“And Hezekiah received the letter of the hand of the messengers, and read it: and Hezekiah went up into the house of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord.” (2 Kings 19:14)
When facing the blasphemous threat of the king of Assyria, Hezekiah shows us the proper pattern of prayer to spread our troubles before the Lord in prayer. We need to go into the house of the Lord, the church, and spread our cares and concerns to the Lord in prayer. There is no need for us to have pretense before God in prayer, to try to present ourselves better to God or act like we have it all together. We need to be fully open and honest to our God because he knows the thoughts and intents of our hearts anyway. Spread all our cares and concerns before our loving Heavenly Father, and God will answer our prayer and defend his people, as he did with Judah by destroying both the Assyrian army and king Sennacherib as well.
The king of Assyria, Sennacherib, decided that he was to invade Jerusalem. Hezekiah had previously paid a hefty tribute to him to quell an attack, but Sennacherib was now determined to take Jerusalem as well (2 Kings 18-19, see also Isaiah 36-37). The king sends messengers to taunt Judah and to attempt to erode their confidence and trust in Jehovah God. These messengers give a blasphemous message to Judah (2 Kings 18:18-36). Hezekiah had made a league with Egypt, and they question the security of that alliance, which was a valid point (v.19-24). The messenger, Rabshakeh, then speaks in the Jews’ language where all could hear him and tells the people to not let Hezekiah deceive you because he shall not be able to deliver you out of our hand (v.29). Don’t let Hezekiah fool you into trusting in God to deliver you from Assyria because you are no match for our armies (v.30). He appeals to the people to reject the counsel of their king, and if they give up, then the Assyrians will take them away into a land better than they have now, a land of corn and wine, bread and vineyards, oil olive and honey (v.31-32). They promised Judah to have even better land and prosperity in captivity than they had in their own land if they just choose to submit to Assyrian authority. Rabshakeh puts Jehovah God in the same category as all the other false gods of nations they have conquered. These other nations’ gods didn’t save them from the Assyrians and your God won’t save you either. Rabshakeh seeks to destroy the confidence and faith of Judah in Jehovah God and to just submit to Assyrian rule and captivity (v.33-36).
When Hezekiah heard this speech from Rabshakeh not only questioning his counsel and authority in front of all the people but openly blaspheming the name of God, he rent his clothes and went into the house of God (2 Kings 19:1). Hezekiah immediately sends his messengers to Isaiah the prophet to receive counsel from the Lord. Isaiah encourages Hezekiah and Judah to trust in the Lord: “6) Thus shall ye say to your master, Thus saith the Lord, Be not afraid of the words which thou hast heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me. 7) Behold, I will send a blast upon him, and he shall hear a rumour, and shall return to his own land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land.” (v.6-7) Don’t be afraid of these words or afraid of this enemy because God will destroy Assyria. Not only will they return to their land in defeat but even their king Sennacherib will fall by the sword in his own land.
Then, Rabshakeh doubles down on his threat and blasphemy of Jehovah God. He sent a further threat to Hezekiah to not trust in God, even suggesting that God is deceiving them with false hope. “Let not thy God in whom thou trustest deceive thee, saying, Jerusalem shall not be delivered into the hand of the king of Assyria.” (v.10) Other nations had trusted in their false gods and been defeated, and the Assyrians just viewed the Jews’ God as just like all those other gods that couldn’t defend those other nations. They question the validity of faith in God for God’s chosen people, that God is actually deceiving you by trusting in him for deliverance. Rabshakeh perfectly pens the message of the world and Satan to God’s children even today. Satan tells God’s people to not trust in God because God is even deceiving you by accepting your trust and faith. God is not trustworthy, so just give up and blend in with the world instead of standing for truth. Instead, God’s people must trust the word of God (here given by Isaiah) that God will deliver us, even when scoffers and this world attempt to overthrow our faith and confidence in God.
Hezekiah receives this blasphemous letter, and immediately goes into the house of God to spread it before the Lord (v.14). This is a trying of Hezekiah’s faith that is common in our lives as well. When circumstances are against us, when we are facing a formidable enemy, do we trust God and his word? Or do we allow Satan and the blasphemous scoffers of this world to overthrow our faith in God? Hezekiah had just received a message from Isaiah, from the Lord, from the word of God to not be afraid because I will defeat your enemy in a mighty way. Then, Rabshakeh threatens Hezekiah and tells him to not be deceived to trust in his God. This is the choice of faith we have to make every day. Do we trust in God and in his word regardless of how difficult circumstances look against us in this world? Or do we allow the wicked, blasphemous scoffers in this world to weaken our faith in God for deliverance and mercy? We must always listen to the word of God. We must always trust God and reject the blasphemous threats of this world. God is not deceiving us. God will never leave us or forsake us. We see by the end of this account that God is true to his word and mightily defeats Assyria and even deposes Sennacherib as king by assassination from within his own family.
