Sunday, May 23, 2021

The Greatest King of Israel you've never Heard Of: King Hezekiah

Archers fire volleys of arrows on the incoming hoards of Assyrian troops besieging the city of Samaria. The cries of dying soldiers on both sides is heard in the hot morning air. Assyria is a powerful kingdom invading Israel from the north. King Hoshea of Israel was an evil leader, and so Israel was defeated by Assyria, and forced to pay heavy tributes to Assyria. But King Hoshea secretly plots against Assyria with Egypt, and soon Assyria’s king Shalmaneser hears about his treachery.

So Assyria has come and besieged Samaria, for three long years. Thousands of people must’ve starved to death. Many must’ve died in the fighting. But finally, the Assyrian troops broke through the walls, and the entire kingdom of Israel is taken captive, and taken to Assyria.

The northern kingdom has fallen. If you recall, all 20 kings that reigned over the northern kingdom did evil in the eyes of God. And finally all that evil and demon worship and idolatry and corruption has led the northern kingdom into complete collapse. They are destroyed by Assyria, and the survivors are dragged back to Assyria.

And we actually have archaeological evidence that this did take place. There are several ancient carvings that were discovered that depict how Assyria took captive Israel and brought them back to Assyria, you’ll see two examples here.

But why? Why did this happen? This is God’s chosen nation, the people he planned to raise up to be a blessing to the whole world. First it split into north and south, now the north falls.

And it explains in 2nd Kings 17 why this happened: 7-11 “7 All this took place because the Israelites had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up out of Egypt from under the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. They worshiped other gods 8 and followed the practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before them, as well as the practices that the kings of Israel had introduced. 9 The Israelites secretly did things against the Lord their God that were not right. From watchtower to fortified city they built themselves high places in all their towns. 10 They set up sacred stones and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every spreading tree. 11 At every high place they burned incense, as the nations whom the Lord had driven out before them had done. They did wicked things that aroused the Lord’s anger.”

So the northern kingdom is gone. Boom, gone. No longer there. They are taken to Assyria. And Assyria sends it’s own people into Israel to live there.

Now we turn the page to 2nd Kings 18, and we focus in on all that remains of God’s people, the kingdom of Judah. In Judah, the new king is king Hezekiah. He is only 25 years old when he becomes king.

And at this moment in history Judah is very worried. They see the entire kingdom of Israel fall, and now Assyria is on their doorstep.

For many years Assyria doesn’t bother Judah. But 14 years later, when Hezekiah is 39 years old, Assyria begins their invasion. Hezekiah tries to buy them off, sending them tribute, but it doesn’t work, their army comes right to Jerusalem the holy city.

So you’ve got this guy Sennacherib, he’s sort of the Assyria king’s personal representative. And he comes to the walls of Jerusalem and he’s meeting with some of King Hezekiah’s senior guys.

You’ll see on the slide here a photograph of the remnants of the broad wall, that was built during the reign of king Hezekiah, to hold off the Assyrian army. This is all history folks, it’s real stuff, go to Jerusalem, you can see this place for yourself. Someday I hope to visit Israel, after five years good service officers can go on a special guided tour of Israel so I’m very excited to do that.

So Sennacherib says this, ““On what are you basing this confidence of yours? 20 You say you have the counsel and the might for war—but you speak only empty words. On whom are you depending, that you rebel against me? 25 Furthermore, have I come to attack and destroy this place without word from the Lord? The Lord himself told me to march against this country and destroy it.’”

So Sennacherib is at the wall of Jerusalem shouting out all this garbage to Judah. And Hezekiah’s representatives reply and say hey, speak to us in Aramaic. Because he’s saying all this in Hebrew, and they don’t want it to make the archers on the walls nervous.

But Sennacherib wants everyone to hear this. He’s trying to scare Judah’s troops. His chief of staff replies“ 7 “Do you think my master sent this message only to you and your master? He wants all the people to hear it, for when we put this city under siege, they will suffer along with you. They will be so hungry and thirsty that they will eat their own dung and drink their own urine.”

