The work of the Lord is difficult to understand, even when it’s documented with the benefit of hindsight in the scriptures. The Bible identifies who God is and what His attributes are. The Bible is candid to explain the shortcomings and folly of God’s people that keep them from the fulfilment and benefits of God’s promises. The Bible is clear to show the issues that mankind has always had, and also shows how God deals with these issues. Even with all of these details, sometimes God’s work is just hard to digest and understand. The prophet Isaiah wrote that God’s ways are not like human ways and His thoughts are not like human thoughts. God’s ways are as far from normal human ways as the heavens are from the earth. Just to give perspective, the distance from Earth to the sun is nearly 93 million miles. The next closest star to planet Earth is Alpha Centauri. The distance from Earth to Alpha Centauri is 4.367 light years. This star is so far away, we don’t even use distance to measure anymore. We have to use time to explain distance. This is how foreign God’s ways and thoughts are to ours.
A clear example of this reality is seen in the testimony of King Manasseh. Manasseh’s testimony is documented in 2 Kings 21:1-18. However, the testimony of 2 Kings only covers half of the story of Manasseh’s life. The first half of Manasseh’s life is filled with darkness and evil, but the Lord exercised great patience and mercy to ensure that Manasseh’s testimony ended differently than it started. The testimony of 2 Kings 21:1-18 explains that Manasseh became king at the young age of twelve. The timing of events is important to understand. Recall that Hezekiah, Manasseh’s father was told that he would die of a disease, fifteen-years prior. Hezekiah was supposed to die three years before Manasseh was born. Recall that when the prophet Isaiah told Hezekiah that he would die, Hezekiah pleaded and begged the Lord for more life. The scriptures make it seem as if Hezekiah was able to sway God to change His mind and extend life, but the context of scripture shows that God was simply working to show the frailty of human faith. Though Hezekiah was used to lead one of the greatest spiritual revivals in Jewish history, he was weak in his faith concerning the eternal nature of God’s promises. He feared death and didn’t trust in God’s eternity. God was always going to allow Hezekiah to live but told him he was going to die in order to reveal the weakness of Hezekiah’s faith, and the strength of God’s grace. Hezekiah would continue on as king, but not because of the merits that he was able to demonstrate.
It was during that time that Hezekiah exercised great pride and caused God to pronounce great judgment on Judah. The king of Babylon sought to comfort Hezekiah while sick, and when God healed Hezekiah, he took the opportunity to boast in the things God had done for Judah, but without giving God any praise or glory. Hezekiah took great affection in the materials and things that communicated greatness in the world’s terms. He showboated his riches without attributing God as the author of such blessings. Hezekiah gloried more in the effects of God’s grace rather than the actual grace of God or God Himself. Though Hezekiah ultimately died peacefully, God explained that Hezekiah’s pride would have an effect on the people of Judah so that Babylon would later carry away all of the possession that Hezekiah valued so greatly. It was during this time in Hezekiah’s life that Manasseh was born. It was this manner of conduct that Manasseh saw in his father. It was this sort of affection that Manasseh learned.
The testimony of Manasseh explains that he was a terrible idolater. Hezekiah spent the first half of his kingship breaking down all of the altars, high places, and pagan worship images. Manasseh spent the first half of his kingship rebuilding all of those same things. The Bible explains that the people of Judah were worshiping many false gods and idols before Hezekiah took rule. Hezekiah worked zealously to rid those things from Judah. Manasseh wasted no time at all to undo the work of his father. Manasseh excelled in idolatry to the point that he worshiped “every god under heaven.” Manasseh had worshiped the traditional gods of the surrounding pagan nations, but also worshiped the sun and moon itself. The Bible explains that Manasseh built up new altars to false gods and even built idols in the Lord’s temple. The scriptures testify that Manasseh went “the way of Ahab.” Recall that Ahab was the husband of Jezebel, and that the two of them were major contributors to the folly of the northern kingdom of Israel, as well as committed persecutors of God’s prophets and priests. This is the example that Manasseh followed.
How can this happen? Hezekiah did so well, yet within one generation, all of that good work seems like it was undone in no time at all. The quintessential question is, why would God allow such a thing to happen? There are a few things to recognize concerning God’s perspective. First, God’s judgment that was spoken to Hezekiah was true. While it might have seemed like God was overreacting about Hezekiah’s pride to show off Judah’s riches, the testimony of Manasseh proved God’s judgment as fair. God knew the character of Manasseh before Manasseh was born. However, in that, there is another difficult thing about God to consider. Why would God let Hezekiah live fifteen more years knowing that this king would be born during that time frame? God seems to have extended Hezekiah’s life knowing that Hezekiah would fail in pride and then give birth to the horrible Manasseh. It gets worse…
Clearly the affections that Hezekiah had for worldly things had an impact on Manasseh. The very things that Hezekiah used to boast of his greatness became the very materials that Manasseh worshiped in place of God. This goes to show that, while we might do well to worship God in some sense, our affection for worldly things will ALWAYS have an impact on those around us. Hezekiah might have placed greater value in God, but Manasseh learned that Hezekiah valued and cherished material wealth greatly to the extent that he upheld those riches before other men in order to validate his own greatness. Manasseh took that baton and ran with it to a degree that was an abomination before God. Nevertheless, God was patient. The testimony of 2 Kings 21:1-18 explains that God sent prophets to Manasseh to warn him and encourage him to repent. Manasseh did no such thing. In fact, Manasseh waged one of the greatest waves of persecution against the people of Judah in their history – their own king! Rabbinical tradition states that it was Manasseh that had the prophet Isaiah sawn in two. Those who opposed Manasseh’s idolatry were slaughtered. Manasseh killed many “innocent” people, referring to those who sought to do well according to God’s righteousness. Manasseh also killed his own children and encouraged the rest of Judah to do the same, offering them as sacrifices to false gods and idols. God showed patience. Manasseh responded in violence.
Ironically, it was the prophet Isaiah that wrote, “Who [is] this who comes from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah, this [One who is] glorious in His apparel, traveling in the greatness of His strength?—'I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save.’” The prophet Isaiah wrote about the second coming of the Messiah – Jesus Christ. He testified of Jesus’ arrival to Bozrah, and explained that the manner of His arrival would be with great power! Jesus’ purpose is to come back in order to “save” His people. Jesus is the Messiah, and as the Messiah, He is “mighty to save.” Though Jesus will save the children of Israel from the physical threats of the anti-Christ at that time, the ultimate effect of Jesus’ work will be spiritual. Jesus will return to the earth to spiritual restore the children of Israel in order to fulfill the promises He made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The destruction of Israel’s enemies will signify the destruction of sin from God’s people. He will purge their enemies in order to purge sin. God knows how to save people from sin! The testimony of scripture reveals that God will actually use the tragic events of the Great Tribulation, the Time of Jacob’s Trouble, to purge Israel of sin and bring them unto Himself. The Bible teaches that God uses great pain to humble His people so that He can restore them and deliver His blessings. This is exactly what God did with Manasseh.
The testimony of 2 Kings 21:1-18 explains that Manasseh provoked God to anger when he began persecuting the prophets. As a result, God sent the Assyrians into Judah. Though the Assyrians never entered Jerusalem and destroyed it as they thought they could, God did allow them to take Manasseh captive. Manasseh was taken as a prisoner of war and sent off to Babylon. The parallel testimony of Manasseh in 2 Chronicles 33:1-20 explains that the Assyrians took Manasseh by jaw hooks into their land. Archeology documents this event through artwork showing the king of Ethiopia being taken captive with the king of Assyria holding a chain connected to a hook in the Ethiopian king’s lip. This is likely the manner in which Manasseh was taken captive! History shows that Manasseh spent about a year in captivity and was greatly humbled during this time. The testimony of 2 Chronicles 33:1-20 explains that Manasseh was broken completely and pleaded for the Lord God Almighty to give mercy. God responded favorably.
God heard the cries of Manasseh. Manasseh confessed his sin and acknowledged that he denied the grace of the One True Living God. The Lord extended the mercy that Manasseh sought. He was actually released from Assyrian captivity and allowed to reign again in Judah! When Manasseh arrived back home, he immediately took down all of the idolatrous figures, statues, altars, and images that he first put up. He destroyed all of the altars and removed all of the abominations against God from the temple. He commanded the people of Judah to serve God and serve God alone. They obeyed. Now, keep these things in mind concerning God’s work. The beginning of Manasseh’s testimony explains that he was king for fifty-five years! This reign is the longest of any king in Judah’s history. Consider the providence of God.
God extended Hezekiah’s life another fifteen years in order that Manasseh would be born. God allowed Manasseh to learn his father’s bad habits. God allowed Manasseh to teach the people idolatry and many people died during that time. God allowed Manasseh to rule for much longer than any other king in Judah, including righteous kings that did well! God did all of that to demonstrate what His patience, mercy, and grace look like. Consider that God dealt with Manasseh and endured his foolishness for all that time. Yet, God knew that Manasseh would repent. God knew that He would change Manasseh. God let Hezekiah live longer to give birth to a kid that would pick up bad habits and destroy many lives because God was confident in His own ability and power to save! Though it seemed like darkness was having its way and winning the war among God’s people, God’s patience, mercy and grace proved supreme! Consider the volume and magnitude of issues that God dealt with in that time; but did so in order that Manasseh would be saved. Had God cut off Hezekiah at the time of his disease, he would not have given birth to Manasseh. Had Manasseh not seen the weaknesses of Hezekiah, Manasseh might not have been the idolatrous man he was. Had Manasseh not rejected the Lord, slaughtered His people, and spread abominations in Judah, God would not have had the opportunity to show how His judgment is sufficient to provide life. God would not have had the opportunity to show that He is willing to forgive even the vilest of men and women. God would not have had the opportunity to show the extent of power that He is willing to exercise to prove Himself as might to save.
The world today has a tendency of examining faults and sins subjectively. People have developed the thought process that some sins are worse than others. Additionally, it is common for people to downplay the issue of pride as if there are varying degrees of pride. Some people think that some pride is excusable even though the Bible is clear to say that God resists the proud. When it comes to being proud, the Bible is helpful to define how a true child of God should handle “proud’ circumstances or moments. The Bible teaches this:
“‘But let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I [am] the LORD, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,’ says the LORD.”
