God Miraculously Protects Jerusalem from the Mighty Assyrian Army
There are so many stories in the Bible telling of the times when God intervened with super natural power to save His people. And so many accounts in Scripture of special gifts and miracles God gave His people when they were in need. Our story today is one more account in the Bible (Isaiah 36 & 37) of one of those times when God miraculously saved His people.
The year was 701 B.C. and Assyria had become a proud and powerful nation, dominating the middle east. For two-hundred years the mighty Assyrian army had marched across the land making war with all their neighbors and conquering nearly all the cities in the area. Stealing their farmland and livestock, sacking and burning the homes, and making slaves of the people.
King Sennacherib of Assyria was rich and famous because of his bloody conquests and he was greedy for more. So, he sent his massive armies out to invade the little nation of Judah, and the Assyrian armies captured 46 fortified Jewish cities and carried 200,000 people away into slavery. The only city left unharmed in Judah now is Jerusalem, and our story begins as King Sennacherib’s massive armies are on their way to fight and conquer Jerusalem.
As the massive Assyrian armies are on their way, King Sennacherib sends his Chief of Staff, Rabshakeh, ahead of his armies to try to frighten King Hezekiah, the king of Jerusalem. Rabshakeh plans to convince King Hezekiah that he has no hope in trying to fight the Assyrian armies when he is so badly outnumbered. That he might as well surrender without a fight. Things would be easier that way. Rabshakeh knows that King Hezekiah believes in his God and believes that his God will protect Jerusalem. Rabshakeh wants to get King Hezekiah to see how naïve and foolish he is to think that God can save little Jerusalem from might Assyria.
Rabshakeh arrives outside the walls of Jerusalem and three of King Hezekiah’s men go out to meet him. Rabshakeh begins to loudly boast of all the cities that the Assyrian armies had already conquered. A crowd gathers around, and Rabshakeh brags louder to try to turn the crowd against their king, King Hezekiah, for being so simple as to trust in God to protect them when any intelligent person would be smart enough to know that a few fighting Jewish farmers cannot stand up against several hundred thousand trained Assyrian soldiers with their chariots and horses and armaments.
Nothing is new, God’s people have always been mocked and ridiculed. Aren’t there mockers today like Rabshakeh, who laugh at Christians and consider them to be ignorant, naïve and out dated for believing in the God of the Bible? And believing that He would hear their prayers?
A crowd in Jerusalem gathers around Rabshakeh and he began shouting “Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, he will not be able to deliver you. Nor let Hezekiah make you trust in the Lord God, saying: ‘The Lord God will surely deliver us: this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria…” (Isaiah 36:14-15)
Rabshakeh also tries to scare the people in Jerusalem into not trusting their God to save them. He reminds them that hundreds of thousands of other people before them have also tried praying and sacrificing to their idol gods, but the Assyrian armies came and burned their cities down to the ground anyway. Their gods didn’t work for them. So why should the God of Israel be any different? Do the Jewish people think their God is better than their neighbor’s hand-made gods?
And then Rabshakeh compares the God of Israel to the idol gods of the cities that were destroyed, assuring the citizens of Jerusalem that their God is the same as all those other idol gods made by human hands. And asking them why they should count on their God to save them when all the other idol gods couldn’t save their people or their cities and nations?
Here is what Rabshakeh says to the people of Jerusalem: “Has any one of the gods of the nations been able to deliver its land from the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Indeed, have they delivered Samaria from my hand? Who among all the gods of these lands has delivered their countries from my hand? So why do you believe that the Lord your God will be able to deliver Jerusalem from my hand?” (Isaiah 36:18b-21) Rabshakeh is comparing the God of Israel with the hand- made idols often carved out of stone or wood, that were so popular in ancient times.
How many times are believers in Christ threatened with this same lie? The lie that Jesus Christ is not God the Son, but is the same as any other great prophet or ancient teacher? And that our heavenly Father, our God, is the same as Buddha or Allah? That all the major world religious traditions are equal to our Christian faith?
And the lie that believers in the God of the Bible are naïve and ignorant when we believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and Savior – the only Savior. And Jesus is the only Way to God, the Father, and the Creator of the Universe. (John 14:6 and Genesis 1:1) Surely modern intelligent people can’t still believe the good news of the gospel!
The people in Jerusalem listening to Rabshakeh refused to answer him or to be frightened by his rantings. And the king’s men carried a letter from King Sennacherib of Assyria to King Hezekiah informing him that he might as well surrender because the massive Assyrian armies were on their way to Jerusalem to destroy it and enslave his people. In the letter, King Sennacherib made fun of the ignorant people of Jerusalem and blasphemed their God.
King Hezekiah tore his clothes and sent an urgent message to Isaiah, God’s prophet, telling him that the armies of Assyria would be attacking Jerusalem in a couple of days and begging Isaiah to pray. Then King Hezekiah hurried to the House of the Lord and fell down before God and “spread King Sennacherib’s threatening letter out before God.” (Isaiah 374b) King Hezekiah begged God to save little Jerusalem from the mighty Assyrian armies as he knew his God was able to do. He prayed, “O Lord our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the Lord, You alone.” (Isaiah 37:20)
Isaiah, God’s prophet sent King Hezekiah a message to not worry and telling him that the Lord God of Israel had given him a word promising that He would stop the approaching armies of Assyria and protect His people. (Isaiah 37:33-35) Isaiah and King Hezekiah were both men of faith and firmly believed in the Sovereignty of their God. .
Scripture tells the rest: “Then the angel of the Lord went out and killed in the camp of the Assyrians one hundred and eighty-five thousand soldiers: and when the soldiers arose early in the morning, there were the corpses – all dead. So, King Sennacherib turned around and went back to Nineveh.” (Isaiah 37:36-37) Some Bible historians believe that possibly the “angel of the Lord” might have spread cholera or some other deadly disease throughout the camp that night when 185,000 soldiers died so mysteriously and were thus stopped from finishing their mission to destroy Jerusalem.
Nations may glory in their conquests, as did Assyria, but it is God who uses them as His instruments. It seems the defeat of the Assyrian armies was the result of the earnest prayer of King Hezekiah. God uses us and our prayers and faith in His holy work. If we will only believe.