Monday, June 3, 2013

CLV - II Kings 20 - Hezekiah's Foolish Act

As previously stated, Hezekiah was an excellent king, following God's commandments more diligently than the kings before him.  His accomplishments were lofty and numerous.  He has gone down in History as one of the greatest kings, and he did it without a role model, as his father Ahaz was recorded as the most ungodly and destructive kings in Judah's History.  Hezekiah had a great mind and a Godly heart.  Hezekiah is at times compared to David, the gold standard.  But, like David, Hezekiah was not without faults.  We are going to take a close look at Hezekiah in this chapter.

Chapter 20   -  The timing in chapter 20 can be confusing.  The books of First and Second Kings are written in basic chronological order, but not strictly, as we've seen in earlier chapters.  The opening verse says "in those days", which refers back to the two earlier chapters.  The events in chapter 20 take place before the second attack by the Assyrians.  Hezekiah had fallen ill with an incurable affliction.  (We don't know exactly what affliction it was.)  The famous prophet Isaiah went to Hezekiah and told him what God said:  "Put your house in order, because you are going to die".  Hezekiah was awestruck by this news from God.  By telling him to "put your house in order" meant that Hezekiah didn't have much time left.  Hezekiah (vs 2-->) turned his face to the wall.  {Turning one's face to the wall was a gesture that symbolized the renunciation of the world, and turning to God only.}  He did the right thing upon hearing such terrible news.  It says he wept bitterly.  His prayer to God was sincere with a tone of desperation.  And the record of his prayer is brief.  Hezekiah's attitude during this prayer is thought provoking.  The first thing out of Hezekiah's mouth was a reminder to God how he "walked before God faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in His eyes".  Hezekiah respectfully made an appeal to God Almighty, presenting his case.  {This is a legitimate appeal.  There is nothing wrong with us appealing to God this way as long as we do not do as the Pharisees and compare ourselves with others.}  And look what happens in vss 4-6.  God changes His mind.  And He acted immediately.  Isaiah didn't even make it to the middle courtyard of the Temple before God stopped him and instructed him to go back to Hezekiah and tell him "I have heard your prayer and have seen your tears; I will heal you".  Imagine how relieved Hezekiah was.  Not only did God say he would heal him, but would deliver him from the hand of the Assyrians.  AND..... add fifteen years to Hezekiah's life.  Hezekiah went from only days to live, to fifteen years to live.  And let's not neglect the importance of God's promise to take care of the Assyrians for him.  The Assyrians were tyrannical people, having shown the military might that could easily conquer Jerusalem and all of Judah.  And the Assyrians were cruel victors in war.  They defeated Samaria and Israel and took into slavery all the Israelites that they did not torture and kill.  But God said to Hezekiah concerning the Assyrians:  "I got this.  Don't worry about them any more.  Worry about something else, because I got this one covered."  {Please readers:  Remember this passage.  God answers prayer and He is happy to take care of an evil source of one of your main problems.  And when He takes care of a problem, that problem is taken care of for good.  A few years ago, I needed to bring this passage to mind, but I was being so overwhelmed with the difficulties introduced by an evil faction, I didn't approach God with the right attitude.  I sit here today knowing that He had my back the whole time, and I didn't have sense enough to know it.  It would have make the world of difference.} In verses 8-11 Hezekiah wants Isaiah to provide him assurance.  Isaiah asked if Hezekiah wanted the sun to advance ten degrees or go back ten degrees.  Hezekiah knew it would be more amazing for the sun to reverse itself ten degrees to the east and that is exactly what happened.

Chapter 20:12-18  -  This passage tells of Hezekiah's foolish act.

{At this time, Assyria was the dominant world power and a cruel aggressor as they were expansion-minded.  In the south, Egypt was equal to Assyria in military and economic strength, but Egypt showed little interest in expansion, as their wealth of natural resources provided them with everything they needed.  But to the west there was a ruler who successfully resisted the Assyrian empire and ruled his people independently from Assyrian dominance or interference.  This ruler's name was Marduk-baladan and his people were the Babylonians.  These Babylonians were smart, patient, and knowledgeable of the steps necessary to build their own empire.  The Assyrians to the north and east didn't worry them a bit.  They were quietly building a mighty military and a powerful economy.  They were going to be a force to be reckoned with.}  This brings us to verse 12.  Marduk-baladan heard that Hezekiah was ill so he sent a delegation of government dignitaries to Jerusalem along with a letter and some gifts for King Hezekiah.  {Marduk-baladan was a smart politician.  This expression of concern was merely a gesture to secure a political ally for the future.}  These dignitaries bringing gifts from so far away flattered Hezekiah.  So he proceeded to "show off" a bit.  One thing led to another and by the time these guests departed, Hezekiah had shown them everything.  All treasures, gold, silver, weaponry, all warehouses with arsenals and various riches.  Hezekiah was of course expected to be cordial to these visitors, but not foolish.  Hezekiah was a bit over-anxious to establish friendly relations these Babylonians, but Babylon would soon become Judah's most bitter enemy.  Judah would become a target of Babylonian aggression, at least in part because of the treasures they now know were in Jerusalem.  {I want to take a brief moment to voice a warning about this:  Keep your business to yourself, especially anything pertaining to money or valuable possessions.  Such knowledge should be strictly reserved for family members, and only those who have reach adulthood.  This should be stubbornly adhered to, no matter how innocent a slip-of-tongue may seem or how uncomfortable it may seem in some circumstances to withhold information in casual conversation.}  Then the prophet Isaiah approached Hezekiah about this in vss 14-->.  Isaiah skillfully inquired of Hezekiah everything that had happened with the Babylonian delegation.  Isaiah knew this was a huge mistake, no matter where the foreigners were from.  Then in verse 16 Isaiah pronounced God's judgment on Hezekiah for this breach of confidentiality.  The Babylonians would one day carry all of the Israelites in Judah off to Babylon as slaves.  Hezekiah's descendants would become personal servants of the king of Babylon.  {Many years later, this prophecy was fulfilled.  Nebuchadnezzar led Babylon to the position of world dominance (605-562 BC).  In the process, Jehoiachin and Zedekiah (Judah's kings and Hezekiah's descendants) were deported to Babylon as slaves.}

Verse 19  -  I'm a respecter of Hezekiah.  I agree with the Historians that he was one of the truly great kings in the History of God's chosen people.  But I'm troubled by this verse.  Isaiah had just told Hezekiah a terrible prophecy about how Judah would be taken into slavery by the Babylonians because of Hezekiah's foolish act.  But it would happen sometime in the future, certainly more than fifteen years from this event, long after Hezekiah's death.  Hezekiah's response to Isaiah was "this is good.  there will be peace in my lifetime".  If I had been Hezekiah, I'm not sure exactly what I would have said, but I wouldn't said that.

Next post  -  Manasseh, the next king of Judah

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