Andrew Fountain - Can God be Trusted in the Darkest Situation?

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Sermon notes - Can God be Trusted in the Darkest Situation?

  • Have ever been in a situation in your life when there is a potential of something really really bad happening?
    • really really bad
  • It could be so bad that you don’t even want to think about it
  • And you desperately pray to God about it
    • Is he a good Father?
    • does he care?
    • It’s coming nearer and nearer

Isaiah 36

  1. In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah’s reign, King Sennacherib of Assyria marched up against all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them.
  2. The king of Assyria sent his chief adviser from Lachish to King Hezekiah in Jerusalem, along with a large army.
  • David—Solomon—split—Northern— Ahab & Jezebel
  • What was the world empire?
    • Northern captivity
  • So who were these Assyrians?
    • One of the proudest and cruelest races ever to live

Assyrian Lion

Assyrian Lion

Image source: link

  • This 15-ton lion symbolizes Ishtar, Assyrian goddess of war.
    • With huge teeth they chomped their way through nation after nation
    • 185,000 men?
  • Archeologists tell us that with phenomenal logistics and planning they could support massive armies of 150,000 to 200,000
  • In a book, The great armies of antiquity by Richard A. Gabriel, p.130 he says:
    • “A single weapons room in Sargon’s palace at Dur-Sharrukin (Fort Sargon) contained 200 tons of iron weapons, helmets, and body armour.”
    • A fighting machine tuned to a frightening efficiency

Assyrian siege-weapon

Assyrian siege-weapon

Image source: link

  • The iron-clad wooden battering-ram has two beams fitted with iron tips to break bricks from the wall.
  • (not seen in this image) Behind it, on the wall, is a man pleading for mercy, behind him are naked men impaled on stakes, with fallen soldiers lying in a wooded background.
    • The Assyrian sculptors made great efforts to depict even the most gruesome details of war.

Assyrian Blinding Enemies

Assyrian Blinding Enemies

Image source: link

  • Here is a picture of a prisoner being blinded
    • They had pictures like this and much worse as fun decorations in the palace
    • I am sparing you the really bad pictures
    • They specialized in cruelty
  • When they were attacking a city, they would besiege it so no-one could get in or out and they would die of huger and thirst
    • If anyone escaped they took delight in slowly and painfully killing people in front of the walls of the city so everyone could see

(Are your personal troubles coming into perspective a bit?)

  • Some years earlier they had captured the capital city of the Northern Kingdom of Israel
    • Here is an Artist’s impression
    • They took the entire nation into captivity

Siege ramp, Lachish archaeological site.

Siege ramp, Lachish archaeological site.

Image source: link

  • Now they were coming for the southern Kingdom
    • But this kingdom had just had a revival under King Hezekiah
      • They had got rid of all the alters to false Gods
      • They had just had one of the most wonderful passovers ever, worshipping God
  • True they were not perfect, they still had a lot of sin
    • But there was an honest effort to trust in God
  • On the way to Jerusalem they captured the city of Lachish as a demonstration of their power
    • The city was never rebuilt, so we have lots of archeological evidence like this siege ramp

Judean captives after the siege of Lachish

Judean captives after the siege of Lachish

Image source: link

  • They commemorated the victory with this picture
    • Judean captives being led away into slavery by the Assyrians after the siege of Lachish in 701 B.C.
    • We can learn something of their behaviour
    • This relief is important for the knowledge of Judean dress.
  • Now they are at the very gates of Jerusalem

