July 21, 2014

Unanswered Questions II: Your God Is No Match For Me

This is another installment in a series centering on specific questions raised in the Bible that are not given specific or explicit answers. They are not answered because they are rhetorical questions or they were not really intended to be answered. It is ironic that many do get answered albeit indirectly. In and of themselves they seem as if the answers should be obvious but the fact that they would need to be asked of someone says volumes about the people posing the question. This second post in the series shows us the arrogance and pretentiousness of Sennacherib and his men like Rabshakeh and the reaction of Lord’s reluctant servant Hezekiah. 

2 Kings 18:35-36 ~ “Who among all the gods of the lands have delivered their lands out of my hand, that the Lord should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?’” But the people were silent and answered him not a word, for the king's command was, “Do not answer him.”

Archaeological inscriptions concerning Sennacherib claim that he conquered 46 strong-cities of Hezekiah including  many non-descript villages. In preparation for his siege of Jerusalem the Assyrian king set up his headquarters at Lachish. Hezekiah fearing the worst and not trusting in God joined an alliance with Phoenicia, Philistia, and Egypt to resist Assyria. He eventually admits directly to Sennacherib that this was a mistake. Hezekiah offers to pay ransom to Sennacherib to avoid a siege. Sennacherib demands so much treasure that Hezekiah must strip the palace and temple that the king had overlaid to glorify Yahweh. This is like a smack in God’s face twice. First he does not trust in God to defend him, then he robs from God to pay a mere human king.

Sennacherib accepted the ransom but continued to his goal of taking Jerusalem. Rabshakeh who was commander of the Assyrian army meets with three of Hezekiah officials to negotiate outside of Jerusalem. Rabshakeh assumes that Hezekiah even attempting to negotiate was trusting in his Egyptian alliance. Rabshakeh assumes that Hezekiah’s/Judah's God was no better than those of the other nations. He arrogantly asserts that even if the Assyrians provided 2,000 horses for Hezekiah, perhaps what Egypt might have contributed, Judah could not win.

However the Assyrians wanted all the people to know that surrender would be better than resistance. To resist would be catastrophic for Judah. The commander's allusion to the powerlessness Samaria god’s above would be especially menacing since many in Israel had worshipped Yahweh albeit in syncretism.

So what we have is the writer recording this lengthy exchange in Kings because it shows the central issues Judah faced and the central issue Christians today are faced with when challenged by the world to choose between what man says is proper like abortion, evolution and homosexuality and what the Bible or God says is proper like no abortion, creationism and sexual morality in marriage.

Should man trust in God/Yahweh or in man or manmade alliances based in humanism? At the heart is Satan or the world system challenging God's authority and this is always a losing proposition. God is sovereign and omnipotent. God always reigns and therefore wins in these situations.

Hezekiah sensing the extraordinary arrogance and affront to God knows a response will only further provoke Rabshakeh’s bravado. He opts to remain silent and tells his people to be silent also. Here we see a deliberate provoking and the best response to a provocation is silence. King Hezekiah knew this and made it so. Not only is Rabshakeh provoking King Hezekiah here, he is also mocking and provoking God.

God will not be mocked and justice will eventually be served. We see this today in the open rebellion of secular man against God and atheists proclaiming God does not exist. It is pure foolishness since only the foolish man declares there is no God. People in this day and age assume that God’s silence is either His inability to act, apathy towards sin or the possibility of His non-existence. They will be sadly and sorely mistaken when His wrath and judgment come on them.

As we know from the Bible, Hezekiah repented and Micah boldly predicted Jerusalem’s miraculous survival by divine means. We see in 2 Kings 19:35 that: “…it came to pass that night, that the angel of the LORD went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses.” The siege army is struck with a plague of an unknown sort and origin and appear to have been decimated. The Lord was true to His word delivered by Isaiah:

“Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the king of Assyria: He shall not come into this city or shoot an arrow there, or come before it with a shield or cast up a siege mound against it. By the way that he came, by the same he shall return, and he shall not come into this city, declares the LORD. For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David." 2 Kings 19:32-34

Hezekiah’s response in this situation is critical and should be noted by all Christians. When confronted with insurmountable circumstances from the human viewpoint…he prays, laments/mourns and humbles himself before God asking for God’s guidance and help…and God responds in a dramatic manner. Although there are no guarantees that God will act on our behalf in a dramatic manner, this story should at least encourage us to at least do the same as Hezekiah. What is certain is that not humbling ourselves and repenting before God will not have a positive effect. We need only look at the Assyrians.  It behooves us to be like Christ and humble ourselves to the will of God.

What happens next is clearly the work of God.

2 Kings 19:35-37 ~ “And that night the angel of the Lord went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies. Then Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and went home and lived at Nineveh. And as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, Adrammelech and Sharezer, his sons, struck him down with the sword and escaped into the land of Ararat. And Esarhaddon his son reigned in his place.

So the answer to Sennacherib's rhetorical question is this: God will not be mocked. Sennacherib and his men's arrogance cost them dearly. Sennacherib like many before him and many after would then fade into the dust of antiquity. He would leave little more than a footnote in history in the form of a few relief cuts and an archaeological artifact known as the Sennacherib/Taylor Prism. It contained the annals of Sennacherib that are a supposed account of his military exploits against Judah. Accounts on a dusty old stone that were little more than embellishments and lies as opposed to the truth of Scripture. As for Rabshakeh, well, he is only mentioned in Scripture. Otherwise...no one would've ever known he existed.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...