This week we are going to make another stop on our “Journey Through The Holy Land.” Last week we went down to the Jordan River and learned about the meaning and purpose of Christian baptism in the lives of those who follow Jesus. This week we are going to wade in the waters of Hezekiah’s Tunnel and hopefully learn some great lessons about how to be prepared when the “Sennacherib’s” of life come knocking at our door. Many of you are probably not familiar with the name, Sennacherib, but hopefully you will begin to identify the Sennacherib’s of your life after we get into our study.
Our study this morning will revolve around the life of King Hezekiah, the 12th king of the southern kingdom of Judah. After the nation of Israel divided into two kingdoms, Israel in the north and Judah in the south, the nation became much more vulnerable. The northern kingdom of Israel fell to the Assyrians in 722 B.C., just 200 years after the united nation of Israel divided. After the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel the southern kingdom of Judah was made even more vulnerable because of the horrible leadership of King Ahaz and the growing power of the Assyrians. Ahaz had completely turned his back on God and adopted the religious practices of the Ammonites and Moabites, pagan nations around Judah. In 2 Chronicles 28:24-25 we read about the despicable actions of Ahaz.
24 Ahaz gathered together the furnishings from the temple of God and took them away. He shut the doors of the LORD’s temple and set up altars at every street corner in Jerusalem. 25 In every town in Judah he built high places to burn sacrifices to other gods and provoked the LORD, the God of his fathers, to anger. (2 Chronicles 28:24-25 NIV)
Ahaz wasn’t simply erecting altars to pagan gods, he even sacrificed one of his own children to the god Molech by burning him in the fire. 2 Kings 16 tells us the story.
2Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem sixteen years. Unlike David his father, he did not do what was right in the eyes of the LORD his God. 3He walked in the ways of the kings of Israel and even sacrificed his son in the fire, following the detestable ways of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites. (2 Kings 16:2-3 NIV)
With the information provided for us in 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles it wouldn’t be a stretch to conclude that Judah would soon be following Israel into captivity. How could God not judge King Ahaz and all of Judah for turning their backs on God? Yet, by the Providence of God, Ahaz had another son named Hezekiah. We read in 2 Chronicles 29:1-3 that Hezekiah followed his father to the throne of Judah when he was only 25 years old. He followed his dad to the throne, but that is the only way he followed his dad. Read along with me.
1Hezekiah was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years. His mother’s name was Abijah daughter of Zechariah. 2 He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, just as his father David had done. 3 In the first month of the first year of his reign, he opened the doors of the temple of the LORD and repaired them. (2 Chronicles 29:1-3 NIV)
At a time when the nation was on the verge of total collapse, God raised up a king who would turn the nation around. In 2 Chronicles 29-31 we can read about the first order of business under the new administration. What was on King Hezekiah’s heart? What was his agenda? That’s a great question. 2 Chronicles 29-31 tells us that King Hezekiah’s platform was spiritual reform. He tore down all of the pagan altars, Asherah poles, and banned pagan worship throughout the land. He reopened the Temple that his father had dismantled and shut down. He called the priests and Levites back to work. Turn to 2 Chronicles 29 with me and let’s see what Hezekiah had to say to the Levites.
