Tuesday, September 27, 2011

King Hezekiah

One of the stories of the Bible that has been fascinating me lately is the story of King Hezekiah. His reign is mentioned in 2 Kings 18-20, 2 Chronicles 29-32, Isaiah 36-39. So here's the basic gist...Hezekiah is 25-years-old when he becomes king of Judah. He came from a long line of kings that vacillated between being obedient to the Lord and following His commands and being naughty in the sight of the Lord (Being "naughty in His sight" is my personal translation for when kings did evil in the eyes of the Lord and basically worshiped pagan gods and followed the crowd of whatever any other nation was doing.) Hezekiah was different than his predecessors, though...the Bible says that he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and followed in King David's footsteps. He smashed all the pagan gods and removed all the altars that had been made to anything other than God. Even to the point that, remember that snake on a pole Moses had made when wandering around the desert (Numbers 21: the people were complaining against God, so snakes came and bit the people. The Lord told Moses to make a snake of bronze and put it on a pole. When snake-bitten people looked at the pole, they were instantly healed of their snake bites)? During Hezekiah's time the people had become so naughty that they began worshiping the snake on a pole. So Hezekiah had it destroyed. This king meant business. He brought about spiritual and political reform.

The Bible says in 2 Kings 18 that 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 Chronicles states it differently stating that everything that Hezekiah had done throughout Judah was good and right and faithful before the LORD his God.  In everything that he undertook in the service of God’s temple and in obedience to the law and the commands, he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. And so he prospered.

As the story goes, several events take place that are directly shaped by Hezekiah's prayers (read 2 Kings 18-20 for the full stories). Each time Hezekiah prays, the Lord directly answers, and some times in extremely miraculous ways. The coolest example is when King Hezekiah gets sick. The prophet Isaiah (yup, the same Isaiah that has that book after the book of Psalm) comes and tells Hezekiah to get his house in order, he's gonna die. Hezekiah is so distraught at this, he cries out to the Lord in prayer and asks God to remember all the good he had done in his life. God grants Hezekiah his request and gives him 15 more years to live. As a sign that God is going to do this, he makes the SUN MOVE BACKWARDS. No kidding. How cool is that? To see the sun move backwards (Hezekiah sees the shadow on the steps of the palace moving in the opposite direction.)

But here's the problem. The king of Babylon hears that Hezekiah is sick and has this miraculous recovery and sends gifts and an envoy (ambassadors) to Hezekiah (I'm sure they had lots of questions for Hezekiah about how the sun moved backwards). Judah was a lowly kingdom in those times and Babylon was a junior superpower. I'm sure Hezekiah was flattered to have such an honor as recognition from Babylon. So flattered that, without asking God or Isaiah, Hezekiah shows the Babylonians EVERYTHING (remember how before in 2 Chronicles it said he sought God in everything he did? Well, that went out the window with this flattery). Hezekiah, in his pride for all his accumulated wealth, tries to impress Babylon by showing them all he had. The Bible says there was nothing that he didn't show them. Come on, that's like showing your enemy your battle plan. What was he thinking?

So Isaiah comes back and asks Hezekiah what he had done. Hezekiah, probably with a little pride in his voice, tells Isaiah he showed Babylon everything he had, ahhhhhh, to be so rich. Ha! He showed them who was king of Judah! Isaiah more or less tells him that while Hezekiah thought that this display of wealth would impress the Babylonians, all it did was show them what the kings of Judah had, and what they could get from them. One day the kings of Babylon would come and take it all away.

Now here is the interesting part of the story. So Hezekiah responds to Isaiah, “The word of the Lord which you have spoken is good!” For he said, “At least there will be peace and truth in my days.” What a sad state of heart in the king of Judah. God announces coming judgment, and all he can respond with is relief that it will not happen in his lifetime. In this, Hezekiah shows himself to be almost the exact opposite of a king who is concerned for his people. He is almost totally self-centered. All he cares about is his own personal comfort and success. He had no concern for the state and well-being of the future generation. In stead of crying out to the Lord again (like he had done multiple times before) and begging God to change his mind, he says "Cool. I'm rich. I'm set up for my retirement. I have 15 years to live. God said it would be peaceful years. I'm just gonna sit this one out and enjoy what I have left." The king that followed after Hezekiah was on of the worst in Judah´s history!!

Hezekiah asking for more time on earth wasn´t an issue. His issue was a prideful display of all he had in front of people who did not love the Lord. And then when he receives a harsh word against his pride, instead of humbling himself and praying for the future generation, to spare them as even he had been spared by God, he praises God that he won´t see the consequences in his lifetime.

I think this story is a great reminder for us. So many of people start off strong in their faith. Passionate for the Lord and to work for him. They include him in all they do, praying to him and staying faithful. They start to see the blessing of the Lord, in finances, in the work place, in their family life, where ever. They may even say, "Wow! Look at all I have done in life! I have been generous. Wise. And look at what has gone on in my life and how I have over come it!" They come to the end of their life and just stop investing. Stop pouring out into others. Or they see danger for people younger than them, but ignore it, letting them "make their own mistakes". Let´s not make the same mistake as Hezekiah. As we face trials and hardship in life, and see God rescue us and bring us into times of prosperity, let´s invest the years that follow in praying for the next generation. Instead of sitting back and saying ¨wassa matter with kids these days?” “Oh, it’s just a stage” or “it’s a sign of the times”, let’s use what God has blessed us with to teach and train the next generation to continue on, so they can prosper as much as we have.

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