2 Kings 19-20, Galatians 6
For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. – Galatians 6:3 ESV
Pride is a powerful force that can lead a man to great heights. But it can also end in tragedy and destruction. Our own success can be like a powerful drug that causes us to think we are indestructible, unstoppable, and the ultimate determiner of our own destiny. Sennacharib, the King of Assyria had a serious pride problem. He was powerful, successful, and a formidable force in the world in which he lived. He had conquered many nations. He ruled over a powerful nation and led a great army that had won victories over all their enemies. Sennacharib's pride had resulted in a god-sized ego that led him to believe in his own sovereignty and invincibility. He viewed his victories over all the nations the Assyrians had conquered as personal triumphs over their gods. Now the God of Judah was standing in his way, and he taunted King Hezekiah by saying, “Do not let your God in whom you trust deceive you by promising that Jerusalem will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria” (2 Kings 19:10 ESV). As far as Sennacharib was concerned, Judah was just another bump in the road to his ultimate conquest of the world. But as the proverb says, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18 ESV). Sennacharib had a hard lesson to learn concerning pride and humility. He had underestimated God and over-valued his own self-worth. In his eyes, he was a self-made man who was in complete control of his own destiny.
What does this passage reveal about God?
Hezekiah, in response to Sennacharib's boastful demands for the surrender of Jerusalem, turned to God. He appealed to “the God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim” (2 Kings 19:15 ESV). He acknowledged God as the one true God and the creator of all things. He asked God to hear his plea, see their plight and intervene on their behalf. He recognized that Sennacharib had defeated the gods of all the other nations, but “they were not gods, but the work of men's hands, wood and stone” (2 Kings 19:18 ESV). Hezekiah's God was different. He was a living, powerful, sovereign God who had made all things, including Sennacharib. And Hezekiah's God heard his prayer. He responded with a powerful indictment of Sennacharib's pride and a sobering reminder of His own divine power. While Sennacharib may have envisioned himself as the cause of his own success, God reminded him that nothing could have been further from the truth. God asks, “Have you not heard that I determined it long ago? I planned from days of old what now I bring to pass?” (2 Kings 19:25 ESV). Sennacharib's great victories were God's doing. He was in complete control, orchestrating the affairs of men in order to accomplish His divine will. The Assyrians were instruments in God's hands to bring about His sovereign will in the world. Sennacharib was about to learn the hard way that pride does come before destruction. That very night the angel of God would strike down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians, causing Sennacharib to abandon his siege and return home, where he would be murdered by his own sons. This miraculous turn of events should have been a wake-up call to King Hezekiah that his God was in complete control. He should have recognized that his future and fate were in God's hands. The humiliation of Sennacharib should have resulted in a humble spirit for Hezekiah. But instead, he develops his own pride problem.
What does this passage reveal about man?
Hezekiah was a good king who “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord” (2 Kings 8:3 ESV), “trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel” (2 Kings 18:5 ESV), and “held fast to the Lord” (2 Kings 18:6 ESV). When faced with the armies of Assyria, he had turned to God for help. He had seen God miraculously deliver Judah from the hands of their enemy without a single arrow having been shot or a solitary spear having been thrown. And when he had become deathly ill and given a less-than-ideal prognosis from the prophet Isaiah, he had turned to God again. God restored him to health and promised him 15 more years of life. Not only that, God promised to defend the city of Jerusalem and deliver it from the hand of the king of Assyria. But sadly, Hezekiah's response was one of pride. He became cocky and self-confident. He developed an attitude of indestructibility and invulnerability. When envoys from the king of Babylon showed up on his doorstep, Hezekiah took them on a whirlwind tour of Jerusalem, showing them “all his treasure house, the silver, the gold, the spices, the precious oil, his armory, all that was found in his storehouses. There was nothing in his house or in all his realm that Hezekiah did not show them” (2 Kings 20:13 ESV). Hezekiah showed off. He wanted to impress his guests with a show of superiority, power and success. He wanted to awe them with a display of his own splendor. But Isaiah the prophet was to be the bearer of bad news. He was to remind Hezekiah that pride comes before destruction. “Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the Lord. And some of your own sons, who shall be born to you, shall be taken away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon” (2 Kings 20:17-18 ESV). Isaiah prophesies the fall of Jerusalem and the exile of the people of God into Babylon. Yet, blinded by his own pride and drugged by his own self-centered perspective, Hezekiah responded, “Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days?” (2 Kings 20:19 ESV). He didn't care what happened in the future. He wasn't interested in the long-term ramifications of his behavior. He was consumed with self and solely interested in his own well-being.
How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?
It was James who wrote, “But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble’” (James 4:6 ESV). God's grace is available to those who have learned to humble themselves under His sovereign hand. He extends His amazing grace, His unbelievable favor and mercy, to those who understand that they don't deserve it. But the prideful don't receive God's grace. Sennacharib is a perfect example of this truth. His pride resulted in his own death. Hezekiah's pride would result in the destruction and fall of Jerusalem. He would enjoy peace and security during his lifetime, but he would die knowing that the city of Jerusalem and the nation of Judah would eventually fall to the armies of the very envoys he had so desperately tried to impress. At the end of the day, we must all come to grips with God's sovereignty and our own insignificance. Our response to His greatness should be a growing sense of humility. We are nothing compared to Him. We are nothing without Him. Our greatest successes are His doing, not His own. Our petty plans are ridiculous when compared with His divine will. Supposedly, it was Woody Allen who said, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” Hezekiah was right when he said, “You are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth” (2 Kings 19:15 ESV). But later in life, as he became increasingly more obsessed with his own significance and concerned with his own peace and security, he somehow forgot the fact that God was in control. His petty plans for a safe and secure life took precedence over God's divine will concerning the people of Judah and the glory of His own name. Pride warped Hezekiah's perspective and the same can happen to me today.
Father, pride is a powerful force in my own life. I struggle with it daily. I can become so absorbed with my own significance. I want to think that I somehow have control over my life and can impact my own destiny. But help me to see that the safest place for me to be is humbly submitted to Your sovereign will and willingly resigned to Your gracious plan for my life. You alone are God. You alone know what is best. Amen