Be Careful Who You Shake Your Fist At
The context is yet another of those moments in Israel’s history when she is facing overwhelming odds against her. The king of Assyria and his forces are threatening Jerusalem. Hezekiah goes before the Lord to plead his cause and that of his people. Isaiah, the prophet, appears before the king with this message to deliver to Sennacherib, king of Assyria, a message that also serves to reassure Hezekiah that they have not been abandoned by the God of Israel. The message to God’s people in Jerusalem is this: “Therefore this is what the Lord says concerning the king of Assyria: ‘He will not enter this city or shoot an arrow here. He will not come before it with shield or build a siege ramp against it. By the way that he came he will return; he will not enter this city, declares the Lord. I will defend this city and save it, for my sake and for the sake of David my servant.’” (2 Kings 19:32-34).
In chapter 18 we read the words of scorn directed by the Assyrian command against the Lord Almighty. Their arrogance is responded to through the message delivered by Isaiah. The Lord knows where to find Sennacherib and his army. He knows their daily routine. He knows what they have been saying. And He will come and respond. The story reminds me of a famous poem that I had to memorize in High School.
The Destruction of Sennacherib
By Lord Byron (George Gordon)
The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;
And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea,
When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.
Like the leaves of the forest when Summer is green,
That host with their banners at sunset were seen:
Like the leaves of the forest when Autumn hath blown,
That host on the morrow lay withered and strown.
For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast,
And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed;
And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill,
And their hearts but once heaved, and for ever grew still!
And there lay the steed with his nostril all wide,
But through it there rolled not the breath of his pride;
And the foam of his gasping lay white on the turf,
And cold as the spray of the rock-beating surf.
And there lay the rider distorted and pale,
With the dew on his brow, and the rust on his mail:
And the tents were all silent, the banners alone,
The lances unlifted, the trumpet unblown.
And the widows of Ashur are loud in their wail,
And the idols are broke in the temple of Baal;
And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword,
Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord!
Lord Byron had it right, according to the final few verses of 2 Kings 19. The angel of the Lord came in the night and decimated the Assyrian army to the tune of one hundred and eighty-five thousand dead. Sennacherib returned home only to be murdered by two of his own sons.
For any who would raise their fist in God’s face and dare Him—beware. For those who wait for His rescue—rejoice. He knows where you live too!