A Vision of God’s Glory

As I looked, behold, a stormy wind came out of the north, and a great cloud, with brightness around it, and fire flashing forth continually, and in the midst of the fire, as it were gleaming metal. And from the midst of it came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance: they had a human likeness, but each had four faces, and each of them had four wings. Their legs were straight, and the soles of their feet were like the sole of a calf’s foot. And they sparkled like burnished bronze. Under their wings on their four sides they had human hands. And the four had their faces and their wings thus: their wings touched one another. Each one of them went straight forward, without turning as they went. 10 As for the likeness of their faces, each had a human face. The four had the face of a lion on the right side, the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and the four had the face of an eagle. 11 Such were their faces. And their wings were spread out above. Each creature had two wings, each of which touched the wing of another, while two covered their bodies. 12 And each went straight forward. Wherever the spirit would go, they went, without turning as they went. 13 As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, like the appearance of torches moving to and fro among the living creatures. And the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning. 14 And the living creatures darted to and fro, like the appearance of a flash of lightning. – Ezekiel 1:4-14 ESV

It was while Ezekiel was exiled to Babylon, living near the Kebar River, that God came to visit him in a vision. Little did Ezekiel know that his role as a priest was about to be expanded to that of a prophet. A long way from home and far from the ruins of the temple in Jerusalem that had been destroyed by the Babylonians, Ezekiel was going to receive a vision and a commission from God Almighty.

Ezekiel would later describe this life-changing event in very intimate terms.

the hand of the Lord was upon me there – Ezekiel 3:22 ESV

…the hand of the Lord God fell upon me there. – Ezekiel 8:1 ESV

Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking. – Ezekiel 1:28 ESV

God revealed Himself to Ezekiel in an unforgettable and virtually indescribable manner. This was no burning bush encounter like the one Moses experienced in the wilderness. Ezekiel was given a much more intense and comprehensive glimpse of the Almighty, and it began with a vision of what the dumbfounded prophet describes as four living beings.

As I looked, I saw a great storm coming from the north, driving before it a huge cloud that flashed with lightning and shone with brilliant light. There was fire inside the cloud, and in the middle of the fire glowed something like gleaming amber. From the center of the cloud came four living beings – Ezekiel 1:4-5 NLT

One can only imagine Ezekiel’s shock as he witnessed these strange-looking apparitions appear before his eyes. The text does not reveal whether this bizarre vision took place while Ezekiel was awake or came upon him in the form of a dream. But the strange and surrealistic nature of what Ezekiel saw must have left him shaken and more than a bit scared.

A powerful thunderstorm suddenly appeared on the northern horizon, accompanied by lightning and brilliant light. This was no ordinary storm and that face was quickly confirmed by the sudden appearance of the four creatures. Ezekiel’s attempt to describe these bizarre beings reveals just extraordinary they were. He had never seen anything like them before and was at a loss as to how to describe them. To his eyes, they were an other-worldly amalgam of human and animal characteristics that were beyond belief.

At first glance, they appeared to be human but, upon closer examination, Ezekiel saw that they each had one head with four faces. “Each had a human face in the front, the face of a lion on the right side, the face of an ox on the left side, and the face of an eagle at the back” (Ezekiel 1:10 NLT).

Ezekiel is given no explanation for this disturbing combination of facial features. But it would seem that each was meant to represent something significant about God’s creative order. Man was meant to be the apex of all the living creatures God created. The lion was the king of the beasts, the most powerful of all the wild animals. The ox was the most valuable of all the domesticated animals, a creature equipped with great strength and intelligence. And the eagle was considered the king of the skies, a majestic bird of prey whose keen vision and powerful talons made him a mighty hunter.

According to Ezekiel, these four-faced creatures each had four wings and human hands. They used one pair of wings to cover their bodies, while the other pair of wings were fully extended with the tips touching the wings of the creature next to them. It seems that the four creatures formed a square so that “each one moved straight forward in any direction without turning around” (Ezekiel 1:9 NLT).

But even as mesmerizing as these creatures were, Ezekiel’s attention was drawn to something that appeared in the midst of them.

In the middle of the living beings was something like burning coals of fire or like torches. It moved back and forth among the living beings. It was bright, and lightning was flashing out of the fire. – Ezekiel 1:13 NET

It is difficult to ascertain whether this light emanated from the creatures themselves or from something else. But it seems as if the vision was meant to draw Ezekiel’s eye ever higher, exposing him to something far more significant than the creatures themselves. As fantastic as these heavenly beings appeared to be, they were not the focus of the vision. They were simply a preview of what was to come.

“These spiritual beings who were part angel, part human, and part animal were fitting representatives of the whole created order. Their activity affirmed the relationship of God to his creation as Lord of all things. This idea was vital in helping Ezekiel and the captives in exile and the people in Judah understand that in the midst of the storms of life, God was still on his throne. He was not oblivious to their circumstances.” – L. E. Cooper Sr., Ezekiel

God was setting the stage for what was to come. These divine apparitions were meant to get the prophet’s attention and prepare him to receive the message God had in store for him. God could have just appeared to Ezekiel, but He chose to preface His appearance with a supernatural outpouring of signs that accentuated His power and glory. In the midst of all the doom and gloom of captivity in Babylon, Ezekiel was being given a veritable light show designed to remind him of Yahweh’s majesty and holiness.

The God of Israel was manifesting His presence in the midst of His exiled people. He had not forgotten or forsaken them. He had always promised to remember and redeem them, and He had communicated those intentions to the prophet Jeremiah.

“When the time for them to be rescued comes,”
says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies,
“I will rescue you from foreign subjugation.
I will deliver you from captivity.
Foreigners will then no longer subjugate them.
But they will be subject to the Lord their God
and to the Davidic ruler whom I will raise up as king over them. – Jeremiah 30:8-9 NLT

As Ezekiel’s vision will make clear, God was still on His throne and fully in command of all that was going on in the world. The captivity of His chosen people had been part of His plan, and their future redemption would also come about just as He had promised. Ezekiel was being given a much-needed reminder of God’s glory and greatness so that he might receive, believe, and deliver God’s message for the helpless and hopeless living in exile in Babylon.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Everlasting, Ever Faithful God

22 At that time Abimelech and Phicol the commander of his army said to Abraham, “God is with you in all that you do. 23 Now therefore swear to me here by God that you will not deal falsely with me or with my descendants or with my posterity, but as I have dealt kindly with you, so you will deal with me and with the land where you have sojourned.” 24 And Abraham said, “I will swear.”

25 When Abraham reproved Abimelech about a well of water that Abimelech’s servants had seized, 26 Abimelech said, “I do not know who has done this thing; you did not tell me, and I have not heard of it until today.” 27 So Abraham took sheep and oxen and gave them to Abimelech, and the two men made a covenant. 28 Abraham set seven ewe lambs of the flock apart. 29 And Abimelech said to Abraham, “What is the meaning of these seven ewe lambs that you have set apart?” 30 He said, “These seven ewe lambs you will take from my hand, that this may be a witness for me that I dug this well.” 31 Therefore that place was called Beersheba, because there both of them swore an oath. 32 So they made a covenant at Beersheba. Then Abimelech and Phicol the commander of his army rose up and returned to the land of the Philistines. 33 Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba and called there on the name of the Lord, the Everlasting God. 34 And Abraham sojourned many days in the land of the Philistines. Genesis 21:22-34 ESV

During the time in which Sarah gave birth to Isaac, Abraham was living in land provided to him by Abimelech, the king of Gerar. Abimelech had issued this generous land grant to Abraham as part of the restitution package he had paid for having mistakenly taken Sarah into his harem. Despite the fact that Abraham had deceived him, claiming Sarah to be his wife, Abimelech wanted to make things right in order to forestall any judgment from God for his actions.

Then Abimelech took sheep and oxen, and male servants and female servants, and gave them to Abraham, and returned Sarah his wife to him. And Abimelech said, “Behold, my land is before you; dwell where it pleases you.” – Genesis 20:14-15 ESV

Having accepted this generous offer, Abraham had settled somewhere within within the boundaries of Abimelech’s domain. In time, the king took notice of Abraham’s apparent success. This stranger from Ur of the Chaldees was actually prospering and experiencing significant growth. His family and flocks were expanding, and Abimelech began to have second thoughts about his decision to award Abraham with some of his most valuable real estate.

So, the king and his military commander made a surprise visit to Abraham, where this pagan monarch made a rather startling acknowledgement.

