Sermon preached on 2 Kings 19 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Morning Worship Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 10/11/2020 in Novato, CA.
Last week, we ended where this passage begins. We ended with the Assyrians threatening to wipe out God’s people in Jerusalem. The Assyrians taunted the people of Jerusalem claiming that none of the things they were trusting in would be able to help them. They said Egypt couldn’t help them, nor King Hezekiah, nor even Israel’s God! Faced with such strong threats by Assyria, what would King Hezekiah do? Would Hezekiah continue to trust in God faced with such a threat? That is a question God’s people still have to face today when the enemies of Christianity breathe their strong threats against us. Will we keep our trust in God? Well, while these Assyrian threats surely tested Hezekiah’s faith, we see he does put his hope in the LORD here. And I appreciate how we see that Hezekiah’s doctrine of God helped him find comfort amidst these threats. That’s part of what our doctrine should do. It should speak to how we think, to how we feel, and of course, to how we act. Hezekiah’s doctrine of God guided him forward here. And it’s my hope that our doctrine of God today will be grown today as we study this passage – and that such might help us to stand in faith in the threats we face today from the world.
Let’s begin today by appreciating the trouble God’s people were in here. Hezekiah describes the trouble in verse 3. Hezekiah pours out his heart about the situation. He speaks there to the prophet Isaiah, which is effectively him pouring out his heart to God. There, Hezekiah says that their day is one of distress, rebuke, and disgrace.
Think first about the great distress that they were in. They have this strong enemy at their doorstep makings all these credible threats. Assyria had already destroyed their Israelite brothers to the north. In fact, they had already leveled much of their own country of Judah by now. This is what Hezekiah refers to in verse 4 when he mentions a “remnant”. Last chapter, in 18:13, we read that the Assyrians had already come up against Judah and wiped out numerous fortified cities. Lachish was mentioned there as an example of a city they captured. It was likely mentioned because it was probably the second largest fortified city in Judah at the time. In fact, archeologists have found an Assyrian relief that depicts the Assyrian record of the destruction of Lachish (now on display in the British Museum). The relief shows the Assyrians flaying alive some of the leaders at Lachish and impaling others on poles for all to see. It shows them exiling the survivors and looting the city. This is the kind of thing these atrocious Assyrians had already done. Such embodies the distress that they would have had. Jerusalem had then become the remnant among Judah and the last stronghold. Now Assyria was coming upon Jerusalem. This was indeed a day of great distress.
Think then about this being a day of rebuke. Hezekiah’s doctrine of God recognizes that God is a holy, righteous God who demands of his people faithfulness to the covenant with its various laws and statutes and commandments. Hezekiah is recognizing how they have not been faithful in this regard. Yes, they had recently began to turn back to God and make major reforms. But Hezekiah believes the Assyrian onslaught has been part of God’s rebuke about Judah for their waywardness.
Think then about this being a day of disgrace. Judah has shamefully lost so much already. They stand poised for this final disgrace of complete destruction and removal from the Promised Land – if Assyria is allowed by God to do so. You can see this disgrace expressed in the king’s torn clothes and sackcloth. But we can also acknowledge the disgrace from the perspective of what the Assyrians have said about the God of Israel. They had just reviled their God! That is at the heart of what Hezekiah brings before the LORD in his petition through Isaiah.
So, I love the response that this distress, rebuke, and disgrace brought upon Hezekiah. He renews his trust and hope in the LORD. The tearing of his clothes and the sackcloth was an act of contrition before the LORD and a plea for help. Notice in verse 2 that he sends his messengers to bring his appeal to Isaiah. But notice what he personally does. Hezekiah goes into the temple, verse 1. Surely, he goes there himself to personally intercede to the LORD, as we see him do again later in the chapter. So, in the midst of this distress, rebuke, and disgrace his doctrine of God knows that God is a merciful God who will hear his people when they humble themselves before him. His doctrine of God surely knows what God had told his forefather King Solomon in 2 Chr. 7:14, that, “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” And so that is what Hezekiah seeks to do here. Hezekiah’s doctrine also knows that his God is mighty to save and can surely defeat the Assyrians if he so wills to do so. So then, Hezekiah cries out to God – directly as the King on behalf of the people, and via the prophet Isaiah, urging him also to pray unto God for help.
Notice it’s at this point in the ordeal, that Isaiah then brings a report back to King Hezekiah with a word from the LORD. It’s in verse 6. God tells Hezekiah that he doesn’t need to fear – that God has heard the reviling of the Assyrians and will intervene. But notice the details. God will so work as to make the Assyrian’s return to their own land and there the Assyrian king will be killed. Yet, by the time you get to verses 8-13, you see that the Assyrians are still in the area, and still making their threats. In other words, Isaiah brings a gospel word of salvation, but it’s not yet come to pass. Hezekiah has to wait on the LORD for the promised salvation. There is application for us to find there. We too have the sure word of God that speaks comfort and hope to us amidst the many enemies that stand against us. But many of those promises which are certain and sure require us to have yet a little more patience. We too have to wait upon the LORD and his word to come to pass and bring the promised deliverance. For us, we have as Christians the big picture that says we are more than conquerors in Christ Jesus, even if, for a time, we are called by God to endure a little suffering for the sake of Christ.
