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PRAYER OF HEZEKIAH AGAINST SENNACHERIB.
ord, bow down thine ear, and hear: open, Lord, thine eyes, and see : and hear the words of Sennacherib, which hath sent him to reproach the living God. Now therefore, O Lord our God, I beseech thee, save thou us out of his hand, &c.2 Kings xix. 16, 18-20, 32, 35, 36.
On the accession of Hezekiah to the throne of Judah, he commenced an extensive reformation among the people. Idols had been set up in various places, and even incense had been burned in honor of the brazen serpent which Moses had made, and which, to this time, had been preserved. This, however, was now broken in pieces; the other idols were destroyed; the high places removed, and the land purged of idolatry.
A few years following this reformation, Hezekiah, in token of having shaken off the Assyrian yoke, refused to pay tribute. 18: 7. In the fourteenth year of his reign, however, Sennacherib, king of Syria, invaded Judah, many of whose fenced cities fell into his hands. Hezekiah, it would seem, offered no resistance; but, with a strange want of courage, and confidence in God, he makes his submission to Sennacherib, who requires from him the immediate payment of a sum equal to nearly a million of dollars. To meet this demand, with great impropriety, he takes the golden plates from off the doors and pillars of the temple.
In consideration of the above tribute, Sennacherib, it was expected, would withdraw his forces. But, instead of this, Jerusalem itself is soon besieged by a formidable army, headed by Tartan, Rabsasis, and Rabshakah. Hezekiah is invited by them to a personal interview, which, however, he Jeclines, but sends three commissioners to represent himself, and to treat with the officers of Sennacherib.
Previous to, and during this interview, Hezekiah is insulted by Rabshakah; God is blasphemed; and the soldiers are menaced, and invited to mutiny. The condition of Hezekiah and his capital was, consequently, sufficiently gloomy; but from what quarter can he look for deliverance ?
Like a prudent man, instead of depending upon human wisdom, or resorting to human expedients, he repairs to the house of the Lord, to meditate and pray; at the same time, he sends Eliakim and Shebna in sackcloth to Isaiah, to solicit his prayers in this day of trouble, and of rebuke, and of blasphemy."
Isaiah replies, by direction of God, that Hezekiah has nothing to fear from the insolent and blasphemous Sennacherib. “I will send a blast upon him, and he shall hear a rumor, and shall return into his own land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land.”
Rabshakah delivered his message; but, receiving no answer, he left his army before Jerusalem, under command of the other generals, and went himself to attend the king, his master, for further orders. Sennacherib, on learning the state of things, sends messengers a second time to Hezekiah, to induce him to surrender. In his message at this time, the haughty Syrian himself mocks and insults God; and, with great insolence, intimates to Hezekiah that no one will be able to deliver him out of his hands.
Hezekiah, however, had been instructed by Isaiah in whom to confide; and, believing the promises of God, he repairs to the house of the Lord, to lay before him his case, and to pray for divine guidance and protection; showing that even with the divine assurance of safety, we are still to pray.
The honor of God had been insulted. The power of Him who dwells between the cherubim had been defied. The covenant people of God had been reproached for their confidence in the divine protection. “O Lord,” says Hezekiah,
“bow down thine ear, and hear: open, Lord, thine eyes, and see: and hear the words of Sennacherib, which hath sent him to reproach the living God." The best pleas are those which are taken from God's honor. These are the pleas of Hezekiah, and they prevail.
Isaiah is sent to Hezekiah with a gracious answer to his prayer: “ That which thou hast prayed to me against Sennacherib I have heard.” That same night the utter ruin of the Syrian army was accomplished.
Like the leaves of the forest, when summer is green,
For the angel of death spread his wings on the blast,-
It was indeed a night of death; and the morning which ensued was a morning of surprise and consternation. One hundred and eighty-five thousand lifeless bodies lay scattered
upon the field.
What an answer to prayer! How fearful for the enemies of the children of God to force them to a throne of grace! There, those children have more power, than if they were to summon to their aid the armies of the world! If God be for them, who can be against them? What are the insolent threats of the proudest monarch! What if his legions be innumerable, and he have inspired them with his own infuriated zeal !-See!-one solitary individual retires to the house of the Lord—there he bows before the altar of God there humbles himself—there pleads—there points to the honor of God insulted—his power defied-points to Jerusalem, where his covenant people dwell, and asks, “ Lord, wilt thou not spare thine own consecrated city—and thy people
whom thou hast chosen ?" It is enough. His prayer is heard. The doom of thousands is sealed. The salvation of king and people is determined.
And one messenger of the Lord of hosts is sufficient. One angel can destroy! How he effects it, I cannot tell; perhaps by pestilence-perhaps by some Nubian blast. No matter how; it was done—done by order of the Lord Almighty-and done in answer to prayer !
Learn a lesson of confidence in God. Learn that dependence upon Him is far preferable to dependence upon human wisdom or human strength. Jehovah reigns; and his power, his will, his providence, his promise—all are on the side of those who put their trust in Him. The prayer of Hezekiah has more power than the armies of Judah; inore than the thousands of Sennacherib. With such proof of the efficacy of prayer, what need the child of God fear-be he a monarch on a throne, or a subject on the footstool ? Said the Psalmist: The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid ?"
PRAYER FOR THE CONTINUANCE OF LIFE.
In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And the prophet Isaiah, the son of
Amoz, came to him, and said unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live. Then he turned his face to the wall, and prayed unto the Lord, saying, I beseech thee, O Lord, remember now how I have walked before thee in truth, and with a perfect heart, &c.—2 Kings xx. 1-3, &c.
“It is appointed unto men once to die;" and, therefore, all may know that, sooner or later, they will be brought to “the house appointed for all the living." Yet a few have been exempted from death, as Enoch and Elijah; and a few
have had revealed to them the time and the manner of their death, as Aaron, Moses, Hezekiah, and, probably, Paul.
We have before us the annunciation made to Hezekiah by the prophet, that his end was at hand. What peculiar reasons existed for a divine pröintimation in his case, we are not informed.
It would seem, however, that he did not understand the sentence to be irreversible; otherwise, he could not consistently have prayed for recovery. He was sore sick, and the natural tendency of his disease was to death; and he might have understood that, without the miraculous interposition of God, it would prove fatal.
Death, however, at this time, was most unwelcome to - Hezekiah. “ To account for this,” says Dr. Scott, “it has been said that believers under the Old Testament, having dark views of the eternal world, might be expected to die with more regret than those under the New. But facts by no means support this supposition, for Abraham, Jacob, Aaron, Moses, Joshua, David, and others, seem to have left the world with as much composure, if not joyfulness, as did Paul himself. We must, therefore, ascribe Hezekiah's reluctance to die, either to his state of mind, or to the circumstances of his family or the nation. Nothing appears peculiarly to have distressed him, in the view of his immediate death, as to the state of his soul; but the circumstances of his family, and the state of affairs in Israel, seem to solve the difficulty.”
If, as some conjecture, this was before the defeat of the Assyrian army, but near the time of their invasion, the kingdom was in imminent danger. There might have been no one to take his place. At this time he had no son -Manasseh having been born three years after-and hence, the peace of the kingdom might have been in danger, and, in Hezekiah's view, even the promises to David likely to fail. But, whether these, or others, were the true reasons of his reluc