When King Hezekiah heard the report, he also tore his clothes and dressed in rough, penitential burlap gunnysacks, and went into the sanctuary of God.
He sent Eliakim the palace administrator, Shebna the secretary, and the senior priests, all of them also dressed in penitential burlap, to the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz.
They said to him, "Hezekiah says, 'This is a black day. We're in crisis. We're like pregnant women without even the strength to have a baby!
Do you think your God heard what the Rabshekah said, sent by his master the king of Assyria to mock the living God? And do you think your God will do anything about it? Pray for us, Isaiah. Pray for those of us left here holding the fort!'"
Then King Hezekiah's servants came to Isaiah.
Isaiah said, "Tell your master this: 'God's Message: Don't be upset by what you've heard, all those words the servants of the Assyrian king have used to mock me.
I personally will take care of him. I'll arrange it so that he'll get a rumor of bad news back home and rush home to take care of it. And he'll die there. Killed - a violent death.'"
The Rabshekah left and found the king of Assyria fighting against Libnah. (He had gotten word that the king had left Lachish.)
Just then the Assyrian king received an intelligence report on King Tirhakah of Ethiopia: "He is on his way to make war on you."
"Don't let your God, on whom you so naively lean, deceive you, promising that Jerusalem won't fall to the king of Assyria.
Use your head! Look around at what the kings of Assyria have done all over the world - one country after another devastated! And do you think you're going to get off?
Have any of the gods of any of these countries ever stepped in and saved them, even one of these nations my predecessors destroyed - Gozan, Haran, Rezeph, and the people of Eden who lived in Telassar?
Look around. Do you see anything left of the king of Hamath, the king of Arpad, the king of the city of Sepharvaim, the king of Hena, the king of Ivvah?"
Hezekiah took the letter from the hands of the messengers and read it. Then he went into the sanctuary of God and spread the letter out before God.
Then Hezekiah prayed to God:
"God-of-the-Angel-Armies, enthroned over the cherubim-angels, you are God, the only God there is, God of all kingdoms on earth. You made heaven and earth.
Listen, O God, and hear. Look, O God, and see. Mark all these words of Sennacherib that he sent to mock the living God.
It's quite true, O God, that the kings of Assyria have devastated all the nations and their lands.
They've thrown their gods into the trash and burned them - no great achievement since they were no-gods anyway, gods made in workshops, carved from wood and chiseled from rock. An end to the no-gods!
But now step in, O God, our God. Save us from him. Let all the kingdoms of earth know that you and you alone are God."
Then Isaiah son of Amoz sent this word to Hezekiah: "God's Message, the God of Israel: Because you brought King Sennacherib of Assyria to me in prayer,
here is my answer, God's answer: "'She has no use for you, Sennacherib, nothing but contempt, this virgin daughter Zion. She spits at you and turns on her heel, this daughter Jerusalem.
"'Who do you think you've been mocking and reviling all these years? Who do you think you've been jeering and treating with such utter contempt All these years? The Holy of Israel!
You've used your servants to mock the Master. You've bragged, "With my fleet of chariots I've gone to the highest mountain ranges, penetrated the far reaches of Lebanon, Chopped down its giant cedars, its finest cypresses. I conquered its highest peak, explored its deepest forest.
I dug wells and drank my fill. I emptied the famous rivers of Egypt with one kick of my foot.
"'Haven't you gotten the news that I've been behind this all along? This is a longstanding plan of mine and I'm just now making it happen, using you to devastate strong cities, turning them into piles of rubble
and leaving their citizens helpless, bewildered, and confused, drooping like unwatered plants, stunted like withered seedlings.
"'I know all about your pretentious poses, your officious comings and goings, and, yes, the tantrums you throw against me.
Because of all your wild raging against me, your unbridled arrogance that I keep hearing of, I'll put my hook in your nose and my bit in your mouth. I'll show you who's boss. I'll turn you around and take you back to where you came from.
"'And this, Hezekiah, will be your confirming sign: This year's crops will be slim pickings, and next year it won't be much better. But in three years, farming will be back to normal, with regular sowing and reaping, planting and harvesting.
What's left of the people of Judah will put down roots and make a new start.
The people left in Jerusalem will get moving again. Mount Zion survivors will take hold again. The zeal of God-of-the-Angel-Armies will do all this.'
"Finally, this is God's verdict on the king of Assyria: "'Don't worry, he won't enter this city, won't let loose a single arrow, Won't brandish so much as one shield, let alone build a siege ramp against it.
He'll go back the same way he came. He won't set a foot in this city. God's Decree.
I've got my hand on this city to save it, Save it for my very own sake, but also for the sake of my David dynasty.'"
