Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
And it came to pass, when king Hezekiah heard it, that he rent his clothes, and covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of the LORD.Hezekiah
2 Kings 19:1
I. Hezekiah was a type of Christ. In what way? Look, first, at the destruction of the brazen serpent, as told us in this morning's lesson. Try to realize all that it meant. It requires strong, brave men to do the thing, for this serpent had a wonderful history and sacred association. For many generations it had been one of the objects which most stirred the hearts of the Jews. But it had lost its power completely; it had become an object of superstitious worship, and so Hezekiah broke it in pieces. I wonder what the scribes and Pharisees of the day—or those who at that time represented them—thought of this act? Hezekiah was a type of Him Who centuries later scandalized the scribes and Pharisees by breaking the Sabbath. When the trial moment comes, when temptation is strong and help seems far away, the question will be, not whether we have learnt to hold the tenets of Christianity as historical facts, but whether they have taught us the power of prayer, and the evil hold dropped, and the call of duty accepted. Whether, in one word, we have learnt to live our faith, so that Christ lives in our hearts and through our lives.
II. Let us turn to another scene in Hezekiah's life: the revival of the Passover as narrated in the Second Book of Chronicles. It was not confined to Judah. Invitations, we are told, were sent throughout the length and breadth of Israel. Again Hezekiah's greatness is seen. He had grasped the idea of the Passover—that it set forth the unity of the nation. There was nothing political in his aim. There was no thought of the winning back of Israel. His aim was to teach the people that, wherever their lot was cast, they were all one people, and doubtless this, too, scandalized the scribes and Pharisees of the day. And, says the chronicler, many of those that accepted the invitation came without having undergone the purification ordained by the Lord. Now mark Hezekiah on that occasion. He prayed the Lord to pardon every one who had prepared his heart to seek the Lord God of his fathers. One more type of Him Who centuries after welcomed the outcasts. Is there not a lesson here for us? Think of all those well-meaning, religious people who cannot see the deeper unity which underlies differences of creed between us. What a grand thing it would be if in our days we could have an enormous Passover, a great gathering, not for discussions, but for worship, of all Christians who believe in Christ, apart from minor accidental differences. But let us beware of confounding the idea of unity and uniformity. The Divine ideal seems to be not uniformity, but a grand symphony played on a thousand instruments.
III. Let us look at one more scene in Hezekiah's life—his bearing towards the King of Assyria, as told in the lesson of this morning and this evening. Hezekiah, King of Judah, was lying helpless before the power of the King of Assyria, but in him we see no bravado and no fear, only a simple faith and trust in God. He met the insulting messages of Sennacherib in silence; the king's command was, 'Answer him not'. Once more he is a type of Him Who, centuries later, when He was accused of the chief priests and elders answered nothing, and when He received the blasphemous message was silent. Hezekiah's first thought was God. He went to the temple and spread his trouble before the Lord. It is in this instant reference (which is a difficulty to many), this turning to God at once, without fear and without hesitation, that Hezekiah is so valuable an example to ourselves. For we, too, like Hezekiah, are besieged with enemies. Which of us has not some sin of temper, it may be, or selfishness, or pride, or lust—some sin which he is tempted to commit frequently, and we have learned its power, and we long to cast it off and be rid of it for ever, but again and again the temptation comes? We fight against it, but we finally yield to it, and we feel as though this sin were poisoning our whole life. Have we said, 'My help cometh from the Lord'?
References.—XIX. 14.—T. Champness, New Coins from Old Gold, p. 179. J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons (9th Series), p. 139. XIX. 14, 15.—W. H. Hutchings, Sermon-Sketches (2nd Series) p. 263. XIX. 20-22.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—2 Kings from chap. viii., p. 64. XX. 1.—F. W. Farrar, Everyday Christian Life, p. 205. XX. 5.—S. E. Cottam, The Royal Thanksgiving Sermons, 1822-1902. XX. 12, 13.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xii. No. 704. XX. 19.—R. E. Hutton, The Crown of Christ, vol. ii. p. 281. XXI. 26.—A. B. Meldrum, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxv. 1904, p. 302.
And he sent Eliakim, which was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and the elders of the priests, covered with sackcloth, to Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz.
And they said unto him, Thus saith Hezekiah, This day is a day of trouble, and of rebuke, and blasphemy: for the children are come to the birth, and there is not strength to bring forth.
