Part 12 of 12
Saved By a Prayer’s Breath
I was on carpool duty that fateful morning when God reached down from the heavens and intervened in my day-to-day regime.
We were running a bit late that Saturday morning – me trying to shoo my two elementary boys into our Mitsubishi Adventure and them doing everything last-minute as young ones typically do. We finally managed to gather all the cleats and running shoes, pads and team shirts, along with two very excited boys, into the car. After picking up all of the various participants who were involved – from elementary players to high school level referees – I pulled up to the gate of my subdivision. I then prepared to begin the stop-and-start drive through horrific Manila traffic to the school where close to fifty missionary kids would converge on the soccer field for a morning of fun-loving competition.
Our subdivision was situated halfway up a long and winding hill. I always looked carefully before I pulled out onto the main road, for the blind-corner road was notorious for accidents. That morning was no different. I paused, looking left-right-left, but could see no one coming from either direction. Confidently, I began the run down the hill to the bottom, where five main roads converged in a busy, convoluted, and very dangerous intersection.
About halfway down the hill, I had a premonition – I don’t know how else to describe it – and took an action I would never normally do. A trike (motorbike with a sidecar) was putzing along right in front of me, very slowly. Why wasn’t it driving in the slow, right lane? I thought. Before I had time to really process this out, I just acted. Typically, I would move over to the far right lane and pass on the inside – that’s the reasonable response, right? – but for some reason that day, I instinctively began to pass the trike on its left. If you’re following, you will realize I actually entered into the oncoming lane’s traffic to get around him. There was nobody coming up the hill toward me, but I still would not have normally made this move as I’m a very cautious driver.
INSTANTLY, a huge truck came out of nowhere. It struck the trike which was, as you recall, just off of my front right bumper at that time. The trike went careening, spinning crazily around in the middle of its lane. One unfortunate little body from the trike flew off into the middle of the road. The driver, who had been hurtling in circles, came to a resting stop and ran back to help the young one on the road, whose head, I could see in my rearview mirror, was lolling backwards in a very unnatural manner. I watched the truck continue to gather speed as I attempted to pull my car over to the side of the road on the opposite lane of where I was supposed to be, facing oncoming traffic, but I didn’t even care. My heart was pounding too hard to listen to any rational thinking.
I watched the surreal scene unfold as if everything was moving in slow motion. The truck, full of gravel and huge rocks, eventually crashed into the median of the intersection, bounced off the median, and struck the back of a bus. Even that did not halt its momentum, for after its assault on the bus, it ricocheted off and collided with the median again. This abrupt hit actually turned it in another direction altogether. It finally came to a stop in an area out of my sightline, on another road facing up another hill. What it left in its wake was absolute destruction.
You have to realize that all of this happened in just a few seconds. Hands shaking, heart palpitating, momentum momentarily suspended, I looked around our car making sure that all those little ones in my care were okay. I noticed at that time that the teenager sitting in the passenger seat did not even have her seat belt on, so I yelled at her to get her belt on – and fast! – and I put my foot to the gas. I knew that if we did not get through the intersection within moments, all the ambulances and crowds of people would converge on that spot, making our way through virtually impossible.
We did make it to the school safely and after hearing other observers’ reports, we learned that many pedestrians and passengers had been killed and even more were injured. You see, the brakes on that truck had failed and with a full load of construction materials, it was too heavy to stop its devastating plummet into a very people-packed intersection. I have never been so thankful for God’s protective hand over me and those six children.
When I shared this story in our weekly update later that week, I got a personal response from one of our prayer warriors. He asked, “What time did this incident occur?” I told him that it was about 8:00 in the morning and he informed me that at that moment in Pennsylvania (which would have been the night before), he had felt a strong conviction to pray. He had not known why, but he had obeyed that prompting. It is my firm belief that if this prayer warrior had not begun to petition the God of Angel Armies on our behalf, that heaven would not have thundered against the evil of this earth. I am completely convinced that we were saved from a catastrophe by a prayer’s breath. Without that divine covering, we could have easily died that day; we were a hair’s breadth from being struck down…for good.
I have no superpowers that enable me to leap tall buildings with a single bound, but there are many simple men and women who have lived out of their divinely-endowed super powers…
By simply trusting God, Elijah brought a dead boy back to life (1 Kings 17) and rode a chariot straight into heaven (2 Kings 2). Elisha healed toxic water with a tree branch (2 Kings 2) and made oil abound so that it covered a widow’s debts (2 Kings 4). Peter spoke to a crippled man and healed him. This former cripple jumped to his feet and began walking, jumping and praising God (Acts 3). Philip proclaimed Christ in Samaria and healed paralytics and cripples, even casting out evil spirits from those who were oppressed (Acts 8:4-8). Even Paul was thought to have superpowers, for when a viper bit him, he shook off the snake and suffered no ill effects, causing those who witnessed the event to consider him a god (Acts 28:2-6).
I have never been visited by an angel or even had visions foretelling specific events in my future, yet many humble men and women have had revelations from God in this way…
Out of the blue, God dropped upon a teenager two dreams that would come to pass. Joseph, through divinely-inspired discernment gave many more interpretations to dreams; dreams that changed the course of Egypt’s history and his own personal involvement in God’s plans (Gen. 37, 40 and 41). Daniel interpreted King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream; in essence, telling the future of his kingdom and the future of many kingdoms to come (Daniel 2). Isaiah saw the Lord seated on His throne along with seraphs worshiping in the temple of God (Isa. 6). He was completely undone, sanctified by an angel, and commissioned for a lifetime of hearing from God in visions and prophetic utterances. Mary, Joseph, and simple shepherds all had a personal revelation brought by an angel to their domiciles. Their belief in what the angels said led to the miraculous working-out of God’s plans for His Son, Jesus (Mt. 1-2, Luke 2). Simeon, led by the Holy Spirit to the temple, held the Christ child in his arms and prophesied about events that were to come (Lk. 2). Anna, a prophetess, became a witness of the very incarnation of God because she lived a life of worship. She then spoke words of prophecy to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem (Lk 2). The entire book of Revelation was brought to John by an angel, while he was exiled on the island of Patmos. These words are a testimony of Jesus Christ and what He will do in the end times to thunder down on earth from heaven (Rev. 1ff).
God has never delivered me from a hard situation with a whisking-in-and-out event. I have never been party to what I would consider a bonafide miracle, but many listening men and women have..
For instance, Joshua, while in the middle of a war with the Amorites, prayed to the Lord that the sun would stand still until Israel had “avenged itself on its enemies.” God answered and the sun stopped in the sky and delayed going down about a full day (Josh. 10). Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego were thrown into the burning flames and were not even singed. Additionally, a person who looked like the “son of the gods” walked about in the fire with them (Dan. 3). Through political conniving and great injustice, Daniel himself was thrown into a den of lions. Not only did he survive the night, but God shut the mouths of lions; no wound was found on him (Dan. 6). After the apostles healed many of the people in their vicinity, the high priest and his associates were filled with jealousy. They arrested the apostles, but during the night an angel opened the doors of the jail and brought them out (Acts 5).
Here I have detailed just a few of the superpowers endowed by God, the supernatural visions and dreams given by God, and the superhuman events enacted by God for His trusting people. These incidents all happened, if you truly believe that the Word of God is inspired by God.
God is a god who thunders a response to desperate cries. “Who can understand how he spreads out the clouds, how he thunders from his pavilion” (Job 36:29). Elihu continued his speech about the awesome power of God by likening God’s movements on behalf of mankind to unleashed lightning, thundering with a majestic voice and in marvelous ways (Job 37:3-5).
David knew the sweet thunder of his Father’s voice, for that powerful voice was juxtaposed with His glory as God (Ps. 29:3). In Psalm 68, we are exhorted to sing praises to God, to the One “who rides the ancient skies above, who thunders with mighty voice” (v 33). When God chooses to thunder, waters roar, clouds rise, lightning strikes and wind is brought out from the heavenly storehouses (Jer. 10:14, 51:16). The prophet Joel spoke a prophecy involving the thunder of heaven: “The Lord thunders at the head of his army; his forces are beyond number, and mighty are those who obey his command. The day of the Lord is great; it is dreadful. Who can endure it? (Joel 2:10-11).
These verses spoken by flesh-and-blood men reveal a first-hand knowledge of heavenly power on man’s behalf. Elihu reminded his listeners of a God who shakes the earth with His presence. David expressed his wonder at a God who can convulse the earth with His thundering voice. Jeremiah attempted to unfurl the majesty and grandeur of his God as he relayed the thundering power of God over the elements. And Joel, seeing a coming day of judgment, attempted to describe the thunder of heaven who will come at the head of an immeasurable and powerful army.
Dear one, the thunder of heaven is not a myth; it is a genuine, untarnished, authentic and hope-inducing truth.
By Way of Review
Today is the last day I will sit in Hezekiah’s story – feeling my way through his life, meditating upon his example, attempting to mine treasures from his history – in order to make sense of some of my own stormy circumstances. This has been a long journey for me, a sort of soul-searching, painful, internal debriefing. I hope that it has been an honest but enlightening journey for you as well.
Though this series has unfolded over three whole months, I pray it has not been burdensome. I pray that you have somehow allowed the Light to penetrate portions of your heart, to illuminate some areas where trust has been broken, and to give you ways to bridge that seemingly impossible divide. Hezekiah has become a dear friend; not a perfect one, but a genuine one, fully of meaty yet vulnerable honesty. And so, to summarize what we have learned from this godly king, let me list for you one last time the principles of unwavering trust that we have mined from Scripture:
- A life of trust is built on intimacy, identity, and integrity in the calm before the storm. The calm before the storm is the place in which we must build our foundation of trust.
