God’s assessment of the reign of King Hezekiah

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From “Growing in the character of a disciple”: Chapter 5 – God’s assessment of the faithfulness of the kings of Judah and Israel

Next we see a faithful King, Hezekiah of Judah. Note that the Northern Kingdom of Israel never had any faithful kings. Every single one of them was unfaithful and evil. King Hezekiah saw what the unfaithfulness of previous Kings of Judah had caused and also how the unfaithfulness of the people, and especially their idolatry, had brought them under God’s judgment. He was determined to put things right. His main focus was not on restoring the economy of Judah, or the power of its military. It was on leading the people into greater faithfulness towards God. What a striking contrast there is between his priorities and those of our political leaders today, or even our church leaders:

1Hezeki’ah began to reign when he was twenty-five years old, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Abi’jah the daughter of Zechari’ah. 2And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that David his father had done. 3In the first year of his reign, in the first month, he opened the doors of the house of the LORD, and repaired them. 4He brought in the priests and the Levites, and assembled them in the square on the east, 5and said to them, “Hear me, Levites! Now sanctify yourselves, and sanctify the house of the LORD, the God of your fathers, and carry out the filth from the holy place.

6For our fathers have been unfaithful and have done what was evil in the sight of the LORD our God; they have forsaken him, and have turned away their faces from the habitation of the LORD, and turned their backs. 7They also shut the doors of the vestibule and put out the lamps, and have not burned incense or offered burnt offerings in the holy place to the God of Israel. 8Therefore the wrath of the LORD came on Judah and Jerusalem, and he has made them an object of horror, of astonishment, and of hissing, as you see with your own eyes. 9For lo, our fathers have fallen by the sword and our sons and our daughters and our wives are in captivity for this.

10Now it is in my heart to make a covenant with the LORD, the God of Israel, that his fierce anger may turn away from us. 11My sons, do not now be negligent, for the LORD has chosen you to stand in his presence, to minister to him, and to be his ministers and burn incense to him.”

2 Chronicles 29:1-11 (RSV)

Hezekiah took steps not only to put things right in Judah, but even to help to improve the situation in the Northern Kingdom of Israel:

1Hezeki’ah sent to all Israel and Judah, and wrote letters also to E’phraim and Manas’seh, that they should come to the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, to keep the passover to the LORD the God of Israel.

2 Chronicles 30:1 (RSV)

However, despite his best efforts, not many people from the Northern Kingdom responded well to his invitations. Nevertheless, though he did not always succeed, God’s overall verdict on King Hezekiah was very positive. In particular, we are told that he did what he did “with all his heart”. Again God’s emphasis is on Hezekiah’s wholeheartedness and faithfulness, even though he did not fully succeed in the things he was trying to do for God, because the people were not willing to obey. His abilities and the extent of his achievements are not even mentioned, let alone emphasised:

20Thus Hezeki’ah did throughout all Judah; and he did what was good and right and faithful before the LORD his God. 21And every work that he undertook in the service of the house of God and in accordance with the law and the commandments, seeking his God, he did with all his heart, and prospered.

2 Chronicles 31:20-21 (RSV)
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