Who are they among all the gods of the countries, that have delivered their country out of mine hand, that the Lord should deliver Jerusalem out of mine hand? But the people held their peace, and answered him not a word: for the king’s commandment was, saying, Answer him not. — 2 Kings 18:35-36
It was the 1930s, and business trends were still headed downward. There was rumor of upcoming salary cuts at the New York insurance office where a twenty-two-year-old clerk worked. Possessor of a deep, melodious voice, the young man was offered a radio contract. There was opportunity for fame and great financial gain if he would agree to regular performance on a secular program.
George had one request. He was a Christian, and he wanted to glorify God by singing; he asked that he might sing Gospel songs. In response, the radio station told him that he must sing the popular music of the day, but could occasionally slip in a Gospel tune.
The young man had been pondering the matter for several days when he sat down at the piano early one Sunday to rehearse a hymn he was to sing in church. As he played, his mother (who had been earnestly praying for him to be fully consecrated to God’s plan for his life) slipped him a piece of paper upon which was written a poem by Rhea Miller called “I’d Rather Have Jesus.” In a few moments, his fingers unconsciously left the tune he was rehearsing and began to find the melody which is known today to millions.
The words hit their mark. The young man turned down the secular contract, and a short time later he was offered a position with a Chicago radio station where he could sing the Gospel songs he loved. While there, he met Billy Graham, and that was the beginning of George Beverly Shea’s sixty-year association with the Billy Graham evangelistic outreach.
George Beverly Shea faced a choice about whether to sign an appealing contract or to follow his conscience. In our text, the people of Judah also faced a choice. They were besieged, cut off from food, encompassed by an army, and standing alone in a conquered land. The enemy offered them safety, horses, and land rich with food resources. All they had to do was surrender. How did they respond to this offer? They “held their peace, and answered him not a word,” choosing to follow the instructions of their king, and trust in God’s promises and obey His will.
In our lives there may be times when we face choices. Maybe we will have opportunities that promise wealth and worldly success, like George Beverly Shea. Or we may be offered an enticing alternative to God’s will, as were the people of Judah. What will our response be?
God has promised us deliverance during trials, guidance throughout our lives, and an eternity with Him in Heaven. These are not empty promises. If we choose His will, we will be choosing God’s best for our lives.
Hezekiah became Judah’s king and reigned for twenty-nine years as the best king Judah had seen, or would see. He had previously reigned with his father for thirteen years. The phrase “He reigned twenty and nine years” refers to his reign after his father died, when he immediately began turning the nation back to godly ways. He made the Prophet Isaiah a close adviser. As well as destroying the idolatrous forms of worship, Hezekiah stood up to the Assyrians and refused to pay the tribute that his father, Ahaz, had begun.
With Israel gone into captivity, Judah was left alone to face the Assyrians. In 701 B.C. King Sennacherib began an invasive march down through western Judah. Assyria’s destruction of Lachish, a city thirty miles southwest of Jerusalem, was such an important military success that royal artists carved a relief depicting the victory on the wall of Sennacherib’s palace. This relief is one of the most important archeological finds from the ancient Middle East. Lachish became a staging area for attacking a number of Judah’s cities, including Jerusalem itself.
After the fall at Lachish, Hezekiah attempted to end the Assyrian threat himself. Instead of turning to Isaiah and ultimately to God for help, he sent tribute to Sennacherib with an apology for his earlier refusal to pay as his father had, taking gold from the Temple to facilitate the payment. However, the attempted bribe did not work. Sennacherib took the money, and marched toward Jerusalem anyway.
The Assyrian commander, Rabshakeh, stopped at the aqueduct of the upper pool on the road to the fuller’s field. This place had significance because it was the exact spot where Isaiah had confronted Ahaz, Hezekiah’s father. Ahaz had refused to trust the Lord and had chosen instead to make a treaty with Assyria. Now the Assyrians were ready to invade Jerusalem, and Hezekiah was faced with the same message of deliverance from the same man of God.
The ambassadors from Assyria hoped to convince the people of Judah to surrender without fighting. They appealed to Jerusalem, a starving city under siege, by offering food, land, and horses if they would surrender. Rabshakeh accused Hezekiah of offending God by tearing down the altars in the hills. He completely misinterpreted Hezekiah’s reform, which sought to eliminate idol worship that occurred mainly in the hills.
Sennacherib mocked Judah’s king, mocked their God, and even went so far as to say that the very God they served had sent him. He was a master of fighting a war of propaganda, challenging Judah to decide who they were going to trust.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II. The reigns of the kings of Judah
1. The character of Hezekiah’s reign (18:1-8)
2. The fall of the Northern Kingdom (18:9-12)
3. The siege of Jerusalem by Sennacherib
a. The invasion of Judah (18:13-16)
b. The message of Rabshakeh (18:17-25)
c. The insults of Rabshakeh (18:26-37)
All of us are faced with choices. God’s best is found in choosing to follow Him and His will for our lives.