Kings and Prophets

Hezekiah – Godliness under Pressure!

 

By I Gordon

 

Introduction

 

As we saw in the first study, Hezekiah was one good man! We saw a revival in Jerusalem as the hearts of Israel were once again turned back to the Lord their God. In 2 Chronicles 32 however, things begin to change! Opposition to Hezekiah is raised up and we see the full might of the Assyrian army come against our godly leader. This study then is about godliness under pressure! While taken mainly from 2 Chronicles 32, we will delve into 2 Kings 18 now and then to obtain a more complete picture on what was happening.

 

Godliness brings opposition

 

2 Chron 31:20-32:1 This is what Hezekiah did throughout Judah, doing what was good and right and faithful before the LORD his God. In everything that he undertook in the service of God’s temple and in obedience to the law and the commands, he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. And so he prospered. After all that Hezekiah had so faithfully done, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and invaded Judah. He laid siege to the fortified cities, thinking to conquer them for himself.

 

After these acts of faithfulness… what happens? He is invaded! Some would try and tell you that faithfulness leads to comfort and ease, while sin leads to trouble and strife. The word of God repeatedly tells us that ‘everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.’ (2 Tim 3:12) This is what we see with Hezekiah here. His godly stance led to opposition[1]. Satan doesn’t like revival… He doesn’t like people turning back to God. No surprises there, but thankfully He doesn’t get the last word!

 

Hezekiah’s first response… can anybody relate?

 

2 Kings 18:13-15 In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah’s reign, Sennacherib king of Assyria attacked all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them. So Hezekiah king of Judah sent this message to the king of Assyria at Lachish: “I have done wrong. Withdraw from me, and I will pay whatever you demand of me.” The king of Assyria exacted from Hezekiah king of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold. So Hezekiah gave him all the silver that was found in the temple of the LORD and in the treasuries of the royal palace.

 

So the King of Assyria attacked the cities of Judah and captured them. Only Jerusalem remained free from his hand. Now the pressure was on! In the passage above we read of Hezekiah’s first response… and I don’t think I’m being too unkind to Hezekiah to say that he freaked! There is no doubt that he was a godly man, but what we see in his initial response is something very common to all of us. That is, when faced with trouble we immediately try and work out how we can get ourselves out of it through our own initiative! And as we see here, it usually doesn’t even involve God. It is a natural, fallen creation response; not that of someone spiritual. Hezekiah thought he could buy himself out of this pickle and was even willing give the gold and silver from the Lord’s temple to do it! It didn’t work… it never does.

 

Are your walls of salvation ready?

 

2 Chron 32:2-5 When Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib had come and that he intended to make war on Jerusalem, he consulted with his officials and military staff about blocking off the water from the springs outside the city, and they helped him… Then he worked hard repairing all the broken sections of the wall and building towers on it. He built another wall outside that one and reinforced the supporting terraces of the City of David. He also made large numbers of weapons and shields.

 

Faced with the fact that the enemy cannot be bought off, Hezekiah begins to focus his attention on their defence. There were new walls to be erected and broken sections to be repaired. Towers were constructed, and weapons and shields were made. While Hezekiah may still have been thinking in the natural, there is considerable spiritual relevance in these verse for us. The Bible shows that the walls around Jerusalem are a type of the strength of our salvation. The name of the Lord is our high tower; the word of the Lord our sword, and faith in Jesus our shield.[2]

 

But notice that there were areas of the wall that needed repair. Also, weapons and shields had to be made. Now, I’m no military expert, but I do enjoy cowboy movies and I’ve come to the conclusion that it is better to have these things in place before the enemy attacks! But are we any different? What I mean is, often, when things are easy and going well, there is a tendency to let things slide a little[3]. The closeness of our daily relationship with God can suffer. Quiet times with God can slip. It seems to be human nature. But when the King of Assyria assaults us… boy, watch us move to rebuild those walls then! We call on the Lord, consume our Bibles, double our quiet times… oh dear, do things never change? Call me old fashioned if you must, but it still seems better to have the armour and defence ready BEFORE the enemy attacks!  

 

The leader doing what a leader should

 

2 Chron 32:6-8 He appointed military officers over the people and assembled them before him in the square at the city gate and encouraged them with these words: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him. With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God to help us and to fight our battles.” And the people gained confidence from what Hezekiah the king of Judah said.

 

Finally we start seeing the strength that was within Hezekiah! Awesome words in the midst of extreme difficulty that show his dependency upon God. Hopelessly outnumbered in the natural, yet confident in the Lord! The passage above says that he encouraged his people with his words. It also says that the people ‘gained confidence’ from what Hezekiah said. The NASB says the ‘people relied on the words of Hezekiah’. Do you know someone right now in the midst of difficulty? Do you know that you can impart faith through the words of truth you speak to them? Isn’t it awesome that frightened people can ‘gain confidence’ through what you say? And what was it that Hezekiah said? Well, it was a truth as old as creation itself. The message of faith that never changes![4] ‘They rely on their own strength, we rely on the Lord’ Hezekiah said. ‘And, unless you have any doubts, greater is He that is with us. Take courage for the Lord will fight for us!’ No wonder the people gained confidence!