- Trust is the security that comes from resting one’s identity on the Word and the Person of God. Hezekiah stood tall when Israel collapsed because his foundation was built on truth.
- A person who trusts will respond to suffering with worship. Trust in the middle of shattered dreams becomes a healing balm when a person learns to worship despite baffling amounts of suffering.
- Trust always humbly steers toward the focal point of God. When a person loses sight of God as her focus, she will get off track. Pride always steers us awry, but pursuing humility always leads us back into God’s will for our lives.
- A trusting person fears the Lord rather than giving way to fleshly fear. A When Assyria attacked nearby Lachish, fear undermined Hezekiah’s choices. As the storm clouds gathered above his head, distrust began to ignite fear. Hezekiah learned the hard way that God, rather than man, must be his pure object of trust.
- Trust engages in the art of preparing the mind and heart for action. There is an art to preparing for war. Engaging in that hard work before the spiritual battles come, will outfit you to stand victoriously in the midst of the storm.
- Trust draws its resources from the heavenly places when war is imminent. Assyria stands at Jerusalem’s doors, but trust in God enabled Hezekiah to see the reality of his situation. We studied Elisha’s similar stance in 2 Kings 6 to reveal the true enemy and the nine heavenly resources that are available to us in the heavenly places.
- Trust employs the truths of Scripture to unveil the tactics of the enemy. Satan has an agenda and uses many tactics to harass you. Unveiling the enemy’s tactics helps you to be forewarned to how Satan may choose to approach you.
- In the eye of the storm, trust stands firm in truth, righteousness and peace. Standing firm requires us to h – hold our tongues by standing in the shoes of peace, o – obey our King’s commands fitted with the breastplate of righteousness, and w – wait on God wearing the belt of truth
- In the eye of the storm, trust stands firm in faith. Unfortunately, King Ahaz did not stand firm, but based on Isaiah 7 and 8 and the encouragement and rebuke of the Lord, we learned nine practical principles that flesh out the first three pieces of armor. These helped Hezekiah make a different choice many years later.
- On the evil day, trust takes up faith, salvation and the Word of God in order to stand firm. Hezekiah, when faced with continuing pressure to give up, did not. Instead, he turned toward God and admitted his helplessness. He kept God’s glory at the forefront of his prayers and entreated God as His child. He chose to undermine his fear with God’s sovereignty and placed his trust in God’s rhema words.
Today we get to see God finally move on Hezekiah’s behalf. There have been moments of belief and unbelief, incredible works of healing and revelation, and there have been warnings, but we have not yet seen God break through the heavens and deliver Hezekiah from his needy situation. But today, the God of heaven will thunder. He will come down on Hezekiah’s behalf and He will move in unbelievable ways.
A Preview of God’s Thunder
Maybe you are in Hezekiah’s same boat. You are stuck between a rock and a hard place and the only options seem to be death or surrender to the enemy. You see no way out of the eye of your storm and you are filled with a hopeless despair. I want you to know a truth that has really ministered to me; it is the truth of God’s watchful eye.
After almost 400 years of misery and agony, the king of Egypt died and the people of Israel groaned out to God over their slavery. They cried out to Him for help. Listen to the thunder of heaven, “Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant…God saw the people of Israel – and God knew” (Ex. 2:23-25 – ESV).
All of this seeing and knowing provoked the God of thunder.
After God finally convinced Moses to head toward Egypt, Moses and Aaron eventually gathered all the elders of the people of Israel. Aaron told them all that God had said to Moses and did all the signs in their sight. And look at their response: “And the people believed; and when they heard that the Lord had visited the people of Israel and that he had seen their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshiped” (Ex. 4:27-31 – ESV).
When God thundered, the people worshiped.
God hears your cry. He remembers His covenant of love for you. He sees you and the pain you are in and He knows: He knows you; He knows your situation; and He knows what to do to bring about the transformation that is needed. Friend, maybe all you need to hear today is that God is not unaware. He has begun a good work in you and He will carry it to completion (Phil. 1:6). In all things, my discouraged, storm-tossed one, God works for the good of those who love him (Rom. 8:28); that means you. He has plans for you that are for welfare and not for calamity. They are to give you a hope and a future (Jer. 29:11).
You, my friend, can rest assured that God in heaven can thunder, desires to thunder, and will thunder on your behalf. He will ride the lightning and corral the wind in the midst of your stormy skies. He who thunders at the head of His mighty army promises to deliver you if you cry out in your need (Ps. 72:12) and obey His commands (Joel 2:11). What is a command that precipitates this heavenly movement? Simply put, it is unwavering trust: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your path” (Pr. 3:5-6).
Oh, pray for Him to hear, remember, see and know. Stand firm in your armor. Take up the additional pieces He has given for the evil day. Reiterate His promises for you until you actually believe them. Then watch and wait.
The God of heaven will thunder for you, just like He did for Hezekiah.
We have not done justice to the theme of spiritual warfare – that would literally take books – but we have briefly studied who the enemy is, how to recognize his tactics, and how to stand firm in the armor of God. All of these truths are needed to stand against the tactics of the devil.
However, there is one last principle of spiritual warfare about which we need to learn. That principle involves the much-talked-about but little-used truth called prayer. Paul ends his section on the armor of God with these words, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints” (Eph. 6:18).
All believers know that they are supposed to pray. After all, Jesus prayed a lot in the gospels and we know we are to emulate Christ, right? But I have found that many more people talk about praying than actually take the time to pray. I do not personally know many prayer warriors; people who have trained themselves in the art of pounding on the doors of heaven, especially on others’ behalf. Quite frankly, intercession is my weakest discipline. I pray a lot and I know how to pray Scripture to add impact to my prayers, but I usually find that after I have prayed through my personal and spiritual needs along with my family and close friends, there is not much time left for true intercession for others. This is an area in which I need to grow – desperately.
Over the years, I have led many Bible studies. As is common, these times of coming together always included fellowship and food, the study of God’s Word, worship, and prayer. Every time we would get to the prayer portion of the morning, I found that women perked up. All of a sudden, they began to talk (and talk and talk) about their concerns, their needs, their requests. They usually spent so much time talking about their requests that there was very little time to pray. As you can imagine, this habit quickly became a big pet peeve of mine.
To counteract this talking-about prayer norm, I had each lady write down their requests succinctly and clearly on a card before they came to Bible study. We passed those cards around the group in random order and then I had each woman pray the requests on her card out loud. Every woman was to have their Bible at the ready and listen to the Spirit as they heard the requests.
In the silence following each request, if a Bible verse or the words of a hymn or chorus popped into a woman’s head, I tried to train the women to speak those truths out. I cannot tell you how God often moved in our prayer time. At first, the women were incredibly reticent to share in this way, but over time, the Spirit prompted so much encouragement from His Word. I recall that God even answered some prayers for direction by praying in this manner, marrying prayer and the Word of God.
Prayer is powerful, my friend. In the book of Mark, the disciples were asked to cast out an evil spirit from a boy. They were unable to do so, and though Jesus rebuked them for their unbelief, He did finish the spiritual job and freed the boy from oppression. The disciples were perplexed as to why they could not accomplish what seemed to be such an easy task for Jesus. His answer is not surprising in light of the importance of this theme in the context of spiritual battles, “This kind can come out only by prayer” (Mk. 9:14-29).
When Daniel heard the decree that he was not to pray to any god, he went home and got down on his knees and prayed, just as he had always done (Dan. 6:10). While the situation seemed to get worse – he ended up in a lion’s den, after all – it was simply a more clear platform for the glory of God to fall on. An angel was sent to that den. Lions’ mouths were closed (Dan. 6:22). And a decree for all people to fear and reverence God was put into effect by a pagan king (Dan. 6:25-27).
Without prayer, would any of this have happened?
Prayer is the way we connect our hearts and our needs to the throne of grace. We can approach God’s throne room with confidence because we know that God hears our prayers (Lk. 1:13), sympathizes with our concerns, and will extend mercy and grace to help us in our time of need (Heb. 4:15-16). Prayer is not a pie-in-the-sky, oh, I hope He hears me kind of last-ditch effort. No, prayer is a lifeline to Love, a love that will move you along a painful, but beautiful process of being filled to the measure of all the fullness of God (Eph. 3:19).
While the prayer of a righteous woman is powerful and very effective (Jms. 5:16), there is a way to boost that effectivity even more. Simply put, it is to speak out God’s own words. If you study the prayers of the Bible, you will very quickly see that prayer plus Scripture is virtually unstoppable.
Nehemiah asked his brother a simple question about the remnant, but the answer he received was life-changing; it broke his heart. He began to weep and fast and pray. His prayer is only six verses long but it is chock-full of Scripture references. He draws on several passages of Deuteronomy (Deut. 28:64, 30:1-4, 12:5) and even quotes the words in which Moses pleaded for Israel on mount Sinai (Deut. 9:29). These borrowed prayers boosted his faith and claimed God’s covenantal promises and when he was asked by the king as to why he was sad, he spoke boldly. Then the Lord granted every request he verbalized, even down to having Babylon foot the entire bill for the journey.
God knows His words. They are truth (Jn 17:17) and they are life (1 Jn. 1:1). They are bread (Mt. 4:4) and they are near (Rom. 10:8). They are cleansing (Jn. 17:14) and sanctifying (Jn. 17:17). They are a Spirit-sword (Eph. 6:17), unchained (2 Tim. 2:9), powerful (Heb. 1:3), and active (Heb. 4:12). They are good (Heb. 6:5) and encouraging (Heb. 12:5). They give birth to a kind of firstfruits of all of His creation (Jms. 1:18). They are living and enduring (1 Pet. 1:23), able to stand forever (1 Pet. 1:25). And they are personal: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (Jn. 1:1). And in the end of time on earth as we know it, that Word will ride forth with justice and tread the winepress of the fury of God (Rev. 19:11, 13, 15). Jesus, my friend, is the Word of God.
