Today’s passages: 2 Kings, chapters 18-19; 2 Chronicles, chapter 32; James, chapter 5
Scripture: 2 Kings 19:27-34 (NRSV) – “But I know your rising and your sitting, your going out and coming in, and your raging against me. Because you have raged against me and your arrogance has come to my ears, I will put my hook in your nose and my bit in your mouth; I will turn you back on the way by which you came. And this shall be the sign for you: This year you shall eat what grows of itself, and in the second year what springs from that; then in the third year sow, reap, plant vineyards, and eat their fruit. The surviving remnant of the house of Judah shall again take root downward, and bear fruit upward; for from Jerusalem a remnant shall go out, and from Mount Zion a band of survivors. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the king of Assyria: He shall not come into this city, shoot an arrow there, come before it with a shield, or cast up a siege ramp against it. By the way that he came, by the same he shall return; he shall not come into this city, says the Lord. For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David.”
Observations: The king of Assyria was arrogant. Why not? He had conquered every nation around. He had captured Samaria a few years before, and now he was marching against Judah. He had sent his messengers to declare to the people of Jerusalem that he was coming, and that they should not trust in the Lord to save them, because no other country’s gods had been able to save them.
Thankfully, Hezekiah and the people of Jerusalem remembered that God is not like other gods! Instead of surrendering, or trying to fight in their own power, they went to the Lord in prayer. It’s interesting that the answer that God gives them includes a message for the King of Assyria – although there’s no indication that the king ever got this message. The first two verses of this passage are what God “says” to the king, although he’s really just talking to the people of Jerusalem. God was reminding his people that God knew everything that the king had done, and everything he had planned. Because you have raged against me and your arrogance has come to my ears…
Sometimes we think and act as though God is waiting for us to figure out what to do. No. God always has his plan in place; we need to seek his will and do only what he tells us to do. That’s hard for us; we always feel that we should be doing something. But unless we know what God’s plan is, anything that we do – no matter how “good” it might seem – may only serve to hinder God’s plans rather than fulfill them.
Applications: God is reminding me of two related things today. First, no matter how much time we spend praying and seeking God’s direction, we probably need to spend more. Second, God does not like arrogance and rage – no matter who they come from. I’m reminded again of Paul’s great song of praise to Jesus in Philippians 2. He starts by saying that our attitude should be the same as that of Jesus, and then he goes on to talk about Jesus’ humility and obedience. Arrogance and rage are the attitudes of the world – the attitudes of the enemy. No matter what our goals are, we must never fall into the trap of using the world’s tools to achieve them. That brings us back to prayer. When the people of Jerusalem prayed, God delivered – and they didn’t need to do a thing. “That very night the angel of the Lord set out and struck down one hundred eighty-five thousand in the camp of the Assyrians; when the morning dawned, they were all dead bodies.” (19:35) The king then went home, and was murdered by his own sons. God provided the victory for Jerusalem; all they needed to do was to trust God.
Prayer: Father, thank you for reminding me that rage and arrogance are never to be the attitudes of your children. Thank you, too, for the reminder that prayer is the first step that we are to take in approaching each situation, each problem, each day. That’s why Jesus taught us to pray each day that you would guide us – away from temptation, away from the enemy, and into the ways of your Kingdom. Thank you for the promise of your Spirit’s voice to say, “This is the way, walk in it.” Amen.