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Before the Lord

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. And Hezekiah prayed before the LORD and said: “O LORD, the God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. Incline your ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; and hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God.” 2 Kings 19:14-16.

Not since David had there been a king as devoted to the Lord as Hezekiah, the king of Judah; nor would there be any king so devoted to the Lord after him, But here we find Hezekiah in deep trouble. In 722 BC, Sargon, the king of Assyria had carried Israel into captivity and now his successor, Sennacherib, wants to do the same with Judah. So he has sent a letter to Hezekiah saying: “Do not let your God in whom you trust deceive you by promising that Jerusalem will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria. Behold, you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands, devoting them to destruction. And shall you be delivered?” (2 Kings 19.10-11).

So what does Hezekiah do when he receives this terrifying threat? Call in the generals? Set up a Council of War? Prepare for a siege? No, he goes off to the temple, taking the letter with him, and once there he spreads the letter before the Lord.

I find that so lovely, so moving. He doesn’t go and say, “Lord, you know how Assyria is threatening us …” No, he goes and shows the Lord the letter. And not, as it were, by just waving the envelope around in his hand as he prays. He “spreads” the letter before the Lord … unrolls the scroll and says, “Here, Lord … read this!” It is a touching picture of a relationship that is absolutely real and rooted in the confidence that God both hears and sees and will act on what he sees and hears. Up there, hidden from Hezekiah’s view in the Most Holy Place, is the ark of the covenant, topped by the golden mercy seat with its golden cherubim, one at each end, overshadowing it with their wings, facing each other (Exodus 25.19-20) and enthroned above them is the Lord, the God not only of Israel but, as Hezekiah says in his prayer, “the God … of all the kingdoms of the earth”. And Hezekiah knows by faith that, as he spreads his letter out on the paving of the temple, that the God of all the earth has left the Most Holy Place and joined him and is looking over his shoulder, reading for himself what Sennacherib has said.

Hezekiah is giving me ideas. Perhaps I should spread my letters before the Lord. “Look, Lord, here is the letter giving me my hospital appointment … here is the invitation to Gillian’s fiftieth birthday party …” and let the letters add focus and reality to my prayers. Perhaps I should spread my daily newspaper before the Lord too — “Look at what they are doing in the Congo, Lord …” And photographs, bank statements, flight tickets — the possibilities are endless!

What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear
all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer!

Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged: take it to the Lord in prayer!
Can we find a friend so faithful, who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness — take it to the Lord in prayer!

Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Saviour still our refuge, take it to the Lord in prayer!
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee? Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee, thou wilt find a solace there.

Joseph Scriven

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