“God is obviously with you, helping you in everything you do…” – Genesis 21:22 NLT

Abimelech could sense that Abraham had the blessing of whatever God he worshiped. And the king feared that this unknown deity might continue to reward Abraham with further growth, creating a potential point of conflict over the land. This confession on the part of Abimelech further illustrates God’s commitment to keep His covenant promise to Abraham.

I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. – Genesis 12:2 ESV

“And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.” – Genesis 17:8 ESV

God was faithfully and methodically keeping His promise to Abraham, and Abimelech couldn’t help but notice. And his reaction is similar to that of Pharaoh when he later discovered the remarkable growth of the Israelites living in Egypt. The book of Exodus records that, when the descendants of Abraham first arrived in Egypt, they were only 70 in number. But “the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them” (Exodus 1:7 ESV). And Pharaoh, viewing their rapid expansion as a threat to his domain, took steps to mitigate the problem. 

“Look, the people of Israel now outnumber us and are stronger than we are. We must make a plan to keep them from growing even more. If we don’t, and if war breaks out, they will join our enemies and fight against us. Then they will escape from the country.” – Exodus 1:9-10 NLT

One can almost sense that Abimelech shared Pharaoh’s concern. While Abraham had only fathered two sons, he had many servants and at least 318 trained fighting men who had been born into his household (Genesis 14:14). All of these individuals would have done their part in expanding the size of Abraham’s “family.” But, unlike Pharaoh, Abimelech sought to make a non-aggression treaty with Abraham.

“Swear to me in God’s name that you will never deceive me, my children, or any of my descendants. I have been loyal to you, so now swear that you will be loyal to me and to this country where you are living as a foreigner.” – Genesis 21:23 NLT

Abimelech seemed to know that Abraham was under some form of divine favor and was reticent to oppose him. So, he proposed that they make a bilateral covenant between them. He had been gracious enough to allow Abraham to live in his land, and now he was asking that Abraham return the favor by promising to remain loyal to their relationship. And Abraham agreed to the proposal.

But, as part of the negotiations, Abraham lodged a complaint. In a land where water was the key to survival, a dispute arose between the servants of Abimelech and the servants of Abraham over water rights. The servants of Abimelech had unlawfully seized a well that had been dug by Abraham’s servants on land that belonged to their master. So, Abraham decided to bring this matter to Abimelech’s attention. But the king was slightly irritated that he was just now hearing about this problem.

“This is the first I’ve heard of it,” Abimelech answered. “I have no idea who is responsible. You have never complained about this before.” – Genesis 21:26 NLT

Abimelech claimed ignorance, and he wondered why Abraham had not mentioned this problem before. But it would appear that Abraham was taking advantage of the king’s desire to sign a peace treaty between them. Sensing that Abimelech was attempting to avoid conflict, Abraham offered to settle the matter by purchasing the land on which the well was located. Up to this point, Abraham had been living on land that actually belonged to Abimelech. But this situation provided a means by which Abraham could actually gain property rights that would ensure use of the well for generations to come.

Abraham and Abimelech “cut a covenant” with the sacrifice of sheep, goats, and cattle. The carcasses of these slain animals were divided in half and separated with a pathway passing between them. Then Abraham and Abimelech would have walked together from one end to the other, signifying their commitment to keep their end of the agreement or suffer a similar fate. This was often referred to as a blood covenant.

But once the treaty was sealed, Abimelech was surprised when Abraham “also took seven additional female lambs and set them off by themselves” (Genesis 21:28 NLT). When Abimelech questioned the nature of this gift, Abraham answered, “Please accept these seven lambs to show your agreement that I dug this well” (Genesis 21:30 NLT). In a sense, Abraham was adding a rider to their agreement, committing Abimelech to support his ownership of the well.

The treaty signed and the addendum approved, Abraham “named the place Beersheba (which means “well of the oath”), because that was where they had sworn the oath” (Genesis 21:31 NLT).

Moses states that, upon the ratification of the treaty, King Abimelech and his military commander returned to the land of the Philistines. Since the Philistines did not arrive in the land of Canaan until 800 years after this event, it seems likely that Moses was using this name to refer to a geographic region and not a particular people group. His readers would have been very familiar with the land the Philistines would eventually occupy, so they would have been able to understand the exact location to which Moses referred. King Abimelech returned to the east, leaving Abraham to occupy the region around Beersheba.

Moses wraps up his telling of this event by describing Abraham’s ceremonial planting of a tamarisk tree. According to Thomas L. Constable, “This tree was an appropriate symbol of the enduring grace of the faithful God whom Abraham recognized as “the Everlasting God” (El Olam). Abraham now owned a small part of the land God had promised him” (Thomas L. Constable, Notes on Genesis). An evergreen tree that was recognized for its longevity even in arid climates, the tamarisk would serve as a long-term reminder to Abraham and his descendants. It was a living altar at which Abraham called upon the name of the Eternal God. And it was there at Beersheba that Abraham “lived as a foreigner in Philistine country for a long time” (Genesis 21:34 NLT). He remained a sojourner and a stranger in the land, but God graciously provided him with a source of sustenance and a reminder of His faithfulness.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

New English Translation (NET)NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2017 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://netbible.com All rights reserved.

Life Under the Gracious Gaze of Almighty God

1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.” Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.”  Genesis 17:1-8 ESV

Hagar eventually obeyed God, leaving the wilderness behind and returning to the household of Abram. In due time, God fulfilled His promise to the slave girl and she gave birth to a son, whom she name Ishmael, in keeping with God’s command.

“Behold, you are pregnant
    and shall bear a son.
You shall call his name Ishmael,
    because the Lord has listened to your affliction.” – Genesis 16:11 ESV

Yet, just a few verses later, Moses seems to indicate that it was Abram who named the boy.

So Hagar gave Abram a son, and Abram named him Ishmael. Abram was eighty-six years old when Ishmael was born. – Genesis 16:15-16 NLT

Rather than considering this as some sort of biblical contradiction, it makes more sense to view it as an example of God’s sovereign, behind-the-scenes activity. It was He who had decreed that the boy would be born, and it was he had selected his name. And whether God used Hagar as the instrument through which He communicated His divine wishes to Abram, or He visited Abram in a dream, He ensured that His decree would be followed. The boy’s name would be Ishmael (God hears).

The birth and naming of Ishmael were meant to send a message to Abram. That God had heard the cries of the abandoned Hagar in the wilderness should restore Abram’s confidence in God’s ability to hear his cries of fear and doubt. Abram and his wife Sarai were God’s chosen couple, and He had clearly indicated His intentions to use them as the vessels through whom He would make a great nation and shower blessings on the rest of the world. But the whole reason Ishmael existed was that Sarai had doubted God’s ability to pull off His promise through her. She was old and beyond child-bearing age. And to make matters worse, she was barren. So, she had decided that the only way the promise could be fulfilled was if Abram fathered a child with her Egyptian maidservant.

Sarai’s plan had accomplished her goal but had failed to fulfill God’s promise. Abram had a son but, according to God, he was still lacking a divinely approved heir. Ishmael would end up siring a multitude of descendants (Genesis 15:10), but they would not be the ones through whom God would bless the nations. In fact, according to God’s message to Hagar, Ishmael’s descendants would “live in open hostility against all his relatives” (Genesis 16:12 NLT).

So, Abram had a son, but he was still waiting for the fulfillment of God’s promise. And, as Abram watched Ishmael grow from infancy to adolescence, he would continue to wait – 13 long years. At the ripe old age of 99, Abram received a message from God.

“I am El-Shaddai—‘God Almighty.’ Serve me faithfully and live a blameless life. I will make a covenant with you, by which I will guarantee to give you countless descendants.” – Genesis 17:1-2 NLT

This encounter with God would prove to be a watershed moment in the life of Abram. While this was not the first time he had heard from God, it would be the one occasion that left the deepest impression on his life. For 13 years, he had most likely been assuming that Ishmael would be his heir. From his perspective, Hagar’s return from the wilderness was a sign from God that Ishmael was to be the long-awaited offspring through whom God would work. Abram had received no divine message to the contrary.

So, after what appears to be 13 years of divine silence, Abram receives a visit from God. For the first time in their lengthy relationship, God introduces Himself to Abram as ʾel shadday, (El Shaddai), a name that is most often translated as “God Almighty.” In using this divine appellation, God was letting Abram know that He was fully capable of accomplishing His will and fulfilling His promises without human assistance. He was the almighty, all-powerful God of the universe. He had created the heavens and the earth. He held all things together. And God wanted Abram to know that old age and barrenness would prove to be no problem for Him.

