Lesson 12 | Sabbath, 21 March 2020
“Nothing more quickly inspires faith than the exercise of faith. The king of Judah had prepared for the coming storm; and now, confident that the prophecy against the Assyrians would be fulfilled, he stayed his soul upon God. ‘And the people rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah.’ 2 Chronicles 32:8. What though the armies of Assyria, fresh from the conquest of the greatest nations of earth, and triumphant over Samaria in Israel, should now turn their forces against Judah? What though they should boast, ‘As my hand hath found the kingdoms of the idols, and whose graven images did excel them of Jerusalem and of Samaria; shall I not, as I have done unto Samaria and her idols, so do to Jerusalem and her idols?’ Isaiah 10:10, 11. Judah had nothing to fear; for their trust was in Jehovah.” –Prophets and Kings, pp. 351, 352.
The Assyrian challenge
- What intimidating message did the Assyrian army captain shout out near Jerusalem? Besides King Hezekiah, against whom were these arrogant, contemptuous words directed?
2 Kings 18:28-31 Then Rabshakeh stood and cried with a loud voice in the Jews’ language, and spake, saying, Hear the word of the great king, the king of Assyria: 29Thus saith the king, Let not Hezekiah deceive you: for he shall not be able to deliver you out of his hand: 30Neither let Hezekiah make you trust in the Lord, saying, The Lord will surely deliver us, and this city shall not be delivered into the hand of the king of Assyria. 31Hearken not to Hezekiah: for thus saith the king of Assyria, Make an agreement with me by a present, and come out to me, and then eat ye every man of his own vine, and every one of his fig tree, and drink ye every one the waters of his cistern.
“Emboldened by their successes, the Ninevites had long since set aside the message of Jonah and had become defiant in their opposition to the purposes of Heaven. A few years after the fall of Samaria the victorious armies reappeared in Palestine, this time directing their forces against the fenced cities of Judah, with some measure of success; but they withdrew for a season because of difficulties arising in other portions of their realm. Not until some years later, toward the close of Hezekiah’s reign, was it to be demonstrated before the nations of the world whether the gods of the heathen were finally to prevail….
“Confident of victory, the leaders divided their forces into two armies, one of which was to meet the Egyptian army to the southward, while the other was to besiege Jerusalem.” –Prophets and Kings, pp. 339, 352.
- What did he claim would be of benefit to the people of Judah, even as he tried to bully them into accepting Assyrian power as superior to that of God?
2 Kings 18:32-35 Until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of corn and wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of oil olive and of honey, that ye may live, and not die: and hearken not unto Hezekiah, when he persuadeth you, saying, The Lord will deliver us. 33Hath any of the gods of the nations delivered at all his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? 34Where are the gods of Hamath, and of Arpad? where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivah? have they delivered Samaria out of mine hand? 35Who are they among all the gods of the countries, that have delivered their country out of mine hand, that the Lord should deliver Jerusalem out of mine hand?
“The boastful threat was accompanied by the message: ‘Let not thy God in whom thou trustest deceive thee, saying, Jerusalem shall not be delivered into the hand of the king of Assyria. Behold, thou hast heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands, by destroying them utterly: and shalt thou be delivered? Have the gods of the nations delivered them which my fathers have destroyed; as Gozan, and Haran, and Rezeph, and the children of Eden which were in Thelasar? Where is the king of Hamath, and the king of Arpad, and the king of the city of Sepharvaim, of Hena, and Ivah?’ 2 Kings 19:10-13.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 355.
Counsel and help sought from God
- Instead of reacting in the same spirit as the crass Assyrian, to whom did King Hezekiah, who had carried out many reformations in God’s name, appeal with all his heart?