28 Then the chief of staff stood and shouted in Hebrew to the people on the wall, “Listen to this message from the great king of Assyria! 29 This is what the king says: Don’t let Hezekiah deceive you. He will never be able to rescue you from my power. 30 Don’t let him fool you into trusting in the Lord by saying, ‘The Lord will surely rescue us. This city will never fall into the hands of the Assyrian king!’

“Don’t listen to Hezekiah when he tries to mislead you by saying, ‘The Lord will rescue us!’ 33 Have the gods of any other nations ever saved their people from the king of Assyria? 34 What happened to the gods of Hamath and Arpad? And what about the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivvah? Did any god rescue Samaria from my power? 35 What god of any nation has ever been able to save its people from my power? So what makes you think that the Lord can rescue Jerusalem from me?”

What a crazy moment right? You’ve got all that’s left of God’s people. They’re outnumbered and in danger. And you’ve got these arrogant Assyrians telling them that it’s hopeless! Just give up! Theres no way you can win!

This is often what the enemy of our souls tries to do to us. We have an enemy, he is called in Hebrew The Satan, which means, the adversary. And this enemy has an entire network of operatives that is trying to deceive us into thinking that we can’t possibly make a difference in our generation, just like Sennacherib tries to terrify the Israelites at the wall. Our enemy wants us to think it’s hopeless to try to change the world for the better.

But it’s not hopeless. And the truth is even in the last two years we’ve made a huge mark on Shiawassee county. We’ve impacted thousands of lives, planted thousands of seeds, spoken the gospel to hundreds, and given great encouragement to hundreds more. Remember that we can change the whole world all it takes is a small minority of people set on fire to bring God glory and spread the gospel, to change the whole county, the whole state, the whole country.

Our adversary wants us to think we can’t make a difference. We can make a huge difference. I’m telling you the truth, one person can impact millions of people in a positive way. We just have to start out by believing it’s possible, believing that we can do anything in Christ. Do you believe that today? Because it’s true. You can do anything. Believe.

From 2nd Kings 19:1-4, “When King Hezekiah heard their report, he tore his clothes and put on burlap and went into the Temple of the Lord. 2 And he sent Eliakim the palace administrator, Shebna the court secretary, and the leading priests, all dressed in burlap, to the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz. 3 They told him, “This is what King Hezekiah says: Today is a day of trouble, insults, and disgrace. It is like when a child is ready to be born, but the mother has no strength to deliver the baby. 4 But perhaps the Lord your God has heard the Assyrian chief of staff,[a] sent by the king to defy the living God, and will punish him for his words. Oh, pray for those of us who are left!””

Have you ever had a day like this? Where there is so much to do, but you’re just so discouraged that it seems like nothing can be done. You’re worn out, you’re run down, the energy drink has worn off, the coffee is buzzing to your head, you’re sleep deprived, overweight and eating poorly. It feels like a mother who has to deliver a baby but has no strength to do so. Those days are dark. Like a gray, overcast winter day. Miserable! But then we find some encouragement. Someone gives us a good word. We crack open the Bible and find a powerful word from the Lord. We get down on our knees and pray and the heavens seem to open to us.

Hezekiah sent word to the prophet, at this time it’s Isaiah, famous prophet, we’ll get there soon, but first we see Isaiah’s response.

“‘This is what the Lord says: Do not be disturbed by this blasphemous speech against me from the Assyrian king’s messengers. 7 Listen! I myself will move against him,[b] and the king will receive a message that he is needed at home. So he will return to his land, where I will have him killed with a sword.’”” -2nd Kings 19:6-7

So then we come to the moment of decision. Hezekiah has heard from the enemy, and now he’s heard a good word of encouragement from the Lord. Which report is he going to believe? And for you in your own life, which report are you going to believe? Will you believe that God is telling the truth, or will you believe that the adversary is telling the truth?

