WAIT UPON THE LORD
(The story of Hezekiah)
By Larry White
(Originally delivered in Eagle Point, OR. April 28, 1985)
I've always been intrigued by the story of the reign of Hezekiah, King of Judah, but more particularly with his famous confrontation with Sennacherub and the Assyrian army during one of Assyria's campaigns of conquest. The story of this confrontation is found in three places of scripture: viz. 2Kg.18-20; 2Ch.32 and Isa.36-38.
About 721 B.C. after a three year siege, Samaria the capital of the northern kingdom (Israel) fell to Sargon II of Assyria and the population was taken captive and that nation never returned as a nation.
About 20 years later, 701-700 B.C. Sennacherub the son of Sargon, started campaigns farther south. He left records of his campaigns in cuneiform signs on a stone prism that a man by the name of Taylor uncovered. It contains the narration of 8 campaigns. He wrote about his road to victory that "the wheels of my war chariot were besplattered with filth and blood." The account of his third campaign corresponds to the one we have in Kings and Chronicles. In it he says that "the proud Hezekiah the Judean, I closed up like a bird in a cage."
Hezekiah apparently submitted and gave Sennacherub a tribute of gold and silver. Later, after Sennacherub had gone home and Hezekiah had fixed his wall and supplied himself with water by diverting a pool - he decided to revolt, along with Egypt and Ethiopia, and quit paying tribute.
This caused Sennacherub to come running down there to stop his revolt and destroy Jerusalem. He set his base of operations in Lachish, south-west of Jerusalem and sent a spokesman to the city, one Rabshakeh, who instead of speaking in his own language to Hezekiah's emissaries, spoke very loudly in Hebrew, in order to scare the people on the wall of Jerusalem who were listening.
Then Rabshakeh stood, and cried with a loud voice in the Jews' language, and said, "Hear you the words of the great king, the king of Assyria. Thus says the king, Do not let Hezekiah deceive you: for he shall not be able to deliver you. Neither let Hezekiah make you trust in the Jehovah, saying, Jehovah will surely deliver us: this city shall not be delivered into the hand of the king of Assyria."
Beware lest Hezekiah persuade you, saying, "Jehovah will deliver us." Has any of the gods of the nations delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arphad? where are the gods of Sepharvaim? and have they delivered Samaria out of my hand? Who are they among all the gods of these lands, that have delivered their land out of my hand, that Jehovah should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?
And it came to pass, when king Hezekiah heard it, that he tore his clothes, and covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of Jehovah. And he sent Eliakim, who was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and the elders of the priests covered with sackcloth, unto Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz. And they said to him, "Thus says Hezekiah, This day is a day of trouble, and of rebuke, and of blasphemy: for the children are come to the birth, and there is no strength to bring forth. It may be Jehovah your God will hear the words of Rabshakeh, whom the king of Assyria his master has sent to reproach the living God, and will reprove the words which Jehovah your God has heard: wherefore lift up your prayer for the remnant that is left." So the servants of king Hezekiah came to Isaiah. And Isaiah said to them, "Thus shall you say to your master, Thus says Jehovah, Do not be afraid of the words that you have heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me. Look, I will send a blast upon him, and he shall hear a rumor, and return to his own land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land."
Rabshakeh hears about the battle starting with Ethiopia and so sends a letter to Hezekiah again saying the same thing.
Again, Hezekiah's response is that he goes to the Lord and lays the letter out before God. (listen to what they're saying).
Now listen to how Hezekiah challenges the Lord, and to God's response.
"O Jehovah of armies, God of Israel, that dwells between the cherubim, you are the God, even you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth: you have made heaven and earth. Incline your ear, O Jehovah, and hear; open your eyes, O Jehovah, and see: and hear all the words of Sennacherib, which has sent to reproach the living God. Of a truth, Jehovah, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations, and their countries, And have cast their gods into the fire: for they were no gods, but the work of men's hands, wood and stone: therefore they have destroyed them. Now therefore, O Jehovah our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you are Jehovah, even you only." Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah, saying, "Thus says Jehovah God of Israel, Whereas you have prayed to me against Sennacherib king of Assyria: This is the word which Jehovah has spoken concerning him; The virgin, the daughter of Zion, has despised you, and laughed you to scorn; the daughter of Jerusalem has shaken her head at you. Whom have you reproached and blasphemed? and against whom have you exalted your voice, and lifted up your eyes on high? even against the Holy One of Israel."
God's answer to Hezekiah's prayer:
"Therefore thus says Jehovah concerning the king of Assyria, He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shields, nor cast a bank against it. By the way that he came, by the same shall he return, and shall not come into this city, says Jehovah. For I will defend this city to save it for my own sake, and for my servant David's sake." Then the angel of Jehovah went out, and killed in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred and eighty-five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, look, they were all dead corpses.
