Lord, help me to keep my eyes fixed on You.
Read 2 KINGS 18:17–37
Sennacherib Threatens Jerusalem
17 The king of Assyria sent his supreme commander, his chief officer and his field commander with a large army, from Lachish to King Hezekiah at Jerusalem. They came up to Jerusalem and stopped at the aqueduct of the Upper Pool, on the road to the Washerman’s Field. 18 They called for the king; and Eliakim son of Hilkiah the palace administrator, Shebna the secretary, and Joah son of Asaph the recorder went out to them.
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 the counsel and the might for war—but you speak only empty words. On whom are you depending, that you rebel against me? 21 Look, I know you are depending on Egypt, that splintered reed of a staff, which pierces the hand of anyone who leans on it! Such is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who depend on him. 22 But 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”?
23 “‘Come now, make a bargain with my master, the king of Assyria: I will give you two thousand horses—if you can put riders on them! 24 How can you repulse one officer of the least of my master’s officials, even though you are depending on Egypt for chariots and horsemen[a]? 25 Furthermore, have I come to attack and destroy this place without word from the Lord? The Lord himself told me to march against this country and destroy it.’”
26 Then Eliakim son of Hilkiah, and Shebna and Joah said to the field commander, “Please speak to your servants in Aramaic, since we understand it. Don’t speak to us in Hebrew in the hearing of the people on the wall.”
27 But the commander replied, “Was it only to your master and you that my master sent me to say these things, and not to the people sitting on the wall—who, like you, will have to eat their own excrement and drink their own urine?”
28 Then the commander stood and called out in Hebrew, “Hear the word of the great king, the king of Assyria! 29 This is what the king says: Do not let Hezekiah deceive you. He cannot deliver you from my hand. 30 Do not let Hezekiah persuade you to trust in the Lord when he says, ‘The Lord will surely deliver us; this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.’
31 “Do not listen to Hezekiah. This is what the king of Assyria says: Make peace with me and come out to me. Then each of you will eat fruit from your own vine and fig tree and drink water from your own cistern, 32 until I come and take you to a land like your own—a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of olive trees and honey. Choose life and not death!
“Do not listen to Hezekiah, for he is misleading you when he says, ‘The Lord will deliver us.’ 33 Has the god of any nation ever delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria? 34 Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena and Ivvah? Have they rescued Samaria from my hand? 35 Who of all the gods of these countries has been able to save his land from me? How then can the Lord deliver Jerusalem from my hand?”
36 But the people remained silent and said nothing in reply, because the king had commanded, “Do not answer him.”
37 Then Eliakim son of Hilkiah the palace administrator, Shebna the secretary, and Joah son of Asaph the recorder went to Hezekiah, with their clothes torn, and told him what the field commander had said.
a 2 Kings 18:24 Or charioteers
New International Version (NIV)
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“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8).
The Assyrian army is at Jerusalem’s door and Hezekiah’s trust in the Lord is tested. Whether it is an isolated temptation that greets us or an overwhelming situation that challenges our faith, we too may face some of the strategies that the Assyrians employ here.
First, the envoys suggest that no help would come from Egypt (21), the other superpower in the region. While Israel was not to depend on human military power (e.g., Isa. 31:1), the lack of Egyptian aid was surely disheartening to contemplate. In our own context, seeking support from others is not wrong, yet we too may be overwhelmed by the feeling that there is no human help possible. Second, the messengers twist the truth by indicating that God must be displeased with Hezekiah’s form of worship, which involved the destruction of his sanctuaries (22). The devil plays on our sense of failure and guilt: God won’t help you, because you displeased him.
Third, the Assyrians paint a gruesome picture accompanying the forthcoming defeat (27), striking fear into the heart and emphasizing the power of their empire (28,29). Dread of what will happen next and the impression of insurmountable obstacles may further undermine our trust in the Lord. Fourth, the envoys change tack and call for surrender, painting a rosy picture of a peaceful life (31,32). A Christian student I once taught, overwhelmed by deadlines, gave in to temptation and copied parts of a fellow student’s essay. When he was found out, he landed in more hot water for his dishonesty. Faced with temptation, we too can fool ourselves into thinking that surrender will help rather than cause worse harm. Finally, the messengers recite the many Assyrian victories—indicators that the gods of the subdued nations were weak. Their conclusion is that the God of Israel cannot help either. This will prove to be a fatal mistake.
Which of these strategies are most effective in discouraging your trust in God? What are ways that you can guard against them?
Lord, when the devil begins to sow fear and doubt in my heart, help me to resist him by trusting what Your Word says you will do for me.