because you prayed

Because You Prayed

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Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah, saying, “Thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘Because you have prayed to Me against Sennacherib king of Assyria, I have heard.’ This is the word which the LORD has spoken concerning him:

‘The virgin, the daughter of Zion,
Has despised you, laughed you to scorn;
The daughter of Jerusalem
Has shaken her head behind your back!
(2 Kings 19:20-21)

A mighty army surrounded Jerusalem, and the Kingdom of Judah was a small step from total defeat. The enemy of Israel – the general of the Assyrian army – has spoken, speaking against God and His people. The king of Israel – Hezekiah – has spoken, pouring out his heart to God in prayer.

because you prayed

Now, it was time for God to speak. The LORD spoke these words through the prophet Isaiah, beginning with these important words: Because you have prayed to Me. God had a glorious answer to Hezekiah’s prayer, but God said that the answer came because you have prayed to Me.

So, imagine for a moment: What if Hezekiah had not prayed? We are then to assume that no answer would have come, and Jerusalem would have been conquered. Think about it: the course of history was changed because God answered the prayers of one man. Hezekiah’s prayer really mattered.

Please understand: your prayers matter. I can’t tell you exactly how our prayers and God’s eternal plan mesh together. There is definite, glorious mystery at work there. But I can tell you this: prayer is much more than a self-improvement exercise. It is true that prayer does make me a better person; but it also moves the hand of God.

Prayer will never make God do something against His will and purpose, but there are things within the plan and purpose of God that He deliberately withholds until His people start praying.

We should ask: How many blessings, how many victories, how many souls saved for Jesus’ glory, lie unclaimed in heaven until the LORD can say to each one of us, “because you have prayed to Me”?

The deliverance would be so complete and wonderful for Jerusalem that God said to the Assyrians, the virgin, the daughter of Zion, has despised you, laughed you to scorn. The idea was that the Assyrians had come to ravish the daughter of Zion, the city of Jerusalem, but God would not allow it.

Instead of being a frightened victim of the Assyrians, the people of Jerusalem would despise the mighty Assyrians and would end up laughing them to scorn. God would give Judah and Jerusalem such a complete victory that God’s people would shake their head at the Assyrians. This all happened because God answered the prayers of one man.

No one can say why some prayers seem to be answered soon and why some take so long. Yet we know this: God wants us to know that our prayers matter – and that He will do great things because you have prayed.

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 19

praying to the God you know

Praying to the God You Know

Then Hezekiah prayed before the LORD, and said: “O LORD God of Israel, the One who dwells between the cherubim, You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Incline Your ear, O LORD, and hear; open Your eyes, O LORD, and see…. Now therefore, O LORD our God, I pray, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the LORD God, You alone.” (2 Kings 19:15-19)

Hezekiah, King of Judah, was faced with the worst crisis of his reign. The mighty Assyrian army had already conquered the northern kingdom of Israel and many others and was now circled outside the walls of Jerusalem.

Yet in his response, Hezekiah spoke to God in the manner of a true believer, in the way someone who really knows God prays. Look at the many ways Hezekiah referred to God in this prayer.

praying to the God you know

God of Israel: This title for God reminded Hezekiah – and the LORD also, in our human way of understanding – that the LORD God was the covenant God of Israel, and that He should not forsake His people.

The One who dwells between the cherubim: Hezekiah saw the great heavenly majesty of God. Surely, the One who dwells between the cherubim would never allow the blasphemies of the Assyrians to go unpunished.

You are God, You alone: God is a simple title for our LORD, but perhaps the most powerful. If He is God, then what can He not do? If He is God, then what is beyond His control? Hezekiah realized the fundamental fact of all theology: God is God, and we are not! God is God, and the Assyrians were not!

You who made heaven and earth: In recognizing the LORD God as Creator, Hezekiah saw that the LORD had all power and all rights over every created thing. We can almost feel Hezekiah’s faith rising as he prayed this!

