The revival brought about by Hezekiah did not prevent an international crisis, but without it, things would have turned out very differently. When Sennacherib invaded Judah, he sent a large army to besiege Jerusalem (2 Kings 18:13-19; Isaiah 36 and 37). Holding the capitol city hostage, he promised to deport the Jews to a “good” land – a bit of propaganda. Sennacherib explained that it was hopeless for them to resist. Indeed, in the natural, he was right. Egypt could offer no help, even if they wanted to do so (2 Kings 18:20, 21). Judah’s God, YHWH, he argued could not help them out of this situation. Hezekiah had already torn down the high places, so the only open altar was at the temple, the only God to whom they could not freely turn was YHWH (2 Kings 18:22). What a moment.
Sennacherib mocked the inferiority of Judah’s military, noting that the warriors of Judah could not ride war horses, even if Assyria provided them (2 Kings 18:23). This was the equivalent of an enemy saying, “We would provide you with modern tanks and fighter jets to make the battle more even, but you have no one qualified to drive or fly them.” It was, indeed, a one-sided battle. He was in no hurry, and in a feigned act of mercy, he reminded them that siege meant that they would eventually starve and only prolong the inevitable (2 Kings 18:27). He asserted that ‘God, YHWH, could not save Jerusalem any more than the gods of the other nations had saved their people’ (2 Kings 18:33). He painted a very rosy, but false picture of how idyllic it would be to become Assyria’s slaves (2 Kings 18:31, 32).
O how the Evil One works. No hope but God; and the alternative is the loss of the nation, the loss of the homeland, the loss of freedoms, the loss of identity, the loss of dignity and heritage. And some were evidently ready to accept such a proposition, but not Hezekiah.
Sennacherib sent a letter to the godly Hezekiah and the King went to the temple and “spread the letter before the Lord” and prayed for deliverance (2 Kings 19:14). What a site. The King in counsel with God; the head of the state shutting out all other advisors and seeking an audience with God; the enemy at the gate and the King hidden away in prayer – what would the outcome be? For us, it is admirable that Hezekiah was praying, but there must have been naysayers who still doubted, and saw such action as weak, indecisive, and less than kingly. Listening to the nightly news, particularly on WPAGAN must have been interesting. The nation was by no means united. It was still fragile and in the middle of national crisis that threatened its existence. Suddenly Isaiah, the prophet, made a bold declaration that the Assyrian army would be destroyed (2 Kings 19:32-34). What a press conference that must have been. The announcement surely made national headlines. Wonder what the political pundits and spin-doctors did with that idea?
That very night, the angel of the Lord struck the Assyrians, killing 185,000 (2 Kings 19:35). Sennacherib returned to Nineveh defeated and was killed by two of his own sons.
At the University of Chicago, you can visit the Oriental Institute and see an ancient Assyrian record where Sennacherib boasts, “I have shut up Hezekiah like a bird in a cage.” Unfortunately for Sennacherib, his “caged bird” had a powerful God. So do we, and prayer engages Him.
We serve a God who is the ruler of all nations (Psalm 113:3, 4; 115:1-9). He is more than just the maker of “the rules” – He is “The Rule.”
Douglas Small is founder and president of Alive Ministries: PROJECT PRAY and he serves in conjunction with a number of other organizations. He is also the creator of the Praying Church Movement and the Prayer Trainer’s Network. However, all views expressed are his own and not the official position of any organization.
[Editor's Note: Dr. Douglas Small is also a member of the Board of Trustees at Holmes Bible College.]