2 Kings 18-20
(Hezekiah Clears Out the Idols)
April 21st

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verses

Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him.

- 2 Kings 18:5 (NIV)

Summary of Chapters

We have been reading the stories of royal succession and the prophets who warned the leaders and people of Israel and Judah regarding the dangers of abandoning the one true God for false idols. At the beginning of 1 Kings, we read about a united kingdom of Israel occupying a large territory under the peaceful rule of Solomon, the third king of the united country. We then read about the division of the country into two kingdoms, Israel in the north and Judah in the south. Yesterday's chapter described the end of the northern kingdom, as it succumbed to the greater power of Assyria, an outcome that was predicated on the lack of fidelity of the people of Israel over many generations following the initial division.

Today's chapters acquaint us with the story of Hezekiah, a king of Judah during the time of the fall of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. The underlying message of Hezekiah's reign is the power of prayer for individual and national deliverance. In this story we also meet Isaiah for the first time. Chapter 18 explains that Hezekiah was the son of Azah. He had all of the false idols destroyed, and was recognized as the best king that Judah had had since David because “he held fast to the LORD and did not cease to follow him (18:6 - NIV).”

Hezekiah defeated the Philistines but was frequently threatened by the Assyrians because Judah sat on an important trade route. The Assyrians collected a tribute with the promise that they would not attack, but then returned with violent intent anyway. The field commander of the Assyrian army stood before the wall at Jerusalem with his thousands of men behind him and taunted the people. He blasphemed God and issued crude forecasts of the fate of the people in Jerusalem if they did not surrender to him. In his taunts he tried to incite the lower class people against the upper class ones and claimed that only he could provide protection for them. Therefore, Hezekiah prayed to God for deliverance from the Assyrians and the LORD told the prophet Isaiah how he would resolve the situation, concluding by saying “I will defend this city and save it for my sake and for the sake of David, my servant.”

We read a foreshadowing of the style of Isaiah’s writings in chapter 19, when Isaiah reports what the LORD said. The Assyrians had set up a showdown with the LORD, so he rebukes them for their pride, and reminds the people that he has allowed everything that has happened; therefore no man should take credit for it. As a consequence, he says to Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, that he will “put my hook in your nose and my bit in your mouth.” This phrase describes the way that the Assyrians treat their captives, indicating that the LORD plans to give them a taste of their own medicine.

The LORD fulfilled his promise by silently taking the lives of 185,000 Assyrian soliders, thereby proving that he was vastly superior and that he could bring about disaster without the use of any humans. As a result, Sennacherib retreated to Nineveh and did not attack again. We shall hear of Nineveh again in the book of Jonah.

Chapter 20 concludes the account of Hezekiah’s life. He was deathly ill, so he prayed to God and was healed. But then he became proud and showed off his wealth to the Babylonians. God told him through Isaiah that the Babylonians would eventually take away all the treasures and enslave the people of Judah, including some of his direct offspring.

Reflection and Application

Hezekiah sought to improve upon his fathers’ example by worshipping his Father in Heaven and took steps to restore faith among the people of Judah. What motivated him to do this when so many of the previous generations had been idol-worshipers? Perhaps he witnessed what had happened to his brothers to the north and recognized that the same punishment would come upon his kingdom if they did not return to God. By doing so he raised the bar of faithfulness above that of his father and his father’s fathers. We too can seek to raise the level of faith in each generation by encouraging those around us.

One of the best ways to raise the level of faith is to raise the level of prayer with a greater frequency and sincerity. Jesus reminds us of this fact on numerous occasions, including Luke chapter 18:

    Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: "In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, 'Grant me justice against my adversary.' "

    "For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, 'Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me' "

    And the Lord said, "Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?"

    - Luke 18:1-8 (NIV)

The story of Hezekiah provides important examples of the power of prayer to overcome enemies and disease. When we pray to God, we must address him in humility (Jesus addresses this point in the subsequent verses in Luke 18:9-15). We must also recognize how he has been sinned against, and respect what he can do, as Hezekiah did when he prayed for deliverance from the Assyrians and from his disease. Hezekiah was bold in asking for healing, but he was respectful and sincere.

The sign of healing that God gave was the reversal of the sun’s shadow as it crept up the sundial steps built by Hezekiah’s father, Azah. The healing should have reinforced the depth of Hezekiah’s faith as demonstrated in the earlier chapters, but instead it resulted in a greater tendency towards selfishness, arrogance, and foolishness. His act of showing all the treasures to the Babylonians implied that he took credit for this success. It was a naïve and ill-advised moved. Who invites the enemy into their house and shows him all the valuables?

Hezekiah’s behavior became a reason for God to put into motion the end of the kingdom of Judah. One would think that Hezekiah would be heartbroken and pray for forgiveness, but instead he was relieved to know it would not happen until after his death. We must always remember from where our success originates. Hezekiah forgot and led Judah down a path of destruction. Who will we lead to destruction if we forget this truth?

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. What were some of the popular taunts that people used when you were a kid?
    2. What parts of our success can we attribute to our own efforts and what part to God?
    3. What type of healing, protection, and forgiveness would you like to ask from God today?
    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, we know that you are the ultimate source of any succes. Help us to turn to you for protection, healing, forgiveness, and wisdom.

    Suggested Prayer Concerns
    Judges serving in the courts

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: 2 Kings 21-23 (Josiah Leads the People Back to God)

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