THE ASSYRIAN CRISIS, A TIME OF GROWTH The Assyrian Crisis in Judah appears, from the surface, as a time of great luck for the people of Jerusalem. However, by examining the situation with a more powerful lens, one can see the powerful religious influence such an event could have on a resident's theology. If I were a Judean during this time, my faith would have faced the toughest test of my life. Going into such a conflict with a nation as strong as Assyria, I could not help but be afraid. My bones would tremble at the thought of destruction of the Holy City of Jerusalem, of the people of Judah, and of my own being.
Although I would have believed in God, I would still be filled with fear. This fear would escalate when I heard a messenger for the king of Assyria, as stated in Isaiah 36, mocking God, insulting His power and doubting His saving grace on Jerusalem. He goes on to try and convince us, the people of Jerusalem, that Hezekiah is not trustworthy, and that we will not find help in Egypt because they are not reliable. Finally, knowing the path of destruction that Assyria has already created, and their hunger for more, in addition to the messenger's statement that the Lord has commanded Assyria to go and destroy Jerusalem, my feelings of fear and doubt would uncontrollably well up inside me. We are, after all, only human, and fear is a common feeling, despite where we stand with God. No man lives without fear, but though fear our faith is tested and strengthened.
Upon hearing and experiencing the truth of Isaiah's claim that God will spare Jerusalem and force the Assyrians back home, my faith in God would be fortified. In the times of fear, I would have realized how weak, how immature, and how far I must go in my faith and trust in God. But once I heard Isaiah's prophecy, I would use it as a way to do away with my fear. Knowing that God was going to save His Holy City, and that He was going to continue with His perfect plan for mankind that dated back as far as the times of Abraham and held a future for the arrival of the Messiah, I would know that my God follows His plans and keeps His promises. Through this, I would have peace. I would soon learn that I can trust Him in everything because as it says in Scripture, 'if God is for us, who can be against us?' ; Being a resident of His Holy City, I would know that God was on my side forever, and whatever doubt I ever had in God's promises or plans for my life would be washed away.
Seeing God spare my life, along with my city, I could not help but restore all confidence that was lost in my Father. I would be able to follow Psalms 46: 10, and be still, knowing that He is God. What a comfort! What a sense of utter faith, utter dependence, and utter meekness! According to Isaiah 37: 25-29, God had given Assyria the power that it had and allowed them to conquer who they did. But, upon realizing the attitude and mockeries of the Assyrians towards Himself, God sent them home and allowed their king to be murdered.
This passage would have taught me, as a Judean, the 'other side'; of God: His anger. I had already experienced His grace and faithfulness in saving my life and city, but I now would learn that God's punishment is real, that what we do against God will not go unaccounted for. And sometimes, as with the king of Assyria, the punishment is as costly as one's life. This would teach me how ignorant I would be if I were to mock my Father. Because of what He has so graciously saved me from and due to the evidence of His power in punishment, I would learn to so thankful and so in debt to God, that there is no room or reason to insult Him.
Furthermore, the evidence of God's grace as a lesson to my faith could be seen in two more cases. The first involves God promise to Hezekiah that the nation of Judah will once again return the luxury it existed in. This involved an increase in crops over the following years and a re population of the land. God's promise was fulfilled, and Judah soon returned to their nor macy. Relating this to my life, I could be assured that whatever trials I encounter, that God is always in complete and total control, and that He will restore me.
The second evidence of His grace is seen in Hezekiah's illness. When Hezekiah turned to God in fervent prayer for healing, God responded to his prayer by allowing him to live for 15 more years. By God's response, I would have learned that God has the power to change the entire course of our lives through our prayer life, and that I should never hesitate to ask God for radical changes, as long as I honor Him with those changes. Hezekiah went on to speak of the significance of passing the joy of the Lord from generation to generation in Isaiah 38: 19. As a lesson to me, I would have used this to understand that the heritage of our faith has come to us because of faithful men and women who have carried God's message throughout the centuries. Realizing this, I would see myself as the next torchbearer.
The authors of 2 Kings write about the history of Israel, halfway between the death of David and the death of the nation. Israel has been divided, and the two kingdoms have begun to slide ito idolatry and corruption toward collapse and captivity. 2 Kings relates the sordid stories of the 12 kings of the Northern Kingdom (Israel) and the 16 kings of the Southern Kingdom (Judah). For 130 years, Israel endures the succession of evil rulers, until the are conquered by Assyrian and led into captivity. The evil kings were short-sighted, and they thought they could control their nations' destinies by importing other religions with their idols, forming alliances with heathen nations, and c enriching themselves.