You pray the Word and God recognizes in that prayer the truth of His Son. When you and I seek to conjoin prayer with the very Word of God, we appeal to the highest power and authority known to man. Prayer plus truth is the key that opens the door of heaven’s resources. It is the catalyst that precipitates the thunder of heaven.
Today we are going to see Hezekiah pray and you will be amazed at what God does on Jerusalem’s behalf. But first, things are going to get much worse before they get better. Just like Daniel was falsely accused and tossed into a lion’s den, Hezekiah will feel the accusation of a roaring lion’s rage. But eventually, God will move to right the wrong in Hezekiah’s life…in His perfect time.
If you will recall from our study last week, Hezekiah took up his shield of faith and his helmet of salvation. Because of his faith-stance, God spoke rhema words over his situation, “Listen! I am going to put a spirit in him so that when he hears a certain report, he will return to his own country, and there I will have him cut down with the sword” (Isa. 37:7).
What an amazing promise! How Hezekiah must have praised his God, especially when he saw a part of God’s statement come true. On the heels of God’s promise to him, the Assyrian field commander heard that the king of Assyria had put a stop to the siege at Lachish and moved to another city. His choice, then, was to withdraw from Jerusalem to go help King Sennacherib who was fighting against Libnah (Isa. 37:8).
Libnah was a city on the Philistine plain about ten miles north of Lachish. We are not sure why the king moved on nor why the field commander felt it was imperative that he briefly withdraw from Jerusalem. Possibly, it is due to the next chain of events. Sennacherib received a report (does this sound familiar?) that Tirhakah, the Egyptian king was marching out to fight against him (Isa. 37:9). Now Tirhakah was the sixth Pharaoh in the 25th Ethiopian dynasty in Egypt. At this time, he would have been only twenty years of age. Since he acceded to the throne eleven years after this incident, the likelihood of a massive Egyptian intervention was quite small; not impossible, but small nevertheless.
Do you remember God’s words that “when he hears a certain report, “ the king would return to his own country (v 7)? I believe the report Sennacherib received was actually a divinely-inspired rumor. Possibly, Egypt was on the march, but remember, Tirhakah was not even a king at this time, though the “report” named him as such. “The Lord of history knows when a whispered word is enough, for the hearts of kings are in His rule and governance (Tyndale Commentary).
Whatever the details of the report entailed, they galvanized the Assyrian army. If Sennacherib embraced that the rumor was true, that meant he would be fighting two enemies at the same time. Caught between Egypt to the southwest and Jerusalem to the east, he would clearly still be the superior force, but no military leader ever welcomes a war on two fronts. He had a decision to make. Prior to the report, the decision was easy: the demise of Jerusalem seemed quick and sure. But having to fight Egypt and Judah at the same time would prolong the battle and exacerbate the potential for a greater loss of life. This report made his decision much harder.
King Sennacherib knew he needed to end the battle with Judah quickly. The report of the approach of the Egyptian army gave greater urgency to the bid to gain Jerusalem. He decided to pour on the heat. And so the spiritual battle came to a crisis point, for that is when Hezekiah had to dig into the most powerful tool in his resource box, the generously-given, divinely-inspired, heaven-beseeching, thunder-invoking tool of prayer.
We have a lot of text to cover today – some thirty verses – but I am hoping to simplify the remaining narrative of Hezekiah’s incredible story under one last acronym: P.R.A.Y.E.R. These remaining verses can be split up into six vignettes of movement; movements that mirror the real-life sagas of our lives in the day-to-day dance of good versus evil, passion versus complacency, and desperation versus dependence. This subject of prayer, by the way, leads me to our twelfth and final Hezekiah principles: Principle 12: Trust takes all things to God in prayer, knowing that he will hear and answer in His time and way.
The first movement of any prayer starts with some sort of trauma – be it attack or temptation or suffering – and this godly king’s story is no different. Let’s turn to Isaiah 37:9-13 to see what precipitates Hezekiah’s choice to depend on his God.
P – Prepare For Satan’s Assaults, (vv 9-13)
The Movement of Trauma
As mentioned above, trauma precipitates action. Now, there are two sides to this simple statement. First of all, what constitutes a trauma? We have talked about this during this series already. I mentioned that the incident on Suicide Hill that led to the fracture of my L-1 did not put me out of spiritual commission, but a positive pregnancy stick at the age of 43 threw me into a whirlwind of unbelief, a storm from which I still continue to turn my face into contrary winds on a daily basis.
Precious believer, trauma is not only for those who are unexpectedly paralyzed or have lost a child to the evil in this world. We are all victims of trauma, in one form or another, for trauma can be defined simply as a deeply distressing or disturbing experience. There does not have to be a physical death to invoke equal feelings of grief and loss. Unfortunately, depression can hide in your psyche without any physical circumstances to reveal it. Sorrow cohabits with joy, rage with love, and ambivalence with incredible passion. Your body is an intricate and convoluted machine, capable of an impressive capacity to keep “handling” life even when chaos reigns within and without.
I have experienced physical trauma in the form of health issues, parenting issues, and literal loss of life through miscarriages. Emotional traumas have lapped against my mind’s safety: abuse, rootlessness, abandonment, rejection, and I could go on and on. I have endured spiritual traumas, where God has seemed to move on to places that I am just unable to follow. If I were to create a timeline of events, these occurrences would litter the linear landscape of my memories like landmines dotting a war zone, hidden yet deadly. And I know your timeline would look similar.
Sadly, most of the trauma I have experienced has come to me at the hands (or mouths) of other believers. These mini woundings have been cleverly disguised in the form of constructive criticism, a need to “fill out the details” of a prayer request, or even a “godly word” spoken to me in a very backhanded kind of package. Or I have been treated abominably by Christians who get away with it because they are covered by the blood of Jesus, because they are sanctified and justified and forgiven. Do you hear the pain in these words?
My friend, it ought not to be! But it often is.
David struggled with this very concept, “If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were raising himself against me, I could hide from him. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship as we walked with the throng at the house of God” (Ps. 55:12-14). We expect trauma to come from the corners of this evil world. We assume that unbelievers will wound hearts, pervert justice and twist goodness, but when these daggers thrust at us from friends, family, and our own church body, we are left gasping from the unforeseen brandishment of evil from those who say they love us.
David cried out many times in his written prayers about the injustice of twisted words that concealed contempt and coldheartedness. He even went so far as to call these oppositional “friends” his enemies. I feel his ambivalence, for these stinging moments, these verbal and physical traumas, have shaped how I respond to many people in the church. I am cautious in religious settings and stingy in my trust. I am usually vulnerable to a certain point, for my personal remembrance of traumatic speech has conditioned my level of confidence that I will not truly receive care from church members in times of severe crisis or bearing-down types of storms.
I am being very open with you because I know you have probably struggled with similar issues. Paul was pretty clear when he stated that there is no temptation – experience, discipline, trial – that has overtaken you that is not common to man (1 Cor. 10:13a). Deep, distressing experiences can come from loss or death or impairment, but often times, trauma is cleverly camouflaged by reckless words (Pr. 12:18) and smooth speech (Ps. 55:21).
Satan, our real enemy, will use anything to disparage God and destroy our faith. People, places, and circumstances are pawns in his deceitful hands. Hurts that fester in the heart destroy hope. Words spoken out of the Spirit’s leading break relationships and destroy unity. And then there are the full-on frontal attacks contrived by Satan to raze us to the ground. These attacks, as we have seen, can be as small as a temptation for our flesh to act independently of God or as big as Evil’s smothering presence which dampens the Light of the world and covers our faith with fear.
A Parting Shot
Satan’s methods of inducing trauma are varied and very effective if we are not standing firm in our faith. We saw in lesson 8 that the general’s words were daggers, inflicting trauma after trauma to the Judeans’ faith in God and their king. The Rabshakeh used seven different tactics to tempt the people of Jerusalem and their godly king to react in ungodly ways. Just to remind you of those, I will list them here:
- He immobilizes by intimidation (invasion, indomitability, inflation, insults, and insolence).
- He inundates our imagination with doubt.
- He intensifies our insecurities.
- He issues an insidious invitation.
- He impoverishes by illusion.
- He induces independence.
- He invalidates our integrity.
As we turn back to our Isaiah 37 text, you will recall that King Sennacherib received a report that Egypt was on the march. As a result, he knew he had to win the war with Judah…and quickly. What he needed was a smothering, debilitating, crippling weapon, one that would end the skirmish with little to no loss of life. The weapon that he chose to use is very surprising to me and it is familiar to you: he chose to use the traumatic weapon of words.
It is so interesting to me that instead of just attacking and completely overrunning the city, since he had the far superior force, Sennacherib engaged in a battle of words yet again. This reveals to me two thoughts about spiritual warfare. First, Satan doesn’t often just come up in your face to attack. He goes through back doors and between slats in broken fences to enter your unguarded places. Beware of those lapses of integrity or broken walls. Satan loves to use your weaknesses against you and he will exploit them. Hezekiah’s lapses of integrity into pride, fear and independence were a few of the areas Sennacherib attacked verbally, among many others.
Secondly, notice the use of painful words. I believe Satan will use words more than any other weapon: the words of friends, family members, church mates, and spouses. He will cause a hurt or angry feeling to rise up in someone and they will strike you to the core of your being. You also may be used to hurt others in this same way. Beware of your words. Without the protective covering of grace and the equally protective caution of the Spirit, the words you speak to yourself or others may be the very tool Satan uses to traumatize and wound.
