When Your Enemies are the Size of Assyria

Conclusion and Heart Message about a Big Enemy Showing Up at Our Gates

The Assyrians commanded a vast empire with a ruthless and terrorizing army. They were the “superpower” of the day and they weren’t governed by democracy, rules of war, the Geneva Convention, news media, UN resolutions, or international law. There was no fear of a war crimes tribunal after they tortured and obliterated the nations they attacked.

Below are some of the “journal” entries of their commanders…

“I destroyed, I demolished, I burned. I took their warriors prisoner and impaled them on stakes before their cities. …flayed the nobles, as many as had rebelled, and spread their skins out on the piles [of dead corpses]… many of the captives I burned in a fire. Many I took alive; from some I cut off their hands to the write, from other I cut off their noses, ears and fingers; I put out the eyes of many of the soldiers." (TimeFrame 1500-600 BC by Time-Life Books)

Assyrian War Bulletin (1000 B.C.)

“I slew two hundred and sixty fighting men; I cut off their heads and made pyramids thereof. I slew one of every two. I built a wall before the great gates of the city; I flayed the chief men of the rebels, and I covered the wall with their skins. Some of them were enclosed alive in the bricks of the wall, some of them were crucified on stakes along the wall; I caused a great multitude of them to be flayed in my presence, and I covered the wall with their skins. I gathered together the heads in the form of crowns, and their pierced bodies in the form of garlands.”

When King Sennacherib of Assyria, threatened Judah with destruction, King Hezekiah knew exactly what his nation was facing; an overwhelming enemy beyond their ability to resist. At first he tried to appease his enemies and paid them blackmail. (2Kings 18:13-16) As we have learned through history, appeasement doesn’t stop an aggressor, but is only a sign of weakness which emboldens them. The peace of appeasement is short lived. Sennacherib’s servants arrive at Jerusalem to deliver the demand of surrender, or face impending slaughter. It came with taunts, boldness and mockery.

After this Sennacherib king of Assyria sent his servants to Jerusalem while he was besieging Lachish with all his forces with him, against Hezekiah king of Judah and against all Judah who were at Jerusalem, saying, "Thus says Sennacherib king of Assyria, `On what are you trusting that you are remaining in Jerusalem under siege? `Is not Hezekiah misleading you to give yourselves over to die by hunger and by thirst, saying, "The LORD our God will deliver us from the hand of the king of Assyria"? `Has not the same Hezekiah taken away His high places and His altars, and said to Judah and Jerusalem, "You shall worship before one altar, and on it you shall burn incense"? `Do you not know what I and my fathers have done to all the peoples of the lands? Were the gods of the nations of the lands able at all to deliver their land from my hand? `Who was there among all the gods of those nations which my fathers utterly destroyed who could deliver his people out of my hand, that your God should be able to deliver you from my hand? `Now therefore, do not let Hezekiah deceive you or mislead you like this, and do not believe him, for no god of any nation or kingdom was able to deliver his people from my hand or from the hand of my fathers. How much less will your God deliver you from my hand?' " His servants spoke further against the LORD God and against His servant Hezekiah. He also wrote letters to insult the LORD God of Israel, and to speak against Him, saying, "As the gods of the nations of the lands have not delivered their people from my hand, so the God of Hezekiah will not deliver His people from my hand." They called this out with a loud voice in the language of Judah to the people of Jerusalem who were on the wall, to frighten and terrify them, so that they might take the city. They spoke of the God of Jerusalem as of the gods of the peoples of the earth, the work of men's hands. (2 Chron. 32:9-19)

Sometimes a Sennacherib shows up at our gates. The situation is beyond our control. All of our own resources will not deliver us, and a terrible outcome awaits. Everyone who follows the Lord will one day run into an enemy that is too strong. We all wish to see miracles in our lives, but sometimes we forget that we will not see a miracle until we absolutely require a miracle. The Assyrian army provided Judah with that desperate requirement. There was no other possible remedy. For us it’s an interesting study. For King Hezekiah and those living inside the walls of Jerusalem, it was a terrifying life threatening trauma.

The King reached out to someone he knew heard from God. He sent servants and a message to the prophet Isaiah.

They said to him, "Thus says Hezekiah, `This day is a day of distress, rebuke, and rejection; for children have come to birth and there is no strength to deliver. ‘Perhaps the LORD your God will hear all the words of Rabshakeh, whom his master the king of Assyria has sent to reproach the living God, and will rebuke the words which the LORD your God has heard. Therefore, offer a prayer for the remnant that is left.' " (2Kings 19:3,4)

Isaiah got a word from God and sent it back promising immediate relief. He said that the servants of Sennacherib would hear a rumor and leave. Unfortunately, this was going to be only a temporary respite from this awful situation. Yet it was a welcome sign from God that no doubt produced faith in the heart of Hezekiah. Wouldn’t be nice if we could constantly depend on the faith of others? But God wanted Hezekiah to grow in his own ability to trust Him. Soon, other messengers of Sennacherib returned, with more taunts and threats. They gave it to the king in writing.

Do not let your God in whom you trust deceive you saying, "Jerusalem will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria." `Behold, you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all the lands, destroying them completely. So will you be spared? `Did the gods of those nations which my fathers destroyed deliver them, even Gozan and Haran and Rezeph and the sons of Eden who were in Telassar? `Where is the king of Hamath, the king of Arpad, the king of the city of Sepharvaim, and of Hena and Ivvah?' " (2 Kings 19:10-13)

This time Hezekiah went directly to the Lord himself. In one of the most touching scenes in Scripture, we see the King humbling himself in desperation before the Lord in the Temple, in total need, making his request known to God.

"Then Hezekiah took the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it, and he went up to the house of the LORD and spread it out before the LORD. Hezekiah prayed before the LORD and said, "O LORD, the God of Israel, who are enthroned above the cherubim, You are the God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. "Incline Your ear, O LORD, and hear; open Your eyes, O LORD, and see; and listen to the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to reproach the living God. "Truly, O LORD, the kings of Assyria have devastated the nations 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, I pray, deliver us from his hand that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You alone, O LORD , are God." (2 Kings 19:14-19)

Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah saying, "Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, `Because you have prayed to Me about Sennacherib king of Assyria, I have heard you.' (2 Kings 19:20)

Can you see the king of Judah, spreading out before the Lord the threats of the king of Assyria? Can you feel his desperation? You may have a similar desperation. Spread them out before the Lord.

God’s reply was swift, again using the man of God Isaiah. God spoke directly to Assyria and it’s king. You can read God’s full reply in 1 Kings 19:21-34. The manifestation of God’s mercy upon King Hezekiah, Isaiah, and the people of Judah is a powerful reminder that our God reigns and will answer us in our distress. Do not despair when an enemy the size of Assyria shows up at our gates with war and destruction, but bring your fear to the Lord, spread out the threats before Him, and seek Him earnestly. He will hear your cry and answer with a miracle. Watch for it. Wait expectantly. Your God will come.

Then it happened that night that the angel of the LORD went out and struck 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians; and when men rose early in the morning, behold, all of them were dead. So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and returned home, and lived at Nineveh. It came about as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer killed him with the sword; and they escaped into the land of Ararat. And Esarhaddon his son became king in his place. (2 Kings 19:35-37)