The great king of Assyria sent his messengers Tartan, Rabsaris, and Rabshakeh along with a great host against Jerusalem. Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah came out to hear their message. Rabshakeh presented his intimidating question, “What confidence is this wherein thou trustest?” Hezekiah’s options, make pledges to the king of Assyria as their servants or place his confidence in Jehovah and keep the royal diadem. Amidst the account Rabshakeh reveals something very important for our consideration, that is, confidence is in what one trusts. In other words, confidence comes from what we trust in.
Confidence by definition is a fortitude of mind, an assurance. Yet, because confidence is dependent upon what it trusts there can be vain confidence. Reading about Rabshakeh points to this matter. He cries to all those in earshot not to believe Hezekiah, not to be persuaded with his trusting the LORD talks, not to be deceived by them. He recounts the victory Assyria had over Samaria, Jerusalem’s sister, as well as, all the other nations that worshipped various gods. Rabshakeh, by Assyria’s victory, authority, and great host attempts to place doubt in the minds of the children of Israel. It is obvious Rabshakeh trusted in their power and might, evidenced and proven by victory, bloodshed, and territory. But what about Hezekiah? The king of the Jews, Hezekiah, encouraged by Isaiah not to be afraid trusted in the LORD thy God. Ultimately, God sent a blast upon the king of Assyria, Sennacherib, Rabshakeh’s king. Sennacherib will hear a rumor, return to his own land and fall by the sword. Such irony is that Sennacherib’s death comes from those in whom he ought to be able to trust, his sons. It would be his sons that would bring the sword that God foretold.
Sennacherib, Rabshakeh, and the Assyrians are found to have a misplaced confidence, a vain confidence: Hezekiah a rightful confidence having trusted in the LORD thy God. Maybe Hezekiah learned from David in Psalm 27:3, “Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.” The ground of the confidence, verse 1, “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”
Confidence is derived from that which we trust. Due to confidence stemming from that which one trusts, confidence can either be vain or strong. The vanity or strength of one’s confidence is based upon the quality of that which one trusts. Sennacherib boasted great things by his power and might, a strong confidence in the eyes of men, but false and vain in the face of the power and might of the LORD thy God.
The contrast of vain confidence is understood in the scriptures. In Romans 2:19 Paul addresses Jews that rested in the law. By the law they made their boast of God. The irony, the law was not to provide rest or a self confidence, but to humble them and teach them of their weakness to produce anything to God’s justice or pleasing. Nevertheless, some of the Jews, were confident they were guides to the blind, teachers of babes. Of course, such confidence indicates they did not believe they were blind or babes. Yet, in Matthew 15:14, the Lord says, “Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.” This is echoed later in Matthew 23:16, when He says, “Woe unto you, ye blind guides…” The confidence the Pharisees possessed was not from trusting in the LORD their God, but from “trusting in themselves” (Luke 18:9).
The other end of the spectrum is a confidence birthed from trusting in the Lord. The scriptures declare that our confidence is in the Lord, by the Lord, through the Lord, and toward the Lord. Ultimately, “the LORD shall be thy confidence” (Proverbs 3:26). “In the fear of the LORD is strong confidence” (Proverbs 14:26). Our confidence is in the LORD Himself and in His things, His promises, and power. Yet, we must understand, determined by His relationship with His people today being different than with Israel in the past, the nature of His promises and the working of His power are different.
Trusting in the LORD is specified by that which you are trusting Him for. Hezekiah trusted Him for physical deliverance from war and possible death. Hezekiah could trust Him for such as God promised to Israel to deliver based upon obedience and trust in and toward Him. Nevertheless, the examination of confidence throughout the scriptures clearly indicates that confidence in the LORD has humble beginnings.
