Christianity 201

January 17, 2013

What’s In It For Me?

It’s great when readers submit original work here. Kim Rogerson returns for the second time in what just might be a recurring role!  This passage in II Kings deals with Hezekiah’s rather strange reaction to Isaiah’s prophecy. Verse 19 is key, and if you miss the nuance, the NLT and Message get to the heart of that verse.

2 Kings 20:16-19

16 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the Lord: 17 The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your predecessors have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left, says the Lord. 18 And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood who will be born to you, will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.”

19 “The word of the Lord you have spoken is good,” Hezekiah replied. For he thought, “Will there not be peace and security in my lifetime?”

New International Version (NIV)

One of the saddest verses in the Bible is 2 Kings 20:19 – Hezekiah’s reaction to Isaiah’s prophecy. Hezekiah is a King of Judah who has witnessed God’s deliverance first hand. When the Assyrians invade Judah and threaten to destroy Jerusalem, Hezekiah turns the matter over the Lord and prays. God answers Hezekiah that He will defend Jerusalem against the Assyrians (Isaiah 37:35) and He does! The angel of the Lord kills 185,000 men in the Assyrian camp and their army withdraws (2 Kings 19:35 & 36). Hezekiah is also healed from a terminal illness (2 Kings 20:1-11).  Politically and personally, Hezekiah knows that God is working powerfully in his life. Yet his attitude to Isaiah’s prophecy that his progeny will be carried off as exiles to Babylon is surprisingly congenial apathy. It’s as if he is saying to himself, “Oh, well. So sad for them, but I’ll be all right.”

Contrast Hezekiah’s response to his great-grandson’s response to the same prophecy. During Josiah’s reign the Book of the Law is found in the temple. When it is read to Josiah, he is overwhelmed with grief and sends to enquire of the Lord about what is written there. The prophetess Huldah tells Josiah that God will punish Judah for not following Him (2 Kings 22:15-20).

15 She said to them, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Tell the man who sent you to me, 16 ‘This is what the Lord says: I am going to bring disaster on this place and its people, according to everything written in the book the king of Judah has read. 17 Because they have forsaken me and burned incense to other gods and aroused my anger by all the idols their hands have made, my anger will burn against this place and will not be quenched.’ 18 Tell the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the Lord, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says concerning the words you heard: 19 Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I have spoken against this place and its people—that they would become a curse and be laid waste—and because you tore your robes and wept in my presence, I also have heard you, declares the Lord. 20 Therefore I will gather you to your ancestors, and you will be buried in peace. Your eyes will not see all the disaster I am going to bring on this place.’”

So they took her answer back to the king.

However, Josiah’s reaction is different from Hezekiah’s. In 2 Kings 23:1 it says, “Then the king …” and Josiah gets busy. He makes sure everyone hears the word of the Lord and then he starts obeying what it says. He gets rid of the idols in the temple and the pagan priests practicing there. He goes into all the country and smashes the altars made for other gods. He celebrates the Passover with the people of Judah with whole-hearted enthusiasm. In 2 Kings 23:25 it says of Josiah, “Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the LORD as he did – with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses.” What an epitaph!

Imagine if we truly cared about what is written in the Bible and turned to the Lord with all our heart and soul and strength? We can’t stop the fulfillment of prophecy, but we can get busy and put God’s Word into action, especially Jesus’ commands to love God and to love each other (Matthew 22:37-40).

If you missed it, link to Kim’s previous article about David and Joab.

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