August 13, 2023 • Life for Leaders
Scripture — Isaiah 37:15-20 (NRSV)
And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD, saying: “O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, who are enthroned above the cherubim, you are God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. Incline your ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; hear all the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God. Truly, O LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations and their lands, and have hurled their gods into the fire, though they were no gods, but the work of human hands—wood and stone—and so they were destroyed. So now, O LORD our God, save us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the LORD.”
When we face overwhelming challenges to our faith, we can certainly be honest with God, asking for divine help. But the example of Hezekiah in Isaiah 37 encourages us to do something else. When we feel dwarfed by what’s hard in life and fearful of where things seem to be going, we should pause to praise the Lord, remembering the Lord’s greatness, goodness, and grace.
In last Wednesday’s devotion based on Isaiah 36, we saw God’s people in a dire situation. King Sennacherib and his menacing Assyrian army threatened to consume Jerusalem. Assyrian officials taunted God’s people with challenges that seemed quite logical. Why should the people of Judah expect to be delivered from the hand of Sennacherib, given the failure of so many other national gods?
In Isaiah 37, King Hezekiah of Judah turned to the Lord in prayer. Though he would ask the Lord to rescue Judah (Isaiah 37:20), he didn’t begin with this plea. Rather, Hezekiah focused first of all on God’s unique and powerful nature, praising the Lord as the only true God and creator of all things. He prayed, “O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, who are enthroned above the cherubim, you are God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth” (37:16).
Why did Hezekiah begin his prayer with such praise? To be sure, it is always right to praise God. You don’t need a special reason to speak of God’s glories. The fact that God deserves our praise always provides a strong rationale for honoring God in this way. But I expect that Hezekiah began his prayer with praise for another reason. It strengthened his own confidence in the Lord. When faced with apparently invincible Assyrian power, Hezekiah needed to remember who was the true King of the universe, the King who in fact created all things. In human terms, Sennacherib’s power appeared to be unmatched. But it was nothing compared to the all-surpassing power of God.
The challenges of our lives may not be quite as dire as those of Hezekiah, but at times we all face apparently invincible problems. There are times when these challenges – at work, at home, in our relationships, in our own hearts – seem overwhelming. In such circumstances, we are certainly free to pour out our fears and needs to the Lord. Yet, sometimes we need to do more than ask for God’s help. Sometimes we need to focus on God’s glory and power. By drawing our attention to God’s nature through offerings of praise, our hearts are encouraged. Our minds are uplifted. We remember that no problem is too great for God and that God is with us to help and comfort us.
Moreover, when we praise God as king over all other powers in the universe, we are reminded that God is also king over us. God is sovereign over our lives, our families, our workplaces, our communities, and our leaders. When we praise God as “King of kings and Lord of lords,” we surrender our presumption, our assumption that we can control our lives. As we offer ourselves to God as servants, we are embraced as God’s beloved children.
When you feel overwhelmed by life’s problems and challenges, what do you do?
Do you ever pray like Hezekiah? If so, what helps you to pray this way?
Have you experienced the encouragement of praising God when life is hard?
Set aside some time today, perhaps right now, to offer praise to God.
Gracious God, God of power and might, you are indeed enthroned between the mighty cherubim. The angels of heaven bow before you in joyful submission.
You alone are the God of all the kingdoms of the earth. Though not every earthly authority acknowledges you, nevertheless you alone are King of kings and Lord of lords.
You alone created the heavens and the earth. In your creation we catch a glimpse of your power, wisdom, and beauty. Your power exceeds anything we can imagine. Every power on earth, no matter how apparently great, shrinks in comparison to your might.
As we come before you in prayer today, we remember and celebrate your unique power and glory. May we live today remembering who you are, trusting you in all things. All praise be to you, O God. Amen.
Banner image by Mic Narra on Unsplash.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project’s online commentary. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Psalm 148.
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.