According to the Bible, people should not be proud in anything having to do with self. It is true that there are proud moments, such as when someone’s child excels in a certain thing, or someone is able to accomplish something difficult. The child of God should not glory in self though. A child of God should recognize and remember that there is NOTHING we have that didn’t come from God. So, if our children make us proud, it was the Lord that enabled that to be. If we are able to excel in a certain thing, it was the mercy and grace of God that made that possible. We should be thankful to God and should be careful to ensure that we don’t seek to bring glory to ourselves, especially at the expense of God’s glory. Pride is pride, and God will deal with it accordingly.
This truth is made painfully clear in the testimony of Hezekiah. In 2 Kings 20:12-21 the Bible explains that God delivered a harsh judgment upon Hezekiah and his descendants to deal with issues of pride. It is true that Hezekiah was a great king that did well in the sight of the Lord. Yet the Bible is clear to expose his mistakes and his folly to show how even some of the most faithful people in history had issues. Hezekiah’s issue was pride. He was humble in some areas and dependent on the Lord for the most part; but there were moments where Hezekiah took credit for work that God did, boasting in himself at the expense of God’s glory. Having led Judah through one of its most amazing spiritual revivals, Hezekiah knew better. He had a solid relationship with the Lord and knew exactly how his power and influence came to pass. The Bible shows that when Hezekiah received a little bit of praise, he didn’t handle it well and had a bad habit of letting things go to his head.
Sometimes one of the things that causes people to swell in the ego is the miraculous work that God does. People often assume that a work of favor God does is on account of how pleased God is with that person. All of God’s favor is based on grace. It is unmerited. God first shows mercy before He shows grace so that no one can boast as if any favor received from God is deserved. Recall that Hezekiah grew very sick and God actually told Hezekiah that he was going to die. Recall that when Hezekiah was given this news that he had a lapse in his faith. He was frightened about his perception of the finality of death and lost hope in the eternal nature of God’s power and promises. He begged God for health because he feared death so much. God honored his request and granted Hezekiah fifteen more years of life. The Bible explains that Hezekiah was thankful to the Lord so that he actually wrote a song of praise. This song is documented in Isaiah 38:9-20.
The testimony of 2 Kings 20:12-21 explains that word went out about Hezekiah’s illness. The king of Babylon heard about Hezekiah’s illness and sent him letters and “get-well” gifts. When Hezekiah recovered on account of God’s miraculous healing, Hezekiah was grateful to the king of Babylon and invited him to visit in Judah. Here, it is important to consider the full counsel of scripture. The parallel passage of this incident in 2 Chronicles 32:31 explains that God withdrew from Hezekiah to test him. When the Bible says that “God withdrew” to test Hezekiah, it means that God gave Hezekiah an opportunity to demonstrate faith that He implanted into Hezekiah. God’s tests are never really “pass/fail” scenarios because God always knows the results and works good out of everything according to His will. If salvation is not according to our works, why then would the works of salvation be dependent on our ability? God was simply giving Hezekiah the opportunity to give Him public praise and thanks to the people of Babylon. Hezekiah invited the king of Babylon to Judah, and God was giving Hezekiah a chance to speak about all of the miraculous and wonderful things He had done – including the miraculous work of healing.
The Bible explains that when the Babylonians came, Hezekiah didn’t do as God desired. Hezekiah took the Babylonians and showed them all of the wealth of Israel in the kings’ house and the temple but didn’t testify of God. In other words, Hezekiah was showing off to the Babylonians. Hezekiah was showing the Babylonians how much money he had. Hezekiah was showing the Babylonians how nice his house was. Hezekiah was showing the Babylonians how nice his place of worship was. Hezekiah was showing the Babylonians the abundance of their resources. The scriptures do not state that Hezekiah testified of the Lord at all. Hezekiah showed the Babylonians all of the things God had done, even some of the special and secret things, and never exalted the Lord to give Him His due praise. Hezekiah had just been miraculously healed by God and afforded another fifteen years of life, but never considered God when showing the pagans the things of his life. The only thing that Hezekiah withheld from showing the Babylonians was the hand of the Lord that provided all that was under Hezekiah’s domain.
The Lord was not pleased with Hezekiah and came down hard in judgment. The Bible explains in 2 Kings 20:12-21 and also in Isaiah 39:3-8 that God sent the prophet Isaiah to speak His judgment. Isaiah inquired about why the Babylonians were in Judah. Hezekiah didn’t hesitate to answer truthfully. Isaiah then inquired about what Hezekiah showed the Babylonians. Once again, Hezekiah didn’t hesitate to answer truthfully. Hezekiah didn’t think there was anything wrong with his actions. He didn’t see the error of his actions. He couldn’t discern that he was boasting and parading himself around at the expense of God’s glory. This is how pride works. Pride causes spiritual blindness so that the proud can’t even see the manner of their pride because the distance that pride causes from God makes the light that He provides dim.
Isaiah then proclaimed the Word of the Lord against Hezekiah. God swore that everything that Hezekiah showed to the Babylonians and was proud of, would be taken by the Babylonians. God assured Hezekiah that nothing would be left. Those who will not glorify God will not have glory to keep from Him. God swore that the Babylonians would take away everything and that the descendants of Hezekiah would become eunuchs. This is a terrible problem! According to Deuteronomy 23:1, those who became eunuchs were to be cut off from the children of Israel. They were to be removed as heirs of God’s promises to Israel. In other words, God promised that Hezekiah’s family would be cursed and some cut off from the inheritance of the kingship and God’s promises to Israel during the time that Babylon satisfied God’s judgment. This happened to Jeconiah in 597 BC. The testimony of the prophet Jeremiah shows that many were carried away to Babylon as eunuchs and that the Babylonians terrorized and destroyed Judah, Jerusalem, and the temple in 586 BC.
Why would God bring such harsh judgment upon the children of Israel for the actions of Hezekiah? The testimony of Hezekiah showing the Babylonians the riches of Judah doesn’t seem to be a big deal, but clearly the extent of God’s judgment shows otherwise. God clearly saw Hezekiah’s pride to be a big deal. God drew back from Hezekiah to give him a chance to give praise, honor, and glory to God for the protection, provision, and life that God had provided. Hezekiah used that opportunity to boast in himself. He wanted to show off and receive praises from people rather than give praises to God. This goes to show that when God provides increase to people, He expects that increase to be the inspiration for His people to exalt His name, recognizing Him as the author and provider of all good things. This is why God does these things. Therefore, when His people fail to honor Him, He is offended because pride is a denial of God’s grace and providence.
Hezekiah recognized this truth. The Bible explains that when Isaiah communicated God’s judgment, Hezekiah didn’t contend. He didn’t try to defend himself. In fact, he confessed that God’s judgment was right and fair. He knew he messed up. The Bible actually shows that Hezekiah was thankful to God because, while God stated that Hezekiah’s descendants would be dismantled, God promised that Hezekiah would be able to finish his life in peace. Hezekiah knew that God’s judgment was fair, and praised God because while fair, God’s judgment was also gracious. Some might see the actions of Hezekiah compared to God’s judgment and think that God was overreacting. Hezekiah didn’t see things that way. He knew he had denied God’s grace and deserved worse, so was thankful that God’s judgment was not as bad as it could have been. Hezekiah eventually died and was buried in the place of his fathers. God was faithful to his promise to allow Judah to stay in peace for the duration of Hezekiah’s life. Nevertheless, God was also faithful to the other part of His promise to judge the pride and self-righteousness of Judah, and began that work through Hezekiah’s son named Manasseh.
The grace of the Lord is really hard to understand. There are some people in the world that do nice things for others and do so without reason. They just want to be nice. The grace of God goes well beyond “niceness” or kindness. God’s grace is unique. Though the world rebels against Him, God provides favor anyway. The favor that God provides is life-giving. He is able to patiently endure the rejection and rebellion of His people and provide the greatest benefits known to mankind. These benefits enable God’s people to have peace, joy, satisfaction, and ultimately eternal life! Who can compete with this sort of kindness and favor? Since the favor is so great and so unique, it becomes difficult to know how to respond to God’s favor when it comes. Since God’s favor is so great and so unique, it can also be hard to trust in and recognize. The grace of God is so good that many people find it hard to believe that anyone would show such favor to people that are so miserable. Nevertheless, the scriptures show that God is true, His grace is real, and the favor is legit!
We can look at the documented history of the Bible to confirm God’s grace. In 2 Kings 20-1-11 the Bible explains that King Hezekiah was struck with a terrible skin disease that had been infected and was threatening death. In fact, the testimony of scripture explains that God sent Isaiah the prophet to Hezekiah to tell him that he would die. God let Hezekiah know that he would not recover from the disease. God sent Isaiah to have Hezekiah make sure that his household was in order and that things were set for the kingdom to continue in his absence. This was not the kind of news that Hezekiah was hoping to hear from the Lord. He had seen the Lord work tremendous miracles concerning the things He did against the Assyrians. Hezekiah wanted to live. He was not at peace at all with the proclamation of Isaiah, and so he sought the Lord with great passion, fear, and purpose.
The Bible explains that Hezekiah went before the Lord and wept bitterly. While Hezekiah had been faithful to trust God in a variety of ways throughout his life, he was not pleased with the Word and promise of God in this instance. This is important to notice. Recall the testimony of Hezekiah’s relationship with God. Hezekiah was able see God do great miracles of spiritual restoration in Judah, and also bring great victories to his people when he didn’t have to lift a finger. God stated that He did those things for His own namesake on account of the everlasting promises that He previously made to David. This shows that God’s work is centered on the fulfillment of eternal promises. God was still doing work to benefit the throne of King David, but King David was long dead. God was looking at the situation differently. God was examining the circumstances through an eternal lens. God’s work was intended to affect the physical world but on account of fulfilling eternal purposes. God’s work transcends this life so that the benefits God brings through His work are intended to be fully enjoyed in eternity.
Hezekiah didn’t show that he trusted that truth very much. The very thought of his death terrified him. Hezekiah saw God do amazing things to benefit the eternal nature of God’s promises, but when Hezekiah’s mortality was revealed, he did not trust in the immortal God. Hezekiah let the frailty of this life bring fear and uncertainty about the power of God in eternal life. It was not just that Hezekiah was saddened to learn of his coming death. The Bible says that “he wept bitterly.” Hezekiah trusted in God’s Word until God’s Word brought an adverse effect to the physical circumstance of Hezekiah’s life. This is not how faith should be. Hezekiah was not demonstrating faithfulness towards God’s promises. The Bible shows that proper faith would have been revealed through Hezekiah’s submission to God’s proclamation, trusting that death would not affect God’s ability to fulfill His promises in ways that transcend the material world. This was the faith that King David had. This was not the faith that Hezekiah had at this time. Instead, Hezekiah pleaded with the Lord for his life, seeking to remind God about how obedient he had been to do certain things and live a certain way. Hezekiah stated that he had walked before the Lord in truth and had a loyal heart. Hezekiah tried to remind God that he had done what was right in God’s sight as if that was worthy of God changing his mind. Hezekiah was essentially trying to sell God on the idea that he was good enough to keep living, and that he didn’t deserve to die. This is never true of anyone.