5 …”Listen to me, Levites! Consecrate yourselves now and consecrate the temple of the LORD, the God of your fathers. Remove all defilement from the sanctuary. 6Our fathers were unfaithful; they did evil in the eyes of the LORD our God and forsook him. They turned their faces away from the LORD’s dwelling place and turned their backs on him. 7They also shut the doors of the portico and put out the lamps. They did not burn incense or present any burnt offerings at the sanctuary to the God of Israel. 8Therefore, the anger of the LORD has fallen on Judah and Jerusalem; he has made them an object of dread and horror and scorn, as you can see with your own eyes. 9This is why our fathers have fallen by the sword and why our sons and daughters and our wives are in captivity. 10Now I intend to make a covenant with the LORD, the God of Israel, so that his fierce anger will turn away from us. 11My sons, do not be negligent now, for the LORD has chosen you to stand before him and serve him, to minister before him and to burn incense.” (2 Chronicles 29:5-11 NIV)
Hezekiah then called the city officials to the Temple. Next he called the people of Judah and the remnant of folks scattered throughout Israel to come to the Temple and seek the Lord with all of their heart. Hezekiah sent messengers throughout the country with his invitation. In 2 Chronicles 30 we read,
6 At the king’s command, couriers went throughout Israel and Judah with letters from the king and from his officials, which read: “People of Israel, return to the LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, that he may return to you who are left, who have escaped from the hand of the kings of Assyria. 7Do not be like your fathers and brothers, who were unfaithful to the LORD, the God of their fathers, so that he made them an object of horror, as you see. 8Do not be stiff-necked, as your fathers were; submit to the LORD. Come to the sanctuary, which he has consecrated forever. Serve the LORD your God, so that his fierce anger will turn away from you. 9If you return to the LORD, then your brothers and your children will be shown compassion by their captors and will come back to this land, for the LORD your God is gracious and compassionate. He will not turn his face from you if you return to him.” (2 Chronicles 30:6-9 NIV)
The response was mixed. We read that some of those of the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh made fun of the messengers and scorned the invitation of King Hezekiah. There were others throughout the land that heard the invitation, took stock of what was happening in the nation, and made their way to Jerusalem to seek the Lord. As I read through these Scriptures this past week it reminded me of our own nation and the day in which you and I live. We seem to be living in a world that is coming apart at the seams don’t we? There are wars, tragedies, and turmoil going on all around us. We have sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, and friends fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, air lifting Americans out of Lebanon, and keeping a watch on terrorists and rogue leaders around the world and in our own nation.
Over and over again in Scripture we read that when God’s people encounter times like these that we are to seek the Lord. Yet today, even with all of these seemingly unsolvable problems surrounding us, people mock God, they mock those who try and point us back to God. The times haven’t changed at all have they?
Well, the Temple was prepared and ready. The priests and Levites had consecrated themselves for service to the One True and Living God. The people who recognized their need for the Lord gathered in Jerusalem. The people of the land, from the king down to the lowest slave, cried out to God and turned from their ways. The nation was heading towards healing instead of destruction.
The people gathered and celebrated the Passover, something that had not taken place for a long time, since the days of King Solomon. At the conclusion of the great worship service we read, in 2 Chronicles 31:20-21, that King Hezekiah continued to do “good,” to strengthen the nation and call the people back to God. Read along with me.
20This is what Hezekiah did throughout Judah, doing what was good and right and faithful before the LORD his God. 21In everything that he undertook in the service of God’s temple and in obedience to the law and the commands, he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. And so he prospered. (2 Chronicles 31:20-21 NIV)
I love that last sentence, “And so he prospered.” Hezekiah sought to do what was right in the Lord’s eyes and as a result, he, and the nation, prospered. The Hebrew word that is used here for “prospered,” is the word, “xl;c”’ (tsalach). The word means, “to advance, prosper, make progress, succeed, be profitable, to cause to prosper.” The nation advanced, the people got back on track, and the King grew as a man of God, and as a leader, as he depended on the Lord and followed His will rather than his own. When we hear the word, “prosperity,” or that someone is “prospering” we automatically think that they are making money hand over fist and that it’s all good in their life. I’m sure that Hezekiah was feeling much better about his own life and the direction of the nation after the pagan altars had been torn down and the Temple was crowded with his people seeking after the heart of God.
I’ve learned from my own life that when God wins a major victory in my life or when I rededicate my heart to serving the Lord with passion that I had better get ready. I can’t tell you the number of times that we’ve had a great Sunday here at BCC and after Connie and I have gotten home and talked about what the Lord did in worship or someone’s life, we’ve said, “I wonder what’s going to happen now?” Meaning, “You better brace yourself because a challenge is coming!” Immediately after reading that Hezekiah continued to seek the Lord and do “good,” we read,
1 After all that Hezekiah had so faithfully done, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and invaded Judah. He laid siege to the fortified cities, thinking to conquer them for himself. (2 Chronicles 32:1 NIV)
I mean this is the very next sentence after we hear about the prosperity of Hezekiah! Hezekiah pours his heart and soul into leading the nation back to the Lord and just as soon as it looks like they’ve turned a corner—here comes Sennacherib to destroy them. Can you picture it? Can you imagine it? Hezekiah and the people are singing, “Happy Days Are Here Again!” and before they finish they get the props knocked out from under them. Sennacherib the conqueror, the vicious king of Assyria who had already conquered 46 cities in Judah, is on his way to do them in. Hezekiah gets word that Sennacherib has already taken out strong cities in Judah and now he is on the march to Jerusalem.