 

The Hiss of the Serpent

 

2 Chron 32:9-14 Later, when Sennacherib king of Assyria and all his forces were laying siege to Lachish, he sent his officers to Jerusalem with this message for Hezekiah king of Judah and for all the people of Judah who were there:  “This is what Sennacherib king of Assyria says: On what are you basing your confidence, that you remain in Jerusalem under siege? When Hezekiah says, ‘The LORD our God will save us from the hand of the king of Assyria,’ he is misleading you, to let you die of hunger and thirst….  “Do you not know what I and my fathers have done to all the peoples of the other lands? Were the gods of those nations ever able to deliver their land from my hand?  Who of all the gods of these nations that my fathers destroyed has been able to save his people from me? How then can your god deliver you from my hand?  

 

Did you hear it? Are your ears open? Can you not just hear the hiss of the serpent when you read the words of Sennacherib, King of Assyria? Look at all the doubt that he tries to instil in Hezekiah’s people. Look also at the attention that he tries to draw towards his own strength and the open mockery of Hezekiah’s God. Sennacherib may have sent the message but I have no doubt that the Serpent was whispering in his ear as he wrote! This passage illustrates quite clearly how the enemy operates in trying to discourage God’s people in the midst of a difficulty. He will do anything to get people’s thoughts off how mighty God is, and onto the trouble at hand. He wants them to operate by sight, not by faith. ‘How can your God deliver you from my hand’ Sennacherib proudly boasts! ‘No nation or gods have been able to stop me! That which you have feared will come upon you!’  Nothing really changes. Circumstances, and God’s people may change, but the doubts and accusations proceeding from the mouth of the enemy sure don’t!

 

2 Chron 32:15-19 Now do not let Hezekiah deceive you and mislead you like this. Do not believe him, for no god of any nation or kingdom has been able to deliver his people from my hand or the hand of my fathers. How much less will your god deliver you from my hand!”…Then they called out in Hebrew to the people of Jerusalem who were on the wall, to terrify them and make them afraid in order to capture the city. They spoke about the God of Jerusalem as they did about the gods of the other peoples of the world—the work of men’s hands.

 

And so the dribble continues… what is interesting is that God has recorded these words of Sennacherib in three separates places in His word (2 Chron 32, 2 Kings 18, Isaiah 36) so it must be important. Look also at the reason that the enemy spoke to Hezekiah’s men guarding the wall – it says that the King of Assyria wanted to terrify them in order to capture the city. Great fear has a way of doing that! Fear and worry are always the result of dwelling on the difficulty of the situation at hand. But faith is stronger than fear. The men on the wall did well to keep their mouths shut and not dwell on the enemy’s words. In fact, Hezekiah specifically told them, as is recorded in   2 Kings 18:26 ‘But the people remained silent and said nothing in reply, because the king had commanded, “Do not answer him.”

 

Good sound advice that… In fact if Eve had followed this, things may be slightly different today![5]

 

The Prayers of a Dynamic Duo!

 

2 Chron 32:20-21 King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz cried out in prayer to heaven about this. And the LORD sent an angel, who annihilated all the fighting men and the leaders and officers in the camp of the Assyrian king. So he withdrew to his own land in disgrace. And when he went into the temple of his god, some of his sons cut him down with the sword.

 

Backed into a corner, with the whole Assyrian army bearing down upon them, King Hezekiah and the Prophet Isaiah cried out to the Lord in prayer. While the prayer is not recorded in 2nd Chronicles, thankfully 2 Kings 19 does. Have a read of a prayer from a man who knows His God.

 

2 Kings 19:14-19 Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the LORD and spread it out before the LORD. And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD: “O LORD, God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Give ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to insult the living God. “It is true, O LORD, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands. They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by men’s hands. Now, O LORD our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O LORD, are God.”

 

Now I really like that! See how Hezekiah took the enemies letter and spread it out before the Lord in the temple… It’s a simple act of faith that shows that Hezekiah’s problems soon became God’s problems! And I love his prayer because it is so very simple. In fact, the note in my Ryrie Study Bible calls it a ‘childlike prayer’. Notice how Hezekiah doesn’t ask for deliverance for his, or even Israel’s sake. He doesn’t claim that he has been insulted or wronged. He doesn’t remind God of any righteousness of his own. He simply places the entire situation firmly in God’s lap! This is why I said at the start that it is a prayer of a man who truly knew God. It is the living God that is being insulted Hezekiah says, and if there is to be any deliverance it is so that God may again be glorified. It is so that the nations may see that the God of Israel is the true God.

 

And God was pleased to answer such a prayer. How could He not? If you read further in 2 Kings 19 you will see that the Lord sent word through Isaiah His prophet that He would deliver them, and deliver them He did!