When God heard Hezekiah, He actually responded with favor. Though Hezekiah was trying to boast before God about the perception of his goodness, God honored Hezekiah’s request out of pity and grace. The Lord sent Isaiah back to Hezekiah to speak His will. God assured Hezekiah that He heard Hezekiah’s prayer. God saw Hezekiah’s tears. He promised that Hezekiah would be healed three days later and that he would be allowed to live for fifteen more years. God repeated His promise to deliver Judah from the hands of the Assyrians as well. Here, it is critical to acknowledge the truth. Hezekiah was NOT able to change God’s mind. Just because God said He would do one thing at one time, and then something different at another time, does not mean that God changed His mind. God’s promise to Hezekiah explains this principle. When God assured Hezekiah’s healing, promising him fifteen more years of life and the destruction of the Assyrians, He explained why He was going to do such things. God said, “I will defend this city for My own sake, and for the sake of My servant David.”
God did not change His mind to let Hezekiah live because He agreed with Hezekiah’s argument. God first announced Hezekiah’s death to let those circumstances be the catalyst that revealed Hezekiah’s true heart of unbelief. Notice that it was the threat of death that caused Hezekiah’s attitude to change and weep bitterly before the Lord. It was in his weeping that Hezekiah expressed distrust in God’s eternal nature and benefits. God never intended for Hezekiah to die at that time. Instead, God spoke of Hezekiah’s death to provide a situation where Hezekiah would reveal his unbelief. This way, the favor that God showed later would be proven as grace. God would provide favor to Judah because of His promises that He swore upon Himself to fulfill; not because of Hezekiah’s goodness or faith because Hezekiah had neither. God would provide favor to Hezekiah and Judah for His own namesake. The favor that Judah received would not be on account of any merits.
The Bible provides more evidence to prove this point as true. When Isaiah prophesied that Hezekiah would live, Hezekiah demanded a sign. He asked Isaiah, “What is the sign that the Lord will heal me, and that I shall go to the house of the Lord on the third day?” Recall that when God promised to destroy the Assyrians, Hezekiah didn’t ask for a sign. Hezekiah only wanted a sign from God when the circumstances affected him more personally. Then think about this: wouldn’t the healing that Hezekiah received, and his ability to go to the house of the Lord on the third day be a sign of God’s healing? Hezekiah wanted to be healed. God swore that He would heal Hezekiah. What more does Hezekiah need? Why did Hezekiah ask for a sign? Simply put, Hezekiah didn’t believe. He needed something more immediate and supernatural on the spot to trust the Lord. Though Hezekiah had seen the faithfulness and power of God to fulfill His promises in the past, Hezekiah had doubt because the circumstances were personal. God’s Word wasn’t good enough for Hezekiah at that time. Nevertheless, God was gracious.
The Bible explains that God actually provided Hezekiah with a sign! In fact, the Lord let Hezekiah choose the sign that he wanted. Isaiah told Hezekiah that the Lord would be willing to provide a sign through the shadow of the sundial. Isaiah asked Hezekiah if he would prefer the sun to jump forward ten degrees as his confirmation, or to jump backward ten degrees as confirmation. Wanting a more profoundly supernatural thing to witness, Hezekiah asked the Lord to cause the shadow of the sundial to jump backwards ten degrees. The Lord was faithful and did according to His promise in order to confirm His Word. Isaiah then took a lump of figs and applied it to the infected area of Hezekiah’s skin, and three days later, the king was made well according to God’s promise.
Think about this. Hezekiah was discontented with God’s Word at the beginning because he didn’t like what God’s Word meant for his personal well-being and circumstances in this life. Focused more on the circumstances of this life, Hezekiah despised God’s Word and wept bitterly over it because he was afraid and/or doubtful of God’s eternal essence. God didn’t judge him or condemn him or punish him at that time even though He would have been right to do so. Instead, God guaranteed Hezekiah that he would live fifteen more years and that the Assyrians would be destroyed. This is unmerited favor.
Then, because that wasn’t enough for Hezekiah, he expressed more unbelief and demanded a sign from God. Though God had proved His faithfulness, Hezekiah wanted God to prove Himself. Though God had revealed His power, Hezekiah wanted God to prove Himself. The circumstances were scary for Hezekiah, so Hezekiah was dominated by fear and wanted God to do more than God had already done. God did not judge him or condemn him or punish him. God actually provided the sign. Then, God let Hezekiah decide what kind of sign he wanted to satisfy his soul. Who provides favor like this? Who shows patience like this? Who shows mercy like this? History confirms that Hezekiah lived fifteen more years according to God’s promise. History confirms that the Assyrians never obliterated Judah like they wanted to. History confirms that the Assyrians were eventually weakened and destroyed. Thus, history proves the grace of God as true. For this, we should be thankful beyond measure.
The Bible teaches that the Lord has supreme control over all things. The scriptures liken God’s control over His creation to the control a potter has over his clay. Just as a potter can take a lump of clay and make anything he likes from it, so too can the Lord God Almighty do with the people He’s made. A potter has the liberty to form any sort of structure or vessel and has the freedom to decide how he will use his creation. A potter has the liberty to form a bowl and use it for eating dinner or as a container for waste. He made it. He decides. Additionally, when does clay complain or rebel against the potter to say, “I don’t want to be what I am?” Clay doesn’t talk. Clay just bends and molds according to the control of the potter. The same is true of the Lord God Almighty. He is able to create people for certain purposes that He sees fit according to His plans. He can make one person a vessel of honor, and another person a vessel of dishonor. He’ll use both to fulfill His purpose, which is ultimately good. Though the people God creates may bark and whine against God, His power is such that their words mean nothing. God will do what God is going to do no matter what His “clay” may think, say, or do.
Some people have a hard time with this concept. It presents the idea that people aren’t really in control, and many people have a hard time digesting that truth. However, human history proves the claims of the Bible to be true. The testimony of Israel’s dealings with the Assyrians is a compelling example of God’s sovereignty being exercised in PROFOUND ways, proving God’s supreme authority and control. In 2 Kings 19:20-37 the Bible explains God’s response towards the prideful threats and blasphemous words that the Assyrians were speaking against Him and the people of Judah. The Assyrian king had sent his officials twice into Judah to belittle Hezekiah, and to slander the name of the Lord. Both times, Hezekiah took the issue to the Lord. Additionally, Hezekiah invited the prophet Isaiah to accompany him in prayer. While Hezekiah humbled himself before the Lord and prayed diligently, he also encouraged the prophet Isaiah to endeavor in the same exercise. When Isaiah prayed to the Lord, the Lord spoke to Isaiah and communicated the manner in which He would deal with the Assyrians.
The Bible shows that God spoke to Isaiah as if He were addressing the Assyrians themselves. This shows that, while God speaks, He does so in a particular manner. He could have revealed Himself and spoke to the Assyrians directly, but instead decided to leverage the messengers that He appointed as prophets to speak His declarations. This is important to notice. God speaks, but He speaks in particular ways. He provides revelation, but He provides that revelation through particular means. He doesn’t just speak to anyone about anything. God communicates in patterns so that His people can learn to seek Him according to those patterns, thereby knowing when God is truly speaking and when He is not. When God addressed Isaiah, he spoke in such a way that seemed like He was speaking to the Assyrians directly, but the message was intended to be given to Hezekiah. God wanted to show Hezekiah that He was listening to his pleas and petitions in prayer. God wanted to encourage Hezekiah by showing him that the Lord sees all, hears all, and is able to respond in His due time. God wanted Hezekiah to know that, because he was humble before the Lord and dependent on His protection and providence, God would provide favor. God already had plans concerning the Assyrians, but the Lord was sure to explain that He responded to Isaiah on account of the prayers that he and Hezekiah proclaimed. God will respond to the inquiries and petitions of His people when His people humble themselves before Him to seek His will according to His promises.
First, God addressed Assyria to put them in their place. The Assyrians made threats against the people of Judah as if the people of Judah were nothing. The Assyrians made threats against God Himself as if He were just as weak and brittle as the wooden idols they had previously destroyed in other cities. Though the Assyrians were prideful about their military prowess, God spoke the truth. Judah would laugh at Assyria. Judah would shake their heads in shame against Assyria. Judah would not be destroyed and would not be shamed as the Assyrians assured. Judah would be the victor. When God declared this truth, He spoke in the past tense, as if Judah had already outlasted Assyria and destroyed them. God knows the future and is sure of His work to accomplish His will. God can speak confidently about these things because He knows that no one can stop Him from doing what He is determined to do. God proclaimed that He was determined to humble the Assyrians on account of their pride.
The Lord explained things very clearly. He stated that the Assyrian insults against Judah were actually insults against God Himself. Those who deny God’s people, deny the Lord. God promised Abraham that He would bless those who bless Israel, but curse those who curse Israel. This shows that the Lord is determined to take care of His people and considers them to be extensions of His own essence! Thus, God’s responses against those who come against His people will be decisive and powerful. It was not just that God was offended with the pride of the Assyrians, but also proclaimed that their boasting was against “the Holy One of Israel.” This is not just a reference to God’s holiness but is also a reference to God’s identity as the Messiah. In other words, when the Assyrians threatened the people of Judah, they belittled God, His eternally unconditional promises, His faithfulness, and ability to fulfill those promises! The Bible teaches that the Messiah is the means by which ALL of God’s eternally unconditional promises are fulfilled, including eternal life. To insult God is to blaspheme against the promises that He has declared, and the attributes that He reveals to fulfill those promises. More specifically, when God referenced “the Holy One of Israel” as being the target of offense, He was talking about Jesus Christ – the Judge of all people.
