John Bennett, Pinxton, Nottingham [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
If we were to consider which two kings stood out as the most notable in the history of Judah, following the division of the kingdom in the days of Rehoboam, surely Hezekiah and Josiah would be amongst those mentioned. These were two kings in whose days unparalleled spiritual revival took place. Some of the features and practical lessons we might learn from revival under Hezekiah are the subject of this article.
The importance of examining the context of any passage in order to find the key to its interpretation or understanding should be stressed. In doing this we find that one of the things that makes Hezekiah’s reign the more remarkable is the background in which it is set.
Hezekiah was the son of Ahaz. The reign of Ahaz was hardly a favourable start for his son. There was:
- His Disobedience – ‘He did not that which was right in the sight of the Lord’, 2 Chr. 28. 1;
- His Idolatry – ‘He sacrificed also and burnt incense in the high places, and on the hills’, 2 Chr. 28. 4; ‘he sacrificed unto the gods of Damascus, which smote him’, 2 Chr. 28. 23;
- His Influence – ‘The king of Israel who smote him with a great slaughter’, v. 5, and ‘they had forsaken the Lord God of their fathers’, 2 Chr. 28. 6; ‘they were the ruin of him and of all Israel’, v. 23;
- His Sin - ‘He made Judah naked, and transgressed sore against the Lord’, 2 Chr. 28. 19; ‘provoked to anger the Lord God of his fathers’, v. 25;
- His Stubbornness - ‘In the time of his distress did he trespass yet more against the Lord’, 2 Chr. 28. 22.
What a sad catalogue of spiritual and social decline was the history of the life of King Ahaz!
Is it not the more remarkable, then, to see Hezekiah emerge from that background of sin and spiritual darkness? How could Hezekiah’s obvious faith survive in a nation wholly given to idolatry? How could Hezekiah swim against the tide of open opposition to God and the stubborn pursuit of sin and wickedness?
In our day, we too look out on a world that is marked by moral pollution, spiritual wickedness and the stubborn pursuit of sin. Well might we ask ourselves, ‘How can I survive in this environment?’ Thankfully we can take encouragement from the life of Hezekiah and seek to live for God. Hezekiah’s very name means, ‘Jehovah will strengthen’, and he lived to prove it.
There is a clue to the identity of the one person who might well have been the instrument God used to preserve the young man Hezekiah. We read in 2 Chronicles 29. 1, ‘And his mother’s name was Abijah, the daughter of Zechariah’. It is difficult to trace whom the Zechariah mentioned may have been, but it is clear that his daughter fulfilled her role as a mother in preserving her son for the work the Lord intended he should later accomplish. His father Ahaz was certainly a man of great wickedness, but God had Abijah in the right place to preserve spiritually this young child who would later become a leader of God’s people. Are there not parallels here with the experience of Moses? Pharaoh might have plans to kill all the males of the children of Israel but God had a godly woman in place for the very purpose of preserving the man who would later lead His people. We can thank God for those who were there as the fathers and mothers that watched prayerfully over our early spiritual progress and coveted us for God.
‘Hezekiah began to reign when he was five and twenty years old’, 2 Chr. 29. 1. It is notable that in the lives of Hezekiah and Josiah they both came to the throne as young men. In Hezekiah’s case he was twenty-five and in Josiah’s he was only eight years old.
It would have been easy to look out upon a kingdom taken up with idolatry and wicked practices and assume that nothing could be done. Even for men of experience it would be a daunting task. But here we have a man of relatively few years and little experience suddenly thrust into the position of responsibility.
In the case of a Rehoboam, who was a young man when he came to the throne, we are told that he, ‘took counsel with the old men that had stood before Solomon his father’, 2 Chr. 10. 6. He had faithful men whose advice could be sought in the time of need. Rehoboam, in his folly however, forsook the counsel of the old men in favour of the young men and that decision led to the division of the kingdom. But where were the counsellors in Hezekiah’s day? In the reign of Ahaz, his father, we read only of Oded the prophet. Thus, it would seem that it is Hezekiah’s dependence upon his God that brings the wisdom and guidance he needed at the time he needed it.
Is there not a lesson to learn here? If we have the counsel and advice of godly older men we should seek to use it. If, as younger men, we are thrust into a position of responsibility in the assembly may we indeed turn to God in prayer and to the reading of the scriptures to seek that guidance which only He can give, and may we not neglect the help of older godly men and women also.
There are two things that distinguished Hezekiah from his father:
- ‘He did that which was right in the sight of the Lord’, 2 Chron. 29. 2.
- and it was ‘according to all that David his father had done’, 2 Chron. 29. 2.
We might contrast both these statements with those applied to his father. Ahaz did that which was wicked and provoked the Lord to wrath against him. He took no interest in God’s view of or judgement upon his actions. His life was lived pursuing those things that were rather opposed to God than pleasing to Him.
Hezekiah took a keen interest in the only true standard of right and this is ‘in the sight of the Lord’. What men might think, and later chapters record men’s views of Hezekiah’s kingdom, (chapter 32), was of no importance to this king.
However, it is the phrase, ‘according to all that David his father had done’, that is particularly interesting. We know that King David was not Hezekiah’s father, but it was said of Ahaz his actual father, ‘he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel’, 28. 2. Hezekiah did not follow him in this for one moment! He followed the pattern and example of a man after God’s heart, King David. How important to have and to present the highest of role models for the young of all generations! Hezekiah looked back to the beginning of the kingdom to find his role model.
It was said of Uzziah, 2 Chr. 26. 4, ‘he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father Amaziah did’. It was equally said of Jotham, ‘he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father Uzziah did’, 2 Chr. 27. 2.
Hezekiah did not look back to the spiritual legacy of his grandfather Jotham, or even his great-grandfather Uzziah. He wanted to get back to first principles. He looked back to how God had established the kingdom in David and those things that were important to those days. There is a tremendous lesson here. True revival always starts by a movement back to the beginning of things. These are found as always in the simplicity of the word of God and seeking to put into practice its solemn truths. It is not the traditions of the fathers that count but what the Bible teaches.
To be Continued.