When Assyria besieged Jerusalem, King Hezekiah immediately humbled himself. He tore his clothes and put on sackcloth (2 Kings 19:1). Then he gathered his leadership team, and he sent them to the temple to seek the Lord. The officials confessed together: “Today is a day of distress, rebuke, and disgrace” (v.3). They owned that when the Assyrians’ attacked, it revealed a weakness in their own leadership.
Hezekiah may have sent tribute to Egypt in order to gain their aid in the battle against Assyria; Israel and Judah were often tempted to seek support from one neighboring superpower when they were attacked by another (2 Kings 17:4; Isaiah 20:5; Hosea 7:11). Sennacherib assumed that’s what Hezekiah had done when he called him out in his taunts: “Now look, you are relying on Egypt, that splintered reed of a staff that will pierce the hand of anyone who grabs it and leans on it” (2 Kings 18:21). Isaiah had warned Judah against trusting in Egypt (Isaiah 31:1–5). Now Hezekiah was sending his officials back to Isaiah with their tails between their legs. Isaiah doesn’t rebuke the leaders. Instead, he becomes for them a minister of mercy. He declares they’ll be vindicated—not on the basis of their skill in diplomacy but on the basis of divine intervention: “‘[the king] will hear a rumor and return to his own land, where I will cause him to fall by the sword’” (2 Kings 19:7).
If the story stopped there, it would be a tidy little picture of grace and deliverance. But even when he found forgiveness, Hezekiah’s misplaced trust carried consequences. You see, just as Assyria’s army was pulling out, they received word that the king of Cush was marching north to attack them (v.9). Cush is modern-day Ethiopia, and at that time, it would have been part of southern Egypt. When the Cushites arrived, it signaled that Pharaoh was making good on his alliance.
Have you ever been in an argument and just as things start to cool down, you—or your spouse or friend—say something that ups the ante, and things get heated again? That’s what Cush’s arrival was like. When Cush arrived, the Assyrians fired a nasty message back to Hezekiah: “‘Look, you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all the countries: They completely destroyed them. Will you be rescued?’” (v.11).
Now Hezekiah was desperate, so he went up to the temple. He didn’t send his officials this time. No, the king went up himself, and he laid it all out before the Lord, literally spreading out the threatening letter he’d received before God (v.14). Then the king prayed:
“LORD God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you are God—
you alone—of all the kingdoms of the earth. You made the heavens and the earth.
Listen closely, LORD, and hear; open your eyes, LORD, and see” (vv.15–16).
Hezekiah pleaded with God to be true to His promises. He begged for deliverance, and God answered miraculously. You see, trusting God isn’t always neat and tidy. Most often, it looks messy and desperate. However you are, come to Him today. Lay it all out before the Lord.
Written by Jared Kennedy