“Do not let Hezekiah mislead you when he says, ‘The LORD will deliver us.’ Has the god of any nation ever delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim? Have they rescued Samaria from my hand? Who of all the gods of these countries has been able to save his land from me? How then can the LORD deliver Jerusalem from my hand?”
Sometimes it seems there is no hope because it seems there is no help.
It might be a violent storm. It might be a vicious disease. Or, as it once was for Israel, it could be an overpowering enemy. Whatever form it may take, desperate situations call for desperate help.
It is then terrifying to realize the help may not be there.
The list of seemingly unstoppable armies that appear on the pages of history is a long one. Napoleon led one of those. So did a fellow by the name of Hannibal, with his elephants. Likewise, a Rommel, with his tanks. But the name that struck terror into the hearts of Israelites at the time of King Hezekiah was an Assyrian named, Sennacherib.
A later poet described his style of waging war with the words, “The Assyrian came down like a wolf on a fold.”
They came down from modern Syria and overran everything. Destruction, pain, and death followed. “Unstoppable” was the word that seemed to fit best.
When they came to the edge of Jerusalem, Sennacherib sent a field commander to demand the surrender of the city. He pointed out the situation was hopeless because the Israelites were helpless—just like many cities before them.
It was not an empty boast. City after city had already fallen before this superpower. Jerusalem knew this. The ten northern tribes of Israel had been overpowered, with many casualties. Survivors had been rounded up and marched into captivity. So thorough was the defeat of those ten tribes that they vanished without a trace. They became the famous lost tribes of Israel.
Only Judah and little Benjamin were left.
Sennacherib knew the Israelites well enough to realize they would not be counting on an ally to deliver them, nor would they boast of the strength of their army. Israel’s final answer would be, “Our help is in the name of the Lord!” It was a matter of faith in their God.
So, he attacked their God.
This was a sound military strategy. The chances for victory or defeat are not determined only by weaponry or leadership. Morale is a major factor. High morale has given victory to small numbers with limited resources. Low morale invites desertion and surrender.
Those who believe they have no help often have no hope. Crush morale and you do not have to risk defeat.
Sennacherib was not the only one to know this.
Karl Marx, the father of Communism, once famously remarked, “Religion is the opium of the people.” He meant it offered people a false sense of security and well-being.
We would object to that! Our religion does not do that. Our faith is built upon the Rock of ages. How could Karl Marx think that way? After all, he grew up in the land of the Reformation. Germany boasted it was Martin Luther’s homeland. Statues of him dotted the landscape. How could Karl Marx say religion offered a false sense of security?
Because it can be true. Sadly, this is true of all false religions.
The religions of the people of Arpad and Hamath offered empty promises. Idols have no power. Man-made religion is fake religion. Those who placed their hope in these so-called gods were left helpless.
Would it not be the same for those who placed their hope in the LORD? Sennacherib was sure of it.
Hezekiah did not believe that. History does not reveal that. Instead, we learn:
“Then the angel of the LORD went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies! So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew” (Isaiah 37:36).
The Assyrians could have come with a million troops. They could have brought armored tanks onto that ancient battlefield. It still would not have done them any good.
The angel of the Lord isn’t afraid of human weapons. Nuclear bombs cannot stop him. The protector of Israel was the Lord God Almighty. Almighty is a limitless word.
The gates of hell could not withstand him. The grip of death could not hold him.
The situation of Israel was not hopeless because she was not helpless. She sang out, “Our help is in the name of the Lord.” And it was.
So is ours.
We are not hopeless. We are not helpless.
The Lord of hosts is with us! The God of Jacob is our refuge.
Be near me, Lord Jesus; I ask thee to stay
Close by me forever and love me, I pray.” Amen.
(from Christian Worship 340:3)
Points to ponder:
- Is not the God of our fathers the Lord of our far-flung battle line—lest we forget?
- Must we not pray, “Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet—lest we forget”?
- Must we not pray, “Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet. Lest we forget—lest we forget!”?
Written and recorded by Rev. Paul Horn, WELS National Civilian Chaplain to the Military, San Diego, California.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.