2 Kings 19:1-4 And it came to pass, when king Hezekiah heard it, that he rent his clothes, and covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of the Lord. 2And he sent Eliakim, which was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and the elders of the priests, covered with sackcloth, to Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz. 3And they said unto him, Thus saith Hezekiah, This day is a day of trouble, and of rebuke, and blasphemy: for the children are come to the birth, and there is not strength to bring forth. 4It may be the Lord thy God will hear all the words of Rabshakeh, whom the king of Assyria his master hath sent to reproach the living God; and will reprove the words which the Lord thy God hath heard: wherefore lift up thy prayer for the remnant that are left.
2 Chronicles 32:20 And for this cause Hezekiah the king, and the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz, prayed and cried to Heaven.
“A messenger was dispatched to Isaiah to inform him of the outcome of the conference. ‘This day is a day of trouble, and of rebuke, and blasphemy,’ was the word the king sent. ‘It may be the Lord thy God will hear all the words of Rab- shakeh, whom the king of Assyria his master hath sent to reproach the living God; and will reprove the words which the Lord thy God hath heard: wherefore lift up thy prayer for the remnant that are left.’ Verses 3, 4….
“Judah’s only hope was now in God. All possible help from Egypt had been cut off, and no other nations were near to lend a friendly hand.” –Prophets and Kings, 354, 352.
- Under circumstances that would make even the strongest leader despair, what did the Lord tell Isaiah to promise His distressed people?
2 Kings 19:5-7 So the servants of king Hezekiah came to Isaiah. 6And Isaiah said unto them, Thus shall ye say to your master, Thus saith the Lord, Be not afraid of the words which thou hast heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me. 7Behold, I will send a blast upon him, and he shall hear a rumour, and shall return to his own land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land.
Jeremiah 33:3 Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.
“God answered the prayers of His servants. To Isaiah was given the message for Hezekiah….” –Prophets and Kings, p. 354.
“We may be tested and proved, for God sees it best to put us under a course of discipline which is essential for us before we are fit subjects for the blessing we crave. We should not become discouraged and give way to doubt, and think that our prayers are not noticed. We should rely more securely upon Christ and leave our case with God to answer our prayers in His own way. God has not promised to bestow His blessings through the channels we have marked out. God is too wise to err and too regardful of our good to allow us to choose for ourselves.” –The Upward Look, p. 109.
- What final attempt did the Assyrians make to try to weaken the courage of Hezekiah and his counselors?
2 Kings 19:10-13 Thus shall ye speak to Hezekiah king of Judah, saying, Let not thy God in whom thou trustest deceive thee, saying, Jerusalem shall not be deliv- ered into the hand of the king of Assyria. 11Behold, thou hast heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands, by destroying them utterly: and shalt thou be delivered? 12Have the gods of the nations delivered them which my fathers have destroyed; as Gozan, and Haran, and Rezeph, and the children of Eden which were in Thelasar? 13Where is the king of Hamath, and the king of Arpad, and the king of the city of Sepharvaim, of Hena, and Ivah?
“The Assyrian representatives, after taking leave of the chief men of Judah, communicated direct with their king, who was with the division of his army guard- ing the approach from Egypt. Upon hearing the report, Sennacherib wrote ‘letters to rail on the Lord God of Israel, and to speak against Him, saying, As the gods of the nations of other lands have not delivered their people out of mine hand, so shall not the God of Hezekiah deliver His people out of mine hand.’ 2 Chronicles 32:17.” –Prophets and Kings, pp. 354, 355.
- To whom did Hezekiah again turn with earnestness and complete trust? What may God’s people today learn from this experience?
2 Kings 19:14-17, 19 And Hezekiah received the letter of the hand of the messengers, and read it: and Hezekiah went up into the house of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord. 15And Hezekiah prayed before the Lord, and said, O Lord God of Israel, which dwellest between the cherubims, thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; thou hast made heaven and earth. 16Lord, bow down thine ear, and hear: open, Lord, thine eyes, and see: and hear the words of Sennacherib, which hath sent him to reproach the living God. 17Of a truth, Lord, the kings of Assyria have destroyed the nations and their lands…. 19Now therefore, O Lord our God, I beseech thee, save thou us out of his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the Lord God, even thou only.
