If you did a study through the Scriptures, you would find that those whom God used most were those who went through the greatest troubles or the greatest trials. You could look at the life, for example, of Joseph or Moses or Elijah, David, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, on and on. Those whom God used most, oftentimes, were those who went through the most difficult trials, for in this difficult world, there will be many trials. Therefore, your faith will be tested in this difficult world.
One of the, I think, great sayings about that is that faith that cannot be tested is faith that cannot be trusted. You can trust faith that has been tested and tested well because God gives principles in His Word. We're going to see some of those principles that God would use to strengthen faith in the troubled world. He's going to build the foundation in your life because He will prepare you in advance. This is one of the things we see also. God knows that troubles are coming.
We live in a troubled world, and God prepares you in advance to strengthen your faith in advance of those troubles. Even now, God is strengthening your faith through His Word. Even through the testing of the faith, through the current struggles and trials that you may endure, God is strengthening in advance. For example, we were just reading in 2 Chronicles about a revival led by the king of Israel in the South called Judah. His name is Hezekiah.
He brought forth a tremendous revival. That revival becomes the preparing for the troubles. The story unfolds there in Judah. The backstory is this, at the time, Assyria is rising now as a world-dominating power. The world has not seen a force like this in its entire history such as Assyria, such cruelty, such coldness of heart, destroying nation after nation, city after city. The north-kingdom of Israel has already been destroyed at this point.
They had already been taken captive, carried off, dispersed amongst the nations like they had done to so many other peoples. After Assyria destroyed the north, they turned their sides to the south, and King Hezekiah and Judah, intending to destroy, intending to consume the people in the south of Judah. To strike fear in the hearts of Judah, the king of Assyria, his name is Sennacherib. We know this in history as well as in the Bible. He sent officers to Jerusalem to weaken and intimidate them in a war of words. That's very common in battle or war, to begin with a war of words.
Now, this encounter between Hezekiah and Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, becomes a monumental turning point in the history of that nation, for if they had been destroyed, if they had been defeated and then carried away to some foreign place and then other people brought in and to displace them, all of God's promises made to Israel would come to nothing.
All of us today, therefore, will not be here celebrating the Lord Jesus Christ because all that Jesus did came about because of this victory brought about to Israel through this that's going to happen. There's going to be a great victory, but I'll tell you, a spoiler alert, there will be no battle. This is a fascinating story, a great spiritual battle, but it's a spiritual battle that will unfold.
There are great applications for us today because we are living in times today where there is a war of words, you might say like I've never seen before. You might call them the culture wars of our modern times. The culture wars. The tensions in fighting between the woke generation and those who want to hold to the values that God would give are great extremes.
Anybody want to agree with me on this? That we are seeing a war of words like never before? There are great spiritual lessons for us in the story. Let's just read it. We're in 2 Chronicles 32, and we begin reading in verse 1. "After these acts of faithfulness," here's Hezekiah's revival, "Sennacherib, king of Assyria, came and invaded Judah and besieged the fortified cities and thought to break into them for himself.
Now, when Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib, what he had done, that he had intended to make war on Jerusalem, he decided with his officers and his warriors to cut off their supply of water from the springs, which were outside the city, and they helped him. Many people assembled and stopped up all the springs and the stream which flowed through the region, saying why should the king of Assyria come and find abundant water?" By the way, when we go to Israel, we'll be there in just a couple of months. In three? Three months, maybe, four.
We're going to be there, and we're going to walk through what is famously known as Hezekiah's water tunnel. You can walk through that tunnel today, and it's still wet. There's still water running through it. Your water about up to your waist. It is so narrow. If you're a little claustrophobic, it's fun. You walk through it, and it's like the living Bible right before your eyes. It's such a fascinating thing.
Back to our story. Verse 5. "He took courage. He rebuilt the wall also that had been broken down. He erected towers. He built another outside wall. He strengthened the Millo in the city of David. Made weapons. He made shields and great numbers. He appointed military officers over the people, gathered them to him in the square of the city gate. Then he spoke a speech, and he's going to speak words to encourage their faith." This is what he said.