And Isaiah said to them, "Thus shall you say to your master, Thus says Jehovah, Do not be afraid of the words which you have heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me. Look, I will send a blast upon him, and he shall hear a rumor, and shall return to his own land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land.
Therefore thus says Jehovah 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. By the way that he came, by the same shall he return, and shall not come into this city, says Jehovah. For I will defend this city, to save it, for mine own sake, and for my servant David's sake. And it came to pass that night, that the angel of Jehovah went out, and killed in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred eighty-five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, look, they were all dead corpses.
In the Talmud and Midrash it is said that, "Their souls were burnt, though their garments remained intact." Also, that is was accompanied by a terrific noise. [Tractate Shabbat 113B; Sanhedrim 94A; Jerome on Isa. 10:16; Ginzberg Legends VI,363]
They said it happened during the first night of the Passover when they began to sing the Hallel Prayer.
PLAGUE OR THUNDERBOLT
Herodotus in Egypt (Letopolis) saw an idol raised in honor of the destruction - an image holding a mouse in its hand. They said mice gnawed away their bow strings, so they fled the battle.
Josephus quotes Herodotus and adds that he heard from a Chaldean Historian, Berosus, that it was bubonic plague that caused the destruction. But the city of the sacred mouse is a sacred city of the Thunderbolt and Meteorites. (Letopolis' hieroglyph is the one for "Thunderbolt". ↔)
A text found in Letopolis said a festival was established "in memory of the night of fire for the adversaries". This fire was like, "the flame before the wind to the end of heaven and the end of earth." Their god is quoted as saying, "I come forth and go in the devouring fire on the day of the repelling of the adversaries."
So the biblical account of a blast from heaven is still preserved in the context of the Egyptian's culture and religion. 185,000 soldiers of the then ruling world power, burnt to a crisp in one night, is not something that would go unnoticed by the world.
In the next chapter, Isaiah chapter 38, the account says "in those days". That could mean concurrently while the previous events were also occurring or shortly thereafter. Hezekiah becomes sick and Isaiah tells him that he is going to die. Hezekiah prays to God concerning this and Isaiah comes back in to him and says that God is extending his life another 15 years and gives him a sign to confirm it.
"Go, and say to Hezekiah, Thus says Jehovah, the God of David your father, I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears: look, I will add unto your days fifteen years. And I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria: and I will defend this city. And this shall be a sign unto you from Jehovah, that Jehovah will do this thing that he has spoken; Look, I will bring again the shadow of the degrees, which is gone down in the sun dial of Ahaz, ten degrees backward." So the sun returned ten degrees, by which degrees it was gone down.
The steps of Ahaz were probably a Solstice Calendar built by that king to track the seasons. This is usually explained by an "optical illusion". But since it occurred about the time of the Vernal Equinox in 687 B.C., there are other fascinating accounts of this event.
Edourd Biot quotes a catalog of meteors observed in China in 687 B.C. On 23 March "the fixed stars did not appear though the night was cloudless and the stars fell like rain."
An Emperor in china in the 5th or 6th century B.C. tells about fighting with an enemy when the sun was setting, then the sun came back up and passed through three solar mansions.
[The rest of the accounts are not as easily dated.]
Ovid says in the days of the Argive tyrants that "Phoebus broke off in mid-career and wresting his car about, turned round his steeds to face the dawn." (Meaning the sun set in the east)
Semi-god Maui said he roped the sun so it would go slower across the sky.
An Algonquin tribe tells about a boy who tripped the sun with a rope and the prairies were devoured by a huge conflagration.
The Ute tribe say a rabbit wanted to break the sun in pieces. The sun came up and saw the rabbit and then went back down, then came back up. They then had a fight and the world burned. (This rabbit could be the same thing the Egyptians saw as a mouse)
Isaiah chapter 39 deals with the results on the world of all these events. 2Chronicles 32 says that Hezekiah became famous with the kings around him during this period. Here in Isa. 39 the Babylonians come and visit Hezekiah because he had been sick, (obviously not the only reason). 2 Chronicles says they came to ask about "the wonders done in the land."
Hezekiah shows them everything he has and Isaiah interprets that as a sign that everything he has will one day be carried to Babylon.
Isaiah chapter 40 is an exultant praise of Jehovah of Israel for his strength over the nations and the troubles of the world.
40:15. Look, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: look, he takes up the isles as a very little thing.
40:6-8 The voice said, "Cry." And he said, "What shall I cry?" "All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness of it is as the flower of the field: The grass withers, the flower fades: because the spirit of Jehovah blows upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withers, the flower fades: but the word of our God shall stand for ever."
40:18-31 To whom then will you liken God? or what likeness will you compare unto him? The workman melts a graven image, and the goldsmith spreads it over with gold, and casts silver chains. He that is so impoverished that he has no oblation chooses a tree that will not rot; he seeks unto him a cunning workman to prepare a graven image, that shall not be moved.
