THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD
Lord, thank You for once again defending Jerusalem.
Read 2 KINGS 19:20–37
Isaiah Prophesies Sennacherib’s Fall
20 Then Isaiah son of Amoz sent a message to Hezekiah: “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I have heard your prayer concerning Sennacherib king of Assyria. 21 This is the word that the Lord has spoken against him:
“‘Virgin Daughter Zion
despises you and mocks you.
tosses her head as you flee.
22 Who is it you have ridiculed and blasphemed?
Against whom have you raised your voice
and lifted your eyes in pride?
Against the Holy One of Israel!
23 By your messengers
you have ridiculed the Lord.
And you have said,
“With my many chariots
I have ascended the heights of the mountains,
the utmost heights of Lebanon.
I have cut down its tallest cedars,
the choicest of its junipers.
I have reached its remotest parts,
the finest of its forests.
24 I have dug wells in foreign lands
and drunk the water there.
With the soles of my feet
I have dried up all the streams of Egypt.”
25 “‘Have you not heard?
Long ago I ordained it.
In days of old I planned it;
now I have brought it to pass,
that you have turned fortified cities
into piles of stone.
26 Their people, drained of power,
are dismayed and put to shame.
They are like plants in the field,
like tender green shoots,
like grass sprouting on the roof,
scorched before it grows up.
27 “‘But I know where you are
and when you come and go
and how you rage against me.
28 Because you rage against me
and because your insolence has reached my ears,
I will put my hook in your nose
and my bit in your mouth,
and I will make you return
by the way you came.’
29 “This will be the sign for you, Hezekiah:
“This year you will eat what grows by itself,
and the second year what springs from that.
But in the third year sow and reap,
plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
30 Once more a remnant of the kingdom of Judah
will take root below and bear fruit above.
31 For out of Jerusalem will come a remnant,
and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors.
“The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.
32 “Therefore this is what the Lord says concerning the king of Assyria:
“‘He will not enter this city
or shoot an arrow here.
He will not come before it with shield
or build a siege ramp against it.
33 By the way that he came he will return;
he will not enter this city,
declares the Lord.
34 I will defend this city and save it,
for my sake and for the sake of David my servant.’”
35 That night the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies! 36 So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there.
37 One day, while he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisrok, his sons Adrammelek and Sharezer killed him with the sword, and they escaped to the land of Ararat. And Esarhaddon his son succeeded him as king.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“Now, Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You alone, Lord, are God” (2 Kings 19:19).
When we find ourselves in difficulty, questions arise. Is this God’s punishment for some sin in our lives? Are we being tested? Was it random chance? Why did God allow it? Discernment is often difficult. Sometimes there is no clear answer, even in retrospect. However, we can take encouragement from today’s reading, affirming God’s sovereignty.
First, God responds to his people’s prayer, as he did to Hezekiah’s (20). Those who seek him will find him, even when concrete answers elude them. Second, God will vindicate their trust in him. Like Assyria, who habitually defies the true God (22), some may mock Christians for their naïveté in expecting God to act on their behalf, but the Lord always honors our trust in him. Third, God affirms his sovereignty over the past. Assyria could subdue nations only because God has ordained it (25). Given Assyria’s cruelty, this may be troubling, but elsewhere it is explained that Assyria acts on its own initiative and will be held responsible for its cruelty, even though God is using it for his own purposes (Isa. 10:5–7). Finally, God is sovereign over the future too: he tells Hezekiah how events will unfold (32–34) and brings them about (35–37).
Faith is essential because there are alternative interpretations of events, and the resolution is in the future. Only by faith do we know that God is sovereign over Assyria’s impressive string of victories, rather than Assyria being stronger than the gods of the subdued nations. It is also by faith that we are assured of a future in God’s hands. Although Hezekiah is given a sign (29–31), this is not proof in advance but affirmation in retrospect that in the hard times God is ever present and working for the good of his people.
Lord, may we remember daily that our circumstances are not beyond Your control. May we rest in Your sovereignty and love for us.
Lord, as we see Your sovereign hand at work against Assyria, we realize that You are still at work directing the rise and fall of nations as You will.