Before any decisions were made about both the report and the conundrum of what to do with the city of Jerusalem, Sennacherib fired off a fear-inducing attack by way of messengers to Hezekiah, “Do not let the god you depend on deceive you when he says, ‘Jerusalem will not be handed over to the king of Assyria. Surely you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all the countries, destroying them completely. And will you be delivered? Did the gods of the nations that were destroyed by my forefathers deliver them – the gods of Gozan, haran, Rezeph and the people of Eden who were in Tel Assar? Where is the king of Hamath, the king of Arpad, the king of the city of Sepharvaim, or of Hena or Ivvah?” (Isa 37:10-13)?
Do these words sound familiar to you? They should. They were a basic summary of the words already spoken in chapter 36 verses 15, 18-20. In essence, Sennacherib attacked Hezekiah’s faith (v 10), asserted the invincibility of Assyria before the nations (v 11) and gods (v 12), and hinted at a participating risk to kings who opposed him (v 13). He used the very same tactics previously used by his field commander, speaking almost the same words.
When I was studying this last year, this seemed really strange to me so I took up this matter with the Lord. I told God, “He is using all the same tactics as before; there’s nothing new here.” This was the Lord’s response: “Satan doesn’t need new tactics. He’s good at the ones he has already come up with. Be on your guard, Heather.”
Since King Sennacherib repeated his mode of attack, let’s re-study this portion, keeping our minds open to the truths about spiritual warfare. First, Sennacherib employed the tactic of intimidation. He intimidated by insolence, spewing out arrogance against the God of all the earth. If you remember, this is the point that was brought out at the end of the last tirade – that God was small. This was the point that caused Hezekiah to be concerned for the glory of God’s name. Here the enemy king does not pull any punches; he starts with the act of defaming God.
He also intimidated by indomitability, letting Hezekiah know that there was no way he could come against superior forces and win (v 11). In other words, Hezekiah was fighting a losing battle. Assyria was too big, much bigger than any hope or prayer Hezekiah could muster up. He also inflated the truth. Notice that he said “all the kings” and “all the countries” and spoke about “destroying them completely” (vv 11-12). Those words “all” and “completely” are superlatives and they are an excellent word choice when a person wants to intimidate by inflation.
Believer, Satan will always try to intimidate you. He will use your circumstances to frighten you or he will use another person’s attempt to overpower you through cutting verbiage, physical magnitude or emotional hijacking. You need to be aware of this tactic, because if you are not prepared for it, it will sideswipe you with its intensity. It may even cause you to crash your faith on the sides of your faith’s highway. Remember that even Satan, the prince of the power of this world’s air, is subservient to the King of kings.
Notice that King Sennacherib also worked to inundate Hezekiah’s imagination with doubts. He intimated that God was not dependable, that He was not a God who could be trusted. Additionally, he used the word “deceive” and attributed that character quality to God Himself: “Do not let the god you depend on deceive you…” Somehow this enemy king knew about God’s promise to deliver Jerusalem. Remember this promise had been given to Hezekiah when he was sick on his deathbed? Now, he introduces doubt into the Judean king’s heart by calling his God ‘undependable’ and ‘deceitful.’ It sounds like the Garden of Eden all over again: Did God really say…?
God created the imagination. It is the source of every beautiful painting, every poignant melody line, every impassioned production. But it can also be a real battleground in the midst of a spiritual conflict. Where once the imagination was used to hope and joy and dream, when Satan begins to offer up ‘what ifs’ and ‘if onlys,’ then the life-giving playground becomes a fomenting fury of fear. Be on your guard, for Satan will use your own creative abilities against you. Hopes and dreams will turn to despair and ashes if you do not exchange this perverted turn of imagination for God’s command to “watch and pray lest you fall into temptation” (Mt. 26:41). Any time your imagination begins to re-route your trust track to fear, train your mind to be on your guard. As you sense your hope nose-diving into depression, take that thought captive to make it obedient to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). Then use your imagination to picture you walking through your storm hand in hand with Jesus. Now, there’s a sweet and precious image.
He tried to intensify Hezekiah’s insecurities by playing on Judah’s smallness and fear. And if Hezekiah took the time to look at the facts and face them square-on, his army was tiny in comparison. They did not nearly have enough fighter-power to withstand this enemy, let alone overcome them. Their small nation was a laughable matter to this foreign king who played on the city’s insecurity. If Hezekiah trusted only in his army, his soldiers, and their faithful loyalty, there was no way that he could withstand Assyria’s attack. The enemy knew it and Hezekiah knew it. It was an impossible situation, a situation with no solution and no way out of the mess…but for God.
Insecurity is the emotional act of removing the helmet of salvation from the coat tree of faith. It is the body’s flight method of unplugging the Iphone of trust from the power source of belief before it is fully charged. You will never feel insecure if you are fully charged on God’s sovereignty, love, goodness, power, and care. The only way Satan can entice you to hang your hat of trust on a different coat tree, the coat tree of fear instead of faith, is to convince you that God is not who He says He is nor can He do what He says He can do.
You need to be aware of this scheme, for it is insidious. Do not allow any doubt to unplug you from your Power Source. Repeat the truth of God’s character over and over to yourself – and out loud in the heavenly places – every time you feel a disconnect of fear. You are not an insecure person. If fact, if you are a believer, you are completely secure in Christ, sealed by the Holy Spirit and covered by the blood. The insecurity that rises in you when winds start to blow is a lie being whispered to you from the pit of hell. Rest assured in God’s inherent goodness and love for you. And without a doubt, keep plugging in to faith.
Lastly, the enemy king tried to impoverish Hezekiah’s faith by illusion. He spoke some truths about others being taken captive. He played on the power of what was “heard,” all the atrocities that the kings of Assyria had done to other nations. However, had Assyria really taken control of all the countries? Had Sennacherib really destroyed them completely? The answer is a resounding ‘no.’ Only nine countries are mentioned in his list of conquest. The enemy chose to use some verbal sleight of hand here, masking the truth of an incomplete takeover with words that implied otherwise.
Some of the biggest death-blows to good communication are the use of the words ‘all’ and ‘never: You always do this. You never do that. Speaking in this way is a form of illusion; a person is trying to mask the truth by painting over the whole picture with broad, general brushstrokes. By inflating the truth, the attacker portrays his own personal illusion.
Yet telling half-truths is also a form of illusion. When you are unable to see all the facts from both angles, it is very difficult to make a responsible decision. Satan uses both of these illusionary tactics to create fear and doubt in your walk with God. Listen to the way you talk to yourself. If you are speaking words that include ‘all’ or ‘never’ or even ‘always’, ferret out the real truth and change the verbiage you speak to yourself. But more than that, if you are telling yourself half-truths, you are impoverishing your own faith. The enemy does not even have to get involved; he has you right where he wants you. Train yourself to speak the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God.
Faithful warrior of God, if you are indeed bent on receiving a heavenly perspective, you must prepare yourself for the assaults of the enemy. Satan will come against you using one of these tactics. Observe them. Memorize them. Be quick to recognize them. And speak out against them. Do not let the enemy traumatize you with his words, either whispered in your ears or screamed at you from another source. Be watchful and ready to engage the enemy with the Sword of the Spirit. Prepare your eyes to see the enemy coming and prepare your mouth to speak out, “It is written.” Then you will begin to hear the first rumblings of the Thunder from heaven.
R – Respond In Prayer, (vv 14-20)
The Movement of Wrestling
I mentioned above that trauma precipitates action. Together we gently nudged at the corners of the word ‘trauma,’ talking about what constitutes the depth of woundedness in the heart. But what is it about trauma that precipitates action? What efforts usually flow from these kinds of soul-lacerations? In other words, how do we typically respond to such woundings?
The actions taken are as varied as the personalities of this world, the level of each person’s faith, and the severity of the trauma inflicted. When I have my feelings resting firmly on the foundation of God’s love, I am able to manage slights and hurts much more easily. If my faith is unwavering because I have dug my roots down deep into God’s grace and mercy, I instinctively move into godly responses: prayer, dependence, vulnerability, accountability, spiritual disciplines, and strength in spiritual warfare.
But if the storms are coming at me from every side, if I am in the very eye of a tornado – multiple tornadoes, in fact – I become buffeted in my belief system to the extent that I feel rootless, faithless, and wobbly like a round-bottomed doll. At that point, my actions tend to play out reactively. I fight back, scream back, or cry back to achieve some measure of justice for my wounded soul. I may run for the proverbial hills, with my tail tucked between my legs. I may even numb myself, unable to gather the strength to take a firm stance. Oblivion appears far more attractive than engagement because at the very least, it is a self-protective gesture that cocoons my heart from further damage; it feels safer than any other response.
My reactions will play out the true tenets of my belief system. If I truly know God is sovereign in my head and in my heart, I will respond confidently out of that trust. If I understand that God has my best interests in mind, I will humbly accept the traumas that come my way with a bowed head and an open hand. But if there are some tendrils of doubt, some trickles of distrust, some teasing remnants of independence, I will struggle to trust full-on; I will react instead of respond in love.
I am weeping as I write this, for God is right now gently, and maybe not so gently, wooing my current reactions to line up with these hard-to-write words. I am being asked to respond to my present trauma with a bold love, with a steady grace, and with a forgiving heart, while everything in me screams a deafening “no!” Honestly, I want to numb; I do not know if I can continue to open myself up to daily hurt, but God is tugging against my efforts to shut the door on my feelings. I want to run, but know that if I do, I will run out on God’s will for me. I feel stuck in my painful mire, the oozing mud of my hurt sucking me slowly down into its dark depths. With barely a glimmering flame of hope, I thrash against being overpowered by the winds of my current circumstances. I want to have faith – unwavering trust like Hezekiah – but I am truly struggling to line up my soul with the truth of the Word of God.
