No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.
- I Corinthians 10:13
There is a term that is use in modern society to describe a combination of circumstance that would produce a very negative situation: Worst Case Scenario.
It seems that people in every area of life - business, military, education or just plain family situations, use this phrase when considering various options that they might have to choose from. For example, the worst case scenario for United States at the moment has been described in many different ways.
Nuclear bombs in suitcases; poisoning our water systems; a series of car and truck bombings.
Let's face it any one or combination of these would create terrible consequences to that nation's morale and economy and could easily be called our - "Worst Case Scenario". Now it's easy to think and fret about the "worst" things that could happen to us in every area of our lives, the hard part is to come up with the way we would react if such a scenario would come true, How to survive the worst-case scenario (W.C.S.).
This morning I want us to look at a man who faced the absolute worst-case scenario for his life and the life of his nation and what he did to survive. In these shaky times we all need a reminder that even when we're faced with the worst possible situation, God will not allow us to be tempted (tested) beyond our endurance, He always does provide a way out.
Background: North and South Kingdoms
In the 7thcentury before Christ the Jewish nation was divided. The northern part of the country was called Israel and ruled by a succession of wicked kings who practiced idolatry and all forms of immorality. God punished them by allowing foreign nations to invade and conquer them. One of these nations, Assyria, eventually destroyed the capital (Samaria) and carried off nearly 30,000 people into exile.
The Assyrians purposefully resettled the Jews from the north and forced them to inter-marry with other people in order to pacify this very nationalistic country. (Water down the bloodline.) Many years later this mixed race returned to the Northern part of the country (No longer called Israel but called Samaria) but were forever alienated from their Jewish brothers in the South because their blood was no longer pure.
The Southern kingdom was called Judah, it's capital was Jerusalem and it too had a history of idolatry and wickedness but had been saved from total destruction because several of its kings had made an effort to obey God. This lesson is about one of those kings.
From 735 - 715 one of the worst rulers in Southern Kingdom was on the throne. His name was Ahaz. He practiced human sacrifice. He worshipped idols and set up altars to pagan gods in the hills surrounding Jerusalem. He sold the treasures of the temple in order to form political alliances with Pagan nations. He became indebted to the Assyrian king and as a form of homage removed the star of David from the temple in Jerusalem and replaced it with a pagan altar in order to please the Assyrian king.
In 715 his son, Hezekiah, replaced him as king. Of all the kings to sit on the throne, Hezekiah surely faced the worst case scenario of any ruler before him. His father had left the nation broke. The temple, the central place of Jewish life and worship, had been desecrated by pagan intrusion. The people were involved in idolatry, a sin that the neighboring country, Israel has been severely punished for by having their nation ruined and population carried off into exile. In addition to this, the same nation that had destroyed Israel was now threatening the kingdom of Judah as well.
In 701 BC. Sennacherib (King of Assyria) surrounded Jerusalem with a fierce Assyrian army and demanded a complete and unconditional surrender of Hezekiah and the people of Jerusalem.
In II Kings 18-19 the writer describes how the king of Assyria sent one of his messengers to negotiate the surrender with Hezekiah. He describes how the messenger taunted the king and the people by challenging not only their army but their faith in God - ridiculed them for trusting God to save them. He tells of how the Assyrian described the damage and terror they would put upon the Jews if they didn't surrender (II Kings 18:17-25). In this passage we also read the prayer that Hezekiah made that night when faced with the worst care scenario:
- No Money (To make a deal with)
- No Army (To defend them)
- No Allies (To come to their rescue)
- No Right (To ask for help because they had disobeyed God in the past).
- No Hope (To think that they would not end up like the Samaritans, destroyed and dispersed forever)
- Even his advisors and friends wrote to him encouraging him to give up.
But Hezekiah prayed to God in the presence of this "worst case scenario".
14Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord. 15And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord: "Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. 16Give ear, Lord, and hear; open your eyes, Lord, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God.
17"It is true, Lord, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands.18They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by human hands. 19Now, Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, Lord, are God."
20Then Isaiah son of Amoz sent a message to Hezekiah: "This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I have heard your prayer concerning Sennacherib king of Assyria.
The writer of kings goes on to describe that on the very same night in answer to Hezekiah's prayer an angel of the Lord came into the camp of the Assyrian army and killed 185,000 of their number. History records that Sennacherib returned home after this defeat and was himself assassinated by his own sons who wanted to save their father's crumbling empire. It is interesting to note that Sennacherib faced a "best case" scenario (stronger army, better position, more supplies, time on his side) but lost and Hezekiah on the other hand faced a "worst case" scenario (poor strength, surrounded, no allies etc.) but won - survived.
