SURRENDER – GOD’S GLORY AT STAKE
Pastor Vernon Giesbrecht
For my devotional time I‘ve been reading in 2 Kings. In one sense, it is interesting yet disturbing historical reading. It chronicles the continuing saga of one wicked king after another, both in the Northern Kingdom, Israel, and the Southern Kingdom, Judah. It tells the story of Israel’s slow but steady descent into captivity at the hands of the Assyrians. The reason: God’s judgment on the nation for worshiping other gods and adopting the practices of the surrounding culture. Regarding the evil kings, many of whom met their demise by assassination, one commentator quiped, “The coroner’s report is found in Chapter 17 – cause of death: idolatry!”
Was this a warning for Judah? Most likely. However, a bright spot in Judah’s history comes with the reign of Hezekiah. He was a king who consistently did right. He destroys the idols in the land and removes all the alternative worship sites. Judah had also sunk into a form of syncretism, at times worshipping God at the temple while also offering sacrifices to the foreign gods. God would later punish them for this. It’s a stark reminder that God “will have no other gods before Him.” Of course, we don’t have Asherah poles and metal gods in our day, but we do have our modern idols which take the place, sometimes subtly, of our allegiance and love for the one true God. Swimming against the cultural current is never easy, but this is what God requires. We can’t be fence-sitters; there can be no substitutes to our allegiance to Him.
Hezekiah, however, faced temptation of another sort. Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, was approaching Jerusalem after taking all the fortified cities of Judah. Knowing the devastation Israel had experienced at the hands of the Assyrians, he offers peace terms at the whim of Sennacherib who demanded silver and gold. Hezekiah, like other kings before him, plunders the treasures of both the state and the temple to appease the Assyrian king. It didn’t work; it never does. Sennacherib probably wondered what other treasures were there for the taking.
So he sends his high-ranking emissaries to Jerusalem to taunt Hezekiah and the people. Jerusalem, they jeer, could never defeat the Assyrian army even if it gave them “2000 of its horses”; Hezekiah didn’t even have enough trained soldiers to mount them. Besides, if they were depending on Egypt to fight for them, it was an empty hope. This was Old Testament “trash talk”! Rather, (and they change their psychological warfare) they should surrender and be taken to Assyria where land, crops, and houses would be supplied. There would be a peaceful ending. For Jerusalem, the pressure to abdicate was enormous. And, for us, the pressure to surrender our Christian convictions is at times also huge. It could be our moral stance, or our honesty, or our integrity that are at stake. But, the fear of criticism, or being ostracized, or losing our job looms large.
Hezekiah did the right thing. In humility, he went to the Lord in prayer and called on the prophet Isaiah, God’s voice for that time. He admitted his fear and weakness, but also appealed to the fact that God’s name and glory would be tarnished if he surrendered or Jerusalem was defeated.
“So now, O Lord our God, save us, please, from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O Lord, are God alone.” (2 Kings 19:19)
Isaiah confirms Hezekiah’s prayer has been heard by the Lord and delivers God’s response. Even while God would use the Assyrians to accomplish His purposes, yet because of their ruthlessness, pride and mockery of God, 185,000 of its troops would mysteriously die in their encampment. Here is part of Isaiah’s message to Sennacherib.
“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. By your messengers you have mocked the Lord…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.”
Sennacherib realized he was no match for the God of Judah and returned to Nineveh, the capital of Assyria. Soon after, two of his sons assassinated him, with the third taking the throne.
When the temptation to capitulate to the sins of the culture around us is great, is our first response fear of our reputation, fear of mockery? Or, is our ultimate concern that God’s name will be defamed? Our testimony as a Christ follower is a reflection of God’s work and leadership in our lives. It is His grace that saved us and it is His grace that sustains us. We owe him our love and our obedience, our very lives. To surrender to the ways of the world, is to make a mockery of God’s saving work in our lives. May we have God’s reputation, His glory, as our highest concern. It is His, and He will eventually take vengeance on all who mock His name. In the meantime, His mercy is available to all who call on His name.