God explained how the Assyrians offended Him. When the Assyrians sent their messengers to Hezekiah, they spoke as if they could do whatever they pleased with God’s people. They spoke as if they could just go into the land of Judah and make it their own. They spoke as if they could just take the people of Judah and send them wherever they wanted. They spoke as if they could make new promises to God’s people and fulfill them according to their own desires and authority. When putting these ideas together, it is clear to see that the Assyrians were speaking in such a way that they felt they could trump God’s authority and plans for the people of Judah. The Assyrians spoke in such a way that challenged God’s promise to Israel concerning the land. They spoke in such a way that challenged God’s possession of His people as a special treasure. They spoke in such a way that belittled God’s authority and desire to bless all of the families of the earth through Israel. God was not pleased and expressed the full extent of His displeasure.
God explained why the truth about how the Assyrians had any power or authority at all. God explained that the Assyrians were the product of God’s own hands. He made them. He formed them for a particular purpose. The Lord admitted that He made the Assyrians in order to be a sort of disciplinary tool, especially against the children of Israel. The strength that the Assyrians had was on account of the strength that God provided. God authored their victories and God determined their success, long before they were even a nation. In the eyes of God, the Assyrians were merely as grass of the field that is overgrown. When the lawn gets too tall, you cut it down. That is what God said He would do. He explained that the Assyrians were the product of His own will and purposes; yet the Assyrians thought that they could redefine their purpose and usurp God’s authority. Shall the clay say to the one who formed it, “I can be whatever I want and do as I please regardless of your purpose and control?” God stated that He is sovereign over all things and that He would exercise His sovereignty to humble the entire Assyrian nation.
God explained that He knows everything there is to know about the Assyrians. He knows who they are as His creation. He knows what authority they have because He ordained it and set its limits. He knows what their weaknesses are because ALL things are weak before the Lord God Almighty. Having such authority and wisdom, God promised to “put His hook in their nose, and His bridle in their lips.” In other words, God was going to take charge in a decisive and violent way to prove to everyone that He has supreme control, and He will not tolerate rebellion for long. He will not be mocked. He will not allow blasphemy without consequence. He would take Assyria out of the picture while increasing the people of Judah to prove that He is God and there is no other!
God also promised a sign as proof that the circumstances of Assyria would not be coincidental. God often provides signs to authenticate His work and prove that it was Him who did it. God explained that He would give Assyria three years to remain as a powerful influence over the children of Israel so that He could finish the discipline against His people that He started. In that time however, God would increase the remnant of Judah. God would cause Judah to take root in their land and flourish upward. God explained that this would happen according to “the zeal of the Lord of Hosts.” The phrase “Lord of Hosts” identifies God as “the Lord of Armies.” This title/name explains and emphasizes God’s sovereign control over everything – including whole armies. He is able to take nations and cause them to do things according to His will and purposes. He is able to raise up whole people groups and put down entire civilizations. Judah would be raised up because God – the sovereign Lord – was passionate to do this work. He was zealous and excited to raise up Judah against her enemies on account of the promises He previously made to David, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God took joy in responding against the blasphemous claims of pagan fools because it provided an opportunity for God to reveal His mercy and grace towards Judah, and His faithfulness and power to do as He promises. Assyria would have three years’ worth of influence over Israel, but God assured Hezekiah that they would NOT penetrate Judah and would not destroy Jerusalem on account of the promises God made. God promised to defend and uphold the people and city Himself!
The Bible explains that God physically responded later. He is not just a God of words, but a God of action. His Word is guaranteed. Since God was offended as “the Holy One of Israel,” He responded against the Assyrians in fitting fashion. The title of “Holy One of Israel” refers to God’s identity as the Messiah. Jesus Christ is the Messiah. The Bible explains that God responded against the Assyrians one day by sending, “the Angel of the Lord” into their camp, at which point He slaughtered 185,000 soldiers in one night! The scriptures teach that “the Angel of the Lord” is an Old Testament appearance of Jesus Christ. Thus, as the Assyrians offended God’s authority to fulfill His promises and judge the rebellious, God responded as the Judge to execute His own judgment in the form of Jesus Christ! By the morning, the entire Assyrian camp that was preparing to attack Judah had been destroyed. Not one was alive.
Additionally, God responded against the king of Assyria as He had previously promised. After Jesus was sent into the Assyrian camp to destroy their troops, the king of Assyria went back home to Nineveh. God promised Hezekiah that He would destroy the king of Assyria in his own homeland. God did just that in a fitting manner. While the king of Assyria was worshiping his false god in their temple, the king’s servant and son went in and killed him. The king of Assyria blasphemed the God of Israel as if He would not be able to protect Judah from their soldiers. However, the king’s god was not even able to protect the king from his own son while in the temple. Who proved themselves stronger? Who proved themselves faithful? Who proved that they were God and there is no other? The faith of Hezekiah and Isaiah was put in the right place. The mocking, boasting, and blaspheming by the Assyrians proved to be foolish unto death. The Lord is truly God and there is no other. He is in control and in charge whether people like it or not. Knowing this, people would be wise to confess this truth and be humble before God so that He would exalt and bless those who serve Him in humility.
It is one thing to know the concept of God. It is another thing to know the One True Living God according to the revelation of His righteousness. The Bible teaches that even the demons believe and they shutter at His presence. When Jesus walked the earth, demons bowed down before Him and trembled in fear of His power and authority. The Lord is God and there is no other! The Bible shows that those who know this to be true are comforted and encouraged, especially during times of distress and difficulty. The truth is, everyone experiences difficulty of some kind. It is the children of God that are able to face such difficulties with legitimate hope and comfort. God promised that He would provide peace that surpasses understanding. This means that the assurance of hope that God gives is intended to transcend the difficulty of any circumstances, even those that are life threatening. While God offers this benefit and blessing to everyone, only those who genuinely know the Lord get the benefits of what God desires to give. Only those who truly know the Lord, who He is, what His attributes are, what His character is, what His promises are, and understand His purposes get the benefit of God’s encouragement so that fear subsides in times of distress.
This truth can be seen in the life of Hezekiah. In 2 Kings 19:8-19 the Bible explains that God assured Hezekiah that He would bring judgment upon the kings of Assyria. The governing officials of Assyria were speaking pridefully against the people of Judah and blaspheming the Lord. This grieved and angered Hezekiah and his people. However, God comforted Hezekiah through the prophet Isaiah by explaining that He was aware of everything that was going on. God heard the blasphemous words of the Assyrians. God saw the prideful hearts of the Assyrians. God promised that He would respond, assuring Hezekiah and the people of Judah that He would not be mocked. God promised that He would send a confusing spirit to the king of Assyria so that he would believe rumors about various attack attempts on the Assyrian capitol. God swore that He would destroy the king of Assyria, but would do so in his own homeland. God wanted to deliver justice that sent a message; a message that revealed God’s sovereign control over all people and all circumstances. The king of Assyria would not die in a manner that could be considered coincidental to the time of God’s proclamation or typical of one going to war. God ensured Hezekiah that the king of Assyria would die in the safety of his own home town to show that God is able to penetrate the personal space of any person to do His will and exercise His sovereign control.
After giving this proclamation, the Bible explains that God got started on His work. When the Rabshakeh left Judah after giving his blasphemous message, he learned that the king of Assyria had departed from Lachish where they previously were. The king of Assyria was warring against another town called Libnah because he heard that the king of Ethiopia was trying to pick a fight with the Assyrians. When the Rabshakeh learned of this, he felt it was necessary to send the people of Judah another message. The Rabshakeh was anticipating victory over the king of Ethiopia and wanted to use that to emphasize his point that Assyria could not be defeated. The Rabshakeh sent another message to Hezekiah saying that the coming destruction of the king of Ethiopia would further prove that Judah would also soon be destroyed. The Rabshakeh wanted to tell Hezekiah that Assyrian dominance was unstoppable and that the people of Judah should just surrender to the previous terms that he offered. The Rabshakeh again slighted the Lord saying that their constant victories were evidence that the gods and idols of the people were no match for the Assyrian military prowess. As the Assyrians destroyed many nations and dismantled many false gods, idols, and cultural practices, the Rabshakeh warned Hezekiah that the same would be done to the people of Judah, figuring God to be just as weak as the others.
When Hezekiah received the Rabshakeh’s letter, he responded in the appropriate manner. Hezekiah opened the letter, read the letter to himself and the people, and then went to the temple of the Lord. The Bible explains that Hezekiah took the letter, placed it before the altar and prayed. Hezekiah was essentially showing the letter to God, not because God couldn’t see it otherwise, but as a statement of meekness and dependency on the Lord to fulfill His will and exalt His own name. This was a dramatic presentation from Hezekiah to show the Lord that he wanted to take his problem to Him. Hezekiah was showing the Lord that he didn’t want to address the problem himself according to his own understanding. Instead, Hezekiah wanted the Lord to take over the circumstances and exercise His power to show the Assyrians that He is the Lord and there is no other.
Here, it is especially important to notice how Hezekiah approached the Lord and addressed Him in prayer. Examine the words that the Bible documents and Hezekiah’s prayer:
"O LORD God of Israel, [the One] who dwells [between] the cherubim, You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. "Incline Your ear, O LORD, and hear; open Your eyes, O LORD, and see; and hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to reproach the living God. "Truly, LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands, "and have cast their gods into the fire; for they [were] not gods, but the work of men's hands--wood and stone. Therefore, they destroyed them. "Now therefore, O LORD our God, I pray, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You [are] the LORD God, You alone."
Notice that Hezekiah first acknowledged the identity of God and his understanding of the Lord. Hezekiah addressed God as “LORD God,” which in Hebrew is, “Yahweh Elohim.” Hezekiah didn’t generically refer to some spiritual deity, but called upon the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Hezekiah then showed that he knew God’s dwelling place and connection to His people according to His promises to Israel. Hezekiah explained that God dwelt between the cherubim, referring to the two figures of angels on the Mercy Seat, which was the lid to the Ark of the Covenant. This reference shows that Hezekiah not only knew God’s name, but also understood how God made Himself known. God promised to dwell with the children of Israel above the Mercy Seat. God made His glory appear in this fashion at this place on the Day of Atonement so that the high priest could perform his duties of intercession for the sins of Israel.
Hezekiah realized that God made special promises to the children of Israel and swore to make them His people, which is why God appeared to them in the manner that He did. Hezekiah knew that the basis of God’s connection to the people was on account of mercy. His glory was supremely awesome, but it would be on the foundation of mercy that God revealed His glory. Hezekiah knew that he was not entitled to plead with God, but also pleaded with God understanding that God was merciful as evidenced by the manifestation of God’s glory. Therefore, Hezekiah’s prayer is reflective of his pursuit of God’s mercy. Hezekiah did not approach God to seek personal vengeance because he didn’t like the Assyrians. Hezekiah sought the mercy of God on account of the promises that He made to Israel, which the Assyrians were threatening.
