I have been blogging about what Hezekiah did to prepare his nation for invasion. So far, I have dealt with the physical issues. More important than the physical issues are the spiritual concerns of life. Many have survived a physical attack only to discover subsequently, their spiritual life was in shambles. In wisdom, Hezekiah prepared the people’s hearts for the onslaught of Sennacherib’s verbal assaults about God, the King, and the nation. The King didn’t want his people having a spiritual heart attack in the middle of a crisis.
He appointed military officers over the people and assembled them before him in the square at the city gate and encouraged them with these words: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him. With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God to help us and to fight our battles.” And the people gained confidence from what Hezekiah the king of Judah said. 2 Chron. 32:6-8
The number one crippling emotion in crisis is fear. Fear rules the day. Fear is not reality. It is our emotional response to what we think we know… real or imagined. Fear is an acrostic for False Evidence Appearing Real. There are 365 “fear not’s” in the Bible. There is one for each day of the week. Why? Fear is an enormous problem for God’s people. I am sure you have heard all this.
It is interesting. If I hear the Lord tell me, “I love you,” it is a sure guarantee I am going to be attacked in the near future….. to the point I question myself, “Does God really love me?” If I hear the Lord say something like, “Get ready!” rest assured, I am about to navigate some troubling waters, which will make me feel exhausted and not quite up to the challenges. If I hear the Lord reassure me about life, my family, or ministry, it is a sure bet I am going to be assaulted in these same areas. If you pay close attention to the Lord’s words to you, it will tip-you-off to the enemy’s attacks against you. In ignorance, I used to tell the Lord, “Lord, no need in telling me these types of encouraging words… I am good in those areas.” (Don’t tell anyone, but I’ve had a few pride issues.) Now I receive and believe these words from the Lord wholeheartedly. If He is encouraging me in whatever area, I need it or I am going to need it! The order and condition of our hearts is always of importance, but during a crisis, it is of extreme importance. A crisis is a bad time to begin having heart problems.
Hezekiah encourages his people with “be strong and courageous…” The enemy will soon be at the gate with an all-out, frontal assault on their belief system. As a whole, they will stand together or separately be torn apart. The invading army didn’t want to endure a long siege. They wanted this battle to be relatively quick. The easiest way for Sennacherib to conquer God’s people was for them to simply open the gates themselves and let give up without a fuss. Fear causes people to submit to the enemy. Hezekiah’s words bolstered the people’s resolve, quelled their fears, and helped them to stay the course.
A few years ago America almost shut down in places because of the Swine Flu. There wasn’t an epidemic. No, it shut down in certain places because of the perception the flu was going to bad. This message kept going out in the media. Do you remember this? For instance, in some areas like Texas, they cancelled athletics for the remainder of the year. Other schools closed for over a week because they feared their students might contract the disease. The Swine Flu was contagious, but the story was even more contagious.
One pastor told the story of having to go to the emergency room for a real emergency only to find the emergency room filled with over 200 people, all concerned they had contracted the Swine Flu. You might guess how many actually had the flu. Absolutely Nobody. Fear keeps people captive….whether real or imagined. The problem for him was that fear was occupying all the medical resources.
The media played a big part in all this. They are in business to inform the public. They also have another mission…to sell. In order to sell, they must keep their audience interested and ratings up. Fear sells. This is why news organizations thrive in bad circumstances like a flu outbreak or serial killer on the loose.
Sennacherib attempted to do the same thing in Hezekiah’s day. He sent a letter to the people inside the walls of Jerusalem communicating how feeble and weak Judah was compared to his vast army. He reminded them that all the other nations, along with their gods, were unable to stand against him. Sennacherib even had his soldiers yell over the wall in Hebrew to scare the people. His plan, divide and conquer. He used psychological warfare! Fear sells. He did what EVIL did in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. They chopped off the heads of warriors and catapulted them over the wall to create fear.
What wise people do in times of uncertainty is limit the voices of influence. They decide who they will and will not listen to before a crisis. Wise people stick to what they do know, not speculate about what they don’t know.
I am amazed at what people STOP doing in times of difficulty or trials.
Many stop reading God’s word. They stop ingesting the very words of God that brought them to the present. Why? If you needed God’s word last year, then you need it this year. If you needed God’s word last month, you need it this month. Many start listening to foreign voices…even bad voices during difficult circumstances. If a voice was bad for you 3 years ago, then it is bad for you now. In addition, others stop praying and seeking God’s face when problems arise. No encouragement there! If you needed prayer 10 years ago, then you need it all the more now.
Fear can only reach us when we have forgotten or lost our truths and words from the Lord. There will always be Sennacheribs who yell and scream the polar opposite of God’s word. If you don’t know your sources and voices, you will be prompted to follow the wrong influences. If your heart is not in order, then you will probably be one of those people who actually vote to open the gates, let the enemy into your kingdom, and hope against hope he will treat you fairly. When the Northern Kingdom was taken away into bondage, the Persians put grappling hooks in some of them and carried them away into exile. The threat was real….but so were the Words from the Lord. We all have a choice today. We can order our hearts and listen to the Lord or we can continue to allow the disinformation to create dysfunction in our hearts and guarantee a spiritual heart attack.