King Hezekiah: Week 4

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King Hezekiah Recap

We continue on through our study of King Hezekiah and all the challenges that he had as a young king trying to honor God. He seemed to be on the right track and following after God and trying his best to be the king that God wanted him to be. Yet, we see that he had some challenges that he had to face. Last week we talked about the political reality that King Hezekiah faced as he lived in a world full of other kings and countries and one particularly wanted to challenge King Hezekiah. The King of Assyria was invading and attacking Judah and King Hezekiah was trying to defend his kingdom and keep his people safe. He tried essentially bribery, he tried an alliance and protection from Egypt and all of these things failed when he was faced with the messenger of the King of Assyria before his city walls sharing with his people the hopelesness of the situation and that both Hezekiah and worse God was powerless to stop the King of Assyria from destroying them.
Yet, through all this we know that the King was trying to remain faithful to God. He tore his clothes and he cried out knowing that he only had one way to repsond to this new threat. He was being faced with the same challenge that his father had faced 30 years before him and now it was his turn to answer the question of where his trust lied. Was it with God? Or was it with the world?

The Story Continues...

We pick up the story right after King Hezekiah heard the news of what the field commander had to say to his people. This was a dark hour in the life of the kingdom of Judah because the reality was that they were exposed and stood at the end of the spear ready to be destroyed by the King of Assyria. This could not have been a positive place to be and in many ways it had to have felt like certain doom.
Last week i talked about the tearing of clothes and how i thought this was such an interesting response. While I don’t know exactly why it was done though we can figure it has to with the level of despair that they had to be feeling when they were going through such a hard time and the anguish of what waas to come. I did however find out some more about it but first let us look at a couple verses that we want to examine.
Isaiah 37:1–2 NIV
1 When King Hezekiah heard this, he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and went into the temple of the Lord. 2 He sent Eliakim the palace administrator, Shebna the secretary, and the leading priests, all wearing sackcloth, to the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz.
This is the state that we begin our story this state of despair and trouble. As i said i had found out some more because i was intrigued by the idea of the tearing of the clothes. The garments that they put on after they tore their clothes was interesting. The sackcloth is a garment that would be made of course hair from a goat or a camel and it would either cover their entire body. I imagine that this had to be quite uncomfortable. Or it was a simple loin cloth. This i how Hexekiah responded and he entered into the temple dressed this way. While there is no specific reason for why he entered into the temple we can begin to imagine that hopefully he was on his way to seek the Lord and turn to him in this time of need.
The clothes though had significance because these were signs of great distress, despair, and or mourning. This clothing though was a powerful statement then of where Hezekiah saw himself and his people. I laughed when i read this passage though because he entered into the temple. Think about that for a moment. The king hezekiah entered into the temple in either a sack of course hair or a simple loin cloth. Imagine if we came to church that way. I challenge you someone show up to church that way and watch what happens. People now days struggle when we come to church too casually. I imagine that the police or worse might be done to someone who would show up to the church in just a loin cloth.
Hezekiah also sent two of the three men who had been present at the field commanders speech to Isaiah. To begin the process off seeking Yahweh.
Isaiah 37:3–4 NIV
3 They told him, “This is what Hezekiah says: This day is a day of distress and rebuke and disgrace, as when children come to the moment of birth and there is no strength to deliver them. 4 It may be that the Lord your God will hear the words of the field commander, whom his master, the king of Assyria, has sent to ridicule the living God, and that he will rebuke him for the words the Lord your God has heard. Therefore pray for the remnant that still survives.”
In verse 3 they make a reference to difficult child birth. Now as a man i know that I can only have a limited authority on this topic because well I can’t give birth. However, i have had the unfortunate experience of being a bystander in two difficulty birthing situations. The first with my son being born 3 months early and the second with the complications my wife experienced when giving birth to Ayndria. What i can share is that in those moments of difficulty and hardship the distress is incredibly hard to deal with. The pain of suffering through watching your loved one be in pain or having a hard time with something is hard to stand by and watch. To remain calm and to realize that your strength and focus needs to be on not freaking out is difficult.
I imagine that this is much like what Hezekiah was experiencing. Though i guess entering into the temple in possibly only a loin cloth he may have slipped into the realm of freaking out by our standards today.
Verse 4 gives us some interesting problems when we read it though. It could be read that they aren’t following or even believe in Yahweh based on their opening statement, “It may be that the Lord your God will hear.” This separation or reference to Isaiah’s Lord and God is troubling. Yet, one of the thoughts about why this is the approach to Isaiah is that their failed policial attempts to solve the situation put them in a place that they don’t want to assume that God would be willing to help. They were possibly trying to be humble and repentant in approaching the prophet and seeking Yahweh through him. These challenges are unfortunately not really addressed but the truth that we do know is they were there speaking to Isaiah in attempts to find out what they were to do in this situation.
Isaiah 37:5–7 NIV
5 When King Hezekiah’s officials came to Isaiah, 6 Isaiah said to them, “Tell your master, ‘This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid of what you have heard—those words with which the underlings of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me. 7 Listen! When he hears a certain report, I will make him want to return to his own country, and there I will have him cut down with the sword.’ ”
We see in the next several verses that Isaiah has an answer for them on what God wants them to do. How fast or if there is a time gap that isn’t reported in the scriptures we don’t konw but Isaiah has the answer that they need to hear in the moment. The very phrase that he uses is also very important in verse 6. “Do not be afraid” is the same message that was given to Hezekiah’s father King Ahaz. We know that his father did not listen to that statement and decided to approach things in his own way. Here Hezekiah is presented with the same challenge just like the generation before him. He had to make a choice.