At 13 years of age, Ishmael was on the cusp of becoming a man. And in His omniscience, God knew exactly what Abram was thinking. This 99-year-old father of a teenager had made the assumption that Ishmael would be his heir.  But he was about to discover just how wrong he was and just how great God is.

Back in chapter 15, God had made a covenant with Abram. It had been a unilateral and unconditional covenant. In other words, God had declared His intentions but had placed no requirements on Abram. On this particular occasion, Abram had expressed his disappointment with God’s plan.

“You have given me no descendants of my own, so one of my servants will be my heir.” – Genesis 15:3 NLT

He had already decided that he was going to have to make Eliezer, his manservant, his adopted son, and heir. But God had rejected that option and reiterated His plan.

“No, your servant will not be your heir, for you will have a son of your own who will be your heir.” – Genesis 15:4 NLT

God had reconfirmed His commitment to give Abram a son but He would do it on His terms. That son would not be adopted. He would be the biological offspring of Abram. And God had let Abram know that, from that one son, He would provide Abram with more descendants than there are stars in the sky (Genesis 15:5).

God had sealed His covenant commitment to Abram by walking through the divided carcasses of the animals that Abram had sacrificed. He had made a blood commitment to fulfill the promise He had made. But He had demanded nothing of Abram. Now, years later, God once again confirmed His commitment to multiply Abram greatly. But this time, He includes an interesting addendum to the agreement.

“I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.” – Genesis 17:1-2 ESV

This statement from God must have left the 99-year-old Abram stunned and shaking in his sandals. The almighty God seemed to be placing a condition on the covenant He had made with Abram. And this condition was anything but easy. God was demanding that Abram live a blameless life. And the impossible nature of this command did not escape Abram. As soon as he heard them, he fell on his face. He knew he was completely incapable of pulling off this divine demand. But he failed to grasp what God was really saying to him.

God was not demanding sinless perfection from His fallen and flawed servant. He was not placing a condition on the covenant that required Abram to live in unwavering obedience and moral purity. But, based on Abram’s reaction, that’s likely how he interpreted it. And sadly, that’s how many Christians view this passage today. We hear in God’s words a requirement that we live without sin and in perfect obedience to all His commands. And we wrongly assume that, if we don’t, we will miss out on His blessings for us. We make His promises to us and love for us conditional.

That’s why it is essential that we understand what God was saying to Abram. The Hebrew word for “walk” is הָלַךְ (hālaḵ) and it means to “to walk back and forth; to walk about; to live out one’s life.” Abram is being encouraged to conduct his life with the constant awareness that Almighty God is watching. Nothing escapes His notice. He is the all-seeing, all-knowing God. Abram was to have a constant awareness of God’s presence that would influence every area of his life.

But what about God’s demand that Abram “be blameless?” Was He requiring sinless perfection? Once again, the Hebrew language sheds some light on these questions. God demanded that Abram be תָּמִים (tāmîm), a word that is rich in meaning. It conveys the idea of completeness, wholeness, and integrity. God is not requiring Abram to live a life free from all sin. He is demanding that Abram recognize the wholeness of his calling. God wanted all of Abram. He had not chosen him simply as a biological vessel through whom He would create a mighty nation. No, God wanted every area of Abram’s life: body, mind, soul, and spirit. There was to be no compartmentalization. Abram was not free to hold back any area of his life from God’s control or use. In other words, Abram was being told to live the entirety of his life before God’s all-seeing eyes. There was nothing that God could not see. There was no area of Abram’s life that he was to consider as off-limits to God’s control.

And as Abram lay prostrate on the ground, God reiterated His covenant and His promise.

“This is my covenant with you: I will make you the father of a multitude of nations! What’s more, I am changing your name. It will no longer be Abram. Instead, you will be called Abraham, for you will be the father of many nations. I will make you extremely fruitful. Your descendants will become many nations, and kings will be among them!” – Genesis 17:4-6 NLT

Abram received a confirmation of the original covenant, as well as a new name. And that new name carried powerful significance.

“…its significance is in the wordplay with אַב־הֲמוֹן (ʾav hamon, “the father of a multitude,” which sounds like אַבְרָהָם, ʾavraham, “Abraham”). The new name would be a reminder of God’s intention to make Abraham the father of a multitude.” – NET Bible Study Notes

God was letting Abram know that the promise still stood firm but it would not be fulfilled through Ishmael. Sarai’s plan had not accomplished God’s will. There would be another son, and through him, God would fulfill every aspect of the covenant He had made with Abram. As proof of His commitment, God promised to give Abram a sign to go along with his new name. And that sign would be perpetual and permanent, passed down from generation to generation, long after Abram was gone. And once again, God reassures His doubting and sometimes disobedient servant of the incredible nature of the covenant and the promise attached to it.

“This is the everlasting covenant: I will always be your God and the God of your descendants after you. And I will give the entire land of Canaan, where you now live as a foreigner, to you and your descendants. It will be their possession forever, and I will be their God.” – Genesis 17:7-8 NLT

God wasn’t requiring Abram to live a sinless life in order to receive the covenant promises. Abram was being invited to conduct every aspect of his life under the watchful, loving, and covenant-keeping eyes of God Almighty.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

New English Translation (NET)NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2017 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://netbible.com All rights reserved.

The Holy One of Israel

20 Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah, saying, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Your prayer to me about Sennacherib king of Assyria I have heard. 21 This is the word that the Lord has spoken concerning him:

“She despises you, she scorns you—
    the virgin daughter of Zion;
she wags her head behind you—
    the daughter of Jerusalem.

22 “Whom have you mocked and reviled?
    Against whom have you raised your voice
and lifted your eyes to the heights?
    Against the Holy One of Israel!
23 By your messengers you have mocked the Lord,
    and you have said, ‘With my many chariots
I have gone up the heights of the mountains,
    to the far recesses of Lebanon;
I felled its tallest cedars,
    its choicest cypresses;
I entered its farthest lodging place,
    its most fruitful forest.
24 I dug wells
    and drank foreign waters,
and I dried up with the sole of my foot
    all the streams of Egypt.’

25 “Have you not heard
    that I determined it long ago?
I planned from days of old
    what now I bring to pass,
that you should turn fortified cities
    into heaps of ruins,
26 while their inhabitants, shorn of strength,
    are dismayed and confounded,
and have become like plants of the field
    and like tender grass,
like grass on the housetops,
    blighted before it is grown.

27 “But I know your sitting down
    and your going out and coming in,
    and your raging against me.
28 Because you have raged against me
    and your complacency has come into my ears,
I will put my hook in your nose
    and my bit in your mouth,
and I will turn you back on the way
    by which you came.

29 “And this shall be the sign for you: this year eat what grows of itself, and in the second year what springs of the same. Then in the third year sow and reap and plant vineyards, and eat their fruit. 30 And the surviving remnant of the house of Judah shall again take root downward and bear fruit upward. 31 For out of Jerusalem shall go a remnant, and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors. The zeal of the Lord will do this.

32 “Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the king of Assyria: He shall not come into this city or shoot an arrow there, or come before it with a shield or cast up a siege mound against it. 33 By the way that he came, by the same he shall return, and he shall not come into this city, declares the Lord. 34 For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David.”

35 And that night the angel of the Lord went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies. 36 Then Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and went home and lived at Nineveh. 37 And as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, Adrammelech and Sharezer, his sons, struck him down with the sword and escaped into the land of Ararat. And Esarhaddon his son reigned in his place. 2 Kings 19:20-37 ESV

This is essentially the story of three kings. First, there is King Sennacherib, the sovereign ruler over the rapidly expanding Assyrian empire. He is the commander-in-chief of one of the most powerful armies on earth, and his ambitious plans of global conquest have met with little to no resistance. Kingdom after kingdom has fallen before his army and now he has his sights set on the nation of Judah, where Hezekiah, the second king in our story, rules from his throne in Jerusalem. But King Hezekiah finds himself in the unenviable position of ruling over a city under siege. His capital city is surrounded by the Assyrian army and he has been given an ultimatum to surrender or face annihilation.

Two kings. One is dressed in his royal robes and reveling in the indisputable reality of his own success. The other has discarded his regal attire for sackcloth and ashes, the garments of mourning. Sennacherib is a confident and self-assured king who sees no end to his plans for global conquest and domination. He is unstoppable. And it would appear that Hezekiah agrees with that assessment because he has turned to Yahweh for help. With his city completely surrounded and his allies nowhere to be seen, Hezekiah has called on the God of Judah to come to their aid.

