Problem, reaction, solution
Problem; reaction; solution. It is a formula most of us are familiar with, particularly when it comes to Hegelian themes employed by globalists. But they are not my focus for today. I am focused on the needs of believers. You see, the helix of problem, reaction and solution is also apparent in our spiritual lives, most notably when it comes to our reaction to problems.
Hezekiah reigned over the southern kingdom of Judah for 29 years, from c. 715BC to 686BC. The Scriptures tell us that he was 25 years old when he became king (2 Kings 18:2). Hezekiah was one of the few kings of Judah who was constantly aware of God’s acts in the past and His involvement in the affairs of each day. In fact, the Bible speaks favourably about his relationship with God. In 2 Chronicles 31:20-21 we read: Thus Hezekiah did throughout all Judah, and he did what was good and right and true before the LORD his God. And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, in the law and in the commandment, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart. So he prospered. Under Hezekiah’s numerous reforms, revival came to Judah and because he put the Lord first in all that he did, God prospered him.
But Hezekiah would encounter a man who would present him with a challenging problem. In 701BC, Sennacherib king of Assyria marched against various fortified cities and overthrew them (2 Kings 18:13). Sennacherib was a prideful man. In fact, on the famous Sennacherib Prism (a six-sided baked clay document) discovered at the Assyrian capital of Nineveh in the 19th century, the text says this about him:
"Sennacherib, the great king, the mighty king, king of the world, king of Assyria, king of the four quarters, the wise shepherd, favorite of the great gods, guardian of right, lover of justice, who lends support, who comes to the aid of the destitute, who performs pious acts, perfect hero, mighty man, first among all princes, the powerful one who consumes the insubmissive, who strikes the wicked with the thunderbolt; the god Assur, the great mountain, an unrivaled kinship has entrusted to me, and above all those who dwell in palaces, has made powerful my weapons; from the upper sea of the setting sun to the lower sea of the rising sun, he has brought the black-headed people in submission at my feet; and mighty kings feared my warfare, leaving their homes and flying alone, like the sidinnu, the bird of the cave, to some inaccessible place…”
The Assyrian war machine was a fearful sight. It was the world’s most efficient military force in the ancient day. Not only did it have a professionally trained standing army, fierce weapons and advanced engineering skills, it had a ruthlessness which struck fear into its enemies. A phrase oft repeated by Assyrian kings in their inscriptions regarding military conquests and the fate of those cities towns and regions which resisted Assyrian rule is: “I destroyed, devastated, and burned with fire.” Another inscription explains in great detail what happened to those who dared resist. Located on a temple in the city of Nimrod, the inscription records the fate of the leaders of the city of Suru on the Euphrates River, who rebelled from, and were reconquered by King Ashurbanipal: “I built a pillar at the city gate and I flayed all the chief men who had revolted and I covered the pillar with their skins; some I walled up inside the pillar, some I impaled upon the pillar on stakes.”
Returning to Hezekiah, in 2 Kings 18:7 we read: The LORD was with him; he prospered wherever he went. And he rebelled against the king of Assyria and did not serve him. Because of Hezekiah’s faithful trust in the Lord, God blessed him. This was a longstanding promise to David and his descendants: if they obeyed God, their reign would be secure (1 Kings 2:1-4). However, Hezekiah’s reaction to his Sennacherib problem reveals something we all suffer from time to time: a lack of faith. To avoid conquest, Hezekiah felt it was wiser to pay off the Assyrian king. Sennacherib demanded (and received) a hefty price – 300 talents of silver (9,000 kilograms) and 30 talents of gold (900 kilograms). Sadly, this didn’t all come from Hezekiah’s personal treasury. As 2 Kings 18:15-16 tells us: So Hezekiah gave him all the silver that was found in the house of the LORD and in the treasuries of the king’s house. At that time Hezekiah stripped the gold from the doors of the temple of the LORD, and from the pillars which Hezekiah king of Judah had overlaid, and gave it to the king of Assyria. Problem: Sennacherib is demanding a payoff. Reaction: faithlessness. Solution: Hezekiah looked within himself to solve the problem, thinking he could buy peace. Hezekiah’s reaction is not unique – many of us, including myself, have sought to solve problems without first turning to the Lord.
But that wasn’t the end of the story. Although Hezekiah thought he could avoid confrontation with Sennacherib by paying him off, the problem returned. However, this time, the reaction was different. Firstly, Hezekiah did two things as recorded in 2 Kings 19:1: And so it was, when King Hezekiah heard it, that he tore his clothes, covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of the LORD. Next, he sought out the word of the Lord through the prophet of the Lord. 2 Kings 19:2: Then he sent Eliakim, who was over the household, Shebna the scribe, and the elders of the priests, covered with sackcloth, to Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz. Then, he petitioned the desperate prayer of the prophet. At the end of 2 Kings 19:4 it says: Therefore lift up your prayer for the remnant that is left.
Well, after receiving a further threat from the Assyrian king, Hezekiah does one more thing, which is one of my favourite passages in the Scriptures. 2 Kings 19:14: And Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD. Then Hezekiah prayed before the LORD, and said: “O LORD God of Israel, the One who dwells between the cherubim, You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Incline Your ear, O LORD, and hear; and hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to reproach the living God. Truly, LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands, and have cast their gods into the fire; for they were not gods, but the work of men’s hands – wood and stone. Therefore they destroyed them. Now therefore, O LORD our God, I pray, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the LORD God, You alone.”
Do you see Hezekiah’s reaction this time? He tore his clothes and covered himself with sackcloth (indicative of deep mourning). He sought God’s Word through the prophet. He asked the prophet for prayer and then he prayed himself. Now that is a better reaction! You see, God wasn’t asking Hezekiah to provide the solution, He was just waiting for him to provide the proper reaction. The same is true for us, isn’t it? When we face a problem, we want to be part of the solution. But in trials, God simply asks us for the proper reaction in faith and He will, in time, provide the solution. In Hezekiah’s case, God’s solution to Sennacherib is laid out in 2 Kings 19:35-36. The angel of the LORD killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in one night causing Sennacherib to flee. God spared Sennacherib, not in mercy, but in wrath, reserving for him a more shameful death at the hands of his own children.
Problem; reaction; solution. Next time you face what seems like an insurmountable trial or problem remember that we serve a God who declares the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10). In other words, God already has a solution in place before the problem even arises. So don’t focus on your problem or the solution – God will deal with that. All you need to focus on is your reaction.