Remember that Hezekiah had the scrolls of Scripture existing at that time, and the word of the LORD through Isaiah the prophet and others. It was through this word that Hezekiah really knew who God was, and was able to call upon the God he knew in a time of crisis. It is important for us to know God and understand Him through the Bible, so that when crisis comes we really know the God we cry out to. It made a difference for Hezekiah and it will make a difference for us.

At the end of it all, Hezekiah’s prayer was gloriously answered. In a turning point of history, the armies of Assyria surrounding Jerusalem were almost completely destroyed in one night by an angel from God. Hezekiah’s prayer was answered, and it was largely answered because he knew who God was, and it was seen in the way he spoke to God in his prayer.

How well do you know Him?

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 18

step too far

One Step Too Far

But do not listen to Hezekiah, lest he persuade you, saying, “The LORD will deliver us.” Has any of the gods of the nations at all delivered its land from the hand of the king of Assyria?…. Who among all the gods of the lands have delivered their countries from my hand, that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem from my hand? (2 Kings 18:32-33, 35)

The enemy who spoke these words was the general of the Assyrian army. That army had recently conquered the kingdom of the ten northern tribes of Israel, as well as several other surrounding kingdoms. That army had taken every other significant city of the kingdom of Judah – only Jerusalem remained.

step too far

Jerusalem had not fallen yet, but it was surrounded by this mighty army, and it didn’t look like it would last long. This Assyrian general (called “the Rabshakeh”) shouted to the people of Jerusalem these words. He wanted to glorify the Assyrian king, his master. But he also wanted the people of God to doubt their king, so he said, do not listen to Hezekiah. He hoped the common people of Jerusalem would overthrow their king, who still resisted the Assyrians.

This pagan general wanted to do everything he could to get the people of God to lose their faith in the LORD and to fill them with fear. The Rabshakeh wanted to make the people of God so afraid that surrender would seem like a better option. He said that if they would only surrender, the Assyrian king would treat them well.

All of what the Rabshakeh said up to that point was persuasive. It would seem that the leaders and people of Jerusalem were about ready to give up. But that Assyrian general would not stop – he went on to speak directly against the God of Israel.

This is what he said: Has any one of the gods of the nations delivered its land from the hand of the king of Assyria? The Rabshakeh’s speech was intended to destroy their trust in God. His message was simple, and brilliant in its Satanic logic: “The gods of other nations have not been able to protect them against us. Your God is just like one of them and can’t protect you either.”

For anyone who had the spiritual understanding to see it, the people of Jerusalem could have started planning the victory party right then.

It was one thing to speak against Judah, against its people and leaders. It was another thing altogether to mock the LORD God of Israel and to count the LORD as just another god.

Typical of the work of the enemy of our souls, the Rabshakeh was going well until he simply overstepped his bounds. There was no way God would excuse this one. He had offended the LORD God in a way he would soon regret.

When God’s honor is on the line, victory is assured. Trust in the LORD and rest in that today!

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 18

City Walls

Two Lies and a Half-Truth

Have I now come up without the LORD against this place to destroy it? The LORD said to me, ‘Go up against this land, and destroy it.’” (2 Kings 18:25)

The general of the armies of Assyria had the title, “The Rabshakeh.” The Assyrians brought their armies against Syria and Israel, and they completely conquered them. Now, that army surrounded the city walls of Jerusalem, the only unconquered city of any importance in the kingdom of Judah.

City Walls

The Rabshakeh spoke boastful words: Have I now come up without the LORD against this land to destroy it? This enemy of God was bold enough to say that the God of Israel actually helped him to come against this land to destroy it. The Rabshakeh wanted the leaders of Judah and King Hezekiah to think that God was on his side.

It would have been easy for King Hezekiah and the people of Jerusalem to believe this lie. After all, the Assyrians was wildly successful? Surely, God must be on their side. Didn’t the Assyrians have the most powerful army? Surely, God must be on their side.

