The Lord Defends
Bible Passage: 2 Kings 19:14-19, 32-37
Naum Feygin immigrated from Russia to the United States shortly after the end of the Cold War. He came with the hope of making a life for himself here. He started working in a hospital, then he tried selling musical instruments without much success, and then he tried selling Russian souvenirs at flea market. By 1997 he had saved enough money to purchase a hardware store.
It’s a small 600 square foot hardware store but it is lined floor to ceiling with whatever you may need. Mr. Feygin is a walking encyclopedia of hardware knowledge and he can save you from getting the wrong thing. His prices are low and it’s convenient—you can be in and out within 10 minutes. Unless of course you want to stick around and chat.
In November of last year he had to close his hardware store. He was losing market share to Amazon. And though in fact he was often cheaper and more convenient, clicking on a product from the comfort from you own home seems more convenient. On top of that over the years his rent nearly doubled and he could no longer stay competitive with much larger companies. So he had to close. He was a small fish in a big pond swallowed up by a much larger fish.
Maybe sometimes we can feel like that. Like we are a mom and pop store that is being swallowed up by a much much larger business and there is little we can do about it. It feels like march of this year that our little church has taken blow after blow, doesn’t it? Our government asked us to suspend worship and out of love for our fellow man we complied. Of course there was the news of losing funding. And as we look at the shifting of our culture at large it can seem like that Christians have been pushed to the margins, that is unsettling. How can we ever stem the tide when we feel so small?
We might just chalk it up to 2020 being 2020. We might just say that the word is out of control. Or that western culture is going to hell and a hand basket. We see a culture turning against basic truths of the Bible which Christians have held for millennia, we see liberties diminishing, and what is our response? Do we wash our hands of the situation and retreat inward so we don’t have to deal with people anymore?
It’s easy to feel beaten up and defeated these days. Fear is an exceptionally draining emotion, it tires us out, we see the obstacles in front of us and in our weariness we deem them insurmountable. Here is why fear is so draining: because in the process we turn our eyes away from the Lord and we oscillate between fear and defeatism. And if that is the case where are we putting our faith?
It might just feel like we are facing an army of 185,000, but that is why this lesson from Hezekiah is so important this morning. He is going to cut through the temporal and material and he is going to show us that God defends and delivers.
Hezekiah wasn’t wrong. The Assyrian kings had laid wast to the nations between Nineveh, which is located just outside of modern day Mosul, all the way to Israel. In fact Israel fell to Assyria early on in Hezekiah’s reign and now Sennacherib had his eyes set on Jerusalem and he was confident that he would destroy Jerusalem. For Sennacherib it wasn’t so much just about exerting his power of Jerusalem, though it was that, it was also about showing that he was more powerful than the one true God. If he could conquer Jerusalem Sennacherib thought that he could show that God was no God at all.
Hezekiah’s initial response to the news of Sennacherib descending upon Jerusalem is striking. The king tore his robes, put on sackcloth and went to the temple of the Lord. He sent word to the prophet Isaiah and called that day a day of distress and rebuke. In the face of a national catastrophe Hezekiah didn’t wallow, he didn’t wonder why it was happening, rather in the face of national catastrophe as the representative of his nation Hezekiah repented.
I recently saw a meme on the top left it says “Dec 31, 2020 11:59” and on the top right there is a picture of a very happy man. Then below that picture there is a very disappointed man and across from that it says, “December 32, 2020.” I get it, it certainly feels like 2020 is never going to end and it is something we do need to weather. But is it possible that this year of catastrophe is a time of disgrace and rebuke? A year of disgrace of rebuke which causes us to reflect and recall what is important and what is not and maybe how we have been faithless. And instead of feeling defeated and being filled with fear we need to repent and turn to the Lord for mercy.
Then Hezekiah took the letter he had received from Sennacherib and he brought it before the Lord and he prayed this prayer, “Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. 16 Give ear, Lord, and hear; open your eyes, Lord, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God.
17 “It is true, Lord, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands. 18 They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by human hands. 19 Now, Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, Lord, are God.”
It is as if Hezekiah is forwarding the letter and is saying to the Lord, “I am not the king you’re the king.” He recognizes God’s authority, power, how he created all things, and how all things including Sennacherib himself is in the Lord’s hands.
But Hezekiah also clues into something here that is incredible important. He cuts beyond the material and temporal and realizes that Sennacherib’s army is not the greatest problem, the greatest problem was that Sennecharib would dare to blaspheme the Lord’s reputation. Sennacherib wanted to show that the God of Israel was no God at all. And so he calls on the Lord to defend his reputation as the only true God.
As Christians and as a congregation our problem is not our culture, our problem is not our numbers, or our financials, rather our threats are spiritual and these threats are both within and without. To paraphrase the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 6, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of evil.”
And there is only one way to overcome a catastrophe like that.
God told Hezekiah that he would defend Jerusalem and would save it. And he would do it for two reasons… one for his own sake. That is for the sake of his own reputation. So that all the nations would know that he was Lord alone.
And number two because of the promise made to his servant David. Out of his mercy he had to maintain his promise to David and that promise was nothing less than the deliverance of a Savior and Sennacherib and Assyria in that moment was a threat to that promise. So the Lord defeated the army of Sennacherib and sent him packing back to Nineveh.
Sometime later, about 20 years later, there was a coup and Sennacherib was killed in the temple of his God. If there was place that his God should have been able to protect him it should have been in his own house, but no, because the Lord alone is God.
We have a God who promises that he is in control of heaven and earth and he is using his eternal might and all surpassing wisdom to guide all things for our eternal good. After all he promised us all authority in heaven and on earth has been given for me. And he is using that eternal power for your eternal good.
In spite of the threats we may face the Lord continues to defend and deliver us today. He defends us and saves us by sending his own Son to rescue us from our fear, our defeatist attitude, and most of all our faithlessness.
He defends us and saves us by defeat eternal death for us through his own death on the cross.
He defends us and saves us from enemies that would dare not to only take our lives from us but our very souls as his Son faced down Satan and quieted the accusations that he might make against us.
And just in case that we begin to worry that he isn’t going to defends us and saves us, if we begin to think that the material and temporal is far too great and far too mighty he assures us of the hope that he will grant us an inheritance that will never spoil, fade or pass away. This is the eternal life that he is bring us to right now. Amen.