“O Lord, God of Israel, you are enthroned between the mighty cherubim! You alone are God of all the kingdoms of the earth. You alone created the heavens and the earth. Bend down, O Lord, and listen! Open your eyes, O Lord, and see! Listen to Sennacherib’s words of defiance against the living God.” – 2 Kings 19:15-16 NLT

This penitent petition engages the attention of the third king in our story.  From His royal throne room in heaven, God heard the humble and contrite prayer of the king of Judah and immediately responded with an answer. The sovereign King of kings, who rules over all the kingdoms of the earth, sent a message to Hezekiah through His prophet Isaiah.

But this message, while delivered to King Hezekiah, was really directed at Sennacherib. God, the King of all kings, had a few choice words for the pompous and prideful potentate of Assyria. He warns the over-confident king that his plans for Judah’s conquest will fail.

“The virgin daughter of Zion
    despises you and laughs at you.
The daughter of Jerusalem
    shakes her head in derision as you flee. – 2 Kings 19:21 NLT

Despite Sennacherib’s boastful claims, Jerusalem will remain pure and undefiled, her walls unbreached and her population spared the indignities of conquest or capture. The day is coming when the citizens of Jerusalem will rejoice and celebrate as the Assyrians abandon their siege and disappear over the horizon.

Sennacherib had made the fateful mistake of mocking the wrong deity, and Yahweh let him know that his derisive and disrespectful words were going to cost him. He had offended the Holy One of Israel and would soon suffer the consequences for his error. But first, God points out Sennacherib’s primary problem: His pride.

“By your messengers you have defied the Lord.
    You have said, ‘With my many chariots
I have conquered the highest mountains—
    yes, the remotest peaks of Lebanon.
I have cut down its tallest cedars
    and its finest cypress trees.
I have reached its farthest corners
    and explored its deepest forests.
I have dug wells in many foreign lands
    and refreshed myself with their water.
With the sole of my foot
    I stopped up all the rivers of Egypt!’” – 2 Kings 19:23-24 NLT

Sennacherib suffered from a terminal “I” condition. His unbridled success had gone to his head and he had begun to believe that he was invincible and, in a sense, divine. By his own boastful admission, Sennacherib had claimed that the kings of Assyria had defeated the gods of all their enemies.

“Have the gods of other nations rescued them—such nations as Gozan, Haran, Rezeph, and the people of Eden who were in Tel-assar? My predecessors destroyed them all! What happened to the king of Hamath and the king of Arpad? What happened to the kings of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivvah?” – 2 Kings 19:12-13 NLT

And he was convinced that Yahweh, the God of Judah, would fair no better than any of the other gods. But what Sennacherib failed to understand was that Yahweh was the sovereign ruler over all the nations of the world. The Assyrian’s rise to global dominance had been a part of God’s preordained plan. They were nothing more than instruments in His hands and actors in His divine drama that will culminate in the redemption and restoration of all creation.

God let Sennacherib know that he had no right to boast or brag. He could take no credit for any of his success. It had all been according to the sovereign will of the King of the universe.

“I decided this long ago.
Long ago I planned it,
    and now I am making it happen.
I planned for you to crush fortified cities
    into heaps of rubble.
That is why their people have so little power
    and are so frightened and confused.
They are as weak as grass,
    as easily trampled as tender green shoots.
They are like grass sprouting on a housetop,
    scorched before it can grow lush and tall.” – 2 Kings 19:25-26 NLT

This message, while directed at Sennacherib, was meant to encourage Hezekiah. It was intended as a well-timed reminder to the king of Judah that his God was sovereign over all things. Regardless of the circumstances of life, the people of God can and should rest in the fact that their God reigns.

“…the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world. He gives them to anyone he chooses— even to the lowliest of people.” – Daniel 4:17 NLT

The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.
 – Psalm 103:19 ESV

For the LORD Most High is awesome. He is the great King of all the earth. – Psalm 47:2 NLT

God reigns above the nations, sitting on his holy throne. – Psalm 47:8 NLT

For all the kings of the earth belong to God. – Psalm 47:9 NLT

God wanted both of these men to understand that they had nothing to do with their positions or power. Their very existence was God-ordained and God-caused. Their kingdoms and their crowns were fully attributable to God and He had the divine right to remove them from power should He so choose. Which is exactly what He warned Sennacherib was going to happen.

“I will put my hook in your nose
    and my bit in your mouth.
I will make you return
    by the same road on which you came.” – 2 Kings 19:28 NLT

Man’s plans must always give way to God’s sovereign will.

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand. – Proverbs 19:21 ESV

Sennacherib had ambitious plans for global dominance, but he would soon find that God’s plans superseded his own. And the King of the universe assured Hezekiah that He would protect Jerusalem and continue to provide for all their needs. Sennacherib and his forces would remain a threat for three more years, but God made it clear that “His armies will not enter Jerusalem. They will not even shoot an arrow at it” (2 Kings 19:32 NLT).

And as a sign to prove that He was in full control of the situation, God sent an angel who slaughtered 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in a single night. The next morning, the citizens of Jerusalem woke up to find the land outside the walls covered in corpses, but the rest of the Assyrian army was nowhere to be seen. The King of kings had displayed His sovereign power by sending a single angel to wreak havoc among the Assyrians.

And when Sennacherib returned home, he would find his days of glory and conquest come to an abrupt and ignominious end. He would be assassinated by two of his own sons. And this less-than-glorious conclusion to his life would take place in the temple of his god. The circumstances of Sennacherib’s demise should not go unnoticed. It was as the vainglorious king of Assyria was safely ensconced in his capital and worshiping in the temple of his false god that the King of kings chose to demonstrate His sovereign power over all the kingdoms of the earth. The Holy One of Israel proved yet again that He is the one and only King.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

The Greater Story

25 When the man of God saw her coming, he said to Gehazi his servant, “Look, there is the Shunammite. 26 Run at once to meet her and say to her, ‘Is all well with you? Is all well with your husband? Is all well with the child?’” And she answered, “All is well.” 27 And when she came to the mountain to the man of God, she caught hold of his feet. And Gehazi came to push her away. But the man of God said, “Leave her alone, for she is in bitter distress, and the Lord has hidden it from me and has not told me.” 28 Then she said, “Did I ask my lord for a son? Did I not say, ‘Do not deceive me?’” 29 He said to Gehazi, “Tie up your garment and take my staff in your hand and go. If you meet anyone, do not greet him, and if anyone greets you, do not reply. And lay my staff on the face of the child.” 30 Then the mother of the child said, “As the Lord lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So he arose and followed her. 31 Gehazi went on ahead and laid the staff on the face of the child, but there was no sound or sign of life. Therefore he returned to meet him and told him, “The child has not awakened.”

32 When Elisha came into the house, he saw the child lying dead on his bed. 33 So he went in and shut the door behind the two of them and prayed to the Lord. 34 Then he went up and lay on the child, putting his mouth on his mouth, his eyes on his eyes, and his hands on his hands. And as he stretched himself upon him, the flesh of the child became warm. 35 Then he got up again and walked once back and forth in the house, and went up and stretched himself upon him. The child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes. 36 Then he summoned Gehazi and said, “Call this Shunammite.” So he called her. And when she came to him, he said, “Pick up your son.” 37 She came and fell at his feet, bowing to the ground. Then she picked up her son and went out. 2 Kings 4:25b-37 ESV

Oftentimes, when reading the stories contained in the Scriptures, we find ourselves trying to ascertain their meaning or attempting to discover some helpful point of application. We desperately search for some relevant truth that we might apply to our own lives. And while this is a worthy goal, our relentless quest for a personalized point of application can leave us missing the primary message of the passage. This can be especially true when we lift these stories out of their surrounding context. When we turn the stories of the Bible into Bible stories, we tend to rob them of their Scriptural context and meaning.

In reading the story of the Shunammite woman, it would be easy to focus our attention on the loss of her child and the faith she exhibited by seeking out the prophet. And while there are lessons to be learned from her actions, the author seems to have a far greater and more important point of emphasis. This entire story takes place in the context of Israel’s ongoing apostasy. It is a time of spiritual darkness and moral apathy. The kings of Israel have consistently led the nation away from the worship of Yahweh by promoting their own replacement deities. From the golden calves erected by Jeroboam to the Canaanite gods, Baal and Asherah, the people of Israel have had a host of idols from which to choose. But through it all, Yahweh has remained faithful and all-powerful. And He has chosen to reveal Himself through His prophets. First, He spoke and exhibited His power through Elijah. Then, upon Elijah’s death, God continued to reveal Himself through Elijah’s former servant, Elisha.

