I read Isaiah 36 and 37 today. It's a fascinating story about Hezekiah and the people of Israel, and it is sandwiched between prophecies of judgment and prophecies of healing. Hezekiah and the people of Israel are surrounded by the Assyrian armies. It's a dismal situation, and to top it off, they are being taunted by Rabshekah (don't you just love the names?). He is a servant of Sennacherib, the king of Assyria. With boundless pride, Rabshekah questions why the people are following after the Lord and whether they're doing it right. He tries to persuade them to surrender to the king of Assyria. This king would offer them drinks, land, food, bread, and vineyards, "a land like your own land." (v. 17) Rabshekah points out that the other nations' gods could not save them from the hand of the Assyrians; what made them think their God would save them? (v. 19 & 20) He even announces this in the Judean language so that all the common people can understand what he is saying...and hopefully become fearful and tremble and forsake the Lord.
What was the peoples' response? They didn't answer Rabshakeh (v. 21). Some of the king's staff tore their clothes and reported to the king (v. 22).
And when the king heard, did he and the people quake in fear? As they could see the Assyrian armies over Jerusalem's walls, as the ridiculing words of Rabshakeh echoed in their minds, this is what their king did: "...Hezekiah...entered the house of the Lord." (37:1) He instantly went to seek the Lord! This involved talking with Isaiah and receiving the word of the Lord. Hezekiah prayed to the Lord and asked for God to deliver them "that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You alone, Lord, are God." (37:20)
And God uses Isaiah to speak to the people and assure them that He will deliver them and destroy Assyria. In verses 36 - 38, the angel of the Lord destroys thousands of Assyrians in their own camp and Sennacherib is assassinated by two of his sons as he worships his gods. What an answer and what a deliverance!
This applies to me so much right now. I don't have an army surrounding Park Place, nor do I have an enemy standing outside our house walls yelling at me. But I am on a journey of trusting God this summer, and it has modern-day parallels to the people of Israel.
The people are trying to seek the Lord (and have certainly made mistakes along the way, like allying with Egypt), but even during seeking the Lord, they go through this difficult time. My circumstances this summer aren't always easy, even as I am seeking the Lord. He allows tough times to happen. Hosea 2: 6 says "Therefore, behold, I will hedge up her way with thorns, and I will build a wall against her so that she cannot find her paths." Israel was following after idol-lovers instead of the Lord, and God orchestrated her situation in such a way that she would then seek Him. I think this summer is a call for me to seek the Lord even more fully, to place Him as my first priority, and to learn to fully rely on Him.
Rabshakeh was tempting the Israelites with what seemed like the best option at the moment. Surrender to the king of Assyria; he promises so many good things; these troubles will be over. My temptation this summer is to wallow in sadness, to feed any discontentment in my heart, to have a "woe is me" attitude, to not look for ways to love people, to complain, to not choose joy,...to let the hospital hours and those fleeting moments pass me by, where I could have shown someone love...to ignore the lessons God gently and repeatedly shows me, to not allow the head knowledge to be applied in my heart,...to not trust God.
But I am so, so encouraged by the Israelites' and Hezekiah's instantaneous turning to the Lord. How I want that to be my heart's solution to every tendency to take the easy way out. In a song by Laura Story called "Make Something Beautiful," she says,
"I admit there is a yearning
For the hurting to subside
But not at the risk of missing
What you're doing in my life"
Yes, there are going to be tough moments this summer. There will be "Rabshakehs" everywhere, tempting me to focus on the present, to look at the world, to choose the easier path (with fleeting happiness and without true joy). But I want God. I want His voice and His ways. As someone once posted on Facebook, "In trials, is your end goal freedom, or are you more concerned with what He forges in you during the process of the fight?"
With the encouragement that the Israelites sought the Lord and He answered them, I similarly want to seek His face and soak in the lessons and love that He has for me. As they were able to stand upon His faithfulness through His strength, I want to do the same! This summer is a test of faith, a call to arms, a time to stand, while saying,
"Indeed, while following the way of Your judgments, O Lord,
We have waited for You eagerly;
Your name, even Your memory, is the desire of our souls." Isaiah 26:8
And I want to be found at the end of this summer saying, "Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us. This is the Lord for whom we have waited; let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation." Isaiah 25:9