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2 Kings 19:1-37
And it came to pass when King Hezekiah heard it, he rent his clothes.
A nation’s calamities, counsellor, and God
I. The exposure of a nation to an overwhelming calamity.
1. The nature of the threatened calamity. It was the invasion of the king of Assyria. This was announced in startling terms and in a haughty and ruthless spirit by Rab-shakeh.
2. The influence of the threatened calamity.
(1) It struck the kingdom with a crushing terror.
(2) It struck the kingdom with a helpless feebleness.
II. The blessing to a nation of a ruler who looks to heaven for help. What, in the wretched condition of his country, does King Hezekiah do? He invokes the merciful interposition of heaven. In this wonderful prayer
(1) He adores the God whom Sennacherib had blasphemed.
(2) He implores the Almighty for His own sake to deliver the country.
III. The advantage to a nation of a truly wise counsellor. Whether Isaiah was a Divinely inspired man, and had a right in any especial sense to say, “Thus saith the Lord,” or not, he may be fairly taken in this ease as the representative of a wise counsellor, and that for two reasons:--
1. He looked to heaven rather than to earth for his wisdom.
2. What he received from heaven he communicated to men. In the communication
(1) Sennacherib is apostrophised in a highly poetic strain admirably descriptive of the turgid vanity, haughty pretensions, and heartless impiety of this despot.
(2) Hezekiah himself is personally addressed, and a sign given him of coming deliverance.
(3) The issue of Sennacherib’s invasion is announced. Such was the communication which in language passionate, poetic, and powerful, Isaiah made to this perplexed and terrified nation. It involves two things: The deliverance of his country; the ruin of the despot.
IV. The strength of a nation that has God on its side. Who delivered the imperilled nation? Who overwhelmed the despot? “The zeal of the Lord of hosts.”
1. How swiftly was the deliverance effected. “That night.”
2. How terrible the ruin which that deliverance effected--“An hundred fourscore and five thousand men” destroyed. (David Thomas, D. D.)
2 Kings 19:14
And Hezekiah received the letter of the hand of the messengers.
The history of a letter
How easy to say, “the letter”; and yet, how much the words may mean! The postman, as he goes his rounds, would become the most melancholy of men if he thought much upon the budget he carries. To some houses joy, to others misery,--nay, to the same house joy treads on the heels of sorrow. We don’t know what to-morrow may bring us; the postman’s knock may be the knell of doom or the signal for peals of joyous laughter. What a letter was that which Hezekiah received! In form it would be very different to our ideas of a letter. The Assyrians did not use paper, or even skins, but did their writing on clay. You may see, in the British Museum, a conveyance of land, written, not on parchment, but on clay, and then baked hard. So it is very likely that the letter was a tablet of terra cotta. It has been thought by some that Rabshakeh was the writer of these railing letters. This was trouble, but it was trouble that might have been prevented. Hezekiah ought never to have paid tribute to Sennacherib. When first the demand was made, he should have called on the name of the Lord. Let us learn to never submit to the claims of sin. We can never satisfy it. Much will have more. Sin, like Sennacherib, will take all you will give, and then come for more, and when it has got all it will come for you. The devil has no right to a penny of our money, or a moment of our time.
I. What did Hezekiah do with the letter? He did not send a hasty answer. Many a quarrel might have been prevented if men would spread disagreeable letters before the Lord. Many a family feud would never have been brought about but for the want of this. If you get letters that give you pain, before you pen a reply send a message to God, and He will teach you to indite what may turn away wrath. He did not send to Egypt; he was cured of that now. If some one who reads this is in trouble, let me counsel you to remember what is a command as well as a promise, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble.” Far too many of us treat God as though He had no existence. We try everybody else before going to the Lord. “He went up into the house of the Lord.” Where was he so likely to find God as in His house? There is much force in the promise, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not.” It is a model prayer; not like many, which must try the patience of God, going all round the world, instead of fastening upon the thing needed, and asking for that. If our prayers were more like telegrams we should have speedier answers. The prayer of the pious king appealed to God for the sake of His honour--“that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that Thou art the Lord God.” How the Almighty is touched by an appeal of this sort. If we thought more of God’s honour in our prayers, we should be more often answered.