But the stories involving Elijah and Elisha are not intended to focus our attention on these two men, as much as they are to draw our eye to the God who worked through them. They were messengers of Yahweh and human conduits of His grace, mercy, power, and, at times, His judgment. They are the human representatives of God Almighty, speaking and acting on His behalf, and displaying before the people His divine attributes.

So, when the Shunammite woman discovers her son is dead and seeks out the prophet of God, it is less a statement about her faith than it is about God’s invasion of the darkness of Israel. All that takes place in this story is intended to point to Yahweh, not the woman, Gehazi the servant, or Elisha the prophet. But because we’re human, we tend to focus all our attention on the human actors in the drama and, in doing so, we run the risk of minimizing the role of the leading actor in the play: God Himself.

If we isolate this story from its context, we will miss out on all that the author has been trying to reveal about God. Earlier, in chapter 17 of 1 Kings, the author told the story of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath. After his decisive victory over the 450 prophets of Baal, Elijah had been threatened with death by Queen Jezebel. So, he had run for his life. But God had intercepted His fearful prophet and sent him to the town of Zarephath in Sidon. There Elijah met a poor widow who was gathering wood in order to cook a final meal for her and her son. But Elijah had performed a miracle, providing the woman with a seemingly never-ending supply of flour that would sustain their lives for a long time to come. Sound familiar? It should. Because a very similar scene took place when Elisha encountered the prophet’s widow in 2 Kings 18. This woman was about to lose her boys to slavery because of an unpaid debt. She was destitute and down to her last jar of oil. But Elisha intervened and miraculously multiplied her oil so that she had enough to satisfy her debt and sustain her boys for years to come.

But the similarities don’t stop there. The feel-good story of the widow of Zarephath also contains a less-than-happy plot twist. Her young son dies unexpectedly, and she confronts Elijah about this devastating turn of events.

“O man of God, what have you done to me? Have you come here to point out my sins and kill my son?” – 1 Kings 17:18 NLT

Even Elijah was at a loss as to why this tragedy had taken place, and he expressed his exasperation to Yahweh.

“O Lord my God, why have you brought tragedy to this widow who has opened her home to me, causing her son to die?” – 1 Kings 17:20 NLT

But the point of the passage is not the woman’s anger or Elijah’s disappointment with God. It is the divine intervention of Yahweh.

And he stretched himself out over the child three times and cried out to the Lord, “O Lord my God, please let this child’s life return to him.” The Lord heard Elijah’s prayer, and the life of the child returned, and he revived! – 1 Kings 17:21-22 NLT

Remember, both Elijah and Elisha had been chosen by God to be the human vessels through whom He revealed Himself to the people of Israel. They were nothing more than men, but God had set them apart for His use. He spoke and acted through them and, oftentimes, in spite of them.

But don’t miss the significant parallels found in all of these stories. The Shunammite woman, like the widow of Zarephath, suddenly finds her joy interrupted by the death of her child. So, she seeks out the prophet of God. This time, it’s Elisha. And she confronts him about this devastating turn of events. Her worst nightmare has come true.

“Did I ask you for a son, my lord? And didn’t I say, ‘Don’t deceive me and get my hopes up’?” – 2 Kings 4:28 NLT

She was angry and justifiably so. And Elijah was caught off guard, having been given no prior insight from God concerning the death of her child. God had not revealed the nature of her distress or given the prophet a solution to remedy it. But once Elisha discovered what had happened, he acted promptly. At one time, Elisha had been the servant of Elijah, and he would have been intimately familiar with the story of the widow of Zarephath. Most likely, he had been there to witness the miraculous death-to-life transformation that had taken place.

So, fully trusting that God would intervene yet again, he commanded his servant to take his staff and lay it on the body of the dead child. But this “remedy” proved ineffective. That was not the way God was going to restore the boy’s life. He wanted Elisha to be personally and physically involved in the miracle. It was not that God could not or would not operate through a staff. He had done so before and could do so again – if He so chose. Consider all the miracles God had performed through the staff of Moses. But on this occasion, God was going to require that Elisha be intimately involved in the delivery of the miracle. And just as Elijah had “stretched himself out over the child” (1 Kings 17:21 NLT), so Elisha “lay down on the child’s body” (2 Kings 4:34 NLT). In both cases, these men acted as God’s hands-on representatives, illustrating His intimate concern for His people through their own physical touch and personal involvement.

In a sense, the God of the universe had required both Elijah and Elisha to have some skin in the game. They became active agents in the delivery of God’s miracle. But neither of these men was meant to be the focus of the story or seen as the source behind the miracle. They were simply instruments in the hand of God. But their personal touch made the transcendent God more knowable and relatable. Through their intimate involvement, they made the care and concern of God tangible and visible. God chose to revive the lives of these two boys through the personal touch of His chosen prophets.

And, once again, let’s not miss the overall context of Scripture. These two stories point to an even greater display of God’s love and intimacy that was to come. Centuries later, God would send His own Son as His anointed messenger, delivering a message of repentance and renewal to the rebellious people of Israel. Jesus would become the final prophet of God, who would make the power and presence of God known through His incarnation. He would become God in human flesh, delivering the divine message of redemption and spiritual rejuvenation. Like Elijah and Elisha, Jesus would be required to personally engage with the nation of Israel. But His involvement in the restoration of life to the spiritually dead nation would require a far greater price than either Elijah or Elisha had paid. Jesus would end up sacrificing His own life so that many might live. He would stretch out His hands on a cruel Roman cross, paying the penalty for mankind’s sin by offering His own sinless life as a substitute. He would die so that we might live. He would pay the ultimate price so that those who were dead in their trespasses and sins might experience new life and enjoy a new relationship with God.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

God of the Impossible

21 Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah, saying, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Because you have prayed to me concerning Sennacherib king of Assyria, 22 this is the word that the Lord has spoken concerning him:

“‘She despises you, she scorns you—
    the virgin daughter of Zion;
she wags her head behind you—
    the daughter of Jerusalem.

23 “‘Whom have you mocked and reviled?
    Against whom have you raised your voice
and lifted your eyes to the heights?
    Against the Holy One of Israel!
24 By your servants you have mocked the Lord,
    and you have said, With my many chariots
I have gone up the heights of the mountains,
    to the far recesses of Lebanon,
to cut down its tallest cedars,
    its choicest cypresses,
to come to its remotest height,
    its most fruitful forest.
25 I dug wells
    and drank waters,
to dry up with the sole of my foot
    all the streams of Egypt.

26 “‘Have you not heard
    that I determined it long ago?
I planned from days of old
    what now I bring to pass,
that you should make fortified cities
    crash into heaps of ruins,
27 while their inhabitants, shorn of strength,
    are dismayed and confounded,
and have become like plants of the field
    and like tender grass,
like grass on the housetops,
    blighted before it is grown.

28 “‘I know your sitting down
    and your going out and coming in,
    and your raging against me.
29 Because you have raged against me
    and your complacency has come to my ears,
I will put my hook in your nose
    and my bit in your mouth,
and I will turn you back on the way
    by which you came.’

30 “And this shall be the sign for you: this year you shall eat what grows of itself, and in the second year what springs from that. Then in the third year sow and reap, and plant vineyards, and eat their fruit. 31 And the surviving remnant of the house of Judah shall again take root downward and bear fruit upward. 32 For out of Jerusalem shall go a remnant, and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

33 “Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the king of Assyria: He shall not come into this city or shoot an arrow there or come before it with a shield or cast up a siege mound against it. 34 By the way that he came, by the same he shall return, and he shall not come into this city, declares the Lord. 35 For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David.”

36 And the angel of the Lord went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies. 37 Then Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and returned home and lived at Nineveh. 38 And as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, Adrammelech and Sharezer, his sons, struck him down with the sword. And after they escaped into the land of Ararat, Esarhaddon his son reigned in his place. – Isaiah 37:21-38 ESV

In his moment of greatest need, King Hezekiah had determined to trust God and called out to Him for help. He had appealed to God‘s power, sovereignty, covenant faithfulness, and sole standing as the creator of the universe. Hezekiah to his problem to God Almighty and begged Him to look down from heaven and act on their behalf. And now, Isaiah brings the king a message from God.

First, God had a word for Hezekiah:

“Because you prayed about King Sennacherib of Assyria, the Lord has spoken this word against him.” – Isaiah 37:21 NLT

Hezekiah’s trust in God, as evidenced by his prayer of intercession, was rewarded by God’s explanation of what was going to happen next. He let Hezekiah know exactly what His plans for Sennacherib and the Assyrians were going to be. And He delivered a personal message for King Sennacherib as well.

