June 26. Tuesday of Week Twelve
2 Kings 19:9ff. The Assyrians attack; but Isaiah promises deliverance for a remnant, and Jerusalem is saved.
Matt. 7:6ff. A series of short, disconnected sayings of Jesus.
Coping with Success
It seems that in life we cope better with hopes than with their fulfillment. People who must work hard and pass through all the stages of developing a business, a farm, or a family inheritance, generally show more care for their work, and deeper joy in their creativity, than the next generation who receive it on a golden platter.
The Assyrians spread their empire from the borders of Egypt across the fertile crescent of Israel, Lebanon and Syria, south into Iraq and eastward towards Iran. At Nineveh their capital city, the archaeological pickaxe has unearthed an immense library of literature and history. At home the Assyrians were cultured and polite, abroad they were greedy and insolent. In his pride the Assyrian king did not hesitate to claim divine status and dared to blaspheme the Lord Yahweh. Emboldened by their wealth and military might the Assyrians felt secure against any harm or revenge, and like all tyrants, they demanded ever greater tribute from vassal states and grew intolerant of any signs of independence.
Like the Assyrians, we too can be victims of our own success. We tend to make our worst mistakes when we have the money and the leisure to do so, and even family members turn against each other in the flush of prosperity. Today’s text reflects our common difficulty in dealing with success, but also offers a way out of this impasse. Wryly, Jesus advises us not to toss our pearls before swine, and not to follow the wide and easy way to damnation. In a more desperate situation King Hezekiah took the letter of ultimatum from the hand of the Assyrian messengers, and brought it up to the temple and prayed in the Lord’s presence. He did not take the easy way, of caving in and surrendering just to save the royal family; but they each acted bravely and prudently, in a way that already anticipated the spirit of the Sermon on the Mount.
First Reading: 2 Kings 19:9-11, 14-21, 31-35a, 36
When the king heard concerning King Tirhakah of Ethiopia, “See, he has set out to fight against you,” he sent messengers again to Hezekiah, saying, “Thus shall you speak to King Hezekiah of Judah: Do not let your God on whom you rely deceive you by promising that Jerusalem will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.
Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it; then Hezekiah went up to the house of the Lord and spread it before the Lord. And Hezekiah prayed before the Lord, and said: “O Lord the 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 the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God. Truly, O Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste 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, I pray you, from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O Lord, are God alone.”
Then Isaiah son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah, saying, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: I have heard you prayer to me about King Sennacherib of Assyria. This is the word that the Lord has spoken concerning him: “She despises you, she scorns you – virgin daughter Zion; she tosses her head – behind your back, daughter Jerusalem. From Jerusalem a remnant shall go out, and from Mount Zion a band of survivors. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.”
“Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the king of Assyria: He shall not come into this city, shoot an arrow there, come before it with a shield, or cast up a siege-ramp against it. By the way that he came, by the same he shall return; he shall not come into this city, says the Lord. For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David.”
That very night the angel of the Lord set out and struck down one hundred eighty-five thousand in the camp of the Assyrians. Then King Sennacherib of Assyria left, went home, and lived at Nineveh. As he was worshiping in the house of his god Nisroch, his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer killed him with the sword, and they escaped into the land of Ararat. His son Esar-haddon succeeded him.
Gospel: Matthew 7:6, 12-14
“Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you.
“In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.
“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.