It looks like all hope is lost. There are many times in life when it looks like all hope is lost. There is no chance for reversal. There is no hope for change. There is no way that we are going to get through this. This is where we are in the life of Judah. Israel has been captured by the Assyrians and have been removed from the land. The last king of Judah appears to be the worst they have had up to this point. He has dismantled the temple, selling off anything of value in it and on it. He has offered his son as an offering to his idolatrous gods. Judah appears to be following Israel down the path of destruction.
The Summary of Hezekiah (18:1-8)
But something surprising happens in the midst of the darkness. In 2 Kings 18 we read about Hezekiah taking the throne in Judah. Verse 3 tells us that he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that David his father had done. This is the first person to be compared favorable to David since King Asa recorded all the way back in 1 Kings 15, nearly 200 years earlier. It has been 200 years since a king has been described as doing right like David had done. He removes the high places and tears out the idols that were strewn throughout the land. But I want you to listen to the end of verse 4 because it is stunning.
And he broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it. (2 Kings 18:4 ESV)
Can you believe that the bronze serpent from Numbers 21 became an idol to the people? The bronze serpent which God had given the people through Moses to rescue the people from the venom of those poisonous snakes had turned into idol worship. We had no idea that this had been going on from the days of wandering in the wilderness all the way till now with King Hezekiah. It is truly unbelievable! But maybe it is not as surprising as we think. This is the human condition of sin. We take the blessings of God and turn them into idols. We take God’s wonderful gifts and turn them into objects of worship. We take our wealth and devote ourselves to it. We take sex and devote ourselves to it. We take things that God blesses us with and turn them into idols that we value and prize above God himself. Israel had done this for hundreds of years now. Hezekiah finally puts an end to it by destroying the bronze serpent.
Hezekiah does what prior kings were unwilling to do. Look at verse 5. He trusted in the Lord and there was no one like him who did. He held fast to the Lord. He did not depart from the Lord’s commands. The Lord was with him and gave him success wherever he went. He looks like David as he defeats the Philistines all the way into Gaza. The rest of the chapters are going to talk about specific incidents in the life of Hezekiah.
The Crisis of Hezekiah (18:9-37)
Verses 9-12 sets up the difficult situation in which Hezekiah rules. Assyria has marched against Israel, captured Samaria (the capital), and deported the people of Israel. In verse 13 we see that once Assyria was done with Israel, they turned their attention to Judah, attacking and capturing their fortified cities. Unfortunately, Hezekiah’s first step is the wrong step. Hezekiah pays the king of Assyria to leave the land of Judah. The money came form the silver that was found in the temple and the treasuries of the king’s palace (18:15). He stripped off the gold that were on the doors of the temple and gave it to the king of Assyria. We get a picture that there is nothing valuable left in the temple at this point. I think it is important to see that even though Hezekiah is noted as a good king who trusted in the Lord, in this moment of crisis his faith wobbled. For the moment he thinks that he is in the clear. However, the payoff does not work. Assyria decides it is time to come and finish the job against Judah. They lay siege to Jerusalem, cut off the water supply, and tell Judah that it is time to surrender. The important question is in verse 19. What are you relying on? What is your source of trust? Why do you rebel against me? Do not think that you can depend on Egypt (18:21). If you lean on them, they are going to splinter in your hand. Do not think you can trust in your God because you have removed all the altars and high places. Finally, the king of Assyria sends message to say that the Lord told him to come against Jerusalem (18:25). The message is that you are doomed. You will be eating your own dung and drinking your own urine if you do not surrender (18:27). Then the Assyrians call to the inhabitants of Jerusalem to not listen to Hezekiah but to surrender (18:30-31). If you surrender, then we will take you to a new land where you can have food and drink. But you will die here if you do not surrender.
But then Assyria says something that may be the turning point of this event. Look at verse 33. “Has any of the gods of the nations ever delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria?” Then look at verse 35. “Who among all the gods of the lands have delivered their lands out of my hand, that the Lord should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?” In short, no god can stop me, not even yours.
The Response of Hezekiah (19:1-19)
What will Hezekiah do this time? Will he try to pay more money like he did last time? Will he turn to Egypt for help like so many kings tried to do in the past? In verse 1 of chapter 19 we see Hezekiah humble himself and go to the Lord’s temple. Further, Hezekiah sends his messengers, also covered in sackcloth, to Isaiah the prophet. Notice the basis of the plea from Hezekiah. Hezekiah notes that Judah is doomed (19:3). But maybe the Lord heard the words of the Assyrian king who is mocking the living God and will rebuke the words that the Lord has heard (19:4). Hezekiah’s hope is that the Lord will act because the power and glory of the Lord has been ridiculed by this Assyrian king. Isaiah responds to not be afraid because of the words you heard to blaspheme and revile the Lord. The Lord will make him hear a rumor, cause him to return to his own land, and he will die there.
