Greetings in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Who can fathom the Spiritd of the Lord,
or instruct the Lord as his counselor? (Isaiah 40:13)
Hezekiah son of Ahaz became king when he was twenty-five years old, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years. He did what was pleasing in the LORD’s sight, just as his ancestor David had done. He removed the pagan shrines, smashed the sacred pillars, and cut down the Asherah poles. King Hezekiah eliminated foreign false gods and idols. He even broke up the bronze serpent that Moses had made, through which the Israelites were saved. Following God’s instruction, Moses made the bronze serpent, and whoever looked at the bronze serpent was healed from a bite by a fiery serpent. The bronze serpent was a just instrument of God, but the people of Israel, after the event, worshipped and offered sacrifices to it. No king made clear that worshiping anything, even the bronze serpent that was used as God’s instrument, was an idolatry before God. King Hezekiah made an issue, and destroyed it. He was truly upright before God, and he led his people through the paths of righteousness.
King Hezekiah trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before or after his time (2 Kings 5:18).
He remained faithful to the LORD in everything, and he carefully obeyed all the commands the LORD had given Moses. So the LORD was with him, and Hezekiah was successful in everything he did. He revolted against the king of Assyria and refused to pay him tribute. He also conquered the Philistines as far distant as Gaza and its territory, from their smallest outpost to their largest walled city.
As we usually expect: if we are upright before God, then God will make everything go well, for King Hezekiah, everything went well. His kingdom was growing and strengthened. His people were in peace and prosperity. However, this prosperity did not continue forever. God had a greater plan for Hezekiah and his people.
In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah’s reign, King Sennacherib of Assyria came to attack the fortified towns of Judah and conquered them. King Hezekiah found there is no other way except accepting his defeat. The Assyrian army was so huge and strong that he could not fight against them.
King Hezekiah, although he was truly faithful to God, could not see God before the eminent threat of the huge Assyrian army because his eyes were fixated to his enemy. Then he used all of his own wisdoms. His conclusion was to negotiate with the invading Assyrian army.
King Hezekiah sent this message to the king of Assyria at Lachish: “I have done wrong. I will pay whatever tribute money you demand if you will only withdraw.” (2 Kings 18:14a) The king of Assyria then demanded a settlement of more than eleven tons of silver and one ton of gold. It was really enormous amount of silver and gold. Even so, King Hezekiah did not have a choice. He accepted the huge demand – eleven tons of silver and one ton of gold. Of course, King Hezekiah did not have such a huge amount of silver and gold.
King Hezekiah was faithful to the LORD in everything, and he carefully obeyed all the commands the LORD had given Moses. However, when he actually met a real challenge, he could not stand firm and strong in God. He gave in and feared what was seen by his own eyes – the mighty Assyrian army.
To gather this amount, King Hezekiah used all the silver stored in the Temple of the LORD and in the palace treasury. However, he could not collect enough silver and gold to meet the demand. Hezekiah even stripped the gold from the doors of the LORD’s Temple and from the doorposts he had overlaid with gold. King Hezekiah’s heart was really saddened. He remembered what he did – destroying the foreign idols and shrines in the name of God. Now, he was destroying God’s temple by his own hand. For him, God was the one. Except God, there was none. He lived for God, which was his entire life. What a disgrace to King Hezekiah – the king, who was known to be the best king. “There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before or after his time.” (2 Kings 18:5b)
King Hezekiah, then, gave it all to the Assyrian king. He thought that the Assyrian king would let him and his people alone. No, it was not the case! After receiving the huge amount of gold and silver, the heart of the king of Assyria was not soften toward Hezekiah and his people. Instead his heart became even more hardened. The king of Assyria sent his commander in chief, his field commander, and his chief of staff from Lachish with a huge army to confront King Hezekiah in Jerusalem. This response was a huge surprise to Hezekiah. All of his hope of regaining peace by doing whatever it took — being humiliated, begging, and even stripping off the gold from the God’s temple, which was the most hateful thing that he had ever done in his life.
For this time, the Assyrians even came to Jerusalem. They took up a position beside the aqueduct that feeds water into the upper pool, near the road leading to the field where cloth is washed. The entire people in Jerusalem knew what’s going on. The commander of the Assyrian army summoned King Hezekiah, but he had no strength even to stand up. He called his officials to respond this disastrous situation. Then he sent his officials to the commander of Assyrian army.
Then the Assyrian king’s chief of staff told them to give this message to Hezekiah:
“This is what the great king of Assyria says: What are you trusting in that makes you so confident? Do you think that mere words can substitute for military skill and strength? Who are you counting on, that you have rebelled against me? On Egypt? If you lean on Egypt, it will be like a reed that splinters beneath your weight and pierces your hand. Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, is completely unreliable!
“But perhaps you will say to me, ‘We are trusting in the LORD our God!’ But isn’t he the one who was insulted by Hezekiah? Didn’t Hezekiah tear down his shrines and altars and make everyone in Judah and Jerusalem worship only at the altar here in Jerusalem?
“I’ll tell you what! Strike a bargain with my master, the king of Assyria. I will give you 2,000 horses if you can find that many men to ride on them! With your tiny army, how can you think of challenging even the weakest contingent of my master’s troops, even with the help of Egypt’s chariots and charioteers? What’s more, do you think we have invaded your land without the LORD’s direction? The LORD himself told us, ‘Attack this land and destroy it!’”
The message from the Assyrian king was
“There is none on earth that would be able to save Hezekiah from the Assyrian king.”
“Even your God could not save from me.”
“Hezekiah, you are nothing and you can do nothing even I give you 2,000 horse.”
“Finally, my invasion is not my own will, but God told me to attack and destroy you.”
Why had the most faithful king ever gone to this miserable state? He and his people were humiliated, and even God was mocked. The Assyrian army even justified what they did by telling ”God himself told us, ‘Attack this land and destroy it!’”
Perhaps some of us might have experienced the same pain and humiliation of Hezekiah even though doing always right things before God, and keeping all things that God commands. Despite of our faithfulness, suddenly a disaster stoke us. Then how did we respond? Like Hezekiah, have we focused on the disaster, and made every effort to make a solution? What was the result? Have our clever solution worked out? Many of us already know the answer by experience. Like the case of Hezekiah, the clever solution of ours made the situation even worse.
Why? Please step back and see carefully what Hezekiah did. He made up the cleverest solution by himself, and to follow his solution, he even compromised the most precious one – the God’s temple. Before the disaster, Hezekiah lived for God, and he did everything right before God. However, when a real disaster came to his own life, he did not rely on himself. Then who was the real god for Hezekiah – himself or God?
How come Hezekiah, the most faithful king ever, did not directly go to God when the insurmountable challenge came into his life? This clearly explains about his true relationship with God. How about us? Are we faithful to God? Also known to be a person of faith? Then it is time to examine our faith, whether we truly trust in Him or not.
God truly loved Hezekiah because he was faithful. God gave him an opportunity test and prove his faith before God. He completely failed. God did not let him alone, of course. The disaster with which Hezekiah confronted, and his skew up before God were God’s way to make him spiritually grow in Him so that he could possess a fully mature faith in Him. In the next week, we will see how God made him mature in faith. Yes, God is love. Sometimes God exposes our weakness through a life challenge. Then God guides us in the paths of righteousness — mature and strong in Him. This is our faith growing in His love.
He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. (Psalm 23:3)
And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:4)