AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH November 13, 2011
Church following the Bible without Qualification
and the Lord Jesus Christ without Compromise by Faith in accord with the thrust of the Constitution of 1901 of the Presbyterian Church of Australia
Double Deliverance: The Divine Response and Its Powerful Prevailing
We left last Sunday, our account in the midst of Hezekiah's new valour and vigour. When therefore Sennacherib, the canny and boastful Assyrian King, in due course,
Israel was in no small degree both disciplined and ready to act.
Land, cried the propagandists to the people of the land (Isaiah 36:17), land will be given you and you will have an gracious independence under us, so trust us! Do not speak in Hebrew, cried the Jewish officials! but the potential invader would not hear. They spoke but the more, and sought to influence the heart and fighting spirit of the people. This is the easier when in polytheism or atheism a nation rots, far from reason and free of objectively oriented faith in the God of all power and pity*6. Many are the contemporary nations which have already fallen for this. Not so at this time was Judah however, and its luscious enticements did not fall to the invader, unlovely and limping.
Sennacherib's envoy, Rabshakeh, continued his facile psychological warfare in boastful assurance. The people were too disciplined to answer, and let the King seek the Lord instead! Indeed, if the people would give a pledge to the Assyrian King, such was his much vaunted strength that he would give them 2000 horses, if they could find riders for them! So he snarled and sought to snare by the pure bombast of speech and the present of means. Such indebtedness would then be theirs! such glamour of agreement. But they did not, and were as those who do not hear (II Kings 18:36).
Hezekiah was quick to pick up the fatal weakness in these boastings. To be sure, the twisted lies of those who wish to subvert a people, whether from within or from outside, were well represented. It was made to appear in the envoys' shouting to the people, that Hezekiah would have offended God by having reduced the number of places for worship, and concentrated in Jerusalem; but in their lying disorder, they were unaware that this was precisely as the Lord has stipulated from the first (cf. SMR p. 823), and was a purgative instrument from multiple corruptions (II Kings 18:4).
Such places, high places, resembled sects spoiling the land in various sites for spurious worships of sundry false gods and inventions of human imagination. From their messages and gods, it was as if the true and living God alone were unbearable, though He had borne Israel as an eagle her young, on her wings, and taught them to fly (Deuteronomy 32:11,17).
Not falling for this ferment of deceit, therefore, the people were awaiting the King's action. To the Temple he went, and laid bare the taunting challenge before the Lord (II Kings 19); and he sent for the prophet Isaiah. His words were both humble and intense:
"This day is a day of trouble and rebuke and blasphemy, for the children have come to birth, but there is no strength to bring them forth. It may be that the LORD our God will hear the words of Rabshakeh, whom his master the king of Assyria has sent to reproach the living God and will rebuke the words which the LORD your God has heard. Therefore lift up your prayer for the remnant that is left."
Fresh from typical deviousness, then, the propaganda minister, like Dr Goebbels with Hitler, Rabshakeh nevertheless, returning to Lachish found the Assyrian King to be pre-occupied with an apparently unexpected attack. That monarch, intent to deceive, then sent letters with messengers (II Kings 19) in order to increase his rampaging against Israel. Look, his words sounded, look at all the other kingdoms, and which of them has been able to stand before the Assyrian! He listed some. But his appalling error came earlier when he wildly cried (II Chronicles 8:35),
"Who among all the gods of these nations have delivered their countries from my hand that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem from my hand ?"
By directly comparing the power of the Lord with the power of hand-made, man-manufactured gods, he went past the sins of Jerusalem to the purity of God, and invited a deliverance directly from Himself, for the sake of His protectorate, Judah!
Isaiah came forth, then, with the Lord's own response.
"Don't be afraid of the words which you have heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed Me. Surely I will send a spirit upon him, and he will hear a rumour and return to his own land, and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land."
