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Desperate Faith

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 Desperate Faith

Isa 36-37; 2 Kings 18-19; 2 Chron 32.

YOU KNOW YOU'RE HAVING A BAD DAY WHEN...

·         You have to hitch hike to the bank to make your car payment.

·         People send your spouse sympathy cards on your anniversary.

·         When you've been starving yourself for a week, but the scale shows a 3 pound weight gain!

·         The plumber floats by on your kitchen table.

·         The department of biological warfare ask for your stew recipe.

·         Your plants do better when you don't talk to them.

·         It costs more to fill up your car than it did to buy it.

·         Your doctor tells you that you're allergic to chocolate.

·         Your twin sibling forgets your birthday.

·         Your income tax refund check bounces.

·         Your doctor tells you you’re in great shape … for someone half your age.

·         The health inspector condemns your office coffee maker.

·         Your children's school calls to surrender.

Some crisis are ultimately trivial, and we can even make funny little lists about them that we post on the internet. Other crisis are substantial and shape who we are as people.

Today: A Bad Day in the life of King Hezekiah (Isa 36-37)

·         Note:  Isaiah 7:3; 36:2

o        Same location.

§  Different time - 30 yrs later (701 BC)

§  Different army - Assyrian Empire (champs) vs. Syro-Ephraim alliance (the losers).

o        Isa 7 – Man of God approaches an evil king in crisis with an invitation to seek God.

§  Which Ahaz refuses.

§  He seeks his own way, with disastrous results)

o        Isa 36 – Enemy of God approaches a good king in crisis with an invitation to abandon God.

·         Isaiah intends for us to compare the two stories. Has Hezekiah learned the lesson that his father Ahaz did not? Will this be any different.


! Hezekiah’s Character (bkgd)

·         Mostly prelude to Isa 36 (cf. 2 Kings 18-19 & 2 Chron. 32)

·         By all accounts Hezekiah was a good king.

o         "Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him. He held fast to the Lord and did not cease to follow him; he kept the commands the Lord had given Moses. And the Lord was with him; he was successful in whatever he undertook.” (2 Kings 18:5-7, NIV)

·         Hezekiah has spent his entire reign trying to reestablish Judah as a politically and spiritual strong nation.

o        He refused to pay tribute to Assyria, thereby rejecting the alliance his father has rashly formed

o        He reopened the Temple his father had closed and tore down the false shrines and altars his father had permitted.

o        He was instrumental in reviving the worship of God according to the commands given to Moses at Mt. Sinai – practices that have lapsed into a mixture of superstition, idolatry, mindless ritual, and outright neglect.

§  He knew that a spiritually divided and diluted nation could not expect anything from God. He knew that Judah’s spiritual condition was just as essential to her survival as here military or political state..

o        He diverted the water supply  so that it would continue to flow into Jerusalem, but be inaccessible to any besieging army outside the wall

·         Hezekiah’s aqueduct is still famous

o        Reinforced the walls and increased the arsenal.

o        Gathered the people and prepared them for what was to come.

§  Encouraged the to trust in God

§  “Assyria may have a mighty army, but we have a mightier God”

·         You know what happened as a result of all Hezekiah’s godly leadership?

o        “After all that Hezekiah had so faithfully done, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and invaded Judah.” (2 Chron. 32:1)

·         IMPORTANT NOTE: We like to think that a godly spare us trouble, but this is never guaranteed.

o        Hezekiah’s character did not protect him from crisis. Even the godly must go through trials.

o        Question is not “how do you avoid trials?”, but “what do you do when trials come?”

Hezekiah’s Challenge (ch. 36)

·         Sennacherib attacks Judah.

o        Isaiah had prophesied that, while the Assyrians would humble Judah, they would not conquer it completely (Isa 9:28-34; 14:24; 31:8)

o        But all seems for naught. The promises seem to have failed. Sennacherib seems unstoppable.

§  Acc. to Assyrian records, he conquered 46 cities.

§  And now he is threatening Jerusalem itself.

·         Hezekiah’s faith starts to wear

o        On one hand, Hezekiah continues to encourage the people that God will deliver them (2 Chron 32)

o        On the other hand, he strips the gold off the Temple doors and sends it to Sennacherib along with a letter of apology (2 Kings)

·         Sennacherib’s send his envoys with a reply specifically designed to demoralize the people and cause them to give up and surrender.

o        Read Isaiah 36:4-20

o        Long list of reasons to give up. A few main focal points..

§  You’re all alone – friends and allies (i.e. Egypt) are useless

§  You’re too weak to help yourself - I could even lend you my own horses (cf. “I’ll fight you with one hand behind my back”).

§  It would be easier to just give up.

·         If you resist, you’ll end up eating and drinking your own filth.

·         If you give up, it will get easier

o    Cf. “Following God is too hard. It’s not worth the trouble. Better to just give in.”

§  God will not help you

·         You God is mad at you – you tore down all his altars.

·         Your God told us to destroy you – it’s God’s will.

·         It’s pointless to trust God – even if He wanted to help you, there’s nothing He can do.

o        Have you ever heard any of these? Have you ever believed them?

o        Maybe you’ve pondered giving up for some of these exact same reasons.

·         Notable thing: All the points have some validity, EXCEPT THE LAST ONE … IT IS DANGEROUSLY DECEPTIVE.

o        Hezekiah had not offended God by tearing down His altars. He had actually done the right thing.

o        Isaiah had prophesied the Assyrian invasion (it was “God’s will), but had also foretold the ultimate defeat of Assyria (conveniently omitted)


o        Sennacherib mistakenly equated the Living God of Israel with all the dead idols of other nations, as if all gods were essentially the same.

o        Of all the distortions that crisis can create, distortions about God are potentially the most lethal. If we believe them, we are in trouble.