Isaiah 36

  1. In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah’s reign, King Sennacherib of Assyria marched up against all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them.
  2. The king of Assyria sent his chief adviser from Lachish to King Hezekiah in Jerusalem, along with a large army.
    The chief adviser stood at the conduit of the upper pool which is located on the road to the field where they wash and dry cloth.
  3. Eliakim son of Hilkiah, the palace supervisor, accompanied by Shebna the scribe and Joah son of Asaph, the secretary, went out to meet him.
  4. The chief adviser said to them, “Tell Hezekiah: ‘This is what the great king, the king of Assyria, says: “What is your source of confidence?
  5. Your claim to have a strategy and military strength is just empty talk. In whom are you trusting, that you would dare to rebel against me?
  6. Look, you must be trusting in Egypt, that splintered reed staff. If someone leans on it for support, it punctures his hand and wounds him. That is what Pharaoh king of Egypt does to all who trust in him!
  7. Perhaps you will tell me, ‘We are trusting in the LORD our God.’ But Hezekiah is the one who eliminated his high places and altars and then told the people of Judah and Jerusalem, ‘You must worship at this altar.’
  8. Now make a deal with my master the king of Assyria, and I will give you two thousand horses, provided you can find enough riders for them.
  9. Certainly you will not refuse one of my master’s minor officials and trust in Egypt for chariots and horsemen.
  10. Furthermore it was by the command of the LORD that I marched up against this land to destroy it. The LORD told me, ‘March up against this land and destroy it!’”’”
  11. Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah said to the chief adviser, “Speak to your servants in Aramaic, for we understand it. Don’t speak with us in the Judahite dialect in the hearing of the people who are on the wall.”
  12. But the chief adviser said, “My master did not send me to speak these words only to your master and to you. His message is also for the men who sit on the wall, for they will eat their own excrement and drink their own urine along with you!”
  13. The chief adviser then stood there and called out loudly in the Judahite dialect, “Listen to the message of the great king, the king of Assyria.
  14. This is what the king says: ‘Don’t let Hezekiah mislead you, for he is not able to rescue you!
  15. Don’t let Hezekiah talk you into trusting in the LORD by saying, “The LORD will certainly rescue us; this city will not be handed over to the king of Assyria.”
  16. Don’t listen to Hezekiah!’ For this is what the king of Assyria says, ‘Send me a token of your submission and surrender to me. Then each of you may eat from his own vine and fig tree and drink water from his own cistern,
  17. until I come and take you to a land just like your own — a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards.
  18. Hezekiah is misleading you when he says, “The LORD will rescue us.” Has any of the gods of the nations rescued his land from the power of the king of Assyria?
  19. Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim? Indeed, did any gods rescue Samaria from my power?
  20. Who among all the gods of these lands have rescued their lands from my power? So how can the LORD rescue Jerusalem from my power?’ ”
  21. They were silent and did not respond, for the king had ordered, “Don’t respond to him.”
  22. Eliakim son of Hilkiah, the palace supervisor, accompanied by Shebna the scribe and Joah son of Asaph, the secretary, went to Hezekiah with their clothes torn in grief and reported to him what the chief adviser had said.

NET Bible, plus revisions by AMF

  • Pretty discouraging!
    • See the barb at the end—none of the other gods... how can your god

The Assyrian god Nisroch

The Assyrian god Nisroch

Image source: link

  • So when they came, it was really a battle between their god, an evil spirit, and the true God.
    • The Assyrian god Nisroch was depicted as an eagle-headed deity with wings and exaggerated muscles.
    • In this sculptured relief from Nineveh he is sprinkling the sacred tree with water. He is holding a water vessel in his left hand and a fir cone (sponge) in his right.
  • Do you ever feel that it is not fair that you worship the true God, yet bad things happen to you?
    • Imagine how Hezekiah felt?
    • The horror and terror
    • Was God really going to come through for him?
    • How come the Assyrians did so well, even though they served an evil spirit?
  • Do you ever ask “Does God care about me?”
    • Is he a father I can trust?
    • This is how he must have felt
    • If God didn’t answer, then he would certainly face the most excruciating death they could dream up for him
  • Can you feel the pressure on him?

