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Three Life Lessons from Good King Hezekiah

MORNING MESSAGE: John Cline

Text: 2 Kings 18; 2 Chronicles 29-32; Isaiah 37,38

We read last week about 3 kings of Judah: a good king (Jotham), then a bad king (Ahaz) and finally a good king (Hezekiah). They all reigned during the last years of their northernly neighbours Israel, which had various prophets pleading with it to return to YHWH God, and to repent of the sin of idolatry. Failure to do would mean the destruction of the nation Israel, the prophets of God warned them. Judah’s third king of the three we looked at last week was Hezekiah and it was during the sixth year of his reign that the nation of Israel, having decided to shut God out of its collective life, was surprised to see God honour its wishes when He lifted His protective hand of covering off Israel, leaving it to its own devices, which resulted in the Assyrian army marching in and crushing Israel. Viewing those ongoings with horror and reflecting upon them as well as recognizing the similar troubles his own sinful father Ahaz had brought upon his nation of Judah when Ahaz decided to forbid worship of YHWH and instead turned to the gods of Assyria, Hezekiah responded sensibly: live for & serve YHWH.

Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him. He held fast to the Lord and did not stop following him; he kept the commands the Lord had given Moses. And the Lord was with him; he was successful in whatever he undertook. (2 Kings 18:5-7a)

Now, with Hezekiah, there are 3 lessons for us to learn from his life:

Life lesson #1: Commit to the Lord and consecrate yourself.

Whether you are a ruler or simply, like us, a citizen of a nation, God treats us all the same – with respect, honour, and forgiveness – and all He asks of us is for us to do likewise back, in commitment and purity.

In the first month of the first year of his reign, he opened the doors of the temple of the Lord and repaired them. He brought in the priests and the Levites, assembled them in the square on the east side and said: “Listen to me, Levites! Consecrate yourselves now and consecrate the temple of the Lord, the God of your ancestors. Remove all defilement from the sanctuary…Now I intend to make a covenant with the Lord, the God of Israel, so that his fierce anger will turn away from us.” (2 Chron 29:3-6,10)

Hezekiah understood the wisdom of committing to God and doing whatever steps were necessary to be cleansed of sin, purified of them. As Christians, we had Jesus take our sins upon himself – he did this on the cross of Calvary when he willingly took our sins upon him by paying the price or penalty our sins deserved – death. As a result, when God looks at us, He sees cleansed, pure, holy people and welcomes us to come into His presence without hesitation, unashamed. Before Jesus did that once for all, the Jews had a sacrificial system in Jerusalem’s Temple in which such atonement – being “at one” with God – could occur but only for a one-year period, however, they had not only ignored that sacrificial process but Hezekiah’s father, King Ahaz, had even shuttered the doors to the Temple so that no one could enter it to offer sacrifices and have their sins forgiven. Hezekiah undid all of Ahaz’s sinful actions by ordering the priests to reopen the Temple and restore the worship of YHWH God therein.

They began the consecration on the first day of the first month, and by the eighth day of the month they reached the portico of the Lord. For eight more days they consecrated the temple of the Lord itself, finishing on the sixteenth day of the first month. Then they went into King Hezekiah and reported: “We have purified the entire temple of the Lord, the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils, and the table for setting out the consecrated bread, with all its articles. We have prepared and consecrated all the articles that King Ahaz removed in his unfaithfulness while he was king. They are now in front of the Lord’s altar.” (2 Chronicles 29:17-19)

For the worship service that took place next, Hezekiah did something very special and significant: he pulled out of storage the actual musical instruments that King David and his priests had used way back when in Temple worship of God, paving the way for a very moving and significant worship experience of commitment and consecration!

He stationed the Levites in the temple of the Lord with cymbals, harps and lyres in the way prescribed by David and Gad the king’s seer and Nathan the prophet; this was commanded by the Lord through his prophets. So, the Levites stood ready with David’s instruments, and the priests with their trumpets. Hezekiah gave the order to sacrifice the burnt offering on the altar. As the offering began, singing to the Lord began also, accompanied by trumpets and the instruments of David king of Israel. The whole assembly bowed in worship, while the musicians played, and the trumpets sounded. All this continued until the sacrifice of the burnt offering was completed. (2 Chronicles 29:25-28)

Wouldn’t you have loved to have been there? Following that reopening and purifying of the Temple, Hezekiah recognizing that Israel’s most important feast, Passover, had not been celebrated fully since the day of King Solomon, decided to hold a Passover feast. He invited everyone in Judah – and Israel – to come (this took place a few years prior to Israel falling to Assyria). Perhaps having the Israelites attend Passover would help turn them back to YHWH and save their nation…

Hezekiah sent word to all Israel and Judah and also wrote letters to Ephraim and Manasseh, inviting them to come to the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem and celebrate the Passover to the Lord, the God of Israel…They decided to send a proclamation throughout Israel, from Beersheba to Dan, calling the people to come to Jerusalem and celebrate the Passover to the Lord, the God of Israel. It had not been celebrated in large numbers according to what was written…The couriers went from town to town in Ephraim and Manasseh, as far as Zebulun, but people scorned and ridiculed them. (2 Chronicles 30:1,5,10)

