Introduction: Our study this week involves one of my favorite stories in the Bible. King Ahaz dies and King Hezekiah, who loved the true God, is now on the throne of Judah. The problem is, as you will recall, that Ahaz had made a deal with the Assyrians. The Assyrians decided they would not simply take Ahaz’s bribe money, they would take his whole country! Do you have impossible problems? Has your father or mother created difficulties in life for you? Hezekiah is our “poster child” for dealing with serious difficulties. Let’s plunge into his story to learn how a master handles impossible problems!

  1. The Problem

    1. Read Isaiah 36:1. Imagine you are Hezekiah, the King of Judah. What is the score in your battles with the Assyrians? (The Assyrians have a perfect win rate. You have lost every battle.)

      1. Why is this such bad news? (These battles are for the “fortified cities.” They are the cities best able to defend against invaders.)

    2. Read Isaiah 36:2-3. How serious is the problem now? (The Assyrians are outside the city of Jerusalem. The Assyrian field commander is at the Upper Pool! This, by the way, is the same place that Isaiah met King Ahaz.)

      1. Do you think it is significant that the Assyrians decide to meet at the critical source of water for Jerusalem?

      2. Who attends the meeting? (Representatives of both kings.)

        1. Why would Hezekiah want a meeting? (He was probably hoping for a way out of the problem. However, I’m not sure Hezekiah had much choice. If he had any choice, he would not have let the Assyrian commander and his (v.2) “large army” so close.)

    3. Read Isaiah 36:4-7. What is the Assyrian king’s motive for meeting? (He wants to demoralize King Hezekiah. He wants Hezekiah to surrender.)

      1. What would be your mental state is at this time if you were Hezekiah? (Discouraged. Frightened. God had not come through – it has been a series of defeats.)

      2. Have you ever asked God why He let your problems become so serious?

    4. Read 2 Kings 19:9. How does Pharaoh fit into this picture? (One commentary that I read said that Egypt was the real target of the Assyrians. They were just taking over Judah while on a march to Egypt. This commentary also reports that Hezekiah had decided to stop paying tribute to the Assyrians. In this he had a promise of help from Egypt and Ethiopia. In 2 Kings we see that Egypt is marching out to meet the Assyrians.)

    5. Let’s get back to Isaiah 36:7. What are the Assyrians saying about Hezekiah trusting God? (They say that Hezekiah cannot trust God because Hezekiah was unfaithful to God.)

      1. Is this true? Consider carefully what is said by the Assyrian commander. (Read 2 Kings 18:1-4. The allegations are not true. The Assyrians are confused – they think that removing the “high places” is a rebuke to the true God. In fact, Hezekiah was destroying the places for worship of the false gods.)

        1. Have you ever had pagans try to use your religious beliefs against you? (I currently have a case where my client asked for a religious accommodation. The lawyer for the other side responded that my client misunderstands her own religious beliefs.)

    6. Read Isaiah 36:8-9. Why would the King of Assyria offer to give horses to the country he is about to attack? (He wants to negotiate a surrender.)

      1. What information about Hezekiah’s situation do we learn from this offer? (Horses were a technological advance in military weapons. This shows us that the Assyrians had a cavalry. King Hezekiah could not muster enough riders even if he were given the horses. The point is that Assyria is much more advanced in terms of military might than Judah.)

    7. Read Isaiah 36:10. Could this be true? Had it been true during the time of King Ahaz? (It had been true in the past. Recall our study of Isaiah 7:20 and Isaiah 8:7-8. When we considered those texts we learned that God was behind the military success of Assyria in attacks on Israel and Judah.)

      1. Would King Hezekiah know whether it was true or not?

        1. Have you wondered if problems that you face are part of God’s lesson for you or part of an attack by Satan?

        2. How can you tell the source of your problems?

        3. Does it matter whether you know the source? (This was a big issue for Job. As you may recall, Job’s friends told him he was being punished because of his sins. (See, e.g., Job 22:1-5.) Job wanted to “sue God” because he did not think it was true he deserved to be punished (Job 23). Whatever the source of your problems, I think the solution is the same – you turn to God. You should examine your life to see if it is out of step with God. If it is, repent. But in any case turn to God for help. Job would have saved a lot of grief and energy if he had stopped defending himself and accusing God and simply said “God, I am in your hands. Please save me.”)

    8. Read Isaiah 36:11. What is this request about? (They were asking the Assyrian commander to speak to them in a language that they, but not the “average Joe or Jane,” would understand.)

      1. Should this have been a private conversation?

    9. Read Isaiah 36:12-13. What is the argument against having a private conversation? (The average person is going to suffer if the Assyrians attack. They are entitled to know what will happen to them.)

      1. What would you call this approach by the Assyrian commander? (Psychological warfare.)

      2. How much of the statement of the Assyrian commander so far has been psychological warfare?

    10. Read Isaiah 36:14-20. What are the points that the Assyrian makes? (1. Don’t trust King Hezekiah – he cannot help. 2. Don’t trust your God – He cannot help. 3. If you surrender, we will treat you nicely.)

      1. Notice verses 16-17. They say in any contract the “devil is in the details.” What detail catches your attention here? (The Assyrians intend to relocate them. The “stay at home and eat and drink” is for a limited time only.)

      2. The Assyrians make a different argument about God in verses 18-20. First they suggested that King Hezekiah had rejected the true God. Next they said that the true God was “on their side.” What are they saying now about the true God? (It doesn’t matter whose side God is on. No god has ever been able to defeat the Assyrians!)

        1. Does this argument have any credibility? (So far the true God had not defeated the Assyrians.)

        2. Has Satan used this argument with you?

  2. The Response

    1. Read Isaiah 37:1-2. When you face serious problems, what do you do first?

      1. What are the first two things that King Hezekiah did?

      2. How does this compare to what King Ahaz did when he faced these problems? (Hezekiah immediately turns to God. Ahaz turned to other people.)

    2. Read Isaiah 37:14-20. What do you think about this prayer?

      1. Who is the focus of this prayer? Do your prayers have the same focus?

    3. Read 2 Chronicles 7:14. What is our role in facing adversity?

    4. Read Isaiah 37:21-23, Isaiah 37:26, Isaiah 37:29, and Isaiah 37:33. What is God’s response to Hezekiah’s prayer? (He agrees to rescue them.)

    5. Read Isaiah 37:36-38. What part did Hezekiah and his soldiers play in this victory?

      1. What significance do you find in his place of death? (He died in the “presence” of his god at the hands of his sons.)

    6. Friend, this story illustrates the most fundamental truth about facing impossible problems. Our job is not to defeat the problem. Our job is, as 2 Chronicles 7:14 says, to humbly seek God, repent of our sins and let God deal with our problems. He is a great God, will you let Him do His work in your life?

  3. Next week: Comfort My People.