Hezekiah goes to the proper place when our faith is questioned and tested by the world. He went immediately to the house of God; he went to the place where God has promised to commune and speak to his people. He went to “the church” of his day. That is where we immediately need to go during these challenging times when our faith is tested. We need to go to the house of God to hear the word of God proclaimed and to have the support and prayers of God’s people on your behalf as well to help you in your time of need. When the world is trying to shake our confidence in God is when we need to be in the house of God even more. The church is the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15), and it stabilizes our faith when it is challenged by the world.
Hezekiah came and “spread it before the Lord”. The word “spread” here means “to break apart in pieces, to spread out or stretch”. Hezekiah is facing this severe threat from a wicked king and a 185,000 man army, and he came to present all this situation unto God in prayer. We need to “spread” all our trials and cares to the Lord in prayer. There is no need for us to have pretense before God in prayer, to try to present ourselves better to God or act like we have it all together during these trying times. God knows we don’t have it together. God knows we are weak, helpless, and we can’t do anything without God. We need to be fully open and honest to our God because he knows the thoughts and intents of our hearts anyway. Spread all our cares and concerns before our loving Heavenly Father. Pour out all the burdens of your heart to God in prayer. Be like the woman with the issue of blood after she was healed, she came fearing and trembling, fell down before Jesus and “told him all the truth” (Mark 5:33). We need to pour out our hearts and souls to God and spread all our burdens before our Father in prayer.
Many times in scripture men approached God in prayer by falling on their knees and spreading forth their hands in prayer. Ezra repented in sackcloth and ashes and “fell upon his knees and spread out his hands unto the Lord my God” and prayed to God (Ezra 9:5). Solomon “spread forth his hands towards heaven” and prayed to God at the dedication of the temple (2 Chron. 6:13). When we lift up and spread forth our hands unto God, we are giving up all our control and pretense before God. When a criminal puts their hands up before cops, they are giving up their rights and control to a higher authority. We ought to lift up our hands in worship from time to time – “lift up your hands in the sanctuary and bless the Lord” (Ps. 134:2); “thus will I bless thee while I live; I will lift up my hands in thy name” (Ps. 63:4). We don’t have a problem lifting up our hands in excitement at a sporting event when our team scores, but yet we are unwilling or ashamed to lift up our hands in worship to our great God. We need to spread forth and lift up our hands in worship and prayer to Almighty God.
Hezekiah spreads his cause before the Lord and prays to God (v.15-19). Hezekiah shows his faith that God is ruler over all the kingdoms of this earth, Assyria included. He begs for God to bow down his ear, open his eyes, and defend Judah and defend his name against the blasphemy of Assyria. Isaiah delivers a message from the Lord that God will defend Judah and defeat the enemies of God’s people (v.20-34). “And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the Lord went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses.” (v.35) God sent his angel that night and killed 185,000 soldiers in one night. Then, since his whole army was now dead, Sennacherib departed and returned back to Nineveh. “And it came to pass, as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer his sons smote him with the sword: and they escaped into the land of Armenia. And Esarhaddon his son reigned in his stead.” (v.37) Sennacherib was then assassinated by his own sons while worshipping his false god, just as Isaiah had previously prophesied.
Hezekiah was in a very difficult testing of his faith and the entire nation of Judah. We don’t know the size of Judah’s army, but I’m sure it was militarily no match for the 185,000 strong army of the Assyrians. It would be very easy to look at such unfavorable military odds and determine the best thing to do was to just surrender to the Assyrians. It wouldn’t be good to serve the wicked, blasphemous Assyrians, but it’s better than being dead right? Instead, Hezekiah placed his faith and confidence in God to deliver Judah in a mighty way. I’m sure he ever would have expected for God to literally go kill all the 185,000 man Assyrian army in one night. That’s how God defends his people when we trust him in faith!
When the world tells us that our God is not trustworthy, we need to trust the promise and word of God in spite of that attack. Our God is not like all the false gods of this world that people trust in and they fail. Our God is the Living God, not like the false gods of this world that are dead, inanimate, and of no value to help anyone. When our faith is tested, we need to go to the house of God and spread our burdens to the Lord. Pour out your heart to God in prayer and trust in God to deliver and bless his people, despite how difficult the circumstances might appear to us in our sight. God will defend his city. God will defend his people. Spread our cause before the Lord; then, stand still and see the salvation of our God.