Friday, March 29, 2019 -
King Hezekiah was a rarity in Judah. He was only one of eight kings who “did right in the sight of the Lord.” Hezekiah, unlike the majority of the kings who pleased the Lord, however, went a step further. “He remembered the high places and broke down the sacred pillars and cut down the Asherah. He also broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the sons of Israel burned incense to it; and it was called Nehusshton (a piece of bronze)” (II Kings 8:3-4).
You see, there was a caveat when giving an account of the other kings who “did right in the sight of the Lord.” Time after time Scripture says, “Only the high places were not taken away; the people still sacrificed and burned incense on the high places.” In other words, they allowed apostasy, incorporating elements from the law of Moses with pagan practices the people had conquered.
Because Hezekiah, unlike his predecessors, including Solomon, had the guts to get rid of these compromises of Satan, God said of him: “He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel; so that after him there was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor among those who were before him. For he clung to the Lord, he did not depart from following Him but kept His commandments, which the Lord had commanded Moses. And the Lord was with him; wherever he went he prospered. And he rebelled against the king of Assyria and did not save him” (II Kings 18:5-6). In II Chronicles 29-31, we see how King Hezekiah used his “bully pulpit” to call the nation and the people of Judah to repentance, beginning with the Levites, or priests. Proclamations went out to all the people to return to God, repent, and sacrifice to God for their sin and to destroy their idols.
But God, as He does with all of us, still tested Hezekiah. Israel had already fallen to the Assyrians and they’d been led away into captivity in Assyria. Now King Semmachrib of Assyria came up against Judah and began to seize its cities. In II Kings 18, where this account is documented, Hezekiah, instead of seeking the Lord whether to fight back, as his forefather David made a habit of doing, he capitulated and tried to appease the invading marauders with all the treasures in the temple of the Lord he had just established. Yet, this did not seem to work, and the Assyrians pressed the people hard to surrender themselves, while the Assyrians defamed the name of the Lord.
It was then Hezekiah turned to the Lord (II Kings 19:1), and the prophet Isaiah predicted the protection from the hand of the Lord. Hezekiah begged for God to intervene. The result: the angel of the Lord struck down 185,000 Assyrian soldiers as they slept (II Kings 19:35).
But the global praise for Hezekiah went to his head, and he apparently became prideful, and so the Lord struck him with an illness, and Isaiah predicted Hezekiah would die (II Kings 20:1). Once again, in desperation, Hezekiah turned to the Lord and pleaded to the Lord (II Kings 20:2-3), and God heard him and changed His mind, giving Hezekiah 15 more years. But Hezekiah asked for a sign from God, and God complied, miraculously reversing a shadow (II Kings 20:8-11).
God then blessed Hezekiah tremendously (II Chronicles 32:27-31), but once again, “God left him alone only to test him, that He might know all that was in his heart. And when envoys were sent from Babylon, Hezekiah became very proud of the wealth God supplied, and Hezekiah showed them everything, obviously being very prideful once again (II Kings 20:12-15). It was that time Isaiah predicted Judah’s downfall to Babylon, and the ravishing of the land and enslavement of Judah at the hands of the Babylonians (II Kings 20:17-18).
So while Hezekiah resisted the apostasy of “pluralism” of his day, and was successful in reversing it, to God’s great pleasure, he failed at two other tests each one of us – and especially those of us in leadership roles – must be very cautious to not fall into.
You see, Hezekiah was very successful in his role as a leader, both politically and spiritually. He did all of the things God set out for him to do. Yet what was his downfall?
His success, and the resulting blessings, or prosperity, resulted in pride. This was manifested in a number of ways. First, he trusted in his own understanding rather than asking God what His will was when certain trials and challenges came about. Secondly, he became very prideful and boastful of what he’d accomplished for God and the way God had blessed him.
And, while there is no evidence of this, I wonder if Hezekiah used the wealth and prosperity he was blessed with to help those who needed help. No indication is given, but we know we are commanded to do so.