Isaiah 37:1–8

  1. When King Hezekiah heard this, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth, and went to the LORD‘s temple.
  2. Eliakim the palace supervisor, Shebna the scribe, and the leading priests, clothed in sackcloth, sent this message to the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz:
  3. “This is what Hezekiah says: ‘This is a day of distress, insults, and humiliation, as when a baby is ready to leave the birth canal, but the mother lacks the strength to push it through.
  4. Perhaps the LORD your God will hear all these things the chief adviser has spoken on behalf of his master, the king of Assyria, who sent him to taunt the living God. When the LORD your God hears, perhaps he will punish him for the things he has said. So pray for this remnant that remains.’”
  5. When King Hezekiah’s servants came to Isaiah,
  6. Isaiah said to them, “Tell your master this: ‘This is what the LORD says: “Don’t be afraid because of the things you have heard — these insults the king of Assyria’s servants have hurled against me.
  7. Look, I will take control of his mind; he will receive a report and return to his own land. I will cut him down with a sword in his own land.” ’ ”
  8. When the chief adviser heard the king of Assyria had departed from Lachish, he left and went to Libnah, where the king was campaigning.

NET Bible, plus revisions by AMF

  • The main prophet at the time is Isaiah
    • So Hezekiah prays, and sends his servants to ask Isaiah what will happen
  • There is a temporary reprieve as the chief of the army gets called away
    • But it doesn’t last long
    • The king had to go and fight Egypt for a short while
    • but soon returns...

Isaiah 37:9–20

  1. The king heard that King Tirhakah of Ethiopia was marching out to fight him. He again sent messengers to Hezekiah, ordering them:
    1. “Tell King Hezekiah of Judah this: ‘Don’t let your God in whom you trust mislead you when he says, “Jerusalem will not be handed over to the king of Assyria.”
    2. Certainly you have heard how the kings of Assyria have annihilated all lands. Do you really think you will be rescued?
    3. Were the nations whom my predecessors destroyed — the nations of Gozan, Haran, Rezeph, and the people of Eden in Telassar — rescued by their gods?
    4. Where are the king of Hamath, the king of Arpad, and the kings of Lair, Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivvah?’”
  2. Hezekiah took the letter from the messengers and read it. Then Hezekiah went up to the LORD‘s temple and spread it out before the LORD.
  3. Hezekiah prayed before the LORD:
    1. “O LORD who commands armies, O God of Israel, who is enthroned on the cherubim! You alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You made the sky and the earth.
    2. Pay attention, LORD, and hear! Open your eyes, LORD, and observe! Listen to this entire message Sennacherib sent and how he taunts the living God!
    3. It is true, LORD, that the kings of Assyria have destroyed all the nations and their lands.
    4. They have burned the gods of the nations, for they are not really gods, but only the product of human hands manufactured from wood and stone. That is why the Assyrians could destroy them.
    5. Now, O LORD our God, rescue us from his power, so all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the LORD.”

NET Bible, plus revisions by AMF

  • Once again he is mocking the true God
  • Hezekiah spreads this letter out
    • Do you ever feel like that?
    • You feel so desperate and desolate and you just spread it out before God
    • This made a big impact on me when I first heard the story.
    • A number of times I have...
    • I want you to get hold of this image
    • Have you ever felt like this?
      • At some point all of us will probably have a Hezekiah experience
      • Just out of options
  • What will God answer?
    • His answer is shocking.
    • I would love to have seen the face of Sennacherib when he read it
    • The answer is to laugh in the face of Sennacherib

Isaiah 37:21–29

  1. Isaiah son of Amoz sent this message to Hezekiah: “This is what the LORD God of Israel says: ‘Because you prayed to me concerning King Sennacherib of Assyria,
  2. this is what the LORD says about him:
    “She despises you, she laughs at you,
          does the virgin daughter Zion
    She shakes her head behind your back
          does the daughter Jerusalem
    1. Whom have you taunted and hurled insults at?
            At whom have you shouted
      and looked so arrogantly?
            At the Holy One of Israel!
    2. Through your messengers you taunted the sovereign master,
    1. I know where you live
            and everything you do
                  and how you rage against me.
    2. Because you rage against me
            and the uproar you create has reached my ears,
      I will put my hook in your nose,
            and my bridle between your lips,
      and I will lead you back
            the way you came.”

