The Wages of Sin

A Great City

Lachich guarded the southern approach to Jerusalem. It's impressive ruiins remind us that thousands of people once called this strategic city their home.

Once one of Israel's largest cities, Lachish covers an impressive eighteen acres. Though they have crumbled to a fraction of their original height, the city walls still look imposing today.

At Lachish, archaeologists have discovered the largest gate complex in Israel. The massive double gate included both an outer gate structure and an inner gate. Its large size testifies to the strength and importance of ancient Lachish.

Lachish grew so large because of its critical location within Israel. The city defended Israel's southern flank and protected an approach to Jerusalem from invaders. As long as the city of Lachish stood, Jerusalem remained safe. But if Lachish fell to a foreign power, Jerusalem would likely fall too.

Looking at Lachish today, you can almost picture the crowds of people who once walked its streets. This great city provided a home for thousands. But today, its ruins remind us what happens when a culture refuses to follow God.

A Sinful People

Many turned away from god, hoping to find personal prosperity in pagan gods. Despite the prophet's warnings, they refused to change their ways.

When God made a covenant with Israel, he commanded them to follow and obey him alone. ' He repeatedly warned them not to worship other gods.

In about 920 BC, Israel split into two parts: The northern ten tribes became the nation called Israel, and the southern tribes became the nation of Judah. As we learn in scripture, these nations fell away from God and did "wicked things that provoked the LORD to anger" (2 Kings 17).

God's chosen people began to worry more about personal prosperity than faithfulness to God. They became attracted to pagan religions and repeatedly sought pagan answers and worshiped pagan idols, even though God had forbidden them to do so.

In response, God sent prophets to warn his people about the cost of disobedience. Generations of prophets and seers proclaimed God's warnings about the moral decay of Israel and Judah. But God's people refused to listen to these warnings.

When God's patience was finally exhausted, he allowed foreign nations to invade and punish his people. In 722 BC, the Assyrians (from the area we now call Iraq) utterly destroyed the northern tribes and then turned their sights toward Jerusalem.

A Terrible Fall

Because of their disobedience, God allowed the brutal Assyrian army to destroy several Israelite cities. The city of Lachich fell and most of its inhabitants faced a gruesome death.

Before Assyrian King Sennacherib marched to Jerusalem, he attacked all of the fortified cities in Judah, including Lachish. ' The Assyrians had a reputation for brutality, and the people of Lachish suffered horribly when their city fell.

As many as 50,000 people were tortured and killed when Sennacherib took Lachish. Based on archaeological discoveries, we know that Assyrians often beheaded, burned, flayed, and impaled their victims. The few prisoners that were taken by Assyria were led along by rings pierced through their lips.

Archaeologists have discovered evidence that pagan idol worship was practiced by many residents of Lachish. There were probably several godly people living in that city as well. But when God's judgment finally came, both the obedient and disobedient faced the same terrible fate.

An Example of Hope

During dark times, King Hezekiah's faith in God still burned brightly. Responding to Hezekiah's devotion, God spared the city of Jerusalem from the Assyrian conquests.

After destroying Lachish, the Assyrian king marched his army to Jerusalem. Sennacherib had no regard for the God of Israel and he taunted King Hezekiah, saying in effect, "How can you depend on your God when all of your cities have fallen? I'm going to make you suffer like the rest, and your God can't deliver you."

But Sennacherib underestimated both Hezekiah and his God.

Hezekiah had been raised at a particular time to meet a particular need: Though many Israelites had turned to idols, Hezekiah worked valiantly to impact his culture for God. He removed high places, cut down Asherah poles, and destroyed idols. He also showed great wisdom in preparing Jerusalem for Sennacherib's attack.

When Sennacherib's threatening letter arrived, Hezekiah did not waver in his faith. Instead of doubting God, he prayed that God would deliver Jerusalem so that "all kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O LORD, are God" (2 Kings 19:19).

God heard Hezekiah's prayer and responded to his devotion. That night, an angel of the Lord killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers. Sennacherib returned to Assyria with many victories under his belt, but he was not able to attack Jerusalem.

A Serious Mandate

Christians must take their calling to confront evil seriously. God will not bear the sin of our culture forever.

Because of Hezekiah's faithfulness, he ultimately helped to bring about God's purposes in the world%u2014Jesus' lineage through the tribe of Judah was preserved. He was effective because of his desire to do right, to prepare for coming difficulties while trusting God completely, and to let the world know that God is God.

Today, God still calls out Hezekiahs%u2014people who will impact a culture that has wandered from God. Like Hezekiah, we should seek to show the world that God is God%u2014and this desire should permeate every part of our life.

Just as the defense of Lachish was critical to protecting Jerusalem, we must be faithful in the "little things" so that our central beliefs and values can impact the world.

When we look at the history of Lachish, we realize how important this calling is: If we do not persuade our culture to obey the standards found in God's Word, God may send earthly judgment on the entire culture%u2014not just those who persist in doing wrong.

Because of our culture's immorality, God's judgment hangs over us all. Will you stand silent as our culture wanders from God or will you stand up like Hezekiah to defend the name of God?