“Have I now come up without the Lord against this land to destroy it? The Lord said to me, ‘Go up against this land, and destroy it.’” Isaiah 36:10
Fans of the wildly popular (If Daryl Dies We Riot) television series, The Walking Dead, might be surprised to learn zombie apocalypses are nothing new.
Remember that old Bible story about Jonah and the whale? The thing that got Jonah into trouble in the first place was his refusal to go to Nineveh and warn the city’s inhabitants about the bad stuff that was going to happen to them if they did not mend their wicked ways. Nineveh was a major metropolis in those days, and it was the place to go and worship Ishtar, a goddess who was all about human sexuality, and no doubt, perversion. One can only imagine what Ishtar enjoyed in the way of worship. According to an ancient Assyrian myth, Ishtar stormed the gates to the netherworld, the land of no return, the land of darkness. She directed her thoughts toward the house without exit for him who enters therein. Arriving at the gate, she said,
“Gatekeeper, ho, open thy gate!
Open thy gate that I may enter!
If thou openest not the gate to let me enter,
I will break the door. I will wrench the lock.
I will smash the door-posts. I will force the doors.
I will bring up the dead to eat the living.
And the dead will outnumber the living.”
Sounds like Ishtar was working up a good old-fashioned zombie apocalypse. About three thousand years ago.
A century or so after the people of Nineveh believed the prophet Jonah and saved themselves, the city become the home of one Sennacherib, king of Assyria. Sennacherib was an ambitious guy who busied himself conquering everybody, everywhere. At some point Sennacherib’s military campaign brought him to Jerusalem. Rather, it brought his representative to Jerusalem since the smallish city probably wasn’t worth a visit by the king himself. At that time Jerusalem was ruled by a man named Hezekiah, who had been the king of Judah for fourteen years.
Hezekiah marched to his own drumbeat. He had not wasted any time implementing his policies after succeeding his father to the throne. Within a month of becoming king, Hezekiah began to take Jerusalem and Judah back to their roots. He abolished idolatry and restored temple worship of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He even restored the ministry of the Levitical priests. The Bible says Hezekiah trusted in the Lord God of Israel, so that “after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor who were before him. He held fast to the Lord. He did not depart from following Him, but kept His commandments, which the Lord had commanded Moses”. The Lord was with Hezekiah, and he prospered everywhere he went.
Everything that Hezekiah did, he did to restore his country to a place of peace and blessing with their God. Hezekiah knew the Law of Moses, and he surely must have been familiar with Deuteronomy and the curses described therein. This one, for example,
“Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joy and gladness of heart, for the abundance of everything, therefore you shall serve your enemies, whom the Lord will send against you, in hunger, in thirst, in nakedness, and in need of everything…They shall besiege you at all your gates until your high and fortified walls, in which you trust, come down throughout all your land…You shall eat the fruit of your own body, the flesh of your sons and your daughters whom the Lord your God has given you, in the siege and desperate straits in which your enemy shall distress you.” Deuteronomy 28:47,48,52,53
A siege really is a terrible, cursed enterprise. It stops routine life altogether. Everybody has to hunker down and try to outlast it. Or gather their backbones and try and fight off their enemies. A siege happens because the siege-ees have retreated within the walls of their city in an attempt to not be annihilated by the siege-ers, who are almost always too strong to face in a stand-up fight.
So Hezekiah set about to please the Lord his God. Besides tearing down idols and restoring proper worship, Hezekiah rebelled against the king of Assyria and refused to serve him. Sennacherib was not about to take Hezekiah’s rebellion lying down. He couldn’t have other nations getting the same idea, so he sent troops to Judah and Jerusalem to lay siege.
Wait. What? The Lord should have been happy with Hezekiah; so why this impending siege?
Judah was seriously outgunned, a point Sennacherib’s spokesman did not neglect to point out. “Here’s an idea,” he called to the men who were standing on the wall, the men who were looking down at a horde of invaders. He spoke in Hebrew so everybody listening would understand, “How about I give you two thousand horses to use in your fight against us? Oh wait, I forgot. You don’t have enough men to put riders on them.”
“Please speak to us in Aramaic,” said Hezekiah’s men politely, “Don’t speak in Hebrew. Everyone is listening.”
“Has my master sent me to your master and to you to speak these words, and not to these men who sit on the wall, who will eat and drink their own waste with you?”
You can see how it was going. Sennacherib’s man was saying some pretty scary stuff. He was making a lot of sense, too. Nevertheless, Hezekiah had instructed everyone to keep quiet. Don’t engage the enemy. So, they answered not a word. Neither did Hezekiah. Instead, he went to prayer. He took Sennacherib’s threats, which were contrary to the promises God had given to his people, and laid them out before the Lord. Literally. He spread on the alter a letter Sennacherib sent and asked the Lord what He was going to do about it.
Hezekiah did not believe Sennacherib’s man when he said, “Have I now come up without the Lord against this land to destroy it? The Lord said to me, ‘Go up against this land, and destroy it.’” What was happening was not what was supposed to happen, at least not according to the Scripture. So Hezekiah prayed. He took Sennacherib’s threats into the presence of God to find out what to do. And you know what? He got a real nice answer for his trouble. The Lord sent Isaiah the prophet to tell Hezekiah that Jerusalem would not fall to Sennacherib. And it did not. Sennacherib went back to Nineveh and died there.
There are a lot of ugly things in this old world. You may not believe this, but I think there are hordes of ugly, hateful creatures roaming far and wide. We can’t see them, usually, but they are out there. They are fallen angels and disembodied spirits, and every single one of them is pissed to high heaven. They hate God and they despise people. They are predators seeking prey. Every day and every night. They’re scary, and I don’t like to think about them. Is it any wonder they cross our paths from time to time? Is it any wonder they are hawking the same lying threats they peddled thousands of years ago?
Jerusalem never fell to Assyria. Jerusalem enjoyed a reprieve, and in the meantime Assyria fell to Babylon. About a hundred years after Hezekiah took on Sennacherib, Jerusalem fell to Babylon. It was bound to happen, and when it did the prophet Jeremiah said, “Just go with it.” Jerusalem has a history of ups and downs, kind of like us, and kind of like us, it’s still here. Just go have a look at Nineveh. It did not fare as well.
Ishtar lost her chance at starting up that zombie apocalypse. Jesus descended into the underworld, and he was the only man alive or dead who could exit after entering. This he did, and brought back with him the keys to the joint. I, for one, sleep a whole lot easier knowing they won’t fall into anyone else’s hands.
“Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11.
© M K Simonds