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

they feared the lord, yet

They Feared the Lord, Yet…

So they feared the LORD, and from every class they appointed for themselves priests of the high places, who sacrificed for them in the shrines of the high places. They feared the LORD, yet served their own gods — according to the rituals of the nations from among whom they were carried away. (2 Kings 17:32-33)

God brought His judgment against the kingdom of Israel – the ten northern tribes – through the army of Assyria. The Assyrians forced them to relocate to other parts of the empire. Then they brought in the conquered from other lands, to re-populate the now empty land of Israel.

they feared the lord, yet

But these foreign newcomers to the land of Israel didn’t honor the God of Israel. The LORD, Yahweh, the covenant God of Israel, sent His judgment against these newcomers for their idolatry. So, the Assyrians sent a priest from among the Israelites removed from the land, sending him to teach the newcomers about the LORD. The newcomers did what the priest told them to do – in part. Not completely.

1 Kings 17:29 says that “every nation continued to make gods of its own.” The priest-for-hire brought in by the Assyrians did not tell the new inhabitants of the land that they must only worship the LORD God of Israel. He did not teach it because, coming from Israel, he did not believe it.

1 Kings 17:33 says it well: They feared the LORD, yet served their own gods. This described the pagan peoples that the Assyrians brought in to populate the area of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. They gave a measure of respect to the God of Israel – after all, they did not want to be eaten by lions. Yet they also served their own gods and picked and chose among religious and spiritual beliefs as it pleased them.

– This accurately described the pagan newcomers who re-populated Israel.

– This accurately described the Kingdom of Israel before they were conquered and exiled.

– This accurately describes common religious belief in the modern world – today.

Don’t you know many people like this? They give some respect to God, and maybe even attend church. Others might look at them and think, “that is someone who fears the Lord.” Despite all that, they serve their own gods.

Charles Spurgeon said this in 1876: “Is not worldly piety, or pious worldliness, the current religion of England? They live among godly people, and God chastens them, and they therefore fear him, but not enough to give their hearts to him.” What Spurgeon said of England is true of many more nations.

Is it true of you? F.B. Meyer wrote, “Are you sure this is not a true description of your own position? You pay an outward deference to God by attending his house, and acknowledging his day, whilst you are really prostrating yourself before other shrines.”

We can bow down before many of our own gods. Ask God to examine your heart and life for hidden idolatry.

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 17

Lions of Judgment

Lions of Judgment

Then the king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Ava, Hamath, and from Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel; and they took possession of Samaria and dwelt in its cities. And it was so, at the beginning of their dwelling there, that they did not fear the LORD; therefore the LORD sent lions among them, which killed some of them. (2 Kings 17:24-25)

The kingdom of Israel, the ten northern tribes, were conquered as a nation. The brutal Assyrians defeated them and then forced the people of Israel to relocate to different areas of the Assyrian empire. After that, the king of Assyria brought people into the land. The policy of the Assyrians was to remove rebellious, resistant people and to resettle their former lands with people from other parts of the empire.

Lions of Judgment

In doing this, the kings of Assyria hoped to re-populate their conquered lands, bringing in people who had no previous attachment to the area. They wanted the people of the empire to be attached to and loyal to the king of Assyria, and no one else.

But our Bible passage tells us something of these new people brought into the land: they did not fear the LORD; therefore the LORD sent lions among them. When the Israelites were conquered and could not defend the land, God supernaturally defended it – and the LORD sent lions among them to do it!

This shows that there was not only something special about the kingdom of Israel, but also something special about the land of Israel. God demanded to be feared among the people of the land, even if they came from other nations.

Zechariah 2:12 tells us that the land of Israel is the Holy Land. God regards it as something special, and He will hold accountable those who live there and who do not fear Him.

2 Kings 17 goes on to explain that the Assyrians figured out that the lions were sent because they did not honor the God of Israel. It’s amazing that the Assyrian officials seemed to know what the people of the recently-conquered kingdom of Israel did not know – that they had to honor the God of Israel. They even had a priest from Israel come and teach them to fear the LORD (2 Kings 17:28).

You could say, as Charles Spurgeon did, that they were “converted by lions.” But, 2 Kings 17:29-33 explains, it wasn’t much of a conversion. They still honored the corrupt, pagan gods along with the LORD God of Israel.

Coming to God only because you are afraid of judgment – afraid of the lions – is never enough. It might be a good start, but it can’t stop there. We need to come to God and put our trust in Him on the basis of His love for us in Jesus Christ. It is the kindness and goodness of God that leads us to true repentance (Romans 2:4).

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 17

principles of judgment

Principles of Judgment

Now the king of Assyria went throughout all the land, and went up to Samaria and besieged it for three years. In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria took Samaria and carried Israel away to Assyria. (2 Kings 17:5-6)

It took a three-year siege, but eventually the king of Assyria conquered Israel, the kingdom made up of the ten northern tribes. We read, the king of Assyria went throughout all the land, and went up to Samaria and besieged it for three years. This was a long, dedicated campaign to finally crush the rebellious kingdom of Israel, who had defied the power of the Assyrian Empire. Though it took a three-year siege, it was worth it to the Assyrians.

principles of judgment

The walls surrounding Samaria were good – good enough to keep the enemy out for three years. But the strength of the walls could not stand against the judgment of God, and the Assyrian army was in fact an instrument of God’s judgment against Israel. This shows us that when God brings His judgment, He may use human instruments to do it.

When the capital city of Samaria fell, they then carried Israel away to Assyria. This is what the Assyrians did regarding many of the nations they conquered. They deported all but the very lowest classes back to the key cities of their empire, either to train and utilize the talented or to enslave the able.

So, 200 years and 19 kings after the time of Solomon (the last king over a united Israel), the Northern Kingdom of Israel fell. It was not because the God of Israel was unable to help them, but because they had so forsaken God and ignored His guidance and correction that He finally stopped actively protecting them and let them rot and degrade according to their desire.

As they carried Israel away to Assyria, they followed their typical custom.  When the Assyrians depopulated and exiled a conquered community, they led the captives away on journeys of hundreds of miles, with the captives naked and attached together with a system of strings and fishhooks pierced through their lower lips. God made sure they were led in this humiliating manner through the broken walls of their conquered cities (Amos 4:2-3). This shows another principle of God’s judgment: When it comes, it may be humiliating and degrading.

This should give us a sober fear of the judgment of God. Israel had enjoyed a heritage of rich blessing in the past, but that in itself would not protect them from God’s judgment if they continued to mock God and rebel against Him.

More so, it should make us grateful for the work of Jesus. When Jesus died on the cross as our substitute, He took the judgment we deserved. God did it through human instruments, and Jesus was (humanly speaking) humiliated on the cross. Jesus bore all that so that those who put their trust in Him would never face God’s judgment.

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 17