Monthly Archives: June 2014

Sennacherib’s Prideful Downfall

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King Sennacherib of Assyia

King Sennacherib of Assyia

Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord

1 Corinthians 1:31

Do you enjoy watching movies about the battles fought during Bible times? I do, but I have to admit that I don’t enjoy watching spears slicing through the air and striking the heart of a soldier, or swords decapitating heads, or the sharp spikes on the wheels of chariots chopping up men as they crisscross the battlefield. No, that aspect of any ancient battle disturbs me, perhaps because it was how war was actually fought–facing the enemy, literally. For me, I prefer the behind the scene stuff, namely plot, character, and suspense. My favorite Bible battles are those that pit the character of the protagonist against the character of the antagonist, and watch how God determined their fates as the plot unfold. Take for example, two kings: Hezekiah and Sennacherib. Their way of ruling their kingdoms were as different as their personalities. But only one personality would ultimately triumph.

The Tale of Two Temperaments

 In 2 Kings 18 is the story of Hezekiah’s and Sennacherib’s battle of wills. King Hezekiah of Judah and King Sennacherib of Assyria each ruled their kingdoms differently. Hezekiah was a godly and humble king. He sought the Lord about matters regarding his kingdom. The priority of his heart was obedience to God and he “held fast to the LORD; he did not depart from following him but kept the commandments that the LORD commanded Moses. The LORD was with him; wherever he went, he prospered” (2 Kings 18:6-7). On the other hand, King Sennacherib of Assyria was a calloused ruler (I can see trouble ahead already!). His armies were ruthless and enjoyed torturing his captives. By the time Hezekiah became king of Judah, Sennacherib had already conquered the northern kingdom of Israel. He was convinced that his kingdom couldn’t be defeated. Sennacherib was a prideful man. He trusted in his own skills and means. Sennacherib was in his fourth year as king of Assyria when he threatened to conquer Judah, Hezekiah’s kingdom. The year was 701 B.C.

To make matters worse, Hezekiah defaulted on paying his tribute money, money paid to Sennacherib with the agreement that Assyria wouldn’t attack Judah. Hezekiah hoped Sennacherib hadn’t noticed, but he did. Hezekiah sent Sennacherib an apology letter, along with the tribute money he owed, but Sennacherib’s pride got the best of him and decided to invade anyway. Assyria was known throughout as a mighty nation and Sennacherib was designated as a great king, an association reserved in those days for a king who dominated a vast region. Prior to Sennacherib’s invasion of Judah, he sent a delegation of men to Jerusalem to intimidate and persuade Hezekiah to surrender.

In their negotiations, the Rabshakeh, Sennacherib’s chief officer, met Hezekiah’s officials and said to them, “On what do you base this confidence of yours? Do you think mere words are strategy and power for war? On whom do you now rely, that you have rebelled against me? See, you are relying now on Egypt, that broken reed of a staff (a staff signifies a ruler, and in this case the reign of the Pharaoh of Egypt was considered by Sennacherib to be broken), which will pierce the hand of anyone who leans on it. Such is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who rely on him” (2 Kings 18:19-21). Sennacherib’s men performed a cleaver trick by mocking God and at the same time hoping to learn who or what was king Hezekiah placing his trust in, calling any efforts to align himself with Egypt foolish.  Can you perceive Sennacherib’s pride oozing through his own official’s words?

Sennacherib’s officials appealed to Hezekiah’s officials to surrender. “The king of Assyria says: ‘Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, for he will not be able to deliver you out of my hand. Do not let Hezekiah make you rely on the Lord  by saying, the Lord  will surely deliver us, and this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.’” By trying to convince them that no country would come to their aid as Assyria had defeated them all, the goal was to promote fear and doubt in the people of Judah. None of their gods protected them from Sennacherib, so how could the Lord protect Jerusalem? Furthermore, by using the words, “Do not listen to Hezekiah when he misleads you by saying, ‘the Lord will deliver us’” (2 Kings 18:32) this was Sennacherib’s final attempt to convince the Israelites to forsake King Hezekiah and create antagonism and disagreement in his kingdom. But what Sennacherib didn’t understand or appreciate about God is that He can take a godly nation with only a flicker of faith and strength and turn it into a strong nation.

When Hezekiah’s officials returned with Sennacherib’s threatening letter, he did two things:

He humbly approached God for His help. With the pending attack of the Assyrian army, he had a decision to make. Would he give into Sennacherib’s fierce intimidation and warnings to surrender, or a take a stand, with God going before him? After reading the letter, he “spread it before the Lord . And Hezekiah prayed: “Oh Lord the God of Israel, who are enthroned above the cherubim, you are God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. Incline your ear, O Lord, and hear; open your eyes, O Lord, and see; hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God. Truly, O Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands, and have hurled their gods into the fire, though they were no gods but the work of human hands–wood and stone–and so they were destroyed. So now, O Lord our God, save us, I pray you, from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O Lord, are God alone” ( vv. 14-19).