That was a convincing lie. But the Rabshakeh had an even more persuasive deception. He told Hezekiah and the leaders of Jerusalem this: The LORD said to me, “Go up against this land, and destroy it.” This was the finishing strike of a brilliant attack. The Rabshakeh basically said, “Hezekiah, God told me to destroy you. I’m just doing His will, and there is nothing you can do to stop it, so you may as well surrender.”

Significantly, we can say that the Rabshakeh was partially correct! God was with him, and his attack on Judah did fulfil God’s prophesied plan. In conquering Syria, in conquering Israel, and in bringing Judah to the brink, the Assyrians did the will of God. God prophesied that all this would happen, and it is recorded in Isaiah 8:3-4, 7:16-17 and many other passages in Isaiah. The LORD did in fact raise up the Assyrian army to carry out His will and to allowed it to happen so His judgements would be carried out and His prophesied plan would be fulfilled.

However, we should never think that God tempted an innocent man with an evil plan. In fact, even though God predicted and planned this invasion of the Assyrians, the Rabshakeh was indeed lying when he said, “The LORD said to me.” The king of Assyria and the generals under his command did to seek the will of God or care about it.

God did not have to do anything special to direct the bloodthirsty, conquest-hungry Assyrians to attack. He simply allowed them to carry out the corrupt desires of their evil hearts. Therefore, the Assyrians could neverexcuse themselves by saying, “We were doing the LORD’s will,” even as Judas could never legitimately make that excuse regarding his wicked betrayal of Jesus.

God’s great plan never makes us less responsible for our actions.

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 18

Don't Give Up

Don’t Give Up

Now therefore, I urge you, give a pledge to my master the king of Assyria, and I will give you two thousand horses—if you are able on your part to put riders on them! (2 Kings 18:23)

The armies of Assyria crushed the northern neighbor of Judah, and the cruelly carried away the ten northern tribes of Israel. Now those soldiers surrounded the city of Jerusalem, after having conquered virtually everything else in Judah.

Don't Give Up

The general commanding the armies of Assyria – who had the title “The Rabshakeh” – gave a long, public speech in the hearing of Hezekiah, the king of Judah. The Assyrian general told Hezekiah that Judah was already defeated, Jerusalem was surrounded, and there was no hope and no point in resisting any longer.

Judah had trusted in a partnership with Egypt – the Rabshakeh told Hezekiah that it would fail. Perhaps some in Judah thought that Yahweh, the covenant God of Israel, would rescue them – but the Rabshakeh told them there was no use in trusting God. He even said that God was mad at them and would never defend them! The Rabshakeh offered to give Hezekiah two thousand horses – but even that wouldn’t help them. He also said that he was actually on a mission from God to conquer Judah.

This was hard for King Hezekiah to hear. But in the words give a pledge to my master the king of Assyria, we see the plan of the Assyrian general. The Rabshakeh’s whole strategy was to make Hezekiah give up. This was the entire reason the Rabshakeh was at the aqueduct, speaking to these leaders of Hezekiah’s government.

The Rabshakeh had vastly superior armies; he could have just attacked Jerusalem without this little speech. But the Rabshakeh would prefer it if Judah would simply give up, to surrender out of fear, discouragement, or despair.

The enemy of our soul uses the exact same approach. Many of us picture Satan as “itching for a fight” with us. Truthfully, Satan doesn’t want to do battle with you. First, there is the strong chance you will win. Second, whether you win or lose, the battle can draw you closer to Jesus. Third, what Jesus does in your life through the battle can be a great blessing for other people. No, Satan would much rather not fight you at all! He would much rather try to talk you into giving up.

We see this exact strategy used against Jesus during His temptation in the wilderness. When Satan promised Jesus all the kingdoms of the world in exchange for Jesus’ worship, Satan was trying to avoid the fight, and trying to talk Jesus into giving up (Luke 4:5-8). It didn’t work with Jesus, and it shouldn’t work with us.

Think of the deceptive words and lies Satan whispers – or shouts – to you. They all have one purpose. Satan wants you, the child of God, to give up. God helping you, stand against him and his lies in the name of Jesus!