Hezekiah also mentioned the holy nature of God as Creator of all things. Hezekiah acknowledged that God is able to do anything He pleases because He alone is God. The Lord is the Creator of all things – spiritual and physical. Who can contend with God and win? Hezekiah recognized the power and strength of the Assyrians, but also knew and trusted that God’s strength was FAR more superior! Hezekiah confessed that the threats of the Assyrians were legitimate. He referenced how the Assyrians had indeed destroyed many people. The ability of the Assyrians to conquer and destroy was no joke. It was not like Hezekiah’s trust in the Lord made him think that the Assyrians were a non-factor. Hezekiah recognized the gravity of the situation. Nevertheless, Hezekiah attributed more power, strength, and authority to God and pleaded with God to show His people mercy.
Next, Hezekiah exalted the righteousness and holiness of God. Hezekiah stated how God was different from the false gods and idols that the Assyrians had previously destroyed. Hezekiah acknowledged that the Assyrians had great success in overthrowing people that followed other deities, but also confessed that those deities weren’t real. How hard is it to destroy a foe that can’t fight back? Hezekiah confessed that the false gods and idols that he even purged from Judah were worthless, powerless, and merely the works of human hands. Hezekiah knew that the Assyrians felt proud because of their ability to fight against the strength of sticks and rocks. They were powerful, but only because they weren’t fighting gods that were alive. Hezekiah acknowledged the uniqueness of Yahweh Elohim. He is alive. He is able. He is functional. He is powerful. He is purposeful. He is wise. He is God and there is no other!
When Hezekiah went to the Lord in prayer, He sought the Lord for salvation from the Assyrians. Though the Assyrians were successful in destroying sticks and rocks, they were still successful and powerful enough to destroy many towns and civilizations. Hezekiah didn’t trust in his own understanding or strength. Instead, he forfeited whatever wisdom and strength he might have had and called upon the name of the Lord to be his savior. Hezekiah’s plea for salvation was communicated in his pursuit of God’s mercy. Hezekiah knew that if God would give mercy, God’s mercy would be sufficient to save from threats. This is how it works! Those who call upon the name of the Lord must know and recognize who He is and understand the basis of His promises. When people seek the Lord from salvation of any kind – especially eternal life – it is critical to recognize that the Lord’s salvation comes on the basis of mercy. None are entitled to God’s benefits. God’s people are able to receive God’s benefits because He restrains Himself from giving sinners what we all deserve.
The truth is, the people of Judah were sinful and rebellious towards God for a long time. The Bible shows that Hezekiah had issues with pride. God would have been just to let the Assyrians totally destroy the people of Israel and Judah alike. Hezekiah knew God’s character though. Hezekiah knew that God is faithful to fulfill His promises and that He alone is holy, righteous, just, and powerful. Hezekiah wasn’t looking for victory so that he could be exalted or receive comfort. Hezekiah’s victory and comfort would come from the exaltation of the Lord’s name. Hezekiah desired the joy that would come from God upholding His own name. Hezekiah wanted God to prove Himself as right and supreme against the Assyrians. Hezekiah wanted the Assyrians to know that the God they offended is mighty to save, but also is righteous to respond against those who deny and rebel against Him. Hezekiah wanted the world to witness the truth of Yahweh Elohim through the effects of the merciful salvation He alone brings.
The Bible teaches that the Lord will not be mocked. There has always been an abundance of people that despise God and speak terrible things about Him. They speak lies against Him. They speak as if He has no power. They speak as if He is not real. They speak as if there is no consequence. Nevertheless, the Bible assures the people of God, and warns all people of the world that the Lord is God and there is no other. He hears the words of all people and sees into the hearts of all people even before a word is communicated. He knows who is for Him and who is against Him. Moreover, the Lord knows how to deal with the unrighteous and ungodly that rebel against Him and deny Him. The Bible explains that God is not only faithful to save His people from sin death and hell but is also faithful to save His people from those who come against them while rebelling against God. In other words, God is faithful to judge the ungodly as much as He is willing to save the faithful. As God exercises the full extent of His wisdom, power, and sovereignty to save His people, He will use the same wisdom, power, and authority to judge those who despise Him.
Evidence of this truth can be seen in the testimony of Hezekiah. In 2 Kings 19:1-7 the Bible documents Hezekiah’s response to the proud and blasphemous words of the Assyrian officials that threatened the people of Judah. When the Assyrians began to deport the people of the northern kingdom of Israel, Hezekiah panicked in fear. Rather than consulting the Lord for wisdom, Hezekiah took it upon himself to offer up a tribute to the king of Assyria in hopes that such a tribute would keep peace in Judah. Hezekiah’s plan was successful for a time, but as with all manmade wisdom, it was worthless after a short time. It didn’t take long for the Assyrians to grow discontent with their wealth and hearing that Hezekiah might have been conspiring with the king of Egypt, the king of Assyria sent threats to Judah. Sennacherib, king of Assyria, sent one of his officials called Rabshakeh. When the Rabshakeh met with the servants and messengers of Hezekiah, he approached them with intense pride and self-confidence. He spoke against the Lord by speaking against the children of Israel. The Rabshakeh figured that the true God of Israel was weak and worthless like the false gods and idols of other nations the Assyrians had previously conquered. Knowing that Hezekiah purged idolatry from the land, the Rabshakeh figured that Hezekiah had weakened God, as if God’s power and control is in anyway related to the presence of manmade figures. He was wrong.
The messengers of Hezekiah did well. They didn’t take the bait to be governed by fear. The Assyrians wanted to bully Judah into giving another tribute by intimidating them. The Assyrians tried to make the promises of God seem impossible and offered their own counterfeit form of God’s promises. The rhetoric of the Assyrians was very similar to the temptation of the devil, but the people of Judah faithfully held their ground. There were not governed by fear. They did not respond in the flesh or in an outburst of emotion. This is commendable because the Bible explains that Hezekiah’s messengers left the meeting with Rabshakeh in a very solemn manner. They tore their clothes, which was a typical Jewish way to express intense dismay, grief, and humility. They hated the words that the Assyrians spoke against God. They were offended with the blasphemies that the Assyrians were freely speaking. They likely wanted to respond, or at least, hoped God would respond quickly, but that response did not come at that time. It was tough for them to sit back and wait for God’s response considering the offensive things that were being stated about the Lord.
The testimony of 2 Kings 19:1-7 documents Hezekiah’s response to this meeting once he found out about what happened. The Bible explains that when he heard about the things that were spoken against God, he also tore his clothes. Hezekiah was one of Judah’s most righteous kings and was a man that genuinely loved the Lord. Hearing that people were blaspheming God’s name made Hezekiah angry and frustrated. He expressed this anger and frustration by putting on sackcloth and going to the house of the Lord in humility. Hezekiah’s aim was to approach the Lord in humility in hopes that God would respond to uphold His own namesake. Hezekiah didn’t want anyone to get away with speaking lies and blasphemies against God. So, Hezekiah sought God with intense devotion and meekness in hopes that God would honor his desire to see the Assyrians receive judgment.
While Hezekiah went to the house of the Lord to pray, he also sent men to visit the prophet Isaiah. Hezekiah wanted to present himself humbly to the Lord to receive His favor against the Assyrians, but also wanted to hear directly from the Lord and so inquired of God’s messenger, the prophet Isaiah. Notice the diligence of King Hezekiah. It is a noble thing to see a man of God be so highly offended with the blasphemies spoken against God that he would respond with such determination and resolve. Hezekiah was not only motivated to pray, but also encouraged others to pray with him. Hezekiah not only wanted to express his heart towards God, but also expected a response from Him. Notice that Hezekiah trusted in the means by which God was communicating. Hezekiah didn’t go to the temple of the Lord and pretend to be the high priest. Hezekiah didn’t pretend to be God’s messenger as a prophet. He knew that God spoke to the people by the prophets, and so seeking to hear from God, went to His prophet. He did not figure the voice in his own head to be the voice of God. He didn’t figure the desire of his own heart to be the conviction of God. This is not to say that God can’t work in those ways, but a true work of faith is to trust in the patterns of God’s work according to the things He’s previously done, and the sufficiency of that workflow. The Book of Hebrews teaches that God spoke in the past by the prophets. Hezekiah acknowledged this as true and sought one of God’s true prophets to hear God’s own word. In these last days, God speaks by His Son, which is the Word of God. Those who seek to hear from God must trust in the method of communication that He has officially ordained rather than listening to the confusing thoughts of our own minds, or the corrupted desires of our own hearts.
The Lord was faithful to honor Hezekiah’s inquiry. Hezekiah loved the Lord so much that he took all of the necessary efforts to seek God, hoping that He would deliver His justice. Hezekiah was not seeking revenge for himself because Hezekiah was not the one that was belittled by the Assyrians. Hezekiah sought revenge on God’s behalf and left vengeance in the hands of the Lord. Thus, the Lord was faithful to see Hezekiah’s heart. The Lord saw that Hezekiah wanted to exalt His name and wanted God to prove Himself as almighty and superior in glory. When Hezekiah sent his men to inform Isaiah of what was going on, his men told Isaiah to pray to the Lord. Hezekiah wanted Isaiah to join him in prayer. Hezekiah expressed that it was a day of trouble because of the blasphemies that were spoken against God and recognized that Israel was not in position to just go out and fight in the name of God. Hezekiah realized that this was the Lord’s fight and wanted Isaiah to petition the Lord to take a swing. Hezekiah wanted Isaiah to join him in prayer, that God would preserve the spiritual integrity of the faith in Judah. It was true that Hezekiah led a powerful spiritual revival in Judah, but Judah had been depleted and wasn’t quite the “great nation” that they had been in times past. Hezekiah wanted Isaiah to join him in prayer, that God’s will would be done concerning the promises He made to Israel, especially concerning Judah and Jerusalem. This is why God heard the prayers and petitions of Hezekiah. Hezekiah desired for God’s will to be done and for His promises to be fulfilled; especially in light of those who despised, doubted, and blasphemed God’s promises and personal faithfulness and character.
