"Incline Your ear, Lord, and hear; open Your eyes, Lord, and see"
--2 Kings 19:16
Perhaps you have had a moment or two in your life when circumstances seemed to come crashing down upon you and you didn't know where to turn for relief or a resolution to the crisis. I am aware of number of people right now facing emergencies of one sort or another--serious illness, financial shortfall, broken relationships, shattered faith--and the list goes on and on. A certain King of Judah faced just this sort of situation. His name was Hezekiah and you can read his story in chapters 18 and 19 of the Old Testament book of 2 Kings. The way that Hezekiah handled his trial is worth examination and even imitation.
The King of Assyria, a nation known for its brutality and viciousness, had laid siege to the city of Jerusalem. In chapter 18, you can read how the field commander in charge of the Assyrian troops threatened the city's inhabitants using their own language within earshot of the city walls. The strategy, of course, was to frighten the people into forcing their leaders to surrender in the hopes that the Assyrians might be merciful—something we know that historically they never were. These same troops had already devastated the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 BCE and scattered the Jews who had lived there throughout all of the Assyrian empire--never to be returned. (They became known as the "lost tribes of Israel.") Now this field commander had come to deliver the same fate to the Jews who lived in the southern kingdom of Judah. Sennacherib, the King of Assyria, sent word to King Hezekiah that he should remember that no nation had been spared defeat at the hands of the Assyrians. Yes, they had trusted in their gods, too, but those gods had not saved them. Hezekiah should not expect his god to save his people either.
I invite you to read Hezekiah's prayer in 2 Kings 19:14-19, his response to the dire circumstances I have described. In this prayer, we can see the components of a position of faith that I believe the Lord wants us to assume when life seems dark and threatening around us. Here is the prayer: "O LORD, God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. Give ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to insult the living God. It is true, O LORD, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands. They 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. Now, O LORD our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O LORD, are God."
Allow me to make some observations about Hezekiah's response to a crisis situation. Hezekiah's immediate response to this emergency was to seek the Lord's help. He didn't try to engineer some other man-made solution in the face of desperate circumstances. Sadly, we often pray as a last resort. We need to make prayer the priority when we face a trial that is clearly beyond our capacity to resolve. Hezekiah acknowledged that God was big enough to solve his problem. The king immediately called out to the LORD who was enthroned in heaven, the One who is the King of all of the earth and the Creator of heaven and earth. If we will remember to Whom we are praying in the midst of our situation, it has a way of dwarfing the problem and magnifying the Lord's ability to respond. That recognition is the beginning point of faith. (verse 15)
Hezekiah simply asked the LORD to hear, see and respond to the situation--a crisis that represented an insult to the Lord's protective and loving posture toward His children. Whatever crisis you and I face is also an insult to the idea that God does not love us enough to help us weather the storm, bring us safely through it and become stronger for it. (verse 16) The king did not "sugarcoat" the situation as he prayed. He admitted the situation was dire. He acknowledged that other nations had indeed been decimated by the Assyrians—and that the same would happen to Judah if God did not intervene. Hezekiah was facing the reality of the crisis rather than deceiving himself--and we need to do the same with any sort of trial that we face. (verse 17)
While recognizing that others had been defeated by the Assyrians, Hezekiah understood that these other nations had trusted in solutions or strategies that were of their own making--"gods" that were really not gods at all but idols of wood and stone fashioned by the hands of men. You and I will be lost if we trust in anything less than the provision and protection of our loving Heavenly Father each day of our lives. You cannot find your way out of any mess using a humanly-engineered response or resolution. We need God to help us--and, honestly, nothing short of that will really help anyway. (verse 18)
Finally, Hezekiah asked the Lord to rescue His people not just for their own sake, but for the sake of the Lord's reputation and glory. When we pray, we ought to ask the Lord to display His power and love for us in such a way that it demonstrates His compassion for all to see. Every trial, and every rescue--what the Bible calls "salvation"--ought to be an opportunity for us to share our faith in the Lord. That's because every crisis is an opportunity for the Lord to show the world who He is. So, today, don't cower before the catastrophe that might seem impending or the circumstance that might feel overwhelming. Just pray and watch for the Lord to show Himself strong on your behalf in such a way that others will take notice of His love. (verse 19)
It helps that God gives us a pattern of prayer to follow in the Bible, like this one, when we face life circumstances that seem similar to Hezekiah's predicament in terms of the sheer gravity of the problem. And the good news is that the Scripture records what happened after Hezekiah prayed. Jerusalem did not fall to the Assyrians, God destroyed the Assyrian army with a plague, and Sennacherib was assassinated by two of his sons. It is a dangerous thing to threaten the Lord's beloved children! No power of hell or earth can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus and the Lord will spare no effort or blessing to rescue us from whatever trial or hardship we face. We just need to pray and trust.
Heavenly Father, we believe that nothing can separate us from Your love. We understand that trials and hardship come into our lives both to strengthen our faith and to provide opportunities for You to show others the greatness of Your mercy. Give us faith to trust You when all hope seems to be lost and the difficult circumstances, like the Assyrian army, seem to be closing in from all sides. You are our Deliverer and our Provider! We love You! In Jesus' Name, Amen.