Friday, September 13, 2013

CLXXV - II Chronicles 29-32 - Hezekiah

Hezekiah was the son of Ahaz, whom we studied in the last post.  But one would never guess Hezekiah to be the son of one of the most wicked kings of Judah.  Hezekiah was indeed a Godly king.

Chapter 29  -  Hezekiah's Priorities Were Right

Hezekiah was a young man of twenty-five years when he assumed the throne of Judah.  Note in verse 3 that in the very first month as king he addressed the awful condition of the Temple of the Lord, and immediately took steps to correct it.  He did it in proper order, using the Levites to do mostly everything.  He had the doors repaired, then he ordered the Levites to consecrate themselves, then consecrate (purify and make holy) all parts of the Temple.  This involved removing all of the pagan worship items in the Temple, which evidently were many.  Hezekiah was quick to place the blame on his forefathers, especially his own father Ahaz.  But he was correct in placing the blame on his predecessors rather than on the Levites.  Although the Levites were not without guilt, they were under the authority of the king, who also had authority over the military.  Note in verse 17 that it took the Levites eight days to get to the portico of the Temple.  The entire Temple was filled with pagan worship idols and other paraphernalia that defiled God's Temple.  After the Levites had consecrated themselves and the Temple, Hezekiah did exactly as David and Solomon had done.  They celebrated the cleansing of the Temple with a great worship service, sacrificing so many animals that the Levite priests had to call on additional Levite members to assist them.  Hezekiah was off to a good start.

Chapter 30  -  The Passover

The season of Passover was upon them shortly after the consecration of the Temple.  So excited was Hezekiah about the Temple that he sent out a proclamation to all of Judah and Israel, including Ephraim and Manasseh which were east of the Jordan.  Take a moment to read the proclamation in verses 6-9.  Hezekiah did not mince his words.  He placed blame where it belonged, which would of course offend many citizens.  Those who were offended scorned the king's messengers who distributed the letters of proclamation.  But he was still successful, as people came to Jerusalem from all parts of Judah, Benjamin, Asher, Zebulun, Ephraim, and Issachar.  {This was a golden opportunity for Israel and Judah to reunite.  I'm sure this had crossed Hezekiah's mind, but he was pragmatic enough to know that this was a long shot.}  In verse 22 it says that "Hezekiah spoke encouragingly to all the Levites".  This speaks favorably of Hezekiah as a leader.  So jubilant was this Passover celebration that it was extended an additional seven days before all of the people returned to their homes.  The Scripture tells us in this chapter that there had not been a celebration of this magnitude since David and Solomon.

Chapter 31  -  Tithes and Offerings

Hezekiah's actions and leadership was successful, evidenced by the fact that the people began cleansing their own cities of the pagan idols and worship locations.  But Hezekiah went even further in his attempts to bring Judah back to the nation God had intended it to be.  The nation of Judah had abandoned all of God's commands, including tithing.  This was noticed by Hezekiah because the Levites were unable to fulfill their sacred obligations because they were tied up working to provide for their families.  Hezekiah told the people in Jerusalem to give what was due to the priests and to the Levites. So then the priests and the Levites could spend all their time in their work.  Hezekiah set the example by giving of his personal possessions.  All of the people responded generously.  So generously that storehouses needed to be built to accommodate the influx.  Now Hezekiah realized there was a need to organize the Levites.  It was established by David that the Levites and their families would be provided for by all of the other tribes through the Temple.  This was not limited to the Levites in Jerusalem.  It was to include the Levites in all of their assigned locations outside of Jerusalem.  This amounted to a lot of people, but if the food and provender was distributed properly, there would be plenty.  Verses 20-21 sums up Hezekiah thoroughly.  He was a good king, focused on what he perceived as the Lord's will.  And the last four words of this chapter:  "And so he prospered."

Chapter 32 - Assyria Invades Judah

In verses 1-23 we see that Sennacherib, king of Assyria, decides to invade Judah.  One reason for this was that Hezekiah would not continue to pay tribute to Assyria as Ahaz had started.  {This tribute was a tax for existing.  The Assyrians offered nothing in return.  Much like the Romans taxed the citizens of their colonies in the time of Jesus.}  Sennacherib had a powerful army and was conquering one territory after another without any serious resistance.  He had become drunk with power due to his military successes, and considered himself and his army to be indestructible.  But he had his sights on Jerusalem.  He knew of their growing wealth.  At the time of this passage, Sennacherib had already gained control over most of Israel and Judah.  Hezekiah was aware of Sennacherib's intentions and took steps to prepare for the invasion.  He cut off the water supply to Jerusalem and rebuilt broken sections of the wall which surrounded Jerusalem.  But Hezekiah realized how strong Sennechrib's military was.  While Hezekiah was making all of these preparations to defend the city, Sennecherib was gathering his forces to surround and invade Jerusalem.  But Sennecherib made a major mistake.  Check out the letter he sent to Hezekiah and all of the citizens of Jerusalem in verses 10-16.  You'll notice that Sennecherib belittled God and Hezekiah's dependence on God.  He cites his conquests over all of the gods of other territories.  {I guess Sennacherib wanted to take Jerusalem without any bloodshed.  His plea was for surrender.}  Now in verse 20 we see a familiar name: The great prophet Isaiah.  He and king Hezekiah prayed together, asking God for deliverance.  That night the Lord sent an angel {one angel} to annihilate the entire Assyrian army that was camped near Jerusalem.  {Research tells me there were about 180,000 Assyrian soldiers that were killed that night by only one angel.  I told you earlier about these angels.  We will be seeing more on these magnificent creatures as we continue our study.  Your view of angels will change somewhat, but it will become more realistic.  It took only one to kill 180,000 soldiers in just a few hours, and do we realize how many angels there are?}  So Sennecherib wasn't so tough after all.  He returned to Damascus in disgrace.  So disgraced was he that his own sons killed him inside one of their pagan temples.  In verses 22-23 we find that after the defeat of Sennacherib, other nations feared the God of Judah.  Not only did other nations dare not invade Judah, they actually sent
gifts to Hezekiah, hoping to find favor with him.

Verses 24-33

Hezekiah became sick and he almost died. But he prayed and the Lord sent Isaiah to him. Isaiah told him that the Lord also give to him another 15 years. Hezekiah asked for a sign to prove God would do it. This is when God made the shadows to go back 10 steps (2 Kings 20:1-10).  In verse 25 we see that Hezekiah became proud and his attitude toward God had shown signs of disrespect.  God showed His wrath on Hezekiah and all of Judah.  Hezekiah then came to his senses and repented, reentering the grace of God.

Verses 27-29  -  After the defeat of Sennacherib, Hezekiah became famous among the nations. Also, he became wealthy.  He again became proud for many reasons, none of which were his own doing.  God's hand was in all of it.  But as we studied in II Kings, Hezekiah got too proud.  When Babylon sent ambassadors to Jerusalem, Hezekieah showed them all of his wealth, including the riches inside the Temple.  {This would come back to haunt Judah later.  It would be these same Babylonians that will come and not only take the riches he showed them, but will also take the entire nation captive.}  But God kept His promise to Hezekiah.  He gave him the fifteen years, and protected Judah from its enemies as long as Hezekiah was alive.  We will learn even more about Hezekiah when we study the book of Isaiah.  All in all, Hezekiah was a good king.  He was God-fearing and made tremendous strides in bringing his nation to the Lord.  He died in 687 BC.  His son Manasseh would take the throne of Judah.

Next Post  -  Finishing Chronicles

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