And Hezekiah prayed before the LORD: "O LORD, God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, You alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You made the heavens and the earth.
personal religion, to practical effort, and to prosperity in life. We see here how he acted when troubles came. Depend upon it, the man who makes his peace with God when all is going well with him - he will have peace within his spirit when the time of trouble comes. The man who does not allow the flowing tide of worldly prosperity or worldly pleasure to draw him away from God, he will find that God is near to him in the hour of danger and of need. It was certainly an hour of danger and anxiety with Hezekiah. With a vast army, Sennacherib, the King of Assyria, was threatening Jerusalem. The very name of Assyria was at that time a terror to the nations, just as for a long time the name of Napoleon was a terror to Europe. One by one, nation after nation had gone down before the triumphal progress of the Assyrian arms. Sennacherib, conscious of his past successes, conscious of the mighty host that accompanies him, looks down with contempt upon Hezekiah and his attempt at resistance. He sends him a letter, in which he points out how futile his efforts at resistance must prove. The gods of the other nations had not been able to deliver them, and let him not think that his God whom he served would deliver him. This letter and Hezekiah's action regarding it suggest to us some instructive lessons.
I. SENNACHERIB'S LETTER, AND THE TEMPTATION IT BROUGHT. (Vers. 9-13.) The drift of Sennacherib's letter was entirely to lead Hezekiah to distrust God. Sennacherib was confident of victory; but he wanted Hezekiah to surrender to him, so that he might obtain as much tribute as he could, and at the same time incur no loss of life in his own army. So he turns into ridicule Hezekiah's faith in his God. "Let not thy God in whom thou trustest deceive thee, saying, Jerusalem shall not be delivered into the hand of the King of Assyria. Behold, thou hast heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands, by destroying them utterly: and shalt thou be delivered? Have the gods of the nations delivered them which my fathers have destroyed? Where is the King of Hamath, and the King of Arpad, and the King of the city of Sepharvaim, of Hens, and Ivah?" In a similar way Rabshakeh, one of Sennacherib's generals, had already spoken to the people of Jerusalem. He had sought to influence their fears. He had sought to tempt them by bribes. He had said, "Let not Hezekiah deceive you... neither let Hezekiah make you trust in the Lord Hearken not to Hezekiah: for thus saith the King of Assyria, Make an agreement with me by a present, and come ye out to me, and then eat ye every man of his own vine, and every one of his fig tree, and drink ye every one the waters of his cistern: until I come and take you away into a land like your own land, a land of corn and wine, a land of bread and. vineyards, a land of oil olive and of honey, that ye may live, and not die: and hearken not unto Hezekiah, when he persuadeth you, saying, The Lord will deliver us." It is easy to imagine the effect of such statements upon a people few in number compared with the Assyrian's mighty host. The horrors of a protracted siege were in prospect. The longer they continued their resistance, the more desolation and devastation would be committed by the Assyrian army in their fields and homesteads. Many of them doubtless were already murmuring at Hezekiah, and some of them perhaps ready to make an agreement with the enemy. It was a trying position for Hezekiah. Both the letter of Sennacherib, and the circumstances in which he was placed, were a strong temptation to him to distrust God. He might have said, "Is this the reward which my service of God has brought me? I have been faithful to God's commands. I have restored the temple; I have restored the service of God. I have thrown down the altars and high places, and broken the images in pieces. Even the brazen serpent, which the people valued so highly as a relic of the past, I have ground to powder, because their idolatry of it was dishonoring to God. And now is it thus that God rewards me?" This is just the temptation that our difficulties and troubles constantly bring to us. They tempt us to distrust God.