“…because of your raging against me
    and your arrogance, which I have heard for myself,
I will put my hook in your nose
    and my bit in your mouth.
I will make you return
    by the same road on which you came.” – Isaiah 37:29 NLT

It is important to remember just how bad the situation was when Hezekiah prayed his prayer to God. The Assyrian army was camped outside the walls of Jerusalem. A total of 46 cities within Judah had already fallen to the Assyrians, and King Sennacherib had sent word to the people of Jerusalem that they surrender or face certain annihilation. These were dark days for King Hezekiah. The prospects for his capital city and its inhabitants could not have looked bleaker. But he had taken his need to the Lord. It would be easy to conclude that Hezekiah had no other options. He had run out of tricks up his sleeve and was left with no other alternative but to cry out to God. But the important fact is that he did cry out to God. And God heard his cry and responded.

In his humiliated state of despair and need, dressed in sackcloth and completely aware of his own impotence and dependence upon God, Hezekiah had appealed to the Almighty. But King Sennacherib displays a markedly different attitude. In his pride and arrogance, dressed in his royal robes and boasting of his own power, he had mocked the Almighty. And God was not pleased.

“Whom have you been defying and ridiculing?
    Against whom did you raise your voice?
At whom did you look with such haughty eyes?
    It was the Holy One of Israel!” – Isaiah 37:23 NLT

Sennacherib was a walking ego, bragging about his many exploits and describing himself in self-adulating terms that made him sound like a god.

“You have said, ‘With my many chariots
I have conquered the highest mountains—
    yes, the remotest peaks of Lebanon.
I have cut down its tallest cedars
    and its finest cypress trees.
I have reached its farthest heights
    and explored its deepest forests.
I have dug wells in many foreign lands
    and refreshed myself with their water.
With the sole of my foot,
    I stopped up all the rivers of Egypt!’” – Isaiah 37:24-25 NLT

Sennacherib suffered from “I” disease, a common malady among world leaders. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had the same problem.

“As he looked out across the city, he said, ‘Look at this great city of Babylon! By my own mighty power, I have built this beautiful city as my royal residence to display my majestic splendor.’” – Daniel 4:30 NLT

Self-made men tend to suffer from self-exaltation. Their success goes to their heads, and they begin to believe that they alone are responsible for their fame and fortune. But God breaks the news to Sennacherib that his rapid rise to world domination had been anything but his own doing.

“But have you not heard?
    I decided this long ago.
Long ago I planned it,
    and now I am making it happen.
I planned for you to crush fortified cities
    into heaps of rubble.” – Isaiah 37:26 NLT

Sennacherib had been little more than an instrument in the hands of the sovereign God of the universe. God had used the Assyrians to accomplish His own divine ends. And as quickly as they had risen to power by the decree of God, they could just as easily be rendered a non-factor on the world stage by His hand. And God let Sennacherib know that his days were numbered. His fifteen minutes of fame was about to come to an abrupt end.

All of this had to have sounded too good to be true to Hezekiah. While he had prayed to God for help, the idea that God would completely eliminate the Assyrian problem was more than he could have dreamed. And God seems to have sensed Hezekiah’s lingering doubt, so He provided the king with proof. He let him know that, within three years time, the people of Judah would be planting and harvesting their crops just like they always had. The land, devastated by the Assyrians, would once again yield its crops and return to its former state of fruitfulness. And this is important to note because of the arrogant boast made by King Sennacherib.

“Make peace with me—open the gates and come out. Then each of you can continue eating from your own grapevine and fig tree and drinking from your own well. Then I will arrange to take you to another land like this one—a land of grain and new wine, bread and vineyards.” – Isaiah 36:16-17 NLT

The Assyrian king had promised to provide the people of Judah with grain, grapes, wine and bread. He had arrogantly placed himself in the role of God Almighty. But God wanted Hezekiah to know that true fruitfulness came only from His hand. And while it would take some time before the remnants of the Assyrian army were removed from the land, God promised to restore the fortunes and fruitfulness of Judah.

“For a remnant of my people will spread out from Jerusalem,
    a group of survivors from Mount Zion.
The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies
    will make this happen!” – Isaiah 37:32 NLT

God was going to save a remnant of His people. He would not allow the Assyrians to destroy Jerusalem. Instead, He would intervene and display His covenant faithfulness to a people who had consistently refused to remain faithful to Him. He would redeem them, not because they deserved it, but because He is gracious and a God who keeps His commitments.

And God provided Hezekiah with one more detail regarding His plans for the Assyrians. They would never enter the gates of the city. Their boasting and bragging would turn out to be nothing more than idle threats. Not a single arrow would be fired. No siege walls would be built. The entire army of Assyria would disappear as quickly as it had come. And God had a special surprise for Sennacherib and his invincible army.

That night the angel of the Lord went out to the Assyrian camp and killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers. When the surviving Assyrians woke up the next morning, they found corpses everywhere. Then King Sennacherib of Assyria broke camp and returned to his own land. He went home to his capital of Nineveh and stayed there. – Isaiah 37:36-37 NLT

God delivered a miracle. The Lord of Heavens Armies sent a single angel who devastated the vaunted troops of Sennacherib’s army. Overnight, he lost 185,000 of his finest soldiers, and God didn’t even lift a finger. His work was accomplished by one of His angels, a sobering reminder of God’s superior strength and sovereign power. And the once mighty Sennacherib would return home to Assyria, only to face assassination at the hands of his own sons. His plans didn’t turn out as expected. But God’s did. His divine will was accomplished just as He had planned it long before Sennacherib was even born.

While things could not have looked bleaker from Hezekiah’s vantage point, he placed his trust in God. And he was far from disappointed. God accomplished the impossible. He did what Egypt could never have done. He provided a solution that was beyond man’s ability and outside human reasoning. In his wildest dreams, Hezekiah could have never imagined a scenario like this one. But because he trusted God, he was given the privilege of seeing the salvation of God.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)
Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

 

The Work of the Lord Our God.

Thus says the Lord: “Behold, I will stir up the spirit of a destroyer
    against Babylon,
    against the inhabitants of Leb-kamai,
and I will send to Babylon winnowers,
    and they shall winnow her,
and they shall empty her land,
    when they come against her from every side
    on the day of trouble.
Let not the archer bend his bow,
    and let him not stand up in his armor.
Spare not her young men;
    devote to destruction all her army.
They shall fall down slain in the land of the Chaldeans,
    and wounded in her streets.
For Israel and Judah have not been forsaken
    by their God, the Lord of hosts,
but the land of the Chaldeans is full of guilt
    against the Holy One of Israel.

“Flee from the midst of Babylon;
    let every one save his life!
Be not cut off in her punishment,
    for this is the time of the Lord’s vengeance,
    the repayment he is rendering her.
Babylon was a golden cup in the Lord’s hand,
    making all the earth drunken;
the nations drank of her wine;
    therefore the nations went mad.
Suddenly Babylon has fallen and been broken;
    wail for her!
Take balm for her pain;
    perhaps she may be healed.
We would have healed Babylon,
    but she was not healed.
Forsake her, and let us go
    each to his own country,
for her judgment has reached up to heaven
    and has been lifted up even to the skies.
The Lord has brought about our vindication;
    come, let us declare in Zion
    the work of the Lord our God.

“Sharpen the arrows!
    Take up the shields!

The Lord has stirred up the spirit of the kings of the Medes, because his purpose concerning Babylon is to destroy it, for that is the vengeance of the Lord, the vengeance for his temple.

“Set up a standard against the walls of Babylon;
    make the watch strong;
set up watchmen;
    prepare the ambushes;
for the Lord has both planned and done
    what he spoke concerning the inhabitants of Babylon.
O you who dwell by many waters,
    rich in treasures,
your end has come;
    the thread of your life is cut.
The Lord of hosts has sworn by himself:
Surely I will fill you with men, as many as locusts,
    and they shall raise the shout of victory over you.”
Jeremiah 51:1-14 ESV

God’s indictment of Babylon continues. He has already far exceeded the length of His other oracles concerning Egypt, Ammon, Moab and Edom. He obviously has much to say concerning the fate of the nation of Babylon. And His words concerning Babylon extend well beyond King Nebuchadnezzar and the nation as it was known in Jeremiah’s day. Babylon would become a byword and a standing symbol for all things anti-God. In fact, in the book of Revelation, John is given a vision by an angelic being concerning Babylon.

