When Things Look Down, Look Up.

Then Hezekiah the king and Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, prayed because of this and cried to heaven. – 2 Chronicles 32:20 ESV

The psalmist asked the somewhat rhetorical question: “From where does my help come?” (Psalm 121:1 ESV). Then he gives what should be the obvious answer: “My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:2 ESV). In times of trouble, the one who believes in God turns to Him for hope and help. When things are down, they look up. David, the great king of Israel, wrote, “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken” (Psalm 62:1-2 ESV). The psalmist, Korah, echoes this sentiment. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1 ESV). And it was with this thought in mind that King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah prayed to their God in heaven. They looked up and they cried out.

The situation was desperate. King Sennacherib of Assyria had invaded Judah with his armies and had Jerusalem surrounded and under siege. He had sent a message to the inhabitants of the city, saying: “Why are you so confident that you remain in Jerusalem while it is under siege? Hezekiah says, ‘The Lord our God will rescue us from the power of the king of Assyria.’ But he is misleading you and you will die of hunger and thirst!” (2 Chronicles 32:10-11 ESV). He went on to threaten the people of Judah with annihilation and warned them that Hezekiah was simply trying to deceive them. He ridiculed the God of Israel and bragged that no other god of any other nation had been able to stand against his armies. “Who among all the gods of these nations whom my predecessors annihilated was able to rescue his people from my power?” (2 Chronicles 32:14 ESV). King Sennacherib even had some of his troops who spoke Hebrew call out to the people of the wall, attempting to demoralize them with threats of destruction. They purposefully ridiculed God. “They talked about the God of Jerusalem as if he were one of the man-made gods of the nations of the earth” (2 Chronicles 32:19 ESV).

Things were definitely looking down. The odds were stacked against Hezekiah and Isaiah. The people were beginning to have second thoughts about Hezekiah’s leadership. They were listening to the words of Sennacherib and wondering if their God was strong enough to stand up against such a great army. There’s no doubt that Hezekiah and Isaiah were hearing a lot of complaining. They were probably getting a lot of advice to simply give up and cave in to the demands of the enemy. Self-preservation was the watchword of the day. Rather than expect victory and deliverance, the people were willing to settle for surrender and submission in exchange for their lives.

But Hezekiah and Isaiah didn’t give up or give in. They looked up and they called out to God. In the darkest of moments they still saw a glimmer of hope, because they believed in the power of their God. They knew Him to be loving, faithful, and fully capable of delivering His people from the greatest of difficulties. Sennacherib and his armies were formidable, but they were no match for the God who had created heaven and earth, who had defeated the armies of Egypt, who had delivered the land of Canaan into the hands of His people by defeating the more powerful nations that lived there. The armies of Judah were nothing compared to those of the Assyrians, but that was inconsequential. It was David, the great warrior-king of Israel, who wrote, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright” (Psalm 20:7-8 ESV). Here was a man who built his reputation on warfare, bravery, battlefield heroics and victories against his enemies. But even he knew that, ultimately, the battle was the Lord’s. Any success against the enemy was His doing.

So Hezekiah and Isaiah cried out to God. And He answered. We’re not told what they prayed. We’re not told how long they prayed. But we are told that God answered, and in a big way. “The Lord sent a messenger and he wiped out all the soldiers, princes, and officers in the army of the king of Assyria. So Sennacherib returned home humiliated” (2 Chronicles 32:21 ESV). God didn’t even have to show up Himself. He simply sent a messenger, much like Sennacherib had done. But God’s messenger brought more than threats and insults. He brought destruction on the enemy and deliverance for His people. In fact, when Sennacherib arrived home, he went into the temple of his god and was murdered by his own sons. His own god wasn’t powerful enough to protect him.

But God proved Himself faithful, powerful, and fully capable of delivering His people from the greatest of difficulties. Sennacherib had boasted, “no god of any nation or kingdom has been able to rescue his people from my power or the power of my predecessors” (2 Chronicles 32:15 ESV). But he didn’t know the God of Israel. He had yet to come up against the God of the universe, the one and only true God, the maker of heaven and earth. Like Hezekiah and Isaiah, may we learn to trust God even in the darkest of moments. May we learn to call out to Him even when all looks lost. Like David, may we be able to say, “Now I know that the Lord saves his anointed; he will answer him from his holy heaven with the saving might of his right hand” (Psalm 20: 6 ESV).


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