So there are the lessons here for us in the 21st century:
First, we must, as Hezekiah did, confront the apostasy in our midst. Let us examine our hearts, our homes, and our churches and practices – anything under our authority – to determine if we have embraced habits, rituals, or practices which displease the Lord – that are not scriptural. Let us examine everything we do in the light of God’s Word!
Search your home to see if there be anything there that would provide an open door to evil spirits. I remember years ago when Kathie and I did this to our home. We discarded books and souvenirs acquired in pagan lands. I remember Kathie even discarding a silver bell she acquired in Nepal with Hindu markings.
If you are in church leadership, examine everything you do in your worship services and other practices in light of God’s Word – especially the New Testament church in Acts! I have written extensively on just this point in past journals. I suggest reading Letters to the Church by Francs Chan.
Secondly, are our homes filled with constant prayer, as the Apostle Paul admonishes? When we are faced with decisions, choices, problems, and trials, do we first turn to the Lord for guidance? Or are we merely content in our past successes and our own wisdom to guide us?
And this issue, as it was with Hezekiah, is strongly related to the third thing we must examine in our lives. This is particularly true of leaders with successful or large ministries. Have you become proud of the way God is using you? I have been around many, many leaders, and I sincerely believe pride becomes a problem with most – unless they make a concerted effort, with God’s help, to remain humble. But then, we can also easily become prideful in our humility! Pride is the ruin of so many leaders and Christians in America, for in our pride we often believe we can become invincible, or immune to falling into temptation. Jesus implored us to pray daily that we are led not into temptation. For the human heart is weak, and the prideful heart becomes even weaker. Don’t ever think you are beyond temptation! It is, for this reason, we are to flee evil – or even the appearance of evil. If you are a man, don’t ever put yourself in the position of being alone with a woman other than your wife, and vice versa. Why play with fire!? Thinking you won’t fall to temptation is a matter of pride! If you find you are proud after examining yourself, ask God through the power of the Holy Spirit to remove that spirit of pride. We mustn’t rely on our own abilities to counter any sin, or we will fail. Only when we recognize our own inabilities to overcome the temptation to sin and turn it over to God, asking Him to remove it, will we truly overcome any sin.
The sin of pride leads us to the last issue that Hezekiah’s account causes us to examine. That is the sin of complacency. We in the West have become very complacent in our lifestyle, and it is a complacency brought about by tremendous wealth. Even those considered poor among us are wealthy compared to the majority of the world’s population.
And with this complacency in our own situation, with our own little world, our sense of “ownership” becomes warped. Rather than be mere “stewards” of the wealth God entrusts to us, we become the “masters,” or “owners,” of anything under our control. This can be our own family’s resources or that of the institution or ministry we lead. Once we believe we “own” it, we become proud and perhaps even bragful, as was Hezekiah. However, God wants us to rather be the stewards of anything He puts under our purview. We are given what we have in order to use it to build up our Master’s kingdom, and unless we do so with not only our wealth but our talents, there is a grave price to pay. Jesus said we are “worthless slaves” and should be “cast into the outer darkness; in that place, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:30). Our souls will be required of us if we “layup treasures for ourselves, and are not rich toward God” (Luke 12:21). Instead, as evident in the next few verses in Luke 12, we are to be reliant on God for everything, and when there is a need, we should give of what God has entrusted to us to meet that need, and hence, “make for ourselves purses that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near, nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Luke 12:33-34).
My dad used to preach a sermon based on Luke 16, the main point being we must use the resources God has given us to “make friends for us in heaven.” We must recognize God has given us what we have to bring people into His kingdom. That is the sole reason He blesses us. And like Hezekiah, if we become prideful and hoard what He has blessed us with, there are grave consequences.
Apostasy, pride, self-reliance, and complacency – we see in Hezekiah’s account that God hates them all. So let’s examine our hearts.