Monday, August 8, 2011
(Note: I hope you enjoy this series of blog posts. I designed the posts to try to encourage you. They are written in story format, and I took some literary license to tell “how it might have been”. This story is based mostly on 2 Chronicles 32, 33.)
I remember my first personal meeting with King Hezekiah. I had seen him from afar, but never up close. I was a fresh graduate from military training. I expected to move up the ranks at some point but never in a thousand years did I dream it would come so soon.
The day started normally. I awakened and began my morning routine. Then I yelled out with surprise at the abrupt, loud knock on my door. My commander on the other side seemed almost in a panic as he barked out orders to open the door immediately. I didn't know what might be the emergency, but there were rumors that Sennacherib, king of Assyria, with all his forces were on the move, and Jerusalem might be his next target.
The summons was from King Hezekiah himself for me to meet him in his palace. I felt honored, but I also felt a tinge of fear. Perhaps I had done something dreadfully wrong. I knew if I had done something to displease the king I could immediately face the fate of others before me who offended the king’s honor. My life that morning starting so much like many others could now be ended in a second of time.
I was heartened when I saw four of my comrades in military training also present. At least I wouldn't be alone with whatever was about to happen. Perhaps they were feeling the same sense of honor mixed with trepidation.
The king, to my relief, thanked us for coming and asked us to relax as we sat down. He explained the nature of our visit. He wanted each of us as young newly trained soldiers to be his personal liaisons between him and the troops. He was appointing us each to be a military officer and assigned us to a regiment of soldiers. He ordered us to be present with our regiment the next morning at the open square of the city gate.
I met my regiment that evening. My insides were shaking, but outside I tried to keep a calm, cool demeanor. The soldiers in my regiment were informed the king had personally appointed me to be in charge of them. That was good enough for them. They revered the king and would be willing to break through a stone wall if he requested it. They verbally assented with a shout of confidence in their new leader. They came one by one, greeted me, and expressed their loyalty to me. Their smiles of approval made my insides settle a bit, but my outside appearance belied the fact that I felt like an insecure youth.
The next morning King Hezekiah spoke like I had never seen anyone speak before. He spoke with such passion, just as if he was speaking the very words of God. He said, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him. With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us to fight our battles.” I and my soldiers shouted in agreement with our great King Hezekiah that the Lord indeed was stronger than any earthly king, no matter how vast an army that king assembled.
It's amazing what happened the next few days. King Sennacherib sent envoys to try to discourage the soldiers and the people in our besieged city. I hate to admit my cowardice, but when I looked from the top of the wall down to the huge army ready to invade, and heard their taunts, I cringed inside and wondered if we should not just surrender to our powerful enemy.
But my way was not the way of King Hezekiah. He saw the urgency of the matter. But instead of calling it quits he summoned Isaiah the Prophet to pray for our people and city. Sennacherib’s soldiers heard their cries, mocked them, and called the pair mad. But that did not stop our beloved king and Isaiah from crying out even louder to the God of Heaven.
The next thing that happened was only something I had heard about in stories about our ancestors like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and King David. There were a few recent rumors of miracles at the hands of some of the prophets in our land, but I had never seen anything like this up close. From the wall in the dark we saw a great light enter the midst of the enemy. We heard screams of terror pierce the night. I had never heard anything like it before and never since.
The next morning we saw in astonishment a hillside littered with dead soldiers. All the enemy fighting men and commanders were killed, not one was spared. But Sennacherib retreated to his own land in disgrace. It is rumored that he was so despondent that he went into his temple and prayed night and day to his foreign god. His god did not answer him, and some of Sennacherib's own sons saw an opening to gain power, so they entered the temple and killed their father by the sword.
In my later years I told the story of King Hezekiah often to my children, grandchildren, and anyone who would listen. He was a godly king and beloved by all his people. But the thing I will remember the most, even over the angel annihilating the enemy, was King Hezekiah and Isaiah crying out to the Lord at the top of their lungs, not worried about what their enemy, or friends for that matter, would think.