Friday, June 3, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 114. King Hezekiah Of Judah, Part 12

Prophets And Kings
Day 114
King Hezekiah Of Judah
Part 12

Yesterday King Hezekiah was healed of a deadly illness and promised fifteen more years of life by the Lord. Today we learn that he became prideful during those fifteen years.

2 KINGS 20:12-21, 2 CHRONICLES 32:27-31
"At that time Marduk-Baladan son of Baladan king of Babylon sent Hezekiah letters and a gift, because he had heard of Hezekiah's illness." (2 Kings 20:12) Babylon knew what it felt like to be troubled by Assyria and the king probably felt friendship and sympathy toward Hezekiah after his ordeal with the Assyrians. King Sennacherib's father, King Shalmaneser of Assyria, had led a campaign against Marduk-Baladan in the past and temporarily took control of the region. He didn't put Marduk-Baladan to death but allowed him to return to his hometown. Later, Marduk-Baladan came back against Assyria with an army made up of men from his own tribe along with many allies from the Elamites. He was able to defeat Shalmaneser and reclaim the throne. After Shalmaneser's death his son Sennacherib tried to reclaim Babylon for Assyria but wasn't able to do so. During this time Marduk-Baladan encouraged the nations around him, including Judah, to rebel against paying tribute to Assyria. We know that King Hezekiah of Judah joined in this rebellion which is why Sennacherib sent his troops with the intent to destroy Jerusalem, a thing they were prevented from doing by divine intervention. It would appear Marduk-Baladan considered King Hezekiah his ally and friend.

"Hezekiah received the envoys and showed them all that was in his storehouses---the silver, the gold, the spices and the fine olive oil---his armory and everything found among his treasures. There was nothing in his palace or in all his kingdom that Hezekiah did not show them." (2 Kings 20:13) Hezekiah was pleased to have the powerful Babylonian king show him so much attention by sending men with letters and gifts. A number of Bible scholars believe this was a political move on the part of Marduk-Baladan. He was impressed that the Assyrian army had to turn back from Jerusalem without firing a single arrow. He had heard of the strange illness that overtook the Assyrian troops. He had heard that this miracle was credited to Hezekiah's God. Having Judah on his side against Assyria seemed advantageous to Marduk-Baladan. 

In his desire to impress these envoys and their king, Hezekiah failed to give God the credit for all his blessings. He was lifted up in pride because of all his possessions and accomplishments. The author of 2nd Chronicles tells us, "Hezekiah had very great wealth and honor, and he made treasuries for his silver and gold and for his precious stones, spices, shields and all kinds of valuables. He also made buildings to store the harvest of grain, new wine and olive oil; and he made stalls for various kinds of cattle, and pens for the flocks. He built villages and acquired great numbers of flocks and herds, for God had given him very great riches." (2 Chronicles 32:27-29) God blessed the reign of Hezekiah because of his faithfulness. This was how, in Old Testament times, God showed favor. The person who did what was right in God's eyes was blessed materially to show all those around him/her that God rewards those loyal to Him. It was especially needful to materially bless a godly king so that all the nation could see God was with the man who was faithful to Him. In our times we are promised the riches of spiritual blessings more so than material blessings. God may endow us with both but He doesn't promise us that. He promises to supply our needs (Philippians 4:19) and He promises to pour out the Holy Spirit on those who seek Him (Luke 11:13). 

The author of 2nd Chronicles goes on to say, "It was Hezekiah who blocked the upper outlet of the Gihon spring and channeled the water down to the west side of the City of David. But when envoys were sent by the rulers of Babylon to ask him about the miraculous sign that had occurred in the land, God left him to test him and to know everything that was in his heart." (2 Chronicles 32:30-31) We learn here why God is going to be displeased that Hezekiah shows all his worldly goods to the Babylonians. They came to find out about his healing and the miraculous sign of the sun which accompanied it. The Babylonians had a sun-god and were naturally interested in knowing whether their own god had a hand in Hezekiah's healing. This was an opportunity for Hezekiah to witness to them about the one true God, the God who had so prospered him, the God who had defended him against a powerful army, the God who had healed him of a deadly disease. But instead of lifting up and glorifying the name of the Lord, Hezekiah lifted up and glorified his own name. He bragged about his accomplishments and displayed his wealth to these men. 