1. It is so in the growth of our own spiritual life. How often the young beginner in the Christian life is discouraged by the difficulties which arise, and which he did not calculate on! He finds that there is still an old nature within him which has to be grappled with and conquered. He meets, perhaps, with opposition and discouragements from the world without, and perhaps even from those from whom he expected sympathy and help. These difficulties tempt many a one to distrust God. Many there are still who, like the disciples when difficulties arose, "go back, and walk no more with" God. One of the common difficulties which tempts us to distrust God is the prosperity of the wicked. Everything seems to prosper with men who have no respect for the Law of God. The temptation is for us, in distrust of God's promises, to imitate their godless practices. We begin to say, "There is no use in our being too scrupulous." Ah! what a mistake that is! Supposing we had all their prosperity, would it compensate us for the loss of a quiet conscience? Prosperity is dearly bought, business is dearly bought, for which we have to sacrifice one commandment of God, or silence the still small voice of conscience that speaks within. "What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" Whenever this difficulty of the prosperity of godless men troubles you, and success which seems to be reached by questionable and unscrupulous means, remember the grand words of the thirty-seventh psalm, "Fret not thyself because of evil-doers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb. Commit thy way unto the Lord: trust also in him; and he will bring it to pass."
2. In the same way there are difficulties in Christian work. How common a thing it is for Christians, who make much profession of their faith in God, to be dismayed and discouraged by difficulties that arise! Very often they are hindered from engaging in Christian work at all just by the difficulties that exist. I do not mean to say every person will suit every kind of work. There may be many kinds of work in which a man should not engage, because he has no fitness for them. But every Christian ought to be engaged in some work. If you are doing nothing for the Master, may we ask you why? What is your reason? What difficulty is in your way? No difficulty an excuse for idleness. You may think yourself too young, or too inexperienced, or too humble; you may find others hard to work with; you may meet with discouragement and opposition; but no one of these things is any excuse for idleness. If difficulties were a reason for doing nothing, no Christian work would ever have been done - no churches built, no missionaries sent forth, no schools erected - for there never was a Christian work yet that had not its difficulties. Let us learn to take as our motto in Christian work, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." Each one of you, no doubt, has his or her own difficulties to contend with - difficulties in your daily employment, difficulties from those you come in contact with, troubles and anxieties of spirit, cares and worries of various kinds. My message to you is this. Be not unduly cast down by your difficulties. Don't make too much of them. Just do with them as Hezekiah did, and you will see how soon they will disappear altogether, or at any rate they will be very considerably diminished.
II. HEZEKIAH'S PRAYER. (Vers. 14-19.) Hezekiah had learned by experience. As he grew older he became wiser. A short time before, when Sennacherib was capturing his cities, and had advanced upon Jerusalem, Hezekiah sent a message to him, saying, "I have offended; return from me: that which thou puttest on me will I bear" Sennacherib appointed him the exorbitant tribute of three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold. Hezekiah was in great straits for means to meet this demand. In his difficulty he imitated the foolish action of his own father Ahaz, and took the silver that was found in the house of the Lord, besides cutting off the gold from the doors and pillars of the temple, and then sent this as a peace offering to Sennacherib. But notwithstanding all this, Sennacherib did not give up his warlike intentions. He once more threatened Jerusalem. This time Hezekiah acts differently. He had learned now the mistake of rashly yielding to difficulties. It is a lesson we all need to learn. If we yield to our difficulties, they will return again, and with renewed force. One difficulty yielded to makes the next one harder to resist. One difficulty resisted makes the next one far easier to overcome.
