(14) Hezekiah took the letter from the hands of the messengers. When he had read it, he went up to the house of YHWH and spread it out before YHWH. (15) And Hezekiah prayed to YHWH . . . — Isaiah 37:14-15
Scripture: Isaiah 36:1 â€“ 37:38
I’ve quoted only two verses, but let me suggest that you find time sometime this week to read this entire story as it appears in Isaiah. Briefly, Judah is under attack by the Assyrians and things are not going well. Sennacherib, king of Assyria, sends a messenger to parley with the Judeans, and to persuade them to give up Jerusalem. He presents a number of arguments in favor of them doing this, showing that he is acquainted with their religion and with Hezekiah’s reformation. When Hezekiah receives the message he takes it before God and prays. As a result he is given assurance that God will intervene and will prevent the fall of Jerusalem.
I want to use this story of physical deliverance as an analogy for spiritual attack and how to handle it. Years before this, Hezekiah’s father Ahaz had also been threatened by the Assyrians, and he had chosen compromise (2 Kings 16). Perhaps some time I will compare the two responses to a threat. But for now, let’s let Sennacherib stand in for the devil as we think of spiritual attack.
What are some characteristics of Satan’s attacks?
- Tearing down our confidence in ourselves (36:4-5)
- Tearing down our confidence in our friends (36:6)
- Tearing down our confidence in God (36:7)
- Exaggerating his own power (36:8-9)
- Pretending to be doing God’s work (36:10)
- Trying to enlist your associates against you (36:13-15)
- Pretending to be the one who has good plans for you (36:16-20)
Now someone is sure to notice that in point #4, the â€œfriendâ€ Judah was claiming, Egypt, was not terribly reliable. But in my metaphorical use of the story I would suggest that the devil doesn’t always have to lie to make his point. It’s quite possible that when the devil points out that your friends are unreliable and unlikely to happen, he’s entirely right. They could be unreliable. But that’s not the point, no matter how much Satan wants you to think it is.
Now look at Hezekiah’s response.
- He told the people not to argue with Sennacherib’s messenger (36:21)
The problem here is that often the enemy, like Sennacherib, has a very strong argument. You probably are weak. You probably do have friends who betray you. You may have no human way to succeed. The enemy is stronger than you. But that’s all irrelevant! He wants you to focus on irrelevancies. If you argue, he wins. You don’t need to persuade him.
- He took the letter and read it. (37:14)
Find out what’s actually going on. I have found in my life that the rumors of the attacks are much worse than the attacks themselves. Know what’s going on.
- He put his trust in God, took the attack to God, and prayed. (37:14-15)
That is the key, of course. Hezekiah knows he needs God to save him, so go straight to God. No struggling to do it yourself first. Just go to God.
- He listened to what the prophet had to say in response (37:21-35)
Many people miss answers to prayer because they aren’t actually listening. God may speak to you. God may send a friend. God may provide you with direction in unexpected ways. You have to be listening!
- He received God’s deliverance. (37:36-38)
Follow the â€œHezekiahâ€ plan, and you will defeat the attacks of the enemy!