Can you detect Hezekiah’s desperate plea in which he incorporated God’s sovereignty and Judah’s full dependence on Him?

King Hezekiah trusted. After his bold petition for God’s help, all this godly king could do was trust–place his hope and expectation in God for the outcome. But true to God’s own nature, “…the eyes of the Lord range throughout the entire earth, to strengthen those whose heart is true to him” (2 Chronicles 16:9). God also keeps His promises. He will honor those who honor Him. He perceived the condition of Sennacherib’s heart and didn’t like what He saw–a healthy dose of pride. Sennacherib took all the credit for the growth and the military strength of his kingdom. He accredited his past success and future victories to himself. In reality, Sennacherib missed an important truth. His success came from God. But God only allowed it in order to fulfill His purpose. Sennacherib’s greatest mistake was that he never acknowledged that another ruler, the God of the Israelites who made heaven and earth reigned with ultimate power and authority. Pride is a serious offense to God (see Proverbs 6:16-19). And He dealt a deadly blow to this evil and prideful Assyrian king using the hands of his own children, a final humiliation of the worst kind.

That very night the angel of the Lord set out and struck down one hundred eighty-five thousand in the camp of the Assyrians; when morning dawned, they were all dead bodies. Then King Sennacherib of Assyria left, went home, and lived in Nineveh [defeated and humiliated]. As he was worshipping in the house of his god Nisroch, his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer killed him with the sword, and they escaped into the land of Ararat. His son Esar-haddon succeeded him (2 Kings 19:35-37).

Pride was the ruin of King Sennacherib of Assyria. His arrogance and belief that his kingdom had become powerful was because of his own efforts and strength led to his demise. Today, the word pride has been stripped from its sinful nature and been given an elevated position, making it less offending.1 But God’s Word doesn’t view pride in the same manner as the world views it.2 There’s a difference between being proud of certain things or people–and being prideful.3 The sin of being prideful overestimates our own value and importance, ignoring God’s role in our lives and endeavors, including our successes and achievements.4 God calls this type of pride sin.5 “For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves” (Galations 6:3).

The difference between these two kings is that King Hezekiah knew the Source of his accomplishments as king and Who gave him his victories. He attributed full credit to God. Our heavenly Father doesn’t object to self-confidence, a healthy self-esteem, or feeling good about an accomplishment, but what He does object to is our taking full credit for what He does in and through our lives and for subscribing to the belief that we are superior to others.

Blessings,

Lisa

Notes:

1 Lisa Nixon Phillips, Faith Steps for Military Families -Spiritual Readiness Through the Psalms of Ascent, (New York, NY:, Morgan James Publishing, 2014) 129.

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid.

4 Ibid.

5 Ibid.

 

 

 

The Unseen Commander-(The Pharaoh’s Downfall)

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Pharaoh

Rulers who govern with an evil scepter will one day end.

“For dominion belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations”

(Psalm 22:28).

What is it about the amusement we receive from watching ungodly people in positions of power and authority fall? We saw this with the former commander and dictator, Saddam Hussein, of Iraq and the head of the al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, and other rulers in recent months.

In the Old Testament there were several evil rulers who wouldn’t listen and alter their minds or decisions in light of God’s authority and might. Their hearts were hardened by their own proud estimation of themselves.

When God sent Moses to go before Pharaoh and request that he let the Hebrew slaves go, Pharaoh gave it no attention. He saw himself as the supreme commander and ruler and even claimed himself to be a god. The Pharaoh didn’t give the Hebrew God much credibility. After all, how could their God be powerful if His own people were lowly slaves?

Pharaoh’s doubt in a God above himself boosted his own confidence and he put some of this confidence in the strength of his army. Moses’ efforts to speak God’s truth to the Pharaoh at first failed, but in the end, God prevailed. The Pharaoh had to learn God’s truth the hard way. The death of his young son with the tenth plaque made his life uncomfortable, and he conceded, but only briefly. After letting his slaves go, His pride resurfaced again. God had to strike that final blow to his trusted army, by drowning them in the Red Sea.

As God did then and still does today–He maintains control over earthy rulers. He sees their evil deeds and it will only prevail as long as God allows.

In Psalm 125:3 it says, “For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest on the land allotted to the righteous…” A scepter is a rod or a staff symbolizing authority. In other words, God will not allow ungodly rulers to reside and maintain authority in the land he designated for His people indefinitely.

Nations and rulers continue to rise and fall as we have seen in recent years in the Middle East. There will be a day in which God will allow them to stumble and eventually fall. But He, at a time only He determines will execute His judgment and eradicate those with a scepter of evil. We can trust our God on this truth. Because He never changes He is completely trustworthy, consistent, and steadfast.

Blessings,

Lisa

War (What God’s Word Says About It)

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Smaller size Bible on top of Flag

What is God’s perspective on war?

War. It’s been going on for centuries. Just like in the days of the Old Testament, countries today still invade and take over other countries. It’s the same purpose, just a different century.