Verse 7, "Be strong and courageous men. Do not fear. Do not be dismayed because of the king of Assyria nor because of the multitude which is with him." He had 185,000 fighting men in his army who had besieged Jerusalem. They are outnumbered massively. Perhaps 5 to 1, maybe 10 to 1. Massively outnumbered. "Do not be afraid," he says, "because," notice this is a famous, famous, famous saying that Hezekiah declares, "because the one who is with us is greater than the one with him. With him is only an arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us to fight our battles."
The people relied on this. They believed it. They took all, in other words, of these words of Hezekiah, king of Judah. After Sennacherib, king of Assyria, sent his servants to Jerusalem while he was besieging Lachish with his forces with him against Hezekiah, king of Judah, and against Judah who read Jerusalem, he sent messengers, in other words, to say in a war of words, "Thus says Sennacherib, king of Assyria, on what are you trusting that you are remaining in Jerusalem under siege?
Is not Hezekiah misleading you to give yourselves over to die by hunger and thirst, saying 'The Lord our God will deliver us?' He's misleading you. 'He will deliver us from the hand of the king of Assyria,' you say. Has not this same Hezekiah taken away the high places of the Lord and his altars and said to Judah and Jerusalem, 'You shall worship only before one altar and you shall burn incense?'
Obviously, he does not know what he is saying. Do you not know what I and my fathers have done to all peoples of all lands? We're the Gods of the nations of those lands able to deliver their land from us, from my hand. Who was there among all the Gods of those nations which my Father's utterly destroyed, who could deliver his people out of my hand that your God should be able to deliver you from my hand? Now, therefore, do not let Hezekiah deceive you. Do not let him mislead you like this. Do not believe him.
No God of any nation or kingdom has been able to deliver his people from my hand or from the hand of my fathers. How much less shall your God deliver you from my hand?" His servant spoke further against the Lord and against His servant Hezekiah. Then he wrote letters to insult Jehovah, the Lord God of Israel, and to speak against Him, saying in the letter, "As the Gods of the nations of the land have not delivered their people from my hand, so the God of Hezekiah will not deliver His people from my hand, either."
They called out, and they called this out with a loud voice in the language of Judah to the people of Jerusalem who are on the wall to frighten them, to terrify them so that they might take the city. They spoke of the God of Jerusalem as of the Gods of the peoples of the earth, the work of men's hands. Verse 20, King Hezekiah and Isaiah the prophet, son of Ahaz, they prayed. They went to the temple, they prayed, and they cried out to heaven, and the Lord sent an angel who destroyed every mighty warrior, commander, and officer in the camp of the king of Assyria.
It tells us in 2 Kings, an angel of the Lord came and destroyed 185,000. Interestingly, this is recorded in the history books of other nations as well as in the Bible. He returned in shame to his own land, and there, when he entered the temple of his God, some of his own children killed him there. Sennacherib died by the hand of his own children. You can look that up also in history. That's fascinating.
The Lord saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem from the hand of Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, and from the hand of all others, and guided them on every side, and many were bringing gifts to the Lord at Jerusalem and choice peasants to Hezekiah, king of Judah so that he was exalted in the side of all nations thereafter. What a great story. The history of Israel turns on this story, but there's a lot of spiritual life lessons for us to take hold of, for it is about the truth and about spiritual warfare.
In a war of words, and we are living in times, I mentioned, where there is a tremendous war of words, in a war of words, abide in the truth, rely on the truth, stand on the truth. The king of Assyria sends messengers to create fear and intimidation so that they would surrender without a fight. Sennacherib's challenge is to challenge their faith. "Don't let Hezekiah mislead you like this."
This is the same strategy the enemy of your soul uses today, by the way. If he can shake your faith, if he can drive a wedge between you and your God, if he can get you to doubt, if he can cause you to lose confidence in who God is in your life, then your own fear will defeat you. See, this is important. Then if the enemy can be successful at causing you to doubt, then your own fear will defeat you. That's one of the tremendous principles of spiritual warfare.
