The Tactics Of Fear

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Then the king of Assyria sent his field commander with a large army… (Isaiah 36:2).

The enemies of God’s people always use the same tactics.

(1) Sending an intimidating force that seems overwhelming and invincible. 

King Sennacherib didn’t send a small detachment of soldiers, but he sent “a large army” to try to intimidate the people of Judah. 

(2) Asking doubt-inducing questions. 

The field commander asked questions like…

  • On what are you basing this confidence of yours? 
  • On whom are you depending? 
  • Do you think Jehovah can save you from this? 

(3) Fomenting distrust in God’s wisdom and ability. 

Once the seeds of doubt had been sown, the field commander attempted to water those seeds by making accusations like…

  • Do not let Hezekiah deceive you: God can’t help you with this one! 
  • The gods of other nations didn’t help them, so what makes you think your God will help you? 

(4) Offering a compromise. 

Then came the offer to give in…

  • Come now, make a bargain with my master and I’ll give you more riches than you can imagine! 
  • Make peace with me while you have the chance, and I promise you will have a trouble-free life! 

All of these tactics attempted to play on the fears of people who felt surrounded and overwhelmed. 

But I love to remember that the acrostic of the word F.E.A.R. is False Evidence Appearing Real. The field commander in King Hezekiah’s time, and satan today, use the tactics of fear to try to get us to compromise. 

King Hezekiah gave us a great example to follow. When he received the field commander’s letter with all of the threats listed, he “spread it out before the Lord” (Isaiah 37:14)! Isaiah reminded the people not to be afraid of the threats of the enemy, because those threats were actually blasphemy against God. And then God tells Hezekiah quite simply, “I will take care of this!” 

And God did indeed take care of it. 

Without the armies of Judah ever having to lift a sword or a spear or shield, God broke the power of the enemy and sent them away in shame! 

When the enemy seems to be surrounding you today, he will use these same tactics. He will try to overwhelm you, get you to doubt what God has said, try to induce you to distrust God, and then offer you a compromise. All the devil has on his side is false evidence that he attempts to make look real.

So do what King Hezekiah did: Spread out those threats before God. Go to His Word and read again what He has already promised you. Then stand firm in faith. God will take care of your adversary! 

Our God always gets the final word, the decisive word, and the best word.

Let me repeat it one more time: Don’t give into fear, but stand firm in your faith in God! 

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Our Glorious King

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

I had just finished playing three games of full-court basketball and it was time to leave for work. A young kid challenged me to stay for another game by making some comment about my old(er) age, which give me a fresh motivation to play another game. I told him I would play one more game on one condition: he had to guard me. I scored all 15 of our team’s points. One of my teammates said to that kid after the game, “You shouldn’t have made Craig angry.”  

Last week Asaph told us about the boastful who say, “Hallelujah!” to themselves, and he continues with that theme in Psalm 76 by saying, in essence, “You shouldn’t have made God angry!” 

Sennacherib, king of Assyria, had defeated Babylon and Egypt and had now turned his eye toward Jerusalem. He sent Lachish, his general, to deliver some stinging insults against the people of Judah and even against God Himself.  

I know the Israelites had strayed from God, but the Assyrians made no pretense whatsoever to honor Yahweh, so why was God allowing them to get away with this? Doesn’t it seem sometimes like God is waiting too long to deal with these wicked insulters? 

Many scholars feel that Psalm 76 was written after Sennacherib’s defeat. And make no mistake about this: it was a decisive defeat—God struck down 185,000 Assyrian soldiers while they slept! Asaph’s song of victory contains two Selah pauses, both of them intended for us to consider the greatness of Yahweh: 

  • one Selah is after verse 3—pause and remember that God is Sovereign and Resplendent in glorious victory 
  • the second Selah is after verse 9—pause and reflect that God’s wrath defeats His enemies and brings forth praise from His people 

The Old Testament gives us actual historical events, but these physical events point to an ultimate spiritual fulfillment. Sennacherib’s physical threats against God’s people are still seen in the devil’s boastful threats against God’s people today.

Look at two attacks against Jesus— 

  • Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. (Luke 16:13-14) 
  • Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up His clothes by casting lots. The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at Him. They said, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” (Luke 23:34-35) 

These are the only two times in the New Testament that this Greek word for “sneer” is used. It means to deride, scoff, or mock. But in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) the same word that Luke used for sneer is used when God Himself says to Sennacherib, “The Virgin Daughter Zion despises you and mocks you” (see 2 Kings 19:20-28). 

Sennacherib thought he was insulting God’s people, but God said, “You are really insulting Me!” Yikes—you shouldn’t make God angry! 

