Hezekiah - The Devoted King
John Griffiths, Port Talbot, Wales [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
‘wrought that which was good and right and truth before the Lord his God . . . he did it with all his heart and prospered’, 2 Chr. 31. 20, 21.1
The Silent Years as to Record
– from birth to 25 years of age.
His Introduction – the preface
Hezekiah lived from 739-687 BC and reigned between 714/715-687 BC. He was the twelfth king of Judah or thirteenth monarch allowing for Queen Athaliah. He came to the throne at twenty-five years of age and reigned for twenty-nine years. He died aged fifty-four, after an extension to his life was granted by God. He was the son of a wicked father, Ahaz, and the father of a wicked son, Manasseh. This shows that salvation does not run in the blood; an evil father may have a believing son and vice versa.
More space is devoted to Hezekiah than to any other king of Judah. The accounts in Kings and Isaiah have similarities but Chronicles offers a different perspective.2
His Inheritance – the poisoned chalice
Hezekiah came to the throne of Judah when its political and spiritual state was at rock bottom, thanks to Ahaz. The nation was subject to Assyria, 2 Kgs. 16. 7, 8; the temple had been closed down and altars and shrines set up in every corner of Jerusalem, 2 Chr. 28. 24, so that ‘worship’ was diverted from God’s chosen centre to the high places. Even the high priest, Urijah, was party to such arrangements, 2 Kgs. 16. 10-16.
Surely it was too late to return to the principles of Moses and the pattern of David? Not a bit of it! God has His man for the times: Hezekiah – ‘the Lord has strengthened’.
‘Too oft – weary and discouraged,
We pour a sad complaint;
Believing in a living Saviour,
Why should we ever faint?’
‘But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength’, Isa. 40. 31.
His Influences – parent; partner and prophet
Hezekiah’s name suggests divine help to meet the daunting task that lay ahead. Ahaz was no role model for his son but, by contrast, his wife Abi, or Abijah, ‘worshipper of Jehovah’, was a godly mother to Hezekiah. Timothy was blessed with a godly mother and grandmother. How we need them today!
Hezekiah’s wife was named Hephzibah, ‘my delight is in her’, 2 Kgs. 21. 1. She was another source of influence. She certainly left an impression upon Isaiah, who described Zion as Hephzibah, Isa. 62.4. These are the only two occasions of its use in scripture. How invaluable is the support and strength of a spiritual wife when engaged in the Lord’s service.
Several prophets ministered during Hezekiah’s lifetime: Hosea to Israel; Micah and Isaiah to Judah. Isaiah appears to have exerted considerable influence over Hezekiah just as Nathan with David. Hezekiah was well-versed in the scriptures of his day and his heroes were David and Moses.
These were silent years, as far as record is concerned, but years of preparation for leadership. Reformation, revival and blessing would have been impossible in the short timescale had it not been for the influences in his formative years and the divinely imparted strength noted above.3
The Successful Years of Reformation
– from 25-39 years of age.
His Personal Principles – based on trust, 2 Kgs. 18. 1-8.
His priority – ‘he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord’. Is that our priority too?
His pattern – ‘according to all that David his father did’ - a rare statement linking Hezekiah with David and also used of Jehoshaphat and Josiah. Hezekiah went back to the beginning and back to basics. We need to do likewise, seeking the ‘old paths’ in the New Testament, rather than modern innovation.
His purpose – to rid Judah of idolatry. Even Samuel and Solomon worshipped the Lord at their high places but not David. Only Hezekiah and Josiah determined to rid the nation of them and return to the place of the name at Jerusalem. There were two kinds of high places. Those connected with blatant idolatry and those where Jehovah was worshipped, as a substitute for the temple at Jerusalem, 2 Chr. 33. 17.
Both were contrary to Moses’ directive, Deut. 12. 5-7, the place where God had chosen to put His name. Hezekiah even went so far as to destroy Moses’ brazen serpent which had been an object of idolatry for seven-hundred years. He declares it to be ‘just a piece of brass’! In this, it is likely he was influenced by Isaiah’s tirade against idolatry, Isa. 44.
His passion – ‘He trusted in the Lord God of Israel’. It was this that distinguished Hezekiah from all the other kings of Israel and Judah. ‘So that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah nor any that were before him’. Similar language is used only of Josiah, but not of his trust in Jehovah. What strength of faith Hezekiah displayed! Yet, he would fail in his strong point when faced with the Assyrian tribute challenge.