The enemy knows how to play on your own fears to defeat you with your own fears, and you will give up without a fight. He tries to drive a wedge, and then he makes his own promises. The enemy makes his own promises, but the promises of the enemy are empty. That's one of the great things to recognize. The promises of the enemy are empty. Notice the strategy, he's trying to shake their confidence and their faith to strike fear in their hearts.
Then we know from the 2 Kings, he makes promises. "Come out of that city. Open the gates of the city. Come out to me, and I will treat you well. I will give you your own land. I will give you your own vineyard. Each one will have your own fig tree. You'll live, and you'll prosper. Just open the gates of the city and come out to me and trust me with your future. I will treat you well."
Of course, this is the same strategy the enemy would use today. "Oh, come out. Open the gates of your life and come out to me. You can trust me with your life. Life would be so much more exciting over here in the world. You're missing out on all the fun, man. The world is where you can live it up. Don't worry, I'll treat you well. There's no death here. All is well on my side." In fact, when you go back to the original sin of man in the garden, wasn't this the very strategy that the serpent used with Eve?
Let's go back to Genesis 3:4-5. The serpent said to the woman, "You surely will not die." Because she just said, "The Lord said to us that we must not eat of it. The day we eat of it, we will die." That's not true. Right away, he's trying to drive a wedge of doubt. "That's not true. You will not die. God is speaking a lie to you," says the Father of lies.
"That's not true. You won't die. God knows. I'll tell you why He says that. God knows that on the day that you went from it that your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God knowing good and evil, and He's very insecure. He doesn't want you that." He is trying to drive a wedge and did between her and God, making her doubt God's word, offering her something better.
"You can be like God by deciding for yourself what is good or evil. That's how you can be like God. Why should God get to decide what's good and what is evil? You can be like God. You can decide for yourself. You can be the master of your own life." Isn't that a strategy of the enemy? "Open the gates. Come out to me. I will let you be the master of your own life." Israel was in the land that God had given to them, promised them. Every blessing that God would give are connected to them being in that land, so no, the promises of the enemy are empty.
Oh, he promises he's going to make you happier, more satisfied, you'll have more fun, more joy, more abundance, but we must see it for what it is. A lie from the father of lies. A lie from the pit of hell. In fact, if you open the gates and go out, you'll find that the end of all of that is death. Therefore, as we look at the story, sometimes silence is the best answer. Notice where it says in verse 18, that they called out to the people in a loud voice in the language of Judah, in Hebrew, they shouted this out to the people up on the walls of the city.
"Listen, people," and they shouted it out to them, but Hezekiah had given the word, "No one say a word in response. Answering him not a word." See, sometimes silence is the best answer. This is a tremendous lesson for all of us because he's trying to shipwreck their faith. It's clear also that Sennacherib did not know what he was talking about. He's talking about Hezekiah's reforms, Hezekiah's revival as if this was something bad.
Hezekiah's revival was a very thing that they needed, but what good would it do to give Sennacherib a lesson in the truth? He doesn't even value the truth. He would not even be swayed by the truth. The answer is no, the truth means nothing to the enemy. Therefore, here's a life lesson, don't debate with someone who doesn't value the truth. Amen? Sure, let's give the Lord praise. Absolutely. It's absolutely right. Don't debate with someone who doesn't value the truth.
It's interesting, we're all seeing, of course, this war that's happening in Ukraine. In the very first days and weeks of this war, Russia threatened journalists with 15 years' imprisonment for reporting fake news. If they so much as used the word "war" in their reporting to Russia or the word "invasion" in their reporting in the borders of Russia, they would be threatened with 15 years for fake news. In fact, the foreign minister in Russia insisted in those early days and weeks that Russia did not attack Ukraine.
