Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Defeat of a Dreadful Foe

“For there is a greater power with us than with him.” (2 Chronicles 32:7)

Have you ever wondered why the Lord let’s bad things happen to good people?

While reading my Bible I came upon a curious passage. It said, “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). This struck me as, well, unfair.
Here is a guy, Hezekiah, who was a very zealous, devout, and good man; who did what was good and right and faithful before the LORD his God. He re-instituted the Passover Feast, which had long been passed over. He restored the Temple, which had been desecrated. He removed all the remnants of idolatry throughout the land. He re-established the neglected Levitical priesthood, and saw that they were properly compensated for their services. He reformed the upper echelons of government, and thereby brought a great revival throughout the nation.

The Bible says, “In 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 31:21 NIV). It was a good day’s work in the life of a good king.

Satan struck down from Heaven
And what is the Lord’s response? How does God reward this faithful servant? What does Hezekiah get for all his gallant duty? Simply this -- an invasion of his land by Sennacherib, the dreaded King of Assyria; the single, most feared empire of the day. And, as far as we can tell, the Lord did nothing to stop him. Rather,  the Lord actually permitted the invasion and empowered the invaders. But why? I’ll answer that in just a minute.

First, have you ever wanted to cry out to heaven, "Hey, what kind of a deal is this?" Have you ever wondered why your faithful service to God seems often to go unnoticed or unrewarded? Or, no matter how good you are – bad things just keep happening? Like David, we often ask, “Why do the wicked prosper?” Indeed, why do they? Obviously, there are factors at work here that we don’t yet appreciate.

And, remember the old campfire song? “Tempted and tried we’re oft made to wonder why it should be thus all the day long. While there are others living about us, never molested though in the wrong.” Exactly.

I wonder if Hezekiah may have whistled that tune when Sennacherib showed up with his army.

The song does go on to say, “Further along we’ll know more about it; further along we’ll understand why." 

OK. So back to my question, Why did God permit and empower Sennacherib to invade Hezekiah’s land? Are you ready for this? Because He was drawing the King of Assyria into a trap!

Let's see how the story turns out.

The Bible says that the king of Assyria "laid siege to the fortified cities, thinking to conquer them for himself." The fact is that God had indeed blessed Hezekiah, so much so that the king of Assyria became envious to the point of war. He invaded in order to possess for himself the many blessings God had showered upon Hezekiah.

Sennacherib brandished his blade, and bellowed out his demands to Hezekiah in full expectation of an immediate and cowering surrender – just as many other nations before had done. He could not have been more mistaken.

Hezekiah, good man that he was, never doubted the Lord for a moment, nor did he fear Sennacherib for an instant. Instead, he rallied the people and encouraged them, saying, "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. With 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 the words of king Hezekiah. (see 1 Ch.32:7,8)

While Sennacherib amassed his mighty army and prepared for a full frontal assault, King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah bowed their heads in prayer. And the Lord answered them.

The Bible says, “the Lord sent an angel, who annihilated all the fighting men and the leaders and officers in the camp of the Assyrian king.” Hey, you want to know how powerful God is? He sent one angel – ONE! – and annihilated Sennacherib’s army. Holy Moly! What would an army of angels do?

And what of Sennacherib? What happened to him?

The Bible goes on to say, “he withdrew to his own land in disgrace. And when he went into the temple of his god, some of his sons cut him down with the sword.”

Those who follow in the footsteps of Satan are doomed to meet his own fate. “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!” (Isaiah 14:12).

In this story Sennacherib is a figure representing Satan. Just as Sennacherib met a disgraceful end, so likewise will the devil.

Isn’t this in fact exactly what happened to Satan at the cross? Jesus, having accomplished everything His Father sent him to do, finally goes up Calvary’s mountain to die upon an old rugged cross.  Just like Sennacherib laying siege to Judah, Satan surely must have thought his moment of ultimate conquest had come. But, in the same manner that God had baited the Assyrian king into a snare from which there was no escape – so likewise was the devil drawn and quartered by Christ at the cross.

And as for us, we share in Christ’s triumph over all the power of the enemy. It is now said of us as it was of Hezekiah, “So the LORD saved Hezekiah and the people of Jerusalem from the hand of Sennacherib king of Assyria and from the hand of all others. He took care of them on every side. (see 1 Ch.32:20-22).

Earlier we asked how does God reward His faithful servant? What does Hezekiah get for all his gallant duty? The answer is profound – Hezekiah had the high honor of being the one king in all history who defeated the King of Assyria. You see, God set Sennacherib up for destruction by permitting him access into Hezekiah’s life.

 Is it possible God does the same in our lives today? Is it possible that He allows the devil access for no other reason but to bring him to ruin and an open shame? Is it possible that your faithfulness, your devotion, your service are often the occasion for the Lord to draw the devil into a trap?

Could it be that we are sometimes used as "devil bait" – the means whereby the Lord lures Satan into battle, and gives us the honor of actually overcoming the wicked one.

Oh how humiliating this must be to Satan, that Christ has placed His victory in the hands of school children who by faith put the devil to fright and flight! What must the hordes of hell think of their dark master now? He who once wielded such power as to shake nations, now buckles when a little girl prays!

Hezekiah reassured the people with a single word of truth, “for there is a greater power with us than with him.” That is even truer for us today. “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

My friend, take a new perspective on those unexpected invasions of your life; those times when darkness gathers about you though you have long been faithful and true. Brace yourself not for battle, but for victory. A celebration is coming, for the Lord has decided to promote you for your service, and to distinguish you with a badge of honor – the defeat of a dreadful foe at your hands.