This is the dilemma of faith, my friend, the dilemma that Jacob faced on his return to Canaan. He had caused immeasurable amounts of trauma to his family. He had run for the hills of his forefathers, but God drew him back into the trauma to engage him at the point of needed transformation. On the eve of a fateful meeting with the brother he had viciously wounded, he knew he was in deep emotional trouble. He tried every method he knew to procure a godly response, but realized in the end that he could not invoke the Thunder of heaven on his behalf. He had to wait for God to work in His time and in His way. It was a hard lesson for him; similarly, it is also a very hard lesson for us.
Do you recognize the reactions of a wavering faith in Jacob’s responses? Do you try to negotiate with trauma-laden guilt, attempting to find some favor in others’ eyes (Gen. 32:3-6)? Do you react in fear, splitting up your reserves, hedging your bets against the will of God, in order to preserve some sort of remnant (Gen. 32:7-8, 22-23)? Do you pray in desperation, groveling on your face before God, reminding Him of His promises, and begging for His salvation (Gen. 32:9-12)? Do you pave the way before you with gifts, attempting to placate those who have wounded you or those you have wounded in generous ways, in order that your life will run more smoothly (Gen. 32:13-21). Jacob tried out all of these responses and in the end, he was brought to the end of his self-made attempts to thunder like his Father. In the end, his reactions spun his wheels in nonsensical movements of self-promotion and self-absorption, but they did nothing to invoke real change.
God is not surprised when we respond like Jacob did; He knows how we are made, for He fashioned us. He is compassionate toward us, for He is intimately aware of how we are formed and remembers that we are dust (Ps. 103:13-14). No panic-driven exertion stemming from our trauma will surprise God, but there is one movement He desires more than anything else. It is the gesture Jacob finally took when he had tried everything else to no avail.
Genesis 32:22-32 shows us the action that pleases God: wrestling with all our hearts. After all the conniving, maneuvering, and hedging, Jacob was left all alone (v 24a). And in that deep, dark, lonely abyss, Jacob wrestled a man until daybreak (v 24b). The struggle that ensued most of that night typified Jacob’s life-time wrestling match with others. But what Jacob discovered that soul-opening night was that all of those years of flailing around and scheming were actually a soul-battle against God; he had been struggling with God all along (v 28). That knock-down-drag-it-out fight cost him something: his hip was wrenched ever after (v 25) and you need to know that something will have to give in your belief system to emerge transformed. But what Jacob received from God was mind-blowing.
Jacob’s story shows us that God blesses the struggle; He even invites it. Passion for God – whether it be anger or love, fear or confidence, psychotic perusal or introspective meditation – is welcomed in the throne room of heaven. What God cannot abide is passionless apathy. Read the Psalms or the book of Job if you do not believe me. They are filled with angry reticence and questioning ambivalence. But then at the end of each ranting chapter, God blesses the honest wrestler with a greater sense of His presence accompanied by the tell-tale markers of peace, joy, and trust.
God’s love is not a love that blusters and shakes against the wrestler, but one that gives compassionately, generously, and sacrificially until it bleeds. He would rather you sat alone before Him, choosing to process it all through, struggling through every ‘why’ and ‘do you love me?’ with honest abandonment. His love can handle your anger. His arms can handle your thrashing. And His heart can handle your doubts. But know this: Jacob wrestled his match through an entire night. It took everything out of him. While your struggle may take much longer than Jacob’s, it will require every free moment you have and every ounce of your precious energy, just like it did for the schemer-turned-blessed (Gen. 32:24ff)? God’s heart cultivates the action of gentle and yielding response, but that does not come easily. It is the product of a grappling, struggling, wrangling, contending wrestling match with God.
I submit to you that a time-out with God is desperately needed. This is the action that catches the eye of our Father. The responses that are required in the aftermath of trauma are watching, waiting, expectant stillness. We must come away from all influences, come toward our Breath of Heaven and just be still in His presence. But being still does not necessarily mean being silent. Job cried out for God to hear him for entire chapters of his namesake book and in the end was blessed more than in the beginning of his trauma. But many words were screamed to the heavens; many ‘whys’ were brandished by outraged lips. Job became still before his Maker, but a storm tossed his soul first.
Just like Job, you may need to wrestle the trauma through and offer up a wrenched-hip type of response, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5-6). When you are still with God, you will know Him as God in the depths of your soul. Then your heart, your hurt, your impetus for living, will also resound in concert with the One who is exalted among the nations, in the earth, in our trauma, and in your wounded soul (Ps. 46:10).
Wrestling in Prayer
Paul sends his final greetings to the church at Colossae, mentioning many great helpers by name. In that long list of side-by-side encouragers is the name Epaphras, who happened to be from the Colossian church and was a servant of Christ. There is a beautiful description of this man that no other person in the New Testament shares. Listen to these words, “He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured” (Col. 4:12).
That word ‘wrestle’ in the NIV is translated ‘struggle’ in other versions. It is the Greek word agonizomai, meaning “to struggle, literally (to compete for a prize), figuratively (to contend with an adversary), or genitive case (to endeavor to accomplish something): – to fight, labor fervently, strive” (ESV Strong’s). It encompasses the ideas of contending in games, contending with adversaries, struggling with difficulties and dangers, and endeavoring with strenuous zeal, striving to obtain something. In short, it means “working hard for” someone or something (Col. 4:13a). Epaphras was known to be a prayer wrestler, someone who struggled in the faith on another’s behalf.
If you will recall, the Assyrian king has just issued a verbal attack toward King Hezekiah in the form of a letter relayed through messengers (Isa. 37:9, 14). It was a blasphemous letter, a fear-inducing verbal assault. But look at the incredible response of Judah’s king, “Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord. And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord” (Isa. 37:14-15).
When Hezekiah had received similar words the first time, he reacted quite differently. He tore his clothes, put on sackcloth, ran to the temple, then sent palace officials to ask Isaiah to pray for the remnant (37:1). This time there was no grief. There was no despair. There was no desperate running. In fact, Hezekiah did his own praying. He seemed to know his way comfortably about in the country of faith.
He did not react in a panic. I believe he must have remembered Isaiah’s words that said a believer will not panic: “whoever believes need never be shaken” (Isa. 28:16) and “unless your faith is firm, I cannot make you stand firm (Isa. 7:9). Something had changed since the enemy’s last attack. I propose to you that the first wrestling-through of faith mingled with panic led to the more pure wrestling-through of faith in prayer.
If you read verses 16 through 20, you will notice that this prayer is not full of self with all of its ambivalent emotions. Instead, it is fully preoccupied with God: who He is, His honor, His uniqueness, and the revelation of His glory in the world. From the time that Hezekiah received the field commander’s words to the time that he received the second letter of verbal manipulation, he spent the time wrestling his faith to the ground. The prayer that is wrung from his sweat-stained heart and perspective-transformed lips is the unadulterated prayer of a man of great faith.
What made this prayer so unique? How did the wrestling matches with God cause such a sweet fragrance to emerge from this man’s heart? I need to know this answer and so do you, for in times of panic, you and I usually react just like Jacob, or Job or the faithless, wavering Hezekiah. But this new man could be you. This prayer warrior could be me.
The key that unlocks a godly response in times of panic is focus. On what do you anchor your soul when winds are shaking and rains are blinding you? When everything is breaking loose from its moorings, when your faith feels about as stable as spaghetti, what becomes your bedrock foundation? A question very similar to this was raised in Hebrews 6.
You see, Abraham was given a promise that he would become a great nation (Gen. 12:1-3), but along came storm after storm, trauma after trauma. There was the waiting-on-God-while-he-traveled storm, the famine storm, the lying-about-his-wife storm, then the fight-over-the-well storm. He endured the get-the-nephew-out-of-trouble storm, the smoking firepot storm, then the wife-who-took-matters-into-her-own-hand storm. He gave in to the alternate-child storm, the circumcision storm, and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah storm. And still the gales of angst about God’s promises swirled around him while he waited on God to fulfill His promise.
The writer of Hebrews used this example of Abraham to show you and me what is to anchor us in our storms. God swore by Himself, saying “I will surely bless you and give you many descendants. And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised” (Heb. 6:13-15). Then, not too many years later, God asked Abraham to sacrifice that child of promise and how did Abraham respond? He responded with faith: “Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death” (Heb. 11:19). What enabled Abraham to wait patiently for God to thunder from heaven, despite storm after storm? How was God able to induce Abraham to take Isaac, the son of God’s thundering promise, out to Moriah to kill him? It was because of the key of focus.
Abraham focused on two truths. See if you can find them in these verses, “So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s sanctuary” (Heb. 6:18-19 – NLT).
What is the anchor for your soul in times of trauma? On what do you focus when the gale winds blow? It has to be something unchangeable. The writer of Hebrews anchored his faith on God’s character and God’s words. He knew his assurance depended not on the stability or strength of his own faith, but on the absolute trustworthiness of God’s Word. And he did not just hope with a passing fancy that God would keep His word. No, he fled to take hold of the hope God offers (v 18 – NIV). He grasped it in a resolute manner. He held on with a tenacity born of trust in the object of hope: God Himself.
This hope is immovable, like an anchor (v 19a). It ties down the faith of a wavering doubter. It fixes a floating ship into the seabed no matter what the conditions are at sea. The rougher the weather, the more important is the anchor for the stability of the boat. You can anchor your boat of faith in the seabed of God’s unchanging character and words. These must be the keys you hold at all times, but especially during torrential storms; these must be your focus in the middle of your trauma.
Hezekiah went from shaking to unshakeable because he picked up the anchor from the side of his drifting boat and tossed it into the sea’s waves. That anchor of hope plummeted down through his rising and falling circumstances and embedded itself in the rock-solid ground of God’s character and His Word. I know this because we have his prayer to prove it.