Man easily trusts in that which their hand has wrought. Such trust in self, culminates into vain confidence, pride, and arrogance. When we trust in the Lord we are not trusting in the flesh (Philippians 3:3-4), in man (Psalm 118:8), either unfaithful (Proverbs 25:19) or those in authority such as princes (Psalm 118:9). The more we learn who we are in Christ and the mind of Christ we also learn about the fruit we are able to produce through the Spirit in contrast to that which we can produce through the flesh. The end of the fruit produce through the flesh is death (Romans 6:21). The end of the fruit produced through the Spirit is everlasting life (Romans 6:22). All the more, we are to have confidence in Christ – “in whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of Him” (Ephesians 3:12). If our confidence isn’t in Christ and His things taught in scripture then we like the world become presumptuous on any certain thing.
We are to trust in the LORD with all our heart, lean not on our own understanding, but acknowledge Him in all our ways. Then we may be confident that He is directing our paths.
Godly confidence, therefore, trusts in the Lord and His things. Therefore, we are to know what His things are and what they are not during this dispensation of the grace of God. If we don’t, although they are promised someplace in the Bible, but promised to His people in time past, our confidence will not be in the Lord. Ignorance of God’s promises and things today reveals a false confidence. A false confidence that will easily be squelched and result in doubt and frustration toward God. Yet, when we understand the things freely given to us of God (1 Corinthians 2:12) and believe them they will effectually work and generate sound confidence in Christ.
Two contexts of confidence arise in Paul’s writings: 1) in the context of suffering and death, and 2) in the saints. I think it is worthy to note each.
CONFIDENCE IN SUFFERING AND DEATH
God does not promise to deliver us like He did Hezekiah. The children of Israel all their lifetime were subject to the bondage of the fear of death. Resurrection was debated within the nation, as we see between the Pharisees and the Sadducee’s (Acts 23:6). Yet, many like Abraham (Hebrews 11:17-19), Daniel (Daniel 12:13), and the sneezing boy (2 Kings 4:32-37) believed in resurrection; and, many would come to understand the resurrection of the just and the unjust (John 5:29). Confidence may have been had, but could they have had it like we can have it? A confidence from knowing and believing Christ died once and has risen from the dead. God has ordained a dispensation of the gospel to put on display the fruit of resurrection effectually working by its doctrine in our inner man. God may not have promised us deliverance from death and suffering, but deliverance in suffering and being nigh unto death. A deliverance that we may know the power of His resurrection (Philippians 3:10). A deliverance from despair and gloominess to instead display joy and confidence in suffering.
The Apostle Paul speaks of confidence half the time the Bible mentions the concept. In the context of suffering Paul says this on the basis of the bodily resurrection of Christ, “Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at him in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) we are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” Truly, this confidence comes from the promises that are freely given us today in Christ.
CONFIDENCE IN THE SAINTS
Within the twenty times, Paul brings up confidence or being confident six of them concern his confidence in the saints. He says, “having confidence in you all” (2 Cor. 2:3), “I rejoice therefore that I have confidence in you in all things” (2 Cor. 7:16), “upon the great confidence which I have in you” (2 COr. 8:22), “I have confidence in you” (Gal. 5:10), “And we have confidence in the Lord touching you” (2 The. 3:4), “Having confidence in thy obedience” (Phe. 1:21). Knowing Paul did not trust in the flesh, therefore put no confidence in the flesh, how could he have confidence in these saints. Paul’s confidence of the saints wasn’t in his ability, nor theirs, but in the power of the word of God that he was preaching and teaching. Paul’s confidence was in the weak or strong measure of the saints trust in Christ already professed and manifest in their lives. It was a confidence that they would think and do the things God was teaching them through Paul. A confidence “that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart” (Philippians 1:6-7). Paul was confident that Christ would finish the edification process in the saints that began when they believed the gospel. His confidence was in that the saints trusted the word of God already and therefore could trust every further word that proceeded from the mouth of God in Paul’s writings – that Paul’s joy was their joy.
If you cannot answer Rabshekah’s question, “What confidence is this wherein thou trustest?” then we must come to know Christ through reading, studying, and learning the Word of God through the teaching and preaching of it. We must study the word of God rightly divided to come to know the things freely given to us of God that we may put our trust in and possess the unwavering, yet humble confidence we find in the Bible.