The Zeal of the Lord of Hosts
Sennacherib Despises God’s Glory
King Sennacherib is an enemy of God. He seeks to establish his glory. Sennacherib is proud of his accomplishments. His conquests are far and wide. Nations fall under his armies. The gods of those nations topple. He is ready to conquer the last standing city of the Jews.
In Sennacherib’s eyes, Israelites are easy prey. He used to be concerned about the Jews, but not anymore. Their rulers today are not like the ones in the past. Previous kings of Israel were mighty men, and nobody dared go against them. Sennacherib heard stories about their God and how their God protects them. The God of Israel miraculously led Moses out of Egypt. God led Joshua to conquer many nations. David was the mightiest of all.
Sennacherib sees a difference from the days of old. It seems the God of Israel is no longer powerful. In fact, their rulers no longer trust in Him. Twenty years ago, King Hezekiah’s father, Ahaz did not trust his God. Ahaz put his trust in Sennacherib’ grandfather, Tilgath-pilneser. Ahaz paid his grandfather protection money so Jerusalem would not be invaded.
Sennacherib believes Hezekiah is just like his father. He knows Hezekiah did not rely on his God, but went to the Egyptians, of all people, to try to get them to be an ally to prevent Sennacherib from conquering Jerusalem. And, just like his father, Hezekiah paid Sennacherib a bribe to go away and not attack Jerusalem. What a fool. Thanks for the 47 million dollars, Hezekiah. Where is your God now?
Sennacherib stands outside Jerusalem, the crown jewel of the Israelite kingdom, with a massive army ready to fight. He conquers the northern kingdom of Israel and wants to be known as the conquering king over the tribes of Israel and the God of Israel. Sennacherib believes the God of Israel has not seen His match until now.
Sennacherib’s men meet Hezekiah’s men outside the walls of Jerusalem. General Rabshakeh speaks for Sennacherib. “Thus says the great king, the king of Assyria, ‘What is this confidence that you have? Now whom do you rely on, that you have rebelled against Sennacherib?” And, to rub salt on the wound, he the general makes fun of their failed attempt to ally with Egypt.
Rabshakeh questions their faith. He tells them that since Hezekiah took away the altars in the high places and told people to only worship at one altar, God will be angry. But, the general gets it wrong. The high places and altars which Hezekiah took away are the altars to false gods. God is not angry; God is pleased.
The general does his best to shake the faith of the Jews. He knows they are frightened. Their bribe to have the Assyrians go away didn’t work. Jerusalem is surrounded. Every other city in Judah is defeated. There are no allies on the horizon. The general offers terms of surrender. Then, he asks one more question which will completely shatter their faith.
The general asks, “Do you think I have come here to destroy Jerusalem without the Lord’s approval?” He tells the delegates the Lord said for him to destroy Jerusalem.” What a claim! The reason Jerusalem is ready to fall is that the Lord is giving the land to Sennacherib. The conquest of the northern kingdom and the rest of Judah is his proof.
The Jewish delegation asks the general to speak in Aramaic and not in Judean. They fear the people nearby on the wall will hear and be afraid. The general doesn’t listen but speaks all the louder and says his message is for everyone. The people need to know if they don’t surrender and keep listening to Hezekiah; they will be doomed. They need to put their trust in the king of Assyria if they want to live and prosper.
Rabshakeh ends with casting more doubt on the God of Israel. He says, Beware that Hezekiah does not mislead you, saying, “The Lord will deliver us.” Has any of the gods of the nations delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria? He lists a few cities of heathen gods to make his point. Lastly, he throws out Samaria. The reference is clear. Samaria’s God is the God of Jerusalem. The God of Israel did not protect Samaria. Therefore, Jerusalem will fall too.
God’s people always have an enemy
King Sennacherib is a king with an appetite for conquering. He is a man of pride. He is a deceptive king who will do whatever he can to build his kingdom. He believes he is mightier than God. He believes people should look to him for protection and provision. His tactic is to shake everyone’s faith in the God of Israel. He repeatedly asks, who do you trust? Where is your faith? He claims God is not with the people of Jerusalem. Then, he says the proof of what he says surrounds Jerusalem. Life is better if only they put their trust in Sennacherib.
Sennacherib is a representation of our enemy, the devil. The devil is strong. He surrounds us. He conquers cities. His appetite for destruction is great. He is a deceiver and does all he can to build his kingdom. He is filled with pride and believes himself to be mightier than God. His tactic is to have us lose faith in God. He will ask us every day, who do you trust? Where is your faith? Then, he will have us look at our circumstances as proof that our faith is useless. He says that if we stop trusting God, we will live a bountiful life. And, like Sennacherib, the devil promises us what he cannot deliver.
What shall the people of Jerusalem do? What shall we do?
Hezekiah Trusts in God’s Glory
Hezekiah is a good king in the eyes of God. Hezekiah is not seeking his glory, like Sennacherib. Hezekiah seeks to give God the glory. He puts his faith in the goodness of God. Hezekiah has his share of mistakes. Just like us, he is not perfect. He attempts to ally with Egypt to fight of Sennacherib. He wrongfully pays a bribe to Sennacherib to make him go away.