Let’s move on to our second point now and see how after this initial call to God for help, Assyria doubles down on its reviling of God. This is what we saw at the end of last chapter in verses 32-35. There, the Assyrians said none of the other gods of the nations have been able to save them from the military might of the Assyrians. The Assyrians say the same thing will happen to Jerusalem. That is slanderous and blasphemous against the great glorious name of the LORD. Well here, starting in verse 8, we get a little summary of what’s going on after the Assyrians made those threats of last chapter. Apparently, Hezekiah made it clear to them that they weren’t going to surrender. The Assyrian Rabshakeh goes back to the Assyrian King who was nearby involved in other military conflict. The Assyrian King then sends a new message to Hezekiah, which is recorded there in verse 10. He basically tells Hezekiah the same thing as last chapter. He says, “Do not let your God in whom you trust deceive you by promising that Jerusalem will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.” The Assyrian king goes on to list all the other nations who hoped in their gods and yet nonetheless fell to the Assyrians. The Assyrian king thus ridicules the glorious great name of the one true God.
Notice that the Assyrians are trying to make a logical argument. You might remember last chapter, in verse 20 they accused Hezekiah of just trusting in mere words. But the argument of the Assyrians here is that their threats are not just mere words. They offer example and after example of one nation after another whose gods couldn’t save them. Assyria uses their words to point to results. This becomes part of the test of faith to Hezekiah. He can submit to these facts offered by the Assyrians or he can trust in the words that the prophet Isaiah brought from God. Would he trust in worldly results or in divine words? If these were ordinary words, they’d not be worthy to trust in the face of such results. But, again, Hezekiah’s doctrine of God knows that the words of the Lord are not ordinary words, but are indeed powerful to accomplish that which God has promised.
In fact, Scripture affirms that the glory of God’s name is a key concern to the LORD. He is rightly concerned that he be held out as glorious. In general, it is righteous to safeguard the good name of someone. How much more so does righteousness demand that the best name be held out as glorious to the world’s sight. I think of, for example, back in Moses’ day when the people sinned with the golden calf while they were in the wilderness after the Exodus. Moses interceded for the wayward people before God. Moses didn’t have a lot he could say on behalf of the people to try to give some reason for God to show them mercy. So, Moses appeals to the glory of God’s name. Moses implored the Lord that the nations might see God destroy Israel and say that he brought them out of Egypt with evil intent to destroy them. Moses’s plea for mercy used an argument concerning God’s glory before the nations. That is one Bible passages among many that show such concern, that the glory of God’s name would be manifest for the world to see. Yet here, the Assyrians openly revile that great name.
This leads Hezekiah to go back to prayer to the LORD. In verse 14, he returns to the temple. There we see that he takes the message he had received from the Assyrian King and lays it before the LORD in the temple. It’s like Hezekiah is offering evidence to the LORD of the great blasphemy that the Assyrians had committed. This concern is then featured in Hezekiah’s prayer. He accuses the Assyrians of such reviling of God and seeks for God to vindicate his name before the nations. In verse 16, for example, Hezekiah pleads that God would see and hear the mocking that Sennacherib has brought against the LORD. Again, Hezekiah’s doctrine of God knows that God is adamant about his own glory. And so, he wisely brings this matter before God in prayer and rightly spreads this blasphemous message out before the LORD, that God might see and judge these wicked Assyrians. This is this same concern of God being mocked that Hezekiah back in in verse 4 initially brought to Isaiah as well. So, Hezekiah rightly addresses this evil. No pagan should be out their blaspheming the great God over all.
Still today the ignorant world reviles the great name of the LORD. Whenever they say the Bible is backward and out of date, they revile the great name of the LORD. Whenever they label biblical morality as hateful or on the wrong side of history, they revile the great name of the LORD. Whenever they say the world came into existence out of chaos and evolved by random chance, they revile the great name of the God who created all things! Whenever they call us foolish for believing that Jesus really is the eternal God come into the flesh, they revile the great name of the LORD who has revealed his glory to humanity through his Son! Our doctrine of God will spur us on to have a great zeal for the name of the LORD and ought to spur us back to prayer as well when we see such blasphemy.
In our third and final point, I would like to highlight one more doctrinal point about God that exposes the major miscalculation that the Assyrians made here. The doctrinal point I have in mind is that which falls under the category of monotheism. Monotheism means there is one, and only one, God. This one true God happens to be the God of Hezekiah and Judah, and they are his special people. This was the major flaw in Assyria’s logic when they compared the God of Judah with the other gods of the nations. It was not an accurate comparison because the gods of the nations don’t actually exist, except in people’s minds. But the God of Judah is the one and only God. Their logic would have been fine if they were going against another nation that also had a false god for their god. But that’s not whom they were facing this time. Assyria thought the battle was going to be one-sided, and they were right in that regard. But they wouldn’t be on the side of victory like they presumed.
