Good King Hezekiah

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.

Conclusion

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

A Bad Case of Pride

Selfishness or pride is really at the center of our problems with following God’s word as we should. In our previous lesson, we looked at how being spiritually mature involves putting others first. Regarding pride, Proverbs 16:18 warns us that it leads to self-destruction, and I Peter 5:5 says that God resists the proud. Certainly, none of us want to set ourselves up for failure or put anything between ourselves and God, so we should be careful not to let our pride get in our ways.

The Example of Sennacherib

In Isaiah 10:12-14, God claims He will punish the king of Assyrian for the pride he demonstrates – taking credit for all his great deeds without recognizing God’s place, and, in II Kings 18, Jerusalem is laid siege by Sennacherib’s forces, and the commander of Assyria’s forces try to persuade the people to reject their trust in God, for He is powerless against Assyria. In II Kings 19, beginning in verse 35, the angel of the Lord slays all of Sennacherib’s forces after Hezekiah prays to God, and the king retreats.

We can see ourselves in the pride this king demonstrates, and Sennacherib does get something right in this ordeal. In II Kings 18:19-21 the king’s commander ridicules Israel’s government for making an alliance with Egypt, saying that Pharaoh is unreliable, a broken reed that will come back and stab Hezekiah in the hand. However, he did not count on Hezekiah’s reliance on God.

Our Broken Reeds

Like many of Israel’s rulers, we can put our trust in the wrong places, which can give out on us. Here are a few examples.

  • Wealth. In I Timothy 6:17, Paul reminds us not to put trust in our possessions, for wealth is uncertain. Matthew 6:19 records Jesus warning us from prioritizing hoarding money in this life. Wealth is transitory and temporary. It will eventually fail us, but God will always be there for us.
  • Our Wisdom. Jeremiah 10:23 records the prophet praying for direction in his steps. We rely on ourselves for solutions and guidance. Proverbs 3:5 reminds us to lean on Jehovah and to trust him rather than our own perception of understanding, and Proverbs 29:23 returns us to the idea of fault in pride.
  • Traditions. Traditions are not, in and of themselves, inherently evil. Mark 7:6 begins an example where the spiritual leaders in Jerusalem let traditions usurp scripture. Trusting in “the way it’s always been” can be unreliable because our comfortable habits may contradict what God intends.
  • Our Conscience. Jeremiah 17:9 says the heart can be deceitful, and Galatians 2:20 records Paul speaking of crucifying self after so many years of trusting his conscience in tormenting Christians. Now, in this verse, he has given his heart to Christ, putting Him first. Our heart may provide us with standards of living, but those standards should be measured against God’s word.

Conclusion

In John 17:17, Jesus calls God’s word truth. In our example of Sennacherib, Hezekiah threw his entire trust upon God, and he was delivered. James 4:10 tells us that those who humble themselves before God to be lifted, and I Peter 5:6 tells us to cast our anxieties on Him. Finally, Proverbs 11:2 says that humility brings wisdom. We may not be able to trust in the things of this world, but we can trust God if we release our pride and embrace humility.

lesson by Tim Smelser