What is your first instinct when you hear bad news or encounter a difficult situation?
I still very clearly remember getting home from work one April afternoon after being married for about five months and finding that Eric had gotten there before me. I joined him on the hammock on our porch, not necessarily surprised that he seemed to be a little down. Work had been difficult for him for the previous few months, and he typically felt pretty discouraged at the end of the day. I cuddled up next to him and gently asked how his day was.
And he told me that he no longer had a job.
That the company had come into financial difficulty.
That they needed to make some cuts.
And that he had been that cut.
I knew this would be one of the most defining moments of our marriage, and my response would be critical to how we moved forward.
King Hezekiah knew his response to bad news would be critical, as well.
Sennacherib king of Assyria had invaded Judah and conquered all of their fortified cities. He sent one of his officers to meet Hezekiah’s officers with a message for Hezekiah. His words, described in both Isaiah 36 and 2 Kings 18, taunt the God of Israel, the One True God, and make a mockery out of both Israel and the God they serve. He even laughingly claims that their God told him to destroy their nation! The messenger chooses to not speak Aramaic, a language typically used for this situation and not understood by the common people, but he chooses to speak in the Jewish langauge so that he strikes fear not only into Hezekiah’s messengers’ hearts, but also in the hearts of the people listening.
Beware lest Hezekiah mislead you by saying, “The LORD 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 Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim? Have they delivered Samaria out of my hand? Who among all the gods of these lands have delivered their lands out of my hand, that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand? (Isaiah 36:18-20)
When his messengers came back with the news, it obviously distressed Hezekiah. Then Sennacherib sent messengers with more ammo against the God of Israel, essentially calling Him a liar and untrustworthy.
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. Behold, you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands, devoting them to destruction. And shall you be delivered? (Isaiah 37:10-11)
Talk about a bad day! Yet Hezekiah’s response showed who he believed God was and what God was capable of.
Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD. And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD: “O LORD of hosts, 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. Incline your ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; and hear all the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God. Truly, O LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations and their lands, 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 were destroyed. So now, O LORD our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the LORD.” (Isaiah 37:14-20)
Hezekiah responded by affirming what he knew to be true of God and therefore what he knew God could do: bring salvation. Hezekiah affirmed that the God he served was the living God, not a god made by man’s hands and able to be burned by fire. He focused on the truth in the situation, not the fear that Sennacherib wanted him to cave in to.
I love the picture of Hezekiah spreading all of these threats before the Lord and praying. He gave it all to God, trusting that God was able to do something about it. He knew that if God was the God of all kingdoms of the earth, then He was the God over Assyria. He knew that if God made heaven and earth, then God made Sennacherib. The threats of a man meant nothing in light of the God who had ultimate power.
While I know there have been times I have given in to fear and despair, the moment on the hammock that April afternoon was not one of them. My response was to kiss my husband, affirm my love for him, then just start praying. Together, we affirmed that God knew our financial needs and that God was able to take care of us. We laid it all before Him and trusted Him to move us forward.
What truths about God do you need to not only recognize, but believe in as you walk through your own present circumstances? What uncertain situation is before you, waiting for you to spread before the Lord and acknowledge where you are but also acknowledge Who He is? How do you respond to what is trying to produce fear in your life?
Your response to the difficult places in life shows who you believe God is and what you believe He is capable of. We serve a God who is the Creator, Sustainer, and Ruler of All. He can handle it when we spread it all out before Him and acknowledge the scariness of our situation, but He doesn’t want us to stop there. He wants us to choose to believe the truth of Who He is, and our focus on that truth will make all the difference.