Psalm 76 gives us the same reminder that we read in Revelation 12:10-11—“Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of His Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” 

We defeat the enemy of our soul not by facing him but by facing our King! 

When we are confronted by the ungodly insults from snarling, scoffing, wicked people, we must Selah to remind ourselves that Yahweh is—

Alpha
Known and Renown
Invincible
Majestic
Awesome
Holy
The Final Judge
Irrefutable
Glorious
Omniscient
Omnipotent
Unrivaled
Undefeated
King of kings
Lord of lords
Sovereign Ruler
Omega
THE Decisive Word

Let me say it again: We defeat the enemy of our soul not by facing him but by facing THIS King of kings!

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in our Selah series, you can find the full list of those messages by clicking here.

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It’s Not About Me

After all that Hezekiah had so faithfully done… (2 Chronicles 32:1). 

After three very long chapters outlining Hezekiah’s faithfulness to obey God and restore worship in the temple, how would you expect this sentence to be completed: 

“After all that Hezekiah had so faithfully done… 

  • …God gave Hezekiah abundant blessings”? 
  • …Hezekiah never had any problems”?
  • …all of Hezekiah’s enemies were afraid of him”? 

Actually, the full sentence says, “After all that Hezekiah had so faithfully done, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and invaded Judah.” 

What?! That doesn’t seem fair! 

Shouldn’t it be something like, “If I do these good things then God will do good things for me”? Or even, “If bad guys do bad things then God will do bad things to them”? 

But this wasn’t about Hezekiah. It wasn’t even about Sennacherib. It was about God’s glory. 

Jonah had delivered God’s message of judgment on Nineveh and the people had repented. But then they had begun to backslide from that. God was mercifully giving them another chance to repent. Sennacherib felt he was invincible and didn’t need to turn to Yahweh. So God had to demonstrate “with [Sennacherib] is only the arm of flesh” (vv. 8, 10-19). 

God’s judgment fell, Sennacherib was assassinated, Judah was delivered, and God was glorified (vv. 21-23). 

It is shortsighted of me to say, “But God, I did everything faithfully so this bad thing shouldn’t be happening to me.” 

It’s not about me! It never has been. It’s all about God’s glory. 

Yes, Hezekiah reaped the benefit of Sennacherib’s defeat, but it wasn’t because God was “paying Hezekiah back” for the good he had done. God was still being glorified when “many brought offerings to Jerusalem for the Lord and valuable gifts for Hezekiah king of Judah. From then on he was highly regarded by all the nations.”

Sennacherib was defeated and Hezekiah was saved for the same reason: God was glorified in doing so! 

Whenever you walk through a dark time, you too might be tempted to say, “God, this isn’t fair!” But remember, it’s not about you—it’s about God being glorified. Perhaps God gains greater glory and you gain greater rewards by Him delivering you through an enemy’s attack, not delivering you from the attack. Whatever God is doing, He is doing it for His glory. 

Sola Deo gloria!

Let’s Make A Deal

Have you ever seen the 1970s game show Let’s Make A Deal? Contestants were given some tricky choices to make. They usually held something in their hand that was fairly valuable and were given the opportunity to trade what they could see for what they couldn’t see.

The anxiety about making this decision almost caused some people to have a nervous breakdown on the spot! And, oh, the emotional highs and lows when the contestants discovered what they won or lost!

I was reading about a let’s-make-a-deal moment in the Bible. Jerusalem is facing an imminent threat from an incredibly powerful man (2 Kings 18-19). Sennacherib sent this message to King Hezekiah, “Let’s make a deal” (18:23).

And he made a pretty compelling argument to take the deal. Sennacherib said, “No one who has ever stood up to me has survived before. I’m undefeated. I have a bigger, meaner army than you; more horses and chariots than you; and I’ve blocked your attempts to call on someone else to come rescue you. There’s no way out of this. C’mon, let’s make a deal!”

What makes a deal like this so appealing is that it’s all visible. It’s hard to say “no” to what you can see and say “yes” to what you can’t see.

Hezekiah knew God could deliver them, but would He deliver them? Hezekiah couldn’t see God, but he could see all of Sennacherib’s forces. What to do, what to do??

Hezekiah made the right deal. He put his trust in God! Although He was unseen, Hezekiah believed that God’s deal was better than Sennacherib’s deal. And Hezekiah was not disappointed in the deal he made (19:35-37).

What about you? Are you facing insurmountable odds today? Do you feel like you need to make a deal? Is what you can see more compelling than what you can’t see? I can promise you that any deal that you might make that doesn’t throw your trust entirely on God is a bad deal. A very bad deal!

So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without His unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18, The Message)

Don’t give up! Don’t make a bad deal! Trust God. His way is always the best deal!

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