May 16, 2016

II Kings 18-19
In the third year of Hoshea, king of Israel, Hezekiah son of Ahaz began his rule over Judah. He was twenty-five years old when he became king and he ruled for twenty-nine years in Jerusalem....  In God’s opinion he was a good king; he kept to the standards of his ancestor David.

Hezekiah put his whole trust in the God of Israel. There was no king quite like him, either before or after. He held fast to God—never loosened his grip—and obeyed to the letter everything God had commanded Moses. And God, for his part, held fast to him through all his adventures.  He revolted against the king of Assyria; he refused to serve him one more day. And he drove back the Philistines,...

In the fourth year of Hezekiah and the seventh year of Hoshea, king of Israel, Shalmaneser king of Assyria attacked Samaria. He threw a siege around it and after three years captured it....The king of Assyria took Israel into exile... All this happened because they wouldn’t listen to the voice of their God and treated his covenant with careless contempt. They refused either to listen or do a word of what Moses, the servant of God, commanded.

In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, Sennacherib king of Assyria attacked all the outlying fortress cities of Judah and captured them. King Hezekiah sent a message to the king of Assyria at his headquarters in Lachish: “I’ve done wrong; I admit it. Pull back your army; I’ll pay whatever tribute you set.”...

So the king of Assyria sent his top three military chiefs (the Tartan, the Rabsaris, and the Rabshakeh) from Lachish with a strong military force to King Hezekiah in Jerusalem.... They called loudly for the king. Eliakim son of Hilkiah who was in charge of the palace, Shebna the royal secretary, and Joah son of Asaph the court historian went out to meet them...

Eliakim son of Hilkiah and Shebna and Joah said to the Rabshakeh, “Please, speak to us in the Aramaic language. We understand Aramaic. Don’t speak in Hebrew—everyone crowded on the city wall can hear you.”  But the Rabshakeh said, “We weren’t sent with a private message to your master and you; this is public—a message to everyone within earshot. After all, they’re involved in this as well as you; if you don’t come to terms, they’ll be eating their own turds and drinking their own pee right along with you.”

Then he stepped forward and spoke in Hebrew loud enough for everyone to hear, “Listen carefully to the words of The Great King, the king of Assyria: Don’t let Hezekiah fool you; he can’t save you. And don’t let Hezekiah give you that line about trusting in God, telling you, ‘God will save us—this city will never be abandoned to the king of Assyria.’ Don’t listen to Hezekiah—he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Listen to the king of Assyria—deal with me and live the good life; I’ll guarantee everyone your own plot of ground—a garden and a well! I’ll take you to a land sweeter by far than this one, a land of grain and wine, bread and vineyards, olive orchards and honey. You only live once—so live, really live!...

The people were silent. No one spoke a word for the king had ordered, “Don’t anyone say a word—not one word!”...

When Hezekiah heard it all, he too ripped his robes apart and dressed himself in rough burlap. Then he went into The Temple of God. He sent Eliakim, Shebna , and the senior priests, all of them dressed in rough burlap, to the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz. They said to him, “A message from Hezekiah: ‘This is a black day, a terrible day—doomsday!...

Isaiah answered them, “Tell your master, ‘God’s word: Don’t be at all concerned about what you’ve heard from the king of Assyria’s bootlicking errand boys—these outrageous blasphemies. Here’s what I’m going to do: Afflict him with self-doubt. He’s going to hear a rumor and, frightened for his life, retreat to his own country. Once there, I’ll see to it that he gets killed.’”

The Rabshakeh left and found that the king of Assyria had pulled up stakes from Lachish and was now fighting against Libnah. Then Sennacherib heard that Tirhakah king of Cush was on his way to fight against him. So he sent another envoy with orders to deliver this message to Hezekiah king of Judah:... Hezekiah took the letter from the envoy and read it. He went to The Temple of God and spread it out before God. And Hezekiah prayed—oh, how he prayed!

God, God of Israel, seated in majesty on the cherubim-throne.  You are the one and only God, sovereign over all kingdoms on earth, Maker of heaven, maker of earth.  Open your ears, God, and listen, open your eyes and look.  Look at this letter Sennacherib has sent, a brazen insult to the living God!  The facts are true, O God: The kings of Assyria have laid waste countries and kingdoms.  Huge bonfires they made of their gods, their no-gods hand-made from wood and stone.  But now O God, our God, save us from raw Assyrian power; Make all the kingdoms on earth know that you are God, the one and only God.

It wasn’t long before Isaiah son of Amoz sent word to Hezekiah:  God’s word: You’ve prayed to me regarding Sennacherib king of Assyria; I’ve heard your prayer. This is my response to him:
The Virgin Daughter of Zion holds you in utter contempt: Daughter Jerusalem thinks you’re nothing but scum. Who do you think it is you’ve insulted? Who do you think you’ve been bad-mouthing? Before whom do you suppose you’ve been strutting?  The Holy One of Israel, that’s who!....
Did it never occur to you that I’m behind all this? Long, long ago I drew up the plans, and now I’ve gone into action, Using you as a doomsday weapon, reducing proud cities to piles of rubble, leaving their people dispirited, slumped shoulders, limp souls. Useless as weeds, fragile as grass, insubstantial as wind-blown chaff... It’s because of your temper, your blasphemous foul temper, That I’m putting my hook in your nose and my bit in your mouth and turning you back to where you came from.

And this, Hezekiah, will be for you the confirming sign:  This year you’ll eat the gleanings, next year whatever you can beg, borrow, or steal; But the third year you’ll sow and harvest, plant vineyards and eat grapes. A remnant of the family of Judah yet again will sink down roots and raise up fruit....

To sum up, this is what God says regarding the king of Assyria: He won’t enter this city, nor shoot so much as a single arrow there; Won’t brandish a shield, won’t even begin to set siege; He’ll go home by the same road he came; he won’t enter this city. God’s word! I’ll shield this city, I’ll save this city, for my sake and for David’s sake.

And it so happened that that very night an angel of God came and massacred 185,000 Assyrians. When the people of Jerusalem got up next morning, there it was—a whole camp of corpses! Sennacherib king of Assyria got out of there fast, headed straight home for Nineveh, and stayed put... 

Luke 1:57-1:80 - 
When Elizabeth was full-term in her pregnancy, she bore a son.  Her neighbors and relatives, seeing that God had overwhelmed her with mercy, celebrated with her.  On the 8th day they came to circumcise the child and were calling him Zachariah, after his father.  But his mother intervened: “No.  He is to be called John.”  “But,” they said, “no one in your family is named that.”  They used sign language to ask Zachariah what he wanted him named.  Asking for a tablet, Zachariah wrote, “His name is to be John.”  That took everyone by surprise.  Surprise followed surprise ---Zachariah’s mouth was now open, his tongue loose, and he was talking, praising God!.  A deep, reverential fear settled over the neighborhood...people talked about nothing else...Clearly God had his hand in this... 

Then Zachariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied: “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel...and you my child, “Prophet of the Highest” will go ahead of the Master to prepare his way, present the offer of salvation to his people, the forgiveness of their sins.  Through the heartfelt mercies of our God, God’s Sunrise will break in upon us.  Shining on those in the darkness, those sitting in the shadow of death, then showing us the way, one step at a time, down the path of peace.

The child grew up, healthy and spirited.  He lived out in the desert until the day he made his prophetic debut in Israel.