SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 2 KG 19:9-11, 14-21, 31-36; PS 48:2-4,10-11; MT 7:6.12-14 ]

We all have our desperate experiences in life.  We have gone through situations that we thought we would not be able to overcome.  We were on the brink of giving up all hope.  This could have been in our studies, when we felt so unprepared, or in our projects, when we thought we would not make it in time.  For others, it could have been in salvaging a relationship, especially infidelity in marriage, or after a quarrel.  In some instances, the trials of life could border between life and death, like being diagnosed with an advance stage of rare cancer or terminal illness; or a threatened pregnancy.

In such a situation, when we feel so powerless and totally helpless in the face of our enemies or the dire consequences ahead of us, we can only turn to God for help. Hezekiah came before God in fervent prayer to seek His divine intervention.  Instead of trusting and relying on his army, he surrendered everything to the Lord.  Logically, Hezekiah should have just surrendered to King Sennacherib.  After all, the Assyrians had captured all the fortified cities of Judah when Hezekiah refused to pay them the annual tribute.  Judah’s treasury had been depleted, paying their tribute.  This time, King Sennacherib sent his army to besiege Jerusalem and demanded his surrender.  He sent a letter to unsettle King Hezekiah.  It read, “Do not let your God on whom you are relying deceive you, when he says: Jerusalem shall not fall into the power of the king of Assyria. You have learnt by now what the kings of Assyria have done to every country, putting them all under the ban. Are you likely to be spared?”

But King Hezekiah stood firm against Assyria.  Although he knew that a tiny nation like Judah would not be able to withstand the attack of Assyria with her powerful army and soldiers, he believed that God would protect His city, Jerusalem.  This was the psalmist’ prayer, “God upholds his city forever.  The Lord is great and worthy to be praised in the city of our God. His holy mountain rises in beauty, the joy of all the earth. Mount Zion, true pole of the earth, the Great King’s city! God, in the midst of its citadels, has shown himself its stronghold.” It was the faith and confidence of King Hezekiah that moved God to act in his favour.

Indeed, there is no better way to overcome our trials in life than to pray.  As the Lord said to His disciples, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”  (Mk 10:27) The angel also assured Mary at the Annunciation that nothing is impossible to God.  (cf Lk 1:37) Prayer should always be the first response in everything we do in life. We should not wait till we can no longer depend ourselves.  If we consult the Lord and seek His guidance, we would not come to a situation where we are in crisis.  We must seek the Lord’s will in everything we do so that we walk the way of truth.

However, how should we pray?  King Hezekiah’s disposition in prayer is illustrative of how we should approach God in time of crisis.  Firstly, he brought his problem before the Lord. “Hezekiah took the letter from the hands of the messenger and read it; he then went up to the Temple of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord.”  Presenting our problem to the Lord and talking it out with Him helps us to articulate our fears and worries that cloud our minds, sometimes over- exaggerating the extent of our problems.  It is important that we face our problems objectively and squarely.  This is best done by crystalizing our situation.

Secondly, he affirmed the sovereignty of God, His power and dominion over all.  “Lord of hosts, God of Israel, enthroned on the cherubs, you alone are God of all the kingdoms of the earth, you have made heaven and earth.  Give ear, Lord, and listen. Open your eyes, Lord, and see. Hear the words of Sennacherib who has sent to insult the living God. It is true, Lord, that the kings of Assyria have exterminated all the nations, they have thrown their gods on the fire, for these were not gods but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone, and hence they have destroyed them. But now, Lord our God, save us from his hand, I pray you, and let all the kingdoms of the earth know that you alone are God, Lord.”  Indeed, although the Assyrian King was very powerful, Hezekiah believed that God was even more powerful.  He might have destroyed all the nations around Judah, but that was because they did not have God on their side.  Judah was different because it was the Lord’s citadel.