Have you not known? have you not heard? has it not been told you from the beginning? have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is he that sits upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretches out the heavens as a curtain, and spreads them out as a tent to dwell in: That brings the princes to nothing; he makes the judges of the earth as vanity. Yes, they shall not be planted; yes, they shall not be sown: yes, their stock shall not take root in the earth: and he shall also blow upon them, and they shall wither, and the whirlwind shall take them away as stubble.
To whom then will you liken me, or shall I be equal? says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high, and look who has created these things, that brings out their host by number: he calls them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one fails.
Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, 'My way is hid from Jehovah, and my judgment is passed over from my God?' Have you not known? have you not heard, that the everlasting God, Jehovah, the Creator of the ends of the earth, does not give up, neither is he tired? there is no searching of his understanding. He gives power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:
31. But they that wait upon Jehovah shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
Verse 31 is a famous and popular verse with us because of the hymn we sing.
But I wanted you to know the context in which it is found.
WAIT ON THE LORD
What does waiting on the Lord mean? And how did Hezekiah wait on the Lord?
Waiting on the Lord carries the idea that you're praying to God and expecting him to intervene. That's why the NIV has "hope" for "wait". That's what Hezekiah did. He didn't run out all flustered and say "How dare he say that about me." or "I've got to defend myself and my city." He knew from whence the leadership should come. He knew that God had an interest in what was going on, so he deferred to God's leadership. Instead of putting his mind on himself and his own resources, he lifted his eyes up to God.
When we are faced with problems or someone attacking us, the human thing to do is start worrying about how we should respond to this aggression. "Am I going to have enough strength to handle this problem? Am I going to know what to say and what to do?" We take stock of our own resources, don't we?
Instead we should bring the problem to God first in prayer and then wait for him to supply us with the necessary tools and the needed strength to handle it, in God's way, in God's time
Waiting upon the Lord is not a passive do nothing, negligent, sloughing-off of our commitments and obligations to work for the Lord and to do what is right. It is active. But it's taking our activity and focusing our energy and our concern, not upon our own resources and abilities - but upon God and what God is going to do in this problem, and in what way God is going to help me.
Waiting....Just the word brings the idea of expectation.
My soul, wait you only upon God; for my expectation is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation: he is my defense; I shall not be moved. In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God. Trust in him at all times; you people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Selah.
That's what Hezekiah had. He expected God to do something. He had the same faith that Elisha had when dealing with the Syrians.
Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria, nor for all the multitude that is with him: for there be more with us than with him: With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is Jehovah our God to help us, and to fight our battles. And the people rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah king of Judah.
And since he had that hope, he waited. He knew that when God became involved in the battle, everything would come out alright. His greatest strength resided, not in himself or his resources, but in God in whom he trusted.
It takes courage to wait upon the Lord.
Do not deliver me over unto the will of mine enemies: for false witnesses are risen up against me, and such as breathe out cruelty. I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of Jehovah in the land of the living. Wait on Jehovah: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart: wait, I say, on Jehovah.
Our first reaction to a problem sometimes is fear and panic. That's what Rabshakeh was trying to instill in the people. He was trying to dishearten the common people on the wall so that they would panic.
We need to be of good courage like Hezekiah and not listen to the arrogant Rabshakehs that try to smear your faith.
The TV has a standard scenario for waiting on the Lord. A small group of simple, ignorant, poor folk huddled in their church house, while some terrible disaster is about to happen outside, ready to engulf them any minute. A half-crazed pastor is standing before them, weakly and vainly telling them to trust in the Lord. And you know what happens. The terrible disaster comes and wipes them all out, while the hero of the story, the scientist or the ungodly, self-reliant survivalist, shakes his head in pity and disgust as he is saved from the disaster. The moral? Rabshakeh's very words, "Don't trust in the Lord. Don't be deceived by what religion tells you."
You and I know better. That's not real life. That's Humanist fiction and propaganda.
We need courage. Take courage - be of good courage - wait on the Lord - God is our refuge and our strength. Hezekiah had confidence in what God was able to do. God is able to do anything. Keep that in mind. He can kill an entire army, 185,000 armed men right before your eyes, in an instant. Do you believe in God's power?
Besides expectation and courage, to wait upon the Lord we need patience.
Commit your way unto Jehovah; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. And he shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your judgment as the noonday. Rest in Jehovah, and wait patiently for him: do not fret yourself because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who brings wicked devices to pass. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: do not fret yourself in any wise to do evil. For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon Jehovah, they shall inherit the earth.
When things aren't going the way we think they should, when we feel that God is far away and things are just getting worse and out of control - when we think God should act now, what's he waiting for? We need patience, the ability to stick it our and not give up hope.
