Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Hezekiah's Folly

“So Hezekiah said to Isaiah, ‘The word of the Lord which you have spoken is good!’ For he said, ‘Will there not be peace and truth at least in my days?’” Isaiah 39:8

Hezekiah is appropriately remembered as one of the great heroes of the Old Testament era. Last week we mentioned that Sennacherib, the King of Assyria, surrounded Jerusalem with his armies and attempted to destroy the city. In this emergency, Hezekiah entrusted himself to the Lord and the Lord delivered Jerusalem in his mercy. But like all biblical heroes other than our Lord Jesus Christ, Hezekiah had his noticeable faults; and these faults became more pronounced with age.

The text before us today illustrates one of these faults. Hezekiah had just committed a severe sin by kowtowing to the envoys who arrived in Jerusalem from Babylon. Rather than once again placing his trust in the Lord and treating the envoys with appropriate discretion, Hezekiah placed his trust in his riches and gave the envoys a royal tour of the entire palace – including the treasury. For his folly, God announced through Isaiah the prophet, the same Isaiah who wrote the book by that name, that due to his folly the kingdom of Judah would fall into the hands of Babylon.
“Hear the word of the Lord,” Isaiah declared, “‘Behold, the days are coming when all that is in your house, and what your fathers have accumulated until this day, shall be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left,’ says the LORD. ‘And they shall take away some of your sons who will descend from you, whom you will beget; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.’”
What type of response should we expect from a godly man who received such a pronouncement of doom from the voice of the Lord? Would we not expect contrition, repentance, sorrow, confession of guilt? Even unrighteous Ahab, the husband of Jezebel, knew the importance of contrition when hearing a rebuke from the Lord. When told that he would witness the destruction of his own family, Ahab humbled himself and went about in mourning. As a result, God mitigated the punishment, delaying it until after the close of Ahab’s life.

But how does Hezekiah respond? “Hey – that’s good news. Your words, Isaiah, imply that these things are not going to happen while I’m alive, so what does it matter?” Hezekiah response indicates how self-centered his attitude was. Rather than repenting in sackcloth and ashes, and perhaps averting the judgment of God on his posterity, Hezekiah rejoices that he doesn’t have to worry about it personally.

How often our culture thinks and acts and we ourselves think and act in this same self-centered fashion. The current national debt is approximately nine trillion dollars – and yet our representatives are passing additional “stimulus” packages to tax us into prosperity, money going through their hands faster than water. In addition to the skyrocketing national debt, average household debt has reached unprecedented proportions. But our self-centeredness is reflected in more than our pocket books. It is reflected in our attitudes as well. How often do we consider the way in which our actions today will impact the next generation – especially the next generation of our own family? Adultery and covenantal unfaithfulness are rampant, the educational failure is acute, understanding of God’s covenant blessings and curses is all but lost. And yet we comfort ourselves, reasoning, “Will there not be peace and truth at least in our days?”

As we come into the presence of our Lord today, let us not act like Hezekiah. Let us bow before him and confess that we have often failed to consider the way in which our actions will have ramifications for the next generation. Let us kneel together and ask him to forgive our transgression and grant us godly repentance.