Former U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt is famous for the phrase, “walk softly, and carry a big stick”. It’s that idea of unarguable authority, and conveys the message that it would be in the opposing party’s best interest to rethink their own intentions before proceeding further.
Which is something I see clearly in Judah’s good King Hezekiah and his encounter with the big political enemy of his day, Assyria. It’s important to note that, in the middle of a longstanding family history of spiritual genocide, Hezekiah opts to follow God instead. This decision, however, doesn’t exclude him (and his people) from the problems of the day, one of the biggest being the bully, King Sennacherib.
In the first installment of the king of Assyria’s message…
“Don’t listen to Hezekiah when he tries to mislead you by saying, ‘The Lord will rescue us!’ What god of any nation has ever been able to save its people from my power? So what makes you think that the Lord can rescue Jerusalem from me?”
In a controlled panic, Hezekiah sends the threat to God’s prophet, Isaiah. And as predicted by Isaiah, King Sennacherib receives a message from another war front and retreats to take care of that mess, but couldn’t resist putting in another jab to Hezekiah’s confidence with a letter of intent to return. The communication again includes a dire list of victories against so many other kingdoms despite their reliance of their local deities.
Interestingly, instead of going to the prophet Isaiah a second time, the king of Judah himself goes to God, lays the letter out before Yahweh in its entirety, and then makes this statement:
“It is true, LORD, that the kings of Assyria have destroyed all these nations. And they have thrown the gods of these nations into the fire and burned them.”
There is no denying what Sennacherib has done. But immediately King Hezekiah makes a pivotal observation:
“But of course the Assyrians could destroy them! They were not gods at all— only idols of wood and stone shaped by human hands.”
That’s when the debate ends. It’s about worldview. Assyria’s king, who thinks he is comparing apples to apples, is ignorantly comparing everyone else’s apples (including Assyria’s) to the Tree. Hezekiah recognizes this fatal error in his enemy’s thinking, voices it in faith, and in the next breath puts it all in proper perspective:
“Now, O LORD our God, rescue us from his power; then all the kingdoms of the earth will know that you alone, O LORD, are God.”
Ka-POW! It’s not about me. It’s about vindicating Who God is, and His reputation in my circumstance. When I am living for His purpose, for His acclaim and credit, an environmental shift occurs. There is a justice to be accounted for based on a higher connection.
We can see in Almighty God’s reply to this Assyrian puppet how deeply personal He takes the affront:
“But I know you well—
where you stay
and when you come and go.
I know the way you have raged against me.
And because of your raging against me
and your arrogance, which I have heard for myself,
I will put my hook in your nose
and my bit in your mouth.
I will make you return
by the same road on which you came.”
Fast forward to the 1st century, and Almighty God confirms this relational connection against our biggest bully and all his minions this with His own “big stick”.
Two of them, in fact…
2 Kings 18:32,35; 19:17-19, 27-28 Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.