1. Hezekiah's first act, after he had read Sennacherib's letter, was to go up into the house of the Lord. There he showed his wisdom. If we want advice in sickness, advice as to our bodily health, we go to the house of our physician. If we want to purchase food or clothing, we go where these necessaries of life are to be obtained. Hezekiah was now in a difficulty where human help could be of little or no use to him. So he goes to the one place where alone he might expect help - to the house of the Lord. The very act of going to the house of the Lord is a wise one. It reminds us that there is another world than that which is seen - the world of spirits, the world of the invisible. It reminds us that there is One in whose hand every human life is, One to whom in all ages human hearts have turned, in every time of sorrow, of difficulty, and of helplessness, and One whose power and whose goodness men have acknowledged by raising temples for his honor and for their own and others' good. Every true Christian must testify what a blessing the house of the Lord has been to him. How should we have fared without its precious privileges? How often have we felt, when the Sunday morning came round, and we joined in the song of praise, and approached the mercy-seat in company with other anxious, sinful, troubled, human hearts like our own; as we listened to the words of everlasting life; as we heard of him who is the "Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief," as we heard him saying to us, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest;" - how often have we felt that the difficulties of the week vanished; the burdens of the week were lightened; the cloud of sorrow that hung over us seemed suddenly to lift; we went forth again with new hope in our hearts, and with new strength in our lives; and upon our lips, perhaps, were such words as these -
"Goodness and mercy all my life 2. He spread the letter before the Lord. What a faith in God's presence that showed! - a real presence, indeed, not of body, but of that ever~ present Spirit, in whom we live and move and have our being! What a confidence it showed in God's interest in the affairs of all his people! What a lesson it is for us all! The best thing we can do with our difficulties is to spread them out before God. Perhaps when we begin to spread them out before him, some of them will seem hardly worth talking about hardly worth spreading, and the very act of doing so will bring us relief. But whatever it may be that gives us trouble, even though it be a small matter - something unkind that has been said about us, an unpleasant letter that we have received, an unexpected loss in business, let us spread it out before God. Your Sunday morning, before you go into God's house, would be well spent in thinking over the mercies you have to thank God for, the sins you have to confess, and the difficulties which trouble you, and then you would go into God's house asking just for what you need. I know a servant of God who told me that he always made it a rule to be in his place in church at least five minutes before the service began. That gave him Tame, he said, to calm his mind, and to look into his own heart. The good seed then fell on prepared ground, and he said that whenever he did not do so,-he did not get at all so much benefit from the service. "What a Friend we have in Jesus, Oh, what peace we often forfeit, (1) It encouraged others. He gathered the captains of war together in the street, and said to them, "Be strong and courageous, he not 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 the Lord our God to help us, and to fight our battles" (2 Chronicles 32:7, 8). And so great was the confidence which the words of the king inspired, that we are told that all the people rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah King of Judah. What a power the quiet influence of one believing man can exercise! What a power it gives us to live near to God! (2) Their confidence was not misplaced. God's people never trust in him in vain. Hezekiah's prayer was answered. That very night the angel of the Lord went out and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred and eighty-five thousand men. "Like the leaves of the forest when summer is green, "For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast, "And the widows of Asshur are loud in their wail,
2. He spread the letter before the Lord. What a faith in God's presence that showed! - a real presence, indeed, not of body, but of that ever~ present Spirit, in whom we live and move and have our being! What a confidence it showed in God's interest in the affairs of all his people! What a lesson it is for us all! The best thing we can do with our difficulties is to spread them out before God. Perhaps when we begin to spread them out before him, some of them will seem hardly worth talking about hardly worth spreading, and the very act of doing so will bring us relief. But whatever it may be that gives us trouble, even though it be a small matter - something unkind that has been said about us, an unpleasant letter that we have received, an unexpected loss in business, let us spread it out before God. Your Sunday morning, before you go into God's house, would be well spent in thinking over the mercies you have to thank God for, the sins you have to confess, and the difficulties which trouble you, and then you would go into God's house asking just for what you need. I know a servant of God who told me that he always made it a rule to be in his place in church at least five minutes before the service began. That gave him Tame, he said, to calm his mind, and to look into his own heart. The good seed then fell on prepared ground, and he said that whenever he did not do so,-he did not get at all so much benefit from the service.