The first recorded war was in Genesis 14. And not surprisingly, it was over money. It was customary in those days that a city that was conquered paid money, called a tribute, to the king that overthrew that city. In the first recorded war five cities, including Sodom and Gomorrah paid tribute to King Chedorlaomer for twelve years. However, those five cities decided they would withhold Chedorlaomer’s tribute money. “In the thirteenth year they rebelled” (Gen. 14:4). They joined forces and rebelled against King Chedorlaomer. This kind of rebellion didn’t sit well with Chedorlaomer so he retaliated. He joined forces with four other eastern kings. What fueled his anger? By refusing to pay the tribute, the king realized this would have a devastating effect to the territory known as the “way of the kings” which was the corridor of commerce between Egypt and the four eastern kingdoms.1 Whoever controlled this land bridge maintained a monopoly on international trade.2 In retaliation, King Chedorlaomer overtook the city of Sodom, carrying away its people and their possessions.

But who doesn’t love the underdog! Who doesn’t love the one who comes in and saves the day–turning the tide of the outcome. That person was Abram, later called Abraham. Abram was actually a warrior. In fact, Abram, wouldn’t of even been involved in this first war if it wasn’t for his nephew Lot. Lot was living in Sodom when King Chedorlaomer conquered it. Like the others, Lot and his family, along with all their possessions were carried off as captives. Abram took 318 fighting men and charged after Chedorlaomer solely with the purpose of retrieving his nephew and his family.  So what does the Bible say about war and the military?

God and His Military

We see God directly involved in establishing a military in the book of Numbers 1:2-3. “The Lord spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai,… ‘Take a census of the whole congregation of Israelites, in their clans, by ancestral houses, according to the number of names, every male individually; from twenty years old and upward, everyone in Israel able to go to war…”’ From this census, we can assume that God revers organization and considers the cost of any military endeavor a wise course of action. Moses counted the Israelites twice.1 The first census organized the people into marching units to better defend themselves. It was important to know how many fighting men Israel had so they could determine their overall military strength.

 On a side note, the organized census also provided genealogical records. As it turned out, the first census had a total of 603,550,000 fighting men all from the twelve tribes of Israel.2 The second census takes place in 2 Samuel 24: 1:2 and it prepared the Israelite army to conquer the promise land.3 It’s easy to see that God not only instituted a strong military, but His military agendas played an important role in carrying out His will. God used war and the Israelite army throughout the course of Israel’s history. God’s warriors, men like Moses, Joshua, and David were His instruments, to carry out His plans. And He gave them His blessing. For King David, God gave him victory in every battle.4 “He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze” (Psalm 18:34). David had victories over the Jebusites, the Philistines, Hadadezer of Zobah, the Syrians, the Edomites, and the Ammonites–all from the book of 2 Samuel.5

In Acts 10 is the story of Cornelius, a Roman soldier, who was the first Gentile convert as a soldier.6 Being a Christ-follower, combined with military service, is highly regarded in the Bible.7 If this were not so, how could we explain the portrayal of David, also a soldier, as “having a heart after God”?8 We know that God highly esteemed David, a brilliant warrior, and blessed his military efforts. And in Matthew 8:5-13 when Cornelius approached Jesus and asked Him to make his servant well, Jesus wasn’t disheartened or try to discourage Cornelius from having a military career. God is Sovereign and this means He doesn’t play favorites. Cornelius imparted personal integrity into his everyday duties as a high-ranking soldier.9 Even the Jews, who despised the Romans, respected this godly Gentile warrior who honored God and in return God honored him.

God is still involved in the military affairs of countries today. Nothing escapes His attention. And like He uses other aspects of events on earth to carry out His will, He also uses the world’s military campaigns of today to bring about His purposes. No country, even America, can thwart His will and plan. The Bible, even though it is predominately God’s love story to you and me, is also a military book.10 If God felt it was necessary to institute an organized military in the fourth book of the Bible, then a strong American military, in which its service is conducted with biblical character, integrity, and honor is a blessed occupation. And like the Jews who respected Cornelius, we, too, ought to show our respect for those who humbly serve under the supreme commander-in-chief. And like Cornelius, God will honor our military members today for their honorable service.

Blessings,

Lisa

Notes:

1 Bible Note for Numbers 1:2-3, Life Application Bible (Iowa Falls, IA: World Bible

  Publishers, Inc., 1989).

2 Bible Note for Numbers 1:20-46, Life Application Bible

3 Bible Note for 2 Samuel 24:1-3, Life Application Bible

4 Bible Note for Psalm 18:34, Life Application Bible

5 Ibid.

6 Ron Knott, “God and the Military,” www.ronknott.net/id29.html (accessed 6/10/14).

7 Lisa Nixon Phillips, Faith Steps for Military Families, (New York, NY: Morgan James

  Publishing, 2014), 144.

8 Ibid.

9 Ibid.

10 Ron Knott, “God and the Military