You may be wondering where I got that Sennacherib had already conquered 46 cities in Judah? It’s not in the Bible, but it is written in an important discovery that was found by archeologists. The “Taylor Prism” was named after the man who acquired it in 1830, Colonel R. Taylor. The prism is a six-sided clay prism with writing on all sides. It is a record of Sennacherib’s conquests. On the prism we read that in Sennacherib’s third military campaign in 701 B.C. he destroyed 46 cities in Judah and deported 200,150 Jews. King Hezekiah is also mentioned on the prism, but it does not say that Sennacherib conquered Jerusalem or Hezekiah.
Now, stop and think about this with me for a moment. Hezekiah has led the nation back to the worship of the One True and Living God, he has torn down the false altars, and smashed the false idols, only to now be confronted with an overpowering threat. What do you do?
Well, of course we find the quickest solution that we can find, right? That’s just what Hezekiah did at first—he tried to buy the enemy off. Take a look at 2 Kings 18:14 with me.
14 So Hezekiah king of Judah sent this message to the king of Assyria at Lachish: “I have done wrong. Withdraw from me, and I will pay whatever you demand of me.” The king of Assyria exacted from Hezekiah king of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold. (2 Kings 18:14 NIV)
Did it work? Absolutely not! And neither will it work when we simply try to get out of the trouble we find ourselves in. A quick solution to our problems is no solution. King Sennacherib continued his march on Jerusalem and our problems will continue to eat away at our hearts and soul whenever we seek simple solutions to our hardships. After Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib was not going to turn back he sought a different approach to his problem. Take a look at 2 Chronicles 32:2-8 with me.
2When Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib had come and that he intended to make war on Jerusalem, 3he consulted with his officials and military staff about blocking off the water from the springs outside the city, and they helped him. 4 A large force of men assembled, and they blocked all the springs and the stream that flowed through the land. “Why should the kings of Assyria come and find plenty of water?” they said. 5 Then he worked hard repairing all the broken sections of the wall and building towers on it. He built another wall outside that one and reinforced the supporting terraces of the City of David. He also made large numbers of weapons and shields. 6 He appointed military officers over the people and assembled them before him in the square at the city gate and encouraged them with these words: 7 “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him. 8With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God to help us and to fight our battles.” And the people gained confidence from what Hezekiah the king of Judah said. (2 Chronicles 32:2-8 NIV)
Hezekiah and his people went to work on two fronts. They began to make the city ready and Hezekiah poured his heart out to God. Let’s take a look at their work on the city. Outside of Jerusalem was the cities water supply, the Gihon Spring. The problem was that the water supply was outside the city. When Sennacherib and his army arrived in Jerusalem they would have plenty of water. King Hezekiah and his men went to work to dig a tunnel in the hills to carry the water from the spring inside the city. I got to visit Hezekiah’s Tunnel while I was in Israel. As a matter of fact, I walked the entire 1700 feet in knee deep spring water, the same waters that flowed during Hezekiah’s day. Hezekiah stationed two groups of workers on either side of the rocky hill and they began to chip away at the rock until they met in the middle. It is really overwhelming to visit the site and realize the crude tools the men had to work with and yet what they were able to accomplish. The other thing they did was to expand the city wall out further so that it went beyond the water source. By doing this Sennacherib’s men wouldn’t have any water and this would greatly hamper their efforts to conquer the city.
The second thing Hezekiah did was to go to the Temple. Go to 2 Kings 19:14-19 and read along with me.
