The key passage I want to draw your attention to is 2 Kings 18:33. Remember what has happened – the Assyrians utterly destroyed the northern kingdoms (Samaria) and dispersed them to oblivion. Sennacherib is saying, ‘did the gods rescue them from the king of Assyria, who of all these gods from these countries has been able to save his land from me. How then can YHWH deliver Jerusalem from my hand?’ What is the response? They go to Hezekiah (vs. 37); they tear their clothes and told him what the commander said. Notice what Hezekiah’s response is—he tears his clothes (sign of grief and mourning), puts on sackcloth (sign of repentance) and goes into the temple of the Lord. He sends all these people wearing sackcloth to the prophet Isaiah (when we are in trouble we all want to hear a word from the Lord!) and says, ‘this is what Hezekiah says.’ (ch. 19:3-4)
Hezekiah receives the letter from the messenger of Sennacherib, he reads it, he goes to the temple of the Lord and spreads out the letter before the Lord and he prays to YHWH (vs. 14-19). Isaiah comes with a powerful word from YHWH (vs. 20-22). If you are seized by the power of God’s Spirit you could do foolish things in theeyes of the world. Do you understand what is being said here to Sennacherib – themost powerful military force on planet earth, who has just wrecked havoc all over the land? They are taunting him – ‘who do you think you are, who is it you blasphemed and insulted? We despise and mock you; you don’t understand Sennacherib, you are dealing with the Holy One of Israel.’
When I am in the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem, I always get this wonderful picture – I see this wall and remember the story, and I get goose-bumps thinking: ‘what boldness in the Lord! – what incredible boldness when your very life is at stake. They threaten you, they say you are going to drink your urine and eat your feces if you don’t capitulate; and these guys turn around and say, ‘we are on theLord’s side and he is the Holy One of Israel.’ Just to finish this scenario look at vs. 35-37. It is very clever what Sennacherib says of Hezekiah on these 4 huge panels that describe his conquest. He doesn’t say, ‘I captured Hezekiah and destroyed Jerusalem’ — he says, ‘Hezekiah is like a bird, captured in a cage to me’ – a little bit of euphemistic speaking. Sennacherib had to retreat (of course he doesn’t mention that in his great testament to himself) just as the Lord had predicted (vs. 37). I want to reiterate vs. 19 and 22:
You alone, O Lord, are God.
Who is it you insulted and blasphemed Sennacherib?
Against whom have you raised your voice and lifted your eyes in pride?
Against the Holy One of Israel - kadosh Yisrael.
* This is an audio transcript, listen to the original message here.