It may be the LORD thy God will hear all the words of Rabshakeh, whom the king of Assyria his master hath sent to reproach the living God; and will reprove the words which the LORD thy God hath heard: wherefore lift up thy prayer for the remnant that are left.
So the servants of king Hezekiah came to Isaiah.
And Isaiah said unto them, Thus shall ye say to your master, Thus saith the LORD, Be not afraid of the words which thou hast heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me.
Behold, I will send a blast upon him, and he shall hear a rumour, and shall return to his own land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land.
So Rabshakeh returned, and found the king of Assyria warring against Libnah: for he had heard that he was departed from Lachish.
And when he heard say of Tirhakah king of Ethiopia, Behold, he is come out to fight against thee: he sent messengers again unto Hezekiah, saying,
Thus shall ye speak to Hezekiah king of Judah, saying, Let not thy God in whom thou trustest deceive thee, saying, Jerusalem shall not be delivered into the hand of the king of Assyria.
Behold, thou hast heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands, by destroying them utterly: and shalt thou be delivered?
Have the gods of the nations delivered them which my fathers have destroyed; as Gozan, and Haran, and Rezeph, and the children of Eden which were in Thelasar?
Where is the king of Hamath, and the king of Arpad, and the king of the city of Sepharvaim, of Hena, and Ivah?
And Hezekiah received the letter of the hand of the messengers, and read it: and Hezekiah went up into the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD.
And Hezekiah prayed before the LORD, and said, O LORD God of Israel, which dwellest between the cherubims, thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; thou hast made heaven and earth.
LORD, bow down thine ear, and hear: open, LORD, thine eyes, and see: and hear the words of Sennacherib, which hath sent him to reproach the living God.
Of a truth, LORD, the kings of Assyria have destroyed the nations and their lands,
And have cast their gods into the fire: for they were no gods, but the work of men's hands, wood and stone: therefore they have destroyed them.
Now therefore, O LORD our God, I beseech thee, save thou us out of his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the LORD God, even thou only.
Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah, saying, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, That which thou hast prayed to me against Sennacherib king of Assyria I have heard.
This is the word that the LORD hath spoken concerning him; The virgin the daughter of Zion hath despised thee, and laughed thee to scorn; the daughter of Jerusalem hath shaken her head at thee.
Whom hast thou reproached and blasphemed? and against whom hast thou exalted thy voice, and lifted up thine eyes on high? even against the Holy One of Israel.
By thy messengers thou hast reproached the Lord, and hast said, With the multitude of my chariots I am come up to the height of the mountains, to the sides of Lebanon, and will cut down the tall cedar trees thereof, and the choice fir trees thereof: and I will enter into the lodgings of his borders, and into the forest of his Carmel.
I have digged and drunk strange waters, and with the sole of my feet have I dried up all the rivers of besieged places.
Hast thou not heard long ago how I have done it, and of ancient times that I have formed it? now have I brought it to pass, that thou shouldest be to lay waste fenced cities into ruinous heaps.
Therefore their inhabitants were of small power, they were dismayed and confounded; they were as the grass of the field, and as the green herb, as the grass on the housetops, and as corn blasted before it be grown up.
But I know thy abode, and thy going out, and thy coming in, and thy rage against me.
Because thy rage against me and thy tumult is come up into mine ears, therefore I will put my hook in thy nose, and my bridle in thy lips, and I will turn thee back by the way by which thou camest.
And this shall be a sign unto thee, Ye shall eat this year such things as grow of themselves, and in the second year that which springeth of the same; and in the third year sow ye, and reap, and plant vineyards, and eat the fruits thereof.
And the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah shall yet again take root downward, and bear fruit upward.
For out of Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant, and they that escape out of mount Zion: the zeal of the LORD of hosts shall do this.
Therefore thus saith the LORD concerning the king of Assyria, He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shield, nor cast a bank against it.
By the way that he came, by the same shall he return, and shall not come into this city, saith the LORD.
For I will defend this city, to save it, for mine own sake, and for my servant David's sake.
And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the LORD went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses.
So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed, and went and returned, and dwelt at Nineveh.
And it came to pass, as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer his sons smote him with the sword: and they escaped into the land of Armenia. And Esarhaddon his son reigned in his stead.