“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” (cf. Isaiah 37:14, NIV).
No, the king is not responding to another rejected journal article submission or to a reminder about his impending student loan payment. He is not unfurling the scroll version of the Chronicle of Higher Education decrying the lack of jobs for PhDs in the Humanities in the 8th century B.C.E.
Hezekiah is reacting to a threatening letter written by a foe who plots his demise. His response is curious. He does not crumple the scroll, berating God in a “This-is-the-thanks-I-get” fashion and vowing to take matters into his own hands. Neither is he poring it over, yellow highlighter quill pen in hand, worrying about Judah’s future. He could have grown resentful, wondering, After all the good I have done as a leader, why do I have to take the mocking insults of these pagans?
How does he respond? He “spread[s] out the scroll.” In essence, Hezekiah says symbolically, “God, this is Your problem. I did nothing to cause it. I can do nothing to prevent it. I know that You know everything, but I want to remind myself that You do by spreading it out before. You’re going to have to deal with it in Your timing.” What is he in effect doing? Surrendering control. That’s a toughie for us, isn’t it? If Hezekiah, the king of a fairly powerful and influential nation, could recognize his personal bankruptcy to change an imminent, adverse situation, why can’t we?
What happens? Look at Isaiah 37:21. The Lord sends word to Hezekiah through a messenger of Isaiah that God has heard his prayer. In verse 23, God identifies that Sennacherib is insulting Him, not Hezekiah. God advocates for anyone defending His name against the attacks of the foolish. God assures Hezekiah that He will take care of the accuser. In Isaiah 37:35 God declares, “I will defend this city to save it. . . .” He then sends the Angel of the Lord to annihilate the army. In the morning as the Assyrian army arises, 185,000 troops lie dead. Sennacherib himself is slain by his two power-hungry sons as he worships in a pagan temple. Once again, God comes through for His own, demonstrating the power of His promise to care for us when our backs are against the wall.
Let’s make this situation personal, Dr. Hezekiah. Often you will encounter difficulty when you have done nothing to cause it. A college or university campus (sadly, even a faith-based one), run by fallible human beings, can become the site of bitter infighting that can dissuade us from our task at hand: training young minds. You can struggle to make sense of unwarranted personal attacks. You may search your heart in vain, assuming you did something outside of your memory to have caused it. As the problems mount, you are tempted to crumple the accuser’s scroll and rail about God’s justice. Don’t give up yet. Instead, surrender the problem to the Lord. He will intervene and defend the person standing for truth.
- In what situations have you found yourself attacked by colleagues or students for no apparent reason?
- When confronted by unjustified scrutiny, is your first impulse to surrender it to Christ? If not, why not?
Breathe this Prayer:
Lord, I recognize my natural tendency to seek to right personal wrongs, rather than to give them to You to sort out in Your timing. Please help me to unfurl whatever scroll in my life I am hanging onto, giving You permission to take control of it. Amen.
Image courtesy of waldryano at Pixabay.com
Note: Part of the Scholar’s Compass series.