isn’t ringing His hands or calling an emergency meeting with the angels.
Isaiah says here in verses 32-34:
“Thus says the Lord concerning the king of Assyria: He shall not come into this city or shoot an arrow there, or come before it with a shield or cast up a siege mound against it. By the way that he came, by the same he shall return, and he shall not come into this city, declares the Lord. For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David.”
God accomplishes this miraculously. He sends just one little angel—not a host of angels—just one anonymous angel, and he will be enough to do what is described here in verse 35:
And that night the angel of the Lord went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies.
With that, Sennacherib abandons the siege of Jerusalem and returns to his home in Nineveh. And some years later—ironically while he is worshiping his god—the God of Israel’s prophecy through Isaiah comes true; this boastful, blasphemous king is assassinated by his own sons who want his throne.
There is no natural explanation for the deliverance of Jerusalem from this mighty Assyrian giant of an army. It was the miraculous work of God in response to a humble prayer of faith. And just like David defeated Goliath, Hezekiah’s victory is the result of his faith in the one true God.
I can’t help but think, beloved, that God sometimes challenges our own faith by putting us in difficult, even desperate, situations and doesn’t immediately deliver us from them. Why? Because He wants instead to develop us—to cause us to grow in our faith so that we faithfully walk with Him.
We don’t need a prophet coming over to our front porch to assure us that God has heard our desperate prayers. Frankly, we have something Hezekiah did not have—the written promise of God, which assures us “that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us” (1 John 5:14).