The Truth about Guilt Meditations: 14. Receiving Grace (1)
2 Kings 20:1 In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him and said to him, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die; you shall not recover.’”
Recap: We have just considered two examples of those who failed to receive the grace and forgiveness of God, and now we move on to consider two men who really did receive it in most amazing ways. The second we will consider in the next study but for now we consider the amazing experience of Hezekiah.
Hezekiah’s Background: Before arriving at the act of grace and mercy, we need to see what has been going on in Hezekiah’s life. In summary, we see in 2 Chron he cleansed and purified the Temple (29:1-36), celebrated Passover (30:1-27), cleansed the land (31:1), made provision for the priests & Levites (31:2-21), was threatened by Sennacherib & saved by God (32:1-23), but yet struggled with pride in his last years (32:24-33). But before we get to that last part, note the summary of his earlier works: “This is what Hezekiah did throughout Judah, doing what was good and right and faithful before the Lord his God. In everything that he undertook in the service of God’s temple and in obedience to the law and the commands, he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. And so he prospered.” (2 Chron 31:20,21)
A good guy, but then we read in the next chapter, “After all that Hezekiah had so faithfully done, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and invaded Judah.” (2 Chron 32:1) We aren’t told why; perhaps it was just the time when Assyria were expanding, perhaps they heard that Hezekiah prospered, here was a ripe fruit for the taking. Then we read, “King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz cried out in prayer to heaven about this. 21 And the Lord sent an angel, who annihilated all the fighting men and the commanders and officers in the camp of the Assyrian king.” (2 Chron 32:20,21) Now we need to see all this because it shows us God’s hand of blessing and protection on him.
Hezekiah’s Illness & Healing: The summary of what happened in the 2 Kings account we are now using, seen in 2 Chron, declares, “ In those days Hezekiah became ill / and was at the point of death. / He prayed to the Lord, / who answered him and gave him a miraculous sign. / But Hezekiah’s heart was proud and he did not respond to the kindness shown him; / therefore the Lord’s wrath was on him and on Judah and Jerusalem. / Then Hezekiah repented of the pride of his heart, as did the people of Jerusalem; / therefore the Lord’s wrath did not come on them during the days of Hezekiah.” (2 Chron 32:24-26) The content or detail of what took place is seen in 2 Kings. Presumably the Lord saw what prosperity was doing to Hezekiah’s heart and allowed a sickness to come on him as our starter verse shows. Hezekiah’s response is good – he prays, he pleads on the basis of what he has so far done, and God heals him, even giving him a miraculous sign to confirm His blessing (see 2 Kings 20:2-11)
Hezekiah’s Folly: But then representatives from Babylon turn up and Hezekiah shows off and shows them all his riches. Pride oozes out of him. Read 2 Kings 20:12-15. The prophet Isaiah rebukes him, warning prophetically that all that – and his future descendants – will end up in Babylon (v.16-18). Hezekiah’s response is “The word of the Lord you have spoken is good,” … For he thought, “Will there not be peace and security in my lifetime?” (v.19) The 2 Chron account takes that as repentance and he is saved but adds afterwards, “But when envoys were sent by the rulers of Babylon to ask him about the miraculous sign that had occurred in the land, God left him to test him and to know everything that was in his heart.” (2 Chron 32:31). The end appears to be that the former glory of Hezekiah is gone and although he appears to have died of old age (? in his mid fifties) that time did not have the blessing of God on it.
God’s Grace? So we have seen Hezekiah being a good king and being blessed by God, saving him from Babylon, he becomes seriously ill and calls out to God who both heals him and gives him a miraculous sign. However following all that (good so far on the surface at least) the Lord saw the potential of the pride within him and tests him by allowing the envoys from Babylon to come. He fails the test and pride rises up. He is rebuked and repents and is allowed to live out his years in peace. His heart has been for God and yet the threat of pride in the face of great success is always lurking there. In sickness he calls on the Lord wisely and is healed. Yet the pride is seen to be still there and he has to be rebuked, and he repents but it seems rather halfhearted but it is sufficient to save him.
And So? Twice Hezekiah responds well (well, fairly well) to the Lord, and is spared. I’m not sure if you and I would have been so graceful as God was. I suspect my response might have been, “For goodness sake! After all I have done for him, blessing him with great success and affluence, and all he does is get puffed up thinking it was down to him! Stupid man!” But God is more gracious than you and me – and with us – and where there is repentance He does hold back judgment and give further opportunities to get it right, even when He knows our response might be somewhat half-hearted. Amazing. Never use that as an excuse to cross wrong boundaries but thank the Lord for the grace and mercy He has extended to us and let that motivate us to live well.