2 Kings 18:13-19:37; Acts 21:1-17; Psalm 149:1-9; Proverbs 18:8
Isn't the voice of Sennacherib's field commander similar to the voice of the devil in the Garden of Eden? "Do not let Hezekiah deceive you...Do not let Hezekiah persuade you to trust in the Lord" (2 Ki. 18:29, 30) = causing Eve to doubt God's commands (see Gen. 3:4). "Make peace with me and come out to me. Then every one of you will eat from his own vine and fig tree and drink water from his own cistern" (2 Ki. 18:31) = "Your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil" (Gen. 3:5). "Until I come and take you to a land..." (2 Ki. 18:32) = banishment from the Garden (see Gen. 3:22-24).
Initially, the field commander seeks to instill doubt and mistrust in the hearts and minds of Hezekiah's subject, much the same as the snake does with Eve. "Surely," they both say, "your king is lying to you. He is trying to strengthen his own position at your expense." Then the commander paints a brightly-colored picture of what life under Sennacherib would look like, full of good things. Like Eve, who "saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom" (Gen. 3:6), the people of Judah were offered great enticement: security, prosperity, contentment - if they submitted to the invader. In both cases, though, there's a bait-and-switch. The offer doesn't come without strings; by accepting the proposal, one must be willing to pay the price. The devil doesn't tell Eve what the cost will be; it is only after she succumbs that she experiences banishment, alienation, and death. In the field commander's favor, he is upfront about the price of Sennacerib's promise. The security and prosperity are only temporary; the people of Judah, if they capitulate, will be deported.
The people of Judah, unlike Eve, choose not to respond (2 Ki. 18:36). They place their trust in their king. It is lovely to read this story of a failed seduction, especially after the complete implosion of the kingdom of Israel yesterday. What an encouragement to us!
For, you see, the enemy's tactics haven't changed much. Does he not still whisper that our leader, God, is untrustworthy? "Surely," he lies, "God does not have your best interest in mind." Are we not still tempted by the rosy prospects he paints, full of all the shiny, happy outcomes of choosing sin? He knows our human weakness and seeks to show how we can have our cake and eat it too. Who among us doesn't want a little more power, a little more money, a little more security, a little more pleasure, a little more self-love? All these, he promises. But is there not still - is there not always - a hidden death and banishment that awaits?
My favorite moment, though, is the parting shot leveled by Sennacherib. The Lord has told Hezekiah that the Assyrian king will return home to his death (2 Ki. 19:7). His end is ensured. In the meantime, however, he seeks to undermine Judah's position, sending a message of fear that promises destruction (vs. 9-13). This man has already been marked for death, but it hasn't yet occurred. Again, like our enemy! God has already triumphed over Sennacherib in this passage, just as he triumphed over Satan at the cross. We, like the people of Judah, exist in that in-between-time. How do we then live?
This whole story stands as a model. When Hezekiah hears the news, "he [tears] his clothes and [puts] on sackcloth and [goes] into the temple of the Lord" (2 Ki. 19:1). He immediately turns toward God, seeking word from him through his voice-on-earth, the prophet Isaiah. We can do the same. We have unlimited access to God's voice-on-earth now, the Bible, and we have the Holy Spirit within us. We too can choose to declare, "You alone, O Lord, are God" (vs. 19).
- Sarah Marsh
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