·         So, God has taken Hezekiah to the breaking point where there is absolutely nothing he can do to solve his  situation.

·         At this point, Hezekiah must make a critical decision

o        Does he turn away from God  - like Ahaz did (turned to alliances with men and the gods of other nations (2 Chron 28:22-23))

o        In crisis, we can turn away from God by …

§  Blaming God for ruining our life

§  Giving  up on God

§  Seeking our own solution or relief.

§  Slowly drifting  – pray less, read Bible less, go to church less, stop listening for God, stop caring what God thinks?

·         Or does he (do we) turn towards God?

·         What did Hezekiah do?

Hezekiah’s Response (ch. 37)

·         Isa 37 records two trips to the Temple of God

·         Trip 1: Isa 37:1-4

o        Humbled and desperate man at the end of his rope, hoping against all odds that maybe, perhaps, there’s a sliver of a chance that God might still act.

o        Message to Isaiah (v.3-4)

§  Mourns what he sees as the failure of God’s promises to come true. I think Hezekiah thinks this is the end. All he can hope for is to merely survive, he thinks Jerusalem will fall.

§  Perhaps God will rise if only for the sake of His own honour.

§  Perhaps Isaiah’s prayer can succeed where Hezekiah has failed, and convince God at least to show mercy on the survivors.

o        Isaiah’s response is simply a reaffirmation of previous prophecies: Assyria will not succeed. You need to belief this and stand firm.

·         Sennacherib – whose siege is temporarily delayed by an attack from Ethiopia - sends Hezekiah a 2nd letter, repeating his previous threats and the powerlessness of either Hezekiah or YHWH to stop Him.


·         Trip 2: Isa 37:14-20

o        We see a much calmer Hezekiah. Less panic. More faith.

o        Reaffirms God’s might and honour

§  Sennacherib is wrong about you. You are the all powerful living God. You are greater than Sennacherib’s and his gods.

o        Realizes that this is God’s fight, not Hezekiah’s.

§  God, bring glory to yourself

TSN TURNING POINT

·         EVERYTHING CHANGES FROM HERE

·         WHAT HAPPENED? Not a lot of detail. There’s no clever process or application steps that Hezekiah goes through.

o        It seems simply that, in his most desperate hour Hezekiah dared to throw everything on the hope of God’s faithfulness and live or die in God’s hand.

o        And, in that crucial hour, he found that God was big enough to meet the challenge.

·         Isa 37:36-38 – In then end, God comes to Jerusalem’s aid, as promised.

o        While the Assyrian records are silent on this, Chaldean, Babylonian and Greek sources all verify the Biblical record.

§  Greek historian Herodotus: Their weapons were ruined by field-mice during the night.

§  Chaldean historian Berosus: A plague ravaged the army.

o        All agree that this ended the Assyrian assault on Jerusalem abruptly ended and was never renewed.

o        Berosus also confirms that Sennacherib was slain in his own temple.

§  Note: Hezekiah found life in the Temple of his God, Sennacherib found death in the temple of his god.

§  Which god proved to be greater in the end?

Conclusion: God is Faithful

·         As I reflected, I concluded that this story is not primarily about Hezekiah’s faith.

o        Hezekiah, good as he was, was merely a man of very normal faith. It fluctuated between times of great strength, and times of great despair.

§  Sometimes he acted out of trust, and sometimes he acted out of shear desperation.

§  He desired to follow God, but he struggled with fear and doubt just like everyone else.

o        The hero of this story is not Hezekiah

§  This is not a story that teaches us “10 things you can do in crisis” or “6 ways to grow your faith”

·         The point of this story is basic: This is a story about God’s faithfulness

o        The hero is God

o        When Hezekiah reached the end of his rope, when he had nothing left to hang on to, God proved to be all that he needed.

·         The critical God wants each of us to learn it so basic, yet it is so foundational that if we don’t get it, we wont’ stand:  God is Faithful.

·         This lesson so important, so critical that, to teach us this truth, God may take us to places we would rather not go.

o        Places where we are in over our head

o        Places where all our wisdom, ability, optimism, even theology, fail us.

o        Places where our faith is tested and stretched, even torn and battered.

o        Places where can do nothing but call on God.

o        Places where we learn that there is simply no other foundation that stands in the storms of life.

·         We don’t go there willingly. 

o        Even when we do pray for God’s help, what we often mean is “God, I’ll tell you what to do, and you do it. Your job, God, is to help me succeed”

o        We don’t often take our hands off the wheel. More often than not, God has to wrestle it from our grasp.

§  Sometimes that means taking us to rock bottom

§  Forcing us in over our heads until we literally run out of options and have nothing left.

·         But in those places God remains faithful.

o        Those who cry out to him will find Him.

·         The lesson we learn from Hezekiah is NOT that God requires of us great courage and bold faith in the face of crisis.

o        “Keep a positive attitude”, “Just believe”, “Just smile at the storm”, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”, or whatever other platitude you can think up.

o        The lesson we learn is that God works faithfully and powerfully in situations even when we are weak and hopeless

o        We don’t have to impress God will our faith, as if His faithfulness is dependant on, or proportionate to, our faith.

o        We just need to turn towards him – instead of away from him - in our time of need.

o        When all we have left is God alone, God is still more than enough.

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