In II Kings 18, we read of a king in Judah called Hezekiah. The scriptures tell us there was no one like him before or after him of those kings of Judah. In the first month of his reign, Hezekiah begins to restore Jehovah worship. He tears down idols and idolatrous places of worship. He stands up to overwhelming forces due to his steadfast faith in the Lord. What is it, though, that really made him such a great man? Why is it that the Bible tells us no king before or after him was greater?
Factors Working Against Him
It was not his father who made him great. His father Ahaz, recorded in II Kings 16, was very wicked. In II Kings 16, Ahaz engages in child sacrifice. He shuts up the temple of the Lord. He participates in excessive idolatry, and he leads the nation of Judah into those same practices. Hezekiah is not the product of his father. Still, remember II Timothy 1:5, Proverbs 3:1, and Ephesians 6:4. God does want us to set the proper examples for our children. He does care about the responsibilities of parenthood, but Ezekiel 18:20 reminds us that children can do well despite our parents. Hezekiah was great despite his upbringing.
Unfortunately, neither was Hezekiah great because of his family legacy. In II Kings 21, we read of Hezekiah’s son Manasseh, who rebuilds the idols, even placing alters to false gods in God’s temple. Manasseh restores child sacrifice to the land of Judah. Now Manasseh does repent in his old age, but his actions lead to deep personal loss on his own part. Hezekiah may have been a great king, but the legacy he left was far from great.
In II Kings 20, we see that pride does not make Hezekiah great while he shows off his great possessions to the Babylonian emissaries – people from that same nation that would eventually enslave Judah. Proverbs 16:18 reminds us that pride precedes a fall, and Hezekiah’s pride did not please his God.
Hezekiah’s Great Stature
Despite these things, we cannot discount II Kings 18:5.
…There was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him.
Why? Because he sought God’s word first. II Chronicles 31:20-21 tells it all.
Thus Hezekiah did throughout all Judah, and he did what was good and right and faithful before the LORD his God. And every work that he undertook in the service of the house of God and in accordance with the law and the commandments, seeking his God, he did with all his heart, and prospered.
He may not have been the leader the people wanted, but he was the leader they needed. He spoke out against, and removed, evil. II Kings 18:4 records him purging idolatry from the nation, even idolatry introduced by his own father. In II Chronicles 31, we can read the details of his restoration of true Jehovah worship in Judah – to the point of inviting their rival brethren from the northern kingdom of Israel to that worship.
Hezekiah sought to know and do God’s word. He sought to restore true worship in the land and purge all forms of evil from among his people. Finally, II Kings 18:5 tells us that Hezekiah trusted in the Lord. In II Kings 19:14, when Hezekiah receives an ultimatum from an unstoppable enemy, we see the king abandon self, go to the temple, spread the letter out on the floor of the temple, and prayed.
That the same could be said of us! Could God claim about you or me, “There was none like him/her,” in our efforts to follow God’s word, in keeping evil from our lives, and in trusting Him in all things. Nothing can keep us from that standard – our upbringing, our culture, our flaws. We can be like Hezekiah, setting our hearts to serve the Lord. We may never be great in the world’s eyes, but we can be good and faithful servants to our Lord, great in His eyes.
lesson by Tim Smelser