In 2 Kings 19, Israel faced one of the most harrowing moments in its entire history. The time was 722 B.C., and Sennacherib and the Assyrian army had surrounded Jerusalem, after having utterly decimated every other nation in the Ancient Near Eastern world. There was no hope for this piddly city!
Hezekiah was King of Judah at this time, and as you could imagine, he was greatly distressed by the situation. Being conquered is one thing, but being conquered by the Assyrians was quite another. The Assyrians were brutal; ripping open pregnant women, dashing babies against stones, and putting fish hooks in the jaws of the survivors and dragging them off into captivity. In fact, this is probably what explains Jonah’s resistance against God’s call to go to the people of Nineveh, which was the capital city of the Neo-Assyrian Empire at the time. [And, interestingly enough, the ancient city of Nineveh is located in modern-day Iraq]
Now that the Assyrian war machine had placed Jerusalem squarely within its crosshairs, there was absolutely no possibility that she would escape the plight suffered by all of the other nations.
And so, Hezekiah does the only thing that he can do in this situation; he prays. He goes into the Temple, puts on sackloth, and as he began to pray, he sent messengers to the prophet Elijah with this message:
This day is a day of trouble, and rebuke, and blasphemy; for the children have come to birth, but there is no strength to bring them forth . . . Therefore lift up your prayer for the remnant that is left.
Do you hear the desperation in his voice?
Now, if I’m the prophet Isaiah, I’d probably be as distressed as Hezekiah was! We’re all gonna die! That’s how I’d be feeling. But Isaiah responds with a completely different tone.
Do not be afraid of the words which you have heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed Me . . . I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land.
Dang! Isaiah is a gangster! He’s not worried, he’s not afraid: he’s bold in the face of impending disaster. Why? Because he’s learned how to listen to the Lord, and he’s learned how to sync his heart and mind with God’s heart and mind. Isaiah can’t be distressed because God’s not distressed.
Then the king of Assyria sends the following message to Hezekiah, and when he reads it all of his strength departs:
Do not let your God in whom you trust deceive you, saying, “Jerusalem shall not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria” . . . Have the gods of the nations delivered those whom my fathers have destroyed?
Man, this is real stuff, folks! This is scary stuff! The enemy’s primary tactic is intimidation, and we must learn to guard our hearts against it so that we do not fear!
Isaiah responds by sending this message to Hezekiah:
Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘Because you have prayed to Me against Sennacherib king of Assyria, I have heard.’ This is the word which the Lord has spoken concerning him: ‘The virgin, the daughter of Zion, has despised you, laughed you to scorn . . .
Who is this “virgin?” Israel! Israel is not afraid! She mocks the Assyrian army even as it surrounds her walls and threatens to destroy her people!
Why is Israel called a virgin? It speaks of her holiness . . . of the fact that she has been set apart by God. And because she has been set apart by God, she cannot be destroyed by anyone but God. In order to destroy the Virgin Daughter of Zion, you’d have to destroy her Lord!
Set apart. This is what this fast is all about. It is about our identifying with the Spirit’s work of sanctification by which he has set us apart and made us his precious possession.
The confidence of Isaiah can become our confidence.
The Bride of Christ is that virgin. We have been betrothed to him, and he has and will make us his own.
Today, as you fast and pray, focus your heart and mind on the word “consecration.” No other Lord. No other Lover. Only Jesus!