You’ve got to give Hezekiah credit for trying with the Israelites! The fact that many of them refused to take part and, instead, mocked the couriers from Judah who had invited them to the Passover – well, that is a telling and revealing statement, isn’t it? But, going on, we read,

Nevertheless, some from Asher, Manasseh and Zebulun

humbled themselves and went to Jerusalem. Also, in Judah the hand of God was on the people to give them unity of mind to carry out what the king and his officials had ordered, following the word of the Lord. A very large crowd of people assembled in Jerusalem to celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread in the second month. They removed the altars in Jerusalem and cleared away the incense altars and threw them into the Kidron Valley. They slaughtered the Passover lamb on the fourteenth day of the second month. The priests and the Levites were ashamed and consecrated themselves and brought burnt offerings to the temple of the Lord…The Israelites who were present in Jerusalem celebrated the Festival of Unleavened Bread for seven days with great rejoicing, while the Levites and priests praised the Lord every day with resounding instruments dedicated to the LORD…The whole assembly then agreed to celebrate the festival seven more days; so, for another seven days they celebrated joyfully. (2 Chronicles 30:11-15,21,23)

That exuberant Passover feast was followed by a spontaneous and additional seven days of joyful celebration! Hezekiah’s commitment to the Lord and his understanding of being consecrated to God impacted & changed his people. The proof of that is seen in what they did next…

When all this had ended, the Israelites who were there went out to the towns of Judah, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. They destroyed the high places and the altars throughout Judah and Benjamin and in Ephraim and Manasseh. After they had destroyed all of them, the Israelites returned to their own towns and to their own property. (2 Chronicles 30:27-31:1)

Hezekiah, taking the lead with his own money, then realized that the priestly system of having Levites assigned to permanently keeping the Temple open, ordered that the people of Judah should give of their possessions, money, and crops to finance the Levites working there.

As soon as the order went out, the Israelites generously gave the first fruits of their grain, new wine, olive oil and honey and all that the fields produced. They brought a great amount, a tithe of everything. The people of Israel and Judah who lived in the towns of Judah also brought a tithe of their herds and flocks and a tithe of the holy things dedicated to the Lord their God, and they piled them in heaps. They began doing this in the third month and finished in the seventh month. When Hezekiah and his officials came and saw the heaps, they praised the Lord and blessed his people, Israel. (2 Chronicles 31:5-8)

A spiritual mountaintop had been reached for the people of Judah, and so there was only one way for things to go: downward. Centuries before, Joseph had learned from God that seven years of bumper crops in Egypt were about to come and that they would be followed by seven years of famine. Joseph took action and prepared for the difficult times ahead, thus saving the nation of Egypt, as well as his family who moved to Egypt, that land of plenty, which, in turn preserved the Israelites, as well as His ultimate plan of providing the way to salvation for all, which would come through the family line of Joseph’s father, Jacob/Israel, then Joseph’s brother, Judah, down to King David, then the family line stretching down to King Hezekiah and beyond, ending with the birth of the Messiah and Saviour of the world, Jesus.

In any case, Hezekiah was a strong leader, a proactive one, not a reactive weakling. Thus, we find, in Hezekiah another lesson:

Life lesson #2: Act (don’t sit back hoping things will work out).

Weak rulers and people react. Strong leaders & people are proactive.

After all that Hezekiah had so faithfully done, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and invaded Judah. He laid siege to the fortified cities, thinking to conquer them for himself. When Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib had come and that he intended to wage war against Jerusalem, he consulted with his officials and military staff about blocking off the water from the springs outside the city, and they helped him. They gathered a large group of people who blocked all the springs and the stream that flowed through the land. “Why should the kings of Assyria come and find plenty of water?” they said. (2 Chronicles 32:1-4)

What Hezekiah did was build a tunnel through which fresh water could continuously flow into Jerusalem. We will look at this more next week, but Hezekiah’s Tunnel can still be visited today, an engineering marvel in its day as we saw when Brad Guthrie did his fine Lenten Devotional on Hezekiah. In any case, Hezekiah was a proactive person who did all he could to benefit and protect his nation. Leaders and individuals who are not proactive but who sit back and let the world “take it” to them struggle in life, and do not prosper. As for Hezekiah…

Then he worked hard repairing all the broken sections of the wall and building towers on it. He built another wall outside that one and reinforced the terraces of the City of David. He also made large numbers of weapons and shields. He appointed military officers over the people and assembled them before him in the square at the city gate and encouraged them with these words: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him. With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles.” And the people gained confidence from what Hezekiah the king of Judah said. (2 Chronicles 32:5-8)

“The king of Assyria, Sennacherib, heck, he only has his strong army with him, but there is a greater power with us than with him: YHWH God and He will fight for us!” Hezekiah was telling his people this fact, which leads us to…

Life lesson #3: Ask the Lord for aid and trust Him to deliver.

