Hezekiah was one of the few kings of Judah who was constantly aware of God’s acts in the past and His involvement in the events of every day. The Bible describes Hezekiah as a king who had a close relationship with God, one who did “what was good and right and faithful before the LORD his God” (2 Chronicles 31:20).
In 701 BC, Hezekiah and all of Judah faced a crisis – as the Message version paraphrases 2 Kings 19:3 “This is a black day, a terrible day—doomsday!”. The Assyrians, the dominant world power at the time, had invaded Judah and were marching against Jerusalem. The Assyrians had already conquered the northern kingdom of Israel and many other nations, and now they threatened Judah (2 Kings 18:13). In their threats against the city of Jerusalem, the Assyrians openly defied the God of Judah; likening Him to the powerless gods of the nations they had conquered (2 Kings 18:28–35; 19:10–12).
In today’s OT reading from 2 Kings 19:1-19, Hezekiah when confronted with the realisation that his misguided alliances had only provoked the Assyrians, saw the situation for what it really was he tore his clothes, covered himself with sackcloth – an expression of deep mourning and repentance. He received the threats from King Sennacherib’s minion Rabshakeh seriously, knowing how dedicated his enemy was to completely conquering Jerusalem.
Often when we are in some kind of trial or difficulty, we handle it poorly because we never see the situation accurately. Jerusalem’s situation was desperate and Hezekiah knew it.
Hezekiah’s second reaction was even better – he went into the house of the Lord. He did not allow his mourning and grief to spin him into a rejection of the Lord’s power and help. He knew this was a more necessary time than ever to seek the Lord.
And thirdly, he sought out the word of the Lord, given through the prophet Isaiah. Hezekiah knew that their only hope was that God would take offense at the blasphemies of Rabshakeh and rise up against him.
Isaiah’s reply was a message of reassurance – “Do not be afraid because of the words that you have heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have reviled me. Behold, I will put a spirit in him, so that he shall hear a rumour and return to his own land, and I will make him fall by the sword in his own land.”
When Rabshakeh left Jerusalem and finds his king warring against Libnah, it must have seemed to Hezekiah to be the fulfillment of the Lord’s promise through the prophet Isaiah. Hezekiah must have thought, “Now he’ll go back to his own land and be killed, just like the Lord promised. Good riddance! Thank You Lord!”
But that didn’t stop Rabshaken from trying to build fear, discouragement, and despair in Hezekiah by sending his envoys to deliver a letter to the king of Judah attacking him from a distance. In verse 14, Hezekiah reacts to this second letter in a different manner. He didn’t go to Isaiah. He went to the temple and prayed alone, taking his plea directly to the Lord.
We shall see as we read on we will learn how the Lord mightly answers Hezekiah’s prayer.