How Do The People of God Respond When Faced With Overwhelming Odds Against Them? #159
Hello friends, and happy Friday to you! Today’s Bible readings include Deuteronomy 9, Psalms 92-93, Revelation 7 and our focus passage, Isaiah 37. As we read yesterday in Isaiah 36, Sennacherib, King of Assyria, had sent his messenger to threaten Judah and its King, Hezekiah, in the most arrogant, snarky and blasphemous way possible. In today’s chapter, righteous King Hezekiah sends messengers to the prophet Isaiah for counsel, and then is faced with a seemingly insurmountable army. How does he respond? Let’s read and find out!
14 Hezekiah took the letter from the messengers’ hands, read it, then went up to the Lord’s temple and spread it out before the Lord. 15 Then Hezekiah prayed to the Lord:
16 Lord of Armies, God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you are God—you alone—of all the kingdoms of the earth. You made the heavens and the earth. 17 Listen closely, Lord, and hear; open your eyes, Lord, and see. Hear all the words that Sennacherib has sent to mock the living God. 18 Lord, it is true that the kings of Assyria have devastated all these countries and their lands. 19 They have thrown their gods into the fire, for they were not gods but made from wood and stone by human hands. So they have destroyed them. 20 Now, Lord our God, save us from his power so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, Lord, are God—you alone.
How does Hezekiah behave in the face of an overwhelming threat from the King of Assyria? He takes that threat into the temple, lays it out before the Lord and prays. It is worth re-reading His prayer, because it was both powerful and effective.
Spurgeon helps us to see the point here in commenting on this passage:
NEITHER did Sennacherib molest the city. He had boasted loudly, but he could not carry out his threats. The Lord is able to stop the enemies of his people in the very act. When the lion has the lamb between his jaws, the great Shepherd of the sheep can rob him of his prey. Our extremity only provides an opportunity for a grander display of divine power and wisdom.
In the case before us, the terrible foe did not put in an appearance before the city which he thirsted to destroy. No annoying arrow could he shoot over the walls, and no besieging engines could he put to work to batter down the castles, and no banks could he cast up to shut in the inhabitants. Perhaps in our case also the Lord will prevent our adversaries from doing us the least harm. Certainly he can alter their intentions, or render their designs so abortive that they will gladly forego them. Let us trust in the Lord and keep his way, and he will take care of us. Yea, he will fill us with wondering praise as we see the perfection of his deliverance.
Let us not fear the enemy till he actually comes, and then let us trust in the Lord.
C. H. Spurgeon, The Cheque Book of the Bank of Faith: Being Precious Promises Arranged for Daily Use with Brief Comments (New York: American Tract Society, 1893), 175.
And in another place, he challenges:
How often does the child of God nurse his difficulties as Asaph did when he said, “When I tried to understand all this, it seemed hopeless” (Ps 73:16). But then he adds, “Until I entered God’s sanctuary. Then I understood their destiny” (v. 17). Habakkuk, in a time of danger, stood at his guard post and stationed himself on the lookout tower to see what the Lord would say to him (Hab 2:1). And we remember what Hezekiah did with the letter he received from the hand of the messengers of Sennacherib, king of Assyria. When he had read it, he entered the temple and “spread it out before the LORD” (2Kg 19:14). It would be regrettable that our lives should be constantly vexed with trifling cares instead of casting all our care on God. The knowledge that he cares for us ought to drive all our anxious cares away.
One reason many of us are slow to seek the Lord’s counsel is this—we are not thoroughly emptied of our own pride. When the children of Israel came to Kadesh, Moses sent spies to bring in their report of the land. And of the twelve only two brought in an encouraging report. The other ten discouraged the hearts of the people with a pitiful tale of walled cities and their giant population. In vain Moses tried to admonish them, “Don’t be terrified or afraid of them!” (Dt 1:29). In vain he assured them, “The LORD your God who goes before you will fight for you” (Dt 1:30). In vain he reminded them of the wonders the Lord had done in Egypt before their eyes. But they were fainthearted and would not believe the Lord their God.
Spurgeon, The Spurgeon Study Bible: Notes (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2017), 1227.
Allow me to close with three mighty quotes on prayer that might benefit us:
- George Muller on overcoming/persistent/Luke 18 prayer:How may I know whether I have cast my burden, upon God? One says, By prayer! Well, right or wrong, just as you understand it. Right, if it is believing prayer, if you exercise faith in the power and willingness of God to carry the burden for you. But simply praying will not do. We know we have rolled our burden upon God, if after praying, the heart is easy, the heart is light. If this is not the case, then we are still carrying the burden ourselves instead of casting it on God, and have need to go again to Him, and in believing prayer exercise faith with regard to the power and willingness of God to carry the burden for us. George Müller, Jehovah Magnified: Addresses (Bristol, England: The Bible and Tract Depot of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution, 1876), 159.
- Oh, if only I could pray the way this dog watches the meat! All his thoughts are concentrated on the piece of meat. Otherwise he has no thought, wish, or hope.
No man should be alone when he opposes Satan. The church and the ministry of the Word were instituted for this purpose, that hands may be joined together and one may help another. If the prayer of one doesn’t help, the prayer of another will.
I have often learned much more in one prayer than I have been able to glean from much reading and reflection Mary Ann Jeffreys, “Colorful Sayings of Colorful Luther,” Christian History Magazine-Issue 34: Martin Luther: The Reformer’s Early Years (Carol Stream, IL: Christianity Today, 1992).
- Prayer is as natural an expression of faith, as breathing is of life; and to say a man lives a life of faith, and yet lives a prayerless life, is every whit as inconsistent and incredible, as to say, that a man lives without breathing .Jessica Parks, ed., Jonathan Edwards: A Guide to His Life and Writings, Faithlife Author Guides (Bellingham, WA: Faithlife, 2017).