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 18

When the Enemy Makes Sense

When the Enemy Makes Sense

Then the Rabshakeh said to them, “Say now to Hezekiah, ‘Thus says the great king, the king of Assyria: “What confidence is this in which you trust? You speak of having plans and power for war; but they are mere words. And in whom do you trust, that you rebel against me?”’” (2 Kings 18:19-20)

The field commander of the Assyrian army (who had the title Rabshakeh) represented the Assyrian King Sennacherib. When the Assyrian army surrounded Jerusalem, he did his best to get King Hezekiah to surrender. He stood in a public place and spoke to all who would listen.

When the Enemy Makes Sense

The Rabshakeh seemed to be in complete command of the situation. He could walk right into the city of Jerusalem, and stand at the crucial water supply – which was Jerusalem’s life-line in a siege attack. As he stood there, three officials from Hezekiah’s government came to meet him.

With all listening, he said this: What confidence is this in which you trust? We might wish that Hezekiah trusted in the LORD, and the Rabshakeh mocked his trust in God. Instead, Hezekiah put his hope in an alliance with Egypt, and the Rabshakeh wanted him to lose confidence in that alliance.

It was a great temptation for Hezekiah during this time to make a defensive alliance with Egypt, which seemed to be the only nation strong enough to protect Judah against the mighty Assyrians. As a prophet, Isaiah did everything he could to discourage Hezekiah and the leaders of Judah from putting their trust in Egypt (Isaiah 19:11-17, 20:1-6, 30:1-7). The LORD wanted Judah to trust Him instead of Egypt.

In this sense, the Rabshakeh spoke the truth. God wanted Judah to have no confidence in Egypt at all. But the Rabshakeh did not do this to bring Judah to a firm trust in the LORD, who could and would deliver them from the Assyrians. He did it to completely demoralize Judah and drive them to despair.

Satan often attacks us the same way. The devil may tell us the truth – something like, “You are such a rotten sinner!” But Satan never does it to lead us to a firm trust in the LORD our God. When we hear that we are rotten sinners, we should reply like this: “Jesus died for sinners, so if I am a rotten sinner, Jesus died to forgive and free me!” Instead, Satan’s strategy – even if he tells us the truth – is always to demoralize us and drive us to despair.

From the perspective of the unbeliever, Sennacherib asked a valid question: And in whom do you trust, that you rebel against me? Those who don’t yet believe can’t understand the trust we have in God – the trust that makes us live different than the world. We can’t expect them to understand the strength God can give us to rebel against the world, the flesh, and the devil. God helping us – we will!

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 18

No Deal with the Devil

No Deal With the Devil

So Hezekiah gave him all the silver that was found in the house of the LORD and in the treasuries of the king’s house. At that time Hezekiah stripped the gold from the doors of the temple of the LORD, and from the pillars which Hezekiah king of Judah had overlaid, and gave it to the king of Assyria. (2 Kings 18:15-16)

Hezekiah was a good king over the people of God. In fact, he was one of the better kings of Judah, but apart from Jesus Christ no king is perfect. Here we see one of the bad or foolish things that Hezekiah did.

No Deal With the Devil

When the king of Assyria conquered the northern kingdom of Israel, he attacked the southern kingdom of Judah next. He conquered many of the fortified cities. The mention of Lachish is important to historians and archaeologists. The British Museum displays the Assyrian carvings depicting the siege of the city of Lachish, which was an important fortress city of Judah. Lachish was thirty miles (50 kilometers) southwest of Jerusalem.

In the British Museum there is a wall carving from Sennacherib’s royal palace in Nineveh. It shows King Sennacherib on a throne in his military camp outside Lachish. Captured Judean prisoners of war march by on foot, and all the booty from the city is displayed on wagons.

After Lachish, only Jerusalem was left. If Assyria captured Jerusalem, it was all over. So, King Hezekiah sent a message to Lachish for the King of Assyria. In the message he humbled himself before the pagan king. He apologized and offered to pay a large tribute to Sennacherib so that he would not conquer Jerusalem.

