SHEMA: Living by Faith

2 Kings 19:8-19

The fact that we need to hear God’s word has been mentioned previously. But I would like to once again bring your attention to this particular word that is repeated many times in chapters 18 and 19. The Hebrew word SHEMA (“Hear”) is repeated 18 times throughout the two chapters. For Israel, this word SHEMA is one of the most important commandments they would recite religiously. This is taken from Deuteronomy 6:4-9, which begins thus: “Hear (Hebrew ‘Shema’), O Israel: The LORD, our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength”

But we need to understand the Hebrew’s understanding of this action of “hearing.” The Hebrew word Shema implies much more than merely listening, it also denotes a “paying close attention to,” and also “a responsive listening.” Thus, in the Hebrew understanding, to hear is also to obey. And, when God hears a believer’s prayer, it means that He is responding to the people’s prayer. It is with such understanding that Hezekiah states very early on, that the Northern Kingdom of Israel fell because they neither heard the voice of the LORD nor heard the commandment (18:12). With such a background, in the next few days we will continue to see how the word is used.

Don’t listen to Assyria’s Taunt. The Chronicler showed how the field commander and Sennacherib acted based on what they heard. Sennacherib’s conquest of Lachish and Libnah was a strategic brilliance. Lachish and Libnah stood right between Jerusalem and northern Egypt; and its conquest divides the two nations thus making coalition difficult, if not impossible. But what is most important is for us to observe Assyria’s taunt. Sennacherib is saying that he will make good his threats and gave the appropriate evidences (19:10-13) and asked Judah: “Surely you have heard” (19:11). Assyria gave proofs of the nations that have fallen into their hands, and that the gods of those nations were useless in defending them against Assyria. “Your faith is useless, and your God won’t be much help” was Assyria’s taunt. We’ve heard similar taunts spoken against us today, haven’t we? Your faith is useless at work, it won’t be much help. Your faith is useless in solving this family problem that you have.

Faith comes from Hearing. Assyria was the superpower of the time; with truly horrifying force. But for Hezekiah, whether he should rightfully be intimidated; or be courageous at such time really depended upon one thing: God’s word. Instead of hearing the taunts and be weakened in the faith, Hezekiah would rather come before the Lord, “spread out the letter before the Lord” (19:14) and asks that God would hear his prayer (19:16).

Hezekiah did not sugar-coat his dire situation. He admitted that “it is true” that the Assyrian king was supremely powerful (19:17), as he laid bare his difficulties before God. But Hezekiah saw one difference. The so-called gods of the nations that were defeated were not true gods, but were idols made by human hands. Their inability to deliver was thus to be expected. But the God of Israel was the true and living God; mighty to save. And Hezekiah asked for deliverance so that He alone would be glorified (19:19).

Shema: Hear and Believe! We too, live in a fallen and pagan world that seeks to intimidate us into disbelieving God. But we should realize the same commandment to hear being given to us: “so faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17, ESV).

Therefore, the question is whether we are interpreting the challenges of the world through the lens of the word of God; or if we are intimidated into compromise. But also, to be able to believe truly, we must also so fill our hearts with the very word of God. To hear the Word of God is to believe in Him. What is your soul listening to now, and what is it do you truly believe?