Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jul 22 2019 - 2 Kings 19:20-37 – Isaiah prophesies the fall of Sennacherib

We left Hezekiah having laid out Sennacherib's parting threat before the Lord in the temple, praying that the Lord will show himself to be the living God and glorify his name before the nations of the world. The Lord heard Hezekiah's prayer and sent his response through the prophet Isaiah.

Sennacherib had intended to divert his forces temporarily from Jerusalem to see off the threat from the forces of Cush. It would not be long before he would be back. Boasting of his own prowess in battle and in conquest, he is confident of his ability to crush this little nation (vv.23-24). But this time he has overstepped the mark for he has raised his voice "against the Holy One of Israel", and in his pride has "ridiculed and blasphemed" the living God (v.22). He has failed to realise that the future is not his to control.

Through Isaiah the Lord declares that history is in his hands. He is the one who planned long ago that Sennacherib would be used to turn "fortified cities into piles of stone" and drain their people of power (vv. 25-26). It was God's plan to allow Sennacherib to wipe away the northern kingdom of Israel because of their unfaithfulness. And now it is time for Sennacherib's pride to be brought low and for him and his empire to be drained of power. The Lord declares:

I know where you are and when you come and go and how you rage against me.
Because you rage against me and because your insolence has reached my ears,
I will put my hook in your nose and my bit in your mouth,
and I will make you return by the way you came. (vv.27-28)

The Lord tells Hezekiah that he and the people of Jerusalem and of Judah will be free from threat and will enjoy the harvests of their own land (v.29). Sennacherib will not enter the city but will return to his own land (vv. 32-33). God has large purposes for his people, purposes to bless them and make them a blessing (vv. 30-31 – these verses, and v.34 have Messianic overtones).

Sennacherib's army of 185,000 men, were struck down by a mysterious plague in the night. Sennacherib returned to his capital in Nineveh. We then read, "One day, while he was worshipping in the temple of his god Nisrok, his sons Adrammelek and Sharezer killed him with the sword" (v.37). This fulfilled the word that God had declared to Hezekiah through Isaiah, "I will make him want to return to his own country, and there I will have him cut down with the sword" (19:7).

It is easy for us to think that we are the masters of our own fate and to believe that we can determine our own future. Sennacherib was rebuked for his own pride and shown in the most dramatic fashion that his life and breath was in the hands of the living God. James, the brother of the Lord Jesus, warns Christians against boasting of their elaborate plans for future success and prosperity saying: "Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’" (James 4:14-15).

We who have come to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ are glad to remember that our days are in God's hands. God declared of Sennacherib, "I know where you are and when you come and go" (v.27), but it is with a sense of awe and thankful wonder that we say with David, "You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways… All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be" (Psalm 139:2-3,16).

Father God, we thank you that our times are in your hands. There are so many things going on in the world around us that disturb us and fill us with fear for ourselves and for those we love. In the midst of it all we thank you that we can trust you and know that you are at work for our good – our eternal good. Help me to trust you today and to rejoice in your care.

Peter Misselbrook