There is an account in the Old Testament that I return to repeatedly as I walk with Jesus. The Lord has prompted me to use it in my prayer life time and again when life gets hard, overwhelming, or when I feel the enemy is threatening me in certain contexts. What compelled me to share this with you today is that I actually experienced it again yesterday morning – right before church I had gone into the prayer room to spread some things before the Lord and pray, and during the time I was pouring my heart out to Jesus, He sent someone with an answer to what I had just asked Him!
I want to pull out a few things from 2 Kings 18-19, because I believe we need to know about this passage and put its truth to immediate use in our lives! Let’s begin with King Hezekiah, we are introduced to him in 2 Kings 18. The year is 701 B.C., Hezekiah is 25 years old when he takes over as King of Judah in Jerusalem, he reigned there for 29 years, he removed all the pagan shrines and rid Judah of anything the people had begun to worship other than the Living God. This is what God’s Word says about him starting in verse 5:
5 Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before or after his time. 6 He remained faithful to the Lord in everything, and he carefully obeyed all the commands the Lord had given Moses. 7 So the Lord was with him, and Hezekiah was successful in everything he did. He revolted against the king of Assyria and refused to pay him tribute.
But, in Hezekiah’s 14th year of reign, the evil King of Assyria, named Sennacherib, broke into the walled cities of Judah and overtook them, which sent Hezekiah into a tailspin of sorts. He freaked out. This King Sennacherib had conquered basically every other kingdom around, and now he had begun conquering the cities in King Hezekiah’s kingdom, even the ones that were supposed to be fortified and protected! So, Hezekiah completely bails on his strong plan not to pay this evil king any tribute (v. 7)…he buckles under the enemy’s pressure. Ever been there? It was easy for Hezekiah to refuse to pay the evil King of Assyria all the loot he demanded when there was no actual threat, but when rubber met the road, or rather when enemy chariot wheels hit the soil of Judah – King Hezekiah’s great strength of will didn’t stay so strong. He caved and started gathering all the gold and silver he could find in an attempt to ward off the attack of Assyria on Jerusalem. (v. 14-16)
I wonder if those words have rung true in your life somehow? A commitment you made, then in the heat of the moment that commitment seemed to fly out the window. An area where you believed you heard God say something, but your circumstances are so far from it you can’t quite make sense of it? A relationship that you thought would never be threatened and now you stand in danger of losing everything you thought was yours forever? We have a very real enemy. He means to steal, kill, and destroy. Just like the evil King of Assyria, our enemy threatens and lies and uses every means possible to defame the Name of our God and cause us to retreat into serving anything or anyone but the One True God.
As we return to our narrative, King Sennacherib is sending messengers to make sure that King Hezekiah remains fearfully under his mind-control. He spews threats and atrocious statements against God for the remainder of chapter 18. Let me give you a quick sampling of some of the Assyrian messenger’s malicious and vile statements:
19b “This is what the great king of Assyria says: What are you trusting in that makes you so confident? 20 Do you think that mere words can substitute for military skill and strength? Who are you counting on, that you have rebelled against me?
24 With your tiny army, how can you think of challenging even the weakest contingent of my master’s troops, even with the help of Egypt’s chariots and charioteers? 25 What’s more, do you think we have invaded your land without the Lord’s direction? The Lord himself told us, ‘Attack this land and destroy it!’”
So, now, you have this messenger sending these statements of hate and intimidation to King Hezekiah, and they even have the nerve to say it’s The Lord Who is instructing their evil invasion! Isn’t that just like the enemy to twist reality into such a lie that he would even want us to believe it is God Himself causing all the destruction and strife. There is no doubt that God allows trials, and we will discuss that momentarily, but the rock we must stand on is the fact that God’s heart toward us is love. That is exactly why we MUST get to know the character and heart of God.
Our God is the God of provision, He builds up what is good, He tears down what is useless or destructive in our lives, He calms our fears and sings over us with joy, He is the lover of our souls, He sees us, and He defends us by His mighty right hand. The God we serve is unchanging yesterday, today, and forever. Indeed, what an awesome and mighty and Holy God we serve. But, our enemy does not want us believing or relying on any of those truths about The Lord, does he? Let’s skip down to verse 31 now, where the threats and lies just keep coming from Sennacherib’s messengers. This time they are addressing not only King Hezekiah’s representatives, but the very people of Jerusalem:
31 “Don’t listen to Hezekiah! These are the terms the king of Assyria is offering: Make peace with me—open the gates and come out. Then each of you can continue eating from your own grapevine and fig tree and drinking from your own well. 32 Then I will arrange to take you to another land like this one—a land of grain and new wine, bread and vineyards, olive groves and honey. Choose life instead of death! “Don’t listen to Hezekiah when he tries to mislead you by saying, ‘The Lord will rescue us!’
