I’m not much of a strategic person, at least not naturally. I sure appreciate those who are, though. On that continuum, I probably tend more toward the “see problem, fix problem” rather than “anticipate problem and prevent it” end of the scale.
At least, I’ll say there’s room for some personal improvement.
So I appreciate this story from the Old Testament about a real hero in my book, King Hezekiah. After making all kinds of counter-cultural reforms, he hears a distant rumbling that would cause the most confident among us a few sleepless nights.
“When Hezekiah realized that Sennacherib also intended to attack Jerusalem, he consulted with his officials and military advisers,…”
King Sennacherib of Assyria was not to messed with. Public enemy #1.
Interestingly, our hero didn’t wait until a crisis to have a trusted inner circle in place with whom he could and would consult. The same holds true for each of us. If we properly read Psalm 23, the “valley of the shadow” is not an if, but a when.
I likewise find it instructive that among this inner circle were military advisers.
Our 21st century mindset a priori dismisses the reality of supernatural conflict. This attitude has infected the (Western) church only within the past 300 years or so, a fairly recent development compared with her history. Thankfully, there are those who still understand this hand-to-hand combat. We need them on the team…desperately.
“…and they decided to stop the flow of the springs outside the city. They organized a huge work crew to stop the flow of the springs, cutting off the brook that ran through the fields. For they said, ‘Why should the kings of Assyria come here and find plenty of water?’”
The enemy had been properly identified, the advisors consulted, and now a very practical work plan is mapped out. It has to do with specific boundaries. Water is what gives us life; you can live for quite a while without food, but only a few days without water. When I don’t set my personal boundaries and let what is life to me be available for general plunder, I’m going to dry up. I will not last for the battle ahead.
And King Hezekiah knew there was a battle coming:
“Then Hezekiah worked hard at repairing all the broken sections of the wall, erecting towers, and constructing a second wall outside the first. He also reinforced the supporting terraces in the City of David and manufactured large numbers of weapons and shields.”
Hezekiah had already been busy making massive changes throughout his domain, but now he turned his attention to the upcoming onslaught. When I turn my heart to God with the resulting observable behaviors, I become a target. I have a formidable enemy, and there are practical things for which I must prepare.
“Be strong and courageous! Don’t be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria or his mighty army, for there is a power far greater on our side! He may have a great army, but they are merely men.”
I love this part. After consulting his inner circle, setting his boundaries, and securing the needed preparations, he now seeks to encourage. And his is not mere empty words, but words based on truth. He has sized up the situation and his is no denial, but a perspective based on past experience and history.
Fear and discouragement are two of the enemy’s biggest guns. King David must have had this in mind when he talks to himself in his Psalms:
Why am I discouraged?
Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
I will praise him again—
(Yeah, I talk to myself all the time, too.)
Finally, the king makes this observation:
“We have the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles for us!”
If that’s the case, why all the battle prep?
On the one hand, this is not a “God helps those who help themselves” mentally, not by a long shot. This would produce a prideful self-sufficiency. But neither does He want us to be couch players, a form of spiritual laziness. Instead, here is our level of engagement in the process, guided and empowered by His almighty grace toward His intended outcome.
And really, God is about both: the process and the outcome.
2 Chronicles 31: 2-8; Psalm 42:5 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.