We can learn from Hezekiah’s mistakes. And, we can learn about how he trusts in God. He is not like his idolatrous father. He has all the high-places taken away and rids Judah of idolatry. As king, he reinstitutes the Passover. The people once again celebrate the deliverance of God’s people. He even sends letters of invitation to the northern tribes to celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem (they scoff at his idea, but at least he tries).
Hezekiah witnesses Isaiah’s prophecies come true. He becomes king at the early age of 25 because the prophecy about his father Ahaz comes true. He believes Isaiah is a prophet of the Lord.
Hezekiah’s delegation comes back from meeting with the general and tell Hezekiah what was said. Hezekiah tears his garment (a Jewish tradition to express grief). He puts aside his kingly robe to wear sackcloth which is the cloth of humility and repentance. Hezekiah enters the house of the Lord and tells the men working there to call upon Isaiah to pray to God for the remnant (hold that thought about the remnant). Hezekiah seeks the good of God’s people.
There are very few surviving Jews. There is no remnant in the north. All the cities in the southern kingdom are conquered. All that is left, of the once great nation of Israel, are the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
The men call upon Isaiah at Hezekiah’s request. Isaiah tells them that the Lord says to tell Hezekiah not to be afraid of the words spoken by Sennacherib. The king of Assyria is a blasphemer. God will cause him to go back to Nineveh where Sennacherib will fall by the sword.
Isaiah gives a letter to the men who return to Hezekiah. Hezekiah takes the letter from Isaiah, reads it, brings it to the house of the Lord, and spreads the letter out before God. Hezekiah prays a God-exalting prayer.
He begins by glorifying God:
16 “O Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, who is enthroned above the cherubim, You are the God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. (Isaiah 37:16)
He appeals to God to take notice of those who do not glorify God, but are a reproach to God’s glory:
17 Incline Your ear, O Lord, and hear; open Your eyes, O Lord, and see; and listen to all the words of Sennacherib, who sent them to reproach the living God. (Isaiah 37:17)
He acknowledges the circumstances:
18 Truly, O Lord, the kings of Assyria have devastated all the countries and their lands, 19 and have cast their gods into the fire, for they were not gods but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. So they have destroyed them. (Isaiah 37:18-19)
He asks God to prove His glory and deliver His people:
20 Now, O Lord our God, deliver us from his hand that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You alone, Lord, are God.” (Isaiah 37:20)
When we face adversity, we need to be like Hezekiah and call upon the Lord. Hezekiah’s prayer is submitted in humility, and the content of the prayer is according to God’s will.
Praying With Faith
The most important thing we may learn from Hezekiah is how he prays. Hezekiah prays, and God responds. When we understand God’s will and pray accordingly, God responds. We can read what God does because of the prayer in the remainder of chapter 37. God brings about Sennacherib’s downfall, He promises to care for the remnant, and God miraculously brings victory over the Assyrian army.
What we need to pay attention to is why God acts on behalf of Hezekiah’s prayer. God is pleased with his prayer, and God acts.
21 Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent word to Hezekiah, saying, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Because you have prayed to Me about Sennacherib king of Assyria, 22 this is the word that the Lord has spoken against him: (Isaiah 37:21-22)
This is an amazing truth that we must understand. It is because Hezekiah prays, that God responds to the Assyrian threat. From this account, we are to know two things, and we are to put our faith in three things.
Know the Relationship between God’s Sovereignty and Prayer
The first thing for us to know is the relationship between God’s sovereignty and our prayers. If we don’t understand the relationship, we may pray wrongly.
God is sovereign. Everything happens in the universe under God’s sovereign control. There is no question whether or not God will accomplish His purpose and plan. He has the power and the know-how. He will make His purpose come to pass, and nothing stands in His way.
We might ask, why should we pray if God is going to make things happen anyway? We pray because one of the ways God brings about His purpose and plan is by answering the prayers of the Saints (that sentence is worth repeating).
Prayer is a commandment given by a sovereign God. God ordains for us to pray. Prayer is our way of participating in God’s purpose and plan. Prayer is for God’s glory. Prayer is for our benefit. God is glorified, and we have the joy of seeing God work as a result of our asking for His help.
We are to know that God’s sovereignty and our prayers are intertwined. God decrees that our prayers are part of His plan.
Know the Relationship Between God’s Zeal and Prayer
The second thing for us to know is the relationship between God’s zeal and prayer. Zeal is another word for passion. God is a zealot for what he believes is right and good. A zealot is a person who is fanatical and uncompromising. This passage reveals those things which God is zealous.
God wants us to know what is most important to Him. He expresses His priorities very clearly. In other words, this passage answers these questions:
- What is most important to God?
- What is God passionate about?
- What does your God really care about?
- Why does God do the things He does?
God wants us to understand how we may trust Him. In other words, God wants us to have a rock-solid faith in Him. That rock-solid faith requires we know the answers to the previous questions. God wants us to know that those things which are most important to Him, which He is passionate about, we may bet our life that He will bring it to pass. God wants us to know the truth about Him that will guide our faith. As a result, we may know with full conviction that God will answer our prayer request because it is very important to Him.
