God “puts a hook in the nose” of adversity

September 27, 2016

In 2 Kings 19, Judah’s King Hezekiah is afraid for his kingdom: He has watched Assyria lay waste to one nation after another, including, by this point, the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Now the king of Assyria, Sennacherib, is threatening to do the same to the Southern Kingdom.

Hezekiah prays a desperate prayer for God to intervene. God answers his prayer through the prophet Isaiah, who shares with Hezekiah the word that the Lord spoke concerning Sennacherib (from 2 Kings 19:21-28).

“She despises you, she scorns you—
    the virgin daughter of Zion;
she wags her head behind you—
    the daughter of Jerusalem.

“Whom have you mocked and reviled?
    Against whom have you raised your voice
and lifted your eyes to the heights?
    Against the Holy One of Israel!
By your messengers you have mocked the Lord,
    and you have said, ‘With my many chariots
I have gone up the heights of the mountains,
    to the far recesses of Lebanon;
I felled its tallest cedars,
    its choicest cypresses;
I entered its farthest lodging place,
    its most fruitful forest.
I dug wells
    and drank foreign waters,
and I dried up with the sole of my foot
    all the streams of Egypt.’

“Have you not heard
    that I determined it long ago?
I planned from days of old
    what now I bring to pass,
that you should turn fortified cities
    into heaps of ruins,
while their inhabitants, shorn of strength,
    are dismayed and confounded,
and have become like plants of the field
    and like tender grass,
like grass on the housetops,
    blighted before it is grown.

“But I know your sitting down
    and your going out and coming in,
    and your raging against me.
Because you have raged against me
    and your complacency has come into my ears,
I will put my hook in your nose
    and my bit in your mouth,
and I will turn you back on the way
    by which you came.

I find this passage to be a powerful and incredibly comforting message of God’s sovereignty. Sennnacherib believes that he’s been calling the shots, yet he hasn’t done anything that God hadn’t “determined” and “planned” from “days of old.” The very God whom Sennacherib has been mocking is leading him like a domesticated farm animal.

Lest I be accused of divine determinism, I see nothing here to suggest that Sennacherib isn’t acting freely, including the freedom to work great evil, for which he will be judged: it’s just that God, knowing “before all worlds” what Sennacherib would do in these circumstances (“I know your sitting down and your going out and coming in”), has factored Sennacherib’s freely chosen actions into his own plans—to work around them and through them to accomplish God’s purposes.

Needless to say, if God works his sovereign plan even through his enemies, how much more so through his beloved children?

Think of how this applies to our lives. No adversity we face has taken God by surprise. As with Hezekiah and Judah, God has “factored it in” and will redeem it. If only we’ll believe it!

Notice also that this isn’t the neutered God of mainline Protestantism who does nothing with evil except suffer it alongside us. God is active. Indeed, he is the main actor in its midst.

Does this thought not reassure you and comfort you? It does me!

10 Responses to “God “puts a hook in the nose” of adversity”

  1. Grant Essex Says:

    Can we at least say that our “free will” is subordinate to God’s sovereign plans?

    • brentwhite Says:

      Yes, although I would add that they’re not in competition most of the time. Sennacherib couldn’t do anything to thwart God’s plans.

  2. Tom Harkins Says:

    Very comforting right at the moment. (I’ll even leave aside debating Grant on the subject for once! 🙂 )

  3. Grant Essex Says:

    I believe that God raises leaders up, and He brings them down. Even knowing that, I’m really befuddled by the possibility of either of these unlikable characters leading our country….., because the country will be the loser. 🙁

    • Tom Harkins Says:

      I agree with your perplexity, Grant. Keep in mind, though, some of the Judean kings who appear to have been even worse than the two prospects we have here. Also, I think it is possible that this election’s choices may be one way that God is “punishing” America for its increasing decadence, almost across the board. It brings to mind the Assyrians and Babylonians!

  4. Grant Essex Says:

    Should I be concerned about being led of into slavery and exile?

  5. Grant Essex Says:

    There’s an old Chinese curse, that’s also a blessing:

    “May you live in interesting times”.

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