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2 CHRONICLES 32:1-33:13 | ROMANS 15:23-16:9 | PSALM 25:16-22 | PROVERBS 20:16-18
The life and times of the people under the reign of Hezekiah, king of Judah, continue in this chapter. We now learn about a time when Judah is threatened by Sennacherib, king of Assyria. Hezekiah devises ways and means to fortify the city better and to cut off the natural water supplies to his enemies.
And all along, while doing all this, this is how he encourages his people: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him. 8 With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God to help us and to fight our battles.”
Hezekiah’s great faith inspires confidence in the people, but when Sennacherib’s armies approach the walls of the city and begin to taunt the God of the Hebrews, Hezekiah and Isaiah, the prophet, do one of the most effective things that can be done in a time of crisis: they begin to pray for deliverance.
As a result of that, this is what the text tells us happened: 20 King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz cried out in prayer to heaven about this. 21 And the LORD sent an angel, who annihilated all the fighting men and the commanders and officers in the camp of the Assyrian king. So he withdrew to his own land in disgrace. And when he went into the temple of his god, some of his sons, his own flesh and blood, cut him down with the sword.
Hezekiah continues to lead a prosperous life with a few setbacks here and there, and is succeeded by his son Manasseh as king of Judah. But Manasseh is nothing like his father. He is just the opposite. Having been installed as king at the young age of twelve, he ruled as king of Judah in Jerusalem for fifty-five years.
And these are the extent of his atrocities as the text tells us: 2 He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, following the detestable practices of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites. 3 He rebuilt the high places his father Hezekiah had demolished; he also erected altars to the Baals and made Asherah poles. He bowed down to all the starry hosts and worshiped them. 4 He built altars in the temple of the LORD, of which the LORD had said, “My Name will remain in Jerusalem forever.” 5 In both courts of the temple of the LORD, he built altars to all the starry hosts. 6 He sacrificed his children in the fire in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, practiced divination and witchcraft, sought omens, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the LORD, arousing his anger.
Manasseh’s life and end is indeed a checkered story, and one for the files. But if he was blatantly rebellious to the Lord’s commands and flagrant in his ways to turn away from the God of his ancestors, he was also one to recognize the great error of his ways, and to turn back to the Lord.
This is what we learn about him: 10 The LORD spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention. 11 So the LORD brought against them the army commanders of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh prisoner, put a hook in his nose, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon. 12 In his distress he sought the favor of the LORD his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his ancestors. 13 And when he prayed to him, the LORD was moved by his entreaty and listened to his plea; so he brought him back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD is God.
Turning now to our reading in the book of Romans, we find Paul telling his readers, mainly his Jewish brethren in Rome that he is desirous to come and visit them again, but for now, he is on his way to Jerusalem. He says, 27 For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings. 28 So after I have completed this task and have made sure that they have received this contribution, I will go to Spain and visit you on the way. 29 I know that when I come to you, I will come in the full measure of the blessing of Christ.
And until such time that he returns to Rome, he commends several of his friends—brothers and sisters, he calls them—to the church in Rome. He commends these folks by name, praising each one for their gifts of ministry to furthering the gospel of Christ—both to the Jews and to the Gentiles.
Turning now to our reading of the psalms, we find a poignant set of verses in Psalm 25, all of them dripping with the raw emotions of a person seeking deliverance from a plight that does not seem humanly possible to negotiate. I reproduce all verses here for their full effect and impact in how they might ring true for many of us just as they did for David, the psalmist, when he first penned them:
16 Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am lonely and afflicted.
17 Relieve the troubles of my heart
and free me from my anguish.
18 Look on my affliction and my distress
and take away all my sins.
19 See how numerous are my enemies
and how fiercely they hate me!
20 Guard my life and rescue me;
do not let me be put to shame,
for I take refuge in you.
21 May integrity and uprightness protect me,
because my hope, LORD, is in you.
22 Deliver Israel, O God,
from all their troubles.
Finally, one verse from the book of Proverbs that may be extrapolated beyond the parameters of preparing for war. It would serve us well to seek advice while preparing for any significant life event. Solomon, the wise king of Israel, advises:
18 Plans are established by seeking advice;
so if you wage war, obtain guidance.
May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word.