Chasing Shadows

17 11 2011

DAY ONE HUNDRED AND NINETY ONE : 2 Kings 19 v. 14 – 20 v. 21; Acts 28 v. 1 – 16; Psalm 83 v. 1 – 18

2 KINGS
Hezekiah’s Prayer – Having received this letter, Hezekiah goes to the temple to pray – ‘he spread (the letter) out before the Lord’.
He prayed :
– you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth
– give ear, O Lord, and hear; open Your eyes, O Lord, and see
– listen to the insulting words of Sennacherib
– the Assyrians have laid waste many nations and lands
– deliver us from his hand so that all the kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O Lord, are God.

Isaiah Prophesies Sennacherib’s Fall – Isaiah sends a message to Hezekiah, bringing God’s word to him, that He has heard Hezekiah’s cry concerning Sennacherib and the Assyrians.
God’s word through Isaiah is His verbal attack on Sennacherib – it is God who Sennacherib has blasphemed, and ‘the Holy One of Israel’ who has had insults heaped on Him.
Sennacherib has boasted of all his conquests – ascending heights, cutting down forests, settling in foreign lands.
It has all been in God’s plan and purpose.
‘But I know where you stay and when you come and go and how you rage against me…..
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.’

The sign for Hezekiah to see all this come to pass :
this year and next you will eat what has grown by itself; in the third year he is to sow and reap and eat their own fruit.
‘Once more a remnant of the house of Judah will take root below and bear fruit above….out of Mount Zion a band of survivors.’

THE ZEAL OF THE LORD WILL ACCOMPLISH THIS

and the Lord pledges to defend the city, so that the king of Assyria will return the way he came, and will not attack or defeat the city.
That very night 185,000 men from the Assyrian camp died (‘the angel of the Lord put them to death’).
Sennacherib withdrew to Ninevah.
Sennacherib is killed by his own sons, Adrammelech and Sharezer, whilst he is worshipping in the temple of his god Nisroch.
His son Esarhaddon succeeds him as king.

Hezekiah’s Illness – Hezekiah becomes ‘ill to the point of death’. Isaiah visits him with a word from the Lord:
‘Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.’
Hezekiah weeps bitterly and pleads to God for mercy:
‘Remember how I have walked before You faithfully and with wholehearted devotion…’
Isaiah hasn’t yet left the courtyard, when God sends him back to Hezekiah with another message
‘I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you….on the third day….you will go up to the temple of the Lord. I will add fifteen years to your life and I will deliver you from the hand of the king of Assyria….for the sake of my servant David.’
They prepare a poultice of figs, as Isaiah instructs, and applied it to the boil.
When Hezekiah asks Isaiah what the sign will be that God will surely heal him, Isaiah tells him that God will make the ‘shadow go back ten steps’.
‘Then the Lord made the shadow go back the ten steps it had gone down on the stairway of Ahaz.

(the King James bible mentions in this passage the ‘sundial of Ahaz’ – probably a stepped building or altar, located somewhere in the temple complex, where the shadow would ordinarily lengthen down the eastern steps during the afternoon…on this day, God reverses the shadow!).

Envoys from Babylon – The son of king Baladan of Babylon, Merodach-Baladan sent letters and a gift to Hezekiah, in response to hearing of his illness. When the messengers arrived, Hezekiah gave them a tour of all his treasure-stores (gold, silver, spices, oils, armoury). ‘There was nothing in his palace or in all his kingdom that Hezekiah did not show them’. (Mmm, how unwise was that, given that the Babylonians are a threat to Judah).
Isaiah speaks to Hezekiah after the Babylonions have left, an is told that he has shown them all the treasures.
Isaiah foretells a time when ‘everything in your palace, and all that your fathers have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left….and some of your descendants…will be taken away, and they will  become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.’
Astoundingly, Hezekiah’s priority is that things remain peaceful in his own lifetime, and he seems not too concerned about what his descendants may face, even if his recent decisions have made things even more precarious for them.
Hezekiah is known for making the pool and tunnel which brought water into the city.
All his other achievements are written in the annals of the kings of Judah. When Hezekiah died, his son, Manasseh, succeeded him.

ACTS
Ashore on Malta – what a place to land, eh ?
Unusually kind islanders, welcoming them with a roasting fire.
Paul survived a viper-bite (though the islanders thought he must be guilty of some great crime to have survived the shipwreck only to die of snake poison on dry land). Paul simply shook the snake off himself, into the fire, and he didn’t suffer a thing. The people see something of the divine in Paul, to have survived such a bite.
The chief official of the island, Publius, welcomed Paul and the entourage into his estate – ‘for three days he entertained us hospitably’.
Paul prayed for his sick father, placing his hands on him, and he was healed.
When news of this spread, many other sick people were brought to Paul, and many were cured.
Paul and his group were honoured, and were ‘furnished with all the supplies we needed’.

Arrival at Rome
It’s three months before they set sail again, boarding an Alexandrian ship (bearing the images of the twin gods Castor and Pollux).
Three days at Syracuse, a stop over at Rhegium, and then to Puteoli, where they spent a week with some ‘brothers’.
Finally they arrived in Rome, where they were met by more ‘brothers’, who had travelled to the ‘Forum of Appius’ and the ‘Three Taverns’ to meet Paul.
Paul praised and thanked God for them, encouraged by their support.
In Rome, Paul was allowed to live ‘by himself, with a soldier to guard him’.

PSALM
‘My Lord, my God, don’t stay silent.
Speak; stir Yourself.
Look at Your enemies – they are rearing their heads once more.
They are plotting against Your treasured people, saying,
‘Come on – let’s wipe them out; may Israel be destroyed for ever.’
Powerful alliances are being forged –
Edom, Ishmael, Moab, the Hagrites, Gebal, Ammon, Amalek, Philistia, Tyre, Assyria (yes, even Assyria)
all joining forces with the descendants of Lot.

(pause for silent reflection)

Act now, my Lord, my God.
Do as You did against Midian, Sisera, Jabin, Oreb and Zeeb, Zebah and Zalmunna –
those who threatened Your people and their pasture-land, in times gone by.

Render them as nothing, my Lord, my God.
Tumbleweed.
Chaff.
All Consuming Fire, rage after them like an out-of-control forest blaze.
Like a terrifying storm, pursue them.
Turn their pride to shame, that they may turn to You,
seeking Your face, my Lord, my God.

May they live and die engulfed in shame, disgrace and grief.
May they know that You are the One True God
Higher than any other
Name above all names
Over all the earth.

WHOLE-LIFE DISCIPLESHIP
Note how
(i) Hezekiah literally lays out the letter which is troubling him before the Lord, and seeks Him in prayer. The Lord rescues them from Assyria’s attack.
(ii) Hezekiah is sucked in by flattering messages from Babylon, and shows his visitors all the treasures. This is dangerous, and Isaiah’s prophecy will be fulfilled.

Thought – we should not only seek God over the things that threaten us, but also the things that entice us. There is danger in both.

(iii) Hezekiah receives God’s healing and mercy, and Paul is healed of a snakebite, and goes on to heal others on Malta.

Thought – God may use us today to be vessels of His healing and mercy. Openness to His Spirit is essential in knowing that He desires to work through us in every situation we face today.

Lord, make us wise to see the traps in messages we receive today, both those that threaten and those that flatter us.
Lord, make us vessels of Your healing mercy, by Your Spirit’s presence in and through us.
AMEN.

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