“Come with me,” he said, “and I will show you the judgment that is going to come on the great prostitute, who rules over many waters. The kings of the world have committed adultery with her, and the people who belong to this world have been made drunk by the wine of her immorality.”

So the angel took me in the Spirit into the wilderness. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that had seven heads and ten horns, and blasphemies against God were written all over it. The woman wore purple and scarlet clothing and beautiful jewelry made of gold and precious gems and pearls. In her hand she held a gold goblet full of obscenities and the impurities of her immorality. A mysterious name was written on her forehead: “Babylon the Great, Mother of All Prostitutes and Obscenities in the World.” I could see that she was drunk—drunk with the blood of God’s holy people who were witnesses for Jesus. I stared at her in complete amazement. – Revelation 17:1-6 NLT

Throughout the Scriptures, Babylon becomes the personification of spiritual adultery and immorality. She represents the world without God, full of pride, characterized by power and wealth, addicted to sexual immorality and drunk with the blood of God’s holy people. In a sense, Babylon is a picture of mankind apart from God, left to its own devices. Rather than seek God, man will always attempt to make himself god, creating false deities that are nothing more than a slightly more powerful version of himself. The apostle Paul provides us with a very dark description of mankind in rebellion against God.

Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done. Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents. They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy. They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too. – Romans 1:28-32 NLT

Babylon would become an enduring symbol of mankind’s stubborn resistance to God’s will and their ongoing rebellion against God’s rightful place as not only their creator, but their God. In this passage, God refers to Babylon as Leb-kamai, a code name for Chaldea, which literally means “heart of my adversaries.” They were His enemies. They stood in pride-filled opposition to Him. But their day of destruction was coming. Literal Babylon, the nation that had destroyed Judah, would fall at the hands of the Persians. But symbolic Babylon would also fall. But in the midst of all of this, God reminds His people that He is still watching over them and that the coming judgment on Babylon will be a sign of His love for them and His vengeance against all those who have opposed them and sought to eliminate them.

“For the Lord of Heaven’s Armies
    has not abandoned Israel and Judah.
He is still their God,
    even though their land was filled with sin
    against the Holy One of Israel.” – Jeremiah 51:5 NLT

God will save His people, not because they deserve it, but because He had made a covenant with them. He will honor His commitment to preserve and protect them. He will keep His Word to restore them to a right relationship with Him. All because He is faithful, gracious, merciful and loving. And the day is coming when the people of Israel and Judah will be able to say:

“The Lord has vindicated us.
    Come, let us announce in Jerusalem
    everything the Lord our God has done.” – Jeremiah 51:10 NLT

It would have been so easy for the people of Judah to have seen their situation as helpless and hopeless. They had been conquered by the Babylonians and taken captive. Their nation was in a shambles, their capital city had been destroyed, and the temple of their God lay in ruins. They had no king. They no longer had an army. The glory days of David and Solomon were long gone. But God was far from finished with them. And God was not yet done with Babylon. He would raise up yet another conquering nation, Persia, which would defeat the once-great Babylonians. And then they too, would eventually fall. The Romans would rise to power and would rule the land during the days when God’s Son came to earth. But their days of power and prominence would also come to an end. Nations rise and fall. Kings come to power and then find themselves replaced by yet another individual with grandiose aspirations to rule and reign. But none of these kings, dictators, presidents, despots, or aspiring gods, will ever stand before God Almighty. Even the great Babylon, symbol of man’s immorality and desire for deity, will one day be destroyed.

After this, I heard what sounded like a vast crowd in heaven shouting,

“Praise the Lord!
    Salvation and glory and power belong to our God.
His judgments are true and just.
    He has punished the great prostitute
who corrupted the earth with her immorality.
    He has avenged the murder of his servants.” – Revelation 19:1-2 NLT

There is much about prophecy that we cannot understand. These matters are far beyond our reasoning capabilities and outside our human capacity to discern. But, in faith, we need to trust that “the Lord will fulfill all his plans against Babylon” (Jeremiah 51:12 NLT). We can rest in the confidence provided by God’s faithful pronouncement, “The Lord of Heaven’s Armies has taken this vow and has sworn to it by his own name” (Jeremiah 51:14 NLT). The work of the Lord our God will be done. His plan will be fulfilled. His promises regarding this world and His people who live in it, will come about just as He has said it will. No matter what we see happening around us, we can know that God is greater than Babylon the great. He is more powerful than the mightiest nation. He is sovereign over all. And all those who stand opposed to Him and attempt to replace the one true God with themselves or an idol of their own choosing, will one day discover that they were living the delusion of Babylon. And all of those who have placed their faith in the one true God will be able to say, along with the redeemed of Israel and Judah, “The Lord has vindicated us.”

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

The Day of Vengeance.

The word of the Lord that came to Jeremiah the prophet concerning the nations.

About Egypt. Concerning the army of Pharaoh Neco, king of Egypt, which was by the river Euphrates at Carchemish and which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon defeated in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah:

“Prepare buckler and shield,
    and advance for battle!
Harness the horses;
    mount, O horsemen!
Take your stations with your helmets,
    polish your spears,
    put on your armor!
Why have I seen it?
They are dismayed
    and have turned backward.
Their warriors are beaten down
    and have fled in haste;
they look not back—
    terror on every side!
declares the Lord.

“The swift cannot flee away,
    nor the warrior escape;
in the north by the river Euphrates
    they have stumbled and fallen.

“Who is this, rising like the Nile,
    like rivers whose waters surge?
Egypt rises like the Nile,
    like rivers whose waters surge.
He said, ‘I will rise, I will cover the earth,
    I will destroy cities and their inhabitants.’
Advance, O horses,
    and rage, O chariots!
Let the warriors go out:
    men of Cush and Put who handle the shield,
    men of Lud, skilled in handling the bow.
That day is the day of the Lord God of hosts,
    a day of vengeance,
    to avenge himself on his foes.
The sword shall devour and be sated
    and drink its fill of their blood.
For the Lord God of hosts holds a sacrifice
    in the north country by the river Euphrates.
Go up to Gilead, and take balm,
    O virgin daughter of Egypt!
In vain you have used many medicines;
    there is no healing for you.
The nations have heard of your shame,
    and the earth is full of your cry;
for warrior has stumbled against warrior;
    they have both fallen together.” Jeremiah 46:1-12 ESV

At this point in the book, as it comes to a close, the attention of God shifts to the other nations who have played significant parts in the stories of Israel and Judah. God will speak oracles concerning each of these nations, providing a glimpse into what their fates will be. In doing so, God reveals His sovereign will over all the nations and peoples of the world, not just the Jews. His divine will and sovereign plan encompasses the entire earth and all who live on it. And God will begin His revelation concerning His plans for the nations by focusing His attention on Egypt. This should not be surprising, considering the fact that a portion of the people of Judah had fled to Egypt for safety, and they had taken God’s prophet along with them.

Egypt had been a significant power in the region of Canaan for centuries. There was a time when they controlled significant portions of Canaan and Syria, but they had lost these regions in subsequent battles with the Assyrians, Babylonians and Persians. In this oracle, provided by God to Jeremiah, we are given God’s pronouncement of Egypt’s defeat by the Babylonians. It all began in 609 B.C. when Pharaoh Neco and his troops marched to Carchemesh which was located on the Euphrates River in Northern Syria. King Josiah of Judah attempted to stop Neco, but was killed in battle. In the fourth year (605 B.C.) of the reign of Jehoiakim, Josiah’s son, Prince Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians defeated Neco’s forces, providing the Babylonians with complete control of the region. In this passage, God predicts this event. And while, Jeremiah writes in the past tense, he actually penned these words long before the events took place.

In the opening verses, Jeremiah warns the Egyptians to prepare themselves for battle. They are to arm themselves for war, making sure they include their chariots and war horses. But in the very next verses, Jeremiah paints a picture of the Egyptian forces running way in terror. Even the bravest warriors are attempting to escape, as fast as they can, not bothering to look back. “They are terrorized at every turn” (Jeremiah 46:5 NLT). But they can’t escape. There is nowhere to run. The Egyptian’s took great pride in their army because of its invincible power. They boastfully compared its might to that of the Nile when it overflowed its banks during flooding.

It is the Egyptian army,
    overflowing all the land,
boasting that it will cover the earth like a flood,
    destroying cities and their people. – Jeremiah 46:8 NLT

God issues a challenge to the Egyptians and all their allies.