How beautiful in composure is the Lord further response as found in Isaiah 37:22ff., which included these words:
virgin, the daughter of Zion, has despised you, laughed you to scorn; the
daughter of Jerusalem has shaken her head behind your back!
Whom have you reproached and blasphemed ?
Against whom have you raised your voice and lifted up your eyes on high. Against the Holy One of Israel. By your servants you have reproached the Lord ... "
Other nations fell, being without the Lord, and
"therefore their inhabitants had little power; they were dismayed
and confounded ....because your rage against Me and your tumult
have come up to My ears, therefore I will put My hook in your nose,
and My bridle in your lips, and I will turn you back by the way which you came."
In this way, the matter was divinely reviewed, and action followed. Never entertain doubt on the Lord's power to act, for it is illimitable; and indeed, there is an epidemic of ignorance and rebellion on this point, as predicted by the apostle Paul in II Timothy 3:5-7, where we find those in the last days who will have a form of godliness, but not know its power, always learning, never based for action.
So Sennacherib went back, overwhelmed by a divine onset which slew his army (II Kings 19:35ff.), in defeat from his seeming days of dynamic, inglorious. Indeed, he came in due course to be slain by his own sons in his own temple, thus fulfilling, as always, the word of the Lord both in things mighty and small, in detail and in this case, in duress.
Hezekiah had done wisely and well, achieving discipline beforehand, both in things religious and martial, and following and not prescribing to the Lord, but hastening to hear and to obey. Thus he at length became not only ready, but a regal servant waiting on the King of Kings, finding in His covenant to the nation, a reply both in word and indeed, worthy of regality!
Many were the gifts to Hezekiah and to the LORD in Jerusalem, following this. The king's name was exalted, Hezekiah was in danger of sharing some of that glory. Soon the king would become close to the earth itself.
Has such a thing stricken the USA in its last 60 years or so ? and is this a warning to others, as biblical principles are aborted, immorality becomes the consort, relativity rules and has itself no rules. Whether it be the EU, with an unknown "common destiny," or alas our own land, where irreligion seems increasingly to be established, such is the flow. Sickness, like debt, tries ... and Hezekiah was lifted out of it through faith in the Lord; but later alas, he slipped towards multiculturalism, and his nation with him. Being 'great' is exceedingly dangerous. Consider this verse which has been published on the Web as the work of a 15 year old American.
"New Pledge of Allegiance"
Now I sit me down in school
Where praying is against the rule
For this great nation under God
Finds mention of Him very odd.
If scripture now the class recites,
It violates the Bill of Rights.
And anytime my head I bow
Becomes a Federal matter now.
Our hair can be purple, orange or green,
That's no offense; it's a freedom scene..
The law is specific, the law is precise.
Prayers spoken aloud are a serious vice.
For praying in a public hall
Might offend someone with no faith at all..
In silence alone we must meditate,
God's name is prohibited by the state.
We're allowed to cuss and dress like freaks,
And pierce our noses, tongues and cheeks...
They've outlawed guns, but FIRST the Bible.
To quote the Good Book makes me liable.
We can elect a pregnant Senior Queen,
And the 'unwed daddy,' our Senior King.
It's 'inappropriate' to teach right from wrong,
We're taught that such 'judgments' do not belong..
We can get our condoms and birth controls,
Study witchcraft, vampires and totem poles..
But the Ten Commandments are not allowed,
No word of God must reach this crowd.
It's scary here I must confess,
When chaos reigns the school's a mess.
So, Lord, this silent plea I make:
Should I be shot; My soul please take!
The Glorious Deliverance in Personal Life
Thus the trial of sickness struck the King. It seemed calamitous, for death threatened; and he was challenged with the word through the prophet Isaiah, to set his house in order, before the very face of death. Then the sickness of his soul itself became acute. Mortality rumbled, for he said (from Isaiah 38),
deprived of the remainder of my years ...
My life span is gone, taken from me like a shepherd's tent ...
My eyes from looking upward. O LORD, I am oppressed; undertake for me."
