Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Hezekiah's second chance

Ok, I gotta go back and give Hezekiah some credit. Apparently, there was quite a bit of "little old lady" in him. Like I said yesterday, I hadn't read the rest of the story yet. This is a good story and I wanted to stretch it out a bit. But what I had read was a little historical background from 2 Kings 18. I'm not a scholar so I'm not 100% sure of this but it seems that Hezekiah had been intimidated by the Assyrians prior to the field commander's smack talk.

If that's the correct context, then I love this story even more! In 2 Kings 18, Sennacherib made his threats and Hezekiah sent this word back- "I have done wrong. Withdraw from me." Then he went to the temple, the temple- of all places- and stripped if of its riches and handed them over to the king. Poor Hezekiah. I can soooooo relate. Stealing God's glory to pay off scoffer, mockers, intimidators. Ugh.

Some of you know I used to keep another blog. It was titled, "Whatever You Think", and on that blog I kept track of the way God led me and taught me while I was a single girl. There you could find the stories of my heart's longing for a husband- and God's fulfillment of that longing! I told the truth there- the truth about God and His faithfulness to me through times of loneliness, confusion and great joy. Then someone came along and talked some trash about it- made some false accusations, put me down. My response was just like Hezekiah's- "I have done wrong." But rather than saying, "withdraw from me" I withdrew and didn't write for a while. A friend lovingly rebuked me- and I'm thankful to her! So I began to write "The Pen and the Sword."

So here's what I'm getting from Hezekiah today, and I'm as pumped up about this as I was the little old lady from yesterday- maybe even more so. He was given a second chance. If it did happen that he had caved to Sennacherib once, God was so faithful to give him another chance to demonstrate his belief and God's awesome power! What an amazing principle about God- one that gives me so much hope because I have failed so many times. Where would I be without God's second, third, fourth and even fifteenth chances! But there's also something here to be seen about the nature of those who refuse to revere God. They are never satisfied. Sennacherib had already received from Hezekiah the choicest gold and silver in the land, and yet, he wasn't through with his intimidation.

But the second time around, Hezekiah did a wonderful thing. You can read it in 2 Kings 19:14-19 or in Isaiah 37:14-20. Hezekiah took the threatening message that he had received and he laid it out before the Lord. I love that he literally laid it out before the God of the Universe, as if to say, "Do you see this! I know you do!" What an amazing thing to do- what a demonstration of Hezekiah's belief that the Lord cared about him and would be concerned with these threats against Himself, this righteous king and His people. Then Hezekiah acknowledged the Lord's power- "O Lord Almighty!"- he said. How different this is from my prayers, which so often are filled with doubt. Hezekiah seems so confident that not only is God completely able to handle this Assyrian army and its vicious threats but that He would want to do so! Though Hezekiah calls Him the Maker of Heaven and Earth, he does not consider the Lord too busy out there in the cosmos to take interest in every word spoken in this intimidating message. Instead, Hezekiah beckons the Lord to see and hear every insult made by this enemy.

Then comes my favorite part, the part that I have never prayed before and never really thought to pray. The part that shows belief so great, security so strong that I'm intimidated- not by threats- but by Hezekiah's faith! He says to the Lord, "It is true, O Lord, that kings have laid waste all these peoples and their lands...Now, O Lord our God, deliver us." What absolutely blows my mind is that Hezekiah acknowledges the truth- the force of evil that Assyria was and the wake of destruction they left behind and he says, essentially- because you are my God, I am asking you to make an exception. Do you get that? The nerve, right!? Here's Hezekiah, the guy who gave away God's gold, asking God to make an exception and spare him and his kingdom. Why should God do something like that? The same reason He does anything- for His own glory.

God cannot share His glory. And in this situation, it was His own name that was being threatened. Assyria was calling God a wimp and a liar. Hezekiah saw this, and responded by asking the Lord to take notice and not allow anyone to confuse Him with the false gods of the nations that Assyria had brought down to destruction. It's not arrogance on Hezekiah's part- it's actually humility. He is in the right position because he is looking to the Lord for deliverance and expecting the Lord to defend His people and uphold His name. We look at Hezekiah and say, "Wow! What belief! That's commendable." But we look at believers who are doing this today and say, "What arrogance. What condescension!" What is arrogant and foolish is to not consider yourself in a position to receive the Lord's help. If we respond to the intimidating threats of others by backing down, essentially, we reveal a belief that says that we are not "worthy" of God's help. And why not? Probably because we think we're not "good enough" for it. That's what happens to me a lot. Some person comes along and insults me and rather than standing confidently in God's grace through Jesus Christ, I back down, "withdraw" and grow bitter inside. But there's no need for that! Whether the accusations made against me are true or false, what difference does it make! No one is given the authority to judge except God Himself! No one knows the truth but Him. And to Him- I am worthy, I am clean, because I am Christ's.

God knows where the heart is- hardened, unbelieving, haughty or confidently seeking His grace. In Hezekiah's case, the heart was in the right place, and God responded with what the Bible calls, a "mighty hand and outstretched arm!" He sent the angel of the Lord to slaughter 185,000 of Sennacherib's soldiers. The rest of the Assyrian army turned back and Sennacherib himself was killed by his own sons.

What encouragement there is to all of us who have given in to intimidation before. Dear friends who love the Lord as I do- let our hearts not be troubled. What a beautiful lesson the Lord has given! We can be believe in Him, sure in our position as His children, humble in that we are only here because of His grace, cautious to confess our sin daily so that we stay close to Him- but confident that His glory and our good are His business. (Romans 8:28) We can ask to be the exception. Even when patterns have gone of for years that are frightening, threatening, and seem impossible to stop. We can, like Hezekiah, petition the Lord Almighty, who has authority over all things to make an exception, to deliver us and display His glory, because simply- He is our God.

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