FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
SENNACHERIB AND HEZEKIAH
June 21, 2016
Today’s reading: 2 Kings 19:9-36
Spiritual warfare is all about assaulting the enemy’s dominion, taking territory from the enemy and bringing back his captives to God and to God’s Kingdom. It is actual war, raging in the heavens and on earth, with invisible hosts, both divine and diabolical, locked in deadly combat.
The story of the people of God, Israel, who were formed by God to manifest His dominion and glory in the world, to establish an earthly kingdom that would point people to His heavenly Kingdom, was full of such warfare. The intent was to reclaim territory, under the dominion of false gods, for the one true God. The books of Kings are rife with these battles. How these wars went provide us many principles about waging holy war. Today we have the story of the assault of the Assyrians under King Sennacherib against Judah under King Hezekiah.
Assyria was the dominant power in the world. It was now threatening the smaller kingdom of Judah. Sennacherib was arrogant, even against Judah’s God. “Thus shall you say to Hezekiah, king of Judah: Do not let your God in whom you trust deceive you by saying, ‘Jerusalem will not be handed over to the king of Assyria.’” (v.10). He was openly contemptuous of God. He thought he was more powerful than the God of Israel. “You, certainly, have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all the lands: they put them under the ban! And are you to be rescued? Did the gods of the nations whom my fathers destroyed deliver them? (v.11-12).
What did Hezekiah do? Did he mobilize his army? Did he try to get other kings to support him? Did he surrender? Did he cower in fear and was paralyzed? No. He did the very first thing needed to be done. He went to the Lord and prayed. He read Sennacherib’s letter, “then he went up to the house of the Lord, and spreading it out before the Lord, Hezekiah prayed in the Lord’s presence” (v.14-15). It was an assault not just against him and Judah but against God. So here he was bringing the matter to God. He went to the One whom Sennacherib was ultimately challenging, and to the only One who could do something about it.
What was his prayer like? First, he worshiped. “Lord, God of Israel, enthroned on the cherubim!” (v.15a). What is due to God first and foremost is our worship.
Second, he acknowledged God’s dominion. “You alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth.” (v.15b). The world does not belong to Sennacherib, nor to the evil one who works in and through worldly powers today. They are all usurpers of God’s dominion. The whole universe was created by God and belongs to him. “It is you who made the heavens and the earth.” (v.15c).
Third, Hezekiah’s prayer was confident of who God was and what He could and would do for His people. “Incline your ear, Lord, and listen! Open your eyes, Lord, and see! Hear the words Sennacherib has sent to taunt the living God.” (v.16).
Only then did Hezekiah bring his need before the Lord., He asked God to save His people. “Therefore, Lord, our God, save us from this man’s power, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, Lord, are God.” (v.19).
Now God also makes use of prophets. In this case, Isaiah. Prophets speak to God’s people about His ways and His intent. It might be a word of correction, or chastisement, or encouragement, or assurance, or direction, or whatever is needed to be heard by God’s people. So Isaiah told Hezekiah: “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, to whom you have prayed concerning Sennacherib, king of Assyria: I have listened!” (v.20). God listens to His people who humble themselves in prayer! And God will act.
God through Isaiah directly addresses first Sennacherib (v.21-28), then Hezekiah (v.29-31). God tells Sennacherib that by scorning Israel, he is insulting and blaspheming God Himself (v.21-24). What then would God do to him? “Because you rage against me, and your smugness has reached my ears, I will put my hook in your nose and my bit in your mouth, and make you leave by the way you came.” (v.28). God assures Hezekiah: “I will shield and save this city for my own sake and the sake of David my servant.” (v.34).
And God did it in a dramatic way, supernaturally. “That night the angel of the Lord went forth and struck down one hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the Assyrian camp. Early the next morning, there they were, dead, all those corpses!” (v.35). Sennacherib then broke camp and ran away (v.36). One angel slew so many. What more when we have a host of angels as part of the armies of God!
We are into spiritual warfare, which, aside from the invisible war raging in the heavens, takes form through human forces under the evil one who assault and taunt and demean and try to subjugate the Church. Currently this is manifest in the assault against faith, family and life, by reproductive health, radical feminist, secular humanist, population control and LGBT forces. These include liberal, progressive and modernist Catholics within the Church. Then there are secular governments like many in the western world, and some in the East as well.
We are currently not winning this war. We are losing more and more Catholics to the other side. We must intensify our evangelization and mission, if God is to use the Church to stem the tide and turn the tide.
But it is not just going forth into battle. We must be holy warriors. Look always to God.
Onward to the New Evangelization!
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Note: The Archdiocese of Manila has issued an Oratio Imperata, to be prayed as a novena for 9 days from today until June 29. It is a prayer for the incoming officials of the Philippines.