14 Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the LORD and spread it out before the LORD. 15 And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD: “O LORD, God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. 16Give ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to insult the living God. 17“It is true, O LORD, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands. 18They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by men’s hands. 19Now, O LORD our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O LORD, are God.” (2 Kings 19:14-19 NIV)
Hezekiah cried out to God. He was facing an impossible situation, a situation that he knew only God could handle, so Hezekiah went to God, he laid Sennacherib’s letter before the Lord, and he prayed for deliverance.
I have learned some great lessons this past week from studying the life of Hezekiah. I’ve been reassured that calm waters, peaceful moments in life, are interludes between the troubles and trials that we all face. I need to cherish the quiet, peaceful times that the Lord allows in my life. I don’t always do that. Far too often I take the peaceful times for granted instead of giving thanks. I’ve also learned that just because I am walking with God, “doing good” in God’s eyes, doesn’t mean that the Sennacheribs won’t come with full-force seeking to bring me down. As I read Scripture I see over and over again how God’s people, seeking God’s heart, often find themselves in heart-wrenching situations. I am not alone and neither are you. The question is, “Will we trust God when Sennacherib comes knocking?”
I’ve learned that when tough times come, when overwhelming challenges come, I need to dig in and go to work as I trust God. Hezekiah went to God and he went to work. He went to work in trying to encourage his people. He told them,
7 “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him. 8With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God to help us and to fight our battles.” (2 Chronicles 32:7-8 NIV)
The people were encouraged and they went to work digging the tunnel and expanding the wall surrounding the city. How many times do we find ourselves in troubles of various kinds and we want God to deliver us, but we don’t want to have to do anything about it? We wake up one day and find ourselves addicted to drugs, alcohol, sex, or something else that has enslaved us. We finally come to the conclusion that it is killing us so we cry out to God. We want God to deliver us, but God wants us to go to work. We’ve got to get the shovel and wheelbarrow out and go to work folks! We find ourselves in financial trouble, debt up to our eyeballs, and we finally realize that we are so poor that we can’t pay attention. When we finally realize that we will never get out of debt we cry out to God to deliver us. We expect Ed McMahon to show up at our door, we want to take our last dollar and buy the winning lottery ticket, but we don’t want to go to work. We’ve got to take out a shovel and wheelbarrow and go to work. We wake up one day and find our marriage in shambles. We realize that we are at an impasse and headed to divorce court. We don’t want to go through the pain of divorce and the aftermath of sharing our kids so we cry out to God. We want Him to transform us from guests on the Dr. Phil Show into Ozzie and Harriet. It ain’t going to happen. God is going to work through our work. We’ve got to take out a shovel and dig out from under the rubble we’ve created. As we do that we will begin to see His fingerprints everywhere.
As Hezekiah and the people of Judah went to work they prayed. God heard their prayers and He moved in a way that only could have been attributed to Him. Take a look at 2 Kings 19:35-36 and see how God acted on Judah’s behalf.
35 That night 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! 36 So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there. (2 Kings 19:35-36 NIV)
The enemy was camped at the wall of the city, but Hezekiah and the people of Judah escaped unscathed. God moved! God worked! God delivered! You and I can learn a great lesson from the experience of King Hezekiah my friends. When we find ourselves in trouble, when Sennacherib camps out at your doorstep, go to God in prayer and go to work. Don’t respond like the vast majority of people who are confronted with heartache and trials and respond by saying, “Why me God? Why would you allow this to happen in my life? I’m not as bad as my neighbor and nothing bad ever happens to him?” Don’t do it. Don’t you dare do it! Go to work and go to God. He will work in your life. He will keep you, deliver you, and restore you as only He can.
Let me tell you that this is impossible apart from a relationship with Jesus, God’s Son. It is only as we walk with Him that we can have the awareness of what to do when Sennacherib comes. It is only as we walk with Him that we can experience the assurance that though “Sennacherib” may be strong, he is not merely as strong as the arm of the Lord! Won’t you ask Jesus into your heart this morning and face the Sennacheribs of your life?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
July 23, 2006