"Remember now, O LORD, I pray," his words soared from the depths, "how I walked before You in truth and with a loyal heart ..." and he wept bitterly. Isaiah the prophet was commissioned by the Lord to give the king this message.
heard your prayer. I have seen your tears;
surely I will add to your days fifteen years.
I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria
and I will defend this city."
In his day, therefore, no more could the Assyrian king parade and penetrate, the city being for that period inviolate. Thus the sickness and the solution from the Lord were both jointly covered, and He did more than the king might even have hoped (as provided for in Ephesians 3:20). Such is the Lord who knows how to satisfy the lean, and be gracious past the bounds of thought. If possible, more amazing yet was the Lord's procedure. Telling Hezekiah to put a lump of figs on the boil, He healed with this simple act of obedience, the flesh, in a way parallel to that of Naaman's healing (II Kings 5). But He even gave a sign to Hezekiah that indeed his health would be restored, and in II Chronicles we read how this matter proceeded.
Isaiah when asked what sign the Lord would give concerning his healing, was told that he might ask the Lord either to have the sun-dial shadow go forward or backward by 10 degrees. What a great test of faith that was. The sky was the limit: have this miracle, or that one, far harder: WHICH would you like to attest that now you are no longer about to die, but to live. Ask!
How unlike King Ahaz was the answer of Hezekiah. Instead of saying, Well I suppose some would ask, but my religion is not based on the power of God, but on my own will, and I do not like to trouble God too much! as was very much the line of Ahaz in his disastrous reign, Hezekiah surged in urgency for divine action, and seeking the Lord's face as he had done, he now responded to this delicious opportunity with a full heart. Let it go BACKWARDS! he cried.
Thus, nothing if not valiant, the King spoke his mind, that going forward was not so impressive as backwards, contrary to normal direction, and thus for this he asked! It duly happened, and he was gloriously healed; for with the Lord, this or that intervention, which science could seek to discover afterwards in attestation, just as one might seek to find who left a cake on the door-step, is all in the province of His mind; for His brilliance of technology and scope of action is unlimited, and He can do things easier for us to conceive, or harder to find out. It is parallel to the position of a parent with a child who, if he knows his juvenile place, should not be unduly surprised at a work beyond his current powers! In one sense, he should expect it! With God, He "is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all we ask or think," (Ephesians 3:20). Do not let littleness of heart limit you in seeking Him!
DANGERS FROM WITHIN
But what lay behind some of this drama ? It was that having been SUCH a reformer, and done such merciful things with such drive and address, and having been delivered by miraculous means from the tyranny of Assyria, which had even desolated the northern kingdom, Hezekiah was to become misled into the pollution of "pride in his heart" (II Chronicles 32:26). For the time, they humbled themselves, the King and those with him, and the Lord was pleased to deliver them entirely. War or disease, these were overthrown: peace and prosperity ruled. But there was this so common danger, this peril of pride, of being lifted up, of becoming one so spiritual that one can move on automatic pilot, not keeping close to the Lord, nor consulting Him and His word with zeal in all things (Phil. 4:4-6). Thus came a painful omission later to prove costly as in Isaiah 39). How easy it is to be delivered and then to think or act as if THAT mercy in some way elevates oneself and not the Lord! The Lord did not leave Hezekiah, even when he later slipped in one perilous incident: but better, WATCH!
Mercifully, there is cure as we see here, and the Lord is quick to see sincerity and may cover past all expectation, in present humbling, when faith cries! WHEN you cry to the Lord, let it be with application of faith, which includes the admission of the Lordship of Christ, and so be prepared for unexpected answers, news direction, times for self-examination (as in II Corinthians 13:5), even things which are NOT removed because they are intended in love as a constant reminder, if need be (as in II Corinthians 12:7-9). Live then in harmony with the Lord, and let His will inspire and fire you, as you seek His service in sanctity, and His glory with joy, knowing His entire faithfulness (Eph. 1:11).