Charge, you horses and chariots;
    attack, you mighty warriors of Egypt!
Come, all you allies from Ethiopia, Libya, and Lydia
    who are skilled with the shield and bow! – Jeremiah 46:9 NLT

But God warns them that things are not going to turn out quite like they expected. This would be a day of defeat for them, because they were running headlong into the sovereign will of God, the Lord God of hosts. This would prove to be a day of vengeance, when God would bring His judgment on the nation of Egypt. There is no reason given for Egypt’s fall. Perhaps it was due to Pharaoh Neco’s murder of King Josiah. But God is not required to provide us with a rationale or justification for His actions. He is the God of the universe. His ways are not our ways. “His judgments are true and just” (Revelation 19:2 NLT).

The battle will end in defeat. The Egyptians will fall to the swords of the Babylonians. And God describes this event as a sacrificial offering. The blood of the Egyptians will be spilled as payment for their many sins and for their arrogance and pride, believing themselves to be unbeatable in battle. God is clearly showing that He alone is God. Pharaoh is not divine. His troops are not invincible. It would not be because of the superior nature of the Babylonian forces that Egypt would fall that day, but because of the sovereign will and almighty power of God.

God recommends that Egypt go to Gilead and take advantage of their healing balms. But they would find no medicine strong enough to restore their health. Egypt, long renowned for its healing arts, would be incapable of recovering from the devastation God was bringing upon them. There was no ointment that could heal the wounds inflicted by a vengeful God. There were not enough allies to prevent defeat at the hands of a sovereign God, the Lord of heaven’s armies. These mighty nations that had risen to power and whose kings believed they had the right to rule over all the world, would find that the scope of their power was limited and their dreams of world domination were controlled by a power outside of themselves.

It is likely that these oracles from God were intended to remind the people of Judah that their God was in control. While they had suffered defeat at the hands of the Babylonians, God wanted them to understand that all the events surrounding their circumstances were part of His divine plan. He was in control of all that was taking place in the world at that time. They were never to have placed their hopes in foreign nations. They were to trust in God alone. But Judah and Israel had made a habit out of trusting in anything and everything but God. They had repeatedly turned to alliances with foreign nations and to the worship of false gods as their sources of comfort and security. But God was reminding them that He alone could be trusted. He alone could provide true safety and security. He alone was powerful enough to rely upon in times of need.

It is interesting to look back in the history of Judah and recall the time when Sennacherib, the king of the Assyrians was invading Judah. He sent an emissary to King Hezekiah, with a word of warning.

“This is what the great king of Assyria says: What are you trusting in that makes you so confident? Do you think that mere words can substitute for military skill and strength? Who are you counting on, that you have rebelled against me? On Egypt? If you lean on Egypt, it will be like a reed that splinters beneath your weight and pierces your hand. Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, is completely unreliable!” – Isaiah 36:4-6 NLT

Even then, Judah was prone to place its trust in Egypt. And Sennacherib warned Hezekiah against putting the fate of his people in the hands of an unreliable “reed” like Egypt. But Sennacherib went on to warn Hezekiah not to put his trust in God either.

“But perhaps you will say to me, ‘We are trusting in the Lord our God!’ But isn’t he the one who was insulted by Hezekiah? Didn’t Hezekiah tear down his shrines and altars and make everyone in Judah and Jerusalem worship only at the altar here in Jerusalem?” – Isaiah 36:7 NLT

Ah, the pride of man. It is inescapable and unavoidable. Time and time again, all throughout history, we see it raise its ugly head, as mere men set themselves up as the masters of their fate and the self-proclaimed kings of the world. But they fail to recognize that God alone is King. He alone rules and reigns. It is His will alone that matters. And these oracles from God concerning the fates of the nations surrounding Judah were designed to let the people of God know that He was still in control. In the midst of their dire circumstances, they could rest in the fact that their God was still on His throne.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

From Bad to Worse.

And the king arose in his wrath from the wine-drinking and went into the palace garden, but Haman stayed to beg for his life from Queen Esther, for he saw that harm was determined against him by the king. And the king returned from the palace garden to the place where they were drinking wine, as Haman was falling on the couch where Esther was. And the king said, “Will he even assault the queen in my presence, in my own house?” As the word left the mouth of the king, they covered Haman’s face.  Then Harbona, one of the eunuchs in attendance on the king, said, “Moreover, the gallows that Haman has prepared for Mordecai, whose word saved the king, is standing at Haman’s house, fifty cubits high.” And the king said, “Hang him on that.” So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the wrath of the king abated. – Esther 7:7-10 ESV

Haman’s entire life seems to have been a series of well-calculated plans intended to elevate himself to highest realms of power, popularity and financial success. And up until recently, he had proven to be successful. It is important to remember that Haman, like Mordecai, was not a native Persian. He was an Amalakite and either he or one of his ancestors was taken captive by the Babylonians during one of their many expeditions into the land of Palestine. As an outsider, Haman had done well for himself. He had risen to become one of the most important and influential dignitaries in the king’s court, with tremendous power and prestige. Haman had a made it a personal mission to become a success and he had achieved his goal. After attending the first banquet held by Esther, he had bragged to his wife and friends: “Haman recounted to them the splendor of his riches, the number of his sons, all the promotions with which the king had honored him, and how he had advanced him above the officials and the servants of the king” (Esther 5:11 ESV). He was the epitome of a self-made man. 

Haman stands in stark contrast to another man who found himself living as an outsider in a foreign land. Daniel was taken captive as a result of the Babylonian conquest of Judah and the destruction of Jerusalem. He was taken prisoner and transported to the royal capital where he was forced into service to the king, Nebuchadnessar. Daniel was one of the “youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace” (Daniel 1:4 ESV). He was to be taught the literature and language of the Chaldeans. “The king assigned them a daily portion of the food that the king ate, and of the wine that he drank. They were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king” (Daniel 1:5 ESV). And we’re told that God gave Daniel favor and compassion with the eunech who was in charge of his care. Daniel had no personal agenda. He had no plan to worm his way into the good graces of the king and secure for himself a position of power and prominence. In fact, Daniel simply wanted to obey his God. And yet, God would choose to elevate Daniel.

God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. At the end of the time, when the king had commanded that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. And the king spoke with them, and among all of them none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Therefore they stood before the king. And in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom. – Daniel 1:17-20 ESV

Haman was a self-made man. Everything he had achieved in life had been the result of his own hard work and carefully calculated schemes. And here he was having dinner with the king and queen. But things were not going well. His plot to wipe out an entire people group has just been exposed by the queen and she has dropped the bombshell of an admission that she was a member of that group. Haman was in shock. And the king was beside himself in anger. He was so upset that he had to leave the room in order to think. And when he returned he found Haman draped all over the couch where Queen Esther was seated. Haman had simply been begging for his life, but to the king, it looked like he was attempting to kill Esther with his own hands.

The king has Haman arrested. And this is where Haman’s carefully crafted world completely falls apart. The king is informed that Haman “has set up a sharpened pole that stands seventy-five feet tall in his own courtyard. He intended to use it to impale Mordecai, the man who saved the king from assassination” (Esther 7:9 NLT). Just when Haman didn’t think it could get any worse, it did. He had originally hoped that this banquet would be the perfect environment to ask the king for permission to execute Mordecai. But that all had been spoiled when he had to parade Mordecai around the streets of Susa in honor of his role in saving the king’s life. None of this had been part of his plan. How was he to have known that Esther was a Jew? How could all his carefully laid plans have fallen apart such epic fashion? The answer is simple: God. He had not included the sovereignty and providence of God in his calculations. He had not considered the handiwork of the Almighty in his plans. But it was becoming painfully clear to Haman that there were greater forces at work here than he could have ever imagined.

Back in the book of Daniel, we have the story of Daniel’s Hebrew friends: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. The had refused to bow down before the golden image erected by King Nebuchadnezzar, and their fate was to be thrown into the fiery furnace. When given one last chance to reconsider, they simply said, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up” (Daniel 3:16-18 NLT). What a contrast. They knew God was at work. They had no doubt that the Almighty was mightier than the king of Babylon and the forces of evil surrounding them. And they were willing to die for Him if necessary.

Haman would simply die. Not for a god, but for his own self-centered agenda. “So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai” (Esther 7:10 ESV). He had spent his entire life focused on himself and he would die alone and forgotten. He had unwittingly pitted himself against the God of the universe. He had plotted and planned against the Lord God Almighty and lost. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had placed their faith in God and lived. Daniel would do the same and survive a night in a den full of man-eating lions. He would know what it was like to have God deliver him from the worst-case scenario. Haman would simply discover the pain of watching his world go from bad to worse. No God. No hope. Know God. Know hope.