So now Hezekiah is put to the test? Will you believe the word of the Lord that came through the prophet? Or will you believe that there is no hope and Jerusalem is going to fall? To make Hezekiah’s decision more difficult, the Assyrian commander tells Hezekiah to not let his God deceive him to think that he is not going to be destroyed if he does not surrender (19:10). The kings of Assyria have conquered all the other nations they have gone up against. Israel has fallen and they had the same God as you. Other nations have fallen who hoped in their gods. You are not going to be delivered. What will Hezekiah do?
Look at verse 14. Hezekiah takes the letter from Assyrian messengers and goes to the temple of the Lord. He spreads out the letters before the Lord at the temple and then he prays. Look at his prayer in verses 15-19. Hezekiah praises the Lord as the true and only God over heaven and earth. Then he asks God to listen to the words of this Assyrian king. It is true that they have conquered all the other nations. But he asks for his nation to be saved so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, Lord, are God (19:19). What does Hezekiah do? Hezekiah goes to the temple. But rather than plundering the temple like he and other kings did in the past, he uses the temple like Solomon said to do. He humbly goes into the presence of God and he prays. Not only does he pray, but he prays on the basis of God’s glory so that the world would see that there is only one God and it is the Lord.
The Response of the Lord (19:20-37)
The Lord sends Isaiah the prophet to Hezekiah with the Lord’s response. God has two answers that he gives through Isaiah. The first part is in verses 20-28. Notice what God says to Assyria. Who do you think you are mocking and reviling? You have mocked the Lord by saying it is my chariots, my power, my wells, and my actions that all this has happened (19:23-24). You think that it is through your power that you are doing this. God says in verses 25-26 that he planned for this to happen long ago. It is not your power, but God’s power that this is happening. I planned that you would turn the fortified cities into heaps of ruins. Your boasting is vain because the only reason you have any success or power is because God made it so. Because you raged against the Lord, I will turn you back the way you came (19:27-28).
Finally, God declares a sign for Hezekiah the nation will continue, growing plants for years to come. Not only this, but there will be a remnant that will survive, take root, and bear fruit because out of Jerusalem shall come a remnant of God’s people (19:29-31). Not only this, God says in verse 31 that the king of Assyria is not even going to shoot an arrow in this city. He is not going to besiege the city. He is not going to come in the city. There is not going to be a war. God will defend this city himself and save it for his own sake and for the promise given to David (19:34). That night, a Passover kind of event happens. The angel of the Lord struck down 185,000 soldiers of the Assyrians in the camp. So Assyria retreats and the king of Assyria is killed by his sons when he returns to his own land.
The title of the lesson is Take It To The Lord. We see Hezekiah after first failing to do this, understanding that this is what he needed to do. He needed to take the crisis to the Lord in prayer. He needed to turn to God in his time of darkness. God is wanting us to see the power of prayer. Who would ever imagine that this would be the way God would answer Hezekiah’s prayer? He would have never thought to ask God to wipe out the Assyrian army without a shot fired while the people of Judah slept. God can answer prayers in seeming impossible ways. This is so important to remember when life looks hopeless. Take it to the Lord in prayer. Why? Take it to the Lord because he is the one who can do something with the impossible. Hezekiah’s situation is impossible. There is no way for them to survive Assyria. But they do because God is able to do the impossible. We must never think that there is something that God cannot do. The scriptures plainly teach, “There is nothing impossible with God” (Luke 1:37). Jesus said all things are possible with God (Matthew 19:26). Will we argue against this?
Not only do we take it to the Lord in prayer because God can powerfully answer our prayers and nothing is impossible with him, but also because God is in control. Did you see this truth expressed by God through the prophet Isaiah? It was back in 2 Kings 19:25. Assyria thought it was in control (19:20-24). Assyria thought they were in charge. Assyria thought they could do what they wanted. Assyria thought their success was by their power and decisions. Look at all the “my” and “I” statements in verses 23-24. Assyria thinks they are in control. God says that actually he is. We turn to God in prayer because he is our only hope. He is the one in control. He is the one who has the say. He is the one who is not surprised by the future or the events of the moment. Listen to God in verse 25. “Have you not heard that I determined it long ago?”
Therefore, take your letters into the presence of the Lord and ask him to look down upon you and respond. Take it to the Lord in prayer. Pray for God to respond for his own glory so that people will see that the Lord is truly God. You may have turned the wrong direction at first like Hezekiah did. Learn from him and this time go straight to God for your help. There is nothing impossible with God.