Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jul 20 2019 - 2 Kings 19:1-19 – Hezekiah's prayer

Sennacherib, king of Assyria, was threatening to lay siege to Jerusalem and take its inhabitants into captivity as he had done to Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom, and its inhabitants. What could Hezekiah and the small kingdom of Judah do against such threats?

Hezekiah's first reaction is to tear his royal clothes, put on sackcloth and to go to the temple of the Lord – it is, "a day of distress and rebuke and disgrace, as when children come to the moment of birth and there is no strength to deliver them" (v.3). Hosea knows that the Assyrian field commander has "ridiculed the living God." His hope is that the Lord will rebuke Assyria by coming to the aid of his people. Knowing he has no ability to withstand the threat, Hezekiah places all his hope in God.

Hezekiah sends a message to the prophet Isaiah telling him of the situation. This is the first time we read of Isaiah, but he had been a prophet now for about 30 years.  Isaiah sends word back to Hezekiah, "This is what the Lord says: do not be afraid of what you have heard – those words with which the underlings of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me. Listen! When he hears a certain report, I will make him want to return to his own country, and there I will have him cut down with the sword" (vv.6-7).

And that's just what happened. Sennacherib heard news that the king of Cush (upper Egypt), was coming out to fight against him and so he called his forces away from Jerusalem. But before he left, he sent a message to Hezekiah telling him not to think that his god has delivered him; Sennacherib will be back and Jerusalem will not be able to stand before him any more than other nations have been able to resist the power of Assyria: "Did the gods of the nations that were destroyed by my predecessors deliver them – the gods of Gozan, Harran, Rezeph and the people of Eden who were in Tel Assar?" (v.12)

This message was delivered in writing so Hezekiah went into the temple and laid it out before the Lord. Then Hezekiah prayed to the Lord:

Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Give ear, Lord, and hear; open your eyes, Lord, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God.  ‘It is true, Lord, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands. They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by human hands. Now, Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, Lord, are God.

Hezekiah appeals to God as the living God, the creator of heaven and earth. He prays not just that God would come to rescue him and the inhabitants of Jerusalem but that he would show himself to be the living God, unlike the idol-gods that have failed to deliver the other nations. He wants all the world to know that the Lord is God and to turn to him.

The Lord our God has demonstrated that he is the living God who cares for us by sending his Son from heaven to be our Saviour. He has shown that he has power greater than all the kingdoms of this world by raising his Son from the dead after he had been crucified by what was then the most powerful of the kingdoms of this world. When we feel under threat and are filled with doubts and fears, we need to come before our God in prayer and lay them all out before him knowing that he cares for us and that he is our hope, our help and our salvation.

Living God, we often feel inadequate to face the threats of the world around us. Thank you that we can come to you in prayer, confident that you are the Almighty and living God who is able to do more than we ask or imagine. Thank you that the power which raised Jesus from the dead is at work in us to bring us through every trial safe at last to glory.

Peter Misselbrook