Of all the kings in both the north and south, only two are called 'good. ' ; The good kings had to spend most of their time undoing the evil done by their predecessors. Because of their obedience to God and the spiritual revivals during their reigns, Judah stands for an additional 136 years. By writing about such events in the history of Israel and Judah, the authors of 2 Kings would have been influenced by what happened in the Assyrian crisis with Hezekiah. Through much of the book of 2 Kings, the authors understood the turmoil and the effects of having evil and good kings in a nation.
With an evil king, came evil deeds of blasphemy and idolatry, and sin percolated through the nation. With a good king, however, God was kept in the foresight, and He would bless the nation with protection and survival. The authors also caught a glimpse of God's patience and the way He speaks to His people through prophets. God told his people that if they obeyed him, they would live successfully; if they disobeyed, they would be judged and destroyed. Had had been patient with the people for hundreds of years. He sent many prophets to guide them and warn them, but even His patience has limits, as the authors wrote about.
The authors of 2 Kings would react to the Assyrian crisis with a great sense of understanding and preparation, because they wrote about so many incidents like it, and knew how a good and evil king could affect the future of his nation. They would see the situation as basically an evil king from Assyria vs. a good, God-fearing king from Jerusalem, and thus the authors could easily guess that those with God in mind would be the victors, in this case, the city of Jerusalem. After seeing the crisis come to closure as they suspected, the authors of 2 Kings would have their faith supported. They would be more confident in knowing that God does, in fact, take favorites when it comes to respecting or mocking Him. They would also continue to see how He can be very gracious, or very cruel, depending on how people treat Him.
To the kings that followed Hezekiah, the Assyrian crisis would render useful as a lesson on how to live in God's eyes. They would be able to look back on the situation and see not only how Jerusalem was saved from such unbelievable odds, but also blessed afterwards. They could also look back and see the subplot of how Hezekiah overcame the odds of death. By analyzing such scenarios, the future kings must ask themselves why the city of Jerusalem and Hezekiah 'lucky,' ; and how they can get 'lucky'; too. The lesson they will learn, however, will surprise them when they discover that luck was not involved. It was the mere fact that the city of Jerusalem and Hezekiah's life were both saved because Hezekiah had his eyes fixed on God, and prayed fervently to Him.
God, through His limitless power, turned away the mighty Assyrian army, and through His grace and mercy gave Jerusalem back the luxury it once had in the years after the crisis. Out of love, He also gave Hezekiah 15 additional years to live, despite being deathly ill. The power of prayer proved to be true. At the same time, however, the future kings would see the anger of God when He is blasphemies through the murder of the king of Assyria. At a glance, this may all appear to be luck, but looking closer would teach the kings after Hezekiah to respect God and keep Him first in their lives and their nation if they wish to be successful and safe.
From the perspective of the apostle Paul, the Assyrian crisis would serve as a reflection of his life. Many similarities can be seen between Paul, the Assyrians, and Hezekiah, and through these, Paul would understand what it means to be with God or without Him. By reflecting on the Assyrian crisis, Paul would feel a great sense of peace and gratitude for God's saving grace. The king of Assyria was a man who blasphemies God. He was a man who was on a mission of 'command and conquer,' ; and nothing was going to get in his way.
Once he reached the city of Jerusalem, he persecuted Christians there, including Hezekiah, the king, with words of mockery and insults directed towards God. By attacking the Christian faith in this way, the king of Assyria was trying to prove the Christian's God was just like all other gods, powerless. Similarly, Paul persecuted Christians by going to Damascus to capture them and bring them back to Jerusalem. He hated the Christian faith and persecuted it without mercy. He, however, converted to Christianity later and became an awesome tool of God's for spreading the Gospel. Living such a life against God in his past, Paul could have easily compare himself with the king of Assyria.
Paul would gain great peace and thankfulness when he realized God's punishment to the king of Assyria was death, and that he escaped such punishment and was saved by God. Additionally, seeing the successes of Hezekiah, like returning Judah to the luxury it once experienced, being saved from the Assyrians, and being given 15 extra years to live after his illness, Paul would soon realize that the only reason God was so gracious and merciful with Hezekiah was because he kept his eyes on Him. This would teach Paul that, if he were to be successful, he must keep his focus in life on God.