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185,000 Assyrians and A King

It woke me up Monday morning at least a couple of hours before my first alarm. I laid there, heart pounding, hands clenched, and realized that I had been thinking about this situation while I slept. Nothing more (though nothing less) than a problem at work kept pounding my thoughts of rest away.

I sat up in bed and started praying. Even more, the enemy of my thoughts attacked and I found myself chasing the words in my head as the anxiety kept rising. Why? I wondered. What was wrong with me that I would be so wound up, in the night, over something at work?

Yes, it’s a problem that I’ve been struggling with finding a solution. Yes, finally after weeks of back and forth emails and conversations, I had thought that the problem was solved, only to be informed late last week that it was far from over. Yes, I felt like a fool and a failure and I was completely out of answers.

Then I remembered the 185,000 Assyrians and their king, Sennacherib. It was the Scripture that we studied the day before in Sunday School. The situation was along these lines:

Sennacherib sent Hezekiah, King of Judah, a letter informing Hezekiah that Sennacherib intended to pulverize Jerusalem. Immediately, Hezekiah, knowing that there was a huge camp of Assyrians just waiting to fulfill that intention, took the letter up to the Temple and turned the matter over to the Lord. Here’s what he prayed:

“O Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, who is enthroned above the cherubim, You are the God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. Incline Your ear, O Lord, and hear; open Your eyes, O Lord, and see; and listen to all the words of Sennacherib, who sent them to reproach the living God. Truly, O Lord, the kings of Assyria have devastated all the countries and their lands, and have cast their gods into the fire, for they were not gods but the work of men’s hands, wood, and stone. So they have destroyed them. Now, O Lord our God, deliver us from his hand that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You alone, Lord, are God.” (Isaiah 37:14-20)

Now, I’m going to summarize a bit here, but you go and read the whole thing, because it’s good stuff. God answers Hezekiah through Isaiah the prophet, and this is what He says: “Because you have prayed to Me about Sennacherib, king of Assyria…” (v. 21) And then to finish the thought, in verses 33-35, God declares that Sennacherib will not only not pulverize Jerusalem, he won’t even make it to the city. Here’s the best part of the conversation. God says, “For I will defend this city to save it for My own sake and for My servant David’s sake (referring to the eternal throne).”

The next few verses tell us that the angel of the Lord went out and killed 185,000 Assyrians that night, leaving a camp full of corpses. Sennacherib took off and went back home to Nineveh. Eventually, he was killed by his own sons while he was worshipping in the temple of a false god.

I wasn’t in the exact same situation as Hezekiah, but honestly, I kind of felt like I was. See, Hezekiah knew that he was not prepared to meet such a formidable enemy as the Assyrian army. He had two options. He could surrender defeat to the enemy, or he could surrender to God.

Hezekiah was able to look beyond the circumstances that He was in, and see the God Who is bigger. He knew that the worse off we are circumstantially, the greater God’s glory will be exposed when He is victorious in the circumstances of our lives.

We all know what these overwhelming circumstances feel like- the anxious thoughts and feelings, the sleepless nights, the spinning thoughts, the helplessness. It’s not a good feeling. They test us and taunt us, flashing all the failures and defeats we’ve experienced through our minds, crushing our spirits until we are ready to surrender.

It’s who we surrender to that is key in those moments. Our enemy, Satan wants us to surrender to our circumstances. He wants us to experience failure, regret, guilt, anxiety, discouragement. But we have a much better option- to surrender to God. Hezekiah’s prayer was his testimony that he truly believed only God held the solution, only God could rescue. That prayer showed Hezekiah’s humility. He didn’t ask to be delivered so that everyone could see what a great king he was. He simply wanted everyone to know that the Lord, Yahweh, is the only God.

So that morning, I prayed. Maybe I don’t have to tell you that day brought a solution to that particular situation. But, it did.

But God also conquered a king that was pounding at the gates. That king was fear. The enemy who wants me to live in fear wants me to “dig deep” to be the solver of all my own problems, he dangles a tarnished treasure of self-esteem and personal achievement in front of me and I reach for it until I’ve found my way right into the middle of enemy territory.

But God has chosen me and redeemed me so that my life can be a reflection of His glory. So how do we do it? How do we surrender to His grace, His mercy, His glory? Just go back to verse 21 where God tells Hezekiah, “Because you have prayed to me.”

When we pray, God shows us His will. He gives us the eyes to see our circumstances from His perspective. He gives us the grace to surrender to Him.

What is your overwhelming circumstance right now? What is your “185,000 Assyrians and a King?”

Just pray. Surrender. And let God be the victor in your life today.

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