Here's a great lesson. Don't debate with someone who doesn't value the truth. In fact, in the garden, it was Eve debating with the serpent that got her into trouble. By the way, Jesus had very strong words to say about the enemy when it comes to the truth. Jesus said about the enemy, "He is a liar. He's the father of lies. There is no truth in him, and when he speaks a lie, he is speaking from his own nature." Jesus was getting a little hot as He was making a declaration against him.
Hezekiah told the people, "Do not answer a word. There are times when silence is the most powerful response. You stand on the truth, and let God settle the matter because," and this is the great principle of the word, "truth will set you free." See, lies only have power if you believe them. Let me say it again. Lies only have power if you believe them.
See, in times of trouble, turn to the Lord, stand on the truth, receive that truth, and let that truth be a foundation for your life. Let me give you some Scriptures. John 8, is famous, 31-32. Jesus says, "If you will abide in My Word," abide means stay there, dwell there, place your life there in My Word, "then you will know the truth and the truth will make you free. He whom sense that he is free is free indeed." I love that one. Isn't that a great truth? Amen. Absolutely right.
I'll tell you what, that truth, I have quoted that so many times because in my-- Oh, I've been in ministry now many, many years. I have met many people who have been held captive by lies or a lie, but they've been held in a prison of lies, but the truth is powerful. See, lies only have power if you believe them. Once you see them for what they are, and you stand in the truth, then the truth will set you free. Proverbs 18:10, "The name of the Lord is a strong tower. The righteous runs into it and is safe."
Romans 10:17, "Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ." Luke 8:15, "The seed," he's talking about the word of God, "sewn on hearts. The seed of the word of God sewn into the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and they hold onto it." They take hold of it. They hold it fast. "These are the ones that will bear fruit in their life, and they will bear fruit with enduring perseverance."
You want to bear the fruit of truth and life? Take hold. He says, "Take hold." Then there's this part of the story. Back to the 2 Chronicles 32. "God's help is your strength." Hezekiah knew that trouble was coming. He gathered the people around him. He spoke that famous verse 7, that speech, "Be strong and courageous. Do not fear. Do not be dismayed because of this king of Assyria nor this great multitude." Then he says this principle, "For the one with us is greater than the one with him."
Let's take hold of that great truth. Let's understand its application because it is one of the great truths of spiritual warfare. See, notice verse 8, "With him is only an arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles. God is with us." Do you believe that God is with you? See, His name is Emmanuel. God is with us. Absolutely. God is with us. If God is with us, then God is with us to help. God is with us to stand strong.
God is looking for those whose hearts are His, that He might show Himself strong in their behalf. With Him is only an arm of flesh. With us is our Lord. This is a fundamental understanding of spiritual warfare. See, Jesus says, "I stand at the door and knock. Anyone who opens the door, I will come in." In other words, we'll have relationship and eat together. See, there's that picture of, "I stand at the door and knock. If anyone opens the door, I will come into his heart." Jesus takes up residence in your life, in your heart, and in your soul.
See here's my point. When you invite Jesus, when you open the door of your heart and invite Jesus into your life, Jesus takes up residence in your life, in your heart, in your soul. When you invite Jesus into your life, you have invited the lion from the tribe of Judah. The lion is the strength. That's why the lion is such a picture of strength. He then becomes the strong man in your life, you might say. I'll explain what that phrase means, but notice there are other Scriptures that say the same thing.
Notice, here's the one in the New Testament, 1 John 4:4. "You are from God, little children, and have overcome them," speaking about the world "because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world." Same idea. See, by the way, this is why Christians, please take note of this truth. It's a very important one. This is why Christians cannot be possessed by a demon. By the way, this is important truth. This is why Christians cannot be possessed by a demon.
Now, you may be greatly troubled or distressed or tempted by the enemy, but Jesus is greater than Satan. Jesus is greater than the demonic realm. Now, for example, at one point, Jesus was casting out demons, and the leaders of the Jews, the leaders of Israel, saw Him casting out the demonic with tremendous authority, and they were greatly troubled by this power, so they sent to the crowd who was observing, they said, "Ha, He is casting out these demons by the power of Beelzebub," which is another word for Satan, the lord of the flies.
