Then Eliakim son of Hilkiah, and Shebna and Joah said to the field commander, “Please speak to your servants in Aramaic, since we understand it. Don’t speak to us in Hebrew in the hearing of the people on the wall.” But the commander replied, “Was it only to your master and you that my master sent me to say these things, and not to the people sitting on the wall—who, like you, will have to eat their own excrement and drink their own urine?” Then the commander stood and called out in Hebrew, “Hear the word of the great king, the king of Assyria! This is what the king says: Do not let Hezekiah deceive you. He cannot deliver you from my hand. Do not let Hezekiah persuade you to trust in the Lord when he says, ‘The Lord will surely deliver us; this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.’ “Do not listen to Hezekiah. This is what the king of Assyria says: Make peace with me and come out to me. Then each of you will eat fruit from your own vine and fig tree and drink water from your own cistern, until I come and take you to a land like your own—a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of olive trees and honey. Choose life and not death! “Do not listen to Hezekiah, for he is misleading you when he says, ‘The Lord will deliver us.’ – 2 Kings 18:26-32
This is a continuation of the passage from yesterday when the Assyrians met with the leaders of Judah at the Aqueduct outside Jerusalem. The leaders that Hezekiah sent are afraid that the people will hear the taunts of the Assyrian army commanders and lose heart and faith in Hezekiah and God.
They ask the Assyrians to speak in Aramaic so the people on the wall, who speak Hebrew, will not understand it. They ultimately do not trust God and the message he sent to hold up to the competing messages being discussed by the Assyrians. This reminds me of the practice of the early Catholic church of holding mass in Latin and only allowing priests to read the bible. The early priests, just like these Israelite leaders, did not trust the message God had provided enough to let the people hear it and read it themselves.
The message of the Assyrians is really the same one that Satan shared in the Garden of Eden and in the Wilderness when he tempted Jesus. Paraphrased that message is “your God is not great enough to protect you”. Toward the end of the passage the tempting of the Israelites get’s even more eerily similar to Satan’s tempting. The Assyrians promise that their king will allow the Israelites to “eat fruit from your own vine and fig tree and drink water from your own cistern“….Wow this verse is truly a hidden well of deep waters.
Throughout the desert wanderings, crossing over into the Promised Land, and a cacophony of crazy kings God has been asking the Israelites to choose Him for their water supply — the great cistern, the one river. He has offered to water them like rain on tender plants and asked them to drink deeply of the water He provides to those who are connected to the spring and planted by the river.
There is clearly a spiritual battle going on here in the desert at the aqueduct outside the walls of Jerusalem. The Israelites are given a choice — “choose life not death”. The part that the Assyrians did not share, and Satan also withheld in the Garden of Eden, is that the “life” offered would come at the cost of their souls. In choosing not to trust Hezekiah and God the Israelites would have to give up their souls to the Assyrian king.
We are all given this same choice by God — do we choose life or death? Do we trust God to protect us from the “mortal coil” of this world? William Shakespeare confronted this internal conflict we must all face when he wrote:
“The undiscovere’d country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?” – William Shakespeare
Prayer: God we are given a clear choice each day whether to trust You or this world. Help us to choose wisely and follow You to the “undiscovered country”.