That is the great battle of our lives, isn’t it? Will we believe God or will we believe the world? We have this book, the Bible that tells us all the promises of God for our lives. But we’ve also got this world around us telling us the exact opposite. We’ve got the world telling us that it’s hopeless, you’re just evolved monkeys anyway, nothing matters, do whatever you want, get yours, you give meaning to your own life, there is no outside meaning, in fact maybe we’ll all ascend to be gods ourselves, through the power of science, technology and the human mind. Those are the lies of the world.

And all those thousands of lies, go all the way back to Genesis, when Adam and Eve decided to listen to the lies of the serpent instead of clinging onto God’s truth. The serpent said, “Did Got really say that? Is that really true? God’s just trying to hide something great from you. His promises aren’t true!” And so the world tells us the same things. “Oh the Bible just a book of fairy tales.” “Oh science has disproved the bible” “Jesus never even really existed” Blah blah blah.

But the battle in your life, is much like the battle Hezekiah and Judah faces at this moment. Will they believe God is going to do the miraculous and somehow defeat this overwhelming Assyrian empire, or will they believe that its hopeless, gods not going to do anything, and we’re going to be overrun and destroyed, just like the northern kingdom was.

How often do we face that same struggle in life! Constantly! Maybe you’re out there waiting to meet your wife, and it seems impossible. You’ve waited years. Maybe you’ve been sick for years, and it seems hopeless. Maybe you’ve been looking for an apartment or a house and it just doesn’t ever quite come together. In the face of years of that it’s hard to hold firm to God’s promises isn’t it? It’s hard to hang on when all we’ve seen is disappointment. But I want to encourage you today: Keep believing in the Lord. Keep holding on to hope in the struggle. Don’t give up. Keep praying, keep seeking the Lord, and it may be that he has a different path for you than you expect. But then again, maybe the time is coming when God will provide for the prayers you’ve so long prayed. God makes us wait, long, long times, to build our character. And that’s a good thing. So patient. And hold onto the promises of God in a world full of lies.

So Hezekiah has heard from the Lord. He’s probably feeling very encouraged. But then another message comes in from the enemy, Sennacherib says this: ““This message is for King Hezekiah of Judah. Don’t let your God, in whom you trust, deceive you with promises that Jerusalem will not be captured by the king of Assyria. 11 You know perfectly well what the kings of Assyria have done wherever they have gone. They have completely destroyed everyone who stood in their way! Why should you be any different? 12 Have the gods of other nations rescued them—such nations as Gozan, Haran, Rezeph, and the people of Eden who were in Tel-assar? My predecessors destroyed them all! 13 What happened to the king of Hamath and the king of Arpad? What happened to the kings of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivvah?””

Often times we decide to cling to God’s word and hold true to the Lord, and then the enemy sends more lies our way. The enemy reminds us of all that’s happened before. The enemy says, “The Lord isn’t going to help you. He’s left you all these years. Remember even 5 years ago you were praying for what you hope and it’s still not here 5 years later!” Or the enemy shows up in the news or media and says oh the Bible has been disproven haven you read the da vinci code, haven’t you studied Darwinian evolution, it’s all been refuted by this and that and whatever. Of course it’s just a pack of lies and distortions from people who have a vested interest in finding any science they can that somehow might show that the universe doesn’t need a God. You’d be surprised just how biased these men and women of science can be, especially when you bring up God, God is the last thing they want to hear. They were very upset when Einstein discovered the red shift of stellar bodies, which proved that the universe had a definite beginning. They couldn’t hide behind the eternal universe model anymore, a definite beginning pointed inexorably toward a creator, and a moment of creation. They’d scaled the highest cliffs of science, scaled the valleys, come to the great mountain top of knowledge and wisdom, and found a group of theologians and Christians who were already there, and had been for centuries. In any case, I digress, how often do we get our hopes up only to find the enemy kick us again.

