In the 14th year of Hezekiah’s reign he faced a battle which would decide the future of his monarchy and kingdom. Earlier in his reign he was a revivalist and a reformer but now in the middle years he was compelled by the providence of God to become a military strategist and war leader. Through the great revival, through, the nation was spiritually prepared for this new challenge. Without the deep and profound work of the Spirit Judah would have been in no position to withstand the enemy. In this time of fear Hezekiah and all Judah would discover the truth of Psalm 46, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” The Psalm is significant because it may well have been written by Hezekiah, there being some circumstantial evidence that the words were written at this very moment in history.
The Threatening Menace
Assyria was the dominant power in the middle east at this time. Ahaz, Hezekiah’s father had capitulated, pleading with the Assyrians to help him, stripping the temple of its sacred treasures as the price (2nd Chronicles 28:20-21). Now the Assyrians were coming again, with greater intent than they ever did before.
The Assyrians were meticulous record keepers; in the British Museum Sennacharib’s records are partially preserved where he mentions Hezekiah by name claiming to have captured 46 of the cities of Judah. Therefore the opening verse of chapter 32 records a devastating fact; city after city had fallen with much the country retreating to the mountain fortress which was Jerusalem. Hezekiah’s kingdom had shrunk in dimensions, a new master was in charge.
This was the greatest threat to independence that Judah had experienced in her history. It was not only a threat to her national autonomy but the line of the Kings stemming from the house of David was facing extinction. If Hezekiah and his sons perished, the future of the Messiah was in tatters and with it God’s plan for the redemption of the world. Therefore, Hezekiah found himself at the heart of a devilish plot, the outcome of which would threaten both his kingdom and the future course of the world. There was more at stake than what he imagined.
This threat arose after a period of revival and renewal in the life of Judah. This illustrates the fact that the battle is never far away in the Christian life. Sometimes, the problems arise after times of blessing, the blessing may be a preparation for the challenges that lie ahead. But at the heart of every trial experienced by the Church is the age old spiritual battle between Christ and Satan. Having failed to destroy Israel, the infant Jesus, to prevent the crucifixion and the subsequent resurrection the devil is intent on destroying the Church; his strategies include persecution, worldliness, false doctrine, division and schism. We must always be alert to his devices, perhaps even more so during times of blessing.
The Careful Preparation
Hezekiah appears as a meticulous man who sees to every detail. He was a master organiser as the previous chapter intimates. In that passage we have the precise details of how he organised the temple and the priests to ensure that worship would be continued in an orderly fashion. In the passage before us he prepares Jerusalem for conflict.
He first of all stopped all the watercourses that were outside the walls of Jerusalem. With the thousands of soldiers with their horses and beasts of burden, water was indispensable. Hezekiah shows himself to be an astute strategist in thinking ahead, exposing the weaknesses of the enemy.
Hezekiah was an engineer at heart; he employed this skill both for stopping up the water and in bringing the water into Jerusalem. In stopping the water outside the city he diverted that same supply to the area within the walls.
Teams of workmen erected a tunnel, cutting through solid rock, 533 metres long , that visitors can walk through to the present day. The tunnel delivers the water to the Pool of Siloam, and secured Jerusalem that precious of all commodities in a time of siege.
The writer of the Psalm 46 refers to this watercourse, which secured Jerusalem in days when the enemy were swarming the battlements:
Hezekiah also strengthened the fortifications of Jerusalem especially in Millo, believed to be in the north which was easier to attack as the ground in the area was flat. In addition he prepared weapons and shields and appointed suitable commanding officers. Every detail was attended to.
He was not a man who left all to providence. He accepted his personal responsibility and took every reasonable precaution in preparing, for this dangerous time. Nor was Hezekiah a warmonger who embraced the idea of conflict. He was the very opposite, a gentle soul who craved for peace. 2nd Kings 18 gives us the details of Hezekiah’s negotiations with the Assyrians, in an attempt to prevent the terrible conflict that was coming. Some have criticised Hezekiah for this approach as he was forced to take the very gold of the temple to pay the Assyrians off. Perhaps he was wrong, and ultimately it was a failed process because the enemy still came to destroy Jerusalem. But at least it demonstrates that for Hezekiah, war was the last resort. But when the war came the man of God was not found wanting.
We need to learn from Hezekiah’s diplomacy, his carefulness, his foresight and his courage.
The Inspirational Encouragement
Having done his utmost, Hezekiah now entrusted the whole matter into the hands of a greater power. If he had not done his own preparation using the skills the Lord had given, he could not have made this speech with honesty, that he presented to his fearful people.
This was a time of terror but the people were settled because of a man of God who said:
The impact of the words upon the people was profound and immediate:
One man who rested upon God made all the difference; his influence inspired a nation to rest upon the Lord.
Psalm 46 describes a day when the heathen are raging and the chariots are rumbling, a day that feels like the earth is being shaken and the mountains are rolling into the watery depths. In this day the people of God are still and quiet, trusting and resting:
Whatever we are facing individually and collectively let us learn to rest upon the sovereign Lord who is our Father, nothing spirals out of control, He knows the end from the beginning and has his own dear children as the apple of His eye.