Hezekiah lived at a time when the very existence of Judah was threatened. But at this critical point in its history Jerusalem was blessed with a righteous king and the prophet, Isaiah.
Ironically Hezekiah was born the son of wicked King Ahaz. But in spite of this he made the critical decision to obey God at an early age, and ascended to the throne when he was only 25. He then proceeded to outlaw the worship of false gods throughout the land. “He 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; for until those days the children of Israel burned incense to it …” (2 Kings 18:4).
We are told that no king since David, who had reigned approximately three centuries earlier, had set his mind to follow God like Hezekiah. He “did what was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father David had done” (2 Kings 18:3). After destroying the idols in Judah King Hezekiah invited the remnant of the other 10 tribes, north of Judah, to join in commemorating the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread for the first time in many years.
Less than a decade earlier God had allowed the Assyrian kings Shalmaneser and Sargon to take the northern kingdom, consisting of the 10 tribes of Israel, captive because of their repeated disobedience and rejection of Him (2 Kings 18:11-12).
After a number of years the Assyrians then surrounded Jerusalem and were preparing to invade the city, when Hezekiah submitted to Sennacherib’s demand for tribute by stripping the temple of its gold and precious metals, amounting to approximately $40 million by today’s rate of exchange.
After accepting the tribute Sennacherib went back on his word and surrounded Jerusalem anyway. Hezekiah turned to God in faith and was assured, via the prophet Isaiah, of God’s miraculous intervention: “Thus says the Lord: ‘Do not be afraid of the words which you have heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed Me. Surely I will send a spirit upon him, and he shall hear a rumor and return to his own land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land’ ” (2 Kings 19:6-7).
We are then told in verse 35 of 2 Kings 19 that this is exactly what happened: “And it came to pass on a certain night that the angel of the Lord went out, and killed in the camp of the Assyrians one hundred and eighty-five thousand; and when people arose early in the morning, there were the corpses—all dead” (2 Kings 19:35). Faced with this miraculous intervention from God the mighty Sennacherib stole away in humiliation and defeat and was ultimately assassinated by his own sons. God had spared His people and the kingdom of Judah in the face of overwhelming odds.
Later on Hezekiah became seriously ill and Isaiah told him he was about to die. Hezekiah implored God to intervene and God once again answered Hezekiah’s prayer. He instructed Isaiah to tell him: “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; surely I will heal you … And I will add to your days fifteen years” (2 Kings 20:5-6). God’s patience even extended to performing a great miracle in order to assure Hezekiah of His intervention by causing the sun’s shadow to reverse its course (2 Kings 20:8-11).
The Bible then records that after this intervention from God Hezekiah became proud of his blessings in a wrong way and had to repent of his attitude of not giving God credit for his wealth and protection. God revealed Jerusalem would eventually be overrun by Bablylonian forces and its inhabitants taken captive, but because of Hezekiah’s personal repentance for his wrong approach and pride God said He would delay this tragedy till after Hezekiah’s death. “Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the Lord did not come upon them in the days of Hezekiah” (2 Chronicles 32:25-26).
The story of the life of righteous King Hezekiah is an encouragement to us all, demonstrating that God’s mercy is always available to those who acknowledge their inadequacies and strive to honor and serve Him.
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