II. Was the letter ever answered? Yes, for Jehovah answered it Himself. He did not trouble Hezekiah to do it; and the answer is worthy of the Lord. There is a postscript to God’s answer (see 2 Kings 19:35). “It came to pass that night--they were all dead corpses.” Fancy if you saw in the newspaper to-morrow “Sudden death of 185,000 soldiers!” What a stir it would make! What a sight the camp must have been next morning. There has been much discussion as to how it happened. There is no mention of it in the Assyrian record. They were ready enough to boast, but when Sennacherib crept back to his palace, he did not instruct the historian to chronicle his disgrace. Herodotus tells us that the Egyptians, against whom Sennacherib was then at war, ascribed the destruction of their foes to the power of their gods. There has been considerable discussion amongst the learned as to the cause of the destruction of so large an army, and it is generally understood now to have been the simeon. Cambyses, king of the Medea, lost 50,000 men by one of these dreadful winds. But whether the wind was the messenger, or whether an angel had the wind in his power, it matters not; we read of “stormy wind fulfilling His word.” God willed it, and nature hasted to do His bidding. (T. Champness.)
2 Kings 19:15-19
And Hezekiah prayed unto the Lord.
What to do when trouble comes
Hezekiah the King of Judah was in very great trouble. For some time the forces of the Assyrian had overcome the land and had taken the fenced cities: Jerusalem had been spared only on payment of a ransom that had greatly impoverished it. But that sufficed for a time only: and now the hosts of the enemy had gathered again and demanded its surrender. The city of Samaria had fallen and all the land was possessed by Assyria. It was an insult to the proud conqueror that Jerusalem alone should defy him. Round about the walls gathered their forces, and Rab-shakeh the commander had come near to the city and Cried aloud in the ears of all the people his threats against them and his summons to surrender. To his blasphemies Hezekiah had given no answer. Leaving forces enough behind him to sustain the siege Rab-shakeh had marched off then to join his royal master elsewhere. But now Egypt was marching up to fight the Assyrian. Of that Jerusalem could know nothing; but Rab-shakeh was anxious to withdraw the army from Jerusalem in order to strengthen his own forces; and he wrote a letter, impudent and blasphemous, thinking to frighten Hezekiah into surrender
1. The first thing for us to look at is this,--A king in trouble. Troubled soul, do not think within yourself that your case is peculiar,--all men have their troubles. Do not go envying any man, for no position will bring escape from trouble. But further, here is a good man in trouble. Turn to the beginning of the previous chapter and read the record of this man. The worst thing that could befall us in this world would be for us to have in anything our own way.
3. Again, here was a very great trouble. Net for himself was it that Hezekiah thought only or even mostly, though this was quite enough to think about. A crown and throne and all the proud position of king is quite enough to lose at one blow. But that was swallowed up in his concern about his people and the perils that beset them.
4. And it was a trouble for which there seemed to be no help. Samaria had fallen, and they looked in vain towards the north. (M. G. Pearse.)
