Trusting in the Lord

 

To find out what it means to trust in the Lord, let us look back in history to a king called Hezekiah that did just that and that found favor with the Lord as a result.

Hezekiah began to reign when he was twenty-five years old; he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Abijah daughter of Zechariah. He did what was right in the sight of the Lord, just as his ancestor David had done. (2 Chronicles 29:1-2)

When Hezekiah came to the throne in about 715 BC, it was a dark time for Judah. It had been nearly 300 years since David was king over a united Israel. David was remembered as the ideal king - a benchmark against which other kings were measured. He united the twelve tribes of Israel into a strong nation, but he is most remembered for being a man after God’s own heart. David’s son Solomon became the next king. However, after Solomon’s reign, the nation of Israel split into two nations: the tribe of Judah (and Benjamin) followed the son of Solomon, and the rest of the tribes of Israel became a separate nation. In the 300 years since David had reigned, there were few kings in Judah and none in Israel that did what was right in the eyes of the Lord.

Throughout the books of Kings and Chronicles, we hear that kings did what was evil in the sight of the Lord even though many of them accomplished great things in political and economic realms. Hezekiah’s father Ahaz was one of those kings of Judah that did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. Hezekiah stands out as one of the few kings that did what was right in the sight of the Lord. He was one of only three kings that were commended for being like David. And among all the kings, there was none like Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:5).

What did Hezekiah do that was right in the sight of the Lord? What did Hezekiah do that he was commended as one like David?

 (2 Chronicles 29:3-11)

One of the first things Hezekiah did after he became king was repair the temple that had been neglected by his father Ahaz. He had the priests sanctify themselves and the temple. Hezekiah made a covenant with the Lord. This was a good thing and it pleased the Lord. But, this alone did not cause Hezekiah to be seen as one like David.

He removed the high places, broke down the pillars, and cut down the sacred pole. He broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it; it was called Nehushtan. (2 Kings 18:4)

Hezekiah also had the symbols of Baal worship destroyed. He destroyed the bronze snake made by Moses because it was being worshipped. These were also good things that pleased the Lord. But, this alone did not cause Hezekiah to be seen as one like David.

He trusted in the Lord the God of Israel; so that there was no one like him among all the kings of Judah after him, or among those who were before him. For he held fast to the Lord; he did not depart from following him but kept the commandments that the Lord commanded Moses. The Lord was with him; wherever he went, he prospered. He rebelled against the king of Assyria and would not serve him. (2 Kings 18:5-7)

Like David, Hezekiah trusted in the Lord. He did not just do the right things, he also put his trust in the Lord. This greatly pleased the Lord and he was with Hezekiah as a result.

Let us look at an example of Hezekiah’s trust in the Lord. Soon after becoming king, he broke the treaty his father had set up with Assyria (in which Israel paid tribute to Assyria). He knew this meant war with Assyria. As we will soon see, Hezekiah strengthened his cities and prepared for his rebellion against Assyria, but his trust was in the Lord and not his preparations.

Hezekiah did this throughout all Judah; he did what was good and right and faithful before the Lord his God. And every work that he undertook in the service of the house of God, and in accordance with the law and the commandments, to seek his God, he did with all his heart; and he prospered. (2 Chronicles 31:20-21)

Hezekiah continued his reform of the priesthood by reorganizing the priests and Levites and seeing to it that the tithes were in place to support them (according to the beginning of 2 Chronicles 31). But more importantly, he trusted in the Lord and sought the Lord and served him with all his heart as David had done.

In the fourth year of King Hezekiah, which was the seventh year of King Hoshea son of Elah of Israel, King Shalmaneser of Assyria came up against Samaria, besieged it, and at the end of three years, took it. In the sixth year of Hezekiah, which was the ninth year of King Hoshea of Israel, Samaria was taken. The king of Assyria carried the Israelites away to Assyria, settled them in Halah, on the Habor, the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes, because they did not obey the voice of the Lord their God but transgressed his covenant—all that Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded; they neither listened nor obeyed. (2 Kings 18:9-12)

Early in Hezekiah’s reign (while he reigned with his father), Israel fell to Assyria (about 722 BC). The Israelites were carried away to foreign lands and other foreigners were taken to the land of Israel. These foreigners intermarried with the Israelites and became Samaritans. Judah and Hezekiah had reason to fear Assyria.

When Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib had come and intended to fight against Jerusalem, he planned with his officers and his warriors to stop the flow of the springs that were outside the city; and they helped him. A great many people were gathered, and they stopped all the springs and the wadi that flowed through the land, saying, "Why should the Assyrian kings come and find water in abundance?" Hezekiah set to work resolutely and built up the entire wall that was broken down, and raised towers on it,and outside it he built another wall; he also strengthened the Millo in the city of David, and made weapons and shields in abundance. He appointed combat commanders over the people, and gathered them together to him in the square at the gate of the city and spoke encouragingly to them, saying, "Be strong and of good courage. Do not be afraid or dismayed before the king of Assyria and all the horde that is with him; for there is one greater with us than with him. With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord our God, to help us and to fight our battles." The people were encouraged by the words of King Hezekiah of Judah. (2 Chronicles 32:2-8)

Hezekiah made preparations for Sennacherib and Assyria’s invasion in Jerusalem. He redirected the path of the Springs of Gihon. These springs were outside the city walls. Hezekiah built upon the previous work of others and had the tunnel of Siloam dug to direct the water from the springs to pools inside the city walls. He also rebuilt the current city walls and built a new wall, increasing the size of the city under the protection of the walls. He also strengthened the area inside the old city of David.

But, his trust was not in his own preparations. His trust was in the Lord. Hezekiah encouraged his people to be of good courage because the Lord was greater even than the king of Assyria.

In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, King Sennacherib of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them. (2 Kings 18:13)

Hezekiah’s preparations were not limited to Jerusalem. He also made sure the cities of Judah were fortified. Apparently, he even made a treaty with Egypt (as will later be alluded to). However, his preparations were not enough and Hezekiah’s fortified cities fell to Sennacherib and Assyria as he marched toward Jerusalem (in about 701 BC).

King Hezekiah of Judah sent to the king of Assyria at Lachish, saying, "I have done wrong; withdraw from me; whatever you impose on me I will bear." The king of Assyria demanded of King Hezekiah of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold. Hezekiah gave him all the silver that was found in the house of the Lord and in the treasuries of the king’s house. At that time Hezekiah stripped the gold from the doors of the temple of the Lord, and from the doorposts that King Hezekiah of Judah had overlaid and gave it to the king of Assyria. (2 Kings 18:14-16)

After his fortified cities fell, Hezekiah decided his rebellion against Assyria was not such a good idea. He sued for peace and sent payment to Sennacherib as he besieged Lachish, which was the last of Hezekiah’s fortified cities outside of his capital at Jerusalem. His rebellion cost him dearly.

Had Hezekiah done wrong in rebelling in the first place? Or did Hezekiah’s faith in the Lord fail as Lachish started to fall to Sennacherib? It is hard to say with certainty and the Lord did not speak concerning this to his prophets. Previously, the Lord had spoken through the prophet Isaiah that he would use Assyria as an instrument of his judgment for Israel and Judah’s sins. Perhaps Hezekiah had faltered by putting his trust in himself and his allies in the first place. At times, Isaiah seems to be rebuking Hezekiah for pride and trusting in Egypt in rebelling against Assyria. Maybe Hezekiah was not sure if he was doing or had done the right thing. He only knew God was not delivering Judah from Sennacherib, so he chose to submit. Hezekiah seems to have questioned his own heart, but he never questions his trust in the Lord, even when the Lord does not seem to be delivering him from his enemies.

The king of Assyria sent the Tartan, the Rabsaris, and the Rabshakeh with a great army from Lachish to King Hezekiah at Jerusalem. They went up and came to Jerusalem. When they arrived, they came and stood by the conduit of the upper pool, which is on the highway to the Fuller’s Field. When they called for the king, there came out to them Eliakim son of Hilkiah, who was in charge of the palace, and Shebnah the secretary, and Joah son of Asaph, the recorder.

The Rabshakeh said to them, "Say to Hezekiah: Thus says the great king, the king of Assyria: On what do you base this confidence of yours? Do you think that mere words are strategy and power for war? On whom do you now rely, that you have rebelled against me? See, you are relying now on Egypt, that broken reed of a staff, which will pierce the hand of anyone who leans on it. Such is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who rely on him. But if you say to me, ‘We rely on the Lord our God,’ is it not he whose high places and altars Hezekiah has removed, saying to Judah and to Jerusalem, ‘You shall worship before this altar in Jerusalem’? Come now, make a wager with my master the king of Assyria: I will give you two thousand horses, if you are able on your part to set riders on them. How then can you repulse a single captain among the least of my master’s servants, when you rely on Egypt for chariots and for horsemen? Moreover, is it without the Lord that I have come up against this place to destroy it? The Lord said to me, Go up against this land, and destroy it."

Then Eliakim son of Hilkiah, and Shebnah, and Joah said to the Rabshakeh, "Please speak to your servants in the Aramaic language, for we understand it; do not speak to us in the language of Judah within the hearing of the people who are on the wall." But the Rabshakeh said to them, "Has my master sent me to speak these words to your master and to you, and not to the people sitting on the wall, who are doomed with you to eat their own dung and to drink their own urine?"