His pathway – ‘For he clave to the Lord and departed not from following him’. Hezekiah began well, ran well and finished well, despite the occasional serious deviation from the pathway. Jacob-like he clung to the Lord and was obedient to the principles laid down by Moses and the pattern exemplified in David.
His prosperity – ‘And the Lord was with him; and he prospered whithersoever he went forth’. Just like Joseph, who moved in the presence of the Lord, so Hezekiah here.
His progress – ‘He rebelled against the King of Assyria, and served him not’. Ahaz placed Judah under tribute to Assyria. God wanted Judah to trust Him and Him alone. They established links with Egypt, and later Babylon. Isaiah is particularly strong in his criticism of the league with Egypt and condemnatory of Hezekiah for his welcome to the Babylonian attaché. God wants us to trust Him exclusively and not to put our trust in man or the world.
Hezekiah cast off the yoke of Assyria. We are not to allow the monarchs of our unconverted years to rule us now. Paul in writing to the Roman Christians tells them that they are no more subject to the sovereignty of death, sin, the law or the flesh. In ‘The Gospel for Believers’ we discover with delight that their tyranny has been broken. Is this our daily experience though?
‘He smote the Philistines even unto Gaza’
Do we know what it is to triumph over our enemies, particularly the Philistines of modernism, clericalism and ritualism?
His Spiritual Project – based on the temple, 2 Chr. 29-31.
Getting Going – purifying the sanctuary and its servants.
Hezekiah’s Promptness – v. 3, 17 and 36. His programme for the spiritual recovery of Judah was given priority above political and national concerns. The speed of the introduction of his measures is breathtaking, reminding us of today’s expression that ‘he hit the road running’. The work began on the first day of the first month of the first year of his rule. The purification of the temple and its courts was completed in sixteen days. ‘The thing was done suddenly’, v. 36. May we ‘redeem the time’ in these evil days.
His Pointedness – ‘Be not now negligent’, v. 11. The need for such directness is strengthened when we consider, ‘But the priests were too few . . . their brethren the Levites did help them . . . until the other priests had sanctified themselves: for the Levites were more upright in heart to sanctify themselves than the priests’, v. 34.
We need to maintain a state of sanctification before the Lord in order that our service is not hindered in any way, particularly in the sphere of priesthood, so that we are able to function consistently as both a holy and royal priesthood.
His Passion – ‘Hezekiah rose early . . . and went up to the house of the Lord’, v. 20. Six times the heart is mentioned in these chapters, 30. 22 margin. It is a good sign when our heart is in the work and we begin our day with the Lord.
His Priority – ‘So the service of the house of the Lord was set in order’, v. 35. God is a God of order. At Corinth, Paul says, following his statement with regard to the Lord’s supper, ‘And the rest will I set in order when I come’. Further, he exhorts the Corinthians, ‘Let all things be done decently and in order’, 1 Cor. 14. 40. Paul also instructs Titus concerning the assemblies on Crete, ‘that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting’, Tit. 1. 5.
The order of Hezekiah is clear: purify the place of worship; purify the priests and Levites, note verses 12-14, All the families of Aaron are represented; prepare the people, v. 36, and, as a result, praise will go up to God.4
The praises of the people are associated with the burnt offering. When we consider what Christ is to God then we burst into song, v. 27, and praise, v. 30, and worship. The congregation worship, v. 28; the king and those with him worship, v. 29; the Levites worship, v. 30. The end result is that Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced, v. 36. Are we a praising or a pessimistic people?
- The following passages unfold the life of this king of Judah: 2 Kgs. 18. 1-21; 2 Chr. 29. 1-32. 33; Isa. 36. 1-39. 8.
- J. Sidlow-Baxter helpfully suggests: ‘Kings – biographical; personal; the throne; Israel/Judah; a prophet’s perspective; indictment. Chronicles – statistical; official; the temple; mainly Judah; a priest’s perspective; incitement. For instance, Kings devotes one verse only to the temple reformation whereas Chronicles majors on this’.
- ‘And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, and in the law, and in the commandments, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart and prospered’, 2 Chr. 31. 21. What a commendation!
- The preparation of the people is seen in verse 21, ‘a sin offering for the kingdom and for the sanctuary and for Judah’.