Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Everything he knows is wrong

Had the Staff team together today to review Transformission and plan our next regional event - a Leaders Weekend in the Spring. We opened with the Bible, looking at what last night felt like strange choice but today seemed very appropriate: 2 Chronicles 32v9-23. Sennacherib, the mighty king of Assyria comes to attack Judah in the days of the great reformer Hezekiah. The story is also recorded in Isaiah 36-37 and 2 Kings 18-19. Sennacherib has swept all before him and now he arrives on the doorstep of the people of God.

Strategy 1 - v9-15, Doubt.
  • v10 - in what are you trusting?
  • v11 - Hezekiah has misled you...
  • v12 - Hezekiah took away your high places, leaving you only one altar.
The last of which they did in worshipful euphoria after they'd celebrated passover for the first time in years. Sennacherib sows seeds of doubt - "if only you still had your idols". Though it's clear he still thinks he could beat them. He has a whole career of experience behind him. He's like EJ Smith, captain of the Titanic: "....26 years of experience working against him. He figures anything big enough to sink the ship they're going to see in time to turn. But the ship's too big, with too small a rudder... it can't corner.... Everything he knows is wrong." You almost pity Sennacherib as you watch him on the pages of the Bible facing off against God. He has no idea what's about to hit him. Everything he thinks he knows about the God of Israel is wrong.
Strategy 2 - v16-18, Intimidation.
Then more of the same, but louder - v18. He rages, v16, against the LORD and against the LORD's annointed. Words reminiscent of Psalm 2v2. He mocks and blasphemes like people will against the LORD and his annointed in Mark 15, as Jesus hangs crucified. They, v17, cast contempt on the reformer and his God. Psalm 2 would tell him to be silent and serve the LORD but he rages. This isn't just a deluded pitiable man but he is evil.

Sennacherib is out of his league, he's bitten off more than he can chew. v19 - he is speaking of the LORD as he did of the gods of the nations who are the work of mens hands. His fatal error - he mistakes the Creator of all for a human creation.
Of course he beat the gods of the nations. He has a big army and their gods are imaginary. Anyone can beat imaginary gods. Now he faces off against the LORD instead of serving him. Hezekiah and Isaiah respond, v20-23, in prayer. And the LORD sends an angel (picture the throne room of heaven, the LORD asks - 'anyone want to get rid of this raging king?' - though a bit more serious since the angel comes in wrath against people). Sennacherib skulks off back to Nineveh and, v21, into the house of his god - Nisroch, where his sons kill him. His own god unable to protect him even in its own house. And, v23, the nations catch a glimpse of the glory of God - seeing his fame and salavation.

Contrast that to chapter 30 - Hezekiah gathered God's unholy people into the house of the LORD to celebrate passover. They came wrongly and ill-prepared and should have been judged, but in the LORD's house they are saved by the passover blood and the prayers of the king. They have a God who is real and can save. To count the LORD and the made-up-gods of the nations in the same bracket was extreme folly. The idols people love to make aren't real, but the LORD is. Jesus is the proof of that - check his story, his death and resurrection.
  • In Jesus, Christians are safe, in the true house of God.
  • Under Jesus' blood, Christians are safe because of the true passover lamb.
  • And under Jesus' intercession, priest and king, our salvation is secure.
Probably following just one of those lines is enough but I couldn't pick - though I'm inclined to think that in 2 Chronicles with the major focus on the temple that the house theme bears pursuit. Wrath awaits the raging nations - they overshoot themselves - as we see in Isaiah 37v23-24, they don't realise who they're mocking.... this is the LORD. One strategy remains for the people of God - pray towards the house of God (Jesus) because of the passover blood (Jesus) because of the intercession of the King (Jesus). Find refuge and salvation in Jesus, just like the church in Acts 4, who also recalled the raging of Psalm 2v2... asking not for relief but for boldness to speak of Jesus. God's enemies will be judged, his name must be proclaimed and his people will be saved definitively and forever.

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