Who God Is
Hezekiah begins his prayer with a heavenly focus. His spiritual eyes have been opened by his failures, by his history, by the threat that stands at his door, by God’s promises, and by the words of Isaiah. All of these have conjoined in one great confident faith-walk, but only after he has wrestled through a lot of fear, pride, and independence. This opening is one of the most beautiful introits I have ever heard, “O LORD Almighty, God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth” (37:16).
His address to God is theologically sound. The LORD Almighty (Yahweh of Hosts) has all the power in the earth and above the earth. As the sovereign creator, even the Assyrians were subject to His power. As he uses the word ‘alone,’ he demonstrates the solid-rock belief that the Assyrians are pagans and therefore, God’s enemies. Even the look at the God who is enthroned between the cherubim shows a God who is manifesting His presence in their very midst. He has a special relationship with His people and therefore a concern to protect them in trouble.
“True prayer faces facts but interprets them theologically” (Expositor’s Commentary). For sure, look around. Do not live with your head in the sand, and most assuredly, do not allow lies to superimpose their supposed clarity over the truth. Sift out those lies, but the facts are to be lifted up before God. They are to be given credence only as they are submitted to God’s thundering power.
It may be true that you have been given a cancer-related death sentence. That is a fact, but your God is a healer. Interpret that earthly fact theologically. Sure, you may have a child who declares herself to be an atheist. That may be a horrific fact, but your God is a God who changes hearts. Interpret that earthly fact theologically. Yes, you may have a financial crisis that threatens to bankrupt you. That may be your very real fact, but your God owns the cattle on a thousand hills. Interpret that earthly fact theologically.
When your crisis threatens your faith, do not try to ‘Jacob’ your way through it; do not try to handle it on your own. Get alone with God. Wrestle your feelings through until you are surrendered. Then begin to pray over your situation, interpreting your facts theologically. Tell God the truth about who He is and what He can do and speak it out loud over your earthly facts. I guarantee that they will diminish in the light of His glory and grace.
After superimposing God’s character over his situation, Hezekiah brought up a very tender matter. “Give ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; listen to all the words Sennacherib has sent to insult the living God” (37:17). Hezekiah did not mention how Sennacherib had insulted him as king. He did not bring up the matter of his past actions of distrust. He did not defend himself or justify any of his behavior. No, he was concerned with one thing: God’s honor.
How would your prayers change if you followed Hezekiah’s faith-filled response? Are you more concerned with your reputation than God’s? Are you more interested in justifying your actions than in the justice of God? Turn and look at Hezekiah’s God-centered prayer and allow the Spirit to move your heart from self to Other, from pain to a divine perspective, and from your own reputation to God’s character and repute.
Out of all the gods of this earth, Hezekiah bows to only One. “It is true, O LORD, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste all these peoples and their lands. They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they are not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by human hands” (37:18-19).
Our gods today are not usually wood and stone. They are buildings and bodies, stature and standing, accounts and accoutrements, power and prestige. Satan, our real enemy, has laid waste countless peoples using these gods of the earth. They lead to bondage and death, but God is greater, better, and sweeter than any other reality. He is the one true God, unique above all other gods. Pray to God like He is your Bread, your Living Water, your Honeycomb. No other god can hear or see or save. But your God is unique; He is the God of the impossible.
Revelation of Glory
Hezekiah ends his prayer with these incredible words, “Now, O LORD our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O LORD, are God” (37:20). He did not pray for deliverance so that there would be a remnant. He did not ask for safety so Jerusalem would be saved. He did not even pray for a rescue so that the temple might continue to house the living God. Friend, these are sound requests and much more pious than what I often hear in prayer meetings.
We pray for safety and healing. We pray for our endeavors to be blessed. We pray for our children to do well on their tests, for our words to go forth clearly, for opportunities to witness, but why? Usually it is so that we are glorified or noticed or affirmed in the process. Tell me if this is not so.
How about we begin to pray that God burst through in miraculous ways? How about we being to ask for a revelation of God to shine upon us? How about if we pray that God would have His way, in His time, in His manner, so that all people will know that He is God? Praying this way unleashes the Thunder of heaven; it unveils the revelation of God’s glory.
Ahh, thundering Lord Jesus, quickly come!
A – Acknowledge God’s Sovereignty, (vv 21-29)
The Movement of Communication
In 37:6 Hezekiah received a word of the Lord in response to his request for Isaiah’s prayer; here he receives a word without asking. Because he chose to respond in faith, he is able to talk to God (vv 14-20) and now, able to hear God’s words for him (vv 21-35). Notice these two phrases – “because you have prayed…this is the word of the Lord” – and how they fit together (v 21c, 22a). These two bookends comprise a beautiful movement in communication.
Early on in my walk with the Lord, I decided that I would simply take Him at His word. This was more of an unconscious decision than a mental acuity, but this soul-decision has gone a long way to infuse my faith with trust. Ever since, when I need some guidance, I go to the Word of God. When I am struggling in a particular relationship, I ask the Lord to show me how to manage the conflict through the Word of God. When my children need discipline, I ask the Lord to show me the answer in His Word. Never once, that I can recall, has the Lord reneged on this pattern: ask and receive. Someday, there may come a time when I do not receive an answer through these “normal” channels of communication, but until that day, I will continue to expect an answer from the bible to my supplication.
However, there have been times when God initiates conversation through the Scriptures as part of my ongoing walk with Him without my ever having to ask; He just knows what I need. Over the past number of years, the Lord has given me insight into other people’s motives through the book of Ezekiel. He has applied to my personal life a prophecy at the end of Haggai. More recently than that, He has described my heart to me more clearly through the miracles of faith in the gospels. All I have to do is show up to the Word each day, trusting that He will illuminate my path and He does. He chooses to interact with my bumbling attempts to communicate with an invisible Sovereign out of a very compassionate and gracious heart.
A number of years ago, a counselor asked me what I wanted from our counseling times together. I had no idea what I needed, but I took it up with the Lord in prayer. When I opened up my Bible that morning, the Lord took me to a very obscure passage in Leviticus about the scapegoat and as I studied that ancient tradition of sending away a goat into the wilderness, I knew the direction God was asking me to go. When I laid out my research before the counselor the next week, I was dumbfounded at her response. She was skeptical at my step-by-step walk through this obscure passage as an answer to my dilemma; she even chuckled at my seemingly unsophisticated method of determining my needs. This was a Christian counselor, by the way, a counselor that I only saw a couple of times before I moved on.
Non-Christians do not believe that God speaks in this way but as you can see, there are many believers who do not make the Bible their authority for living either. Here is a free tip for those of you who are interested in a more intimate walk with God: ask and prepare to receive (Mt. 21:22, Jn. 16:24, 1 Jn. 3:22). God desires to communicate with you. Trust that He will do so…through His infallible and ever-applicable Word.
The Prayer-Answering God
The essence of Hezekiah’s prayer was that God would hear and see all the words Sennacherib had spoken to insult God (37:17). God did hear and see and his preamble to justice begins with His acknowledgment of Hezekiah’s main prayer, “Because you have prayed to me concerning Sennacherib king of Assyria, this is the word the LORD has spoken against him” (v 21c, 22a).
I want you to see that important word ‘against.’ Because Hezekiah’s prayer had focused on Sennacherib’s stance against God, God communicated to Hezekiah that He would move against Sennacherib. Folks, specific prayers yield specific answers. Over and over in Scripture, this principle bears itself out.
In 2013 when I discovered I was pregnant, I had a fourteen-year old and an eleven-year old. Because of the ages of the older boys, I think you can imagine that everything pertaining to babies was long gone. Any baby clothes I had were long gone or were stored at my parent’s farm half a world away. Babies require a lot of different types of clothing and furniture and I had no idea where it all was going to come from. I knew what we needed; I just had no idea how to obtain it all.
I began a detailed prayer list of every single thing I would need. I literally listed all that I could think of from a comb to a front-carrier and began to pray regularly over that list. It was amazing to me how God began to provide. A church in California that I had never met heard of my needs through a mutual friend and sent a huge box of baby things to me. Friends handed down clothes and furniture or gave money so that I could purchase items I would use a lot. As gifts came in, I began to check it off of my prayer list. By the time Timmy arrived, God had provided everything on my list plus maternity clothes, which I had totally forgotten to mention on my baby list.
As I look back on those months of detailed prayer and equally detailed provision, I am reminded that God cares about the details of our lives. If we are in relationship with Him and pursuing Him with our whole heart, He will communicate with us and bless us as He is willing and able. There is no doubt about it in my heart: God is a god who answers prayer.
Prayer for Deliverance Answered
Hezekiah had prayed to God for His deliverance (37:20) and God spoke words of salvation over him. “The Virgin Daughter of Zion despises and mocks you. The Daughter of Jerusalem tosses her head as you flee” (37:22). God’s use of the word ‘virgin’ indicates to me purity and safety. He is letting Hezekiah know that Jerusalem will remain untouched, unsullied, and unharmed. Because the king prayed, God chose to answer.
In addition to remaining untouched by the marauder, Zion would have the last say. There is a sense of contempt in the words used by God. Despises and mocks. Tosses her head. It is as if God is saying, “Not only will you be saved from an economic and political rape, but you will be able to dispense justice as your attacker is made to run with his tail between his legs.”
Safety from harm. Purity from contamination. And justice over the oppressor. These are prayers that the needy cry out daily and bless God, He loves to answer them. When you pray for deliverance, God will answer.
