There are a great many lessons we can learn from the life of Hezekiah, King of Judah. And that the Holy Spirit saw fit to include three accounts of his life (2 Kings 18-20; 2 Chronicles 29-32 and Isaiah 36-39) only emphasises the importance of his actions not only in the history of Israel but also for today’s church.
Although Jesus came to fulfil the law contained within the Old Testament we have been left with the history as a means of interpreting the experiences we face in day to day life.
Hezekiah was a reforming king. That is to say that he ascended to the throne after Israel had abandoned the worship of the Living God in favour of idols made of stone or wood. Whilst there were several kings who tried reform, such as Joash and Josiah, for various reasons they didn’t receive the same accolades that were befitting of Hezekiah;
“…he did what was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father David had done.” [2 Chronicles 29:2 NKJV]
Why did he receive such an accolade? Because he tore down the high places and broke the sacred pillars. He opened the doors of the temple and consecrated the priests and the temple. He reinstituted the Passover and organised the Levites. In other words, he put right the wrongs of the past and prepared his people to be led by example.
Now, I wrote earlier that there is an importance also for today’s church (and when I say ‘church’ I refer to the body of true believers who follow Christ by His Holy Spirit…not some organised religion). On a personal level Hezekiah’s reforms can be seen to reflect our own individual choices when we seek to devote our lives to God. Hezekiah was aware of the sin of his people and under the conviction of the Holy Spirit sought to reform the house of Judah and reinstitute Temple Worship. Today the temple is within us (1 Corinthians 6:19). And that which needs reform is also within us. So, whatever it is that the Holy Spirit is currently working on in you (and there will be something…) is the same kind of issue that Hezekiah was dealing with. But it is what follows the reform that we need to be aware of, and not the reform itself. Reform is important but it is what we are all called to do. There is no other option.
What followed Hezekiah’s reforms wasn’t a time of peace as you might expect. We all feel like a nice pat on the head from God when we have repented of something or done the right thing for a change. And there will be occasions when you will experience a time of peace. Hezekiah himself did, but not until he had passed through the fire of opposition.
The accounts of Sennacherib, King of Assyria coming up against Judah are to be found in 2 Kings 18-19; 2 Chronicles 32 and Isaiah 36-37. But first a little background. The two kingdoms of Israel and Judah had long been divided. And as a result of this division and endless kings who were largely apostate, the two kingdoms were seen as easy pickings for the merciless kingdoms whom surrounded them. The ten tribes who made up Israel had been taken into captivity and then exile by Sennacherib’s predecessor. When Sennacherib ascended he saw no reason not to extend his kingdom right down into Judah. When Hezekiah learned of Sennacherib’s advance toward Jerusalem he immediately reacted.
Any of us who had just carried out some work of reform amongst ourselves or as a body of believers may well have expected better protection from such opposition as Hezekiah now faced. It would be easy for any of us to bemoan our lot. Not so Hezekiah. And this is where the important lessons are.
Hezekiah knew that Jerusalem was about to come under siege (how often do we misread the signs?) so he called together his leaders and commanders and ordered them to block up the natural springs in the hills around Jerusalem that the Assyrian army would not benefit from them. Then there is an awesome line:
“And he strengthened himself,” [2 Chronicles 32:5]
The word translated as ‘strengthened’ has a whole range of meanings but basically it means to fortify himself. To build a fortification around himself. I wonder how often we do this when faced with the prospect of an attack or some opposition do we actually do this? Or do we fall into the fail safe of feeling sorry for ourselves. What I am suggesting is that it is easier than you might think. In fact it is a common sense choice. God has given us all the clues we need right here in this account of Hezekiah. You see, Hezekiah knew God. Knew what God was really like. He believed in God with all of his heart, just as David had. So when Sennacherib rocks up threatening destruction Hezekiah didn’t run. He strengthened himself.
Of course the all important question is how do we interpret an attack or opposition in our own lives? Well, there is a simple rule that can be seen throughout the Old Testament: If you are doing the right thing expect to be attacked. This is how God works. He allows us to be tested in order to prove our resolve. It happens all the time. Get baptised and you will be tested – just as Jesus was. Reform your fellowship and you will be tested. Take a step of faith, say and oath before God, repent of some old ways of life and each and every time you will be tested. And if you are not being tested then may I suggest that something is wrong?
This is not to say that God is mean and wants to see us in trouble…because it is not like that. The bible tells us that God only disciplines those He loves (Proverbs 13:24). The opening chapters of the book of Job give us the clues to what God will and will not allow in our lives. In Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth he tells them that God will only allow you to be tested up to what you can withstand and always provide a way out (1 Corinthians 10:13). The trouble is, unlike Hezekiah, we don’t believe what God says anymore.
Hezekiah didn’t ask God to strengthen him. He did it himself. It was a choice. God didn’t say to Joshua “I will make you strong and very courageous” no! He said BE strong and very courageous. It is always a choice. Always. We set our will to do it. Too many in these days are expecting God to do the work. I am just learning that we have to do the work. To subdue the flesh and follow the spirit. Just like Hezekiah.
And when he had strengthened himself Hezekiah rebuilt a broken wall, built another wall outside that one and produced weapons and shields for his people. Then he appointed captains over the soldiers and told them, ordered them to be strong and courageous:
“Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid or dismayed before the king of Assyria, nor before the multitude that is with him; for there are more with us than with him. With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the LORD our God, to help us and to fight our battles.” [2 Chronicles 32: 7-8 NKJV]
And what happened? Because of Hezekiah’s faith in the promises of God and determined choice in the face of a siege as well as insults and letters threatening destruction, he did not even meet Sennacherib in battle…for the battle belonged to God and He sent an angel who destroyed the entire besieging army. Sennacherib was called home and murdered by his own sons for his blasphemy against Hezekiah’s God.
Simple lesson. Next time you choose God with your mouth, expect Him to test your heart. He does this because He loves us. When the test or trial arrives welcome it as a friend because it is producing in you a glory that will outweigh every trouble. Consider it pure joy because your heavenly father is testing you that you might be more like Christ, whom we love.