About 2 weeks ago I took a detour in my daily Bible reading plan. I opened my Bible and found myself in 2 Chronicles.
Now Chronicles is exactly the most exciting book in the Bible.
Ø The first nine chapters of Book I contain little more than a list of genealogies in the line of Israel down to the time of David.
Ø The rest of the first book contains a history of the reign of David.
Ø The first nine chapters of Book II contain the history of the reign of Solomon.
Ø The remaining chapters of the second book contain the history of Judah until they return from Babylonian Exile.
The Chronicler took facts from public records, registers, and genealogical tables belonging to the Jews. Now while the stories are important, much of what we read in Chronicles is told in more depth in other books in the Bible.
However, we know that when God repeats something in the Bible its like a flashing sign post saying, “This is important! I want you to look at this again.”
So this morning I want to reintroduce you to one of Judah’s kings. I say reintroduce because you may already recognize his name. This morning we’re going to get to know him better.
HEZEKIAH was the 14th king of Judah. As kings go, Hezekiah was a good one. He was very devout. In fact, 2 Kings (18:3-6) says,
‘there was no one like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him’.
Hezekiah’s personal goal was to abolish idolatry from his kingdom (Judah).
Ø He closed down all rural (‘high places’) throughout Judah.
Ø He enforced a centralized place of sacrifice at the altar of the Temple in Jerusalem (cf. 2 Kings 18:22).
Ø He reinstituted the observance of Passover
Ø He also banned the use of sacred pillars and trees (asherah)
Ø He destroyed the “brazen serpent,” associated with Moses and the miraculous healing of the people attacked by scorpions in the desert (Num. 21:4-10). Because it had become an object of idolatrous worship
His is so important that his reign is recorded in three places in the Bible: 2 Ki. 17–20; Is. 36–39; 2 Ch. 29–32.
You will remember I said Chronicles was the condensed version. Let’s hit the highlights.
Turn to 2 Chronicles 29
29 Hezekiah was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years. (B.C. 726-697).
3 In the first month of the first year of his reign, he opened the doors of the temple of the Lord and repaired them. 4 He brought in the priests and the Levites, assembled them in the square on the east side 5 and said: “Listen to me, Levites! Consecrate yourselves now and consecrate the temple of the Lord, the God of your fathers. Remove all defilement from the sanctuary.
9 This is why our fathers have fallen by the sword and why our sons and daughters and our wives are in captivity. 10 Now I intend to make a covenant with the Lord, the God of Israel, so that his fierce anger will turn away from us.
17 They began the consecration on the first day of the first month, and by the eighth day of the month they reached the portico of the Lord. For eight more days they consecrated the temple of the Lord itself, finishing on the sixteenth day of the first month.
It took them 16 days to get all the junk out of the temple! We know how long it took to get all the old insulation out of this building. We’re not talking about insulation here. We’re talking about junk – stuff that has not reason to be in the temple. And then there was the dust and dirt.
On day 17
20 King Hezekiah gathered the city officials together and went up to the temple of the Lord.
27 Hezekiah gave the order to sacrifice the burnt offering on the altar. As the offering began, singing to the Lord began also, accompanied by trumpets and the instruments of David king of Israel. 28 The whole assembly bowed in worship, while the singers sang and the trumpeters played. All this continued until the sacrifice of the burnt offering was completed.
29 When the offerings were finished, the king and everyone present with him knelt down and worshiped.
35b So the service of the temple of the Lord was reestablished.
In Chapter 30 Hezekiah sends a letter throughout Judah AND Israel (remember he’s the king of Judah) and invites them to come up to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover.
3 They had not been able to celebrate it at the regular time because not enough priests had consecrated themselves and the people had not assembled in Jerusalem.
Notice, Hezekiah did not just put his efforts into Jerusalem, He was concerned for all God’s children, not just his own people.
What did God think of this?
12 Also in Judah the hand of God was on the people to give them unity of mind to carry out what the king and his officials had ordered, following the word of the Lord.
13 A very large crowd of people assembled in Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread in the second month.
17 Since many in the crowd had not consecrated themselves, the Levites had to kill the Passover lambs for all those who were not ceremonially clean and could not consecrate their lambs to the Lord.
See how bad things had gotten in both kingdoms? They forgot how to observe the Passover. That’s like us forgetting the true meaning of Christmas.
18 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 19 who sets his heart on seeking God—the Lord, the God of his fathers—even if he is not clean according to the rules of the sanctuary.” 20 And the Lord heard Hezekiah and healed the people.
Rabbit trail: We have this beautiful sanctuary and we are very proud of it. We want to keep it this way. BUT we also know that everyone who comes will not take their shoes off, and children will drop juice boxes on the floor. Some people may even come who don’t smell too good. This passage reminds us that the temple is here for everyone to worship. Just as Hezekiah prayed for his people and God accepted them as they were. We need to bless everyone who comes to worship in this house and pray for their healing.