Prayer for Glory Answered
Another main aspect of Hezekiah’s prayer had been that the reputation of God would not be undermined (37:17). God answered that prayer as well. He spoke to Assyria, asking her if she was aware of who she had blasphemed. Does she even know the One to whom she has boasted in contemptible pride? God let Assyria know that her blasphemy had been against the Holy One of Israel (37:23). Assyria had challenged the holiness of God, or His distinctiveness as Sovereign. She had also thrown down the gauntlet of God’s commitment to be Israel’s God (v 23d) as well as His actual sovereignty as Lord (v 24b).
God had seen and heard all the prideful words of Sennacherib. His ears had rung with the insults heaped upon Him (v 24a). His glory had been reduced by a king who claimed earthly power (24d) and dominion over the earth and its heights (24e-h). Assyria had even laid claim to the world’s resources (25ab) and its peoples (v 25cd).
God fully intends that the earth be full of His glory (Isa. 6:3). He will not be replaced; He will not be relegated to a back corner. He will turn every platform – suffering and blessing alike – into a stage that showcases His fame. This is His will. It should be ours too. When you pray for God’s glory to fall, for His prestige to be lauded, for His praise to resound, that is a prayer that evokes the thunder of heaven. Dear praying one, if you want to be heard, pray a prayer that God cannot help but answer. Pray for His glory to fill the whole earth.
Prayer for Justice Answered
Sennacherib boasted of all the nations he had conquered. He used this truth as a psychological weapon, but God revealed the real truth behind the Assyrian king’s power: “Have you not heard? Long ago I ordained it. In days of old I planned it; now I have brought it to pass, that you have turned fortified cities into piles of stone” (37:26). Sennacherib may have thought he was in control, but God had ordained all that had come to pass. He had planned and shaped all of the circumstances for His glory.
The Assyrians had demoralized those they had conquered; they had dismayed them and put them to shame. Each people group was like a tender plant in the field, just putting out green shoots. But Assyria had scorched each people group before it could even grow up. They had been cruel and bloodthirsty in their attacks and God, who is merciful, reacts strongly against savagery and brutality. If you don’t believe, read the book of Amos where God judged His own people for their vicious attacks on those around them.
God reacted strongly here as well. He said, “There is nowhere you can go to remove yourself from what I am planning for you. I have heard you rage against me. I have seen your insolence and for these accounts of barbarian and hostile activity, I will judge you” (my paraphrase of 37:28-29ab).
How did God say He would judge Assyria? The Assyrians were known for leading their captives away with a hook in their noses and so God spoke this same judgment over the Assyrians. He would allow violence, even brute strength, to be used against the Assyrian army. Divine sovereign rule will play out, not just in the general broad sweep of history, but in the small, fine print of day-to-day living.
Judah will get her justice; this is what God is saying. Not only that, but Assyria will be judged and paid back for the cruelty she dispensed on the nations. This is the law of consequences and returns, “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Mt. 7:2).
Prayer is a divine dance of communication. The needy one cries out and the Lord hears. Not only is He aware of what is going on in every crevice of every heart, He knows what to do about the injustice. Your God is not only a God who cares, who hears, who communicates and responds, He is also a God who acts on your behalf as you wait for Him (Isa. 64:4). Pray away, my friend. You are opening the greatest, most powerful hotline that exists; a hotline that has direct access to the ear of the Almighty.
Y – Yield To God’s Timing, (vv 30-32)
The Movement of Waiting
Six years ago the Lord whispered unexpectedly into my spirit that our family would be moving to Thailand. At the time, we were contentedly serving in Manila and had no thoughts of change, so I immediately began to ask God some questions. When would this happen? Should I tell my family? What should I do to prepare? I did not get much more information out of the Lord except that we would move after our furlough in two years and that I was not to tell my family. So I shared this news with my prayer partner and we began to pray.
Settling in for the long haul, I kept laying everything before the Lord: my fears, my losses, my goodbyes, my struggles in transition, everything and anything I could think of. And as I wrestled these things through with God, I gradually came to a complete surrender on the matter, but then nothing seemed to be moving. And nothing circumstantial moved for close to 1 ½ years. Then everything began to break loose.
The Lord abruptly opened Thailand under our mission. Two sets of Filipino missionaries were placed in remote corners of this Buddhist nation. God began to work in my husband and we began dialoguing about our future (Even though I knew what it was, I could not let on.) Within a couple months of our needing to leave Manila for our furlough, God opened up every single closed door.
Waiting can be an anxiety-ridden affair or it can be uplifting. It all depends on your focus. Waiting on the circumstances enervates faith, but waiting on God renews hope, strength, and vigor (Isa. 40:31). Prayer is the vehicle for movement in stalled moments when it seems that God has forgotten His promises or appears to be working elsewhere. You may feel abandoned in the waiting period, but know this: God is working behind the scenes.
Take comfort in God’s promises, waiting one, and pray them over your life. Wait in hope for He is your help (Ps. 33:20). Wait by keeping His way and He will exalt you to inherit the land (Ps. 37:34). Wait on Him by making His name and renown the desire of your heart (Isa. 26:8). He is your portion while you are waiting and He is good to those whose hope is in Him (Lam. 3:24-25).
A Sign of the Times
Just in case Hezekiah’s faith would not be buoyed up by the prophecy of Assyrian destruction and withdrawal, Isaiah adds a sign.”This year you will eat what grows by itself, and the second year what springs from that. But in the third year sow and reap, plant vineyards and eat their fruit” (v 30). This sign would be a visible token that God was at work. For two years, owing to the Assyrian invasion, agriculture was impossible. Yet the land would, of itself, produce enough food until the third year when normal planting and harvesting could be resumed.
The people of Jerusalem would have to wait on God. They could not eat while under siege. They could not plant as they normally did. How would they survive? God gave them this sign in the waiting period. He would take care of them for two years, causing the ground to produce what was needed for an entire city. Imagine that kind of provision. Their waiting need not be anxiety-ridden, for the greatest Farmer to ever live would speak and the ground would produce enough food to provide for their needs.
This physical sign would play out in an emotional sign as well. “Once more a remnant of the house of Judah will take root below and bear fruit above. For out of Jerusalem will come a remnant, and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this” (vv 31-32). What is God saying here? How would this encourage Hezekiah?
If you will remember back to Hezekiah’s first panicky prayer, he had asked Isaiah to pray for the remnant that still survives (37:4). Not only did God provide for Hezekiah’s concern for the well-being of his people, he provided a direct answer to Hezekiah’s hope for a group of people to live on. He states unequivocally that a remnant would remain. Not only that, but this remnant would be secure (take root) and prosper (bear fruit).
How gracious the Lord is to answer a prayer, but then to go way beyond what is asked in order to lavish mercy. “Isaiah knew the nation was doomed even before Assyria attacked (Isa. .22:14; 31:16) yet, belatedly, Hezekiah repented (Isa. 37;1) and believed (37:10), and the Lord would not let this go unrewarded” (Tyndale Old Testament Commentary).
God is zealous for you!. That zeal is directed on your behalf. Waiting in the parking zone of God’s will is difficult, but it can also be amazing. As you seek God with your wrestling heart, you will come to know Him in ways unprecedented. Don’t numb from feelings of abandonment; take them to God. Don’t run from the unknown; pray them out before your Father. And in those moments of waiting for God to move, ask for a sign of His goodness and love. Then don’t be surprised again when the God of heaven thunders a merciful response.
E – Envelop Your Trust in the Promises of God, (vv 33-35)
The Movement of Trust
It is not enough to say that you have faith in God; your faith must be unearthed. It is not good enough to speak of your trust; your trust must be tested. A belief system that has never had its foundations shaken to the core is only theory, not a fact. You will only know if you have a firm faith when you have stared a storm in the face and come out of its buffeting winds fully intact. This, my friend, is the movement of trust.
Trust moves unilaterally through activities that demonstrate the truth of its existence. A teenager can be trusted when he arrives safely home by his curfew. A husband can be trusted when he is in a hotel alone and chooses to stay away from the R-rated (or worse) television channels. An employee can be trusted when money is accidentally left out of the cash register and he puts it back instead of stealing it. Trust is completely wrapped up in provable actions.
The boys in my house have had a very difficult time surrendering to my media boundaries. Almost every major fight in the Book household has come about because of a breach of trust in regard to video games and the use of phones. It has been a real struggle for me. I keep thinking, Why do I keep fighting this battle? Why should there be conflict; I could just as easily give in. In the long-run, it does not really seem worth it.
However, I believe the Lord has laid this boundary on my heart for my boys. Media is a weakness in our family and the Lord gave me this verse a while ago in regard to this huge trust issue. It comes from the fourth chapter of Nehemiah. The men are building the wall of Jerusalem, but they are encountering a huge amount of opposition. So Nehemiah began a movement of trust, “Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows. After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes” (Neh. 4:13-14).
Media usage in this home has been a low point in the wall of our family’s spiritual safety. For the sake of my children’s heart for God, for the sake of their need to learn obedience, and for the sake of our family trust, I have stood firm. I have fought this battle over and over throughout the years. My kids do not watch the amount of media others watch. They do not spend the amount of time others spend playing video games. I invest a lot of energy doing activities with them, playing games with them, reading to them, and helping them develop creativity of their own, but it is all because of my movement of trust.
I prayed about this matter a long time ago and the Lord gave me a promise from Nehemiah, which I choose to trust in with my stand-firm, low-media-usage trust. Nehemiah’s wall was built in 52 days, despite the world’s antagonism, and if I continue to station myself in this low point of our family’s wall, I trust God to build my sometimes-frustrated-at-my-rules boys into great men of God. I pray they will not be afraid of people and what they say about them, but will station their own families someday in what, I believe, will become an increasingly dangerous matter of family purity.