The Bible explains that God responded in the traditional manner that He had previously done. He continued to follow the same pattern of communication that He had exercised since the time of King Saul. God spoke to Hezekiah through His prophet Isaiah. God told Isaiah and reassured Hezekiah that He would not be mocked. He told the people of Judah not to be afraid. He assured the people of Judah that He heard all of the words that were spoken against Him. God assured His people that He was already prepared with a plan and would exercise His sovereign authority to address the situation. Additionally, God encouraged the people to let them know that, He would not only judge the blasphemers, but do so in a manner that would demonstrate His supreme authority over all power and worldly influence. God said that He would send a spirit to fester a rumor among the Assyrians. God would exercise His sovereign control over the spirit realm to cause a spirit to speak into the hearts, minds, and ears of the Assyrian military generals. They would hear a false rumor about certain attack plans that threatened the Assyrian capital; this way, the king of Assyria would return to Assyria and die in his own homeland. God did not want the king of Assyria to die in the manner of typical combat. Instead, God wanted to show the Assyrians and the world that He is powerful enough to penetrate into the safe places of His enemies. God can interrupt the comforts and places of refuge of His enemies in order to judge them. He doesn’t need to set traps in dangerous places. Instead, God wanted to show that He is the One True Living God that has charge over all things, even the homes of those who hate Him. Hezekiah would not have to worry about the words of men. God’s Word is the only word that actually has any power; and that power is sufficient to penetrate all facets of every life.
Fear is a difficult thing to cope with. The Bible shows that it is a real issue and powerful influence over human life. The Bible tells the people of God over and over again to abstain from fear. The phrase “do not fear” in the King James Version of the Bible is mentioned in some variation over sixty times. The phrase “do not be afraid” is mentioned over thirty times. The phrase “fear not” is mentioned over sixty times as well. This is an emphatic command from God to His people. He repeats it over and over again. The context of God’s command to abstain from fear is always dealing with faith. In other words, the absence of fear is a work of faith. Those who don’t fear and are able to stand confidently in threatening circumstances are those who trust in God and His willingness and ability to fulfill His promises. This is why the Bible says that “perfect love cast out all fear (1 John 4:18).” Since God is the essence of love (1 John 4:8), when His essence fills His people, there is no room for fear. The presence of God brings the power, assurance, and hope of God’s sovereign power and promises. Since God is for us, who can be against us, right?
In contrast, the devil seeks to leverage fear against God’s people to dismantle faith, thereby separating God’s people from the benefits of His promises. The enemy seeks to leverage circumstances to intimidate and bully God’s people into focusing on the things of this life so that there is no focus on eternal life. The devil tries to use fear against God’s people to get them to depart from His promises and power, leaning on human reasoning and understanding instead of God’s wisdom. The enemy will often try and make life’s issues seem bigger than they are, as if God cannot handle them on behalf of His people; as if God has betrayed His promises or grown weak in His ability. In other words, the enemy will often use difficulties in life to apply pressure on God’s people to instill the belief that God is not who the Bible says He is. By doing this, the devil tries to get people to follow Him by default of not trusting the Lord.
A perfect example of this is found in the testimony of Hezekiah. In 2 Kings 18:17-37 the Bible explains that Hezekiah had to continue to deal with the problems of the Assyrians. Though Hezekiah had volunteered to pay tribute to the Assyrians in hopes for peace, his own ideas did not suffice to solve the problem. Later, some of the governing authorities of the Assyrians came together to try to intimidate Hezekiah into paying more, surrendering more freedoms, and further departing from faith in the Lord. Notice that while Hezekiah was used to do an awesome work of spiritual restoration in Judah, the devil quickly made efforts to dismantle the spiritual focus that the Lord instilled. Three governing officials of the Assyrians went into Jerusalem to try and bully Hezekiah in hopes to further deplete their resources and cause them to fear the king of Assyria more than God. Even though Hezekiah had previously made a deal with the Assyrians and paid them off, these people sought more, broke their deal, and threatened to attack.
Hezekiah sent three men to meet with the Assyrian officials. When the three servants of Hezekiah met with the Assyrians, the Assyrians immediately tried to impose their will to scare the people of Judah. They questioned the people of Judah and their faith. They exalted the name and power of their own king while downplaying the power and faithfulness of God. This is a common tactic of the devil. The Assyrian official known as Rabshakeh scolded the people of Judah for seeking to rebel against the Assyrians. Hezekiah had previously reached out to the Egyptians in hopes that they could be counted on for back-up in case there was a battle. Here, Hezekiah’s fault was in that he reached out to the Egyptians rather than God. Notice that, even though Hezekiah was used to lead a great spiritual revival, he still made foolish decisions like any other normal human being. He leaned on his own understanding when he decided to pay off the Assyrians. He made the same mistake by calling out to the Egyptians for help. God never gave the command to do either. Hezekiah did not seek the Lord’s understanding so that as Hezekiah kept coming up with his own ideas, they kept blowing up in his face, complicating the issues. Figuring the people would be safer with Egyptian help, that idea actually provoked the Assyrians to anger and threatened attacks.
The Assyrians were greatly offended by the idea that Judah would reach out to the Egyptians. The Rabshakeh likened the Egyptians to a “broken reed,” referring to their weakened power and influence. Egypt was not the world super power that they were before. The Assyrians were much stronger, but very prideful about the position that God enabled them to have. The Assyrians didn’t see things that way. The criticized the faith of Hezekiah in two ways: for trusting that the Egyptians could help, and for trusting that the God of Israel could help. The Rabshakeh criticized the people’s faith in God saying, “But if you say to me, ‘We trust in the Lord our God,’ is it not He whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah has taken away, and said to Judah and Jerusalem, ‘You shall worship before this altar in Jerusalem?’” The Bible is clear to show that those who attack the faith of God’s people are ignorant of God Himself. Here, the Bible shows that the Rabshakeh figured God to be equal to the false gods and idols that Hezekiah destroyed. The Rabshakeh figured that because Hezekiah broke down the altars and high places of the idols that the One True Living God was weakened. This is pure ignorance. God’s power does not reside in the works of human hands. God is the Great I AM – He is who He is regardless of mankind’s faith or works. The people of Assyria didn’t know that, and so figured themselves to be greater than the Lord God Almighty.
The Rabshakeh implored Hezekiah’s servants to give a new pledge and tribute to the king of Assyria. He pridefully assured the people of Judah that Egypt was too weak to help and God was unable as well. The Assyrians likened the Lord God Almighty to the false gods of other nations that the Assyrians had conquered. The Rabshakeh told Hezekiah’s men that, because other nations had trusted in their gods but were destroyed by Assyria, why would the people of Judah and the God of Israel be any different. Clearly the Rabshakeh did not know that the Lord is God and there is no other. It is easy to defeat something that is fake. It is easy to destroy something that has no power, life, or purpose. It is easy to fight something that doesn’t fight back. Nevertheless, the Assyrians tried to convince the people of Israel that God was the same as the others. The Assyrians challenged the faith of the people of Judah by pointing to all of the other devastating circumstances that Assyria had caused, promising that they would be able to continue in their dominance.
As the Rabshakeh pridefully spoke these words, Hezekiah’s men implored the Assyrians to speak quietly so that the onlookers of Judah would not be frightened or intimidated. The servants of Hezekiah asked the Rabshakeh to speak in Aramaic so that the conversation could be private and not reach the ears of the people of Judah. This made the Rabshakeh speak more proudly. The Bible says that he lifted up his voice to speak in Hebrew, ensuring that the people heard the threats. He assured the people listening that Assyria would continue to prove faith in the supernatural to be futile against the power of their king. He again told the people of Judah to just pay another tribute and everything would remain peaceful. He told the people not to listen to the words of Hezekiah to trust in the Lord or his plans. Instead, the Rabshakeh made an offer to the people of Judah to tempt them from trusting in the Lord and the king.
The Rabshakeh told the people that if they would surrender to Assyria, and make peace with a present to Assyria, he would provide food, land, and safety. The Assyrians promised that the people of Judah would be able to eat from their own vines, drink from their own wells, and live in peace and prosperity. However, the Rabshakeh told the children of Israel that they would be carried away to a new land to live in such a manner. They would be taken into Assyrian territory where he promised that they would be given new land, new vineyards, and new wells. However, the people of Judah would be spared and prosper in Assyria. Here, it is critical to recognize the temptation of the devil. When God first called Abraham to be His own, He promised Abraham that his descendants would be a great nation, receive a special and specific land inheritance, and that a blessing to all of the families of the earth would come. God would bring the increase to make the nation great. God defined the boarders of the Promised Land. The blessing would be defined by God’s own essence. Yet the Rabshakeh offered something similar in Assyria. The Assyrians sought to copy God’s promise but change the terms. They offered their own land inheritance. They offered a different form of greatness. They offered a different sort of blessing. In other words, the Assyrians tried to intimidate and scare the people of Judah in order to get them to worship and serve the Assyrians as god in place of the One True Living God.
The people of Judah did well however. They followed the commands of Hezekiah and did not give a response to the Assyrians. They simply listened to the information and took the details back to Hezekiah for his consideration. The people of Judah didn’t make any deal. They didn’t submit. They stood their ground on their faith for just a little bit longer while the Lord did His thing. The Bible specifically says that the people of Judah “held their peace.” The enemy tried to implant fear, but the people of Judah didn’t let them. They listened to the words of the enemy and then just did their jobs. They didn’t respond impulsively or emotionally. They received the peace that surpasses understanding from the Lord, and let the Lord deal with the enemy, his pride, his lies, his ignorance, and his evil. The people of Judah humbled themselves by tearing their clothes and despising the blasphemies that were stated against God. Nevertheless, they did not respond according to their own understanding and did not fall for the temptation and trap of the devil. They sought their king trusting that he would seek the Lord in the same manner that we should trust our King of kings, knowing that He is the Lord of lords.
The Bible teaches that the Lord chastens those whom He loves. The Lord is willing to scourge every child that He receives as His own. Though some people are offended by the idea of disciplining children this way, this is the standard that the Lord sets. He does this in order to teach His children that there are consequences and pain associated with disobedience. The Lord disciplines His children so that they will learn that when there is distance from God on account of sin, bad things happen. The Lord chastens, but not unto the point of destruction. God’s point in His discipline is that, if He doesn’t seek to correct the course, that course will lead to total destruction and condemnation. God’s discipline is painful and hard, but it’s better than the alternative if sin isn’t corrected.
