The faith and foibles of King Hezekiah instruct Christians today.
Some say the Old Testament reads like an adventure novel, full of intrigue, spies, cliffhangers, and plot twists. Others struggle through the “begats” scattered throughout Genesis, then run headlong into Leviticus, where the sense of adventure is lost completely. The thirty-nine books that constitute the Old Testament can, on a cursory read, seem intimidating at best and at times completely impossible.
However, believers are promised that every word of Scripture is provided by a gracious and loving Father for our edification and training (2 Timothy 3:16). We are challenged to deeply and prayerfully consider the words that God breathed into being, to lovingly mine the Scripture text for insight and example. As we ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the adventure that is life with Jesus, He is faithful to enlighten us.
Strengths and weaknesses
Part of that enlightenment comes through a story in 2 Kings. Here we are introduced to a man named Hezekiah. He was crowned king of Judah at age 25 after the death of his evil father, King Ahaz, who “did not do what was right in the sight of the Lord,” making his son pass through the fire (16:2, 3). At first glance, it would seem the cards were stacked against the young king. Apparently, he didn’t have a great home life.
And yet, God moved in the heart of King Hezekiah to trust in the God of Israel (18:5). This is high praise for a descendant of King David, known as a man after God’s own heart. Hezekiah’s mother, Abi, was the daughter of Zechariah, and she likely instructed her son in the ways of the God of Israel.
We are not told that God gave Hezekiah special instruction but that he kept the commandments of Moses by acting on them. He assessed what was in his power to do and took action to accomplish those things, like removing the idols from Israel (v. 4). Lest we think Hezekiah had it easy on his royal path, the Scriptures reveal massive upheaval when the kingdom of Judah came under siege from the king of Assyria. Like so many of us, regardless of time or situation, King Hezekiah attempted to solve this problem on his own. After walking years with the Lord and prospering in all he did (v. 7), when trials came, this good king initially reacted in a way that may sound familiar to the modern ear: “I can handle this one, Lord” (vv. 15, 16).
But he couldn’t handle it. The king of Assyria sent his servant, the Rabshakeh, to goad Hezekiah from the city gates, taunting the king and asking who this God was who could save Judah. He taunted the people and guards as well in full-scale psychological warfare. The temptation to surrender was real. Having tried to buy off the enemy with the temple treasures, to no avail, King Hezekiah “covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of the Lord” (19:1).
Once the Lord sent the prophet Isaiah with comforting words (“Do not be afraid . . . ,” v. 6), King Hezekiah prayed for deliverance, and the God of heaven answered. He turned the tide of the battle, not just giving the victory to the king but actually fighting for him. The angel of the Lord killed one hundred and eighty-five thousand Assyrians (v. 35).
Learning by example
What does Hezekiah’s story have to do with us? Though we are modern believers in the modern world, the apostle Paul reminds us that whatever was written in the Word of God is for our instruction (1 Corinthians 10:11). God, as a good Father, has given us a template to follow so we, too, can walk in the footsteps of Hezekiah.
We are called to take the initiative of active faith. We believe. Therefore, let us walk out our belief in day-to-day service to God and others. Big or small, every offering of faith matters to God, from a kind smile to prayer with and for other believers to serving in our church community and the community at large. We can act right now, in this moment, to demonstrate living faith in our loving Savior.
Following Hezekiah’s example, when we fail or try to handle life’s problems in our own power, we repent. We seek the face of our Savior with sorrow and faith. King Hezekiah demonstrated his faith in times of strength and in times of confusion and intimidation when there didn’t appear to be any solution to the freight train of trouble bearing down on him. We may not tear our clothing or don sackcloth, but with tears and humble spirits, we turn to our Father and listen to Him say, just as He did in the days of old, “Do not be afraid.”
Jesus never promised an easy life. The walk of faith is also the walk of the cross, the walk of transformation. When trouble comes, and it will, we enter the battle in the position of power: prayer. We believe God will fight our battles for us (1 Corinthians 10:13). Like King Hezekiah, we take our trouble and our sorrow to the cross and find our comfort there, knowing we are beloved to our God.
Some may say the Old Testament reads like an adventure novel. Indeed, as we seek God’s leading in the written Word, we find it does. Not only that, but the adventure continues now to include all believers. That’s us! We are the new heroes of the faith, not because we were crowned king in an ancient land but because of the loving sacrifice of our Savior, who welcomed us into a new covenant with Him. We discover the beautiful rollercoaster that is life in the Spirit as we walk out our ancient faith, demonstrated for us by the ancient kings of God’s chosen people, and now reflected in believers privileged to be called sons and daughters of God.
Rebecca Irey writes from Hutto, TX.