Scripture Focus: 2 Kings 18.5-7, 28-32
5 Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him. 6 He held fast to the Lord and did not stop following him; he kept the commands the Lord had given Moses. 7 And the Lord was with him; he was successful in whatever he undertook…
28 Then the commander stood and called out in Hebrew, “Hear the word of the great king, the king of Assyria! 29 This is what the king says: Do not let Hezekiah deceive you. He cannot deliver you from my hand. 30 Do not let Hezekiah persuade you to trust in the Lord when he says, ‘The Lord will surely deliver us; this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.’
31 “Do not listen to Hezekiah. This is what the king of Assyria says: Make peace with me and come out to me. Then each of you will eat fruit from your own vine and fig tree and drink water from your own cistern, 32 until I come and take you to a land like your own—a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of olive trees and honey. Choose life and not death!
Reflection: False Promises and Threats
By John Tillman
Hezekiah, king of Judah, is a breath of much-needed fresh air after the repeated depravity of the kings of Israel.
Hezekiah had the benefit of the counsel of some of the great prophets of the Bible. Isaiah, Micah, Hosea, and Amos all prophesied around this time. Isaiah even recorded his own version of the events of Sennacherib’s siege.
Sennacherib’s messenger promised that if Jerusalem surrendered they would eat “from their own vine and fig tree.” He was promising to bring the “good old days” back. The “vine and fig tree” quote originally refers to the golden years of Solomon’s rule (1 Kings 4.24) and is referenced by Micah in his prophecies (Micah 4.4).
It is no mistake that Sennacherib’s silver-tongued messenger quotes the Hebrew scriptures to the people as he threatens them and attempts to entice them to surrender. Those who seek to manipulate us will often appeal to our nostalgia and our pride. “Don’t you remember how good life used to be?” “Don’t you remember how great your country was?” “All you have to do is surrender to our ideology and our interpretation of what God wants.”
The world co-opts the term of peace. But making peace with the world too often means surrendering our faith. Hezekiah took one of these threatening messages before God in the Temple and prayed over it. The next day the army withdrew, never to return.
Pray this weekend, this prayer based on Hezekiah’s prayer in 1 Kings 19.14-17.
Lord, we are besieged with false promises and threats
They want us to join their parties, their factions, their empires.
They offer pacification instead of peace and retribution instead of righteousness.
We spread out their words before you…
“You’ll never have peace,” they say…
“Your faith is foolish,” they say…
“Your god is no different than any other god”…
We have no answer for them except to appeal to you.
We wish only to be worthy of your kingdom, rejecting all other kings.
To worship you, rejecting all other objects of worship.
Do not let your name be slandered.
Help us to stand amidst evil days holding out peace and righteousness.
Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Keep watch over my life, for I am faithful; save your servant whose trust is in you. — Psalm 86.2
– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.
Read more about Political Promises
Sennacherib’s commander assumes a binary choice—rely on Egypt or rely on Assyria.
Read more about A Tale of Two Kings
Petitioning for God’s help is not our last resort. It is the first one.