The Promises of God
Trust is hard to come by when the object of that same trust is dishonest. But this truism will not be true when it comes to God, for God is honesty, purity, integrity, and holy righteousness. His Word never fails; it is unchanging and evocative, multi-faceted and practical, beauty personified, yet full of refining fire and colorful verve.
Hezekiah has heard a lot of promises from the mouth of Yahweh concerning him and his precious city. But none of them pack as much of a punch as the ones spoken in the next few verses. Listen to this incredible list of ‘will-bes’ that are dished out to Hezekiah almost nonchalantly, as if it was no big deal for God to manage. The good news is: it was no big deal for God, but it was a huge deal to Hezekiah. It was life or death to him and his fellow Judeans.
- The king of Assyria will not enter this city.
- He will not even shoot an arrow here.
- He will not come before it with a shield.
- He will not even build a siege ramp against it.
- By the way that he came he will return.
- He will not enter this city.
- I, the Lord, will defend this city and save it.
- For my sake and for the sake of David my servant! (37:33-35).
It seems like the psalmist peaked into Hezekiah’s mind right about now when he wrote the words of Psalm 119:41-43, “May your unfailing love come to me, O LORD, your salvation according to your promise; then I will answer the one who taunts me, for I trust in your word. Do not snatch the word of truth from my mouth, for I have put my hope in your laws.”
Imagine Hezekiah’s sigh of relief. God had promised to defend His city; not even a hair of a single Judean would be singed by the attack. With a final righteous bellow, God gathered His forces to thunder from heaven and without a single doubt left in his faith, Hezekiah chose to believe Him.
R – Revel in God’s Deliverance, (vv 36-38)
The Movement of Action
Three years ago when we moved to Chiang Mai, the Lord placed a Pakistani family in our sphere of influence. This family was forced to run from Pakistan because of their religious beliefs. Persecuted for their faith, they have been forced to live as refugees here in Chiang Mai. The last six years have been very difficult for them. Over and over, they have tried to immigrate to another country, but have been turned down by immigration officials myriads of times. Their faith has been sorely tested and mine too as a result. I have prayed for God to move on their behalf and it has been painful to watch their hearts sink lower and lower into depression. I have tried to keep encouraging them in their faith; telling them that when God moves, it will be BIG. They have acquiesced with their heads, but their faces have shared the real story of their grief with me.
At the time of their darkest hour, just a couple months ago, God began to move in a BIG way. They were connected with a church in Canada, a Pakistani church, by the way, that needed an associate pastor. Our friends fit the bill exactly since they lead a Pakistani church here in Chiang Mai. In the last six months, over 29,000 dollars have been raised for their trip to Canada. Their visa work is being ramrodded through the proper channels and they are almost “go” for launch.
As I look back at all the years of despair and wrestling with God, I think to myself, “Why? Why was all of that needed? Couldn’t God have just saved them so much heartache and stomach ulcers by delivering them immediately to His chosen place for them?” Only God knows what was needed on the inside of this dear family and I, for one, have been uplifted in my faith to see the Thunder of heaven begin to rumble across their leaden skies.
You may be in a similar position, sitting in an impossible situation, wondering if you will make it. Friend, God will make sure that you make it! Keep looking up. Keep wrestling with your God. Keep on keeping on and you will see the storm clouds begin to bow down to the booming voice of your God. He will thunder on your behalf and when He starts to move, it will be BIG.
I am shaking as I write these next words. They are so needed in my own life, but it is hard for me to wrap my faith around the hope that God will actually move on my behalf. I have seen it happen for others, but I am still waiting on God to thunder against my impossible situation. I feel like I have been waiting on God to deliver me for half of my life; it’s been that long since I began my prayerful journey about one of my most painful traumas.
Hezekiah did not have long to wait for God’s thundering action. The angel of the LORD went out from His presence and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the Assyrian camp. When the Judeans got up the next morning, all they could see were dead bodies (37:36). God had thundered all through the night and destroyed much of the enemy.
And that is when King Sennacherib finally called it quits. He knew when he had been bested and so he broke camp and withdrew from a battle he had originally thought would be such a cinch to win. Scripture says that he returned to Nineveh and stayed there, reigning for close to another twenty years (37:37). He never again campaigned in Palestine; that road was totally closed to him ever after. He had been totally cowed before the awesome might of a God he would not even acknowledge.
God went a step further, however. One day, while Sennacherib was worshiping in the temple of this god Hisroch, his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer cut him down with the sword. That assassination took place in 681 BC, and while they, escaped to the land of Ararat, Esarhaddon, his other son, succeeded him as king.
According to the dates of Isaiah’s lifespan, he might have even lived to see this final stroke against the Assyrian enemy. He might have had an ear-witness view of the distinction between how a living God thunders from heaven in answer to the prayer of his saints and how a god of wood and stone responds to one worshiping in his house. A living God delivered Judah from the very jaws of death; an impotent hand-made god could not even lift a finger to stop his worshiper’s assassination, even while it occurred right in front of him.
Prayer sees God’s salvation in its mind’s eye long before it comes about. Prayer revels in God’s deliverance prior to the actual event. That is the essence of faith. “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Heb. 11:1). Hezekiah had the faith to pray to his God and the unwavering trust to visualize the promises of God being fulfilled. This godly king heard the thunder of heaven before it began to ricochet off of his city walls. My question is: Can you?
Tying the Bow
Well, we have traveled a lot of emotional miles over these past three months together. I see the end of this twelve-week devotional just over the horizon and quite frankly, I am sad to say goodbye. Throughout this series, the Lord has seen fit to walk me hand-in-hand with Hezekiah’s unique struggles. I have learned to watch for pride in unlikely places and move against fear in places that tend to be my undoing.
Through it all, even as I have written about Unwavering Trust, my trust has often wavered. I have found unexpected solace in the balm of Hezekiah’s honesty and vulnerability. Thank you, God, for entering this man’s real-life feelings and struggles into the framework of your holy Book. I, for one, am so grateful.
I am left with just one task: the need to tie a big fat bow on a package that refuses to stay shut. How do I even go about fulfilling this impossible mission? Honestly, it is far above me, but I trust that the Holy Spirit will use this one last picture to pull all the strings together.
A couple of weeks ago, I spent the entire day fighting tears. Emotional, verbal, and circumstantial storms all conspired to strike my already-struggling faith with lightning force, and my fortitude felt very close to collapse. I continued on doing what a stay-at-home mom does with two boys on a summer break: engaging, entertaining, creating, playing, talking, and smiling. But inside, I felt like jagged holes were ripping apart in my soul.
I made it to the evening, when I met with my middle son for our mentoring time together. We opened our Bibles and I began to ask Robert questions about his soul-health, like I normally do. But my sixteen-year-old cut in politely but firmly, “Mom,” he said. “I need you to listen for a bit.”
Well, when your teenager begins to act like a spiritual leader, you had better listen, so I did. He began to detail for me that he had seen me struggling all day and had been thinking about me. At one point in the afternoon, he had squirreled himself away in his bedroom with his Bible; not to get ready for our evening session, but to compile a set of verses for me. At this point, he began to walk me through those verses with an unusual spiritual acuity and tenderness.
“Mom,” he said, “I have seen you shaking a lot today because of those emails. Listen to what I believe God is saying to you through Psalm 82.” Well, I listened with huge tears in my eyes. I was not crying tears of sadness at that point; I was weeping tears of joy. You can bet I listened to that child-man, for it was obvious that God was using him to minister to my wavering trust.
When we were done, he kind of sank back in his beanbag chair, like he had expended a ton of energy, which he had. He had spoken truth in a dark situation. He had applied a rhema word over my struggling faith. He had mentored his mother in the ways of holiness and righteousness and I was deeply humbled by his most gracious gift to me. He became the voice of God, thundering like a divine siren into the depths of my soul. It was a precious moment, a moment I will never, ever forget.
In that vulnerable and precious interaction, I could hear the Breath of Heaven speaking Hezekiah-like words to sustain me through my storms. In those sweet words of truth, I sensed the movements of trauma, wrestling, communication, trust, waiting, and action. And through it all breathed a supernatural love born from my flesh-and-blood’s interaction with God through prayer. It was sweet. It was enlightening. And it was a bonafide miracle.
Never would I have dreamed as I held that boy in my arms sixteen years ago that he would mirror my faith to my face in such a dramatic way. Never would I have envisioned my little boy, who has always struggled to outlive the shadow of his bigger brother, rise up like a prophet before me. Never could I have prayed hard enough, as I encouraged and wrestled and prodded this young man to own his faith in a personal way, that he would mentor me on a very critical day. But, my friend, God did dream this. He did envision this. And He did buttress my prayers for such a time as this (Est. 4:14).
Esther, a Jewish captive, became the queen who saved her people. It was not because she was especially bright or more gregarious than her peers; it was because she was a woman who knew how to faithfully navigate her storms of life. She was a woman of unwavering trust because she knew an unwavering God.
Precious woman of God, you are a Robert, an Esther, a Hezekiah. Right now, your hope may be wavering very close to extinction, but you must remember that you have a God who thunders from heaven on your behalf. That almost-extinguished hope flickering in your soul is a living coal of possibilities. Let the Breath of Heaven gently blow that coal into a blazing fire of unwavering trust. Then you, like Hezekiah, will rise up from the ashes of a refined self and burn bright with the flames of the living God. God has promised to make everything beautiful in its time (Ecc. 3:11). He has also set eternity in your heart for such a time as this, a time where you also can faithfully navigate your storms of life as God ordains.
Hezekiah was historically known as a godly king. Not a perfect one, but a faithful one. And you, my friend, have the same royal blood running through your veins. Go and live each day of your life with struggling, wrestling, moving yet falling, but always reaching trust that leans in toward God in order to sustain a faith that is absolutely unwavering. My friend, go and faithfully navigate your storm…