Maybe Hezekiah thought that since the Northern Kingdom was recently conquered and that all the fortified cities of Judah had been captured, God had demonstrated that He would not intervene on behalf of Judah. Maybe this made Hezekiah feel that he had to do something himself.

It could be that this idea was strengthened in Hezekiah when he remembered the wickedness of his own father Ahaz. Maybe Hezekiah thought that because of their prior sin, Judah deserved such judgment.

What did Hezekiah do? So Hezekiah gave him all the silver that was found in the house of the LORD and in the treasuries of the king’s house. Hezekiah hoped that this policy of appeasement would make Judah safe. He was wrong, and his policy only impoverished Judah and the temple and made the king of Assyria bolder than ever against Judah.

King Sennacherib took all the silver and gold that Hezekiah gave. But it didn’t buy him off. He took it all and still wanted Jerusalem and Hezekiah’s throne.

Don’t think you can ever make a deal with the devil. You can try to “buy him off” with small compromises and sins. But Satan will never be satisfied with those things. He will take them – and then go after your soul. Do what Hezekiah should have done: trust the LORD instead.

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 18

Hear and Do

Hear and Do

Because they did not obey the voice of the LORD their God, but transgressed His covenant and all that Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded; and they would neither hear nor do them. (2 Kings 18:12)

We don’t know the exact human author of the books of 1 and 2 Kings. However, we do see that in this verse, the human author wanted us to understand why the northern kingdom of Israel – the kingdom of the ten northern tribes – was conquered by the cruel Assyrian Empire.

Hear and Do

Simply said, it was because they did not obey the voice of the LORD. Yahweh was the covenant God of Israel, but Israel transgressed His covenant and they broke the laws given through Moses the servant of the LORD.

These are all themes we have seen before in 2 Kings. What catches my attention in this verse is the line, they would neither hear nor do them. Their disobedience and ultimate destruction were connected to their refusing to hear the word of God and to do the word of God.

First, we hear God’s word. We hear it proclaimed in preaching and Bible studies. We hear it by reading the Bible aloud. We hear it by singing the Bible. We hear it in our minds as we read the Bible.

But we don’t stop at hearing; we then must do God’s word. We do it by repenting and believing. We do it by worshipping God. We do it by much prayer. We do it by the hard work of Christian community. We do it by reaching a lost and broken world.

The command to not only be hearers, but also doers of God’s word, comes to us again in the New Testament (James 1:22). It reminds us that we must receive God’s word as those who do, not only as those who hear.

Jesus used this same point to conclude His great Sermon on the Mount. He said that the one who heard the word without doing it was like a man who built his house on the sand, but the one who heard God’s word and did it was like a man whose house was built on a rock and could withstand the inevitable storms of life and eternity (Matthew 7:24-27).

In many churches there are hearers who admire; hearers who love to hear, hearers who are devoted – yet all the time they are unblessed hearers, because they are not doers of the word.

Remember that by blood, the people of the Northern Kingdom were not any less Israelites and descendants of Abraham than were the people of the Southern Kingdom. Therefore, this clearly showed Judah that when they also stopped to hear and to do the word of God, they would also face judgment.

Put your attention on God and His great truth – hear. Then, relying on the power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit, set yourself to do His will as revealed in His word.

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 18

A Great King

A Great King

He trusted in the LORD God of Israel, so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor who were before him. For he held fast to the LORD; he did not depart from following Him, but kept His commandments, which the LORD had commanded Moses. (2 Kings 18:5-6)

The Kingdom of Judah – from the two southern tribes of the twelve tribes of Israel – had more than 15 kings over almost 350 years. The king described in 2 Kings 18 was special, and his name was Hezekiah. Look at all the things that made him a great king:

A Great King

He trusted in the LORD God of Israel: The first thing said about Hezekiah’s relationship with the LORD was that he trusted. What a wonderful thing to say about anybody! When we trust someone, we believe they are reliable. When we trust someone, it is easy to love them. When we trust someone, it honors them.

