Faithful, Yet Surrounded.
2 Chronicles 31-32, Titus 2
After all that Hezekiah had so faithfully done, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and invaded Judah. He laid siege to the fortified cities, thinking to conquer them for himself. – 2 Chronicles 32:1 NLT
We can sometimes falsely believe that our faithfulness to God somehow inoculates or protects us from trouble. It is easy to assume that if we do what God has called us to do and live as He has called us to live, we will enjoy a trouble-free life. But Hezekiah’s life is a great illustration that this philosophy is not only unbiblical, but dangerous. Chapter 31 of 2 Chronicles outlines Hezekiah’s efforts to restore the people of Judah to a right relationship with their God. He ordered the destruction of all the pillars and high places where false god had been worshiped throughout both Judah and Israel. He cut down the Asherim poles and destroyed all the altars where idol worship had taken place. And he did this not only in the nation of Judah, but in Israel as well. Then he reestablished proper worship of God by reorganizing the priests and Levites, and reinstituting the tithing system designed to support these men and their families. Hezekiah “did what was good and right and faithful before the Lord his God. And every work he undertook in the service of the house of God and in accordance with the law and the commandments, seeking his God, he did with all his heart, and prospered” (2 Chronicles 31:20-21 ESV). But this extremely positive assessment of Hezekiah and his faithfulness is followed by the somewhat surprising news that “after these things and these acts of faithfulness,” Hezekiah found himself faced with the prospect of being invaded by the Assyrians. At first blush it would seem that his faithfulness got him little more than an extra dose of trouble. So how would he respond? What would his reaction be to the news that his prosperity was suddenly being confronted with adversity?
What does this passage reveal about God?
God had never promised His people that they would be free from trouble. He had not offered them a trial-free existence devoid of conflict. But He had promised to be with them and to fight on their behalf. Even Jesus had told His disciples, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 ESV). Paul told the believers in Rome, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35-39 ESV). A relationship with God does not exempt us from experiencing the difficulties associated with life in this fallen world. There will always be enemies who stand against us. There will always be trials that test our faith and expose the true condition of our hearts and measure the level of our trust in God. It is one thing to remain faithful when everything around us is going well. But when trouble raises its ugly head, we tend to get a much truer barometer of our faith.
What does this passage reveal about man?
Hezekiah did not overreact to his circumstances, but he did act. Rather than stand back and whine about his troubles, he took positive steps to prepare for them. We are told that “he planned with his officers and his might men” (2 Chronicles 32:3 ESV). The chronicler makes it clear that Hezekiah “set to work resolutely and built up…” (2 Chronicles 32:5 ESV). He built. He strengthened. He made. He set. He encouraged. Hezekiah got busy. He told the people, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or dismayed before the king of Assyria and all the horde that is with him, for there are 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 ESV). Even when Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, began to taunt Hezekiah and mock God, Hezekiah held his ground. The enemy was attempting to get the people to doubt God’s salvation and reject Hezekiah’s leadership. But instead of buying into the lies of the enemy, Hezekiah took his situation before the Lord. He had done his part in preparing for the possibility of an invasion, but he knew that God was the key to their ultimate success. And God heard Hezekiah’s prayer and answered by sending an angel who struck down 185,000 Assyrians in the middle of the night. We’re told that Sennacherib returned home in shame, only to be murdered by his own sons. Hezekiah had been faithful. But the enemies of God are relentless. In this lifetime we will always have to deal with opposition and difficulty. We must always remember that the Lord our God is with us, helping us fight our battles.
How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?
Life can be difficult. But God has not left us alone. He has provided us with salvation through His Son. He has filled us with power made possible by His Spirit. He has equipped us with His reliable, infallible Word. Paul reminded Titus that “the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:11-14 ESV). We are surrounded. We are threatened on all sides by an enemy who mocks our God and taunts us to give up hoping in His ability to save us. We are constantly being encouraged to pursue ungodliness and worldly passions. But God has said that it is possible to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives – even in this present age. Those of us who have placed our faith in Christ as our Savior, must remain faithful even in the face of all the adversities of life. We must wait faithfully for our blessed hope. God is not done yet. He has not finished what He started. Our ultimate hope is not in this world, but in the one to come. But in the meantime, I must not lose sight of the fact that God is purifying for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works – even in the midst of all the trials and troubles of life.
Father, help me keep my focus on You. Don’t let me get defeated or deflated by the troubles I encounter in this life. You are with me and You will fight any battles I face for me. But I must be prepared. Like Hezekiah, I must be willing to do my part. Then I need to trust You. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men