God’s Response

We see also in verse 7 that God has provided the response to the fears of his people and what his plan is going to be to save them and to punish the king of Assyria. God heard the words of the kings commander and as we know from many other times in the Old testament and the history of the people of Israel things don’t always go well for those who directly challenge God. I find it interesting thought hat God chooses to do this in a subtle way instead of a more dramatic way. The reality is that God could have easily stuck down the king of Assyria and his army in that moment or provided some form of massive military might and miracle for King Hezekiah. Instead he delivers them through a normal report, a common everyday occurance for the life of a king.

Why did God Choose to act this way?

This is the question that was on my mind a lot as i read this story. This question provided a lot of wonder and intrigue as i contemplated it. I know i have talked at length about the fact that God can work and move in amazing ways and in ways that we least expect. God has infinite ways to achieve his will yet sometimes it happens in the ways we least expect and other times it so common place that we can often overlook it as God’s action in our lives.
God used a common way to deliver his people from a king that would surely have destroyed them. Even the king of Assyria when he saw that he had to withdraw, and sent word through a letter to Hezekiah to not be fooled or to think that they had been saved. He continued to threaten and seek to destroy the Kingdom of Judah. Yet, maybe this is why God choose to act in this manner. It took a longer expression of faith and trust in God to deliver Hezekiah by using a much more natural means of saving them. Hezekiah and his people needed to trust in God and to rely on him for an extended period of time to realize that their faith in them was strong and they had no reason to be afraid.
How often today do we face this same challenge. We are a society and a people that want instant gratification on a regular basis. We want the answer to our questions or the things we desire quickly because we are wired that way as a society. We often look at rewards that take long hard work as not ideal or something that someone else can do, it isn’t for us. This is hard for us more than ever. We have so much at our finger tips yet in many ways we feel empty or lost, or unfulfilled because we are placing our trust in things other than God.

Faith is about the long Haul

I thought about this long and hard and i came to realize that so much of our hope is that God will save us in an instant. That yes we have the hope and knowledge that in a moment that we can be saved form our sins. That is 100% true. It is in a moment that our salvation is given to us. Yet, our faith doesn’t end there it continues on and in many ways is a living being that must be nurtured and grown. This is why we can always be amazed at how God is going to move and work in our lives in ways we could never expect. That sometimes even the simplest of things is something to thank God for because he is working and moving in our lives in ways we can’t possibly imagine. That we need to at all times remember that we “do not have to be afraid” just like Isaiah told Hezekiah. Because we find our selves int he hand of the almighty and he will protect us and we will one day be with him.
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