He held fast to the LORD: For Hezekiah, there was no turning back. He had decided to trust in the LORD, and he never let go of that trust. Many kings before him did not hold fast, but Hezekiah was in for the long journey with God – he did not depart from following Him.

But kept His commandments: Hezekiah lived a life of obedience. It wasn’t perfect obedience, but it was real obedience. He realized that God gave commandments, and they were not up for negotiation. Because Yahweh (the LORD) was the covenant God of Israel, what the LORD had commanded Moses was important to obey.

In all this, Hezekiah was unique in his passion and energy of his personal trust in God and for promoting the true worship of God. The great words that described his life were trust, hold, and keep. This is even more remarkable when we consider that his father Ahaz was one of the worst kings Judah had (2 Kings 16:10-20).

How do we explain this? How could a man with such a bad father be such a good king?

Maybe the best answer is to understand that Hezekiah was influenced by the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 1:1). His name is mentioned in the book of Isaiah more than 30 times. Since Isaiah the prophet was a messenger of God’s word, we can say that Hezekiah put himself under the influence of God’s word – and it changed his life, making him different. The same needs to be true of us. We must bring ourselves under the influence of God’s word, and see it change our heart, our mind, our life.

One last thing. Hezekiah was a great king, but He wasn’t actually the greatest King of the Jews. There is a King who perfectly trusted the LORD. This King perfectly held fast to the LORD. This King perfectly kept God’s commandments.

As good as Hezekiah was, he fell far short of perfection. Jesus Christ – the King of Kings – never falls short and never disappoints.

 

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 18

Nehushtan

When Good Things Become Idols

He removed the high places and broke the sacred pillars, cut down the wooden image and broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made; for until those days the children of Israel burned incense to it, and called it Nehushtan. (2 Kings 18:4)

After the fall of the kingdom of the norther tribes in 2 Kings 17, chapter 18 begins the story of Hezekiah, one of the best kings of Judah. In verse 3 it simply says of him, “He did what was right in the sight of the LORD.” Then we read about many of the right things that he did – beginning with his work against the idolatry in Judah.

Nehushtan

We read that Hezekiah removed the high places. These were popular altars for sacrifice set up as the worshipper desired, not according to God’s direction. Many other kings of Judah – even some of the good ones – allowed these unapproved places for sacrifice.

We read that he cut down the wooden image, which was probably some wooden pillar used in the immoral rituals intended to honor the pagan goddess Ashtoreth.

Finally, we read in verse 4, and broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made. What was this all about?

Numbers 21:1-9 describes how during a time of a plague of fiery serpents upon the whole nation, Moses made a bronze serpent for Israel to look upon and be spared death from the snake bites. This statement in 2 Kings tells us that this particular bronze serpent had been preserved for more than 800 years, but Hezekiah looked at it and called it “Nehushtan.” Because he was so zealous to honor God, Hezekiah broke in pieces this bronze artifact and put an end to the idolatrous worship of this object.

This bronze serpent was a wonderful thing – when the afflicted people of Israel looked upon it, they were saved. It was even a representation of Jesus Christ, as Jesus Himself said in John 3:14-15. Yet people could take something so good, and so used by God, and make a destructive idol out of it.

In the same way, sometimes good things become idols and therefore must be destroyed. For example, if some precious artifact from Bible times was discovered, and then became an object of idolatry for many, it would be better to destroy that thing.

God’s people must likewise be on guard against idolatry today. There are many dangers of idolatry in the modern church:

– Making leaders idols.
– Making education an idol.
– Making human eloquence an idol.
– Making customs and habits of ministry an idol.
– Making forms of worship an idol.

The name Nehushtan means “piece of brass” and is a way to make less of this object that was made an idol. It’s always good for us to look for idols in our heart and mind, and to cut them down to size.

God alone deserves our worship and our ultimate obedience.

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 18