THE MARK OF GODLINESS
Lord, direct my heart toward You.
Read 2 KINGS 18:1–16
Hezekiah King of Judah
18 In the third year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, Hezekiah son of Ahaz king of Judah began to reign. 2 He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years. His mother’s name was Abijah[a] daughter of Zechariah. 3 He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father David had done. 4 He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it. (It was called Nehushtan.[b])
5 Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him. 6 He held fast to the Lord and did not stop following him; he kept the commands the Lord had given Moses. 7 And the Lord was with him; he was successful in whatever he undertook. He rebelled against the king of Assyria and did not serve him. 8 From watchtower to fortified city, he defeated the Philistines, as far as Gaza and its territory.
9 In King Hezekiah’s fourth year, which was the seventh year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, Shalmaneser king of Assyria marched against Samaria and laid siege to it. 10 At the end of three years the Assyrians took it. So Samaria was captured in Hezekiah’s sixth year, which was the ninth year of Hoshea king of Israel. 11 The king of Assyria deported Israel to Assyria and settled them in Halah, in Gozan on the Habor River and in towns of the Medes. 12 This happened because they had not obeyed the Lord their God, but had violated his covenant—all that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded. They neither listened to the commands nor carried them out.
13 In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah’s reign, Sennacherib king of Assyria attacked all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them. 14 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[c] of silver and thirty talents[d] of gold. 15 So Hezekiah gave him all the silver that was found in the temple of the Lord and in the treasuries of the royal palace.
16 At this time Hezekiah king of Judah stripped off the gold with which he had covered the doors and doorposts of the temple of the Lord, and gave it to the king of Assyria.
a 2 Kings 18:2 Hebrew Abi, a variant of Abijah
b 2 Kings 18:4 Nehushtan sounds like the Hebrew for both bronze and snake.
c 2 Kings 18:14 That is, about 11 tons or about 10 metric tons
d 2 Kings 18:14 That is, about 1 ton or about 1 metric ton
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise” (Mic. 7:8).
Hezekiah’s reign is a tower of hope in Judah’s history. Here is a king who consistently does what is right (3). He smashes the idols in the land and by getting rid of alternative shrines (4), he wisely removes the temptation of lapsing into syncretism. In fact, he is the first king to do so in a long time, which is admirable given the powerful interests of priests and people whose lives may be invested in the worship of other gods. Swimming against the societal current is never easy, and Hezekiah has no role model in his immediate past. Even Joash, five generations earlier, could not match his achievement (2 Kings 12:3).
Hezekiah’s incentive comes from trusting the Lord (5). Standing up for the truth and fighting temptation need only to be motivated by a positive commitment and relationship with the Lord. As Jesus would put it, a house that is swept clean but left empty will only attract more evil (Luke 11:24–26).
Temptation, however, does come. The king rebels against Assyria (7), but the devastation wrought on the northern kingdom (9–11) possibly weakens his faith. Like Peter, he looks at the waves and starts to sink (Matt. 14:28–31). When Sennacherib conquers parts of Judah, Hezekiah, like other kings before him, plunders the treasuries of both state and temple to get Assyria off his back (13–15). As we shall see in tomorrow’s reading, the strategy does not work. It never does. Yet it is a credit to Hezekiah that he seeks the Lord the second time. Even the best of us are prone to temptation, but how well we rise after falling will depend on the depth of our relationship with the Lord. Like marriage, such a relationship needs nurturing through prayer (conversation), Bible-reading (examining to God’s will), personal accountability and support through the community of believers. This will yield an abundance of fruit in the small daily tasks.
Consider how you can deepen your relationship with the Lord, so that when temptation comes you can cling to him.
Lord, give me the courage to do the right thing, that which pleases You, in the face of societal pressure to conform to its norms.
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