Posts tagged Hezekiah
When people think about God, many think of two different “versions” of God. There is the Old Testament God – inflexible and sometimes cruel – and the New Testament God – gracious and compassionate. And, perhaps, if you just glance at the Bible or only read the most popular verses, it might be easy to draw that conclusion. However, we’re reading through the entire Bible and as we do, I think we’re getting a clearer picture of the full nature of God.
I’ve already talked about God’s willingness to be flexible and meet the people in ways that they could understand. But check out these verses from 2 Chronicles, chapter 30:
Although most of the many people who came from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar and Zebulun had not purified themselves, yet they ate the Passover, contrary to what was written. But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, “May the Lord, who is good, pardon everyone who sets their heart on seeking God—the Lord, the God of their ancestors—even if they are not clean according to the rules of the sanctuary.” And the Lord heard Hezekiah and healed the people. (2 Chronicles 30:18-20)
Do you see what happened there? These people hadn’t followed the rules. By eating the Passover meal while they were unclean, they had defiled the Passover, according to the law. A “by the book” king would have banished these people and begged God to forgive him. But Hezekiah somehow understood the heart of God. And so, rather than trying to save his own hide (and his kingdom), he went to God on behalf of the “lawbreakers,”
Hezekiah understood that the desire of the heart is more important than the outward acts. As God would later tell Samuel, people look on the outside, but God looks on the inside. Or, as Jesus would put it when criticizing the Pharisees:
“You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.” (Matthew 23:25)
You see, God wanted the people to “clean the outside of the cup,” (he had given them orders to do so) but the more important thing was the inside. To put it another way, God would rather get his hands dirty (on the outside of the cup) than to drink filth (from the inside). And so, God gave the “unclean” people a pass. He showed the kind of grace and flexibility that most people associate with the “New Testament God.” In fact, when you read through the New Testament (I know, we’re a ways away from that in this reading plan) check out how many times “New Testament grace” is linked to the Old Testament.
The fact is, there is one God and his nature is and has always been the same. He is a God with high standards, but he also is and has always been a God who is eager to offer grace to those who seek it and to those who seek him.
As a pastor, I am sometimes asked to offer my advice or opinions on a person’s life situation. When someone is facing a tough decision or is in crisis, they turn to their friends, family – and even their pastor – for advice. And while I am under no illusion that I have the answers to all your problems, I try to offer sound advice when asked.
It’s pretty frustrating, then, when that advice is completely ignored. And if I get frustrated when my very imperfect advice is ignored, is it any wonder that God gets frustrated when his very perfect advice, direction and guidance is ignored? But God is a very patient God and he puts up with a lot from us. He can even put up with us ignoring his direction for a while, but eventually, something’s gotta give.
In 2 Kings 18, God hits that wall…again. He’s fed up with Israel. Even the fact that they have one of the most faithful and God-following kings in history doesn’t help. Why? Verse 12 gives us a clue:
This happened because they had not obeyed the Lord their God, but had violated his covenant—all that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded. They neither listened to the commands nor carried them out. (2 Kings 18:12)
OK, even worse than somebody not heeding your advice is somebody not even listening to what you are saying. These people, when given directions from God himself, not only failed to follow the instructions, they didn’t even bother to listen to what they were. And so God had to send them a wake-up call, just as he had done so many times with their ancestors in the days of the Judges.
Not only does he send them this wake-up call, but he sets up a situation in which the trust of the people of Israel is placed in the only guy around who is actually looking to God – their king, Hezekiah. The word from the Lord to Hezekiah in chapter 19 outlines God’s plan in great detail and concludes with these words:
“I will defend this city and save it,
for my sake and for the sake of David my servant.” (2 Kings 19:34)
Through the actions of God, not only were the people of Israel reminded of God’s power and faithfulness, but the people of Assyria (those who survived) were shown that human beings (no matter how strong, powerful or numerous) cannot defeat God. You have to wonder if there were a few Assyrians who made a decision that day to do a little more research about this God of the Israelites!
Isaiah 38; Isaiah 39; Isaiah 40; Galatians 2:11-21; Galatians 3:1-9; Psalm 107:33-43 NIV
The story of Hezekiah found in Isaiah 38 and 39 makes me chuckle. This guy actually reminds me of a certain former president of ours with his self-confidence and his glass-half-full outlook on life. First, in chapter 38, he is told that he is going to die, to which he replies, “Remember, O LORD, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.”
First, who of us could say that with a straight face? Second, who of us would say that and risk being struck down? I guess if you’re at the point of death, you don’t have much to lose, but Hezekiah’s boldness and self-confidence just make me laugh.
Then, in chapter 39, he shows the envoy from Babylon all of his riches – a pretty boastful thing to do – after which he is told that ALL of his riches, “everything in [his] palace” will be carried off to Babylon. Now, I don’t know about you, but if somebody told me that somebody was going to come, steal all my stuff, empty my bank accounts and haul my family off to another country, I doubt I would have the same response as Hezekiah.
“The word of the LORD you have spoken is good,” Hezekiah replied. For he thought, “There will be peace and security in my lifetime.”
Wha? Either this guy is the most over-confident dude ever, or he has his priorities mixed up – probably both. To Hezekiah, peace and security were more important than his people who would be dragged away and made eunuchs (look it up…not a fun process). Peace is good. Security is good. But at what price?
I think we make the same mistake sometimes. Maybe we look at financial security and are willing to sacrifice our families for it. Maybe we look at peace in our relationships and are willing to leave conflict unresolved to maintain the illusion that everything is OK. Whatever the case, we ignore or diminish the cost and celebrate or look forward to the achievement. But in the end, a wealthy but neglected family doesn’t feel secure. A relationship with no outward conflict, but with unresolved issues is anything but peaceful. But by the time we see the true cost of our actions, it is often too late.
My take? Peace and security have gotten in the way of a lot of people’s pursuit of God. May we not make the same mistake.