35 What god of any nation has ever been able to save its people from my power? So what makes you think that the Lord can rescue Jerusalem from me?”
When is the last time Satan tempted you with a lie that sounded really, really appealing? It is the way of the devil to arrange his temptation in a way that it would seem he is offering LIFE when he is packaging death and destruction up really nice so that we never even question what is actually inside. When I read these verses immediately it reminded me of when Jesus was in the wilderness being tempted for 40 days. Luke 4:5-8
5 Then the devil took him up and revealed to him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 “I will give you the glory of these kingdoms and authority over them,” the devil said, “because they are mine to give to anyone I please. 7 I will give it all to you if you will worship me.” 8 Jesus replied, “The Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the Lord your God and serve only Him.’”
Satan always has a counterfeit for God’s best. Always. If he can get us to look at what we don’t have, and offer it to us on a platter laced with death and destruction, he will do anything to divert our attention away from the truth and bait us into taking the poison. It was the original temptation he used against humanity in Genesis 3. This is exactly the kind of temptation the Assyrians were offering to the King Hezekiah’s people. And exactly the kind of temptation the devil offers us…just for example:
If you are single, “just compromise a little on what God’s best is and I’ll give you someone with money who can take care of you for the rest of your life, he’s handsome, nevermind the fact that he doesn’t know God or care to at this point, look at all he has to offer you”…
If you are married, “you don’t deserve this, you didn’t sign up for this, you need more and you need someone better, you can have someone younger, more beautiful, more sensitive to your needs, you can just scratch this whole thing and start over, everyone does it”…
Have you ever heard those kinds of lies in your head? If not in the area of relationships, what about other parts of your life? It is your enemy who seeks to kill, steal, and destroy. Undoubtedly, that is all the Assyrians had in mind for Jerusalem. And without doubt, that is all Satan has in mind for you and I. But, praise His Name, the One True God has other plans for us! He has plans that are for our good, to give us a hope and a future!
Intelligently, when he was faced with these threats and lies, Hezekiah sent for wise counsel from a man he trusts. Now we’re in 2 Kings 19: 5-7:
5 After King Hezekiah’s officials delivered the king’s message to Isaiah, 6 the prophet replied, “Say to your master, ‘This is what the Lord says: Do not be disturbed by this blasphemous speech against me from the Assyrian king’s messengers. 7 Listen! I myself will move against him, and the king will receive a message that he is needed at home. So he will return to his land, where I will have him killed with a sword.’”
No matter how oppressed we are by the enemy’s lies or intimidation, God is our defender. What He says goes. Every. Single. Time. We have to understand that the devil is not the opposite of God, he is not the “bad guy” and The Lord is the “good guy.” Make no mistake, The Lord our God reigns. There is no comparison of power. Every inch of ground the enemy gains is only ground that God allows him. God may allow him to sift us as wheat, but every single time it is for our good and for his great glory. Back in Luke 4, it says the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And by the Word of God, Jesus destroyed the devil’s attempt to bring Him down. I’m also thinking of what Jesus told Peter in Luke 22:
31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. 32 But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.”
I’m thinking of Abraham in Genesis 22, where his faith is tested by God.
15 Then the angel of the Lord called again to Abraham from heaven. 16 “This is what the Lord says: Because you have obeyed me and have not withheld even your son, your only son, I swear by my own name that 17 I will certainly bless you.
Trials are rarely enjoyable at the time, but The Lord absolutely has purpose in allowing us to be tested and tried. 1 Peter 1:7
7 These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.
In our account of King Hezekiah, we are not yet done with the threats from the enemy. Sennacherib makes one last attempt to scare Hezekiah into surrendering. He sends a letter that pens example after example of all the Kingdoms whom have fallen at his hand, over and over again he gives Hezekiah examples and reasons why he should give up the fight, because after all – why in all the earth would Hezekiah stand up to an enemy who is so strong and so devastating? (2 Kings 19:10-13) Now – the next verse is what just captures my heart. This one is what I started off the post today telling you that I have used as a pattern in my prayer life so often, even as recent as yesterday. Oh – I cannot wait for you to hear what King Hezekiah does!
