Read 2 Kings 18
Hezekiah King of Judah
18 In the third year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, Hezekiah son of Ahaz king of Judah began to reign. 2 He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years. His mother’s name was Abijah daughter of Zechariah. 3 He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father David had done. 4 He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it. (It was called Nehushtan.)
5 Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him. 6 He held fast to the Lord and did not stop following him; he kept the commands the Lord had given Moses. 7 And the Lord was with him; he was successful in whatever he undertook. He rebelled against the king of Assyria and did not serve him. 8 From watchtower to fortified city, he defeated the Philistines, as far as Gaza and its territory.
9 In King Hezekiah’s fourth year, which was the seventh year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, Shalmaneser king of Assyria marched against Samaria and laid siege to it. 10 At the end of three years the Assyrians took it. So Samaria was captured in Hezekiah’s sixth year, which was the ninth year of Hoshea king of Israel. 11 The king of Assyria deported Israel to Assyria and settled them in Halah, in Gozan on the Habor River and in towns of the Medes. 12 This happened because they had not obeyed the Lord their God, but had violated his covenant—all that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded. They neither listened to the commands nor carried them out.
13 In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah’s reign, Sennacherib king of Assyria attacked all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them. 14 So Hezekiah king of Judah sent this message to the king of Assyria at Lachish: “I have done wrong. Withdraw from me, and I will pay whatever you demand of me.” The king of Assyria exacted from Hezekiah king of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold. 15 So Hezekiah gave him all the silver that was found in the temple of the Lord and in the treasuries of the royal palace.
16 At this time Hezekiah king of Judah stripped off the gold with which he had covered the doors and doorposts of the temple of the Lord, and gave it to the king of Assyria.
Sennacherib Threatens Jerusalem
17 The king of Assyria sent his supreme commander, his chief officer and his field commander with a large army, from Lachish to King Hezekiah at Jerusalem. They came up to Jerusalem and stopped at the aqueduct of the Upper Pool, on the road to the Washerman’s Field. 18 They called for the king; and Eliakim son of Hilkiah the palace administrator, Shebna the secretary, and Joah son of Asaph the recorder went out to them.
19 The field commander said to them, “Tell Hezekiah:
“‘This is what the great king, the king of Assyria, says: On what are you basing this confidence of yours? 20 You say you have the counsel and the might for war—but you speak only empty words. On whom are you depending, that you rebel against me? 21 Look, I know you are depending on Egypt, that splintered reed of a staff, which pierces the hand of anyone who leans on it! Such is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who depend on him. 22 But if you say to me, “We are depending on the Lord our God”—isn’t he the one whose high places and altars Hezekiah removed, saying to Judah and Jerusalem, “You must worship before this altar in Jerusalem”?
23 “‘Come now, make a bargain with my master, the king of Assyria: I will give you two thousand horses—if you can put riders on them! 24 How can you repulse one officer of the least of my master’s officials, even though you are depending on Egypt for chariots and horsemen? 25 Furthermore, have I come to attack and destroy this place without word from the Lord? The Lord himself told me to march against this country and destroy it.’”
26 Then Eliakim son of Hilkiah, and Shebna and Joah said to the field commander, “Please speak to your servants in Aramaic, since we understand it. Don’t speak to us in Hebrew in the hearing of the people on the wall.”
27 But the commander replied, “Was it only to your master and you that my master sent me to say these things, and not to the people sitting on the wall—who, like you, will have to eat their own excrement and drink their own urine?”
28 Then the commander stood and called out in Hebrew, “Hear the word of the great king, the king of Assyria! 29 This is what the king says: Do not let Hezekiah deceive you. He cannot deliver you from my hand. 30 Do not let Hezekiah persuade you to trust in the Lord when he says, ‘The Lord will surely deliver us; this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.’
31 “Do not listen to Hezekiah. This is what the king of Assyria says: Make peace with me and come out to me. Then each of you will eat fruit from your own vine and fig tree and drink water from your own cistern, 32 until I come and take you to a land like your own—a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of olive trees and honey. Choose life and not death!
“Do not listen to Hezekiah, for he is misleading you when he says, ‘The Lord will deliver us.’ 33 Has the god of any nation ever delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria? 34 Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena and Ivvah? Have they rescued Samaria from my hand? 35 Who of all the gods of these countries has been able to save his land from me? How then can the Lord deliver Jerusalem from my hand?”
36 But the people remained silent and said nothing in reply, because the king had commanded, “Do not answer him.”
37 Then Eliakim son of Hilkiah the palace administrator, Shebna the secretary, and Joah son of Asaph the recorder went to Hezekiah, with their clothes torn, and told him what the field commander had said.
In this chapter, Assyria has been on the move. Assyria takes Samaria and deports the Israelites, and verse 12 says this “happened because they had not obeyed the LORD their God, but had violated his covenant–all that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded…” (18:12). A few years later, Sennacherib king of Assyria attacks all the fortified cities of Judah and captures them, too.
Then Sennacherib sends his officials and a large army to Hezekiah, king of Judah, to ridicule the living God with a speech meant to intimidate the people of Judah (18:17-35). His speech touts two big lies:
- I am stronger than your God and
- You’ll find life and good things with me, but you’ll suffer if you trust in the LORD.
Read through the speech and underline all the places you see these lies. From his speech, examine why Sennacherib thinks he is stronger than the LORD, and what good things he promises to those who would make a deal with him. What does he say will happen to them if they keep trusting the LORD? Sennacherib wants God’s people to focus on how he has laid waste the other nations and how their gods could not deliver them, as if the LORD could be compared to other gods!
In the next chapter, you’ll read about Hezekiah’s prayerful response and how God indeed delivered Judah from Assyria, but for now reread the description of Hezekiah in 18:3-8. Hezekiah was different from other kings. He would not tolerate idolatry in the land any longer, and removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones, and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the snake Moses had made, which had become an idol (v.3-4). Hezekiah “did what was right in the eyes of the LORD,” “trusted in the LORD,” there was “no one like him among all the kings of Judah,” he “held fast to the LORD,” “did not stop following him,” and “kept the commands,” and “the LORD was with him.” Hezekiah served God, not the king of Assyria. It certainly was no small thing to trust and hold fast to the LORD under the pressure of Assyrian attack. How we would love to be described this way in the midst of our battles!
What about us? Will we reject the lies of Sennacherib, and be confident that 1) God is stronger than anything we face and 2) If we keep trusting in the LORD, we will find life there and not elsewhere? When sin seems too strong for us or we fear what may happen when we obey, will we, like Hezekiah, hold fast to the LORD and keep obeying him? Will we remember that our God is different from the gods that others rely on, that He alone is God and is able to deliver us from anything? When the option to disobey seems to promise life and all its good stuff (“fruit from your own vine and fig tree, water from your own cistern, etc.”), will we keep trusting that life really is found in worshiping and serving God alone?
- Is there any battle in your life where you need to reclaim new confidence that God is stronger than what you face and will deliver you?
- Is there any area of your life where you are tempted to believe that compromise with sin will give you a better life?
- How can we be committed to tearing down idolatry, completely “smashing” and “breaking” it out of our lives, family, and church?
Write down “God is stronger than _____.” Fill in the blank with whatever you are facing right now, and praise God for the confidence you can have in these battles. You can pray words inspired by 2 Kings 18, 1 Cor 10:13, and 1 Samuel 17.
Next, write down “God promises me ______ .” Fill in the blank with all that scripture promises to you in Christ, and praise God for what you know is yours in Christ as you continue to follow him. You can pray words inspired by 2 Kings 18, Ephesians 1, Psalm 73, and Matthew 4:8-11.
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