Prayer in emergencies
The Christian believes in a revelation from God. Revelation unfolds many things which we could not discover for ourselves, explains or accounts for many actions or events which are puzzling without it. It takes us beyond second causes to the fountain head of all plans and transactions; it deals with what we see not as merely hard dry facts, but facts with a meaning and purpose; it tells of a higher, nobler, state of being belonging to us; and of spiritual powers which have influence over us; it speaks to us of Him “in Whom we live, and move, and have our being.” What is prayer? It is the means of holding communication with the unseen world--all worship may be called prayer, for it is the approach of man to God--the setting on foot a line of connection with our great Invisible Ruler. If we at all understand our real complex nature, the union of an invisible spirit with our outward bodies, we must see that our intercourse with the invisible world is all important, and that an acknowledgment of our dependence upon the Supreme Invisible Ruler is indispensable to our true and complete character. Prayer is a sign of weakness, but an instrument of strength; it is a confession of our own inability, bur’s laying our grasp upon the strong and mighty One, able to do all things. We pray because we feel weak, but by prayer we feel strong. It is not for God’s information, but for our security--not to persuade Him, but to prove our trust in Him--that we pray. It is of use because it thus brings us consciously within the circle of His willing influence. It is of obligation, because it is commanded by Him. Some men object to prayer as if it were useless. They say, “God has laid down certain rules for the government of the world--certain clear laws--and it is not to be expected that He should alter these laws for us, when we choose to ask Him to do so.” But this surely is to make Almighty God a slave of His own creatures. The Lawgiver has always power and the right to suspend His laws if He will, and in this case the Lawgiver is such that it were an insult to Him to suppose Him unable to suspend the action of His laws in a particular instance without disarranging the whole machinery of the world, and putting it out of gear. Besides, His laws are framed not blindly but with that infinite foresight which would enable Him to foresee all prayers, all claims or entreaties for exemption from the working of His laws. In the case of men we might reasonably think that laws would be inoperative if exemptions were made at every turn, but in the case of Almighty God this conclusion would not hold. He may maintain the principles on which His laws are based, even while He suspends their action in special cases. Infinite Wisdom must needs be allowed elasticity in the observance of His own laws, and He may surely with all justice and consistency make His laws contingent upon man’s actions; and after all, the Supreme Lord keeps in His own Hands the continuance of any laws He makes, He gives force to His laws, His will is the motive power; therefore, if He will, the law must become inoperative, if He will to listen to man’s prayer, the answer must come. Now, prayer is generally to be regarded as a habit. But there is another kind of prayer--prayer in emergencies. Though our life is on the whole monotonous, i.e., the same things happen day after day, the same needs come, and therefore the same prayers are needed, yet occasional occurrences intervene, requiring special attention and immediate thought and help. Then we must seek instant succour. To delay may be fatal; to wait for our morning or evening prayer must be to wait till the special danger has gone by, or has fallen upon us. It becomes us, the moment the peril is recognised, to fall on our knees and call in the intervention of God Almighty. We have in the case of Hezekiah an admirable instance of the power and efficacy of prayer. But supposing the Assyrians had not been destroyed, but had carried on the siege and triumphed, would Hezekiah’s prayer have received no answer? God graciously sent a complete answer for the encouragement of His people, and for the discomfiture of the vaunting Assyrians; but even if so direct an answer had not been given, the prayer of faith would not have been in vain. All that God promises is to answer--not to answer exactly as we wish. Suppose a danger imminent: sickness nigh unto death; a shipwreck; a fire; an invasion of our country; you would fain extricate yourself from the peril. There may be plenty to volunteer advice: first one and then another specific is suggested; various lines of policy, all conflicting, all perhaps hopeless to all appearance. Yet there is another resource: take your anxieties and spread them before the Lord, take them especially into the house of the Lord. Another form of perplexity arises from mental or spiritual difficulties: you fail to see the truth of some Christian doctrine; or you cannot discover what truth is; opposite opinions present themselves, and there is a temptation to cast off all belief because you cannot come to a decision in your own mind as to which is the true doctrine; some minds, for instance, have a difficulty in accepting the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, because it seems to be inconsistent with common sense that three should in any view be one--remember it is only above, not contrary to, reason. Take the matter quietly before your God, kneel before Him in secrecy, and in faith ask His guidance, and then spread out the conflicting passages before the light of His mercy-seat, and be assured that somehow you will find light to direct you, for “the meek shall He guide in judgment.” (G. F. Prescott, M. A.)
