The Inner Peril
Often it seems that the good kings of Judah had bad sons, and the bad kings had good sons. Most noteworthy of this perplexing phenomenon were good King Hezekiah—undeniably one of the most spiritually virile of all the kings who ruled Judah—and his son Manasseh, who ruled longer than any other Judean king and was the most wicked of them all.
Ironically, Manasseh was born after the Lord had extended Hezekiah’s days. When the Lord told Hezekiah it was time for him to die, the king begged for more years (2 Ki. 20:1–11). Ministering to him during his reign was none other than the distinguished prophet Isaiah who told Hezekiah the Lord would add 15 years to his life.
Sometimes our prayers can be wrong, and so it would seem in this case. Wicked Manasseh chose a course diametrically opposed to that of his father. Other strange happenings in his life and reign command our attention and warn us that the inner peril is sometimes more dangerous than the outer foe.
A Stellar Course
Becoming king at age 25, Hezekiah ruled for 29 years; and it was said of him at the outset, “He did what was right in the sight of the Lᴏʀᴅ” (18:3). He was zealous in challenging the idolatry that enveloped Judah at the time and broke in pieces the brazen serpent Moses had lifted up in the wilderness because people were worshiping it (v. 4). Sixteenth-century theologian John Calvin argued that the human heart is an idol factory that easily seduces people into the worship of even a meaningful artifact from a bygone era.
Truly, Hezekiah “trusted in the Lᴏʀᴅ God of Israel” to a degree unequaled by any king who preceded or followed him (v. 5). “He held fast to the Lᴏʀᴅ; he did not depart from following Him” (v. 6). And God’s hand upheld His servant in conflicts with those who sought to harm His people (v. 8).
A Glorious Revival
When Hezekiah mounted the throne, spiritual life was at a low ebb in Judah. The lights were even out in the Temple (2 Chr. 29:7). So he issued a clarion call to his generation to rise up and cleanse the defiled and desolate House of God.
It took days to carry out the accumulated rubbish. Worship was restored, and “the song of the Lᴏʀᴅ also began” (v. 27). His summons to consecration was heeded because “God had prepared the people, since the events took place so suddenly” (v. 36). Temple personnel could not handle the volume of sacrifices being offered. The revival was a beautiful visit of God to His ancient people. How we need such today!
Hezekiah even invited the northern 10 tribes (now in grave danger of the Assyrian invasion) to come to a special Passover observance (30:5). Such a grand celebration had not been seen since the days of King Solomon (v. 26). It was a time of affluence and abundance. In all of this, Hezekiah did “seek his God…with all his heart. So he prospered” (31:21).
An Epochal Divine Deliverance
With the successive Assyrian invasions that led to the downfall of the northern kingdom of Israel, Hezekiah and his people faced grave peril. The outward foe was formidable. Taking all prudent steps, the king of Judah encouraged his people to trust in the Lord:
Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid nor dismayed before the king of Assyria, nor before all the multitude that is with him; for there are more with us than with him. With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lᴏʀᴅ our God, to help us and to fight our battles (32:7–8).
In the face of Assyria’s derision and mockery, King Hezekiah and Isaiah prayed to the Lord (v. 20). And God sent a most extraordinary deliverance: “The Lᴏʀᴅ saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem…from the hand of all others, and guided them on every side” (v. 22).
Prosperity came down in cascading abundance. King Hezekiah was virtually suffocated with gifts “so that he was exalted in the sight of all nations thereafter” (v. 23). Such good times posed a problem. Of an earlier king it was said, “He was marvelously helped till he became strong” (26:15). Watch out!
The apostle Paul once counseled Timothy, his son in the faith, not to put a new believer into a position of power in the church, “lest being puffed up with pride he [the novice] fall into the same condemnation as the devil” (1 Tim. 3:6).
How easily we fall into the trap of self-sufficiency and pride. This was the snare that got Lucifer, the enemy of our souls. Our first parents aspired to “be like God” (Gen. 3:5).
Unfortunately, “Hezekiah did not repay according to the favor shown him, for his heart was lifted up” (2 Chr. 32:25). He had bouts of humility, but his substance overflowed. He was highly vulnerable when Babylon, the rising power in the Middle East, sent him flattering letters and presents when he was ill (2 Ki. 20:12).
Then, eager to impress the visiting envoys, he granted their request to see all of his possessions and defenses (v. 13). Babylon’s visit was, in fact, a test from God; and Hezekiah did not pass (2 Chr. 32:31).
We all face the danger of being “exalted above measure” through abundance (2 Cor. 12:7). The apostle Paul warned us all “not to think of [ourselves] more highly than [we] ought to think” (Rom. 12:3). Like Hezekiah, we often are tempted to show off. The inner peril is greater than the outward foe.
A biographer once called the late Oswald Chambers “an unbribed soul.” Judas had a price. Paul’s friend Demas gave in to the blandishments and allurements of the world (2 Tim. 4:10). Are you tempted to cease confessing, “Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory” and to say instead, “Mine is the kingdom and the power and the glory”? If so, then beware. “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (Jas. 4:6).