Murphy must have lived from time to time with Hezekiah. The Murphy I am talking about is not a person, but that imaginary author of the infamous law. Everything that can go wrong will go wrong. It had to feel like that is what was happening to Hezekiah in Judah. The paragraph right before our text reads, “Thus Hezekiah did throughout all Judah, and he did what was good and right and true before the Lord his God. And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, in the law and in the commandment, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart. So he prospered” (2 Chronicles 31:20–21). We can almost hear the Hallelujah Chorus in the background as we read these verses. Our faithful God does bless those who seek above all else to honor and serve Him. Then trouble came.
Still, there is a lesson here in this Old Testament text about the life that we must all live in this present world. Our text begins, “After these deeds of faithfulness,
Sennacherib king of Assyria came and entered Judah; he encamped against the fortified cities, thinking to win them over to himself” (2 Chronicles 32:1). Even though Hezekiah was faithful, obedient, and zealous for the LORD, he still faced a major trial in his life and in his nation.
Too often we are like Job’s friends when we think about difficulties that come shoving through the doors of our lives. We think trials always come because we are entertaining some unconfessed sin our lives or persisting in some acts of disobedience. This is not true. King Hezekiah could not have been more faithful. In the divine commentary added in the end of chapter 31, we are told that Hezekiah was whole hearted in his obedience. Even in the first verse of this text, God inspires the writer of 2 Chronicles to call attention to this pattern of faithfulness. In spite of all this obedience and faithfulness trouble comes.
God blesses faithfulness, but He still allows trouble to enter the lives of faithful ones to teach and demonstrate realities that can’t be seen or learned any other way. Without this trial coming to Hezekiah and Judah, we would not learn the lessons that we learn in witnessing how Hezekiah acted and how God delivered Jerusalem and her king through the midst of the difficulty. Unlike most events in the Old Testament this test is recorded three times. We find it in the book of 2 Kings 18, 2 Chronicles 32 and Isaiah 36.
So, hearing that Sennacherib, king of Assyria, is coming to lay siege to Jerusalem, Hezekiah makes preparations. His first preparations are tactical and tangible. “And when Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib had come, and that his purpose was to make war against Jerusalem, he consulted with his leaders and commanders to stop the water from the springs which were outside the city; and they helped him. Thus many people gathered together who stopped all the springs and the brook that ran through the land, saying, ‘Why should the kings of Assyria come and find much water?’ And he strengthened himself, built up all the wall that was broken, raised it up to the towers, and built another wall outside; also he repaired the Millo in the City of David, and made weapons and shields in abundance” (2 Chronicles 32:2–5).
Hezekiah did not spend time blaming God for allowing this to happen to him despite his faithfulness to God. We, on the other hand, can be very prone to charge God with unfaithfulness to us because we are being faithful to Him. We forget that God never told us we could earn an easy life by following Him. He just promised He would be with us through every trial and every triumph.
Hezekiah got his leaders together to roll up their sleeves and to get to work. They altered the water supply by stopping up the spring that was outside the walls of the City of David and with tunnels redirected the spring water to inside Jerusalem. He and his people rebuilt the walls where they were torn down, building defense towers at strategic places. He also manufactured arms and shields so they were armed for the fight.
The King’s thinking here is undeniably brilliant in preparing for this onslaught. But these tangible preparations were not all that Hezekiah did. He prepared the people of Jerusalem to face the horrors to come. This spiritual preparation became more important than the physical measures. “Then he set military captains over the people, gathered them together to him in the open square of the city gate, and gave them encouragement, saying, ‘Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid nor dismayed before the king of Assyria, nor before all the multitude that is with him; for there are more with us than with him. With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord our God, to help us and to fight our battles.’ And the people were strengthened by the words of Hezekiah king of Judah” (2 Chronicles 32:6–8).
Hezekiah challenged the people. The charge was the same one that the LORD issued to Joshua before he led the people in the impossible mission of crossing Jordan and conquering the Promised Land. God Himself commanded Joshua to not be afraid or dismayed because He would be with Joshua. In like manner, Hezekiah exhorteded the people,“Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid nor dismayed before the king of Assyria, nor before all the multitude that is with him.” God does not want us to be afraid in the midst of trouble. Although we are children of the infinite, all powerful, God of the Universe through faith in the Lord Jesus, we still can be easily terrified in troublesome circumstances.
God commands us to not to be afraid, but He never commands us to not be afraid without reason. Here is the rationale that He offered Jerusalem through Hezekiah and He gives this same rationale to us through His Word. “For there are more with us than with him. With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord our God, to help us and to fight our battles.”
Suddenly, our minds are transported to another scene. The prophet Elisha has been giving military secrets to the King of Israel and the King of Aram is livid. Elisha is no ordinary spy. He never left his home in Israel to discover these secrets. God Himself revealed them to His prophet. One morning, when Elisha’s servant got up early and looked outside, he discovered to his horror that the city was surrounded by a horde of horses and chariots. The servant ran panic stricken to Elisha, “Master, what are we going to do.” The prophet’s statement is wonderful. “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” We are not told what the servant said to this, but I can hear him saying to Elisha, “Boss, there are hundreds of them and for us there are only me and thee, and I am beginning to wonder about thee.” In the next verse in 2 Kings 6, we read Elisha’s prayer, “And Elisha prayed, and said, ‘Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.’ Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold [Look], the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”
I love the way the writer of 2 Kings put it. He wrote, “And behold,” –Look at this! Do we see the mountain full of God’s chariots and horses? Can we see them in our mind’s eye as we read about Elisha? Do we recognize that what the servant now saw was not fantasy but reality? When Hezekiah talked about the situation in Jerusalem, he did not offer platitudes. He stated a fact. The people, by faith had to understand that the odds were more than slightly in their favor.
The Assyrian King had a huge army and an impressive resume of victory. But Yahweh, the eternal, covenant keeping, all powerful God of Israel was with them. He would help them and He would fight their battles for them. Hezekiah reminded them that their God is real and He would provide for them. The next statement in verse 8 is nothing short of amazing. “And the people were strengthened by the words of Hezekiah king of Judah.”
The people believed and relied on the statement that Hezekiah made. Can we even imagine anything like this happening today? Our nation is being invaded. We are outnumbered. The enemy has superior weaponry and we have no hope. The President speaks to the nation and says that the Living God is on our side so those with us are greater than those with them. Would the people believe Him and be strengthened by these words?
How about each of us, personally? We might be tempted to think that this idea of those being with us being greater than those against us is only Old Testament. The Apostle John said something very similar to this in 1 John 4:3–4. “Every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world. You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”
John wrote about the spirit of Antichrist–the spirit of the false teachers. His point is that in the spiritual battles we face, we have more with us than against us. God is on our side and He will make us victorious. While the battles we face today may not be against physical horses and chariots, we must never forget that the Lord who is with us is the One who is “able to do exceedingly abundantly above all we could ask or think” and we need to draw strength from who He is to face the distress that pushes their way into our lives.