It’s good for us to know in this world of conflict in which we are living, that all responses to prideful accusation or boastful threats fall under one of the two categories:
Pride or Humility.
And whichever we choose will determine whether we reap life or destruction.
When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. Proverbs 11:2
Humility is the fear of the Lord; its wages are riches and honor and life. Proverbs 22:4
Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Proverbs 16:18
A favorite story of mine is found in 2 Kings 18-20, where the proud King of Assyria, Sennacherib was attempting to intimidate Hezekiah, King of Judah, by boasting of his former victories, mocking, and making threats.
Here is how King Hezekiah responded:
As soon as King Hezekiah heard it he tore his clothes and covered himself with sackcloth and went into the house of the Lord. 2 Kings 19:1
He was acknowledging his powerlessness before the Lord. The tearing of clothing and putting on sackcloth was evidence of humility and mourning. He then sent his people, also clothed with sackcloth, to find the prophet Isaiah.
Upon arrival, they delivered King Hezekiah’s message:
“This day is a day of distress, of rebuke, and of disgrace; . . . It may be that the Lord your God heard all the words of the Rabshakeh, whom his master, the king of Assyria has sent to mock the living God, and will rebuke the words that the Lord your God has heard; therefore lift up your prayer for the remnant that is left.” 2 Kings 19:3-4
To which Isaiah replied,
“Thus says the Lord: Do not be afraid because of the words that you have heard, with which the servants of the kind of Assyria have reviled Me. Behold, I will put a spirit in him, so that he shall hear a rumor and return to his own land, and I will make him fall by the sword in his own land.” 2 Kings 3:6-7 [empahsis mine]
So . . . Sennacherib puffs up his chest and basically tells Hezekiah through a letter, “Don’t let your God deceive you.” [verse 10-13] . . . and continues to boast of his other exploits.
Hezekiah, once again humbly goes before the Lord and “spread the letter out before the Lord” and prayed:
“Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Give ear, Lord, and hear; open your eyes, Lord, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God.
“It is true, Lord, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands. They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by human hands. Now, Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, Lord, are God.” 2 Kings 19:15-19
And God answers through Isaiah, with a long message stating that God has heard his prayer and sees the pride and boasting of his enemy, and will Himself defeat him. [see verses 21-28] With a further promise of making the surviving remnant of His own people fruitful.
That night the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies! So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there.
One day, while he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisrok, his sons Adrammelek and Sharezer killed him with the sword, and they escaped to the land of Ararat. And Esarhaddon his son succeeded him as king.
2 Kings 19:35-37
The humble response of King Hezekiah saved his people.
God Himself fought for them.
Had Hezekiah answered Sennacherib’s pride with his own pride, there would have been mass-destruction, and much bloodshed.
This kind of thing doesn’t only happen to Old Testament Kings. It happens to us in our everyday lives. Boasting against our God. Intimidating threats. [Have you heard the term, “fear mongering”? I’m beginning to bristle at the repetition of certain words and phrases used and re-used. How about you?]
Have you felt threatened or accused by someone who felt like an enemy recently?
How about through the misunderstanding of a friend or group of people?
Have you discerned the real enemy when it happens and gone to your knees in prayer?
Do you trust that God has your back and promises to be your shield and defender?
For a few more of my favorite stories of God’s people choosing humility and acting in life-saving or life-creating wisdom:
1 Samuel 24 -David with Saul
1 Samuel 25 -Abagail with David
1 Samuel 1 – Hannah
Fall reminds me of humility, the laying down of our life, to let God rise up out of the dust what He wills . . .