By Lewis Willis
Bible students are aware of that time when the nation of Israel divided into the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. Samaria was the capital of Israel, and Jerusalem was the capital of Judah. Israel was very wicked, living defiantly against God. The Assyrian army came against Samaria, besieging the city for three years, until it fell to Sargon II in 721 B.C.
In time Sargon II was succeeded by Sennacherib as king of Assyria. In a move to stabilize his empire internally, he defeated an old enemy of his father, Marduk-Aplaiddina, consolidating his rule. Within the empire, there were many cities which had kings, creating mini-nations. Several of these kings revolted against Sennacherib and he sent his armies to quash these rebellions. He overcame opposition in Tarsus, captured the kings of several towns in Israel, defeated the Egyptians, and “sacked forty-six towns and villages in Judah, taking away 200,150 prisoners and much spoil” (Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, V: 340).
These events occurred as Hezekiah, age 25, began to reign in Judah. He would reign for 29 years (2 Chron. 29:1). His reign was likened unto the reign of David because “he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord” (29:2). Before Hezekiah, Judah’s kings had permitted the worship of God to almost disappear. The priesthood was corrupted and they had allowed the temple to be polluted. Hezekiah ordered the priests to sanctify themselves and the house of the Lord to be cleansed. This task was accomplished in eight days (29:17). He recognized that the wrath of God was against the nation and it was in his heart to make a covenant with God that his fierce wrath might be turned away from them (29:10). With the temple cleansed, the rulers of the city were gathered to the temple and sacrifices were offered (29:31).
Next, Hezekiah sent to the whole nation in Israel and Judah that they should come to Jerusalem to keep the Passover, which had not been kept for a long time (30:1-2). This proclamation was declared from Dan to Beer-sheba. He called on the nation to “turn again unto the Lord . . . be not like your fathers . . . which trespassed against the Lord . . . be not stiff necked . . . but yield yourselves unto the Lord . . . and serve the Lord . . . if ye turn again unto the Lord, your brethren . . . shall find compassion . . . for the Lord your god is gracious and merciful, if ye return unto Him” (30:6-9).
When the messengers took this message throughout the northern part of the nation, they were laughed at and mocked (30:10). However, many people assembled at Jerusalem as the king had required, and kept the feast of unleavened bread (30:21). “So there was great joy in Jerusalem: for since the time of Solomon the son of David king of Israel there was not the like in Jerusalem” (30:26). The king had all of the altars to idols destroyed and he “wrought that which was good and right and truth before the Lord his God. And in every work that he began . . . he did it with all his heart, and prospered” (31:20-21).
At the conclusion of these events Sennacherib, king of Assyria came into Judah and began to destroy the cities of the region. Hezekiah saw that the Assyrians were coming and decided to fight against them, refusing a demand to surrender (2 Kings 18:17-23). Sennacherib said, “Hezekiah, the Judaean, I shut up in Jerusalem, his royal city, like a bird in a cage” (Ibid. 340). Hezekiah gathered his people together and stopped all the fountains and the brook that ran through that part of the land. He strengthened himself and built up all the wall of Jerusalem that was broken. He armed his people and set captains of war over them. He prepared himself and Jerusalem for battle.
Then he issued a truly remarkable charge to his people. He gathered them to him in the street of the city and “spake comfortably” to them (2 Chron. 32:6). Another translation (NASV) says he “spoke encouragingly to them.” One has to wonder how the people could be encouraged as they were facing the mighty army of the Assyrians. City after city had fallen to that army and now they had laid siege to Jerusalem itself. Still, good king Hezekiah knew there was reason to be encouraged. He said, “Be strong and courageous, be not afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria, nor for all the multitude that is with him: for there be more with us than with him: With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord our God to help us, and to fight our battles” (2 Chron. 32:7-8). The people gave heed to his exhortation and “rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah king of Judah” (32:8).
Sennacherib sent servants to Jerusalem. They asked how Hezekiah had persuaded his people to die by famine or thirst, saying that the Lord would deliver them (32:11). The Assyrians told the Jews not to be deceived for “no god of any nation or kingdom was able to deliver his people” out of the hands of the Assyrians (32:15). Sennacherib’s servants spoke much against God and Hezekiah and wrote letters “to rail on the Lord God of Israel and to speak against Him” (32:16-17). They tried in every way possible to scare the people.
Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah prayed to God ( 32:20). The king had said that the Lord God would help them and fight their battles, and he now called on the Lord to do so. God responded, sending an angel which killed all the mighty men of valor and the leaders and captains in the Assyrian camp (32:21). In defeat Sennacherib returned to his own land with shame. He went to the house of his god and while there, members of his own family slew him with the sword (32:21).
“Thus the Lord saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem from the hand of Sennacherib the king of Assyria, and from the hand of all others, and guided them on every side” (2 Chron. 32:22). The king’s encouraging and comforting words had come true!
This remarkable story illustrates an abiding truth. The same God that was with king Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem is with us also. Jesus promised, “. . . lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 28:20). And again, God has said, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Heb. 13:5-6).
There is much adversity in serving the Lord. “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12). When the hardships come, we need to be comforted and encouraged. Like Hezekiah of old, the apostle Paul “spoke encouragingly” unto us saying, “and in nothing terrified by your adversaries” (Phil. 1:28). After all, “there is more with us than with him . . . but with us is the Lord our God to help us, and to fight our battles” (2 Chron. 32:7-8). Let us depend upon the help of the Lord. Let us stand fast before the adversary (Phil. 1:27). Paul charged the Ephesians, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil . . . Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Eph. 6:10-11, 13). Do we have enough faith and courage to heed these admonitions — to follow the example of Hezekiah and Jerusalem? Will we trust God, and Hezekiah’s comforting words?