9 October 20072 Kings 19:8-20, 35-37
"So now, O LORD our God, save us, I pray you, from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O LORD, are God alone." (v.19)
These verses continue the story begun in yesterday's reading
from chapter 18 of 2 Kings.
The Assyrian empire continues to advance, conquering and destroying nation after nation in its wake. Only Judah remains free, and Hezekiah prays to God out of desperation for deliverance. He suggests to God that this is an opportunity to demonstrate that the Lord is the one, true God.
Later, we read that the Assyrian forces are wiped out by "the angel of the Lord".
It is fruitless to speculate on what really happened, not least because other contemporary records are inconclusive or contradictory. We have to read this story through the eyes of a writer who wished to make a point about the saving power of faith. Whatever the cause, Judah is spared, at least this time.
The story is not an easy one to read (even if we can cope with all the unfamiliar names!), because it reflects a world-view that many of us do not share. We are not comfortable with the idea that God only really cares about one nation (our own) or that God will intervene to save us if we pray hard enough and flatter God's ego.
Nor does this story of warring nations seem to have much connection with the situation of many people in Britain today although of course there are parts of the world that do not enjoy such a state of peace.
What are you trying to do when you pray? If you can think of a situation when a prayer has been answered, do you think of that as the result of God's miraculous intervention or some other cause?
Thinking of a situation of conflict today, how can you pray for a just outcome for all those involved?