Then the Rabshakeh stood and called out in a loud voice in the language of Judah, "Hear the word of the great king, the king of Assyria! Thus says the king: ‘Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, for he will not be able to deliver you out of my hand. Do not let Hezekiah make you rely on the Lord by saying, The Lord will surely deliver us, and this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.’ Do not listen to Hezekiah; for thus says the king of Assyria: ‘Make your peace with me and come out to me; then every one of you will eat from your own vine and your own fig tree, and drink water from your own cistern, until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of grain and wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of olive oil and honey, that you may live and not die. Do not listen to Hezekiah when he misleads you by saying, The Lord will deliver us. Has any of the gods of the nations ever delivered its land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivvah? Have they delivered Sammaria out of my hand? Who among all the gods of the countries have delivered their countries out of my hand, that the Lord should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?’ "

But the people were silent and answered him not a word, for the king’s command was, "Do not answer him." Then Eliakim son of Hilkiah, who was in charge of the palace, and Shebna the secretary, and Joah son of Asaph, the recorder, came to Hezekiah with their clothes torn and told him the words of the Rabshakeh. (2 Kings 18:17-37)

Sennacherib takes the payment sent by Hezekiah, but is not satisfied. He will not withdraw from Judah. He wants to crush Hezekiah for his rebellion and take Jerusalem. Perhaps he wishes to send the people of Judah to another nation as had been done with Israel. And, he rebukes Hezekiah for trusting (putting his confidence) in the Lord.

When King Hezekiah heard it, he tore his clothes, covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of the Lord. And he sent Eliakim, who was in charge of the palace, and Shebna the secretary, and the senior priests, covered with sackcloth, to the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz. They said to him, "Thus says Hezekiah, This day is a day of distress, of rebuke, and of disgrace; children have come to the birth, and there is no strength to bring them forth. It may be that the Lord your God heard all the words of the Rabshakeh, whom his master the king of Assyria has sent to mock the living God, and will rebuke the words that the Lord your God has heard; therefore lift up your prayer for the remnant that is left." When the servants of King Hezekiah came to Isaiah, Isaiah said to them, "Say to your master, ‘Thus says the Lord: Do not be afraid because of the words that you have heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have reviled me. I myself will put a spirit in him, so that he shall hear a rumor and return to his own land; I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land.’ " (2 Kings 19:1-7)

Hezekiah hears the words of Sennacherib and tears his clothes because of the blasphemous words of Sennacherib. This is no longer about Hezekiah’s error. Sennacherib has insulted the Lord God by saying the Lord could not be trusted to deliver Judah. Hezekiah cries out to the Lord and turns to the prophet Isaiah for counsel. Isaiah speaks the word of the Lord. The Lord will intervene.

Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it; then Hezekiah went up to the house of the Lord and spread it before the Lord. And Hezekiah prayed before the Lord, and said: "O Lord the God of Israel, who are enthroned above the cherubim, you are God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. Incline your ear, O Lord, and hear; open your eyes, O Lord, and see; hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God. Truly, O Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands, and have hurled their gods into the fire, though they were no gods but the work of human hands—wood and stone—and so they were destroyed. So now, O Lord our God, save us, I pray you, from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O Lord, are God alone."

Then Isaiah son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah, saying, "Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: I have heard your prayer to me about King Sennacherib of Assyria. …

"Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the king of Assyria: He shall not come into this city, shoot an arrow there, come before it with a shield, or cast up a siege ramp against it. By the way that he came, by the same he shall return; he shall not come into this city, says the Lord. For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David." (2 Kings 19:14-20, 32-34)

Hezekiah hears Sennacherib’s words and again goes to the Lord who he has placed his trust in. The Lord again sends Isaiah to assure Hezekiah that the Lord will protect Jerusalem and Hezekiah from Sennacherib. Though Sennacherib is outside Jerusalem and preparing to lay siege on the city, the Lord assures Hezekiah that Sennacherib will not lay siege on the city.

That very night the angel of the Lord set out and struck down one hundred eighty-five thousand in the camp of the Assyrians; when morning dawned, they were all dead bodies. Then King Sennacherib of Assyria left, went home, and lived at Nineveh. As he was worshiping in the house of his god Nisroch, his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer killed him with the sword, and they escaped into the land of Ararat. His son Esar-haddon succeeded him. (2 Kings 19:35-37)

The Lord slays many of the Assyrians and they leave to return home. Sennacherib had not yet started the attack on Jerusalem. After he returns home, he is slain by his own sons.

So the Lord saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem from the hand of King Sennacherib of Assyria and from the hand of all his enemies; he gave them rest on every side. Many brought gifts to the Lord in Jerusalem and precious things to King Hezekiah of Judah, so that he was exalted in the sight of all nations from that time onward. (2 Chronicles 32:22-23)

The Lord has protected Hezekiah and Jerusalem and shows his favor on Hezekiah because of his trust in the Lord. Hezekiah was like David because his trust was in the Lord and he served him with a whole heart.

Our trust is never misplaced when it is placed in the Lord.

when I am afraid,
I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I am not afraid;
what can flesh do to me?
(Psalms 56:3-4)
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