By J.R. Miller
2 Kings 19:20-22, 28-37
In the opening portion of this chapter there is an interesting incident of a letter received by Hezekiah from his enemy, the king of Assyria. The letter was full of threatenings and insults, designed to terrify Hezekiah and lead him to yield up the city.
"Ha!" said the insulting letter, "do you know what I have done to the other countries and cities which have been in my way? Do you suppose you can withstand my army which has swept victoriously and resistlessly over all lands? The gods of those nations have not been able to deliver their people from me, and do you imagine that your God can deliver you?"
We are told that when Hezekiah had received this letter and read it, he took it into the temple and spread it out before the Lord. That was a beautiful thing to do. That is what faith should always do with any difficulty or perplexity--take it to the Lord in prayer. We may one day receive a letter which will trouble us and which we do not know how to answer. It may tell us of some danger or some sorrow. It may be from an enemy and be full of unkind words. Or it may cause us perplexities in some other way. Now, the best thing to do with this letter--is to spread it out before the Lord. We cannot answer it ourselves. We cannot defend ourselves against the danger, nor can we solve the perplexity; but God can take care of the matter, whatever it is.
Too often we may try to handle our own difficulties and to unravel with our own hands, the tangles which we find. We would better put them all into the hands of the wise Master, and keep our own hands off! Hezekiah prayed over this letter, asking God to bend His ear to listen and open His eyes to see. Then he besought God to interpose for His own honor and glory, that the Assyrian's challenge might be taken up and that all the nations might learn that Jehovah was the only true God.
The conduct of Hezekiah in this case illustrates well a counsel of Paul's in one of his Epistles. "In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus."
Prayer is heard by God--that is one great lesson. We may safely lay all the interests of our life, all our dangers, difficulties, sorrows, and losses before God in prayer. The surest weapon we can use against anyone who is trying to hurt us, is to pray against him--not bitterly nor with resentment--but by laying all the hurt and danger before God, that He may take care of our interests for His own name's sake.
There is proof here that Hezekiah's committing of the grievous trouble to the Lord was not in vain. Isaiah sent to the king this message. "Thus says Jehovah, the God of Israel, Whereas you have prayed to Me against Sennacherib king of Syria, I have heard you." It is a great comfort to us to know that God has an interest in our affairs, that we may consult Him about them.
It is good to know, what God thinks of the things that fret us. Sometimes people imagine that they are being wronged and persecuted, when in reality it is their own fault. By their own irascible temper or by their own selfishness or willfulness they bring upon themselves the ill-will or the unkindness of others. In the Beatitudes the Master was careful to say that it is when we are persecuted for righteousness sake--that is, for being godly and doing good--that blessing is promised. It is when men speak evil falsely against us, that the divine favor is pledged to us. Some people deserve injury and hurt from others; sometimes persecution is not because we are good--but is righteous punishment for evil doing. The Lord does not take our part against those who are seeking our hurt--unless we are blameless. We cannot appeal to Him for help to cover up our sins or deliver ns from them.
The little kingdom of Judah had no power of its own to make it secure or self-confident. In truth, it could not in its own strength stand against great and proud Assyria. But God was its refuge and strength. Omnipotence was encircling it, like horses and chariots of fire encamping on every side. Thus surrounded, thus sheltered in God, the kingdom could easily rejoice in confidence, for God would care for it.
Every Christian has the eternal God for a refuge. He can hide away in the secret place of the Most High, and laugh at every danger. One of the most wonderful words of the Bible, is that in which Paul says of Christians, "Your life is hid with Christ in God." Truly, we can laugh at danger and at all enmity--if we are hid in such a strong castle. We can look out at our windows and shake our head at the puny powers of evil which taunt us and threaten us. "The virgin daughter of Zion has despised you and laughed you to scorn," said the Lord to Sennacherib; "the daughter of Jerusalem has shaken her head at you." The words tell of the confidence which even the weakest child of God may have in the face of the haughtiest enemy, when sheltered by divine love and power.
The Assyrian king had defied Hezekiah and spoken contemptuously of his small resources of strength. "Behold, you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands." The Lord answers, "Whom have you defied and blasphemed? It is a wonderful quality of divine love--that it puts itself in the place of those it loves. He who harms a child of God--smites God in the face! He who taunts a Christian for righteousness, taunts God. He who does any unkindness to one who belongs to Christ, treats God Himself unkindly. We have this taught very beautifully in the New Testament in the Lord's parable of the judgment, where we are told that he who gives food to the hungry and drink to the thirsty, and who shows mercy and pity to the sick, the stranger, the prisoner--is showing the same kindness to Christ Himself! While he who passes by the hungry, the thirsty, the sick, and the stranger without helping them--is passing by the Lord Christ Himself!
"That night the angel of the LORD went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning--there were all the dead bodies!" But we need not worry ourselves over the question whether this angel was. God uses all things as His messengers, for the earth is His and the fullness thereof.