HEZEKIAH THE REFORMING KING OF JUDAH
Bible reading: 2 Kings 18: 1-8
In the third year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, Hezekiah son of Ahaz king of Judah began to reign. He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years. His mother’s name was Abijah (or Abi) daughter of Zechariah (NOTE: unusual to mention the mother). He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, just as his father David had done. He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it. (It was called Nehushtan… which sounds similar to the Hebrew words for ‘bronze snake’)
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. He rebelled against the king of Assyria and did not serve him. From watchtower to fortified city, he defeated the Philistines, as far as Gaza and its territory.
Are you a Royalist? Would you fight for the King or for Cromwell (‘the Republic’)?
- If you were king/queen and could put right something that you consider to be wrong about our laws and conduct, what would you choose?
- In this study, we examine the life story of one king who decided that he wanted to put right lots of things that were wrong
KINGS OF ISRAEL
Saul was the first king of Israel…
- The people said that they wanted a king so that they would be like all the other nations (How sad to be led by godless people.)
- God warned them that it was not the best way but to no avail
- Saul started well as king but ended badly… it was a trend that would be reflected in the lives of a number of future kings of Israel
Years later, there was almost Civil War and a separation of north and south
- Jeroboam became king of the northern territories (‘Israel’)
- Rehoboam became king of the southern territories (‘Judah’)
Generally, Judah was faithful to God… Israel was not
- So Israel was taken into captivity first because God was no longer fighting for them
- This is true for us, too… if we try to ‘go it alone’ without the protection and wisdom from God’s Spirit, we have little defence against the wiles of Satan to snare and trip us up
JUDAH HAD TWO REFORMING KINGS… Hezekiah and Josiah
- Hezekiah has been described as a reforming king (the ‘reformer’)
- Whereas Josiah has been described as a transforming king (the ‘transformer’)
- His grandfather was called Jotham, who “did what was right in the sight of the Lord” but failed to cleanse the land of its idolatrous practices
- His father was called Ahaz, who was a very poor example to him …he sacrificed some of his children to the god, Molech… and angered God by many of his actions…
- Quite a number of the people were taken captive from the land during Ahaz’s “sixteen wretched years as king”
- His mother was called Abijah… we can only assume that she must have had a quiet but powerful influence on Hezekiah’s life
What influence are you having on your grandchildren?
- You might say “not much”… but don’t you believe it!
- They may not seem to respond… but they are constantly evaluating and taking note of your words and actions
- Are you providing a good role model for your children?
I had a police officer friend who became depressed because when he took young people home after they’d been in trouble, the parents, especially fathers, would often disown them. How desperately sad.
You are probably the greatest influence in your children’s lives… If you fail them, they are likely to fail in life, too
- Though hopefully, I am an exception to that rule, as my own mother deserted me when I was young.
There are many chapters in the Bible devoted to the life of Hezekiah and the early verses of 2 Kings 18 (and 2 Chronicles 29) give us important insights into his character…
- In verse 3… “Hezekiah did what was right in the eyes of the Lord”
- In verse 4… “Hezekiah removed high places; smashed the sacred stones; cut down the Asherah poles; and broke the bronze snake into pieces”
Unlike his father, he was decisive and wholehearted…
- Like Hezekiah, our concern should be to do what pleases God… not to do what is popular, trendy, noble, community-spirited or anything else
And sometimes we have to risk being misunderstood… and break our ‘bronze snake’ into pieces
- In fact, we need to discard anything that was once a blessing but has now become a burden… including old ways of doing things that hinder the Gospel
- Traditions are often useful in helping to focus our attention on key aspects of spiritual life and worship…but only if they allow the Holy Spirit to move freely among us and through us to extend His Kingdom… If not, they become a barrier rather than a blessing.
Hezekiah carried out four other key reforms…
- In 2 Chronicles 29:3 we read that ”Hezekiah opened the Temple door and cleared it from idolatory and uncleanness”
- Something his father had singularly failed to do
- For judgement begins at the house of God, so we need to get it in order
How can we expect people to come to faith in Christ if our lives are not a positive testimony?
