Mere Words?

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Sennacherib had a lot of cheek, until it killed him. He would learn the hard way that God’s words are not “mere words” but are authoritative and mighty words. Let me recommend that you read Isaiah 36–37. You will be glad you did.

While Hezekiah was king of Judah, Sennacherib, king of Assyria, invaded Jerusalem with an army of 185,000 loyal soldiers. Having easily defeated other nations, Sennacherib felt confident that Jerusalem would be a pushover. Having arrogantly defied the king of Judah, Sennacherib also defied the God of Judah. Not a wise move.

Sennacherib sent this irreverent message to the people of Jerusalem, “Thus says the great king [note the humility!!], the king of Assyria: On what do you rest this trust of yours? Do you think mere words are strategy and power for war? In whom do you now trust, that you have rebelled against me?” (Isaiah 36:5). He certainly didn’t lack self-esteem. However, he lacked something far more important: he lacked the sense to believe God’s word. While Hezekiah, through the ministry of Isaiah, encouraged his people to trust God, Sennacherib mocked God’s truth calling it “mere words.” Sennacherib, the Big Cheese, couldn’t imagine that a Bible could provide any meaningful strategy and power against his much-talked about military might. But one night an angel of the Lord would wipe out his army and then, as he whined before his idol, he would be unceremoniously murdered—by his own people (Isaiah 37:36–38). “Mere words”? I think not. And as we are surrounded by threats, we too need to realise that the Bible is not “mere words.”

As each week passes, the news seems to be more grim. There is an alarming increase in infections, disturbing economic predictions, business failures, closure of schools, churches still greatly restricted, depression and suicide on the increase, and what is a growing global pessimism. Beyond these general and widespread discouragements, personally many of us are battling with uncertainties. We may feel like those in Hezekiah’s day: surrounded by an unrelenting and seemingly unconquerable enemy. Even the godly Hezekiah struggled to believe that God could and would deliver them. Can you relate?

We know what God has revealed, and yet we struggle to believe God’s words—such as “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33); and, “Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:30); and, “For he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say,

“The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5–6). But our struggle to believe is just the point.

Hezekiah engaged in the struggle to believe God’s words. In facing grave opposition, he chose to believe the message from prophet Isaiah. He persevered in prayer, literally holding Sennacherib’s threat before the Lord. Hezekiah read Sennacherib’s threatening words and then compared them to God’s words. And, in his perseverance, he was able to see that the prophetic words were not “mere words” but rather God’s words (Isaiah 37:14–35). We need the same conviction. We need to engage in the same struggle.

Beloved, I too feel the pressures of living in a world that seems to be out of control. But rather than granting authority to our feelings, we must take ourselves in hand and refuse to treat Scripture as “mere words.” They are God’s words and are therefore worthy of our trust. Sennacherib was a real threat. But Hezekiah chose to focus on the one who was Sennacherib’s threat: Yahweh.

Like Hezekiah, don’t be intimidated by whatever Sennacherib is threatening you. Rather, let God’s word inform you about who is greater: our Almighty God and Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. He has given us his word that he has all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). The good news of his death, burial, and resurrection are proof that these are not mere words.

Fighting the good fight of faith with you,

Doug