There are 2 main reasons why Hezekiah survived the worst-case scenario.
Surviving The "Worst Case" Scenario.
These reasons are found in II Kings 18:1-7 where we gain insight into the kind of man Hezekiah was. He survived because he was a man who:
1. Did What Was Right
1Now it came about in the third year of Hoshea, the son of Elah king of Israel, that Hezekiah the son of Ahaz king of Judah became king. 2He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem; and his mother's name was Abi the daughter of Zechariah. 3He did right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father David had done. 4He removed the high places and broke down the sacred pillars and cut down the Asherah. He also broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the sons of Israel burned incense to it; and it was called Nehushtan.
- II Kings 18:1-4
Despite what his father did, Hezekiah chose not to follow in his father's footsteps but rather chose to do what was right. He worked hard at undoing these things that were wrong in his country, even those things instituted by his father.
When faced with the surrounding army the temptation was great to give in to the terms of the pagan king - surrender meant surrendering their faith, their history, their calling as God's people and Hezekiah refused to do this. The worst case scenario often puts pressure on people to compromise what is right:. We kill the unborn to save our pride or convenience. Soon there will be pressure in this country to kill the elderly to save time and money. We lower standers because to maintain them would mean effort, self-sacrifice or loss of profit or advantage.
Hezekiah did the" right" thing despite the cost and because of it was saved. Remember, it's the prayer of a "righteous" man that availeth much, not the prayer of a compromiser or negotiator.
2. He Trusted God
5He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel; so that after him there was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor among those who were before him. 6For he clung to the Lord; he did not depart from following Him, but kept His commandments, which the Lord had commanded Moses. 7And the Lord was with him; wherever he went he prospered. And he rebelled against the king of Assyria and did not serve him. 8He defeated the Philistines as far as Gaza and its territory, from watchtower to fortified city.
- II Kings 18:5-8
He understood that in order to survive anything (let alone the worst case scenario) he had to trust God. His reforms and changes brought him grief with the people. His refusal to bow down to Assyria alienated him from his allies. His stand against Sennacherib provoked the pagan king to the point where the entire nation would be destroyed.
In verse 6 it says he "clung" to the Lord (like a child hangs on to a parent when they are afraid). His trust was compete and shameless.
He trusted God to care for him for two reasons:
- He knew and believed in the power and ability of God to save him.
- He was doing right, he was obeying God's word and knew that when you obey your Father, your Father takes care of you. You can climb up into His lap and cling to Him.
So many people came in at the W.C.S. because they don't know God or because they do know God but have been disobedient to Him and have no trust because of this.
- You see, knowledge of God and obedience to God = confidence in God.
- You can't survive W.C.S. without knowledge and obedience.
Hezekiah was delivered because he knew God cold do it and through his efforts of obeying God, demonstrated that faith and trust.
In closing let me just say this about the worst case Scenario in our lives today:
- It rarely happens the way you think it will. The worst thing about the W.C.S. is the worry that people experience in thinking about it. The worst things we imagine rarely ever happens to us.
- When, on the rare occasion that the W.C.S. does happen to us, we are never ready for it any ways. No matter how much worry or planning, we're never quite ready for the bad news or the accident etc. We shouldn't be too hard on ourselves if we're in shock or if we don't react like we would like to.
- When the Worst Case Scenario does happen remember:
- Continue to do what is right, what is good, what you believe the Word of God is leading you to do. As Paul says, God will not test you beyond what you can bear - not just physically or emotionally but also morally. There is always a "Right Way" out if you look for it.
- Put your trust in God. Even when all the evidence points the other way, God does love you, will save you. By "Save You", I mean that He will provide the help, the resources, the people, the strength, the "whatever it takes" to see you through.
A question that naturally arises: What is your worst-case scenario this morning? Spouse ill or dying. Child going bad or leaving. Marital problems. Old age, finances etc. I call upon you to put your worst-case scenario before the Lord in prayer this morning and let Him save you from the anxiety and worry over it. Learn to do right and obey God and let Him lead you through it.
I'll tell you what the absolute worst-case scenario is. That's dying without Christ and being eternally in hell without God. No matter what the situation in this life, this is the absolute worst-case scenario. I encourage you to avoid this by coming to God in repentance and baptism today in order to be saved from the absolute worst-case scenario. Whatever your situation God can make it better, if you need his help or forgiveness come forward now.