At times like these it is easy to succumb to a helpless feeling, that there is nothing we can do about the circumstances at hand. But there is much we can do. Anciently a righteous king in Jerusalem knew exactly what to do when his people were threatened by a brutal regime that threatened to conquer his. They had gone so far as to encompass the city and send a threatening message to the king, threatening either submission to the conqueror or certain death, and that the God of Israel was powerless to save them.
The king was in a dire circumstance, but his faith led him to the right decision. He took the message from the hand of the messengers and "went up to the house of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord." (II Kings 19:14) He gave it into God's hands to handle, which we can agree was right, but he did more. He prayed a prayer to call God's attention to the blasphemy that the message conveyed. "Incline your ear, O Lord, … and hear the words of Sennacherib which he has sent to reproach the living God. … Now therefore, O Lord our God, I pray, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you are the Lord God, you alone." (vv. 16, 19)
I have felt compelled to hold up the brutal murder of innocents done in the name of God before the King of the universe and ask him to consider the blasphemy rendered and the justice that it demands. I find myself echoing the words of the Psalms where time and again David and the other Psalmists beg for God's intervention against their enemies. "Preserve my life from fear of the enemy," wrote David in Psalm 64. "O God, why have you cast us off forever?", asked Asaph in Psalm 74. "O Lord do not delay," wrote David once again in Psalm 70.
The theme of spreading the message out before God recurs again and again in that book, and the example King Hezekiah left us is one to live by. I did not have the stomach to view the grisly beheading of a fellow countryman by evil men in the name of religion. But I daily hold this example before God and ask him to avenge it, for "Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord." And that's not a bad thing to remember whenever we are wronged.
Excerpted from The Sabbath
Morning Companion, May 15, 2004, by Lenny Cacchio.