2 CHRONICLES 29, 30 and 31
Hezekiah is the person in the Bible who really should have had a book named after him!
Born of a terrible father, King Ahaz, and born during the reign of the last king of Northern Israel, the pagan King Hoshea, Hezekiah might have been excused for making a complete mess of his own life. But he never blamed his upbringing, he never settled for missing God’s best plans for his life by burying himself in self-pity; he resolved to be as good a king as it was possible to be – and as faithful a servant of the Lord as any human could be. He is a great example of the grace and sovereignty of the Lord in choosing a young man and shaping him into a great king, full of faith and completely submitted and obedient. We underestimate the sovereignty of the Lord most of the time; we place too much emphasis on our faith – as though it were something that we were able to generate or ‘work up’ – and ignore the operation of the Holy Spirit in ‘birthing’ faith into our hearts at times of his choosing. (See Ephesians 2:8.)
A reminder that back in the first 8 verses of 2 Kings 18 we read a summary what Hezekiah did during his 29-year reign. “He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father David had done”. What an accolade! Notice how his ‘father’ was described as King David, not Kind Ahaz. This was because he followed the ways of David, rather than Ahaz and was forced to reject his natural father’s example in life. A challenge to fathers today: are we still the best example or ‘model’ for our sons and daughters? Do they still feel provoked to emulate our faith, our obedience to the Lord, our power in the Holy Spirit, our acts of loving kindness, and our vision? Or have they been forced to move on, to move out, and to move beyond our tired manifestation of the Christian faith, to someone whose lead they can follow!
The bronze snake that Moses had made (Numbers 21:8-9) was now being worshipped as an idol by the people of Judah. This object was called ‘Nehushtan’ which, translated, means ‘bronze snake’. It is so easy to take something that God has originally made for good, and to turn it into something that is a barrier between us and God. For us, this could mean people, aids to worship, the Bible itself, faith, church meetings, cancelling church meetings, prayer rooms, wonderful works of art and literature, or retirement. Just don’t let them get in the way of your actual relationship with the Lord.
The most telling commendation of Hezekiah is in 2 Kings 18 verses 5-7: “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”. The same kind of thing was said of Josiah too, but perhaps the emphasis was on Hezekiah’s unique trust in the Lord, rather than in his observance of the Mosaic Law. The take-home message is that holding fast to the Lord in trust, makes you successful in all that you do.
2 Chronicles 29, 30, and 31 tell us in much more detail what he did and why. The temple had been abandoned totally during Ahaz’s reign and so Hezekiah had it opened and purified by removing all the objects of false religion that had been accumulated in it over the centuries. For us, repentance means roughly the same thing in terms of our hearts; things are made pure by removing what is not meant to be there! The first task – as always – was to find the right people for the job. And these people had to purify themselves before they could sort out God’s house. What a metaphor today for Christian believers and God’s church!
Then they gathered and used blood sacrifices for forgiveness and re-dedication. For us, only the blood of Christ will do! Then they set up a regular cycle of worship, praise and public celebration that had been missing for so long. In fact, Hezekiah was so diligent that he re-instated levels of worship and holiness that had been missing since Solomon’s time. He then engaged in a missional activity to encourage the remnant of Israelites living in the north to relocate and repent, rejoining the God-fearing community. One of our tasks as committed believers (if indeed we are) is to encourage and pray for those who have backslidden to return to their true faith and to practise it again. Hezekiah also opposed the remnants of idol-worship within his community, smashing false altars and cutting down Asherah poles to the nothing-gods of Canaan.
Finally, Judah reinstated the discipline of righteous tithing and giving of freewill offerings amongst God’s people, in order to maintain the work of the temple and to provoke a blessing from the Lord on each and every one of them. Money is an important part of the Christian faith and the New Testament church realised quickly that the willing donation of money brought prosperity to both recipient and giver – whilst the withholding of that brought poverty and division. If we are finding that our financial situation is worsening for no obvious reason, then we need to reflect on passages like this (and Malachi 3:6-12) and consider whether we have ‘taken our foot off the gas’ so far as righteous giving is concerned. It is evident from my reading of the scriptures that righteous people do not simply give money because they see a need that they are attracted to, but they give because they want to honour the Lord who has blessed them so richly. To deny God our financial offerings is to rob him – and no-one ever prospers then!
“In all that Hezekiah undertook… he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. And so he prospered.” (2 Chronicles 31:21.)