Jesus answered in one of the most famous answers, giving some of the most important insights for spiritual victory. Let me just read it to you. You might take note of it. It's very important. Very, very important. Luke 11:17 and 22, Jesus' response to this. Jesus says, "Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste. A house divided against itself falls."
Jesus says, "In other words, this does not make sense what you just said. If Satan is divided against himself, how would his kingdom stand since you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebub, but if I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you." Then He adds the illustration, "When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are undisturbed, but when someone stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, then he takes away from him all his armor on which he had relied and distributes his funder."
Jesus is explaining the nature of spiritual warfare. In other words, if someone has opened their life to the demonic realm, they have a demon in their life, let's say, they're not believers, and Jesus encounters that person to set that person free, then he will bind the strong man of that house who is Satan, the demonic, bind the strong man, and then he can to the house, get rid of the demonic God of that life so that the presence of the Holy Spirit and the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ can then become the strength of that person's life.
See, you get the illustration. If someone breaks into my house in the middle of the night, God forbid, but if someone should break into the house in the middle of the night, then I'm the one, I'm the strong man. I'm getting older now, but you follow my illustration. I'm the strong man of the house. If someone breaks into my house, they're going to have to deal with me. In that spiritual realm, if a person opens the door of their heart to Christ Jesus, Jesus becomes a strong man of that person's life now. Amen? Sure. Let's give a little praise.
This is such an important understanding. This is such an important understanding. Open your heart and let the Lord Jesus Christ into your life. When you invite the Lord Jesus Christ, you have invited the lion from the tribe of Judah. He is the strength of your life now to help you. God sends the presence of the living God to be your help, to be your strength, to give you that victory in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Hezekiah understood this truth, so he strengthened the faith of the people.
Then, of course, by saying those very words, "Greater is He who was with us than he who is with them. Only the arm of flesh is with him. The Lord Jehovah, God of Israel is with us." Then having declared that, having strengthened their faith, he then took action. He did something. What did he do? Verse 20, "King Hezekiah, Isaiah the prophet, prayed. They cried out to heaven. They went unto the temple, and they prayed." We get more details in another place.
Notice this, this is a very important principle, prayer is the first action of faith. If you're taking notes, write that down. Prayer is the first action of faith. He strengthened their faith, and now he's going to take action. Faith that is real is faith that is alive. It moves. It does. It takes action. It does something. It's not just what you believe. It's what you do with what you believe. The first action of faith is prayer. The first action of faith is prayer. This is a very important principle.
Oh, I so want us all to take hold of this great principle. The first action of faith is prayer, so he prayed. Interestingly, we read in verse 17 that King Sennacherib wrote a letter, particularly of insult, blaspheming, and insulting Jehovah, the God of Israel, and then we know in 2 Kings what Hezekiah did with his letter. You know what he did with the letter? I don't know why, I just love this scene. It's on a scroll, and that's how they wrote letters, on scrolls.
He brought it up to the temple, he unrolled it, he laid it out on the floor in the temple, and he said, "Lord, read that." I don't know why that's funny to me. I just think that's interesting. "Lord, read what they are saying about you. Look at what they're saying about you." Then he prayed, "Lord, I pray, deliver us from his hand that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you and you alone, you, oh, Lord, are our God. Let the world know it. God, show it." Hezekiah's first action was prayer.
Notice this, God is pleased with sincere prayer. It's the first action of prayer, and God is so pleased. If that is your first action, God is pleased. "Very well done. Well done. Well lived. Well lived. Very well done. That's how you live your life right there. That's how you do that. First action is prayer. Well done." God's pleased. You know his prayer. I gave you his prayer. Simple. Simple, humble, sincere. You don't have to be an expert at prayer. You don't have to have a degree in prayer. You don't have to study the right words.