The Lord sends a message to Hezekiah through the prophet Isaiah. "Then Isaiah the prophet went to King Hezekiah and asked, 'What did those men say, and where did they come from?' 'From a distant land,' Hezekiah replied. 'They came from Babylon.'" (2 Kings 20:14) I've always pictured Hezekiah saying this with a smile, proud that men would come from a distant land to see him, pleased that men from the powerful nation of Babylon brought him gifts.

"The prophet said, 'What did they see in your palace?' 'They saw everything in my palace,' Hezekiah said. 'There is nothing among my treasures that I did not show them.'" (2 Kings 20:15) He is still basking in the glory of having impressed the men from Babylon. 

Isaiah already knew exactly what had happened but wanted Hezekiah to admit it. He is giving Hezekiah an opportunity to speak the words aloud and realize he has been behaving in the wrong spirit, but it isn't working. Hezekiah is hugely pleased with himself. "Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, 'Hear the word of the Lord: The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your predecessors have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left, says the Lord. And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood who will be born to you, will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.'" (2 Kings 20:16-18) This prophecy will come true during the time of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, when he will overthrow and take captive the people of Judah.

It was foolish of Hezekiah to have shown the Babylonians his wealth. All this told them was that Judah was worth plundering. He should instead have shown them the word of God and the temple of God. He should have witnessed to them about the great revival that took place in Judah and how the nation did away with all the pagan idols and turned back to the Lord. He should have explained that the illness which came upon the Assyrian troops was the divine hand of God. He should have described how he was healed by the word of the Lord and that the sign of the sun going backwards was given to him as proof he would recover. But Hezekiah did none of these things. He glorified himself. Who knows what effect a real testimony might have had on these men? They would have gone back to Babylon to tell stories about the God of Judah. But now all they can tell their king is how wealthy Judah is. 

Hezekiah doesn't seem troubled by Isaiah's dire prophecy. "'The word of the Lord you have spoken is good,' Hezekiah replied. For he thought, 'Will there not be peace and security in my lifetime?'" (2 Kings 20:19) Because Isaiah said the Babylonian captivity would take place in the days of Hezekiah's descendants, he is unconcerned. He knows it won't happen in his lifetime and he's satisfied with that. We ought to care about leaving a better world for following generations. We ought to care about whether animal species go extinct and whether we pollute the air and the water. We may not reap the consequences in our lifetime but our descendants will have to deal with these problems.

"As for the other events of Hezekiah's reign, all his achievements and how he made the pool and tunnel by which he brought water into the city, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah? Hezekiah rested with his ancestors. And Manasseh his son succeeded him as king." (2 Kings 20:20-21) Manasseh is only twelve when he becomes king, so we know he was born after the Lord healed Hezekiah. Manasseh will be one of the most wicked kings Judah ever had and I think a clue to his wickedness can be found in Hezekiah's attitude during his last fifteen years of life. He was not the father he could have been prior to his illness. He had fallen away from the Lord and thought too highly of himself, as if he had gotten all this wealth without the help of the Lord. He set a bad example for his young son. Manasseh learned to honor the creature more than the Creator. 

I once heard a preacher say Hezekiah, and Judah by extension, would have been better off if he had perished from his illness. He wouldn't have fallen from grace. He wouldn't have fathered the wicked Manasseh. I think Hezekiah allowed God's miraculous healing to make him believe he was something really special. He believed God rescued him because God needed him or because God thought more highly of him than others. God healed Hezekiah because God is good, not because Hezekiah was a better man than all other men. God healed Hezekiah to show His power on behalf of Judah, not because He favored Hezekiah above other men. God healed Hezekiah as a sign to the people that He was also going to deliver them from Assyria. 

The Lord has done great things for me. He has delivered me from many evils and sad circumstances. But that's not because I'm anything; it's because He's good. It's because He's a good Father and faithful to His children. God blesses us because it's His nature to bless those who love Him. He even blesses those who don't love Him in order to lead them to repentance with kindness. (Romans 2:4) But every blessing of my life is to His glory alone. I'm nothing and He is everything. He doesn't owe me a thing. All my righteous acts are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6), unable to save me or impress a holy God. I owe Him the honor for my salvation and for every blessing He's given me.

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