"What a Friend we have in Jesus, Oh, what peace we often forfeit, (1) It encouraged others. He gathered the captains of war together in the street, and said to them, "Be strong and courageous, he not 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 the Lord our God to help us, and to fight our battles" (2 Chronicles 32:7, 8). And so great was the confidence which the words of the king inspired, that we are told that all the people rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah King of Judah. What a power the quiet influence of one believing man can exercise! What a power it gives us to live near to God! (2) Their confidence was not misplaced. God's people never trust in him in vain. Hezekiah's prayer was answered. That very night the angel of the Lord went out and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred and eighty-five thousand men. "Like the leaves of the forest when summer is green, "For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast, "And the widows of Asshur are loud in their wail,
Oh, what peace we often forfeit, (1) It encouraged others. He gathered the captains of war together in the street, and said to them, "Be strong and courageous, he not 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 the Lord our God to help us, and to fight our battles" (2 Chronicles 32:7, 8). And so great was the confidence which the words of the king inspired, that we are told that all the people rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah King of Judah. What a power the quiet influence of one believing man can exercise! What a power it gives us to live near to God! (2) Their confidence was not misplaced. God's people never trust in him in vain. Hezekiah's prayer was answered. That very night the angel of the Lord went out and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred and eighty-five thousand men. "Like the leaves of the forest when summer is green, "For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast, "And the widows of Asshur are loud in their wail,
I. THAT PRAYER IS THE BELIEVER'S PRIVILEGE. Viewing the children of God as participating in the troubles of life in common with others, it is indeed a most important privilege. Prayer has been called "the outlet of trouble, and the inlet of comfort;" it serves as the open window to a heated room, to remove what is oppressive, and admit what is refreshing. Prayer is a duty — not a mere duty, however, but a precious privilege; indeed, all duties are privileges and blessings if rightly understood; God never assigns or commands anything which is not for the good of those on whom it is enjoined. Prayer is the choicest privilege of earth; it is the intercourse with heaven — the speaking to God as to a Father and a Friend; it is not only conformity to Christ's Spirit, but the joining in very act with Son and Spirit, at the very time and for the very object in which they are engaged. Christ not only prayed on earth, but is gone to pray in heaven, and has sent His Spirit to take His place below. Oh! let us look at Son and Spirit pleading; would they ever have assumed the office, but that they saw the helpless state of man, and volunteered to plead in and for him? They pray for man; it is their pleasure; and if man be permitted to conjoin with them in prayer, is it not a blessed privilege that he may so do?
i.e., the same things happen day after day, the same needs come, and therefore the same prayers are needed, yet occasional occurrences intervene, requiring special attention and immediate thought and help. Then we must seek instant succour. To delay may be fatal; to wait for our morning or evening prayer must be to wait till the special danger has gone by, or has fallen upon us. It becomes us, the moment the peril is recognised, to fall on our knees and call in the intervention of God Almighty. We have in the case of Hezekiah an admirable instance of the power and efficacy of prayer. But supposing the Assyrians had not been destroyed, but had carried on the siege and triumphed, would Hezekiah's prayer have received no answer? God graciously sent a complete answer for the encouragement of His people, and for the discomfiture of the vaunting Assyrians; but even if so direct an answer had not been given, the prayer of faith would not have been in vain. All that God promises is to answer — not to answer exactly as we wish. Suppose a danger imminent: sickness nigh unto death; a shipwreck; a fire; an invasion of our country; you would fain extricate yourself from the peril. There may be plenty to volunteer advice: first one and then another specific is suggested; various lines of policy, all conflicting, all perhaps hopeless to all appearance. Yet there is another resource: take your anxieties and spread them before the Lord, take them especially into the house of the Lord. Another form of perplexity arises from mental or spiritual difficulties: you fail to see the truth of some Christian doctrine; or you cannot discover what truth is; opposite opinions present themselves, and there is a temptation to cast off all belief because you cannot come to a decision in your own mind as to which is the true doctrine; some minds, for instance, have a difficulty in accepting the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, because it seems to be inconsistent with common sense that three should in any view be one — remember it is only above, not contrary to, reason. Take the matter quietly before your God, kneel before Him in secrecy, and in faith ask His guidance, and then spread out the conflicting passages before the light of His mercy-seat, and be assured that somehow you will find light to direct you, for "the meek shall He guide in judgment."
And Hezekiah prayed unto the Lord.
