The Reading: 2 Kings 19:20-37
“… the Lord … slew 185,000 … of the Assyrians” (v.35) RSV
Miracles are not always ‘nice’. They are not all about healing people. Even Jesus cursed the fig tree and saw it wither and die the next day (Matthew 21:18-20). God is involved in every aspect of life, and that includes war. It is therefore not improper to attribute the death of 185,000 troops to God’s “angel” (v.35).
In fact, historians tell us that God’s angel worked through some sort of plague, possibly brought on by mice or other vermin. The expression “angel” refers to the unseen hand of God. But as with the acts of creation or the death of the firstborn in Egypt, there is also a scientific explanation. These two explanations are not mutually exclusive but are complementary to one another.
The things that make this a miracle are that a) it comes in answer to prayer, b) its timing is so perfect, and c) it solves an impossible problem. Miracles are not necessarily beyond our understanding, but they cause us to wonder in amazement, and our eye of faith sees that it is God at work.
Hezekiah’s prayer had allowed God to intervene in a most unexpected way. It was a classic case of, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). The Assyrian army was decimated and disheartened. They withdrew with their tails between their legs. On arriving home in Nineveh the king, Sennacherib, was assassinated by two of his sons. What a rout!
The answer to Hezekiah’s prayer was way beyond what he could have imagined. God’s ways are not our ways. Our duty is to bring any unsolvable situation into his presence, and leave it there. God will act and life will go on. However, sometimes God’s purposes are not to give deliverance but to allow judgement to work itself out; this was the case years later when Jeremiah foretold the fall of Jerusalem. We cannot tell God what to do, but we allow his will to be worked out.
Lord, your arm is not shortened that it cannot save. Great is your might. Teach me to bring all things to you. Amen.
1 Who slew 1000 men with the Lord’s strength?
2 How did Elisha overcome the army that surrounded him?