Hezekiah, or prayer in trouble
I. That prayer is the believer’s privilege. Viewing the children of God as participating in the troubles of life in common with others, it is indeed a most important privilege. Prayer has been called “the outlet of trouble, and the inlet of comfort;” it serves as the open window to a heated room, to remove what is oppressive, and admit what is refreshing. Prayer is a duty--not a mere duty, however, but a precious privilege; indeed, all duties are privileges and blessings if rightly understood; God never assigns or commands anything which is not for the good of those on whom it is enjoined. Prayer is the choicest privilege of earth; it is the intercourse with heaven--the speaking to God as to a Father and a Friend; it is not only conformity to Christ’s Spirit, but the joining in very act with Son and Spirit, at the very time and for the very object in which they are engaged. Christ not only prayed on earth, but is gone to pray in heaven, and has sent His Spirit to take His place below. Oh! let us look at Son and Spirit pleading; would they ever have assumed the office, but that they saw the helpless state of man, and volunteered to plead in and for him? They pray for man; it is their pleasure; and if man be permitted to conjoin with them in prayer, is it not a blessed privilege that he may so do?
II. Let us consider Hezekiah’s conduct and prayer as a test of the real state of the heart. We are told, in verse 1, what was his great resource. Prayer was his habit; not the mere exclamation, nor sudden feeling when danger threatened, which men have by instinct, no! we are told “Hezekiah trusted in the Lord,” “he clave to the Lord”; such expressions imply the habit of prayer; when trouble came he had not to commence an acquaintance with God.
III. Let us consider Hezekiah’s prayer as an example of the manner of prayer. But let us take Hezekiah as a model for our imitation. How did he particularise? “he spreads the letter before the Lord”; he takes each part, and reasons on it; and if we compare the particulars of the letter with what is specified in the prayer, we shall see the meaning of his spreading the letter before the Lord. His was not a general prayer for deliverance, but a specifying of particulars; thus had he abundant matter for his petitions, thus by opening all his case, he disburdened his own heart, thus he put God in remembrance, and involved His glory with His people’s safety. Such should be the manner of prayer, then there will not be wandering or coldness. (B. Jacob, A. M.)
Hezekiah in trouble
I. First, a specimen of threatening communication is alluded to in my text, and recorded in the verses immediately preceding it. In introducing it to your notice, I admonish you, first, that the historical parts of the Scriptures are the records of Cod’s dealings with His Church mainly, conveying only so much generally of the history of the world, as is needful to illustrate these dealings with the Church; and consequently that every event is to be viewed in accordance with this plan; otherwise we become bewildered and lost in reading the narrative of Holy Scripture, and we lose the object for which that narrative is perpetuated and recorded. If you look into the threatening letter of the haughty Assyrian, you will find it remarkable, as containing three of the topics, which are commonly dwelt upon by persecutors, when they desire to trouble the Church and people of God. The first of these three topics is the mockery of Hezekiah’s faith, as mere fancy. A second particular in the letter is this: here is an attempt to work upon Hezekiah’s fears. For the world, like faithful servants of the wicked one, will try, and do try, experiment after experiment, for the injury of the Lord’s people; if ridicule will not prevail, terror will be used. Here is, further and thirdly, an attempt to confound the true religion with the superstitions of men, and the Lord Jehovah with the idols of the heathen: that So the visitations of judgment, with which the enemies of Cod are often permitted to vex and destroy each other, might be held forth as an additional discouragement from the exercise of faith in those who are “joined to the Lord.”
II. In the second place, my text affords us a specimen of wise demeanour in the people of God, when they are assailed by persecutions or threatenings from the world. No business whatever will detain us from the house and ordinances of God, if we have the fear and love of God in our hearts; because we need His blessing in all our transactions. And if at all other times, then especially we need it in seasons of affliction.
