In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and took them. And Hezekiah king of Judah sent to the king of Assyria at Lachish, saying, “I have done wrong; withdraw from me. Whatever you impose on me I will bear.” And the king of Assyria required of Hezekiah king of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold. And Hezekiah gave him all the silver that was found in the house of the Lord and in the treasuries of the king’s house. At that time Hezekiah stripped the gold from the doors of the temple of the Lord and from the doorposts that Hezekiah king of Judah had overlaid and gave it to the king of Assyria. II Kings 18:13-16 ESV
All this has come upon us,
though we have not forgotten you,
and we have not been false to your covenant.
Our heart has not turned back,
nor have our steps departed from your way;
yet you have broken us in the place of jackals
and covered us with the shadow of death.
If we had forgotten the name of our God
or spread out our hands to a foreign god,
would not God discover this?
For he knows the secrets of the heart.
Yet for your sake we are killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered. Psalm 44:17-22 ESV
During World War II, many bombs fell on the cities of Europe, and these cities were devastated. Many people died, and many buildings were destroyed. On both sides of the war, there were churches that were hit by bombs and wrecked, and one of these churches was the Church of St. Michael in Coventry, England. This church building had beautiful stained glass windows and a massive towering spire, but on November 14, 1940, many bombs hit the city of Coventry. Hundreds of people were killed, and many buildings burned down. The Church of St. Michael was left as a shell. It can be hard for people to understand how God could allow such terrible things to happen, especially to a place where Christians came together to worship him.
Hezekiah was a good king who loved and followed the Lord. He led his people back to the worship of God, and held a wonderful Passover celebration. But even though Hezekiah was faithful to God, terrible troubles came to him. The Assyrian armies came against the cities of the southern kingdom of Judah and conquered them. The king and his people were afraid that Jerusalem would fall to the Assyrian empire. King Hezekiah sent a huge amount of tribute money to King Sennacherib of Assyria, and begged him to leave his country alone. In order to raise the money he needed to pay off the king of Assyria, Hezekiah had to take all the royal silver from his treasuries, and all the silver and gold of the beautiful temple as well. He had just done some repairs to the temple and covered the doors with gold, and now he had to strip all the gold off these doors and doorposts.
When terrible things like this happen, we sometimes think that God must be punishing us for something. The people of Judah had seen the kingdom of Israel fall because they were unfaithful to God, and they might have wondered if God was punishing them as well. But it’s not always easy to answer the question of why things happen the way they do. Sometimes God’s people live in dangerous and terrible times, and because our whole world is sick with sin, there is often hurt and trouble. Soon after the Church of St. Michael was ruined, a stonemason discovered two charred roof timbers had fallen to the ground in the shape of a cross. This charred cross became a symbol of hope and forgiveness for the people of Coventry. Jesus took all the sin and pain and trouble of the world when he went to the cross for us. Because Jesus died for us, all our sins are forgiven. That doesn’t mean we’ll never have any problems or hurts, but it does mean that we can always be sure of God’s forgiveness and help, no matter what happens.
Dear Jesus, thank you for taking all our sins and troubles to the cross with you, and for giving us your love and forgiveness every day. Amen.