Hezekiah was a faithful king of Judah, reigning at the turn of the 7th century BC. During his reign, Hezekiah had removed elements of idolatry and eliminated oppressive threats against his kingdom. God said no king in Judah had been as faithful as he (2 Ki. 18:1-8).
Then Isaiah announced that Hezekiah’s time of service had ended: “Thus says the LORD: ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die, and not live’” (2 Ki. 20:1 NKJV). An illness would lead to death. This was a great grief to the king as it might have been to anyone, naturally speaking. Instructively for us, though, Hezekiah’s response to the LORD and the events which followed reveal several specific errors in thinking. Since they are mistakes which are often repeated, an evaluation of them is still helpful today.
“If I Do Good, I Should Receive Good.”
Hezekiah’s first thought, expressed in his prayer to God, was a cry for healing based upon all the good he had done before the LORD and for the nation. “Remember now, O LORD, I pray, how I have … done what was good” (2 Ki. 20:3). It was true; he had done much good. But it was a wrong emphasis. In the same way many expect God simply to place their deeds on a scale, weighing the good against the bad and then deciding on a reward. To expect this is to be mistaken about God’s own statements about Himself.
Many people truly try their best to be good. However, God is not just good; He is perfect. And He calls sinful any action, word or thought contrary to that standard. Not one blot of sin can enter God’s holy presence. He declares, “There is none righteous, no not one” (Rom. 3:10). However, because all are under guilt, God can also offer mercy to all. He does so through the work of Jesus Christ – God’s own perfect sacrifice for sin. According to the Bible, only those who accept that substitutionary sacrifice are, in turn, unconditionally accepted by God (Rom. 3:21-26). God justifies “the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26) – not because of our good, but His.
After Hezekiah cried to the Lord for healing, God granted his request. But further errors mark the events which follow.
“Only What Is Observable Is Real.”
When he heard God’s promise Hezekiah asked, “What is the sign that the LORD will heal me?” (v.8). God graciously provided a miraculous sign: The sun actually reversed course briefly. Although this demonstration of power must have been completely encouraging, Hezekiah displayed a certain skepticism about God’s own words. He had to see it before he would believe it.
There is doubtless a real need to benefit from the observable world. Scientific and medical advances, for example, are based on testing observations. The results yield practical innovations and life-saving procedures, aiding millions. But the natural world is not all there is. Every honest person recognizes a yearning for meaning beyond the observable. And the spiritual realm is just as substantive as the physical – even more so, for the natural world decays (2 Cor. 4:18).
Spiritual growth comes through faith in God, not natural understanding. “We walk by faith, not by sight;” and the things of God are “spiritually discerned” (2 Cor. 5:7; 1 Cor. 2:14). God’s Word is recorded so people will understand God and respond to Him. When we read the Bible we are in touch with His own thoughts. We then must decide whether we will believe and act upon them. Unlike Hezekiah, may we accept them without the need for further proof!
“What I Have Represents What I Am.”
After hearing of Hezekiah’s restored health the king of Babylon sent ambassadors to him. Hezekiah used the occasion to display his treasures. He was plainly motivated by pride in his possessions. In fact, 2 Chronicles 32:25,31 clearly paints this event as a special test from God, designed to expose Hezekiah’s tendency toward pride of heart.
Possessions are not inherently evil, but we must not treat them as our source of security or personal worth for they are always subject to theft and ruin (Mt. 6:19). In contrast, God’s kingdom cannot be shaken (Heb. 12:28). We find lasting value by storing up treasures in heaven as we respond in faith to Christ and follow His ways.
“Consequences That Don’t Affect Me Don’t Matter.”
Having exposed Hezekiah’s heart, God promised that all the king’s riches would one day be carried away by Babylon, the very country which had seemed so friendly after his illness. While this condemnation seems to have somewhat humbled Hezekiah (2 Chr. 32:26), a further lesson for us remains in his response: “Will there not be peace and truth at least in my days?” (2 Ki. 20:19). It appears Hezekiah was content with this judgment because it would not happen to him but to some future generation. Impending trouble for others did not concern him as long as his own peace continued. This philosophy is expressed every time someone thinks, “I can do what I like as long as I don’t get in trouble.” This attitude of independence approaches pride and selfishness. Such people become their own lawgivers, valuing personal contentment above everything else.
This is not God’s way. He has designed that Christians should live not independently, but interdependently. This is the great truth of the Body of Christ in which believers are called “members of one another” (Eph. 4:25). Just as each part of the natural body works together for the benefit of the whole, so each believer in Christ is placed in His Body with the express purpose of helping to strengthen all (1 Cor. 12:18; Eph. 4:16). Only as Christians serve others and use their spiritual gifts are they fulfilling God’s purposes for them.
Hezekiah’s words may sound quite normal today, but they don’t match God’s own thoughts about Himself. This is why dependence on the Bible is so essential to every Christian. When Paul wrote to the Colossians he warned them not to be deceived by the principles and philosophies of the world (Col. 2:8). John instructed his readers to “test the spirits, whether they are of God,” measuring every idea against the standards revealed by God about Jesus Christ (1 Jn. 4:1-3). This is always the safe road.
By Stephen Campbell