III. In the third place, a specimen of simple faith is also here presented; to which the spiritually-minded among you will do well to take heed, as to that plan whereby we may most effectually remove our anxious cares off our own shoulders, and honour that word of grace and truth, given to every adopted child of God: “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain thee” (Psalms 55:22). That phraseology is very remarkable, in the superabundance of the promise above the matter involved in the exhortation--“Cast thy burden upon the Lord”; the answer to that would be--“And He shall sustain it, He will bear it for thee”; but the answer is more--“He shall sustain thee,” thee and thy burden too.
1. Simplicity of faith is shown in the act under contemplation. It is left on record for the instruction of those who in after ages would glorify God in a troublesome world.
2. Faith suggests the efficacy of prayer. The Lord’s people are thereby enabled to judge Him faithful, “who hath promised.”
3. Finally, this faith may be exercised, and prayer presented, and that with good success, in the most apparently perilous circumstances. (W. Borrows, M. A.)
A king in prayer
Prayers have their histories. Their ancestry is trouble, struggle with circumstances, and helplessness. They mark epochs in our lives, They are born in those hours which leave an indelible impression upon us. The sublimest strains which men have uttered have been towards God in moments of agony,
I. Hezekiah prayed to Jehovah as the god of his nation. “O Lord God of Israel.”
1. The nation bore the name of one of its progenitors that “as a prince had prevailed with God.” Names and events around which cluster Divine deliverances may encourage us in prayer. Past manifestations of God’s power may enlarge our faith. What God has been to our forefathers, our churches, our nations in times of trouble, He will be to us amid the perils of our day. History is a handmaid in the service of Faith.
2. His nation was Jehovah’s peculiar dwelling-place--“which dwellest between the cherubims.” The Skekinah, the holy light, as a symbol of the Divine presence, ever shone forth from between those weird and colossal figures which Solomon had carved and placed on either side of the mercy-seat. God will protect where He dwells. While He remains, there is perfect safety. When He departs, there is ruin.
(1) God dwelling in a nation saves it. God now manifests Himself, not by a material brightness, but by righteousness, purity, and truth.
(2) God dwelling in a man saves him. Every Christian is a temple of God. The true cherubim and Shekinah are in the soul.
(3) God dwelling in a Church saves it. No enemies can overthrow a Church that has the Divine glory shining in the midst of it.
(4) We can appeal to the manifestations of the Divine presence to increase our confidence in God in times of danger.
II. Hezekiah recognises, in his prayer, the sole supremacy of Jehovah. “Thou art the God,” etc.; “and have cast their gods into the fire,” etc. Each nation had its gods. Polytheistic ideas and customs prevailed in the nations surrounding Jordan. The gods were often destroyed when the nations fell which they were supposed to protect. The Jews alone asserted the existence of one supreme God.
1. Hezekiah asserted that Jehovah was the only true God. Polytheism was a foolish delusion. It probably arose from men’s innate propensity to materialise spiritual things, from the worship of natural objects as the manifestation of the Divine power, from the sinful and insatiate imagination of men’s hearts, from the deification of departed heroes, or from the attempt to give visible shape to applauded virtues. But there can be but one infinite and eternal God.
2. That He exercised supreme control over all the kingdoms of the earth. He was not only the God of Israel, but of all nations.
III. He appealed to Jehovah as the maker of “heaven and earth.” Heaven and earth to the Jewish mind included all things. In this sublime idea of God is involved--
1. That He is eternal. He existed before all things; delighting in the glory of His own nature before the worlds were made; no material form nor spiritual existence sharing that eternity with Him.
2. That He is separate from His works. The universe is not He, as the ancient pantheists taught, and as some teach now. He is immanent in all His creations, but independent of them. The maker is not His work. God transcends all beings and worlds.
3. That He is omnipotent. He who made the universe must be Almighty. Its greatness is inconceivable, and the power that produced it must be infinite.
4. That He has an absolute right to control an things. The maker has indefeasible rights in His productions.
5. That He has all things under His direct control. As He has created all forces, an laws, an agencies, all worlds, all angels, all men, He has them under His immediate direction, and can turn them “whithersoever He will.” This conception of God afforded solid ground for Hezekiah’s faith.
