Lions are not my favorite thing to see at the zoo. Why? They’re boring. Nine times out of ten you only find the lions doing their favorite thing: snoring.
At least the gorillas scratch themselves now and then.
One zoo visit things went a little differently. As we walked around the zoo, we could hear the lion roaring. The male lion was perched on a rock, loudly declaring himself the king of all he surveyed. I stopped to watch, getting a good look at his full mane and sharp teeth.
Then I glanced at the children. The oldest had her hands over her ears. My son had both hands over his mouth, and the youngest was peeking through her fingers. Pretty much like this:
I laughed. There wasn’t anything to fear. Despite his swagger, the lion was in the zoo. There were stout walls, deep moats, and iron bars keeping him from escaping. He might think himself the king of beasts, but the lion was dependent on his keeper’s generosity for food.
His only power was in his roar.
Hezekiah came face to face with a roaring lion when the Assyrian army came to call. Hezekiah had reversed the policies of his father by destroying the idols of Judah and refusing to pay Assyria tribute. Assyria viewed this as rebellion, and Sennacherib marched on Judah. The Assyrian army captured the fortified cities of Judah and surrounded Jerusalem. Sennacherib sent his spokesperson, the Rabshekah, with a message for Jerusalem (Isaiah 36:1-32).
Rabshekah’s speech was a masterful bit of psychological warfare. He declared that Judah was defenseless and helpless. Egypt would not help them and the Judean army was not strong enough to turn back a single Assyrian chariot. He accused Hezekiah of betraying his people and said that the people would surely die unless they surrendered. His speech didn’t only challenge Hezekiah. It also challenged God.
Through his messenger, Sennacherib declared that Yahweh had given him permission to conquer Judah. He insisted that the Lord was powerless to save his people. None of the other gods of the nations had delivered their people from the Assyrian onslaught. What made Judah think their God would have any more power?
Sennacharib and his emissary didn’t know who they were challenging.
Faced with the enemy’s roar, Hezekiah did the only thing he could do. The king took the letter from the messengers and went into the temple, spreading the letter out before the Lord. God answered through the prophet Isaiah, declaring that he himself would save the city for his name’s sake (Isaiah 37:1-38).
Despite all Assyria’s boasting, Sennacherib never fired a shot against Jerusalem. An angel of the Lord struck the Assyrian army, and 185,000 men died overnight. The Assyrian army withdrew, and Sennacherib eventually met his end. He who had dared to challenge the Most High was killed in the temple of his god by two of his own sons.
In the end, it was Sennacherib’s god who was unable to save him. Sennacherib thought he had the power, but the real authority lay with the Lord. Sennacherib’s only power was in his roar.
Isn’t that how the enemy always works? Satan’s power is in his roar. Like that lion in the zoo, he roars like he owns it all. That’s what he wants us to think. He wants us to fear. Satan wants us to believe that he’s really the one in control.
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Satan wants us to fear because fear makes us do foolish things. It was fear that drove Hezekiah’s father to pay tribute to Assyria in the first place. Fear makes us shrink back and convinces us that we have to protect ourselves. Fear drives us to punish other people to keep them from hurting us. Fear makes us try to control our worlds so that no one gets close enough to hurt us. Fear drives us to dance with the devil because deep down we don’t really believe that God can keep us safe.
When lions roar in our life, we should follow Hezekiah’s example. I love that image of Hezekiah on his knees in the temple, spreading Sennacherib’s threatening letter out before the Lord. I feel like that sometimes: Lord, have you seen this? What are you going to do about this one? Like Hezekiah, we pour it out before the Lord and wait for our deliverance. For when God delivers us, it proves what he has already said about himself. He is our defender, our fortress, our strong tower. He is Mighty God, the Creator of heaven and earth. He is our Redeemer and Friend, and he is with us.
Let the lions roar. God’s love always triumphs.
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