It's not about the formula of the words. It's about the simple, sincere, humble heart, and God is very well pleased. It's the first action of faith. Does not have to be expertly done. Simple. Simple, sincere, humble, and God is pleased. "Well done. Well done. Well lived, my friend. Well lived." 2 Kings 19:20-28, we know what God did in response.
"Isaiah the prophet sent word to Hezekiah and said, 'Thus says Jehovah, the Lord God of Israel, because you prayed, because you prayed, because that was your first action of faith, you prayed to me about Sennacherib, king of Assyria, I have heard you, and this is what I will do." I love this. "I will put a hook in his nose, I will put a bridle in his lips, and I will turn him back by the way in which he came. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this. I will put a hook in his nose, and I will drag him back, and he will die by the hands of his own family."
In other words, God was saying, "Well done. I heard you. That's exactly the right thing to do." Now, we also read in another place that in response to this tremendous threat that he puts sackcloth on. Sackcloth is what? The cloth from which you make sacks. It is the demonstration, outward symbol, of humility. They would literally take a sack, cut a hole for the neck, two holes for the arms, and put a sack over their clothes.
You might say, "Well, that's just an outward symbol," but an outward symbol of an authentic heart is beautiful to the Lord. You must see this in the Scriptures. An outward symbol of an authentic heart is beautiful. God does respect an outward symbol if it is a reflection of that which is authentic. James 4:6, "God gives a greater grace." Therefore it says, "God is opposed to the proud, but He will give grace to the humble." Matthew 23:12, "Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, but whoever humbles himself will be exalted."
God will see to it. God is with us. His very presence is the strength of your life, for this is the great truth. "Fervent prayer availeth much." I like the King James on this one. "Fervent prayer availeth much." This prayer is a turning point. It's a turning point in the history of the nation of Israel. That's how important this prayer is. Simple, sincere, but it's important. Listen, God places power on prayer in spiritual warfare. God places power on prayer for spiritual warfare and spiritual victory.
James 5:16, "The fervent prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much." Turning to God in prayer is the first action of faith, for it is the acknowledgment that your point of strength is not in the armament or the strength of your life. It's the strength of God in your life. 2 Corinthians 10:3-4, "For though we walk in the flesh," in this world of flesh, "we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but they are divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses."
Divinely powerful means empowered by God. We live in a tremendous time of warfare, conflict, war of words, culture wars, and wars and rumors of wars in the world itself, but though we walk in this fleshly world, do not war according to the flesh. This is a spiritual principle. Now, the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh. The weapons of our warfare are spiritual in nature and are divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses, and as we know, 185,000 fell. They woke up in the morning. There were corpses before them.
God's hand still moves today. It's the same God yesterday, today, and forever. God is still wanting, looking, and searching for those who will trust Him. Those who will rely on Him. Those who believe that "God is the strength of my heart, that greater is He who is in us than He who is in the world." God is looking. God is looking. Let's give Him praise. God is looking. God is looking. God wants to show Himself strong. God is looking for those that would rely on him. Trust him. Trust him. You're going through troubles. Rely on him. Prayer is the first action of faith.
Father, thank you. Thank you, and thank you some more. We are so blessed. What can we say? God, when we see you again in all your power and glory, we're amazed. God, I just pray for everyone in this place today. So many going through troubles, trials. We live in troubled times. Oh, God, you are looking. The eyes of the Lord are searching, that you might find those who will trust, to rely, to believe that if God is in my life, then the lion of the tribe of Judah has taken residence in my soul to be my help.
Church, today, how many would say to the Lord, "You, God, and You alone are the strength on which I rely. I will look to You. I will trust You. I pray to You now, even in the simple, sincere, humble action of faith. I trust You. I have no one in my life that I can rely on but You." Church, is that you?" Would you say that to the Lord by raising your hand to the Lord? Just declare it. Raise your hand to the Lord.
It's a way of just saying, "God, I want to just say it. I want to just express it. I want to just declare it. You are the strength. You are the lion of the tribe of Judah in my heart and in my life. I love you, Lord. Move in power. I rely on You now. In Jesus' powerful name, and everyone said?