So what does Hezekiah do? He prays. It says he goes to the temple of God, lays out the letter from Assyria and he prays. He prays a long prayer asking God for help. And then somewhere Isaiah the prophet is walking along and suddenly he hears the word of the Lord. And he tells Hezekiah that God is going to defeat Assyria. And God says this, ““Here is the proof that what I say is true: “This year you will eat only what grows up by itself, and next year you will eat what springs up from that.
But in the third year you will plant crops and harvest them; you will tend vineyards and eat their fruit.30 And you who are left in Judah, who have escaped the ravages of the siege, will put roots down in your own soil and will grow up and flourish.
31 For a remnant of my people will spread out from Jerusalem, a group of survivors from Mount Zion. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies[d]
will make this happen!”

So first the problem, the enemy spreads lies, then God speaks, then the enemy speaks again, then we take it to God in prayer, and God answers our prayer and encourages us to stand firm, because he’s going to help us.

2nd Kings 19 35-37 says ,”35 That night the angel of the Lord went out to the Assyrian camp and killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers. When the surviving Assyrians[e] woke up the next morning, they found corpses everywhere. 36 Then King Sennacherib of Assyria broke camp and returned to his own land. He went home to his capital of Nineveh and stayed there.37 One day while he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisroch, his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer killed him with their swords.”

So Hezekiah wakes up the next morning, goes and looks over the walls, and the entire Assyrian army has been destroyed. Wiped out, by the Lord. God has answered. It seemed impossible. But they’re all gone. They’re wiped out. God delivers on his promise. God always delivers on all his promises, same with us today. If God has said it, then it will happen. You can take that to the bank. It’s true. The enemy king is later killed by his own sons, while worshipping his false gods, and Hezekiah has achieved complete victory through his trust and devotion to the Lord.

The Bible says that there was never a king like Hezekiah before or after him. He was really a special and wonderful leader of Judah.

After this Hezekiah became very sick. Deathly ill in fact, and Isaiah came to Hezekiah and told him the Lord says your going to die soon, so get your affairs in order. But as Isaiah walked away, Hezekiah turned over on his bed facing the walls and wept in tears pleading with God to heal him and make him better. HE said remember Lord how I’ve been faithful and always tried to follow your ways.” And as Isaiah is leaving God says go back and say something new to Hezekiah.

So Isaiah goes back and tells Hezekiah that the Lord has added 15 years to his life. And he’s going to get well.

Sometimes all it takes is a meaningful prayer to God, where we really cry out to God and weep, and express our misery, for God to respond and say alright, I’m gonna change things because you prayed. God works through people and God will listen to our prayers and even make adjustments and changes to things for the sake of what we pray to Him. Now it may have always been his plan for us to pray and for him to change something, but he inspires us to cry out to Him. God works through people.

So after Hezekiah was king, the next king is Manasseh. He’s one of Hezekiah’s sons. And you’d think that since Hezekiah was such a great godly king that his children would follow in his foosteps. But that’s not always the case. Many of you with children I’m sure realize that. Your children have free will. And they may choose to follow the Lord or they may choose to rebel against the Lord. And with Manasseh, he completely rebels against God. And brings in all sorts of perverse things, constructing altars to Baal, Asherah poles again, pagan altars, sorcery, divination, mediums, and pyschics. It says the streets were filled with the blood of innocent people. It says Manasseh even sacrificed his own son on the altar throwing the baby into the flames. Such incredible evil! Wow!

And it was during this time, between kings Hezekiah and Manasseh that Isaiah was serving as prophet. We know he served as prophet under Hezekiah, he may have served under Manasseh as well, but it also may have been Jeremiah who was prophet during Manasseh’s reign. But in any case, during this era of Judah, Isaiah wrote the book of Isaiah, and the book of Isaiah is a very long book of the Bible filled with prophecies. And it’s in the book of Isaiah where we see most of the old testament prophecies about the coming of the messiah who would save Israel from their sins.

It says in Isaiah 35:5-6. "Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy.

Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert.”

And again in Isaiah 61 verse 1, "The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.”

Despite all that has happened with Israel, how they’ve struggled and failed God, despite Hezekiah and Manasseh, there will come in the future a messiah, who would be God come to the Earth, to save people from their sins.