1. The first thing for us to look at is this, — A king in trouble. Troubled soul, do not think within yourself that your case is peculiar, — all men have their troubles. Do not go envying any man, for no position will bring escape from trouble. But further, here is a good man in trouble. Turn to the beginning of the previous chapter and read the record of this man. The worst thing that could befall us in this world would be for us to have in anything our own way.
3. Again, here was a very great trouble. Net for himself was it that Hezekiah thought only or even mostly, though this was quite enough to think about. A crown and throne and all the proud position of king is quite enough to lose at one blow. But that was swallowed up in his concern about his people and the perils that beset them.
4. And it was a trouble for which there seemed to be no help. Samaria had fallen, and they looked in vain towards the north.
(M. G. Pearse.)
(G. F. Prescott, M. A.)
II. LET US CONSIDER HEZEKIAH'S CONDUCT AND PRAYER AS A TEST OF THE REAL STATE OF THE HEART. We are told, in verse 1, what was his great resource. Prayer was his habit; not the mere exclamation, nor sudden feeling when danger threatened, which men have by instinct, no! we are told "Hezekiah trusted in the Lord," "he clave to the Lord"; such expressions imply the habit of prayer; when trouble came he had not to commence an acquaintance with God.
III. Let us consider Hezekiah's prayer AS AN EXAMPLE OF THE MANNER OF PRAYER. But let us take Hezekiah as a model for our imitation. How did he particularise? "he spreads the letter before the Lord"; he takes each part, and reasons on it; and if we compare the particulars of the letter with what is specified in the prayer, we shall see the meaning of his spreading the letter before the Lord. His was not a general prayer for deliverance, but a specifying of particulars; thus had he abundant matter for his petitions, thus by opening all his case, he disburdened his own heart, thus he put God in remembrance, and involved His glory with His people's safety. Such should be the manner of prayer, then there will not be wandering or coldness.
(B. Jacob, A. M.)
II. In the second place, my text affords us A SPECIMEN OF WISE DEMEANOUR IN THE PEOPLE OF GOD, WHEN THEY ARE ASSAILED BY PERSECUTIONS OR THREATENINGS FROM THE WORLD. No business whatever will detain us from the house and ordinances of God, if we have the fear and love of God in our hearts; because we need His blessing in all our transactions. And if at all other times, then especially we need it in seasons of affliction.
III. In the third place, A SPECIMEN OF SIMPLE FAITH IS ALSO HERE PRESENTED; to which the spiritually-minded among you will do well to take heed, as to that plan whereby we may most effectually remove our anxious cares off our own shoulders, and honour that word of grace and truth, given to every adopted child of God: "Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain thee" (Psalm 55:22). That phraseology is very remarkable, in the superabundance of the promise above the matter involved in the exhortation — "Cast thy burden upon the Lord"; the answer to that would be — "And He shall sustain it, He will bear it for thee"; but the answer is more — "He shall sustain thee," thee and thy burden too.
1. Simplicity of faith is shown in the act under contemplation. It is left on record for the instruction of those who in after ages would glorify God in a troublesome world.
2. Faith suggests the efficacy of prayer. The Lord's people are thereby enabled to judge Him faithful, "who hath promised."
3. Finally, this faith may be exercised, and prayer presented, and that with good success, in the most apparently perilous circumstances.
(W. Borrows, M. A.)
Homiletic Quarterly.Prayers have their histories. Their ancestry is trouble, struggle with circumstances, and helplessness. They mark epochs in our lives, They are born in those hours which leave an indelible impression upon us. The sublimest strains which men have uttered have been towards God in moments of agony,
I. HEZEKIAH PRAYED TO JEHOVAH AS THE GOD OF HIS NATION. "O Lord God of Israel."
1. The nation bore the name of one of its progenitors that "as a prince had prevailed with God." Names and events around which cluster Divine deliverances may encourage us in prayer. Past manifestations of God's power may enlarge our faith. What God has been to our forefathers, our churches, our nations in times of trouble, He will be to us amid the perils of our day. History is a handmaid in the service of Faith.
