Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord.
2 Kings 19:14 (NIV)
The author(s) of Kings and Chronicles record the reigns of the 39 monarchs of the divided kingdom. There were 19 kings of Israel and they are all listed as having been evil in the sight of the Lord because of their idolatry and accompanying practices such as sacrificing their own children. Of the 20 kings of Judah, only eight were recorded to have done right in the eyes of the Lord. That leaves the tally of those who did evil at 31, and those who did right at 8. I can’t help but think of Jesus’ words describing the path to life being a narrow road and few following it, while the highway to destruction is pretty much a busy interstate.
The story of Judah’s King Hezekiah is one of the most intriguing and inspiring of all the kings of Israel and Judah. In fact, the author of Kings calls him the undisputed leader of the “Right Eight.” His story is made all the more intriguing due to the fact that the miraculous fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy and the decimation of Assyria’s besieging army in today’s chapter are historical facts, as is Isaiah’s prophetic description of the King of Assyria’s patricidal assassination and the ascension of his younger son to the throne.
So what was it that made Hezekiah a leader of the “Right Eight?”
The first clue I have is from the previous chapter. While some of the other members of the “Right Eight” had rather lenient policies regarding those in Judah who wanted to follow the evil practices of the regional pagan deities and cults, Hezekiah refused to allow the evil practices to officially continue in the nation under this leadership.
The second clue is also from yesterday’s chapter in which it states that Hezekiah “held fast” to his faith and trust in God. There was whole-hearted loyalty that never waned during his nearly 30-year reign.
In today’s chapter, I noticed my third clue in two separate very scary moments. I think about the scary moments of my life like losing a job, having my hotel room burgled, finding out a loved one has cancer or getting the call that our company was losing our biggest client. These things can’t compare to the terror Hezekiah is experiencing in today’s chapter.
The Assyrian Empire was incredibly successful at destroying other kingdoms, incredibly nasty at what they did to their victims, and was on a very long undefeated streak. The fact that they had surrounded Jerusalem was not good news. Hezekiah had every reason to be terrified. He and his people were facing the prospect of being starved to the point of cannibalizing their dead friends and relatives, the city eventually being burned, slavery, exile, rape, cruel and unusual forms of murder, and citizens dismembered and their body parts piled up outside the city gates to let everyone know the Assyrians had been there.
After the first smack-talking parley from the Assyrian commanders, Hezekiah immediately goes to the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah was God’s mouthpiece and Hezekiah desperately wanted to hear from God.
After receiving a subsequent threatening letter from the Assyrians, Hezekiah “went up to the temple and spread it out before the Lord.”
In both of these instances, Hezekiah’s first reaction to a crisis was to go right to God. It reminded me so much of “The Chain Reaction of Praise” that I’ve written about on multiple occasions. One of the first things the author of Kings says about Hezekiah in yesterday’s chapter is that he “trusted” the Lord God of Israel. His actions in today’s chapter are evidence of this fact.
My “one word” for 2023 is “trust,” and in the quiet this morning I can’t help but feel as though Hezekiah is a prescribed example for me to contemplate and emulate. When I consider the circumstances terrifying me and compare them to those from which God delivered Hezekiah, I can’t help but realize that God’s provision for my needs is an easy thing.
NOTE: Wendy and I are going somewhere warm for a week. I’ll be back to finish up the chapter-a-day journey through 2 Kings on Feb 12. In the meantime, if you’d like a fix for the next six weekdays just choose one of these links: Galatians, Ephesians, or 1 Timothy. Each has six chapters and the linked index page will then link you to each chapter’s post in one convenient place.
If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.