A story shook me to the core this morning.
Hezekiah. Heard of him? He was one of the godliest kings in Jewish history.
Anyway, God showed Hezekiah favor and rescued Jerusalem from a blood-thirsty bully, the king of Assyria, who had already conquered 46 Jewish cities. Not only did God deliver Jerusalem, but he annihilated the Assyrians, killing 185,000 of them in their sleep! The Israelite soldiers didn’t even have to get their hands dirty. The angel of the Lord did it for them.
Why? Hezekiah had pleaded with God to prove to the Assyrians He was not just another man-made god easily conquered. Sure, Hezekiah and his people got something out of it, too, but Hezekiah’s request revealed a sincere desire to see God glorified, a motive God could really get behind.
Later, Hezekiah got sick and almost died. Again, he pleaded with God for a longer life. His argument? He had honored and obeyed God all his life. This being the kind of behavior God could reward while glorifying Himself, he decided to let Hezekiah live for 15 more years.
Grace upon grace.
Healthy and wealthy once again, Hezekiah relaxed and enjoyed the abundant blessings of God. Comfortable, he grew lax and failed to exercise the same kind of discernment and wisdom he’d shown during hard times. When visitors from Babylon came knocking, he didn’t question why, but invited them in and showed them EVERYTHING in the kingdom, whetting their appetite.
Hezekiah’s foolishness would later cost his people. You see, carelessness, arrogance, and poor stewardship are things God just can’t get behind. They don’t reflect His character or inspire proper respect for His sovereignty, wisdom, and power.
Isaiah, God’s messenger, foretold the consequences of Hezekiah’s actions. Somewhere down the road, the Babylonians would carry off everything Hezekiah had shown them in his milk-drunk stupor. Everything. Even worse, the Babylonians would carry off his own descendants, castrate them, and use them as slaves in the Babylonian palace!
I must admit I cringed when I read that, deep down, where mothers ache when their babies get hurt. I got sick to my stomach and my eyes stung.
Apparently, the news did not have the same effect on Hezekiah. In fact, he called the Lord’s judgment “good.”
Um, excuse me?!?
Now, I’m sure one part of Hezekiah was just recognizing God’s wisdom and sovereignty like he always had before. Of course the judgment was “good.” A good God had handed it down. But the other part of him was just glad he wouldn’t have to live through it (Isaiah 39:8).
Bottom line? Hezekiah was okay with his descendants’ having to endure the horrific consequences of his actions as long as he didn’t have to experience it himself or watch.
He didn’t pull out the sackcloth and ashes. He didn’t repent. He didn’t even ask!
King Hezekiah just gave up.
Oh, he wouldn’t have had a leg to stand on, of course, and God would, in no way, have been obligated to do as Hezekiah asked, but he could have at least tried! He could have admitted fault and doubled-down on his commitment to reflect God’s character and be a good steward with all God had given him. He could have asked God reveal His mercy and grace by sparing Judah the hardship foretold, thereby glorifying Himself, but he didn’t.
The result? Hezekiah’s son, Manasseh, became one of the worst kings in Jewish history, turning his back on God and reinstating the wicked religious practices of his grandfather—a God-fearing parent’s worst nightmare—and everything Isaiah foretold came true under Nebuchadnezzar.
I just don’t get it.
How could a godly man like Hezekiah not show more remorse for his carelessness, arrogance, and poor stewardship? How could he not scramble to turn things back around once he knew he’d messed up? How could he experience personal relief knowing his actions would someday cause others grief? How could he not do a better job of raising his children in fear and admonition of God after years of experiencing God’s blessing and favor? How does a once-passionate servant of God grow lazy and apathetic?
You know, I say I don’t get it, but maybe I do, on some level anyway.
Maybe you do, too.
Now, I don’t feel the need to spill my guts here—details are superfluous in matters of motive—and I wouldn’t, in a million years, ask you to spill yours, but I think we’d all do well to take this cautionary tale to heart and get honest with ourselves and with God.
While we may not be able to undo damage already done or hold back the consequences of past actions, we can start over. We can do better.
The Bible says, “If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
The truth is none of us have a leg to stand on before holy God, but we do have Jesus, a mediator who understands what it’s like to be us (Heb. 4:15). Through His obedient death and resurrection, we have forgiveness for sin, past, present, and future (1 Pet. 3:18); eternal life by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8); and the ability to live for God’s glory by the supernatural power of His Holy Spirit, no matter what we have or haven’t done to this point (Phil. 2:13).
It may be too late for Hezekiah, but it’s not too late for us! All we have to do is ask (Rom. 10:9-10, Gal. 4:6).