There once was an Assyrian king named Sennacherib. He vowed he would capture and destroy Jerusalem. He and his army camped outside the city and breathed threats against the people of Jerusalem and their king Hezekiah and against God.
Sennacherib’s chief of staff was sent to speak to the people of Jerusalem.
Among other things he said this:
‘“I’ll tell you what! Strike a bargain with my master, the king of Assyria. I will give you 2,000 horses if you can find that many men to ride on them! 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? 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!’” Then Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah said to the Assyrian chief of staff, “Please speak to us in Aramaic, for we understand it well. Don’t speak in Hebrew, for the people on the wall will hear.” But Sennacherib’s chief of staff replied, “Do you think my master sent this message only to you and your master? He wants all the people to hear it, for when we put this city under siege, they will suffer along with you. They will be so hungry and thirsty that they will eat their own dung and drink their own urine.” Then the chief of staff stood and shouted in Hebrew to the people on the wall, “Listen to this message from the great king of Assyria! This is what the king says: Don’t let Hezekiah deceive you. He will never be able to rescue you. Don’t let him fool you into trusting in the Lord by saying, ‘The Lord will surely rescue us. This city will never fall into the hands of the Assyrian king!’ “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. Then I will arrange to take you to another land like this one—a land of grain and new wine, bread and vineyards. “Don’t let Hezekiah mislead you by saying, ‘The Lord will rescue us!’ Have the gods of any other nations ever saved their people from the king of Assyria? What happened to the gods of Hamath and Arpad? And what about the gods of Sepharvaim? Did any god rescue Samaria from my power? 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?”’
Isaiah 36:8-20 – NLT
King Hezekiah humbled himself and ordered those around him to follow suit and then sent messengers to Isaiah the prophet.
This was a real threat and a very scary situation.
This is what the Lord said through the prophet:
“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. 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.’”
Isaiah 37:6-7 – NLT
Then again the Assyrian chief of staff made boisterous blasphemous threats to defy God and destroy Jerusalem.
King Hezekiah humbled himself and went to meet God in the temple.
““O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, 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. Bend down, O Lord, and listen! Open your eyes, O Lord , and see! Listen to Sennacherib’s words of defiance against the living God.
It is true, Lord, that the kings of Assyria have destroyed all these nations. 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. 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. ”’
Isaiah 37:16-20 – NLT
The prophet Isaiah heard and saw how Hezekiah entreated the Lord.
Among other things he said this to and about the King of Assyria:
“But I know you well— where you stay and when you come and go. I know the way you have raged against me. And because of your raging against me and your arrogance, which I have heard for myself, I will put my hook in your nose and my bit in your mouth. I will make you return by the same road on which you came.” “And this is what the Lord says about the king of Assyria: “‘His armies will not enter Jerusalem. They will not even shoot an arrow at it. They will not march outside its gates with their shields nor build banks of earth against its walls. The king will return to his own country by the same road on which he came. He will not enter this city,’ says the Lord. ‘For my own honor and for the sake of my servant David, I will defend this city and protect it.’”
Isaiah 37:28-29,33-35 – NLT
And this is what the Lord did:
“That night the angel of the Lord went out to the Assyrian camp and killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers. When the surviving Assyrians woke up the next morning, they found corpses everywhere. Then King Sennacherib of Assyria broke camp and returned to his own land. He went home to his capital of Nineveh and stayed there. One day while he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisroch, his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer killed him with their swords. They then escaped to the land of Ararat, and another son, Esarhaddon, became the next king of Assyria.”
Isaiah 37:36-38 – NLT
What is the lesson for me here? Who am I in this story? I believe I am the city of Jerusalem under siege by a boastful lying enemy.
The Assyrian army was the most powerful force in the world at that time. It was parked outside the city that housed the temple of the almighty God, creator of heaven and earth. The Assyrian plan was to capture the city, pilfer all the valuables and take all the people into exile. They had done the same to every other place they encountered. None of the local armies or gods could stop them. They had recently invaded the northern tribes of Israel and taken them away into captivity and grabbed the statues of their respective gods on the way out.
Could someone “steal” God?
This might be a rabbit trail but that is a significant difference between the God of Israel and the gods of any other nation. First, the God of Israel is a real God, the only real God. He is creator and sustainer of all that exists. Secondly, the God of Israel has no images. There are no statues or idols of Him. At that time there was only one place on the planet where you were to worship Him, His temple in Jerusalem. If the Assyrian’s could have gotten access to His temple, there was no icon, no image they could break in and steal. No one could “carry away” the God of Israel because he is Spirit. There was one thing, his throne, the ark of the covenant. It was the place where his glory resided, inside the Holy of Holies and it was covered in the sprinkled blood of the annual sacrificial lamb.
No, Senecharib could not have stolen God.
Could someone “steal” God from me now? I know I can have my stuff taken, I can lose all I possess. I could lose my family and my place and my position but can someone storm into my life and steal my God? No. My God is Spirit. He cannot be seen or held or contained or controlled in any way.
On the night Jesus was betrayed he prayed this prayer to God our Father.
“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. “I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me. Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am. Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began! “O righteous Father, the world doesn’t know you, but I do; and these disciples know you sent me. I have revealed you to them, and I will continue to do so. Then your love for me will be in them, and I will be in them.”
John 17:20-26 – NLT
Once we are born again, God cannot be stolen from us. He lives inside us.
Enemies who besiege us will be defeated. Is this a promise for every attack? Eventually the city of Jerusalem was taken captive.
I wrote this to give hope to some friends and relatives of mine who seem to be under siege. There isn’t an army camped outside their front door, but sickness and death and destruction have taken things from them, bitterness, envy, fear and doubt keep chomping up their confidence, faith and hope. What hope can I offer? What does God offer? If he was such an all powerful God, why are they in the terrifying mess they are in?
God is always our hope.
You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,
Psalm 10:17 – NIV
We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you.
Psalm 33:20-22 – NIV
Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.
Psalm 42:5 – NIV
You answer us with awesome and righteous deeds, God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas, who formed the mountains by your power, having armed yourself with strength, who stilled the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, and the turmoil of the nations. The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy.
Psalm 65:5-8 – NIV
For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
Romans 8:20-25 – NIV
I don’t know these verses by heart, I had to look them up by searching with the word “hope”. I didn’t know specifically where they would be, but knowing the character of God,I knew they would be there.
Our hope is in God who delivers his children. No matter how vile and evil and mean the enemies are who are banging on our door threatening to destroy us, our hope is in God.
Our hope is in God because he is our help. God is all powerful. God knows the future. Death itself is under his command. Remember Egypt and the first Passover? Death could not touch anyone who slept in a house with the blood of the sacrificial lambs blood on the doorposts and lentil.
Death is the scary specter that walks the halls of hospitals and nursing homes. Health is what we want. We chase health with everything we have. When health eludes us death is waiting. And there is hope for us.
Our God conquered death. Jesus died…and rose from the dead. Because he died and lives again, we can be assured the same resurrection.
It is the suffering we want to avoid.
And yet…”Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
James 1:2-4 – NIV
When there is an enemy banging on the front door of our life we can trust in God, a father who loves us.
“Be Still and know that I am God.”