- In 2 Chronicles 32:5… “He created towers in the city walls and repaired broken parts of the wall”
- “Beware lest a strong man should break in and subdue you”
- We are in a spiritual war… we need a strong wall around us of prayer, fellowship, the Word of God and the indwelling Spirit
- In 2 Chronicles 32:29… “He built villages and acquired large flocks and herds”
- It’s good to believe that belonging to Christ brings eternal security… but that includes now… today!
- We speak of the ‘hereafter’ but can be guilty of emphasising the ‘after’ and neglecting the ‘here’
- In 2 Chronicles 32:30… “He developed a better water supply for the city”
- One of the great works that Christian charities are doing is to create access to clean water
- Little wonder that Jesus used the analogy of water to describe himself… “I am the water of life”
- We have a responsibility to care for the needy… but also to introduce them to spiritual truth… Jesus Christ, THE TRUTH
DID EVERYTHING GO SMOOTHLY FOR HEZEKIAH because he was faithful to God?
- Definitely not!
- He was constantly being harassed by foreign invaders
- The powerful King of the Assyrians was one such enemy
But he was usually wise in seeking advice…
- Not from his pals or a soothsayer or fortune-teller or hairdresser!
- He went to see the man of God, Isaiah, the prophet
And when things were getting really serious, he leaned even harder on God…
- He still felt fear… he was pretty desperate… the situation looked hopeless
- But he believed God and God sorted things out in an amazing way
- Hezekiah even spread out a threatening letter from the enemy before the Lord… giving the problem over to Him
And God honoured Hezekiah’s trust in Him
To whom do you and I turn when we need advice and counsel?
- Sometimes we rely on our ‘spiritual instincts’, sharpened over the years
- Sometimes we know what is right but choose to do something different
- Sometimes we just try harder and harder… and get nowhere!
So was Hezekiah was the perfect example of someone who trusted God through every circumstance and exercised wisdom and sound judgement?
Fortunately, no! So we can sigh with relief… Hezekiah was fallible, just as we are…
- When told that he would die from an illness, he wept and begged for more time… and God granted him 15 additional years… during which time, Manasseh was born, who was an ungodly man for most of his life
And in 2 Kings 18: 13,14 we find that Hezekiah trusted godless men when he should have separated himself from them
- He was too trusting… and showed them all his treasures
We need to be wise as serpents, as well as innocent as doves!
- When the king is chastened by Isaiah, he shows a further character feature… a desire for a quiet life!
- We read in Chapter 20:19 that he realises that his actions will bring trouble in the future but thinks to himself: “At least it won’t be in my lifetime!”
Is it possible that you and I develop such a mentality?
- “They can do what they like when I’m gone…just keep things the same while I’m here”
I don’t want to be unfair… we can’t do at 76 what we did at 26…
- As we grow older, we don’t want great upheaval or sudden change
- We don’t want to lose the things that have become precious to us over many years
But we need to be careful that in protecting what we possess, we don’t lose what we might gain
- The Bible states clearly that the love of possessions is the root of every kind of evil
- It includes those things that we see as ours by right in church life
And even if we can’t accommodate modern ideas and practices…
- We never ‘retire from active service’
Was it not General Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, who coined the expression: “Better to wear out than rust out”?
Hezekiah achieved a lot in his fairly short life (he died in his mid-50s)
- He teaches us a lot about being decisive and combating evil
- About caring for others and taking our responsibilities seriously
- About trusting God in difficult circumstances
But he was no Super-Hero!
- He made mistakes
- He was often scared… of death and of his enemies
- He was too trusting of those who were the enemies of God
But we read that he was one of the greatest kings of Judah… not a bad testimony!
- Queen Victoria once said that she wanted to lay her crown at Jesus’ feet
- When Eric Liddell (‘Chariots of Fire’) died in occupied China at the end of the 2nd World War, it is said that “all Scotland mourned”
SO WHAT ABOUT YOU AND ME? What legacy will we leave… what legacy are we building right now?
“Hezekiah did what was right in the eyes of the Lord…”
May that be our legacy, too!