(A brief overview for Sunday school teachers and Bible study leaders of Lifeway’s “Explore the Bible” lesson of II Kings 19, for Sunday, August 21, 2022. A video version of this overview is available on YouTube at:
INTRO: Ask your group to share some of the most dramatic, or important, or unexpected answers to prayer that they have ever experienced. (You may want to send this question to them in an email earlier in the week, to give them some time to think about it. The contact will also encourage them to be present Sunday.) It might help if you can start off by sharing a significant answer to prayer that you have had.
I’ll share one: last February I was scrolling down Facebook and saw the picture of a man who lives in North Carolina, who I had been praying for, for his salvation, for the last 7-8 years — and I had kept praying for him every week even after we left that church and moved here to Texas. But that day as I looked on Facebook I saw a picture of this man I had been praying for — being baptized at that church! I was delightedly shocked: WOW! God heard and answered that prayer!
God is a God who hears and and answers prayers. In fact, I have had some pretty substantial prayers answered even this week! I know we can’t share every answered prayer, because some of them involve other people — but think of a good answered prayer you can share, and encourage your class members to do the same.
Just sharing the answers to prayer God has given you and others, may be the best thing you do in class that day — and hearing about all these answers will encourage all of you to pray with even more faithfulness, faith, and fervor.
So after you share these answered prayers, you can say something like: our lesson today is about a famous answered prayer God gave King Hezekiah, in II Kings 19.
The story here comes right after the lesson from last week. Assyria is the dominant world power now, and they have just taken Israel (the 10 tribes of the Northern Kingdom) off into captivity, and settled foreigners in the land, who became the Samaritans 17:24). NOW Sennacherib the King of Assyria sets his sights on his NEXT conquest: Judah, with their capital in Jerusalem, and Hezekiah is king. Hezekiah was a good king, the first verses of Chapter 18 tell us, :3 says he did right in the sight of YHWH. He even removed the high places, which even many of the “better” kings had not done. :13-16 show us that Sennacherib came against Judah, and Hezekiah “bought him off” with gold. But now in :17 he is back with a huge army. The general is Rabshakeh, who taunts Hezekiah. He says in 18:23, I’ll give you 2000 horses — if you are able to put enough men on them! It was like the ultimate “trash talk.” Pride does mark the Assyrians — and their pride did indeed go before destruction, as the Proverb says!
So then in Chapter 19 Hezekiah tears his clothes in an official act of humility and mourning, and seeks the Lord in His temple. Isaiah the prophet tells him: don’t worry, they’re going to hear a rumor from back in Assyria that will cause them to leave. And they did. BUT, Rabshakeh basically says: “We’ll be back!”
In :10+ which starts our focus passage, Rabshakeh says don’t you trust your God that Jerusalem won’t fall to us. None of the other nations’ gods delivered them – and yours won’t deliver YOU either! (Well i’s always a big mistake to basically slap God in the face, isn’t it? He would never be back, as we will see)
So this brings us to the heart of the passage, in my view, with :14 and following. Hezekiah takes the letter (or literally “letters”) and goes to the Temple of God, and spreads them out before the Lord.
Of course, this is exactly what we are supposed to do with our problems. Take them right to the Lord.
We all KNOW that — but the truth is, we don’t always DO it. I know in my own life, how many times do I hear of some problem, or some need, or some difficulty, and I immediately begin to try to figure out what I can do about it — or worse yet, start WORRYING about it — and some time later I will think: “I need to be PRAYING about that!” But PRAYER SHOULD BE OUR FIRST RESPONSE, not our “afterthought.”
Here’s a little story from history that might help you with an illustration for this week:
Back in 1957, the National Association of Fire Chiefs recommended that we set up a single number for all fire emergency calls. Ten years later, in 1967, the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement recommended the establishment of a single number that everyone can easily remember, and use in an emergency. They got with AT&T, who recommended the use of 3 digits: You know them as: 9-1-1 of course! The first 9-1-1 call was made in Haleyville, Alabama in 1968. For about the past generation or so, everybody knows: if you get in trouble; if you have an emergency, your first call is 9-1-1! That’s just been ingrained into us – and it should be.
But in the same way, it needs to be ingrained into us as Christians, that our first call, our “911”, if you would, should be to GOD! HE is our 911! HE is our first call. We need to keep practicing that until it is just second nature. When you hear of any emergency; when you get any bad news: 9-1-1 — immediately “Take It To The Lord In Prayer” as the old hymn says.
(Years ago a friend said that they had gotten into the habit, that whenever they hear a siren, they pray for whatever situation that emergency vehicle might be responding to. I have started to do that in own life too. And I think it’s one good way to get us to pray about every situation, every emergency, every problem we have. “GOD IS OUR 9-1-1!” That might an alternate “title” or “theme” for today’s lesson: “God Is Our 9-1-1!”
SO YOU MIGHT LOOK AT HEZEKIAH’S PRAYER FOR A BIT:
— First is the important fact that he brought his need to God, to the Temple, in prayer.