Assyria had crushed Israel and taken its people away into exile eight years before this event wherein Assyria marched hundreds-of-thousands of soldiers into Judah and besieged Jerusalem. The field commander of the massive Assyrian army called out in Hebrew to the Jewish people up on the city wall, mocking them and their tiny army, as well as calling into question the ability of God to rescue them, thus striking fear into the hearts of the Jewish listeners. Among those listening were Eliakim the palace administrator, Shebna the palace secretary, and Joah the palace recorder of events.

Then Eliakim, Shebna and Joah said to the field commander, “Please speak to your servants in Aramaic, since we understand it. Don’t speak to us in Hebrew in the hearing of the people on the wall.” But the commander replied, “Was it only to your master and you that my master sent me to say these things, and not to the people sitting on the wall—who, like you, will have to eat their own excrement and drink their own urine?” Then the commander stood and called out in Hebrew, “Hear the words of the great king, the king of Assyria! This is what the king says: Do not let Hezekiah deceive you. He cannot deliver you! Do not let Hezekiah persuade you to trust in the Lord when he says, ‘The Lord will surely deliver us; this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.’ “Do not listen to Hezekiah…Do not let Hezekiah mislead you when he says, ‘The Lord will deliver us.’ Have the gods of any nations ever delivered their lands from the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim? Have they rescued Samaria from my hand? Who of all the gods of these countries have been able to save their lands from me? How then can the Lord deliver Jerusalem from my hand?” But the people remained silent and said nothing in reply, because the king had commanded, “Do not answer him.” (Isaiah 36:11-16a,18-21)

But, hearing the Assyrian field commanders’ threats and putdowns, Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah ripped their clothes in anguish before going to Hezekiah to inform him of what was said. When he heard them, Hezekiah also tore his clothes, put on sackcloth, and went into the temple to pray. He then sent Eliakim, Shebna, and some leading priests, all wearing sackcloth, to the prophet Isaiah for he knew that Isaiah could hear God. Hezekiah trusted YHWH, but he needed to know at that specific what God was saying to His prophet, Isaiah.

Isaiah said to them, “Tell your master, ‘This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid of what you have heard—those words with which the underlings of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me. Listen! When he hears a certain report, I will make him want to return to his own country, and there I will have him cut down with the sword.’” (Isaiah 37:6,7)

Isaiah’s prophecy was that a report from somewhere else would cause Assyria to leave Jerusalem. That brought hope to Hezekiah. However,

Now Sennacherib received a report that Tirhakah, the king of Cush, was marching out to fight against him. When he heard it, he sent messengers to Hezekiah with this word: “Say to Hezekiah king of Judah: Do not let the god you depend on deceive you when he says, ‘Jerusalem will not be given into the hands of the king of Assyria.’ Surely you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all the countries, destroying them completely. And will you be delivered? Did the gods of the nations that were destroyed by my predecessors deliver them?” (Isaiah 37:9-12a)

Sennacherib’s letter struck fear in Hezekiah and he went to the Temple, spread out the letter that the threats were on, and prayed to God for advice. God responded with a second dramatic prophecy.

Then Isaiah son of Amoz sent a message to Hezekiah: “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Because you have prayed to me concerning Sennacherib king of Assyria, this is the word the Lord has spoken against him, ‘He will not enter this city or shoot an arrow here. He will not come before it with shield or build a siege ramp against it. By the way that he came he will return; he will not enter this city,’ declares the Lord. ‘I will defend this city and save it, for my sake and for the sake of David my servant!’” (Isaiah 37:21,22a,33b-35)

YHWH God was about to do a miracle. Gerry Mowatt this week drew my attention to an ‘Archaeology News Online Magazine’ article published on June 19th which stated, “Recent archaeological discoveries may lend credence to a Biblical story recounting a divine intervention that saved Jerusalem from an Assyrian invasion approximately 2,700 years ago. Researchers have identified ancient military camps that correspond with the narrative of King Sennacherib’s siege, potentially verifying parts of the Biblical account found in the Hebrew Bible and the Old Testament.”

In any case, I am have gotten ahead of the biblical text here so now going back to it: the second prophecy of Isaiah’s was that God Himself would save Jerusalem by doing something so dramatic that King Sennacherib and his army would not be able to enter Jerusalem.

Then the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies! So, Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there. (2 Kings 19:35,36)

YHWH God did act and did prevail, and Sennacherib and his remaining army retreated in confusion and fear. By the way, the bible, as well as several archaeological finds, all tell us that Sennacherib was, shortly after, while was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisrok, murdered by two of his sons, an ironic ending for a man who claimed that his rule was unstoppable and his god Nisrok unbeatable. YHWH prevailed. He is not to be mocked!

So, in review, what three lessons have we learned from good King Hezekiah’s life?

  1. Any ruler, and indeed every one of us, should commit to the Lord and seek to live a consecrated, pure life.
  2. Any ruler and indeed every one of us, should not sit back and let life hit them in the face but should instead, be proactive, not reactive, planning and acting to improve and strengthen the good things; and,
  3. Any ruler, and, indeed every one of us, should have no hesitation or shame in asking the Lord for His aid, and trusting Him to deliver. Sounds simple, right? Let’s do it! Praying…

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