2 Kings 19:10–19, 32–34
The Taunt (10–13)
Here in Alabama, we take our sports rivalries seriously, and trash talk is something of an art form. We’ve all been on the receiving end of taunts from fans of opposing teams. But if that “other team” has a long tradition of dominance of its sport (and you know who you are), then their taunts are more than just trash talk. You’ve seen that team crush every other team in the conference, and now they are coming for your team. And deep down inside, you dread game day. You might talk big at the tailgate, but you tremble at the ticket booth.
This was the reality facing Judah’s King Hezekiah. The Assyrian empire was the dominant and ruthless power of the known world at that time. Hezekiah had been king for four years when Assyria laid siege to Samaria, capital of Israel. And now a decade later, King Sennacherib was coming for Judah (18:9–13).
Sennacherib mocked Hezekiah’s reliance on God. His emissaries warned the people of Judah not to let Hezekiah convince them to trust in the Lord (18:30). And from Sennacherib’s perspective, his confidence was born out of experience: Every other nation that had called upon their gods for deliverance had fallen to Assyria. Furthermore, Sennacherib believed the high places Hezekiah removed (18:22) were altars to the One True God, instead of the pagan altars they actually were. So Sennacherib mistakenly believed Hezekiah had insulted his God, when actually Hezekiah was honoring and obeying God. That was Sennacherib’s first mistake.
The Prayer (14–19)
Sennacherib’s second mistake was not figuring Hezekiah’s repentance into his game day playbook. Unlike Israel, which did not repent and therefore fell easily to Assyria (17:7–19), Hezekiah put on sackcloth and sought the Lord from the moment he heard the threat from Sennacherib (19:1). He sought the advice of God’s prophet Isaiah, who assured Hezekiah God had heard his prayer and would give him victory (19:6–7). And then he drew up the most powerful play anyone can ever run: He went to the temple, spread out the threat from Sennacherib’s messengers before the Lord and begged God for deliverance.
This is such a good lesson for us in the church today. Your pastor might give you encouragement as you face a problem. You might have your entire Sunday School class praying as your family is dealing with a crisis. But none of that can take the place of you making your heart’s cry to the Lord. God hears the prayers of all His people, not just His priests and prophets.
The Answer (32–34)
God delivered His answer to Hezekiah through His prophet Isaiah. His promise to the king was Sennacherib not only would not defeat Judah, but he also wouldn’t even shoot an arrow in Jerusalem. There were horror stories of Assyria’s prolonged sieges against other cities, but Isaiah promised there wouldn’t even be a siege ramp built against Jerusalem. True to His word, God struck down 185,000 Assyrian soldiers that very night, causing Sennacherib to beat a hasty retreat back to Nineveh the next morning (vv. 35–36).
It’s worth asking why God delivered Judah. Hezekiah was a good king, and he humbly repented before God. But as 2 Kings 17:19 reminds us, Judah’s track record of obedience to God was only marginally better than Israel’s. So why was Judah spared from the same defeat Israel experienced? Look to 2 Kings 19:34. God preserved Jerusalem for the sake of His name and because of the promise He had made to His servant David. And God is still zealous to defend His name today. How have you seen God defend His name and His people?