This means that the children of God will sometimes go through hardships that the devil is not inflicting. God will sometimes inflict those hardships Himself so that His people will be driven away from sin in repentance. God will show mercy so as to not give the total extent of punishment that is deserved but will poke and prod His people back onto the path that leads to righteousness and eternal life. This is good news for the children of God, but also comes with a catch. The catch is, while we are disciplined as God’s children and remain His, that discipline will keep us from receiving the full extent of benefits that God desires to give. So while nothing can separate God’s people from His love and take the salvation that He gives to those who are His, there are blessings and opportunities that the Lord desires to give that can be taken away. God is good all of the time, but sometimes the consequences of our sin that stem from God’s discipline will keep us from more benefits that God wants to share.
This truth is made clear in the testimony of Judah in 2 Kings 18:13-16. This portion of scripture explains that ten years after Assyria conquered the northern kingdom of Israel, they sought to move south and conquer Judah as well. The Lord was faithful to protect Judah on account of the spiritual restoration that King Hezekiah worked to bring to the people. Hezekiah had destroyed all of the temples, altars, and high places that the people used to worship false gods and idols. Hezekiah reinstated the Levitical priests to their true purpose according to the Law. He equipped them and financially sponsored them to relearn the ordinances of God and consecrate themselves. Hezekiah did this so that God’s order could be reinstated according to His righteous commands. God called for the Levitical priests to be the means by which the children of Israel would be connected to Him. Their work was to enable intercession. The priests were to lead the children of Israel in worship and sacrifice to God, and God alone. Hezekiah went to great lengths to get these things back on track and the Lord was pleased.
In the fourteenth year of Hezekiah’s reign, things had changed. The people were spiritually refocused on the Lord, but there were hardships that came nonetheless. This shows that, just because people get right with the Lord, doesn’t mean that life gets simple and comfortable. When Judah got right with the Lord, they got attacked – literally! In the fourteenth year of Hezekiah’s rule, Sennacherib was the king of Assyria. His predecessors were successful in amassing great power for the Assyrian empire, and Sennacherib sought to leverage that power against the people of Judah. Unfortunately, Hezekiah didn’t handle the first siege against Judah with the same quality of faith that he had when he led the people out of idolatry. It was easy to wage war against idols and temples. It was harder to wage war against men with swords. Hezekiah was intimidated by the Assyrians and let the threats of swords affect his decision-making.
The scriptures show that Hezekiah sought the Lord on a regular basis, but not at this time. When Sennacherib sent his first wave of attacks against Judah, Hezekiah gave in quickly without consulting the Lord. Hezekiah responded by fear instead of faith. Hezekiah sent a messenger to the king of Assyria with this message: “I have done wrong; turn away from me; whatever you impose on me, I will pay.” This is a sad and pitiful statement coming from a child of God who knows the Lord. The truth is, Hezekiah had not done wrong. Hezekiah was not perfect. The Bible is clear to show that Hezekiah made great errors during his reign; but this was not one of those times. The Bible does not show that the first attack against Judah from the Assyrians was specifically on account of Hezekiah’s sin. Hezekiah was admitting fault for no reason in order to humble himself before Sennacherib. Hezekiah was forfeiting and submitting to the Assyrians out of fear. Hezekiah wasn’t willing to fight, and the thought seemingly never crossed his mind. This isn’t to say that Hezekiah was supposed to fight, but his lack of inquiry of the Lord made it impossible for Hezekiah to know what was right. Hezekiah simply surrendered himself to the enemy and vowed to pay tribute to him in hopes to stay safe.
Here is the problem with Hezekiah’s approach. Recall that God promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that the children of Israel would be a great nation, dwelling safely in the land, and would be a blessing to all of the families of the earth. Recall that God promised that Judah would be “a lion’s whelp” and that “the scepter” would not depart from Judah. Recall that God promised that “a Star shall come out of Jacob; a Scepter shall rise out of Israel,” in order to destroy the enemies of Israel. Recall that God promised that, as He had gone everywhere with King David, God would continue to be with His people to enable and protect them. God promised that as He cut off David’s enemies, He would cut off all of the enemies of Israel. He promised that He would appoint a place to worship Him and then plant the people in that land so that the sons of wickedness could not oppress them anymore. God would do this so that He could dwell with His people and be their God on a throne that He would establish in Judah for all of eternity.
The actions of Hezekiah don’t reflect someone that remembered or trusted in God’s promises. If God promised that Israel would be a great nation, why forfeit? If God promised that the scepter would not depart from Judah and that God Himself would plant, establish, equip, and protect His people in Judah to rule there Himself, why surrender to a mere man? If the testimony of King David proved God’s promises to Israel as true, why doubt God’s ability to continue in His purposes? Hezekiah gave into the Assyrians because he forgot these things about God. He let the circumstances redirect his focus from the eternal nature of God’s promises because of the possibility of threats. The testimony of 2 Kings 18:13-16 explains that Sennacherib accepted Hezekiah’s offer. He commanded Hezekiah to pay three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold. A single talent of gold is equal to $5,760,000, which means that Hezekiah volunteered himself to pay $172,800,000 in gold! A talent of silver was equal to $384,000. This means that Hezekiah volunteered himself to pay $115,200,000, which totals to $288,000,000 in tribute.
This is an insane amount of money that Hezekiah just gave into. Here, it is important to consider this: where would Hezekiah get this money from? Where would the silver and gold come from? Consider the history of Israel. When God called Abraham to leave his father’s house to go to a land that God would show him, Abraham took very little. The Bible says that God increased him and made him wealthy. The same is said of Isaac and Jacob as well. Recall that when the children of Israel were in Egypt, they were there as slaves. Yet the Lord prophesied to Abraham, over four-hundred years before, that his descendants would plunder Egypt. When the children of Israel left Egypt, that’s exactly what happened. The Egyptians were so afraid of God because of His judgment against the firstborn children in Egypt, that they let the children of Israel take anything they wanted with them. God increased the children of Israel. Recall that when Joshua led the children of Israel across the Jordan River to fight the native inhabitants of the Promised Land, they had nothing in their possession. They were told to destroy all of the possessions of the pagans that dwelt in the land. The increase of Israel came from the work of the Lord. When David became king, he confessed that the Lord delivered him from his enemies, at which point he was able to plunder those enemies. David’s plunders were great. God had provided victories that enabled His people to take from the enemy in order to increase their own wealth. The reign of King Solomon was an amazing illustration of the wealth that God brought to His people.
Israel’s history shows that the wealth of Israel as God’s wealth. He gave it to the people and expected the increase that He provided to be used for specific purposes that were glorifying to Him. God took from the enemies of Israel to give to Israel. Yet, Hezekiah took that which God gave and returned it back into the hands of the enemy. Hezekiah did this out of fear. God had moved His people closer to the fulfillment of His promises, but Hezekiah’s unbelief caused the people to take steps backward. Hezekiah gave up a lot of Judah’s resources and the testimony of scripture suggests that they didn’t have enough to meet the requirements that Sennacherib demanded. Hezekiah had to strip the gold from the doors of the temple of the Lord and from the pillars that Hezekiah himself had previously restored and overlaid. While the temple was intended to be a picture of God’s glory, Hezekiah’s fear and unbelief caused that picture to be weak and pitiful. God intended for Judah to be powerful and glorious, but Hezekiah’s unbelief caused Judah to be weak and sorry. Though God would have answered Hezekiah if Hezekiah would have sought Him, the Lord stayed quiet and let Hezekiah pay the consequences of his unbelief. God’s discipline was silence, and the effects of that silence was great loss of benefits, riches, influence, and most importantly, confidence in the Lord.
The Bible makes it plain and clear that bad things happen when people deny God and rebel against Him. The creation account in the Book of Genesis is helpful to reveal the righteousness of God through the work He did to create the heavens and the earth. First and foremost, the testimony of God’s work in creation shows that He is eternally self-existing and self-sustaining. He has no beginning and no end. Hence, He refers to Himself as “the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.” He has no creator, and so this also makes God sovereign. He is supremely in control of ALL things. The Bible teaches that all things were made by Him and for Him, and in Him all things consist. The testimony of creation explains that God is the source of wisdom as well. The world marvels over the discoveries and understanding that has been gained over the scientific processes that govern the universe. God is the One that governs those processes. He is the author of all of the systems and methods that enable life, sustain life, and even deal with the effects of death. When reading through the creation account, it is impossible to ignore that God is also the chief provider of life, functionality and purpose, and goodness. It was God that gave life and purpose to all living things, including humans. It was God that declared all of the work that He did as good. No one contended. Therefore, God is true.
This means that when people seek to separate from God through unrighteousness and ungodliness, there are severe consequences. Since God is the author, distributor, and administrator of life, wisdom, sustenance, and goodness, separation from Him will severely cripple one’s ability to enjoy those benefits. Those who deny God and live separated from Him will not enjoy His goodness. Those who deny God and live separated from Him will not receive His provision, which includes protection and purpose. Those who deny God and live separated from Him will not have the Lord’s wisdom to know truth, understand purpose, and have direction concerning right and wrong. Those who deny God and live separated from Him, though they may walk about, will not truly be alive according to the Lord’s desire.
The history of mankind proves these concepts as true. The testimonies of scripture provide ample details that support these truths as well. The testimony of the northern kingdom of Israel is a prime example of what happens when people decide they don’t need God or don’t want Him to be involved in life. In 2 Kings 18:9-12 the Bible explains that the northern kingdom of Israel suffered great difficulties under the rule of king Hoshea. The kings in Israel were mostly terrible and did not do what was right in the sight of the Lord. God was displeased with the leadership, but also the people’s enthusiastic willingness to follow. The people in the northern kingdom of Israel had a rich tradition in idolatry. They did not follow the Lord and His commands, and God gave them over to the consequences of the desires of their hearts.
The Bible explains that when Hoshea was king, Shalmaneser, the king of Assyria, laid siege against Israel for three long years. For three long years, Hoshea and the people of the northern kingdom of Israel had to deal with various conflicts. Many people died. Most of those people died slow and miserable deaths. Though God had promised His people that they would be a great nation, the testimony of Hoshea and his reign did not resemble a great nation at all. The northern kingdom of Israel was pitiful and miserable. The scriptures explain that, after the third year of Assyria’s siege, Assyria began to carry people away from the land that God had given them. The children of Israel were deported from the Promised Land. The scriptures testify that the Assyrians shipped the Israelites away to Halah, the River of Gozan, and the cities of the Medes. These cities and regions were 700-1,000 miles away from Israel! It was not just that the children of Israel lost their homes, but also that they were taken so far away from them that hope was stripped away as well. These people were spiritually AND geographically distanced from God’s promises so that no resemblance of God’s promises could be seen.