Thirdly, his motive for asking God to intervene was clear.  It was not so much for himself or even his people, but for the glory and honour of His name.  If God did not intervene, His name would be further insulted by the pagans, especially the Assyrians. That was how Moses interceded for his people when God in His wrath wanted to wipe them out from the face of the earth.  “Lord, why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people.”  (cf Ex 32: 11-13) This was how Jesus also prayed when He raised Lazarus from the dead. “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” (Jn 11:41f)

Fourthly, Hezekiah was docile and humble in listening to the prophets of God.  When Isaiah delivered the message of God to him, he believed, unlike his predecessor, King Ahaz.  Isaiah pronounced God’s judgment on Assyria, “She despises you, she scorns you, the virgin daughter of Zion: she tosses her head behind you, the daughter of Jerusalem. A remnant shall go out from Jerusalem, and survivors from Mount Zion. The jealous love of the Lord of Hosts shall accomplish this. He will not enter this city, he will let fly no arrow against it, confront it with no shield, throw up no earthwork against it. By the road that he came on he will return; he shall not enter this city. It is the Lord who speaks. I will protect this city and save it for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David.”  So the Lord delivered Hezekiah from his enemies for the glory of His name; that this God whom Israel worshipped is a faithful, merciful and powerful God.  

Indeed, because of the confidence of Hezekiah in God, the Lord in an unimaginable way saved Judah beyond all human calculations.  He did this without sacrificing the lives of the people of Judah.  We read, “That same night the angel of the Lord went out and struck down a hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the Assyrian camp. Sennacherib struck camp and left; he returned home and stayed in Nineveh.”  Most likely it was an epidemic that struck the Assyrian Camp and they had to return to their country.  Truly, God works in a most mysterious and surprising way in our lives if we just surrender our lives in faith to Him.  We have heard many testimonies of how God intervened miraculously in our lives, whether it is a person suffering from an incurable terminal illness, handicap, or any hopeless situation.  God works powerfully and in ways we cannot imagine.

This is what we can learn from Hezekiah.  He told God his problem and his crisis, but he left it to God to do what was best.  He did not dictate to God what He should do or how He should act.  He just trusted in Him and allowed God to act as He willed.  This was the same attitude of Mary in prayer.  At the Wedding in Cana, she only brought the petition to Him saying, “They have no more wine”, but she did not instruct Him what He should do.  Instead, she told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”  (Jn 2:3,5) We too should pray with freedom, allowing God to act accordingly instead of instructing God how and what He should do.  Because of our fixated expectations as to what we expect of Him, we miss out His presence when He comes to us in other ways.  God is always reaching out to help us, but not according to our plans but His plans.  His wisdom is greater than our minds.

In contrast, what happened to the Assyrian King was as the Lord said.  Instead of being humble in his success, he became arrogant.  He thought that it was his own efforts and strength that brought him success when it was God who allowed it.  Indeed, the words of Jesus are directed at such people.  “Do not give dogs what is holy; and do not throw your pearls in front of pigs, or they may trample them and then turn on you and tear you to pieces.”  Again, because of the cruelty of the Assyrians, who tortured their captives mercilessly, they too were treated in kind when they were conquered by the Babylonians.  Here again, the words of Jesus could be applied to them, “So always treat others as you would like them to treat you; that is the meaning of the Law and the Prophets.”   Finally, instead of entering the narrow gate by walking in humble obedience to the Word of God, they took the road that leads to perdition.   Let us learn from today’s scripture readings never to become too arrogant in our achievements on one hand, or feel so hopeless in times of crisis on the other.  Humility is the gateway to God’s grace and divine assistance.

Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved

Best Practices for Using the Daily Scripture Reflections
  • Encounter God through the spirit of prayer and the scripture by reflecting and praying the Word of God daily. The purpose is to bring you to prayer and to a deeper union with the Lord on the level of the heart.
  • Daily reflections when archived will lead many to accumulate all the reflections of the week and pray in one sitting. This will compromise your capacity to enter deeply into the Word of God, as the tendency is to read for knowledge rather than a prayerful reading of the Word for the purpose of developing a personal and affective relationship with the Lord.
  • It is more important to pray deeply, not read widely. The current reflections of the day would be more than sufficient for anyone who wants to pray deeply and be led into an intimacy with the Lord.

Note: You may share this reflection with someone. However, please note that reflections are not archived online, nor will they be available via email request.