Stand your ground….

17 10 2011

DAY ONE HUNDRED AND NINETY : 2 Kings 18 v. 1 – 19 v. 13; Acts 27 v. 13 – 44; Psalm 82 v. 1 – 8

Hezekiah King of Judah – Hezekiah becomes king aged 25 and he reigns for 29 years. He is a good king, doing ‘right in the eyes of the Lord’ :
removing high places,
smashing sacred stones,
cutting down asherah poles,
breaking the bronze snake Moses had made (which had become the focus for idol worship).
He trusted in God, he ‘held fast to the Lord and did not cease to follow Him’, keeping the commandments. God was clearly with Hezekiah as he was successful in many endeavours, not least in keeping Assyria at bay and defeating the Philistines.
The attack and defeat of Israel in Samaria is recounted, whilst Hezekiah was in his fourth year as king of Judah. This, again, is clearly seen as a consequence of Israel not following God’s commands, ‘violating His covenant’.
When Hezekiah had done fourteen years as king, Sennacherib of Assyria attacked Judah’s fortified cities and captured them.
Hezekiah surrenders all the silver and gold at his disposal, with a plea that the Assyrians withdraw.

Sennacherib Threatens Jerusalem – Assyria’s king sends his supreme officers and a large army to Jerusalem, to see King Hezekiah. They stopped at ‘the aqueduct of the Upper Pool, on the road to Washerman’s Field’. They summon the king, who sends his officials. They had a message for Hezekiah:
‘on whom are you depending….’ – not Egypt, for Pharaoh is wounded; not the Lord God, for hasn’t Hezekiah removed the high places and altars (yes, he has, that’s the point !!)
‘come, make a bargain with my master…’ – the king wants to offer Hezekiah 2,000 horses, and suggests that the Lord has told the Assyrians to march against Judah.
Hezekiah’s officials ask to be spoken to in Aramaic, not Hebrew (in the hearing of others).
The Assyrian commander says that the message is as much for the others who are listening in ‘who, like you, will have to eat their own filth and drink their own urine’.
In Hebrew, the commander urges the people to turn against Hezekiah, who will be unable to deliver them. Rather, they are urged to ‘make peace’ with the Assyrians, ‘then every one of you will eat from his own vine and fig-tree….a land I will take you to….choose life and not death’.
He sows seeds of doubt amongst the people about Hezekiah’s claim that ‘The Lord will deliver us’, reeling off the ‘gods’ of all the other nations which have fallen into Assyrian hands.
Hezekiah had commanded his people not to say anything, so they obediently remain silent, and his commanders return to him with the messages.

Jerusalem’s Deliverance Foretold – Hezekiah hears this and goes into mourning, tearing his clothes and going to the temple to pray. He sends his leaders to seek out Isaiah the prophet. His message to Isaiah is :
~ this is a day of distress and rebuke and disgrace
~ may God hear all the words of the king of Assyria (through his commander)
~ may God rebuke the king for his ridiculing the living God
~ pray, pray, pray that the remnant survive.

Isaiah’s message in return was :
~ do not be afraid of what you’ve heard
~ I’ve heard the blasphemy (says God)
~ God will put a spirit within him, and a sword will cut him down

The field commander for the Assyrian king hears that he has left Lachish, and goes to find him fighting against Libnah.
Sennacherib sends another message to Hezekiah warning him that Assyria will attack Judah and will defeat them, goading them by challenging whether their ‘god’ can really prevent an Assyrian victory (look at the failings of all the ‘gods’ of the surrounding nations!!).

The Storm – they set sail with a gentle south wind, along the shoreline of Crete; a north-easter hurricane wind swept in and the ship is caught in the storm, and is swept off course; the anchor is let down in fear of running aground. The ship is seriously battered by the storm and the next day they start to off-load the cargo. On the third day, the tackle is thrown overboard. The sky was dark for days (no sun or stars), and ‘we finally gave up all hope of being saved’.
It had been a long time since anyone had eaten anything. Paul spoke to the others on the ship:
‘you should have taken my advice in Crete…’
‘I urge you to keep your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed’
‘an angel stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar, and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you…..I have faith in God that it will happen just as He told me….’

The Shipwreck – and it is on the fourteenth night they sense they are nearing land, having drifted across the Adriatic Sea. They start taking soundings – at midnight the water was 120 ft deep, then ninety, so they dropped the anchors, and prayed for the daylight.
They set the lifeboat on the water, preparing to escape the ship, but Paul urged them,
‘Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved’. So they cut the lifeboat free, and watched it drift away.
Then, just as the dawn appeared, Paul urged them to eat, having not eaten anything for days. They needed to eat to survive.
He took bread
Gave thanks
Broke it
and they all ate some food – all 276 of them.
Then the remaining grain was thrown overboard to lighten the ship.
Now that daylight had arrived (though they didn’t recognise the land), they decided to run the ship aground, and raised the anchors to move towards the sandy beach.
They hit a sand-bar and ran aground, and the ship began to be broken into pieces.
As the soldiers considered killing all the prisoners to prevent them from swimming free, but because the centurion wanted Paul to live, they were all spared. Those who could swim, swam to land; everyone else clung to planks until they reached safety.

There in the middle of that shipwreck, Paul took bread, blessed it, broke it and shared it – an act of communion remembrance in the height of the storm – what a moving image.
Also, all the prisoners were spared for the sake of one man.
An image of salvation for all through Jesus.

My Lord, my God takes His place
ruling over the eternal gathering
Judge of all ‘judges’
‘Aren’t we done with all this injustice
Isn’t it time the wicked got what’s coming to them?’

(time to pause and reflect)

Get on the side of the weak, the orphaned;
Speak up for the rights of the poor, the downtrodden;
Save those who are struggling, and in need;
Rescue those who are in the grip of evil.
They are lost, in the dark, scared.
And the very foundations of the world shudder and shake.

‘I called you ‘gods’, sons of the one True God,
yet you will die like all people; you reign will end…

Stir Yourself, my Lord, my God,
Do Your judging
For all these nations are Yours, forever.’

whole-life discipleship thoughts :
(i) in the midst of the storm, Paul takes time to sacramentally break bread and share it with all the soldiers and prisoners on board
(ii) Hezekiah has to deal with an enemy attack, and worse still, with that enemy trying to stir dissent amongst his people, attempting to turn them against him. Hezekiah stands his ground, believing wholeheartedly in God to keep His promises.

Lord God,
today, may I stand on Your promises,
trusting in Your unfailing love and grace,
Your provision and Your protection.
May I not be swayed this way or that,
deflected by storm or by attack,
but hold unswervingly to Your saving presence.
May I bring Your light, Your hope, Your peace
into every situation
at home, at work, in our church life, in every encounter today.
May Your name be honoured
in the whole of my life.






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