No one likes to be criticized for something beyond their control.
No one enjoys hearing unmerited condemnation.
No one is fond of a put-down.
And no one appreciates fielding attacks from a mean-spirited source.
Last night, one of my kids was on the receiving end of some bullying. He returned home out-of-sorts and upset. The words that were thrown at him were untrue and unmerited. He didn’t deserve being ganged up on by a couple of twerpy kids. Throughout the barrage of mean-spirited remarks and snickers, my son remained silent. He didn’t reply. He did his thing and then returned home; wounded.
We had a long talk about it. Finally, we came to the conclusion that the kids had no idea what they were even talking about. They didn’t know my son. He just happened to be in the place where they thought they could take advantage of him and bully him with their taunts and sarcasm.
This morning, amazingly enough, I read about a similar account. King Hezekiah and his nation experienced a comparable situation to my son as the people of Judah fielded words of disrespect and effrontery.
Then the commander stood and called out in Hebrew, “Hear the word of the great king, the king of Assyria! This is what the king says: Do not let Hezekiah deceive you. He cannot deliver you from my hand. Do not let Hezekiah persuade you to trust in the Lord when he says, ‘The Lord will surely deliver us; this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.’
“Do not listen to Hezekiah. This is what the king of Assyria says: Make peace with me and come out to me. Then each of you will eat fruit from your own vine and fig tree and drink water from your own cistern, until I come and take you to a land like your own—a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of olive trees and honey. Choose life and not death!
“Do not listen to Hezekiah, for he is misleading you when he says, ‘The Lord will deliver us.’ Has the god of any nation ever delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena and Ivvah? Have they rescued Samaria from my hand? Who of all the gods of these countries has been able to save his land from me? How then can the Lord deliver Jerusalem from my hand?”
But the people remained silent and said nothing in reply, because the king had commanded, “Do not answer him.” 2 Kings 18: 28-36 NIV
The Assyrian commander spoke a number of mistruths with a volley of menacing words on behalf of the Assyrian king. First, King Hezekiah had made no alliances with Egypt or any other foreign country. Assyria assumed that King Hezekiah was just like the King of Israel and other leaders who sought foreign aid to combat their enemies. King Hezekiah did not. He chose to seek out his God for help. Second, the Assyrians considered the God of Judah to be impotent; just like any other god that had been used to oppose Assyria. Third, the Assyrian commander believed that his words and the power behind them would be enough to convince the nation of Judah to submit to Assyria and come over to his side; the ‘winning side.’ He was wrong on this count as well. The commander of Assyria underestimated and undervalued the power of God Almighty. In fact, the Assyrians had no idea who the God that Hezekiah worshipped and obeyed even was.
The Assyrian commander believed that Hezekiah had deceived his people through persuasive words that the God of Israel was enough to defend and protect them.
To persuade the people to follow Hezekiah and his God, the first thing King Hezekiah had done was to remove every idol in the land. He dedicated himself, his people, and his kingdom to the LORD. For this persuasion to take root in the hearts and minds of the people, King Hezekiah convinced them that a life devoted to the LORD demonstrated something altogether different and with far more substance of faith than the reliance upon a stone idol or Asherah pole. His sustained efforts, spirit of conviction, and model of trust reintroduced the LORD to the people of Judah. As a result, they chose to believe and act upon that belief; even in the face of an oppressive and ominous enemy in the nation of Assyria. King Hezekiah had persuaded this people that their God was real, was present and was ready to respond to their defense. They were not alone.
As the commander flung his accusations, taunts, and lies at the nation of Judah, the people remained silent. King Hezekiah had ordered them to not respond to the words of the enemy. He promised that their God would act and they need not fear.
My son needed to know that last night. He was not alone as the bullies’ taunts were hurled against him. In difficult times, whether facing an ominous and threatening enemy like the nation of Judah or on the receiving end of a bully’s jeers like my son, we need to hold fast to the promise of our God. “No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Joshua 1:5 NIV
Many in the world, just like the Assyrian commander of long ago, would have us think that our invisible God does not exist and is certainly not able to come to our aid. In fact, when you go on the internet you will find more arguments of persuasion against our God than for Him. In classrooms, workplaces, neighborhoods and restaurants, conversations often have no regard for the presence of God either. Political dictators govern according to self interest and personal gain. In all truth, many people live with no regard for God. The fact that followers of Christ trust God and seek Him out for their needs is considered a futile and misguided effort. They do not know and do not understand the identity, joy, comfort, safety and security believers possess through a relationship with Jesus Christ.
So for my son, and for my other two children, when difficulties arise, it is my prayer that I am guiding them in how to trust in the presence of the LORD despite their circumstances and challenges. Misery in the world often arises from feelings of loneliness and despair. When the world tells my children that they are unlovable, unacceptable, or unwanted, whether through bullying or some other unkind act, I want my sons to take hold of the truth that their God knows them, loves them and is with them in everything they do and wherever they may go. They are not forgotten by Him. They are known and they are loved; completely. I want to persuade my sons to trust in the power, love and blessing of their God and Savior through my words and my actions.
Perhaps more of this kind of trust persuasion is needed in other arenas of my life as well. Does my life persuade others to consider trusting in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord? When I am alone, fearful and feel like the world is against me, when I turn to the LORD for my aid, are others watching and taking note of how my God responds? Do His actions and care for me persuade others to look for Him for their trust and their hope?
King Hezekiah had that kind of persuasive life. He trusted in his God. His people responded in kind and their God acted with strength, power and love on their behalf. And the Assyrians? Well, ultimately things didn’t work at all that well for them when they were confronted by God Himself.
What if they had been persuaded to trust in God instead?