1 When all this had ended, the Israelites who were there went out to the towns of Judah, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. They destroyed the high places and the altars throughout.
Their encounter with God prompted them to a life of holiness.
So what’s next?
3 The king contributed from his own possessions for the morning and evening burnt offerings and for the burnt offerings on the Sabbaths, New Moons and appointed feasts as written in the Law of the Lord. 4 He ordered the people living in Jerusalem to give the portion due the priests and Levites so they could devote themselves to the Law of the Lord. 5 As soon as the order went out, the Israelites generously gave the firstfruits of their grain, new wine, oil and honey and all that the fields produced. They brought a great amount, a tithe of everything.
20 This is what Hezekiah did throughout Judah, doing what was good and right and faithful before the Lord his God. 21 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.
Sounds like he followed the law of sowing and reaping -- Serve God and prosper.
1 After all that Hezekiah had so faithfully done, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and invaded Judah.
What??? After all he had faithfully done, his kingdom was invaded!
2 When Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib had come and that he intended to make war on Jerusalem, 3 he consulted with his officials and military staff about blocking off the water from the springs outside the city, and they helped him.
Who did he seek counsel from? The man who led his people back to a relationship with God, sought counsel from officials and military leaders. Whose hands does it look like he depending on for the future of his kingdom?
4 A large force of men assembled, and they blocked all the springs and the stream that flowed through the land. “Why should the kings of Assyria come and find plenty of water?” they said. 5 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.
6 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: 7 “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.
8 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.
9 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:
10 “This is what Sennacherib king of Assyria says: On what are you basing your confidence, that you remain in Jerusalem under siege? 11 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. 12 Did not Hezekiah himself remove this god’s high places and altars, saying to Judah and Jerusalem, ‘You must worship before one altar and burn sacrifices on it’?
Sennacherib’s plan was to attack the unity of the people.
15 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!”
20 King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz cried out in prayer to heaven about this.
What is Hezekiah’s plan of action? Prayer
21 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.
22 So the Lord saved Hezekiah and the people of Jerusalem from the hand of Sennacherib king of Assyria and from the hand of all others. He took care of them on every side.
But look who gets the credit.
23 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.
27 Hezekiah had very great riches and honor, and he made treasuries for his silver and gold and for his precious stones, spices, shields and all kinds of valuables. 28 He also made buildings to store the harvest of grain, new wine and oil; and he made stalls for various kinds of cattle, and pens for the flocks. 29 He built villages and acquired great numbers of flocks and herds, for God had given him very great riches.
Sounds like the life. Jump back up to verse 24
24 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. 25 But Hezekiah’s heart was proud and he did not respond to the kindness shown him; therefore the Lord’s wrath was on him and on Judah and Jerusalem.
We need more details. Turn to 2 Kings 20
20 In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.”
Why? Chronicles told us his heart was proud. We know that where the leader goes the people will follow. If Hezekiah was proud of their prosperity, how much more proud were the people?
2 Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, 3 “Remember, O Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.
4 Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the word of the Lord came to him: 5 “Go back and tell Hezekiah, the leader of my people, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the temple of the Lord. 6 I will add fifteen years to your life. And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for my sake and for the sake of my servant David.’”
8 Hezekiah had asked Isaiah, “What will be the sign that the Lord will heal me and that I will go up to the temple of the Lord on the third day from now?”
Despite all the experiences Hezekiah had with God, all the times of deliverance from his enemies, all the prosperity, all the unity, Hezekiah, needed a sign to prove that God would do what he said he would do.
9 Isaiah answered, “This is the Lord’s sign to you that the Lord will do what he has promised: Shall the shadow go forward ten steps, or shall it go back ten steps?”
We are probably talking about the shadow on a sundial. In essence Isaiah is asking if the sun should stand still for 10 hours or set 10 hours ahead of time.
10 “It is a simple matter for the shadow to go forward ten steps,” said Hezekiah.
Sometimes during a storm, the sky gets dark and it looks like its nighttime.
10b “Rather, have it go back ten steps.”
11 Then the prophet Isaiah called upon the Lord, and the Lord made the shadow go back the ten steps it had gone down on the stairway of Ahaz.
Jump back up to verse 7.
7 Then Isaiah said, “Prepare a poultice of figs.” They did so and applied it to the boil, and he recovered.
Whew! That was a lot, and I hope I didn’t go through it too quickly for you. I wanted to show that when a leader commits to serving God and teaches their people to also serve God. God will fight their battles for them.
In one way or another, we are all leaders. Whether we hold a title or not, we lead our families, our co-workers, our employees, our peer groups, in clubs and organizations, we lead even here in the church. Hezekiah did it by example. We are called to lead by example. We are compelled by the love of God to lead others to Him.
Hezekiah wasn’t perfect. He got a big head and took God and his blessings for granted. We do that sometimes. But just like Hezekiah all we need to do is repent and return to the business of serving God.