A Good King and a Terrible Threat
2 Kings 18
This chapter together with chapter 19 tell the story of a wonderful deliverance executed by God for the good, God trusting, and prayerful King Hezekiah and for Judah and Jerusalem.
The Assyrians had overrun the Northern Kingdom of Israel and had, as was their policy, disbursed the conquered population of ten tribes around the Assyrian Kingdom.
Lord Byron immortalised the event recorded chapter 19 in his poem ‘The Destruction of Sennacherib”:
The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;
And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea,
When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.
Like the leaves of the forest when Summer is green,
That host with their banners at sunset were seen:
Like the leaves of the forest when Autumn hath blown,
That host on the morrow lay withered and strown.
For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast,
And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed;
And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill,
And their hearts but once heaved, and for ever grew still!
But this was all future for the faithful King who, in obedience to God, had sought to bring the life of his Nation back to conformity to the expressed will of God. He had endeavoured to ‘pay-off’ Assyria but they were not about to have a province in their empire resistant to their rule.
When faithfulness appears to be rewarded with opposition and threat, how the tempter whispers words of doubt and fear into the heart of the child of God. The city stood transfixed, paralysed by the ominous and threatening power of the world’s most powerful and cruel army. Was God to be trusted? Would He help? What could he do in the face of this “real and present danger”?
Here is the dark night of the soul when God seems to be no longer there.
On some lines from Pascal, “God has established prayer to communicate to his creatures the dignity of causality”, C. S. Lewis wrote:
The Bible says Sennacherib’s campaign was spoiled
By angels: in Herodotus it says, by mice –
Innumerably nibbling all one night they toiled
To eat his bowstrings piecemeal as warm wind eats ice.
But muscular angels, I suggest, employed
Seven little jaws at labour on each tender string,
And by their aid, weak masters though they be, destroyed
The smiling-lipped Assyrian, cruel bearded king.
No stranger that omnipotence should choose to need
Small helps than great – no stranger if His action lingers
Till men have prayed, and suffers their weak prayers indeed
To move as very muscles His delaying fingers,
Who, in His longanimity and love for our
Small dignities, enfeebles, for a time, His power
But on the day we are considering all that lay in the future. Are you, at the moment, in a dark place wondering what God might do?
Responding to Grace
2 Peter 1:5-11
It is God who saves us through Christ and by His Spirit by calling us to faith in his promises. We, like Israel, having been released from our spiritual “Egypt” and now set on our journey to our “Promised Land”.
The virtues mentioned here are those which we are to seek to develop in our daily walk with Christ. How do we do it? I suggest the following.
- Call upon God to make good His promises to us to work in us to will and to do his good pleasure (Philippians 2:13) and to write his laws in our hearts and cause us to walk in in them (Hebrews 8:8-12)
- Seek conscientiously to practice these virtues daily
- Confess our failures day by day and begin each day afresh with a prayer like the following
Holy, blessed and glorious Trinity, three Persons in one God, have mercy on me.
Almighty God, Creator and Sustainer of the universe, I worship you.
Lord Jesus Christ, Saviour and Lord of the world, I worship you.
Holy Spirit, Sanctifier of the people of God, I worship you.
Heavenly Father, I pray that this day I may live in your presence and please you more and more.
Lord Jesus, I pray that this day I make take up my cross and follow you.
Holy Spirit, I pray that this day you will fill me with yourself and cause your fruit to ripen in my life – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, fruitfulness, gentleness and self-control
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
As it was in the beginning, is now, and shall be for ever. Amen (Rev. John Stott)