It may be that the LORD your God will hear the words of the field commander, whom his master, the king of Assyria, has sent to ridicule the living God, and that he will rebuke him for the words the LORD your God has heard (Isaiah 37:4).
Gathering intelligence is important for any military operation. The more one learns about the enemy, with its strength and plans, the better. This is especially true if the enemy force outnumbers and outpowers the defenders.
That’s the situation King Hezekiah was in when the massive army of the Assyrians assembled before the walls of Jerusalem. They came with high confidence and massive strength. They had invaded Israel from the north and already wiped out all the ten northern tribes. Then they crossed the border into Judah and quickly demolished the fortified cities in their path. Now their field commander was demanding the unconditional surrender of Jerusalem.
He relayed the words of the Assyrian king, Sennacherib: “Do not let Hezekiah mislead you when he says, ‘The Lord will deliver us.’” He named off the string of his army’s victories, and then asked: “Has the god of any nation ever delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria?”
The demand ended with the boast, “How then can the Lord deliver Jerusalem from my hand?” Hezekiah responded by going to the Temple and sending some of his officials to deliver the news to the prophet, Isaiah, and ask for his prayers.
Hopeless against all odds, Hezekiah turned to the God of Hope. There was no need for God’s people to gather intelligence about the strength and movements
of this enemy. The swaggering troops were encamped in plain and frightening view. They had announced the plans to kill those who resisted and take everyone else away as prisoners of war.
Hezekiah needed to know nothing more for himself. He had heard enough. He only hoped that the Lord God had also heard. He had. He would teach Sennacherib and his army a lesson that the whole world could learn: No one, no power, and no army can defy the holy God without suffering severe consequences!
He will deliver his people at the time and in the manner of his choosing. Through his prophet, the Lord told Sennacherib, “But I know where you stay and when you come and go and how you rage against me. Because you rage against me and because your insolence has reached my ears, I will put my hook in your nose and my bit in your mouth, and I will make you return by the way you came.” (Isaiah 37:28,29)
Not an empty threat.
Isaiah reports, “Then the angel of the LORD went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies! So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there.” (Isaiah 37:36,37)
The Assyrian threat was over. Sennacherib never ventured out of his capital again—and then it got worse. One day, while he was worshipping in the temple of his idol, his sons murdered him.
God hears. He hears those bragging of their own power. He hears the plans against his people. In war or peace, our intelligence gathering may be limited. His is not. He hears every whisper. This does not mean that he will work a miracle to stop every threat. Later on, he allowed another heathen force to overrun this same city and lead many away as captives. The lesson is that he is in control. One of his angels on our side is better than hundreds of thousands against us.
Believe it, we must. It is true.
We pray: All-knowing Lord God, we are happy to learn that you hear the boasts of our enemies. Frustrate their plans. Send your angels to keep us safe—everywhere and always. In Jesus’ name,
Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain
and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida
Provided by WELS Ministry to the Military