If we know what God is zealous about, when we pray according to those things, our prayers are effective.
When we don’t know what God is zealous about and pray for other things, God is not obligated to answer those prayers. God is committed to His purposes and plans. We may have great faith that prayers which reflect God’s purpose and plan will be answered.
The Apostle James says it like this: “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” (James 4:3)
We need to know those things which matter the most, that which He is zealous about, and our prayers need to be about those things.
1) Put your faith in God’s Zeal for His Glory and pray accordingly
God miraculously intervenes and prevents the king of Assyria from coming into the city. God defend the city, “for My own sake and for My servant David’s sake.” (Isaiah 37:35)
Hezekiah prays, “deliver us so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You alone are God.” God answers the prayer because God does it for His own sake. God will not tolerate idolatry. He alone is God, and He alone is to be worshipped. God will not allow another to share His glory.
Everything God does is for the glory of His name. Every major event in the Bible God says He does it for His glory. He creates the universe for His glory and everything from that point until the end of time God does for His glory. All throughout Scripture we see that the reason God does everything is so He gets the glory.
(Here is a link detailing this truth: https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/biblical-texts-to-show-gods-zeal-for-his-own-glory)
When we pray for God to get the glory, that prayer will be answered.
2) Put your faith in God’s Zeal for His Son and pray accordingly
God also says He defends Jerusalem for David’s sake. God makes a promise to David that the Messiah will establish the throne of David forevermore. In Jerusalem, there is a man named Hezekiah, a descendant of David, and in the lineage to Jesus.
God is working all things in this universe for Jesus to receive the glory. God makes known to us the mystery of His will. God’s will is that all things, in the fullness of times, will be summed up in Christ. Things in heaven and the earth are placed under Jesus' feet. He is King of kings and Lord of lords. God is zealous to accomplish the supremacy of Christ in all things. (Ephesians 1:9-10; Colossians 1:18)
When we pray, in Jesus’ name, we are praying for Jesus will.
Whenever we pray for Jesus to be Lord, we are praying according to God’s will.
3) Put your faith in God’s Zeal to Deliver His People
31 The surviving remnant of the house of Judah will again take root downward and bear fruit upward. 32 For out of Jerusalem will go forth a remnant and out of Mount Zion survivors. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.”’ (Isaiah 37:31-32)
God is zealous to preserve the church. The northern tribes disappear after the Assyrian conquest. There is no remnant in the north. The only hope for saving the church is to save Jerusalem.
Jesus prays in the garden of Gethsemane, not My will, but Your will be done. Jesus’ prayer reflects God’s zeal to deliver His people. Jesus places God’s will for saving people above the agony of death.
The deliverance of God’s people from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of His beloved Son is the most glorious act which God does. He shows His glory in being merciful and forgiving.
The Apostle Paul says three times at the beginning of Ephesians that God’s purpose is to saves us for the praise of His glory. God’s chosen people are saved to worship Christ and enjoy Him forever in His kingdom.
Pray and live as a Servant of God, seeking God’s glory
We need to pray and live as a servant who seeks to glorify our Master. Think about the following prayers. God help me get a new job. God take away my illness. God help me get a good grade in school. God help me travel safely.
Do they sound like the prayers of a servant seeking the master’s glory, or do they sound like the prayers seeking the master to serve our glory? We are servants of God. He is not our servant. God is not obligated to accomplish these types of prayers. Often, these prayers are for our convenience and our kingdom.
Please, do not misunderstand. I am not saying don’t pray for these things. In all things, pray. But, as we pray, say, if it is Your will, please grant me these requests.
If getting the new job will, at the end of the age, makes Christ famous, God will answer the prayer. God works in mysterious ways. We may pray to get from point A to point B safely. However, it may be that our traveling safely is not according to God’s will. Perhaps, God wants to put us in a hospital bed next to someone who needs to hear the gospel.
If we want to pray like Hezekiah, let’s pray according to God’s will. “God, show Yourself to be strong in my life. Help me to be humble and servant-minded like Jesus.” “God, show us how we may have our household be in submission to the Lordship of Jesus.” “God, give me boldness to share the gospel of Jesus for the glory of Your salvation and the building of Your kingdom.” These are prayers according to God’s will.
- This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. (1 John 5:14)
We never go wrong when we pray for God’s kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. When we pray for the building of the church, for Christ to have worshippers, and for God to receive the glory, we are praying in agreement with God’s will. Faith is the substance of things hope for.
We may confidently have faith in those things God is zealously accomplishing. Let’s seek to align our actions and our prayers with God’s zeal. Our Father in heaven is excited to accomplish His will. It is His passion. And, He wants us to participate to bring about the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. He wants us to have the joy of knowing we are helping to build the great city of New Jerusalem through our prayers and our lives.
MAIN IDEA: Pray for God to show Himself glorious and for Christ’s kingdom to come.
NOTE: “Scripture quotations are from the NASB." This manuscript is provided as a courtesy and is not intended for publication. The recorded audio/video message differs from the manuscript. Thanks for understanding.