“When the king of Judah received the taunting letter, he took it into the temple and ‘spread it before the Lord’ and prayed with strong faith for help from heaven, that the nations of earth might know that the God of the Hebrews still lived and reigned. Verse 14. The honor of Jehovah was at stake; He alone could bring deliverance.” –Prophets and Kings, pp. 355, 356.
God’s promise and the Assyrian defeat
- What further reassurance did the Lord give His distressed people through the prophet Isaiah?
2 Kings 19:31-34 For out of Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant, and they that escape out of mount Zion: the zeal of the Lord of hosts shall do this. 32Therefore thus saith the Lord concerning the king of Assyria, He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shield, nor cast a bank against it. 33By the way that he came, by the same shall he return, and shall not come into this city, saith the Lord. 34For I will defend this city, to save it, for mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake.
“Hezekiah’s pleadings in behalf of Judah and of the honor of their Supreme Ruler were in harmony with the mind of God…. Especially was the Lord to show favor when, in times of war or of oppression by an army, the chief men of Israel should enter the house of prayer and plead for deliverance. 1 Kings 8:33, 34.
“Hezekiah was not left without hope. Isaiah sent to him, saying, ‘Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, That which thou hast prayed to Me against Sennacherib king of Assyria I have heard. This is the word that the Lord hath spoken concerning him: “‘The virgin the daughter of Zion hath despised thee, and laughed thee to scorn; the daughter of Jerusalem hath shaken her head at thee.’” –Prophets and Kings, p. 359.
- What was the outcome of this extreme test? Sooner or later, what will be the end of all who threaten God and His people? What lesson is there in this experience for God’s faithful followers?
2 Kings 19:35-37 And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the Lord went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thou- sand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corps- es. 36So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed, and went and returned, and dwelt at Nineveh. 37And it came to pass, as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer his sons smote him with the sword: and they escaped into the land of Armenia. And Esarhaddon his son reigned in his stead.
“That very night deliverance came…. ‘All the mighty men of valor, and the leaders and captains in the camp of the king of Assyria,’ were slain. 2 Chronicles 32:21.
“Tidings of this terrible judgment upon the army that had been sent to take Jerusalem, soon reached Sennacherib, who was still guarding the approach to Judea from Egypt. Stricken with fear, the Assyrian king hasted to depart and ‘returned with shame of face to his own land.’ Verse 21. But he had not long to reign. In harmony with the prophecy that had been uttered concerning his sudden end, he was assassinated by those of his own home, ‘and Esarhaddon his son reigned in his stead.’ Isaiah 37:38.
“The God of the Hebrews had prevailed over the proud Assyrian. The honor of Jehovah was vindicated in the eyes of the surrounding nations. In Jerusalem the hearts of the people were filled with holy joy. Their earnest entreaties for deliverance had been mingled with confession of sin and with many tears. In their great need they had trusted wholly in the power of God to save, and He had not failed them. Now the temple courts resounded with songs of solemn praise.” –Prophets and Kings, pp. 361, 362.
For additional study
“Judah was again and again to be invaded by the Assyrian armies, and Jerusalem was to suffer a siege that would have resulted in her downfall had not God miraculously interposed. Already grave perils were threatening the peace of the southern kingdom. The divine protection was being removed, and the Assyrian forces were about to overspread the land of Judah.
“But the dangers from without, overwhelming though they seemed, were not so serious as the dangers from within. It was the perversity of his people that brought to the Lord’s servant the greatest perplexity and the deepest depression. By their apostasy and rebellion those who should have been standing as light bearers among the nations were inviting the judgments of God. Many of the evils which were hastening the swift destruction of the northern kingdom, and which had recently been denounced in unmistakable terms by Hosea and Amos, were fast corrupting the kingdom of Judah.” –Prophets and Kings, pp. 305, 306.