In 1Sam.13, King Saul was before the Philistine army and waiting for Samuel to come and bless them before the fight. He just couldn't wait. There were hundreds of thousands of Philistines, his own army defecting and Samuel hadn't come. So Saul offered the sacrifice himself. That's when God said that he was going to find a man after his own heart.
God delights in that kind of heart - the patience of faith. That may be why God delays his solution and answer, to build endurance in us, to try our faith.
Why did it take so long for Sarah to have a baby? She just couldn't wait. She had to resort to her own abilities, her own think-so's and her own resources. She told Abraham, "Here, take Hagar my slave and let's have that promised son." But that wasn't the son God had planned. That wasn't in God's timing. God had a schedule. "About this same time next year, Sarah will have a son."
Why did it take so long for the walls of Jericho to fall down? They waited and waited and marched around and around and around - they waited a whole week. God wanted them to wait. It bolstered their faith. It made them patient. It made them take a good, long time to think about what was going on, and for whom they were waiting to do something. By the end of the week their hearts were prepared, they had an expectation that God would act, and they had patiently waited for his schedule and his timing. "By faith the walls of Jericho fell down." (Heb.11:30)
Voices cry at us - "You gotta do something! You can't just sit there. You'll lose your opportunity unless you jump on it." And we end up doing something stupid and disobeying God.
You won't lose your opportunity. If you are doing what God requires of you as a Christian, and you're actively expecting God to help, and you're standing by and waiting for the time when you know God is acting for you - then that's the patience of faith and courage that is pleasing before God. First you ask for his help - then you do what's right, according to his will. Then you expectantly wait. God has a schedule and when we wait for his move, in his timing - then everything will work out for the best.
IV. Promises and Rewards
What are some of the promises and rewards for waiting on the Lord?
1. God will be glorified.
After everything that Hezekiah went through, the whole world was aware of it. Everybody took notice that there was a God in Israel. A real God. A God who does something.
When we wait for the Lord in our efforts to serve to him, in our evangelizing, in our congregational growth - then God will work in us, and it will be evident to everybody around that surely Christ is using this congregation for his purposes and his glory.
In a lot of ways we cheat God out of his glory when we think we know better, and we can handle everything in our own strength. What we should be doing is praying to God for his direction and power.
2. Our strength will be renewed
Isa.40:31 "Those that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength..."
There's more strength then you ever imagined, when we are working with God in his purposes with his timing. From God we draw strength upon strength, when we pray and acknowledge our dependency on him for what we need.
3. He will exalt you
Wait on Jehovah, and keep his way, and he shall exalt you to inherit the land: when the wicked are cut off, you shall see it.
He'll exalt you. But not when we think it's best - but in God's timing, according to his schedule.
Humble yourselves under the mighty had of God and he will exalt you in due time.
That's what we patiently wait for - the due time, the right season, in God's time, when he thinks best.
Also, we'll inherit the land. Not fretting about those who do evil around us, we wait for God, our hope is in him - he's in charge of the situation. In the end, those who have waited upon the Lord will be the only ones left around. (cp. Jam.5:6-8)
4. We will be delivered
I waited patiently for Jehovah; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And he has put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in Jehovah.
God will deliver us out of all our troubles, if we trust in him and patiently wait for him to work it out. After we've tried and tried and failed to help ourselves, and do it ourselves and master it ourselves, and we've been frustrated in every attempt - then turn to the Lord, ask him to help, then wait for him expectantly, and he'll deliver you.
You can see Paul waited upon the Lord in this respect. (cp. 2Cor.1:9-10)
5. We will never be disappointed
Thus says the Lord GOD, Look, I will lift up my hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people: and they shall bring your sons in their arms, and your daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders. And kings shall be your nursing fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers: they shall bow down to you with their face toward the earth, and lick up the dust of your feet; and you shall know that I am Jehovah: for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me.
Ashamed = embarrassed, confused, disappointed. When you actively wait for God, he'll never let you down. That seems to be one of our greatest fears. "If I don't do something instead of waiting for God to act - then everything will go wrong and I'll feel foolish and embarrassed for trusting in wishful thinking. That's Rabshakeh talking!
God's promise is, "No you won't", if you wait and trust in Him. You go to God with the problem. God will act on your behalf. When we wait for God, God becomes involved. The God of the universe becomes involved because you're relying on him. He wants us to trust him. Do you think God is going to fail his child, when that child turns to him in prayer for aid and patiently endures the conflict, because he's waiting for his God to help?
If you pray to God and wait for the Lord and take courage and resolve in your heart to let God act and take the lead, then God will surely become involved in your life, and in your problems. And when HE becomes involved, the victory's won, your problems are solved, the deliverance is certain. He'll never fail you, when you trust him and you're obedient to his word, and you wait upon the Lord!
~ Invitation ~