The Church of Jesus Christ is being besieged on ever side. It faces conflicts within and without. From the outside there are organizations and special interest groups of all kinds that are challenging our Christian faith and practice on the most fundamental levels. Inside there is all kinds of compromise and corruption being exposed that seriously challenges our credibility in the eyes of everyone, believers as well as non-believers. Continually fighting this battle on two fronts can prove to be exhausting, and can quickly lead us to despair. However, in the midst of the siege, I would like us to consider the encouragement of a godly king to look to the Greater One.
in 2nd Chronicles 32, Hezekiah was king of Judah. He was a godly king that brought a spiritual revival to the land during his reign. The northern kingdom of Israel had already fallen to the nation of Assyria. Now Sennacherib, king of Assyria, had invaded Judah and encamped against the fortified cities. King Hezekiah did what he could to prepare for the invasion, knowing that his natural resources were quite limited compared to the army that was coming against him. But I want you to take special note of the encouragement he gave to his people.
6 He appointed combat commanders over the people, and gathered them together to him in the square at the gate of the city and spoke encouragingly to them, saying, 7 “Be strong and of good courage. Do not be afraid or dismayed before the king of Assyria and all the horde that is with him; for there is one greater with us than with him. 8 With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord our God, to help us and to fight our battles.” The people were encouraged by the words of King Hezekiah of Judah. 2nd Chronicles 32:6 – 8 NRSV (emphasis added)
Hezekiah was out-manned and out-moneyed, but he also recognized that men, money, and munitions were not his only resources. There was One who stood with them that was greater than all these things put together. The Lord their God was standing with them and would bring them successfully through this situation. This brought great encouragement to the people.
A quick read of what happened after this shows that the Lord indeed undertook on their behalf. Sennacherib lost thousands of troops and was sent home in great humiliation. The Lord won a great victory on behalf of His people.
What About Us?
So what about us? Can we, in our besieged state, rely on the Lord to come to our aid? Of course we can!! Too often, however, we resort to the arm of flesh to solve our problems. We fight, debate, protest, and condemn in order to try and push back at the ones that afflict us. We may win a few arguments along the way, but we will ultimately lose the war if we continue responding in these ways. We need to follow the example of the early Christians when they were under siege.
“Stretch Out Your Hand!”
Persecution broke out against the early church in Acts 4. The religious leaders of the day threatened the apostles and ordered them to stop preaching Jesus. How did the early disciples respond to this attack on their ministry?
23 When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, 25 who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit,
“‘Why did the Gentiles rage,
and the peoples plot in vain?
26 The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers were gathered together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed’—
27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. 29 And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” Acts 4:23 – 30 ESV
Instead of getting angry and protesting the persecution, writing letters, or launching a smear campaign, they appealed to the Greater One who was with them. They called out to the Lord and asked Him to stretch out His hand to empower them for even more effective ministry, because their enemies could not argue against things wrought by the power of God (Acts 4:15 – 16). The result?
And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. Acts 4:31 ESV
Let’s Be Encouraged
Beloved, let’s be encouraged! In a day when it seems like we are beset by enemies on every side, the Greater One is still with us. Let’s stop relying on the arm of flesh and call out to the King to empower us for even more effective spiritual ministry. Let’s look expectantly for Him to come to our aid. And this He will do as we continue to labor with Him while living in the Reign.