NET Bible, plus revisions by AMF

  • So Hezekiah is now given this prophecy.
    • What are they going to think when they are told the God laughs at them and despises them?
    • Is it going to calm the situation down?
  • What is going to happen?
    • Who knows the end of the story?
    • Even if you don’t know it, you probably suspect it will be a good ending :)
  • Isaiah didn’t stop there. After the word to give to the Assyrians, he has a word for God’s people:
    • First of all we have a prophecy

Isaiah 37:30–38

  1. “This will be a reminder to you that I have spoken the truth:
          This year you will eat what grows wild,
          and next year what grows on its own.
          But the year after that you will plant seed and harvest crops;
          you will plant vines and consume their produce.
  2. Those who remain in Judah will take root in the ground and bear fruit.
  3. “For a remnant will leave Jerusalem;
          survivors will come out of Mount Zion.
                The faithful love of the LORD who commands armies will accomplish this.
  4. So this is what the LORD says about the king of Assyria:
    ‘He will not enter this city,
          nor will he shoot an arrow here.
    He will not attack it with his shielded warriors,
          nor will he build siege works against it.
  5. He will go back the way he came —
          he will not enter this city,‘says the LORD.
  6. I will shield this city and rescue it
          for the sake of my reputation
                and because of my promise to David my servant.”’”
  7. The LORD‘s angel went out and killed 185,000 troops in the Assyrian camp. When they got up early the next morning, there were all the corpses!
  8. So King Sennacherib of Assyria broke camp and went on his way. He went home and stayed in Nineveh.
  9. One day, as he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisroch, his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer struck him down with the sword. They ran away to the land of Ararat; his son Esarhaddon replaced him as king.

NET Bible, plus revisions by AMF

  • So Hezekiah and the city of Jerusalem were saved
    • The size of the army is about what we know from Archaeology
  • And the king was killed in the house of the very God he boasted in:

The Assyrian god Nisroch

The Assyrian god Nisroch

Image source: link

  • There is some evidence from history of this event
    • Egyptian sources make mention of Sennacherib’s defeat in the conflict with Judah, but gives the credit for the victory to an Egyptian god who sent field mice into the camp of the Assyrians to eat their bowstrings and thus they fled from battle.
  • There is also some written evidence:

Prism of King Sennacherib

Prism of King Sennacherib

Image source: link

  • This beautifully preserved six-sided hexagonal prism of baked clay, commonly known as the Taylor Prism, was discovered among the ruins of Nineveh, the ancient capital of the Assyrian Empire.
  • It contains the victories of Sennacherib himself, the Assyrian king who had besieged Jerusalem in 701 BC during the reign of king Hezekiah, it never mentions any defeats.
  • On the prism Sennacherib boasts that he shut up “Hezekiah the Judahite” within Jerusalem his own royal city “like a caged bird.”
    • But he doesn’t explain why he failed with his huge army to take a little city
    • Or why he never ever attacked again
  • Later God utterly destroyed the empire
    • So complete was the destruction of the Assyrian capital that two centuries later Xenophon and his Greek mercenary army of 10,000 men passed by the ruins of Nineveh unaware of what they were passing. Not a single vestige of Assyrian power remained. A people who had lived on the Tigris for more than 2,000 years had literally disappeared from the face of the earth (ibid p.137)
    • That’s what their god did for them!
  • Do you have any challenges in your life today?
  • They don’t have to be as bad as Hezekiah’s !
    • But they may seem as bad
  • Do you feel that the Devil is mocking you?
    • Is God a good father?
    • I want to challenge you to lay it before the Lord the way he did
  • Do you want this God on your side, or are you happy to stand before the dark forces of the universe alone?
    • They are real forces!
  • If anyone wants prayer...

Updated on 2016-06-20 by Andrew Fountain


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