Hezekiah “rebelled against the king of Assyria, and served him not.“ Later, the Bible mentioned that he smote the Philistines, added gold to the temple doors, restored some of the temple treasury, and built a conduit to permit water flow into the city. He was a good king, doing good things, getting good results.
But Hezekiah had an enemy, Sennacherib, king of Assyria. While Hezekiah refused to pay tribute for three years and while Judah prospered under Hezekiah’s leadership, king Shalmaneser, Sennacherib’s predecessor, was conquering other nations. Even Israel, “sister” of Judah had its capital city, Samaria, taken captive. Its residents were carted off to other lands Shalmaneser ruled. But Sennacherib wasn’t content with these military exploits. He wanted Judah…and to humble its king.
To accomplish this, Sennacherib knew he’d have to weaken Hezekiah at his source of strength. So, he started small, attacking fenced cities, those places made vulnerable by the sheer confidence in their fortification. Afraid, Hezekiah offers to pay tribute. But Sennacherib was an enemy. He wanted full control. Therefore, the tribute he demanded was far too great to pay.
Hezekiah emptied his personal treasury, but it wasn’t enough. He gathered the treasures of the House of the Lord; still it was insufficient. Attempting to meet the unreasonable request required Hezekiah to strip the gold from the temple. Gold he’d added to the doors and pillars to honor God.
This is the first method of spiritual attack from our enemy. He takes the places that lack our vigilance, weaseling in where we feel no need to pay attention. In the wake of his attack, we bargain, assuming that we can accommodate his terms and avoid future trouble. But the bargain always requires going back on progress we have made. The things we’ve offered to God, like set-apart time with Him or personal consecrations, are the first things he demands we surrender. But that never satisfies an enemy. He always wants more.
So, he implements his next tactic. It, too, looks a lot like Sennacherib’s ploy. Sennacherib sent representatives and a great host to Jerusalem. Guess where the message bearers stood to convey the message. The conduit. Their verbal threat was accompanied by visible bullying. Their posture threatened the source of Jerusalem’s survival--water. Their words attacked their hopes.
They spoke against human rescuers, making them seem small and untrustworthy. Then, they spoke against Hezekiah’s ability to get help from a God whose high places had been destroyed. Now, although the high places were worship centers belonging to false gods, Hezekiah had diminished the sanctuary of the Lord by taking away its treasury. These words were meant to provoke the feeling of unworthiness. “Who am I that God would attend to me?”
Sound familiar? Ever witnessed the enemy posturing as he flaunts his threats, destroys your hopes in others, and oppresses you with self-doubt?
Sennacherib didn’t stop with intimidation. His messengers became more aggressive. Yelling in the people’s language so all those on the city wall could hear, they told the people not to trust Hezekiah’s leadership and his reliance on God. After all, the gods of other nations hadn’t been able to stand against Shalmaneser, the messengers claimed. With these words lingering in the air, they invited the citizens to surrender, promising them their own land and food and delicacies.
Our enemy compares our God to fallible things that fail, often frail humanity that’s disappointed us. Then, he dangles temptation, knowing anything that soothes the flesh sure looks appealing someone’s under pressure. The missing piece however, is that giving in to the temptation requires surrender and captivity.
Thankfully, Hezekiah didn’t give in to the pressure. He presented his case before God instead. As a result, God came through for him, smiting the Assyrians and their king. It’s the way God comes through for us when we turn to Him and stand against our spiritual bully.
Tip/Tidbit: What do you think would have happened if Hezekiah would have sought God at the first sign of Sennacherib’s attack? What does Hezekiah’s turning to God after attempting to appease his enemy tell you about second chances in your life? Compare the results of Hezekiah’s dependency upon his own wisdom to his dependency upon God. Which was more reliable?