— Then in His actual prayer, we see that he began his prayer with praise. Psalm 100:4 says “Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise.” It is so important to begin our prayers with thanksgiving and praise — virtually every great prayer in the Bible does that — and it makes all the difference when we do
When I was serving at my first church in Oklahoma City, I had a big problem come up – it’s funny that I can’t even remember what it was! – but it just put me on my knees in my office, and I started whining to God about it — then all of the sudden I remembered: I need to begin with praise. So I started praising God for Who He is, and by the time I was finished, I was praying much more confidently. I went from “Oh my God I have a problem,” to “Oh my problem, I have a GOD!” Starting with praise reminds our problem — and ourselves — who God is, and gives us much more confidence and faith as we pray.
— and then after his praise, he did bring his request to the Lord; he asked Him what he wanted Him to doo.
— and notice he was HONEST about the severity of the problem. There was no “soft-pedaling” it — he says in :17, ‘Truly the Assyrians HAVE devastated the nations”. This IS a strong nation.
— but he asks God to deliver them — and notice the MOTIVATION: “THAT all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You alone, O LORD (YHWH) are God.” He says he’s asking this for God’s glory. “THAT they may know” — we see this expression all through scripture. God answers THAT people may know that He is God. To show His glory.
Hezekiah’s prayer is a good model for our prayers too (it actually has several elements of Jesus’ model prayer in it! You could spend as much as you want to, studying and analyzing this prayer and ways we can imitate it) And it shows us why we should share answered prayers with others: THAT people may know that our God is the One True God.
HERE’S ONE EXERCISE you might want to do to really apply this lesson with your class:
I know in my own life, there is usually one “big problem” that sits at the front of my mind. It’s the one where your wife or your co-worker says, “Is something bothering you?” Because they can tell. It’s the dark cloud that’s hanging over you. (That’s what Sennacherib’s invasion was here. THE big problem. What problem/difficulty is that for YOU today? For your group members? They don’t have to tell you — indeed it may be very private, very personal.
But we can make the same kind of response that we see from Hezekiah in this passage this week. Verse 14 says he took the letter from General Rabshakeh, and “spread it out before the Lord.” And then he prayed and committed that thing to God.
You might want to have your class do the same thing. Encourage them to think of THE biggest problem they have — that one that sits on the front of their mind. Have them write it out on a paper. I might get some parchment-colored paper or some other nice kind of paper to use for this, that looks “official.” And encourage them to write their biggest problem, that they need to bring before the Lord on it. Tell them you aren’t going to look at it; you aren’t going to ask them to share it with anyone. This is just for them and the Lord. But have them write that “big” problem on it.
And then, either at this point, or when you close your class, you could have a specific time of prayer for these requests. You (or whoever you in your class you think could best lead the prayer — or maybe open it up to everyone — pray specifically for these requests that are spread before the Lord right now.
You might model your prayer like Hezekiah did: start with praise: “O LORD (YHWH)) the God of Israel, who are enthroned above the cherubim, You are the God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You made earth and heaven.”
And then make the the request like Hezekiah’s: “Incline Your ear, O Lord, and hear; open Your eyes O Lord, and see …” just like You did in the days of Hezekiah, Lord see OUR requests; see OUR needs that we have spread before You today, just like Hezekiah did. And hear and answer OUR prayers today — just like :19 says, “THAT all people may know that You alone, O Lord, are God.” “In Jesus’ name, amen.”
I think that could be a powerful and practical way to apply these words to your group and have them respond just like Hezekiah did in this lesson.
And then before you leave, I would encourage them to take this request that you’ve made, home and “spread it out” before the Lord wherever you pray each day: by your bed, or on your desk, or wherever. And continue to “spread this out” before the Lord every day and call out to God for it, until He answers.
I would not be surprised if God answers some of these prayers this week, just to show His power and glory. But encourage them: if they do NOT get answered this week, persevere in prayer, and do not give up. Jesus encouraged us to pray and not give up hope. Encourage them to keep on “spreading this out” before the Lord every day, until He answers. AND tell them to be sure to share any answers to these prayers, next week in class so that like Hezekiah said, God will be glorified in the answers!
Verse 20 goes on to say that Isaiah tells Hezekiah that God has heard his prayer and will answer, and He will take care of them. He says in :32-34, the last verses of the focus passage, that the enemy will not shoot an arrow at Jerusalem! GOD will defend the city. And :35 says the angel of the Lord struck the camp, and 185,000 Assyrians were dead the next morning.
God heard and answered.
But remember: this is not just a history lesson! God hears and answers US too. If you don’t BEGIN the lesson by sharing answered prayers that you and your class have had, you might want to end with it. AND/OR you might save one good example of an answered prayer for the end.
But I would definitely close the class with a time of seeking God for OUR greatest needs. If you’ve had them write out their special requests on parchment or something like that, have them “spread those out before the Lord” and have a time of prayer. Or even if you don’t do the special paper, close with a time of prayer for the urgent needs on their hearts. The central theme of this lesson is the importance of bringing our needs to the Lord, that He might hear, and answer, and be glorified as He does.
God bless you as you lead your class this weekend to “Make God Their 9-1-1”!