Notice that this point of monotheism is exactly what Hezekiah fills his prayer here with. Let’s walk through his prayer. Start in verse 15. “O LORD, the God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth.” Hezekiah lists several truths of God that are dealing with this monotheism. First, he identifies who is the one and only God – it is the LORD, the God of Israel. Second, he speaks of God’s heavenly transcendence when he says that he is above the cherubim. Third, he specifically asserts that he is the only God, and notice how he says that “of all the kingdoms of the earth”. In other words, while this or that human kingdom might claim another false god as their god, in actually the LORD God who is still the sovereign God over them. Those nations might not acknowledge the LORD as God, but they can’t dethrone him. The LORD God is the one and only God over all creation, over every nation, over all peoples. Fourth, he acknowledges here that the LORD God is the creator ever everything – the heavens and the earth. In monotheistic doctrine, there is only one creator who creates all things. The pagan polytheistic religions typically hold to a pantheon of gods who each created different things. Both views cannot be right. And so here we see that the Bible rightly teaches monotheism – that there is only one creator and God, not many – and he is the God of the Bible who gave us the revelation that we have here in the Scriptures.
Look at how Hezekiah continues in verse 16. He directs the LORD to consider King Sennacherib’s mocking words. In verse 17 Hezekiah acknowledges something truthful in Sennacherib’s words. He admits that Assyria has successfully conquered one nation after another and have casts those nations gods – their idols – into the fire. Hezekiah freely admits that this part of Sennacherib’s words is true. But Hezekiah goes in his prayer on to explain why Assyria could do this. Look at the end of verse 18: because those gods were not gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. That’s how they could be destroyed. We noted this last chapter, if you recall, when it talked about how Assyria brought various peoples into the region of Samaria and they each came and “made” their own gods. They each made their idols and worshipped them and we said that if you have to make your god then its not a god! Hezekiah’s prayer recognizes that this is why Assyria could destroy those nations and destroy their gods – because they weren’t real living gods. They were lifeless, deaf, and mute gods – powerless to save! But Hezekiah contrasts all this when in verse 16 he says that the God of Israel is the living God. The heathen gods were not alive. The one true God, the God of Israel, is alive. He is the living God! This is why the Assyrians had miscalculated. Sure, they had an undefeated record against fake gods. But that didn’t mean anything when they are now facing off against the living God!
Hezekiah’s prayer comes to its climactic appeal then in verse 19. He asks God to save them from these Assyrians so that all the kingdoms of the earth would know that you, Yahweh God, are the only God. What a powerful plea. Hezekiah’s petition for their salvation puts their salvation into a bigger picture. He says that God saving them can be to show forth the glory of God’s name to the nations. The very substance of Assyria’s evil here is how they are maligning the great and glorious name of God by comparing him to the false gods of the nations. Instead, Hezekiah says that God’s name can be glorified if he saves them. He says that if God saves Judah, it will not only show Assyria to be wrong, but it will send a message to all those nations that were conquered by the Assyrians that they have put their hope in the wrong God. Here, Hezekiah’s prayer expresses zeal for the name and glory of God to go out to the Gentiles. So that they might know this. Here, a hope for the nations to come to the one true God is held out through how the LORD might see fit to save Judah here.
Indeed, God answered that prayer. He did save Jerusalem that day and the remnant of Israel. And it was a testimony to the nations that there is only one true God and he is the God of Israel. And that trajectory has continued by Hezekiah’s later successor, King Jesus Christ. Jesus came to reveal the one true God in a way that no mere man could have done before. Jesus, the Son of God who took on the flesh of David’s lineage came and revealed the creator to humanity. And we have beheld his glory, the glory of the Only Begotten Son, full of grace and truth. In in his dying on the cross he saved a people unto himself. And in saving such a people, in his powerful vindicating of the glory of God in his resurrection, he has brought his name to the nations. In this salvation which is then in Christ Jesus, the nations are beginning to know the one and only, living and true God. As the enemy continues in his threatenings to against God’s people, our salvation by grace through faith in Christ continues to bring a knowledge of the Lord to the world.
In conclusion, I ask you today, have you come to know that the LORD God is the one and only true God? Have you come to know him in Jesus Christ? There is no other name given to man by which we may be saved. The other religions of the world are false. Their gods are made-up and are not real. They are powerless to help you. Only the God of the Bible is the true God. He alone made all things and sustains all things. He alone made a way to save a wayward humanity through his Son. Only by putting your hope and allegiance in Christ Jesus can you truly know this God and be saved from the coming day of his wrath. For indeed, when Christ Jesus returns to usher in God’s final judgment, none of the nations will be able to stand against them, and none of their false religions will be able to save them on that day.
But for us who have such a doctrine, we are reminded of the comfort it brings. Our doctrine of God, and our doctrine of salvation speaks to how we should react today when the world continues to rage against the LORD and true religion. Let us find encouragement today in this doctrine. And may it spur us on toward renewed prayer as we rest in the truth of who God is and what we have in him. Amen.
Copyright © 2020 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
All Rights Reserved.