2. His nation was Jehovah's peculiar dwelling-place — "which dwellest between the cherubims." The Skekinah, the holy light, as a symbol of the Divine presence, ever shone forth from between those weird and colossal figures which Solomon had carved and placed on either side of the mercy-seat. God will protect where He dwells. While He remains, there is perfect safety. When He departs, there is ruin.(1) God dwelling in a nation saves it. God now manifests Himself, not by a material brightness, but by righteousness, purity, and truth.(2) God dwelling in a man saves him. Every Christian is a temple of God. The true cherubim and Shekinah are in the soul.(3) God dwelling in a Church saves it. No enemies can overthrow a Church that has the Divine glory shining in the midst of it.(4) We can appeal to the manifestations of the Divine presence to increase our confidence in God in times of danger.
II. HEZEKIAH RECOGNISES, IN HIS PRAYER, THE SOLE SUPREMACY OF JEHOVAH. "Thou art the God," etc.; "and have cast their gods into the fire," etc. Each nation had its gods. Polytheistic ideas and customs prevailed in the nations surrounding Jordan. The gods were often destroyed when the nations fell which they were supposed to protect. The Jews alone asserted the existence of one supreme God.
1. Hezekiah asserted that Jehovah was the only true God. Polytheism was a foolish delusion. It probably arose from men's innate propensity to materialise spiritual things, from the worship of natural objects as the manifestation of the Divine power, from the sinful and insatiate imagination of men's hearts, from the deification of departed heroes, or from the attempt to give visible shape to applauded virtues. But there can be but one infinite and eternal God.
2. That He exercised supreme control over all the kingdoms of the earth. He was not only the God of Israel, but of all nations.
III. HE APPEALED TO JEHOVAH AS THE MAKER OF "HEAVEN AND EARTH." Heaven and earth to the Jewish mind included all things. In this sublime idea of God is involved —
1. That He is eternal. He existed before all things; delighting in the glory of His own nature before the worlds were made; no material form nor spiritual existence sharing that eternity with Him.
2. That He is separate from His works. The universe is not He, as the ancient pantheists taught, and as some teach now. He is immanent in all His creations, but independent of them. The maker is not His work. God transcends all beings and worlds.
3. That He is omnipotent. He who made the universe must be Almighty. Its greatness is inconceivable, and the power that produced it must be infinite.
4. That He has an absolute right to control an things. The maker has indefeasible rights in His productions.
5. That He has all things under His direct control. As He has created all forces, an laws, an agencies, all worlds, all angels, all men, He has them under His immediate direction, and can turn them "whithersoever He will." This conception of God afforded solid ground for Hezekiah's faith.
IV. HEZEKIAH PRAYED WITH GREAT EARNESTNESS. Earnestness is needed, not to lead God to observe our condition, or to create a disposition in Him to help us, but —
1. That the strength of our desires may be revealed.
2. That we may be raised from the low condition of formal devotion.
3. That we may have all the spiritual culture which the outcries of real need may impart.
4. That we may be prepared to receive Divine deliverances thankfully. Hezekiah was stirred with the most powerful emotions as he prayed. His trouble heated his soul as a fire.
V. HEZEKIAH RECOGNISED THE GREATNESS OF THE DELIVERANCE WHICH HE SOUGHT. "Of a truth, Lord," etc. To recognise the greatness of the deliverance we need will —
1. Deepen our sense of helplessness in ourselves
2. Stimulate the exercise of great faith.
3. Prepare us for the manifestation of God's great delivering hand.
VI. HEZEKIAH ASSOCIATED THE GLORY OF JEHOVAH WITH THE DELIVERANCE WHICH HE SOUGHT. The reproaches which had been cast upon him had been cast upon God. But it was God's delivering arm put forth in answer to Hezekiah's faith and prayer —(1) that His people might learn to put their trust in Him, and(2) that all the earth might know that none could defy His power and prosper.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
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