Then the Angel of God arrived and struck the Assyrian camp - 185,000 Assyrians died. By the time the sun came up, they were all dead - an army of corpses!
Sennacherib, king of Assyria, got out of there fast, back home to Nineveh.
As he was worshiping in the sanctuary of his god Nisroch, he was murdered by his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer. They escaped to the land of Ararat. His son Esar-haddon became the next king.
At that time, Hezekiah got sick. He was about to die. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz visited him and said, "God says, 'Prepare your affairs and your family. This is it: You're going to die. You're not going to get well.'"
Hezekiah turned away from Isaiah and, facing the wall, prayed to God:
"God, please, I beg you: Remember how I've lived my life. I've lived faithfully in your presence, lived out of a heart that was totally yours. You've seen how I've lived, the good that I have done." And Hezekiah wept as he prayed - painful tears.
Then God told Isaiah,
"Go and speak with Hezekiah. Give him this Message from me, God, the God of your ancestor David: 'I've heard your prayer. I have seen your tears. Here's what I'll do: I'll add fifteen years to your life.
And I'll save both you and this city from the king of Assyria. I have my hand on this city.
"'And this is your confirming sign, confirming that I, God, will do exactly what I have promised.
Watch for this: As the sun goes down and the shadow lengthens on the sundial of Ahaz, I'm going to reverse the shadow ten notches on the dial.'" And that's what happened: The declining sun's shadow reversed ten notches on the dial.
This is what Hezekiah king of Judah wrote after he'd been sick and then recovered from his sickness:
In the very prime of life I have to leave. Whatever time I have left is spent in death's waiting room.
No more glimpses of God in the land of the living, No more meetings with my neighbors, no more rubbing shoulders with friends.
This body I inhabit is taken down and packed away like a camper's tent. Like a weaver, I've rolled up the carpet of my life as God cuts me free of the loom And at day's end sweeps up the scraps and pieces.
I cry for help until morning. Like a lion, God pummels and pounds me, relentlessly finishing me off.
I squawk like a doomed hen, moan like a dove. My eyes ache from looking up for help: "Master, I'm in trouble! Get me out of this!"
But what's the use? God himself gave me the word. He's done it to me. I can't sleep - I'm that upset, that troubled.
O Master, these are the conditions in which people live, and yes, in these very conditions my spirit is still alive - fully recovered with a fresh infusion of life!
It seems it was good for me to go through all those troubles. Throughout them all you held tight to my lifeline. You never let me tumble over the edge into nothing. But my sins you let go of, threw them over your shoulder - good riddance!
The dead don't thank you, and choirs don't sing praises from the morgue. Those buried six feet under don't witness to your faithful ways.
It's the living - live men, live women - who thank you, just as I'm doing right now. Parents give their children full reports on your faithful ways.
God saves and will save me. As fiddles and mandolins strike up the tunes, We'll sing, oh we'll sing, sing, for the rest of our lives in the Sanctuary of God.
Isaiah had said, "Prepare a poultice of figs and put it on the boil so he may recover."
Hezekiah had said, "What is my cue that it's all right to enter again the Sanctuary of God?"
So if you're serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides.
Don't shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ - that's where the action is. See things from his perspective.
Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life - even though invisible to spectators - is with Christ in God. He is your life.
When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you'll show up, too - the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ.
And that means killing off everything connected with that way of death: sexual promiscuity, impurity, lust, doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it, and grabbing whatever attracts your fancy. That's a life shaped by things and feelings instead of by God.
It's because of this kind of thing that God is about to explode in anger.
It wasn't long ago that you were doing all that stuff and not knowing any better.
But you know better now, so make sure it's all gone for good: bad temper, irritability, meanness, profanity, dirty talk.
Don't lie to one another. You're done with that old life. It's like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes you've stripped off and put in the fire.
Now you're dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete.
Words like Jewish and non-Jewish, religious and irreligious, insider and outsider, uncivilized and uncouth, slave and free, mean nothing. From now on everyone is defined by Christ, everyone is included in Christ.
So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline.
Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you.
And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It's your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.
Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness.
Let the Word of Christ - the Message - have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God!
Let every detail in your lives - words, actions, whatever - be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.
Wives, understand and support your husbands by submitting to them in ways that honor the Master.
Husbands, go all out in love for your wives. Don't take advantage of them.
Children, do what your parents tell you. This delights the Master no end.
Parents, don't come down too hard on your children or you'll crush their spirits.
Servants, do what you're told by your earthly masters. And don't just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best.
Work from the heart for your real Master, for God,
confident that you'll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you're serving is Christ.
The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being Christian doesn't cover up bad work.
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved. (The Message Bible Online)