03 October 2011

"Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, 'Hear the word of the Lord; Days are coming when all that is in your house, and that which your ancestors have stored up until this day, shall be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left, says the Lord.' Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, 'The word of the Lord that you have spoken is good.' For he thought, 'Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days?'" (vv. 16-17, 19)


Hezekiah was one of the few kings of Judah who worshiped God alone and did not also worship other gods. And Hezekiah certainly needs God's help because the tiny kingdom of Judah must coexist with two powerful and warring neighbours to the east: Babylon and Assyria.

God had proven faithful to Hezekiah in the past by saving Judah from Assyria (2 Kings 19:35-36) and today's passage opens with a further display of God's faithfulness. Struck down with an illness that was likely to prove fatal, God spares Hezekiah's life and produces a miracle as a sign that Hezekiah will live: the shadow of the king's sundial moves backwards so that Hezekiah may know that his life has been spared.

So what does Hezekiah do in response to God's faithfulness? Like most or all of us do from time to time, Hezekiah makes a foolhardy decision that he follows up with an ill-advised action.

First, instead of continuing to trust in God's protection, Hezekiah takes matters into his own hands and makes a treaty with the kingdom of Babylon against Assyria. Secondly, like a child showing off his toys, he proceeds to show the Babylonian emissaries all of the temple treasures.

Isaiah rebukes Hezekiah for the treaty with Babylon and predicts the future exile of Judah into Babylon. Hezekiah's amazing response to being told the consequence of his actions is (to paraphrase): 'I don't care about the kingdom's long-term future as long as my own reign is successful'.

Hezekiah has become captive to the false belief that God helps those who help themselves. Despite having been on the receiving end of God's protection, Hezekiah still hasn't learned that the salvation of God's people isn't up to him or to earthly alliances, but up to God. Perhaps Hezekiah has been seduced by his status as king. In the previous chapter of 2 Kings (2 Kings 19:14-19), Hezekiah has acknowledged God as the real king of Judah and himself as God's servant. Has Hezekiah fallen into the trap of self-idolatry that so many of us fall into so easily - particularly those who are powerful in the world?

To Ponder

In what areas of your life do you insist on having control and fail to trust in God's provision?

Hezekiah asked God for an impossible sign and God granted his request. How do you think you would react if God did something 'impossible' for you? Would it cause you to believe or to doubt?

When have you sacrificed a higher long-term goal for 'certain' short-term success and what was the result?

Bible notes author: The Revd Pam Garrud

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