IV. Hezekiah prayed with great earnestness. Earnestness is needed, not to lead God to observe our condition, or to create a disposition in Him to help us, but--
1. That the strength of our desires may be revealed.
2. That we may be raised from the low condition of formal devotion.
3. That we may have all the spiritual culture which the outcries of real need may impart.
4. That we may be prepared to receive Divine deliverances thankfully. Hezekiah was stirred with the most powerful emotions as he prayed. His trouble heated his soul as a fire.
V. Hezekiah recognised the greatness of the deliverance which he sought. “Of a truth, Lord,” etc. To recognise the greatness of the deliverance we need will--
1. Deepen our sense of helplessness in ourselves
2. Stimulate the exercise of great faith.
3. Prepare us for the manifestation of God’s great delivering hand.
VI. Hezekiah associated the glory of Jehovah with the deliverance which he sought. The reproaches which had been cast upon him had been cast upon God. But it was God’s delivering arm put forth in answer to Hezekiah’s faith and prayer--
(1) that His people might learn to put their trust in Him, and
(2) that all the earth might know that none could defy His power and prosper. (Homiletic Quarterly.)
Spiritual-mindedness a protection
Much constant communion will surround us with an atmosphere through which none of the many influences which threaten our Christian life and our Christian work can penetrate. As the diver in his bell sits dry at the bottom of the sea, and draws a pure air from the free heavens far above him, and is parted from that murderous waste of green death that clings so closely round the translucent crystal walls which keep him safe; so we, enclosed in God, shall repel from ourselves all that would overflow to destroy us and our work, and may by His grace lay deeper than the waters some courses in the great building that shall one day rise, stately and many-mansioned, from out of the conquered waves. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Laying down the burden
Dr. H. Clay Trumbull, the well-known religious leader of America who passed away the other day, related a story about one of his little daughters. “She brought to me a while ago,” he says, “a geography book, having on its cover a picture of fabled Atlas, bearing the globe on his shoulders. Pointing to the overburdened man, with his bowed head, upstrained shoulders, and distended muscles, staggering under the weight that seemed just ready to crush him, she said: ‘Papa! Why don’t that man lay that thing down?’ ‘Well, my dear,’ I answered, ‘it would be a great deal better if he did. But that man has the idea that he must carry the world on his shoulders. There are a good many men of that sort, as you will find when you are older.’ That child’s question is a pertinent one to any of you who are struggling under oppressive burden of personal anxiety of any nature whatosever. ‘Why don’t you lay that thing down?’ ‘Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain thee.’”
2 Kings 19:35
And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the Lord went out.
The destruction of Sennacherib’s army
I. That this deliverance was miraculous, because--
1. It was foretold with absolute certainty (2 Kings 19:22-23). Certainty is not an element in human plans. “Ye know not what shall be on the morrow” (James 4:14).
2. It is described as having been wrought by direct superhuman agency.
II. That the deliverance was wrought because of the characters of three men.
1. The character of Hezekiah.
2. The character of David (2 Kings 19:34). So that David’s character had an influence in saving Jerusalem at this time.
3. The character of Sennacherib: From his words here recorded, his pride, his daring opposition to Jehovah are revealed.
Therefore the narrative most impressively bears witness--
1. To the fact that God is influenced by human character in His government of the world. A God who would deal with His creatures without regard to their moral character would not command our reverence and love. What would be thought of a human ruler or father who acted thus?
2. That the administration of just punishment is compatible with, is indeed a necessary phase of, the purest benevolence. The angels of God are the most benevolent, because the most perfect, of God’s creatures. But they can smite the transgressor as well as succour the afflicted. The removal of the instruments of tyranny from the earth is an act of pure benevolence.
3. That those who live morally above their age, will live beyond their age. David, although an imperfect man, lived upon a higher level of goodness than most of his contemporaries, therefore he has a part in the salvation of his much-loved city long after he ceased to reign in it.