This testimony almost makes God seem as if He was going back on His promises. However, the commands that God gave in the Law of Moses warned the people about the effects of idolatry. God told the people that if they pursued the desires of their hearts to be like other nations, denied God and worshiped idols in His place, there would be curses instead of blessings. The testimony of 2 Kings 18:9-12 shows that God’s warning was real. His judgments were true. The testimony of Hoshea is helpful to explain why Israel was put in this sort of depressed position to show that God is blameless. The Bible plainly states that the children of Israel did not obey the voice of the Lord their God, but instead transgressed His covenant. God made amazing promises to Israel on the premise of grace. God swore upon Himself to fulfill those promises and ratified those promises by the blessings that God provided in the Law. However, the people didn’t value God’s promises. They didn’t care about God’s covenant. They didn’t accept God’s righteousness. They didn’t believe in God’s blatant revelations, and so they lived life their own way and paid for it.
The Bible explains that the children of Israel transgressed “all” that God had commanded the people through Moses. The scriptures are clear to explain that the people “would neither hear nor do” God’s commands. The people were so indifferent God and the goodness of His promises that they didn’t even hear the voice of God. The people were so entrenched in their own manner of living that their ears grew numb to the convictions, warnings, and righteous declarations of God. If they couldn’t hear the warnings to save their lives, they most certainly didn’t hear the goodness of God’s promises. How can someone be obedient to a command that is not heard? How can someone hear a message that they don’t care to receive? It is for these reasons that God was blameless. It is true that the children of Israel in the northern kingdom were far from the fulfillment of the goodness of God’s promises. God was still faithful to fulfil His promises, but the testimony of Hoshea shows that it would be far better to be the beneficiary of God’s blessings instead of curses. God will judge unrighteousness by allowing people to have the desires of their hearts. The problem for many people is that, when the desires of the heart don’t exalt the Lord, all of the goodness, provision, wisdom and life of God become unavailable. Is this God’s fault? Certainly not!
God makes Himself freely available to all of those who humbly seek Him in the means by which He has rightly commanded. He will never turn anyone away. Yet, the Bible is clear to show that God will not strive with stubborn, rebellious, prideful, and self-righteous people forever. God has a threshold of patience, and when that threshold is exceeded, the full effects of darkness that people pursue in place of God will produce depression, destruction, and misery.
The Bible makes it clear how God’s people can live in ways that are pleasing to Him. People do not have the liberty to make up their own lifestyle to come up with their own form of “good” and expect God to be pleased with such living. God spoke to “the fathers” in time past, through the prophets, and has spoken to us “in these last days” by His Son. God has sufficiently revealed His identity, nature, characteristics, purposes and promises. God has revealed His standards of righteousness and proved them to be supremely true. This revelation was authored by the Holy Spirit’s utilization of various men throughout human history that were used to pen the testimonies that identify God’s will and purposes. God was clear to explain what pleases Him through this revelation, and even took the form of flesh as Jesus Christ to give a clearer example of what pleases Him.
The testimony of Hezekiah in 2 Kings 18:1-8 provides a clear example of how a regular person was able to live in such a way that pleased God. The Bible doesn’t just say that God was pleased with Hezekiah, but also provides the specific things that Hezekiah did that pleased God. The testimony of Hezekiah begins by stating that he took rule of Judah at the age of twenty-five after his father Ahaz. Here, it is important to recognize that, while Ahaz was one of the most wicked kings to rule in Judah, a son is not obligated to follow in the evil footsteps of an earthly father. A child does not have to be a product of their environment. Ahaz was evil in the sight of the Lord by his excessive idolatry. Hezekiah on the other hand, was pleasing in the sight of the Lord because he did not worship idols. The scriptures are clear to explain that God was pleased with Hezekiah because he lived according to his spiritual father, King David, not his earthly father, Ahaz. King David was described as “a man after God’s own heart.” King David sought the Lord and only the Lord. Though he made mistakes, he sought the Lord only for mercy, forgiveness, and grace. David did not seek idols and false gods. David did not follow pagan traditions. David made mistakes, but was willing to confess his sin, looking to the Law of God as the standard of righteousness, recognizing that he was unable to fulfill the Law, seeking God’s mercy and salvation as a result. Hezekiah lived just like this, regardless of the evils his father promoted.
The scriptures are detailed to explain the works of Hezekiah’s faith. Hezekiah was used to orchestrate one of the greatest spiritual revivals in Israel’s history. Here is how he did it. First, the Bible says that Hezekiah “removed the high places and broke the sacred pillars, cut down the wooden images, and broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made.” This is CRITICAL to understand. Recall that Jotham, Hezekiah’s grandfather, did well in the sight of the Lord because he abstained from idolatry. However, where Jotham failed was in that he did not destroy the idols in Judah. Therefore, he made it possible and convenient for the people of Judah to continue in their wickedness according to the desires of their flesh. He led as a good example, but the people of Judah did not follow because of the temptation that Jotham left intact. Hezekiah didn’t make that mistake. He didn’t just remove the temptation, but absolutely obliterated it and purged it from the presence of Judah. He communicated a clear message – idolatry would not be a part of anyone’s life living in Judah!
The details of Hezekiah’s destructive work against the serpent that Moses built explains why it was necessary for Hezekiah to purge idolatry from the land in such a decisive and violent manner. The testimony of the bronze serpent of Moses is provided in Numbers Chapter 21. There, the Bible explains that God sent fiery serpents to torment the children of Israel while they were wandering through the wilderness because of their complaints and unbelief. The people immediately recognized that they had sinned against God, seeing the presence of the snakes as God’s judgment. They implored Moses to plead with God to take the serpents away. God agreed that He would deliver the people from His judgment, but also required a demonstration of faith to receive His benefits. God commanded Moses to manufacture a bronze serpent and put it on a pole. In order to be healed of a bite from the serpents, the people would have to look up at the serpent. Such a statement of faith would cause God to heal that person from the circumstances of their judgment.
Here, it is important to consider why God commanded the people to do such a thing. The construction of the bronze serpent was supposed to be a prophetic picture of God’s promise of the Messiah. The serpent was to be bronze, which is a metal that is synonymous with and symbolic of God’s judgment. The people were called to look up at the figure of a serpent in order to be healed. This means that the people had to look at the form which threatened their lives. They had to look at the form of sin and corruption that threatened death but would actually be healed by looking at that form. The serpent was supposed to be lifted up on a pole so that the people would have to look up. This is a picture of Jesus Christ, the crucifixion, and God’s purpose for it. Jesus, as God in flesh, became a curse and became sin, even though He knew no sin. He was lifted up on the tree in the crucifixion to serve as God’s judgment against sin. Those who look to Him are healed of the threats of God’s judgment. This was God’s purpose for the bronze serpent that Moses built.
According to the testimony of 2 Kings 18:1-8 the people had changed God’s purpose and perverted the blessing of His prophetic picture. The Bible testifies that the people were burning incense to the bronze serpent and calling it “Nehushtan,” meaning “thing of brass.” Over time, this figure was reproduced and referred to as “Asherah” poles and was used to worship the Canaanite goddess of fertility who shared that name. God commanded Moses to build this figure to teach His people about salvation, eternal life, His mercy, His grace, and the means by which His eternally unconditional promises would be fulfilled by the Messiah. However, God’s people perverted His purpose and made God’s teaching tool into something totally different. This is why Hezekiah had to utterly purge EVERYTHING from the land that resembled idolatry. Human tendency is to take that which God intends for good, and then corrupt it. History shows that when people find the opportunity to pervert God’s purposes, they will do so. Therefore, Hezekiah, seeking to exalt the holy righteousness of God, and God alone, removed any opportunity for the people of Judah to compare God to another figure, or mix His essence with something worldly. This was the first step to the spiritual revival in Judah.
Next, the Bible explains that Hezekiah trusted in the Lord God of Israel. Hezekiah had faith. His faith was demonstrated by the ways that he lived; first by destroying that which people called “god,” then by ensuring the people knew the righteousness of God by upholding His laws and commands. The Bible explains that Hezekiah “held fast” to God’s Law and kept His commandments. The parallel testimony of Hezekiah in 2 Chronicles Chapter 29 explains that he made it a focus of his kingship to immediately consecrate the priests in order that the people could celebrate the feast days and sacrifices of God’s Law. In fact, the people were a whole month late in celebrating the Passover because Hezekiah wanted to make sure the priests were doing things the right way, making them take their time. He made them study the Law, relearn the Law, and teach the people how to do things God’s ways according to the Law. Hezekiah invested into the Levitical priests, knowing that since God appointed them to lead the people in sacrifice and worship, they needed to be properly equipped to do their jobs if the people were going to have examples to follow. Since there were no more idols, the priests had focus and Hezekiah reminded them of their purpose. The priests were paid and taken care of so that they were able to lead the people the way God designed. The people responded with joy in response to things being done God’s way. Hezekiah upheld the righteous commands of God above all things and governed the people according to God’s declarations to exemplify His faith in the Lord. This was the second thing Hezekiah did that led to revival.
The Bible explains that Hezekiah held fast to the Lord through the Word of God. As a result, God was with him. Those who dwell in the presence of the Lord can’t fail! Hezekiah separated himself from idolatry and worldly influences. Though the Assyrians were business partners with Judah while Ahaz was king, Hezekiah quickly dissolved that partnership so that he would not be unequally yoked. Even though the Assyrians were deporting the children of Israel in the north during the time of Hezekiah’s reign, God protected the people of Judah. This is the benefit that comes with those who dwell in the presence of the Lord – they get His protection and provision. Once the darkness and lies of idolatry was purged from Judah, the people were able to see the Lord clearly when the righteousness of God was revealed by the upholding of the Law. As a result, the people rejoiced and embraced Hezekiah even though he was causing such radical changes in lifestyle. The people recognized that they were in favor with God again and experienced the tangible benefits of that favor seeing God protect them from the Assyrians. God also provided Judah with victories against the Philistines, enabling them to reconquer land that was previously taken.
The national repentance of Judah had the people in such overwhelming joy that the parallel testimony of 2 Chronicles Chapter 29 explains that the people started to give gifts, offerings, and tithes to a degree that it was too much. The people had seen the difference between following the Lord and following false gods and wanted to show gratitude and appreciation to God. The goodness of God was being poured out on the people because the perversion of idolatry was not clogging the conduit of God’s grace anymore. God was with Hezekiah, and there was great fruit to show for it. The people recognized this truth and wanted to participate in the good things that the Lord was doing. According to the Bible, this is how revival comes to God’s people.