 

While it is a separate topic from this study, see the footnotes for some comments concerning the latter days of Hezekiah’s reign.[6]

 

Conclusion

 

This study on Hezekiah has been a study of godliness under pressure! Under attack and facing extreme pressure, Hezekiah was still able to receive deliverance and strength from the Lord in his time of need. We can learn from him! It is doubtful that the King of Assyria himself is going to come against your house, but trials and difficulties certainly will! May we also, like Hezekiah, display godliness under pressure, as we learn to take the Lord as our strength.



[1] We see very similar responses from the enemy here as we did in the book of Nehemiah. When Hezekiah first started drawing the people back to God it says that his messengers were ‘laughed to scorn and mocked. (2 Chron 30:10) Now we see that he is being physically attacked by the King of Assyria! If you have read the study on Nehemiah you will remember that when Nehemiah started rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem the enemy first tried mockery and discouragement (Neh 4:1-6) and when that was less than successful, they conspired to attack and kill Nehemiah and his men. (Neh 4:7-12) Exactly what we see here!

 

[2]  See Isaiah 60:18, Prov 25:28, Prov 18:10-11, Psalm 144:1-2, Eph 6:13-18. I really like the contrast in Proverbs 18:10-11 ‘The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe. The wealth of the rich is their fortified city; they imagine it an unscalable wall.’ Those that know God put there hope in Him. The rich put their hope in money. They imagine it to be an unscalable wall! What a joke. No, the Lord is our wall, our strong tower. With this in mind we should be careful to do as Psalm 48:12,13 says ‘Walk around Zion…Count her towers… consider her ramparts… for such is God, our God, forever and ever.‘ We aren’t surrounded by a physical wall or city. But we do have spiritual protection in the Lord our God and we should do as scripture says and consider how great our protector is!

 

[3] In the second part of Pilgrims Progress, when Christiana is travelling to the Celestial City, she came to the Princes Arbour at the top of the Hill of Difficulty. Now this was a place to rest after the Hill of Difficulty and was obviously built and placed there by the Lord. But resting to long, she forgot and left her bottle there just as Christian before her had lost his book there. Great Heart, who was Christiana’s guide, said ‘Some sleep when they should stay awake, and some forget when they should remember. This is the exact cause why often at the resting places some Pilgrims, in some things, come away losers. During their times of enjoyment, Pilgrims should watch and remember what they’ve already received.’ So it seems that even times of rest can become a snare for unaware Pilgrims. Rest but don’t fall asleep! 

 

[4] What Hezekiah said in this passage is timeless! It is the exact same message Joshua and Caleb gave to a frightened Israel on the threshold of entering the Promised Land. (Num 14:9) It is the same message David gave when faced with Goliath. (1 Sam 17:45-47). It is the same message Nehemiah gave his people when they were attacked while rebuilding the walls (Neh 4:14). And it is the same message the Apostle John gives us in the New Testament saying that ‘greater is He who is in you, than he who is in the world.’ (1 John 4:4) 

 

[5] The bottom line, as Christian found out in Pilgrims Progress, is that the path to the Celestial City (Heaven) runs right through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, the Hill of Difficulty, the Valley of Humiliation, and often very close to doubting castle and giant despair! Each place has different difficulties of its own. How important it is then to live by faith! You may waver between faith and fear - don’t we all? But in the end may you come back to, focus upon, and take strength from, Hezekiah’s words – ‘there is a greater power with us than with him. With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God to help us and to fight our battles.’  

 

[6] After this great victory that the Lord gave to Hezekiah, we read ‘many brought offerings to Jerusalem for the LORD and valuable gifts for Hezekiah king of Judah. From then on he was highly regarded by all the nations.’ (vs 23) So, to state the obvious, Hezekiah was highly regarded among the nations.  They brought him valuable gifts. But was the Lord highly regarded as well? Did He get ALL the credit for the wonderful deliverance that He had given Hezekiah? Because there is no doubting that this victory was 100% God’s doing. The passage does say that the nations brought offerings for the Lord at Jerusalem as well so that is good, but I have a sneaky suspicion that Hezekiah took more of the credit than he should have. Why do I say this? Well, you don’t have to be Einstein to figure it out because the very next verse says as much.

 

‘In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. He prayed to the LORD, who answered him and gave him a miraculous sign. But Hezekiah’s heart was proud and he did not respond to the kindness shown him…’

 

How careful we have to be! How wicked is the sinful nature that dwells within us? Even after the Lord has graciously given us deliverance and victory, the pride of our own heart would have us believe we played a great and important role in it! Foolish fallen humanity! Hezekiah was obviously human after all and prone to the same pride that we are. How good it is to read that

 

Then Hezekiah repented of the pride of his heart, as did the people of Jerusalem; therefore the LORD’s wrath did not come upon them during the days of Hezekiah.’

 

So, I guess the moral of the story is spelled out for us through this New Testament scripture –

 

‘What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?’ 1 Cor 4:7

 

So let us give glory where glory should be… with God!