4. He alone can turn the afflictions of life into blessings who has learned to pray. Hezekiah’s prayer had much to do with averting the catastrophe which threatened his people. The message to him from God was, “that which thou hast prayed to me against Sennacherib, king of Assyria, I have heard.” (Outlines from Sermons by a London Minister.)
The destroying angel
The ministry of angels, for good or evil, has always been a subject of mystery and of interest to the human mind. Throughout all the creeds of the Eastern world a belief in the active and frequent interference of the angelic host is generally held. The subject of angels occupies no inconsiderable portion of the Koran. Angels good or ill form the Suras of the Persians and the Rakshusas of the Hindoos. In the Old Testament of the Jews, in the New Testament of the Christians, angels are not uncommonly introduced. That God does make His angels ministering spirits, we have the authority of Scripture for asserting; but in what way they act, what appearances they present, what divisions they consist of amidst the varied orders of “thrones, dominions, princedoms, powers,” we know not. Lessons to be learnt:
I. That anger is at times commendable. We find the Deity moved to hot anger against the Assyrian host, taking vengeance upon the multitude that formed the Assyrian army. It is true, that to say, God is angry, or jealous, is but to speak after the manner of men, is but to attribute human motives to the Godhead. Yet, if we could imagine anger to possess the Deity, even in the sense in which we use the word anger, it would be no diminution of His Divine perfections. Strife against sin, against wrong-doing, against injustice, against the oppression of the weak, against falsehood, against hypocrisy, this was implanted in us for the noblest purposes, this, in fact, is a virtue, and not a vice.
II. That we should see God’s hand in all the revolutions of history.
III. That a haughty spirit oftentimes precedes a fall. Pride, in its egotistical wilfulness, vanity, in its ridiculous pretensions, must be rooted out of the character before any good Christian seed can be developed. Every one that exalteth himself, whether in a spirit of godless self-sufficiency like Sennacherib, or of religious self-complacency like the Pharisees of old, shall be abased; and every one that humbleth himself shall be exalted. Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. Before honour is humility.
IV. That the dispensations of providence are sometimes very sudden in their action. On the very night that Sennacherib encamped, filled doubtless with an idea of his own grandeur, and with a belief that he was about to add to his glory and power by a decisive victory on the morrow, in “that night” the angel of the Lord smote his mighty strength to the ground. “The only thing to be looked for in the conduct of the French on any occasion,” says a cynical observer, “is the unexpected” Might not the same statement, in a greater or less degree, be made about all nationalities and about all individuals?
V. That we should lay all our troubles and weaknesses before God in prayer. (R. Young, M. A.)
The destruction of Sennacherib
I. The events of this night develop the force of wickedness. How rampant was wickedness this night. Wickedness has ever had great power in this world. Wealth, dominion, and numbers, have ever been at its command. Ever since the Fall, it has been, and still is, the power whose reign is the most extensive. Like the Assyrian hosts, it invades the most sacred scenes, and carries alarm into the most sainted spirits. The fact that wickedness is allowed such power on this earth shows:
1. The regard which God has for the free agency of the human mind. At first He was pleased to endow man with a power of free action and the attributes of responsibility, and although he has sinned and abused this power, the Almighty does not check its operations. He sets before man the good and the evil, and leaves him to make his choice. If he chooses the evil, and is determined to give himself up to it, He allows him often times to run such lengths, that he becomes a Pharaoh, a Sennacherib, a Nebuchadnezzar, a Herod, or a Napoleon. The fact that wickedness is allowed such power on this earth shows:
2. The wonderful forbearance of God. How wonderful it is that He, who could with a word annihilate every rebel in His universe, should allow His intelligent creatures to live in hostility to Him and His universe. How great His forbearance! How great His forbearance with the Pharaohs who continued to oppress His chosen people for so many generations; with the antediluvian world; with the Jewish nation, etc., etc. Why does He not crush the sinner at once with the first sin? Why does He allow him to go on for years transgressing His laws? The answer is, “He waiteth to be gracious.” “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count,” etc. The fact that wickedness is allowed such power on this earth, shows:
3. The certainty of a future retribution--It will not always be thus.
II. The events of this night develop the force of justice. “The angel of the Lord went out and smote in the camp of the Assyrians.”