2 Kings 19:14
14 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.
There you have it. I hope you’re not disappointed. Perhaps you feel this is anticlimactic, but I beg to differ! Think about what this means! I want to give you 3 points we can take from Hezekiah’s decision. Regardless of threat. Regardless of lie. Regardless of what pawn Satan is using to discourage you in your life right now. Here is what we can do:
Get to a quiet place with God.
Spread it out before Him.
I am an avid prayer journal-er (that is obviously my own word, but you get my point). I journal my prayers. I have an entire shelf full of prayer journals starting from when I was about 18 years old. If you looked through them, you could find time after time that I have made a list of all the issues I need to spread before the Lord. When you put pen to paper with your troubles and trials, do exactly what King Hezekiah did. He met with the Lord all by himself, and he essentially said to God in a demonstrative way, “Here it is, Lord! Look at what the enemy is saying, Lord, look at where his lies are trying to trip me up. I want you to see, Jesus, this is where I need help, I am admitting my desperate need for You to intervene.”
I am telling you now that Jesus Christ is already interceding for you, and the Holy Spirit is interceding even when we have no idea what to pray for. It is not as if He needs us to clue Him in! But, there is power in you demonstrating your need before the Lord. There is power in our lives when comparatively, we can see what the threat is vs. Who our God is. There is no match or comparison! And finally, the third thing I see here:
Pray with some authority to the One and Only God, through Jesus Christ your Lord, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Hezekiah opens his mouth and takes this straight to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords:
15 And Hezekiah prayed this prayer before the Lord: “O Lord, God of Israel, you are enthroned between the mighty cherubim! You alone are God of all the kingdoms of the earth. You alone created the heavens and the earth. 16 Bend down, O Lord, and listen! Open your eyes, O Lord, and see! Listen to Sennacherib’s words of defiance against the living God. 17 “It is true, Lord, that the kings of Assyria have destroyed all these nations. 18 And they have thrown the gods of these nations into the fire and burned them. But of course the Assyrians could destroy them! They were not gods at all—only idols of wood and stone shaped by human hands. 19 Now, O Lord our God, rescue us from his power; then all the kingdoms of the earth will know that you alone, O Lord, are God.”
I love King Hezekiah’s prayer. He acknowledges Who God is. He acknowledges God’s power. He appeals for The Lord Himself to listen to and see the enemy’s defiance of God. He admits and understands the reality of the situation at hand. He asks God to intervene for the sake of and the great glory of His Name. Notice that Hezekiah does not come asking for God to protect Hezekiah’s name. There is no self-driven, self-protective, self-centeredness in his prayer. He doesn’t even see Sennacherib’s threat as toward himself, he sees it for what it is – a threat against God. You see, Hezekiah realized that it was not about him. Maybe we should read that sentence again. You see, Hezekiah realized that it was not about him.
Oh yes, he was definitely the one the threats were hurled toward, and he totally had to be the one to take action. But in reality, his enemy was not Sennacherib – it was satan. And the object of the threat was not him – it was God. I wonder who we may “think” is our enemy? An employer? A former friend? A family member whom you can no longer trust? A credit card company? A prodigal child? A thief? An ex-spouse? A government entity? A terrorist group named ISIS? Ephesians 6:12 tells us:
For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
Be encouraged – listen to Colossians 1:15-16
15 Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, 16 for through Him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through Him and for Him.
Regardless of what our enemy wants us to believe, he has NO authority in our lives. He is no match for God. And wherever he seems to be winning or gaining ground, you stand firm in the Power of the Cross. You spread it out before the Lord Your God and receive the victory He already won for you on Calvary! We are going to finish with the beautiful, amazing truth in Romans 8:31-39. Drink this in as total refreshment for your soul today. Just as King Hezekiah came through an overwhelming situation – you can, too! The God we serve is the same God he served. Your enemy is real, but his power has been broken. Your victory in Jesus is real! He is worthy, y’all, and He is so worth fighting the good fight!
31 What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? 32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? 33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. 34 Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us. 35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. 38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.