1. Justice will not always sleep. Indeed, it never sleeps; it only seems to.
2. Justice, when roused, does its work with ease. One angel or agent now destroyed these one hundred and eighty-five thousand armed men.
3. The work of justice involves ruin to the wicked, but salvation to the good. The waters that destroyed the old world bore in safety in its bosom righteous Noah and his family. The sea that engulfed Pharaoh and his host made a highway for the ransomed to pass through; and now the blow that crushed one hundred and eighty-five thousand men, delivered Jerusalem from destruction.
III. The events of this night develop the force of prayer. We learn from the preceding verses of this chapter, that when pious Hezekiah the king received haughty and blasphemous threats of his country’s destruction from Rabshakeh, the minister of Sennacherib, that he took the letter which contained it, read it, and went up into the house of the Lord, and spread it before God (2 Kings 19:14.)
1. Observe Hezekiah’s prayer (2 Kings 19:15-19).
2. Observe the answer (2 Kings 19:32-34). “Therefore, thus saith the Lord, concerning the King of Asyna,” etc.
From this subject we learn two things:
1. That wickedness, however triumphant, must end in ruin.
2. That goodness, however threatened, shall end in a glorious deliverance. “What are these which are arrayed in white robes, and whence came they? These are they which came out of great tribulation.” (Homilist.)
God’s method with hostile evil
As two carbon points when the electric stream is poured upon them are gnawed to nothingness by the fierce heat, and you can see them wasting before your eyes, so the concentrated ardour of the breath of God falls upon the hostile evil, and lo! it is not. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
2 Kings 19:37
His sons smote him with the sword.
The death of Sennacherib
Why are we told of this fact? Holy Scripture, as a general rule, passes over the lives and deaths and exploits of the mere great men of the world in a most cursory way. Only one incident, for example, is mentioned in the life of Herod the Great. Nothing is told us of the Roman Emperor, Augustus, except his office and name; and not so much even as that of his successor, Tiberius. Why then have we related to us so particularly the death of this king, taking place, as it did, so far to one side of the usual path of God’s word? The answer will be found by a reference to the past. If we consider,
I. The character of his life. Two things had distinguished it towards man--excessive violence and much pride. You have seen pictures from those Assyrian palaces brought to light again of late years. A favourite subject in most is the victorious king, commanding his captives to be slain, or himself blinding them perhaps with his spear. These pictures, we may be quite certain, are only too correct. What the artist portrayed with such vigour had frequently been in his sight. That almost brutal bodily strength, those stiff and barbarous adornments, those merciless and unrelenting features, were observable, in that ferocious dynasty, to the life. And this Sennacherib, perhaps, of all these sovereigns, was the most successful, and so, the worst.
II. The character of Sennacherib’s death.
1. We have seen the nature of his challenge. We have now to notice the reply. God replied, first, to his pride. Who can stand, the king had said, before me? God answered him, not in battle, not by spoken rebuke, but, as it was prophesied, by a “blast.”
2. God replied, next, to his violence and bloodshed. “With what measure ye mete,” etc. (Matthew 7:2; see also Judges 1:7; 1 Samuel 15:13; Matthew 26:52). The same kind of rule seems to have been observed in this case. After the king had returned to his own kingdom and city, the weapon he had so often employed was employed on himself.
3. Jehovah answered the man’s blasphemy and profaneness. The challenge had been delivered, if not within hearing, certainly within sight, of God’s house, in the ears and language of the people who sat on the wall. No answer came at the time. God, who sometimes waits to be gracious, often delays to destroy. (Homilist.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "2 Kings 19". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13